Lessons in Frustration

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but circumstances overtook intentions. I was going to focus solely on the pain in my shoulder. After all, I have yet to see the doctor about that and, after a normal weekend, it is bad again. Driving to two churches and playing for two services really ramped up the pain. But, instead of being able to rest it, I had other things I had to do.

Hence, the frustration. My dad had been harping on the need to take his care for an oil change and a check up. What that meant was he wanted me to call someone and make him an appointment to do that. So I did. He was scheduled to be at the Honda dealer at 9 A.M. yesterday morning. On Sunday afternoon while I was visiting, I asked if he’d like to drive the car to the dealership and leave it there so it would be done by Monday afternoon. He said that he’d remember to go in the morning.

Monday at noon, just as I was getting ready to start cooking my lunch, tummy growling in anticipation, the phone rang. Guess who? Guess who was ready to take his car to the dealer for the oil change, etc? Guess who wanted me to go along? So, instead of eating lunch, I got into my car, drove to their house, drove to the dealership with dad following me (he didn’t remember where it was), drove him back home, and drove myself home. I ate lunch three hours later, at 3 P.M.

Last night was the next to last session of my fibromyalgia/stress relief study group. My arm/shoulder was killing me by this time, but I was determined to go because I like these women and I think that, if I actually practiced some of these techniques faithfully, they would help with my pain levels. But, I did not want to drive in the dark with a sore shoulder. I ended up going and, although I spent the entire evening in pain, I did enjoy myself.

I got home, did some unwinding, and went to bed. At 2 A.M. my phone rang. It was dad. He wanted to know when we were going to get his car. I explained to him that it was the middle of the night and that I have a doctor appointment in the morning (all true) and would not be able to help him till the afternoon. Of course, I’d told him that yesterday when I dropped him off at his house. It turns out that he called me five times last night while I was at my fibromyalgia group meeting. I didn’t get home till 9 P.M. and since I was so tired and sore, I didn’t check my answering machine. If I had, I might have been able to prevent this middle of the night phone call, but maybe not.

All I want to do now is scream at the top of my lungs or whine to whoever will listen and even to anyone who won’t. I’m tired. I’m in pain. I don’t have it in me to care for others right now because I need to care for me and yet this is my dad and my mom. They raised me. They did for me when I wasn’t able to do for myself. I don’t believe I have the right to refuse them.

Next up, the report from the orthopedic surgeon and what it means for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Published in: on November 16, 2010 at 7:09 AM  Comments (2)  

Random Thoughts on Christmas Decorations

This has absolutely nothing to do with my topic, but I just had to vent about something I saw this morning on the way to Panera. A house in my neighborhood had Christmas decorations out already. And, there were still pumpkins in the yard, probably even one that has a face carved into it. This is just wrong. Thanksgiving isn’t for another two weeks.

It’s one thing for stores to rush the season. After all, they are trying to make money. I don’t like it, but I understand it. But, for a homeowner to put those reindeer figures on his lawn before Veteran’s Day is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Rant over.

Ho Ho Ho Humbug!

Published in: on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM  Comments (3)  

Favoring One Side Has Consequences

The other day, I whined about my sore shoulder. Well, I finally contacted the doctor and he suggested that I see the orthopedic surgeon who did my knee surgery last year. The reasoning behind this decision was my description of what happened when the pain first began. I told the doctor that the pain was intense, a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, and that I heard noises when I did whatever it was I did. I also told him that it’s been waking me up at night and has interfered with my daily life. He thinks I may have torn something. I won’t know till next week since that’s when I have my appointment, but at least I have one.

So, here’s what I mean by my heading. I was cleaning stuff out of the fridge. I had some spaghetti sauce from last week and decided that I’d better toss it. As I was carrying it across the room it fell out of my hand and landed right side up. Nothing spilled. I was extremely glad since my kitchen is mostly white. I got out a spoon and took the container and the spoon to the garbage can to dump it. That’s when it spilled. I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

Not sure what this teaches me, but the laughter sure helped to ease some of the pain. I guess it is the best medicine.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 3:38 PM  Comments (2)  

Writing and Pain and Rain/Snow/Cold

Well, it’s been an interesting week. If anyone is following me, they know I was late with my Thursday post. I am also a bit late with today’s, but I did answer the comments pretty much as they came in.

Let me explain my title. I have a very sore shoulder. I’ve had a touch of bursitis in my right shoulder for a while now and that combined with the fibromyalgia has always meant a bit of pain there. But, on Monday night, I did something while cleaning the kitchen that caused the shoulder to make a lot of noise and give me a lot of pain. Since then, I’ve used heat and extra-strength acetaminophen to get through the day. I kept putting off calling the doctor, thinking that it would feel better, but, here it is Saturday and it’s not a lot better. Needless to say, I’m calling on Monday.

