I'm watching "Dance Moms" right now (just for background noise), and I can't believe what I'm seeing. These little girls are regularly decked out in more makeup than most women wear on a normal basis, and it just doesn't look right. The cast and crew are just setting things up for drama after drama, and these girls are caught in the cross fire. I feel so sorry for them. And there is just so much grumping, grousing, picking apart, and negativity. I would absolutely wither in such an environment, no matter what the situation. Those little girls are damn good dancers, though. I envy them their strength and vitality.

On February 6, we lost Cortes. I glanced outside just in time to see him looking up from lapping up a puddle of antifreeze that had leaked out of Corey's truck. I rushed him to the nearest vet that would take him, the first being too full and busy, but the second vet that took him in was amazing, so I'm glad we went there. They pumped his stomach and gave him charcoal, but the tests following that showed that he still had 3 times the fatal amount of antifreeze in his bloodstream, and what happens with antifreeze poisoning is that it mixes with the calcium in the cat's body and creates a kind of sticky, cloggy mess that clogs up their kidneys and induces kidney failure, which is a horribly painful and drawn out way to die. I couldn't let that happen to Cortes so I chose euthanasia, which was the right choice but horribly painful for me. I had time with him to hold him and say goodbye, I held him during the procedure, and then they gave me as much time as I needed afterward to hold him and just cry. I couldn't afford the cremation and urn and I didn't want his body to bring home and bury, so I opted for the "mass cremation" (cremated with whatever other animals and disposed of however they do it) and the clay plaque with an imprint of his forepaws with his name imprinted below the prints. They did a phenomenal job with the clay plaque, crimping the edges and making the prints and the words clear and legible. I was thrilled. I plan to paint it and hang it in the living room along with a favorite picture of Cortes in the frame given to me by a good friend specifically for that purpose. A week after Cortes's death, I received a card in the mail from the vet's office expressing their sympathy and signed by all the employees.

Corey and I are both bummed. Cortes was his favorite, and I, of course, love all of my animal babies fiercely. I don't have children, my womb refuses to house them, and the way things stand with my medications and diseases I won't bear children myself. This means that my maternal instinct is funneled into channels it might not otherwise be so present, and that means that my fur babies mean as much to me as anyone's human babies mean to me. SeƱor Drogo doesn't feel the same way that I do, but he cared for Cortes and misses him a lot.

About a week ago, we took in a new cat that needed a home. She's a calico, about 3 years old, such a love sponge and a purring machine. She will start purring, loudly, if I so much as start talking to her! I have a vet's appointment for her in a week because she has a really bad case of ear mites, one ear being entirely full of gross crusty brown stuff, the poor poor baby. Oh, her name is "Fancy". She was a pound kitty before the previous owners got her, and now she's in what appears to be her forever home. I have better pictures on my cell phone, but haven't been able to get them on the computer yet.

Things have calmed down, at least within me. I've had a lot of blows one after another for some time, but things seem to be slowing down and settling, at least temporarily. I have been beading more lately, trying to work up some sort of an inventory to start my Etsy store with. Just the prospect of doing something solid and with a purpose is exciting and fills me with giddiness. I miss that. Being in the house all day and frequently on the couch or in bed is really kind of dreary after a while. I want to go backpacking and antiquing and run errands and all the good old things I did before! I suppose I'll just have to think of ways to adapt them to my current physical abilities. Backpacking probably is out of the question, though, as I learned recently for a disability appeal form that I can only walk about 300 yards unassisted, and that's without carrying any weight at all. Hey, maybe someone will rig up a Bran and Hodor type situation and carry me on their back in a basket?! Hehehehe…

Besides beading, though, and being generally crafty, I'm working on another project to get my medical bills organized and keep track of how much I owe on each one. The idea is that I'll send in incremental amounts regularly rather than waiting until I have the whole amount at once, which will never happen. Ten dollars here, thirty bucks there… that much money can easily be spent on superfluous things, so why not put those bucks to good use? I'm going to use my old dry erase board calendar with the cork strip along the bottom to write out the company/office I owe money to, the balance owed, and at the bottom I'll pin the paper bills, to be discarded when the bill is paid off entirely. I think it's a good plan, one that will help me greatly. I'm more of a visual, touchy person and just having a stack of bills that I can't pay all at once has done me no good, and will continue to do me no good. (Guilty confession time: I've taken to throwing medical bills into a pile, unopened, because I just don't want to see the numbers that would simply ramp up my agitation. What I don't know can't hurt me… right? lol)

