I broke down crying today during my appointment with my "lady doctor". (Yeah, I could just say gynecologist, but I honestly like the phrase "lady doctor" better. It sounds more elegant, don't you think?") Well, not breaking down as in sobbing, like buckets of tears, but I did cry and she handed me the tissues and I felt a little embarrassed because I try to keep my crying to a minimum, and definitely private and not in front of my doctors. She was very understanding, though-- I love having her as a doctor. I only see her once a year, but she's awesome.

She asked what had transpired in the past year, so I gave her a quick rundown on my health, on the status of my marriage, of the stress that we are under (and that's where I started crying), etc. She was very sympathetic and encouraging, and she said that she hates the diagnosis of fibro the most for her patients because it just causes so much pain and horror in their lives. She is a total believer in fibro and how it can wreck a life, and we even had a little chat about pregnancy and fibro, the risks and challenges, etc. She really wished me well and had good wishes for me that I would find out, through the doctors and tests, what on earth is really going on so we can treat this and get it under control.

Get this: even my gynecologist, after just a brief rundown of my health changes in the last year, says straight out that I am dealing with something beyond fibromyalgia. There is another disease at play here and we haven't figured it out yet, but it is continuing to drag me down and make life feel more and more impossible. I want to find the line between reality and complaining, but I also just want to vent and explode into the atmosphere with a supersonic silent scream at how hard every day is, how much I miss my old life, and how sick I feel every day and night, how much acute agony I chronically endure. Since I got taken off of the hydroxychloroquine until my appointment with my rheumatologist in Phoenix, my joints have jumped in on the pain parade full force, even more so than before. I am not aware of a single joint in my body that doesn't ache on a near constant basis, even without use or pressure.

I hardly do hot baths anymore because putting weight on my hands to lever myself up and out of the tub is almost unbearable; walking is painful at all times because of my knees, ankles, and all the articulations in my feet. Did I mention that I received news at my last pain doc appointment that I basically have gout?! I'm a 26 year old woman. How the fuck can I have gout?! So I got this paper that lays out the foods I can and shouldn't eat, but I'd just started to revamp my diet a bit and make it healthier so I can lose weight hopefully, but the gout paper basically told me to continue eating the way that I have been! Just with more veggies. I think it's just going to be trial and error, really. This gout thing is in conjunction with my pain doc's sincere conviction that I have a type of rheumatoid arthritis that doesn't show up on the AI blood tests, but that there are definite ways of diagnosing. That's a very valid theory, especially considering my poor joints now that I'm off of the lupus/RA drug and doing so much more poorly. (My friend with the same type of RA as the doc is postulating takes hydroxychloroquine for it and it helps her. We both think that, you know, if I'm taking an RA drug and it's helping and then I get off of it and I worsen, that combined with other clear symptoms makes a pretty strong case for seronegative RA.)

By the way, a blog that I follow regularly, chroniccurve, has an entire post called Seronegativity for Dummies, and I strongly suggest you check it out if you're at all curious about what the heck I'm talking about. She's a great writer, a strong advocate, and does not spread misinformation. Best of all? She's totally my age or maybe a bit younger, a peer! I love it.

I am looking forward to my appointment the first week of December at the rheumatology department of the University of Arizona. I hope it will be a good and productive experience. Yes, I'd prefer that the doctors are pleasant and funny and good looking as well as intelligent and diligent, but honestly all of that falls on the back burner when I regard information and a correct diagnosis. What would you do for a Klondike bar? I think the question is, what would you do for a real live answer? If I just had a reason for my every increasing pain and continuing fatigue, it might make it easier to bear.

I realized this week that even though he loves me and he is totally there for me and is my #1 supporter, sees everything… Corey will never really understand what life is like for me, what it's like to be sick like this, none of that. (Random insert, but I'm really tired and falling asleep while typing this, so I closed my eyes for a very long blink and had a momentary dream/vision/hallucination of passing out and being lowered to the ground by my group of friends… the ground that was made of various kinds of ice cream. Woooooow.) So, back to Corey. See, he rarely even gets sick, and any pain he's experienced has been acute in nature, not to mention that he's good at putting mind over matter and ignoring the discomfort. Sometime I'll have to share the story of when he sprained his ankle at school in the morning, walked on it the entire day without seeing the nurse, and then walked home. Crazy dude. Crazy! But because of his lack of experience with prolonged pain and sickness, he really has no vantage point from which to really see into my experience and sort of assimilate it into his own, to pretend that he's me in a way.