The weather is not helping. We had gorgeous weather over the weekend and then it turned cold and wet. We were even supposed to have some wet snow mixed in with rain overnight. It may have happened. I don’t know. I was in bed. Even if there had been snow, it would have melted on contact with the ground. It’s still too warm for anything to stick. But, with temperatures in the 40s, it’s cold. And that is not fun for a weather-sensitive person who also happens to have a very sore shoulder.

All of which is just my way of saying, I hurt and I want some sympathy and I don’t want to have to play for church tomorrow, but I also don’t want to give up the money that I’ll earn by doing so. Although, if my shoulder doesn’t feel better in a few hours, I’ll be making the “I’m sick” phone call. It’s not so much the act of playing that’s the problem. It’s the driving. I put close to 100 miles on my car each Sunday driving from my house to church 1 then to church 2 then to visit my parents then home. That may not happen tomorrow since the short (15 minute) drive to my visit my parents usually makes my arm hurt like the dickens.

I think I kind of made my mind up, didn’t I?

Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM  Comments (2)  

That’s Me, Sort Of

The November/December 2010 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine is all about preparing for the rapidly approaching holiday season. I normally gloss over the articles since they tend to focus on people I can’t relate to – busy mothers or young men and women just starting out in life and dealing with weight issues in addition to a job hunt. But this issue has an article about caregivers and the unique weight loss and health challenges they face. Needless to say, I stopped to read this one while paging through the magazine in search of new, WW-friendly recipes.

The article, by Ginny Graves, detailed three steps all caregivers should take to get or stay healthy. Graves advises readers to learn their own limitations so that they don’t become totally overwhelmed. I can definitely relate to that. If you’ve read earlier posts, you know that I have fibromyalgia and that overdoing things only makes my condition worse. And, naturally that means I can’t do as much for my folks, which makes me feel guilty. Sharing the burden helps, but there isn’t always a way to share. My sister wants to help, but she lives several hours away and can’t be here for the day-to-day care. I send her emails almost every day detailing what I’ve noticed or what the doctor said, but it often feels as if she’s the boss and I’m sending her progress reports. Yet another source of frustration for me.

Graves called the second step owing the role of caregiver. She cited a study by the National Family Caregivers Association that showed the vast majority of caregivers were “more proactive about seeking resources” once they acknowledged that they are caregivers. This is true. I realized that something had to be done before I ended up in the assisted living facility I’d like to see my parents in. At that point, I sought help from the county’s Area Agency on Aging and the Veteran’s Administration. I just wish I could convince mom and dad to accept more help, for my sake if not for theirs.

Finally, Graves reminds all of us to remember ourselves. This is a common theme in Weight Watchers meetings as well as in many self-help articles in magazines. We all give lip service to the fact that you can’t help someone unless you help yourself first, but how many of us actually follow this? Think about the card in the pocket of the airplane. The one that explains what to do when the emergency oxygen mask comes down from the overhead compartment. I haven’t flown for a long time, but I seem to remember that it said that if you are traveling with a child, you should put on your mask first and then help the child put his or her mask on. I need to remember that.

I have contacted Ms. Graves and plan to pick her brain on this subject next week. Stay tuned for a follow-up.

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 2:53 PM  Comments (2)  

Election Day

It’s finally here! Election Day, and I’m thrilled. Not because I’m excited about the election, but because I’m excited to see an end to the barrage of political ads on TV and in my mail box. This year has been the worst in recent memory. Just a constant stream of vitriol from both the right and the left. The ads made normally enjoyable programming unbearable. They also made using the DVR a necessity. It was the only way to avoid the ads.

Think of the money that was spent on those ads. Now think what else that money could have been used for. Research into cures for diseases. Research into energy alternatives. Feeding the hungry. Housing the homeless.

If you had access to the funds used for the ads, how would you use them?

By the way, I realize this is completely off topic, but, then, I’m feeling a little off today.

 

Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 12:51 PM  Comments (1)  

Meditation on a Painting

Last week’s assignment for the journaling class I’m taking was to write a short essay on an emotion evoked by the Edward Hooper painting, Hotel Room.  I thought I’d share what I came up with since it does touch on my focus of my blog.

The emotions I listed are :

Loneliness

Sadness

Anger

Emptiness

Rejection

Overwhelmed

Here is what I wrote:

I had to do it. There was no other way out of the situation. It was all too overwhelming. So, rather than stay there and continue to spiral into depression, I left. Now that I’m away, I am re-thinking that decision.