Oh yes, there's also the small matter of my oral surgery this Wednesday. I'll be put under and all three of my wisdom teeth will be removed at once because of serious impaction. (I am simply "missing" one wisdom tooth. Guess it never grew.) I'm going to have to eat nothing but soft, mushy foods for an unknown period of time, as I heal slower than the average person. The oral surgeon has seen many patients with chronic pain and autoimmune diseases, which is a relief to me, and he predicts that my healing time will probably be about double that of a normal person, which is to say three weeks to a month, possibly more. I wonder at what point I'll be able to switch from baby food type meals to a more solid diet? Well, if nothing else, at least I'll lose some more weight over this incident. I can almost guarantee it.

I'm reading The Swiss Family Robinson again, and I notice that every time I do my turns and phrases of speech alter slightly and become a little more old fashioned, as they are in the book. I'm still uncertain as to whether it's really a fictional account or true, but I don't have the heart to look it up because I'd liked to believe it's more of a survival manual than an interesting tale. Seriously, though, that family would break the bank if they played Jeopardy! It seems like they know every friggin' thing to do with nature or animals from all over the world. All. over. If I were stranded on a "desert" (I think they are using "desert" as an archaic term for "deserted", as it's really a subtropical island near the equator) I would rather have the father or the older brother with me than anyone else in the world because I believe that they would increase my chances of survival so greatly. Give the book a brief perusal; you'll see what I mean.

The next few days I intend to spend packing and preparing for a stay of a few days at my grandparent's home after my surgery, and I'd like to get some more beading done as well. I bought a bead/findings organizer last week and setting it up will be quite a chore but so worth it in the end. Lately it seems I've been doing nothing but sleeping or reading, sometimes crafting and all times petting and playing with the cats. It's not so bad of a life, what I've got going on, but still… it does get a bit monotonous and irritating after a while. I still don't know what to do with the fact that my pain is a life-long load I must bear, so for now I've tucked that thought away and out of sight. If I don't, it threatens to become overwhelming and drag me right back into the depression I have so recently escaped from.

For now though, it is, as my mom used to say, "bedtime for bonzos"! Or "Shadrach, Meshach, and Tobedwego!" (That's a joke based on the name of Daniel's companions in the Bible.)
Yes, I've been quite the absentee. What a difference from the days of old when I was pouring my heart out practically on a daily basis. That was back when I had so much to figure out, so many feelings swirling and whirling and trying to feel my way through the hard stuff of bellying right up to my trauma and trying to walk past with my head held high. There were all these relationships with other people to navigate and they didn't fit any normal sort of blueprint that I'd ever encountered. They were all their own special type of dysfunctional that I'd not encountered before. I'm used to full blown abusive, not such passive aggressive stuff. But anyway, I digress.

The past few months have been hard for me, really hard, and I'm not just talking physical symptoms. (Those have sucked too, though; seems that the pain does nothing but increase month by month and I don't understand that at all.) I've had tons of doctor's appointments and tests and I'm burning through money like crazy just trying to get to the appointments and pay the current copays, not even catching up on back payments. That is a discouraging thing to have hanging over your head, especially when you know just how many zeroes are tacked onto the end of that storm cloud. If it weren't for my dad, I'd be completely out of the game by now-- no tests, no diagnoses, no traveling, no nothing. He's a lifesaver. In addition to that, several others have given me a few hundred total this past week and that makes such a huge difference. It makes me think that paying all those bills off might even be possible!

So to the new news that had me so down… I've got an official dx as of a week and a half, two weeks ago, and it's that I'm dealing with EDS for sure. The nice geneticist woman put me on the border between Classic and Type 3 "Hypermobile", but really it's just a matter of clinical fiddling one way or the other, so I guess I'm Classic with hypermobility? Yeah, either way it's a shitty thing to have to deal with. I don't doubt that the rheumatologist's decree of arthritis is wrong, either, because I'm feeling it more and more as time wears on. The weather affects me so drastically now in my joints that I could claim to be elderly if I weren't so young and hot on the outside. Heh. But oh, speaking of young and hot, I'm losing weight! It's visible and noticeable, not only to myself but to others. I'm so relieved and gratified to see that the efforts that I'm able to make are finally paying off.

The Ehlers Danlos, though, just really hit me and left me… numb. Stunned. Pissed. I'm so angry that I have another thing to deal with, and it's something serious that I have to be very aware and wary of my entire life. I can't ever forget about it, because it could seriously kill me, if not just seriously injure me in a split second of carelessness or a mistake. And my dream of someday carrying children? I can kiss that goodbye, even if I weren't permanently on meds that made that a far-fetched notion. The hormones secreted in pregnancy relax the joints and make it possible for them to expand, but my connective tissues are already so loose and whacked out that I'd probably dislocate both hips just standing up and walking, if I didn't rupture something internally. Even before I started having serious pain problems and the other junk--you know, when it was just endocrine and food allergy probs-- I wasn't able to carry a pregnancy past a month or so. Long enough to know I was pregnant, and then they were gone. I know we can do a surrogate pregnancy, it's just… I wanted to experience that. I wanted to carry my husband's child, you know? It's not fair. I'm such a naturally maternal person, and I'm denied the first great joy of motherhood. Hell, I'm worried about creating a family at all anymore, since I know that the state of my health isn't likely to improve much. Oh sure, when we find the autoimmune diseases affecting me and treat those I will start to feel better, but this is a genetic disease and now that it's hit full force it's not likely to back off. For instance, just the other day I had some skin just split open on me. That's not an uncommon thing for me-- the bottoms of my toes used to split open frequently as a girl and into my early teen years. This time it was the skin under one of my breasts, so that was kinda weird, but it happens often to the creases on the side of my fingers as well. Anywhere there's already a crease on my body, it's likely that it'll split open at some point with varying degrees of severity. The split toes were rather deep and would always bleed, but the split under breast was just slight and raw, but very obviously a gap in the skin and painful. That's just part of having crappy connective tissues, I guess.

For anyone who wants a quick explanation of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and the symptoms, etc., check out these couple of sites. There are a ton of things out on the internet about EDS, but I just grabbed a few that I thought explained it the most clearly and succinctly.

- This is a good, easy summarized review, but definitely not in depth at all.

This one is more scientific, but gives a great, rather short explanation of all the facets. Thorough but concise. It even explains how it's inherited, which makes me less worried about Kelsey's chances to inherit it as well, since we have different dads.

And last but not least, here are some FAQ's from the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation itself.

Of course, I learned a bunch by reading through all the websites, though I hadn't bothered to read up on it much until the other day. I guess I was just stunned, kinda in denial. Ever since the rheumatologist in December, actually, I'd just been in a funk. Just knowing how friggin' serious all of this is… it's so much more than "just" fibromyalgia. But you know what? I learned that the difference between a syndrome and a disease is that the doctors and scientists know the origin of the disease and the likely course of progression. A syndrome simply means that its cause is unknown, so it's a collection of symptoms that could turn into something labeled a "disease" if more knowledge surfaces. That's all. So to those folks who write fibromyalgia off as "nothing", not a big deal, or something piddly because it's "just a syndrome" and "not really a disease", I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.

Right now I'm killing time until I head to Phoenix in a few hours for a sleep-deprivation EEG test and a meeting with my psychiatrist. I'm still having troubles with hearing voices, music, and seeing things despite the medication that I'm on. The EEG is to test for epilepsy in the twitches that I have primarily when tired and falling asleep, see what's going on with my darn brain waves. Yeah. I got all kinds of stuff going on. I tell you what, I have not been happy to be forcing myself to stay awake, especially since I've been needing anywhere from 8-16 hours of sleep a day for a couple of months now at least. So staying awake? Hah!