But if I don’t take some time for myself, I’ll crack and be no good to anyone. I need to find new ways to help myself and in turn, help my parents. Looking for that help while coping with the situation and maintaining my own house and health has me in such a state that I can’t think anymore. I can barely function.

Day after day I go check on them. Every day it’s the same thing. Mom’s sitting in her chair in the corner, covered with an afghan, watching TV, whether or not it’s working and no matter what’s on. Dad, if he is home, is trying to fix the TV, meaning turn it up and running. He always blames it on the TV, which is not even a year old. The problem is either that he’s misplaced the remote or he is trying to use the wrong one. Once I find the remote, I show him, yet again, how to turn on both the cable box and the TV using the single remote. Every time, he tells me he didn’t know that. Some days, I just want to scream.

So, I left. Now I’m worried that they’ll fall or set their house on fire. But, I need space and time to think and to find the answers. Maybe something will come to me while I sit here in this hotel room as I contemplate what to do next. Or maybe not.

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM  Comments (2)  

If I Won the Lottery

It’s only Tuesday, but it’s already been a long week. Besides my usual Sunday routine of driving to and from two churches and my mom and dad’s house, I added a Monday morning trip with them to see one of their doctors and, at night, my trip into Pittsburgh for my fibromyalgia study meeting. Yesterday was a rainy day in the area and the rain continued into the early evening, which meant I had to drive in it. I hate driving in rain and dark and, oh yeah, fog.

That’s when I decided that if I ever come into a lot of money, I’ll hire a car and driver. Everyone else seems to want to buy  designer clothing, jewelry, a new house, fancy vacations. Nope, as of yesterday, I’m going with something a friend of mine said many years ago. A car and driver is the ultimate luxury. No more fighting traffic on the parkway. No more worrying about being able to see the road when it’s dark and raining. Just the pleasure of watching the scenery while someone else is at the wheel.

So, what’s your idea of the ultimate luxury?

 

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 7:25 PM  Comments (2)  

Trying to Catch Up on Classes and Life

So, today is Friday, and I’m late, again. This schedule thing is hard. So is trying to do all the work that the instructor of the blogging class assigned for this week. But, I have managed to do a couple of things. OK, maybe one, but I did it twice.

I posted to Gather, which is kind of Facebook for adults, that I have a blog up and running and listed the URL. I also went to my rather inactive LinkedIn account and added the URL for the blog to my profile.

But, wait, there’s more. I also have to come up with a contest to run on this blog, schedule it, and run it. And think about inviting guest bloggers who cover the same topic. And, go read and comment on five other blogs on the same topic as mine. The last one seems to be the easiest right now. At least I’ll only be reacting to somebody’s work rather than coming up with my own. I might even make a few on-line friends.

In the meantime, I took yesterday off from life, the universe, and pretty much everything. After a quick run to the grocery store, I stayed in the house all day and, even though I made a brave attempt at starting this assignment, I succumbed to the fatigue brought on by my earlier adventures in doctorland and took a nap. I felt much better for it, and this morning felt I had the energy to get caught up until I found my dead cell phone.

I keep my phone in my purse since it’s not my primary phone. I still use my land line as my main phone. The only problem is that the aide who helps my mother calls me on my cell whenever she needs to get in touch. Did I mention that I also keep the ringer down low or completely off? I like it that way for two reasons. I hate the jarring noise of other people’s phones so it would be hypocritical of me to let mine do the same. I can’t have my phone ringing loudly in the middle of a church service while I’m in the middle of playing a hymn. That means I often forget to turn the sound back on. Which is what happened this week and the reason I missed the two calls she placed to me yesterday.

But I digress. I started charging the phone and then went to make my daily pot of iced tea and toss in a load of laundry. When I came back into the room with the cell, I noticed that there were a couple of voice mail messages on it. I checked and they were from the aide. It seems that when she got there, dad told her his car had been stolen from around the back of the house. Now, he keeps it parked in the garage, and it was there on Wednesday when I was over there to check in on them. This means he must have used his riding mower to cut the grass. He keeps that in the garage, too, and has to move the car to use it.

Dad did not call me about the possibly stolen car. I checked. There were no messages or even hang-ups on my answering machine. The aide said she told him to call the police. He tends not to think of calling them when things happen. I guess he doesn’t want to bother them. Anyway, she left a second voice mail to say that the car had been found in a neighbor’s yard. My theory is that he hadn’t put it in park and hadn’t set the parking brake and it rolled downhill. I have no idea what shape it’s in or how they got it back into the garage. All I know is that I feel, once again, like the worst daughter in the world.