Sigh. Just making everyday life work has been tough, but that's what I am-- tough as nails. The Robot Corey and I are getting along well, plugging along and making ends meet as best as possible. We still have our days and moments, our struggles, but I doubt we'd be human if that weren't the case… especially considering the heavy stress we're constantly under. He has it in his head that he really, really wants a backyard forge, and I'm completely supportive. It'll take several hundred dollars to get all the materials together, and I am encouraging him to use whatever extra funds he can scrape together to do it. He needs a hobby, and he likes to make things. He just hasn't had the space or the money at the same time in order to get it rolling, but I think that now is a good time.

Ah, the time has nearly come for me to jump up and get dressed. The hardest part will be staying awake on the road-- I always fall asleep in moving vehicles!  Well, here's hoping for good news. I could sure use some after all of this craziness. I'll be back with a cheerful post one of these days, you mark my words. It just takes some time to get used to the hammer blows. Heck, it was a good week before I could even let myself think about the EDS diagnosis for more than a split second without tearing up and crying. As I said, though, I am tough as nails, and I'll get through this… pissed off, beat up, limping from cushioned seat to cushioned seat and scrubbing tears furiously from my face, but I'll still make it. Watch me.
If I think about it while it's happening, the slow, mushy minutes between wakefulness and full sleep are a time of curiosity, anxiety, and fear. I always dream, always, with the rare exception a few times in my life. More than that, I often remember what I dream for long periods of time, and while I'm experiencing a dream it is the realest thing in the world to me. Often my dreams are more real than my waking life, the sensations more vivid and the impressions more clear.

For all that, though, I do not tend to have "good" dreams. They can range from the benignly bizarre to confusingly odd, from mundane with shocking twists to terrifying bloodbaths with exquisite detail. Frequently I dream of abuse, rape, my abuser(s), the present with macabre oddities to pollute it… Sometimes I wake up screaming. Sometimes I wake up not sure where I am, not certain at all of my safety. Sometimes I don't wake up and Corey must do it for me. Sometimes I wake up and I think that the man next to me is one of my molesters. I tremble and I shake and I try to catch my breath while my brain catches up with the truth of matters.

I know all this. I know all of this and I also know that I have no idea what the dreams that night are going to be like, and the silent, slow fog of apprehension creeps in and hovers around my bedside in a thick miasma of unpleasant uncertainty.

If I think about it while it's happening, I become frightened while I fall asleep. Fortunately, I've schooled myself not to think about it very often.
I have been asked quite frequently this month if I'm happy about my new diagnoses, happy to know more of what's going on? That's a hard question to answer, truly, but the answer I give is kind of a yes-ish yeah sure when I'm asked. I mean, yeah, but

The news I got is not pretty or happy or pleasant, not by any stretch of the imagination. The hypermobility, there is no treatment or cure other than palliative care, meaning that my excruciating, unmitigated pain will continue without cease or relief, most likely for the rest of my life. Not only that, but it comes with joint slippage and dislocations. Definitely debilitating. Then you have the connective tissue disease and the arthritis, both of which include pain of their own but can be treated. However, there is a distinct possibility of degeneration in time, especially with the arthritis, which is debilitating as well even if the pain is alleviated. It would be nice to have some of the pain taken care of and taken away, even if not all can be. All that, on top of the Hashimoto's and Addison's that must be closely managed if I'm to live normally or stay alive at all, the food allergies and IBS that can make my life a living hell in the blink of an eye and last for weeks at a time,  depression that sucks me into the deepest, darkest pits of blackness without warning or mercy, asthma that prevents me from hard exercise lest I suffocate on my own carbon dioxide, colitis and internal hemorrhoids that leave me doubled with agony and passing blood and bloody mucus… and by the way, do you know how scary it is to use the restroom and see great amounts of blood among your excretions?! Yeah. Bleeding internally is kinda terrifying, no matter how close to the exit it is. And among all that I still have the original fibromyalgia, which is a roller coaster ride of bullshit all on its own. (One of the theories I've read recently about the rise of the chronic illness population is that with the medical advances we have, the weak that would have died off in past times are now surviving to adulthood and bringing their illnesses with them. Looking at the list above, I really think that I would have died off, no? I mean, I barely survived birth.)

So the answer to that oft-asked question would have to be "no". No, I am not happy about these new diseases. Relieved? Yes. Vindicated? Totally. But happy? No. No, I am not fucking happy. I am oddly proud that I was right all this time, though. At the same time, I'm done. I'm so, so, so done. I've had a fever for the past I've lost count days, with the chills and exhaustion that comes with. It's been the best I can do to get most of my dishes into the kitchen sink, but forget about washing them. I've had a minuscule to zero amount of motivation for anything in what seems like forever, and I'm so sick of it! I could go on and on with the complaints, but I'm tired of things being wrong and they just are and it doesn't matter if I write about them or not. I fear I am defeated at last… though I know in my heart that it is only temporary. I will rally and return to myself, someday… but for now, I'm wiped out. I haven't the heart to muster anything but naps.

I'm considering going to my grandparent's for a few days to rest, to let them take care of me a little. I yearn for a caretaker often and heartily, someone to lighten my load a bit. It's hard enough being so damn sick, but trying to fight through the medical system and do my truncated version of daily life at the same time is one plate too many to spin it seems. Who doesn't want their mommy to smooth their hair and make them soup when they're sick? If I had a dedicated caretaker, I wouldn't' have to worry about rides so much either. I hate searching for rides when I have an appointment. It's so difficult, and I generally feel like I'm taking advantage of the goodwill of my friends. I'm worried that I'll wear out my welcome one of these days. I had a thought, though, while I finally began to do some research into the lighter aspects of arthritis (I've put off any research or dealings with any of the new diagnoses until now. I just kinda don't wanna know yet. Don't wanna deal with it. Bleh.), that maybe I'll be able to find a support group here in the area. Friends online are a lifeline to be sure, but in the flesh support is another thing entirely. It would be especially nice to find a couple of folk in my age range as well, but I think that's pushing my luck for Yuma.

So, back to being all blah and curling up with my fever and sweatpants and electric blanket and tea and movie. I've been watching both of the 300 movies tonight in keeping with my rather black mood. The blood and gore used to bother me terribly, but I've learned when to look away. Also, Corey's dark humor has rubbed off on me a bit and I find some things amusing that I didn't used to. I learn so much watching war movies with that man. I swear he's an encyclopedia of battle tactics, armor and weapons throughout the millennia. It's amazing, really. Can't wait until he is teaching all that interesting stuff to our kids.
I feel like I've been gone forever from the good ol' blog. It's only been 20 days, but that can be an eternity. I would explain everything that has gone down, but in the words of Inigo Montoya, "No, is too much. Let me sum up."

First of all, the appointment at the University was a rousing success! The doctor's bedside manner was professional but kind, and he was very thorough. I came away with several new diagnoses and a heart singing with vindication that it was not "just fibromyalgia" this whole time. I'm also dealing with Hypermobility Syndrome, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, and--get this-- Inflammatory Polyarthritis. Yep, that's right. I'm basically an arthritic old woman lol. So right now it's all still pretty vague. We don't have specifics as to what kind of arthritis or connective tissue disease I have, but they took, like, 10 vials of blood, I've gotten x-rays and ultrasounds of my hands, and I go back in February to learn more about what ails me. The Hypermobility makes sense, too. Even if it's not a part of EDS, it can be a thing unto itself and it still causes insane amounts of pain whether it's a standalone or part of the Syndrome. That's where my Intractable Pain comes from, and then I have the arthritic and connective disease pain exacerbating it. No wonder I'm in hell all of the time, why I require overly strong doses of pain medication to keep my body from crashing and burning and putting me in the hospital.

Let's see, what else? Ummm… yeah, I've pretty much spent a lot of this month in bed, sleeping. My friend took me to Tucson and we made a fun trip out of it, going to spend the night with another friend of mine in Sierra Vista, and that was cool. Mostly I've just been trying to survive, buying or making Christmas gifts where I could because I love love love giving people gifts.