I realize that is unrealistic. I can’t control anything that my parents do, but it seems that these sorts of things happen on the days that I take time for myself. It’s part of why I’m afraid to do that. I just know that if I take the time away to gather my strength, I’m going to end up using all of it and any reserves the next time I’m over there. Almost not worth taking the time off.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, contest. Maybe I should offer a prize to the first person who can come up with a way for me to be in two or more places at once?

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM  Comments (9)  

If It’s Wednesday, I Must Be Late

Yes, I’m late posting. I know. Just last week I promised to have a new post up every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. And the first week of my new schedule, no new post on Tuesday. I blame it on modern medicine. Let me explain.

Monday morning, I ran over to see mom and dad. I’d promised to hit the K-Mart to pick up stuff they were out of, mainly paper goods like Kleenex and paper towels. Instead of going to K-Mart first, though, I went to the house. Good thing I did. Mom was up, but dad was still in bed, a reversal of what I might normally find. Seems dad wasn’t feeling well.

He had a bad sore throat and hiccups. I asked him how long they’d been going on – a couple of hours. Now, he’d had this problem before and had gone to the ER for it. I was working at the time and wasn’t able to go, but remembered that they’d treated him, and the hiccups went away. The cause was a bad case of indigestion. He’d had to spend the night there because hiccups could be a sign of heart problems. The ran all kinds of tests then and found no heart problems. The good news is that our family doesn’t have a history of heart problems.

After I talked with dad, I tried to get mom to eat something, but she didn’t want anything. Then, the aide who helps her bathe showed up. Since the shower stall they use is in dad’s bedroom, she decided not to give mom a shower, but instead made her breakfast while I ran to K-Mart and picked up the needed supplies, including some generic Tylenol for dad.

When I got back, my mother, who’d claimed she wasn’t hungry, had eaten 2 scrambled eggs and 2 pieces of toast and downed a glass of grape juice. She’ll eat for the aide, but not for me! Amazing. At least she ate.

Since dad was still hiccuping, I made him get up and dressed and took him to the ER to get checked out. After several hours of exposure to whatever is currently going around the schools of Southwestern PA, we left. Dad had had blood work (negative) and a chest x-ray (negative). They gave him a shot of something for the hiccups which took care of them, but made him very, very groggy. The doctor then gave us prescriptions for three things: an antibiotic for dad’s sore throat (yes, he checked that out), a major tranquilizer for the hiccups if they come back, and a pain killer for any pain associated with them. The only thing the x-ray did reveal is evidence of a hiatal hernia which could be related to the hiccups.

I spent Monday evening with my new fibro friends at a tai chi session, re-learning that I do love the gentle movement of tai chi and need to get back into it. Tai chi is great for people with arthritis and fibromyalgia since it is low-impact. The Arthritis Foundation even sells a specially designed tai chi DVD for arthritis sufferers, something I should probably purchase. I figured that I’d have time on Tuesday to write a post after I got back from my own doctor appointment.

But, I figured wrong. I went to a pulmonary specialist about a problem I have with coughing whenever I get a sinus infection and sometimes when I don’t have one. I’d been diagnosed with a mild case of asthma years ago. I’d also been diagnosed with allergies to all things that grow in the ground starting with trees, then grasses, then weeds. No wonder I like cold weather! Anyway, the appointment meant I also had to get a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. The PFT is not fun. You sit in an isolation booth made of glass and blow into and out of a mouthpiece connected to a tube. It measures different things about your lung capacity and other issues related to breathing. But, you have to blow really hard sometimes and that strains the intercostal muscles (upper chest) and mine hurt a lot last night.

Then, the real fun began. The actual examination by the doctor. Since my problem involves my sinuses, he had to view them. To do so, he literally stuck a rubber hose up (and down) my nose (and throat). It was kind of like a colonoscopy for the nose. There is a miniature camera attached to it, and he and his intern toured my sinuses and throat while I sat there in some discomfort. Notice the I did not mention any sort of numbing before he inserted the camera. Oh, no. He said it would be a little bit uncomfortable, but he’d only numb it if I was in real pain. Trust me, I’d rather be numb.

Bottom line is that he doesn’t think it’s asthma. He is not sure what’s going on, so we are experimenting with different treatments to determine what, if anything, works.

And despite the torture, I liked him. When my PCP first recommended him, I figured he was Russian since his name (first name, patronymic, last name) definitely sounded Russian. So, I asked him. He said yes. My next step was to greet him in Russian, which made him smile. We even talked a bit, but I told him that I’d only had 4 semesters of it as a minor in college so I’m not at all fluent. I was shocked at how much came back, though, and how naturally some of it just came out. His intern told me that I’d made his day by speaking Russian with him.

So, with apologies to Vinnie Barbarino, it’s always a good idea to be nice to the person who sticks a rubber hose up your nose.

Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 9:17 AM  Comments (3)