Funny, it felt like I had so much stored up and ready to be poured out, but I guess that's my big news. I'm still having a hard time processing the implications of new diagnoses and such, and that's made it rough. In addition to that, Corey's youngest sister passed away a few weeks ago, and that's been really hard. The week that we were making arrangements was the most difficult of all, I think… and I've definitely been taking it harder than Corey. That's fairly normal though, I suppose, at least for us. He doesn't really go in for the whole "displays of emotion" thing, whereas I can't help it. We inherited her young snake (because her dad had no idea how to deal with a snake and didn't want to), and the first time we went to feed her it was a "pinkie", or a baby mouse that has no fur to speak of and hasn't opened its eyes yet. They're small, and we weren't sure how big of a mouse Lemon, the snake, could handle. I was very upset seeing the little guy being sacrificed like that-- it's always harder for me the younger they are-- and when Lemon attacked it wrong and tried to eat it while it was still alive (she's still young and not too good at this yet), I lost it and fled to the bedroom, sobbing. Corey came in a bit later and made sure I was alright, but truthfully he found it a bit amusing. He has some dark humor like that.

So it's kinda been a hell of a month. In addition to all of that, I had some not-very-good pain killers to try out this month, which is what led to the "surviving" part. The spending most of my time sleeping thing is, apparently, an automatic response to grief and excessive stress. However, Corey has been more affectionate and interested in our relationship. I think that the conversations we had made a difference for him, and I know that it got me thinking more deeply. I think the sudden loss has made him more attentive toward me as well, because he is sensitive toward my moods and making sure that I don't fall too far. I love that man, I really do.

Tomorrow is Christmas, and it'll be the first one in my life that I can recall not spending with my mom and siblings. Corey doesn't celebrate holidays, and I'm a bit of a grinch myself, but there are some things about certain holidays that I like and Christmas holds a few favorites. I like lights and Christmas trees and gifts and family. I wasn't able to make any of that happen this year, though, because I'm just too sick, exhausted, and whatever to put forth the effort. I will be having dinner with my grandparents tomorrow afternoon, so that's something. I'm pretty sure they have a gift for me, and I have something for them that I made, but they're really not putting effort into it either because all of the grandkids are gone or grown… kinda makes me sad. But my hopes are that by next Christmas I'll have the vigor to make some effort toward the things that I love, maybe even be able to travel again and see my folks. I really hope so. I hate living all the way across the country from them.

Today wasn't too bad, though. I got a massage, slept, ate cake, and watched How I Met Your Mother all wrapped up in my electric blanket on the couch. Not bad at all, I'd say, though much different than I've spent my Christmas Eve's in the past. I'm hoping to "make" Corey take me out to see some of the impressive Christmas lights tonight after he gets home from work. That'd be neat.
So today is the day. I'm headed to the University to see the good ol' doctors and hopefully, hopefully get some answers, maybe move forward an iota in this journey. My friend drove me, and we've been having a grand old time. She's a pretty new friend, but we've bonded quickly and have a lot in common. I really enjoy spending time with her, and she doesn't mind driving me these long distances so it's a really good symbiotic relationship.

It has been so long since I've gotten out of the house and just had fun, but when I'm out on road trips with Cheryl we have fun! Granted, they're medical road trips, but who cares? We went and got pedicures last night after getting into town because I've needed one desperately for some time. The bottoms of my feet and my heels were dried, cracked, peeling and bleeding but I can't reach my feet to take care of them anymore. (I can't soak in the tub any longer either, because I can't get myself up and out; it's too painful and difficult.) I haven't been able to bend like that for some time, just because of the spine and ribcage and stuff, and I have more difficulty bending my knees now. I ask Corey to help me now and then, but he blows me off because he doesn't want to do it, like most of the things I ask him to do for me. Massages are the most frequent request, but he finds them boring and so it doesn't happen. I'm hoping that he can learn to grow and change with the situation and become more proactive, more helpful. When we talk sometimes he says that he doesn't know what to do to help with my pain or other troubles, but that's not the truth. He knows, because I tell him. I ask for things, I don't just assume that he knows what I need. He just… doesn't wanna do it.

Cheryl and I have been talking about a very wide range of things on this trip and I've gotten to vent about the hurt and frustration I'm feeling in this season of life. It's not just one thing, of course, but a whole kaleidoscope of minor and major stings and slashes and bruises. I'm just trying to make things better. I hope it works. The best thing about our conversations that range all over is that not only are we so much alike but she understands from the chronic illness standpoint as well. Her disease came out of a long remission about 4 or 5 years ago, so she's feeling the sting of losing the normalcy and routine of the life that you lived and maybe loved. I'm going on 3 years and I still have a hard time making heads or tails of it. Yes, Friko, there is more to me than illness, but I just live those parts. I don't need to blog about them because they don't cause me pain, I don't need to sort through the feelings. A lot of who I used to be and what I used to do is gone, though, and I'm trying to figure out what fits in the gap. It hit me like a brick last week to realize how dependent I've been forced to become and that just galls. I was such an independent woman, a "doer", a travel across the country by myself, backpacking, hiking, counseling and administrating, housekeeping, job holding person who could drive herself to the store if she needed to. I can't do any of that anymore. I can hardly cook for myself these days, me who used to cook for our family on a daily basis. I'm a damn good cook, but it's too painful and exhausting for me to pull it off any longer.

So all of that is tumbling around in my mind like a rock polisher hard at work as I face this appointment. I have no idea what to expect, but I know what I'm hoping for. If they can actually definitively tell me what disease I have then logically there will be a course of treatment that will help me to at least stabilize, but hopefully to become functional again. That is what I am looking forward to. I resent my dependence and so does Corey. He's resorted to mechanical functioning and nothing I do can bring him out of his shell. He won't even say "I love you" unless I say it first; it's just a response. He doesn't kiss me, I have to go up and kiss him. It's like he doesn't want to interact with me anymore beyond a superficial basis-- I kiss him and tell him I love him when he goes to work, I kiss him and tell him I'm glad he's home when he comes home (all true, by the way). We'll fix ourselves something to eat, watch a few episodes of whatever show we're watching together, take a walk for half an hour or so, and then he retreats to his man cave to play computer games and I do whatever it is I need to do (sleep, read, slowly accomplish some chores) until it's time to go to bed. He doesn't cuddle with me in bed anymore, either. Lately there's been a teeny bit more of that, but it's because I cuddle him, wrapping an arm around him or entwining our feet like we used to do…

I don't know if it's the truth, but I feel like the health and happiness of our marriage is intrinsically tied to the state of my health. If I can get a good diagnosis and course of treatment, I can get somewhat better. Then Corey won't be as stressed or freaked or whatever he is, and he'll return some closeness, maybe? Hopefully? I'm reminded of a time we were talking about something or other and he said, partially in jest I hope/think, "I don't want to deal with cripples," or some such. I just kind of laughed, patted him on the shoulder and told him, "Sweetie… you're married to one."

I tend to get my hopes too far up in the sky and then bemusedly wander around, dripping with my own blood, when those hopes fracture and come crashing down on me to crush and transfix me. It's kind of a weakness. But is a diagnosis of what is clearly a destructive disease really that big of a dream? I mean… shouldn't it just be kind of a realistic thing to expect from life? And so I welcome you to the times and trials of the chronic illness patient.

(If you want to hear a neat song about high hopes, check out Sinatra's song about high, apple pie in the sky hopes. It's adorable.)
I don't even know where to start on this topic. Do you know how many times I've been so devastated, ticked off, and just gutted when I find out that a person or a couple is not, underneath, the image that they presented? I can't even count. So many, many, many times I've thought that I've found a healthy and happily married couple to look up to, only to find through the course of time that they are broken underneath-- bitter fighting, ugly resentments or cold silence and miles and miles of distance, if not outright abuse. The Stottlemyers and my grandparents are pretty much the only examples I have had of functioning marriages, and I didn't even realize that my grandparents' relationship was all that healthy until very recent years.

So get this-- in our circle of friends, Corey and I are the example, the Westley and the Buttercup, the happy, healthy, functioning marriage. And it's true. It is. Or, at least, it was… because how do you admit to yourself that you're not happy with where things are at in your marriage, much less bring it up to your partner? But that's exactly what I did this weekend, and I feel good about it. We're talking, our communication is still wide open and blazing, and it's not like we're going to split up at all or anything. It's just… there's this distance. And there's these walls. There isn't sex anymore, or purposeless flirting… intimacy has fled, of a sort. I feel like we're just roommates at this point in so many ways, but I still love him on a very fundamental level and it still sweeps me away all the time. I know he still loves me and it shines through. (In more subtle ways than I'd like, but it's there. It's definitely there.) Plus he says it at least once a day, so there's that. Heh.

The times we've talked about it ("it" being the change in our relationship), it's basically presented as the set of diseases I have and the stress of all that is like a big ball of blah that has settled upon us and is glopping all over us like The Blob. What Corey hates the most is what these diseases have done to me. He hates seeing the change, the loss of independence, and he also kinda feels that maybe I'm a different person now than the person he married and he thinks he should feel bad about feeling that, like maybe he shouldn't feel that way, and the biggest thing is that he tries to keep all of this from me because he knows that I internalize things more than I ought to because of my upbringing and background. He thinks that I would take what he says and blame myself severely, and he doesn't want me to endure that kind of pain or to poison my mind and heart like that. He is so sure that I will blame myself and over-feel it and get depressed or so; it's sweet that he wants to protect me, but it is distancing us.

So I almost feel like I've become what I despise-- the so called healthy, happy marriage that is just a veneer for trouble underneath. I know that things aren't where either of us would like them to be, but they're not abysmal, either. It's very true, the incredible stress that chronic illness brings can break you down and tear you apart, but we are not going anywhere. Things are hard-- not only do we have the diseases and my disability and constant medical stuff to deal with, in addition to the day in, day out symptoms-- but we have major financial stress to battle with as well. I'm just super glad that we don't have debt to deal with beyond a credit card each and whatever outstanding medical bills I've got right now. It's just that my medical expenses totally ate up Corey's extra cushion money and now we're living paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth. It's like every time he's about to even out, something comes along that screws everything up and takes all of the potential extra money (which is never more than one or two hundred dollars).

True story: I emailed my stepdad last week and begged him for money (again) to cover medical bills and such, as usual, but I also had to ask him for grocery money because Corey had paid the mortgage and all of our other bills-- we don't have anything on the docket that is extraneous, nothing indulgent, just basic life necessities-- and he had $11 in his bank account to last us 1 1/2 weeks until his next paycheck. I believe that's the lowest we've hit so far, honestly, but it was truly unnerving. I'm not sure I know the meaning of "disposable income" anymore. From time to time I'm still able to sneak a treat in for myself here and there, but it's in the form of a $2 muffin or a new bottle of nail polish, something like that. Corey operates like that as well, but he indulges far less often. We just need an edge of some sort, just something to help us get ahead and we could do it; I know we could. That's why we are hoping so hard that I get approved for disability-- it could be that edge, that little thing that turns things around for us. I was excited when I established the Tiara Fund and donations came trickling in, but that has completely dried up no matter how much I share the link. I really did think for a minute there that the Tiara Fund was going to be the thing that turned it around for us.

I won't lie-- our life is really frickin' stressful, and I know that's why we have faded to a facade, our vibrancy dulled by the cruel, grinding rhythm of sickness and hardship. I'd like to get help for us, but where do you turn when you are the healthiest relationship you know, even if you're kinda broken? And chronic illness issues within a marriage are so, so different from other kinds of issues. I don't know what to do. I really don't. I guess all we can do is keep the communication open, keep talking, and just hang on for dear life. I'm beginning to think that I've perfected the death grip, really, but I know with a sickening lurch to my gut that just as soon as I think things have gotten as bad as they will… shit happens. I've got doctor's appointments coming up to hopefully diagnose the extra stuff beyond fibromyalgia that I'm dealing with, and I have a cold feeling of dread that I won't like the answers that I get. But then, I feel that way about everything related to my health these days anyway…

I don't want to be a facade. I really, really don't, and as a person I think I've accomplished a marvelous level of authenticity so far (considering where I've come from and the shit I've had to wade through to get here), but as a couple… yeah, I think that for now it's all about the death grip.