Honestly, that realization was a little bit devastating to me. I knew he had my back but I had always just kind of assumed that he knew exactly what I was dealing with and was choosing to be dense at times. Oops. Heh. But no, he doesn't truly get it, and that's okay. Who does, really, unless they've lived it? I mean… I know what it's like to have my bones feel like they're filled with fire and etched with acid; I know where the articulation of my joints are because the ache is particularly sharp, thick, and overwhelming there. I know what it's like to literally be crippled by pain and not be able to take a step forward or stand at all, even sit, due to epic levels of concentrated pain in one area or another. I know what it's like to suddenly be dizzy and lose my footing on a completely flat surface. I know the jolting awake from a presumably sound sleep for no apparent reason (or because the pain followed you into your dream and it got too overwhelming), maybe just once that night, or maybe again and again and again, every hour or half hour, and I know the feeling of overwhelming gratefulness that I don't have to try to drag my invisibly battered and bruised carcass into work every day. Objects fly from my hands when a twitch attack strikes, I can't walk, and it jerks and jolts already painful muscles and tendons and joints. I need the walker to walk, especially with my very low back having decided to give up on me in excruciating spasms and weakness at totally random intervals, but my hands hurt badly from the weight on them as I push myself along with the walker and from having to grip the handles the whole time.

On the other hand, that same walker allows me independence that I would not have otherwise, and it allows me to walk a half an hour or more every night, pain or no pain. It's cleansing, this walking, and Corey joins me for that, too. It's during the walk, during the errands on his day off, that I realize he will never truly get it unless it happens to him. Good god, may it never happen to him. He hasn't the patience or the proper personality to deal with such unrelenting pain and the constant onslaught of old and new symptoms that always keep you off balance just a little. He does not have the good humor to laugh through or about a particularly painful day or hour or situation. He turns into a grouchy, mean person when subjected to large amounts of pain that are "semi-chronic" (lasting for more than a day). I've seen it first hand! So really, it's better for everyone involved that I'm the sick one, not him.

As you can see, there is much for me to think about and feel when it comes to my current "lifestyle". I didn't choose it but I do have to make the best of it because it's not going away, not anytime soon by my guess, and I'd rather not waste a huge chunk of my life just waiting to get better so I can begin being the person that I want to and doing the things that I want to do. Hell no. Corey summed it up pretty aptly when he said that there was a lot of "trauma" around the change in my life and my sicknesses, and he's right. There is a lot of trauma, stuff that I need to work through, and I really want to. I tried a particular place this week that seemed promising based on a lead from Bisbee when I was visiting the other week, but the people here were somewhat rude and quite unhelpful and it did not pan out at all. No counseling for me at this time; can't afford to add another doctor to the mix right now. Not when every penny of what I use to pay my doctors and get prescriptions and such is a gift from family or friends or somebody. God I hope I can sell these crafts that I've made somehow. It's the only way I can think to make some money right now that's within my physical capabilities. I haven't made much in the past few weeks, though. Been too… depressed. Sick. Totally unmotivated on top of feeling so feverish and flu like and drained and just blah. I'm still super shocked that I actually had a great time in Tucson and wasn't all that ill.

I blame our mattress, actually. My sister in law's mattress helped keep my pain down, I think, but ours beats me up like hell. We need either a new mattress or one of those memory foam topper thingies for it, and we also need new pillows, like, SO bad. Have for a couple of years now. Anyway, I can barely keep my eyes open, and I'm just rambling at this point in any event. Hit me up if you wanna buy us a mattress or pillows, or if you wanna buy some crafts, yeah? Keychains, beaded autumn wall hangings, necklaces, earrings, painted prescription bottles, and more. Maybe I'll do pictures some time. Maybe. If I remember… and feel like it. Heh.

Also, I was just hit with a strong but irrational desire to go to the zoo. What's that about?
So guess what, folks? The Princess (that's me!) went on vacation. An honest to goodness, get away from it all vacation. I really, really did! It would in no way have been possible without my amazing sister in law, who I did not know cared for me as deeply as she does, but she spoiled me in almost every fashion imaginable.

First off, she had started saving for this weeks and weeks ago, and while I was there I paid my own way on things twice. Twice. In an entire week of going places and seeing things and doing stuff and buying food! Second, she was very careful to keep my physical labor to a minimum, to make sure that I rested as much as possible, and that I was able to access the places we visited. She carried all of my luggage and would only let me carry pillows and the like, even loading and unloading my walker every time we got in or out of the car! I must admit, it was pretty fantastic to have a sherpa, as I jokingly called her throughout our time together.

It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but it was so incredibly nice to have no responsibilities, to not have to pay for anything, to have fun things to look forward to every day yet not have any kind of a rigid schedule so that our whims and my health could lead the way as to our activities, and to just kind of… well, I have this mental image of, like, my normal life and home and such with this blank white cutout space in my shape throughout the entire week where I would normally be during that time, and the cutout of me was pasted into this whole other life and reality for a week. Does that even make sense? It was so different from how my life usually proceeds that it felt like almost an entirely different reality, which is what vacation is supposed to be, right?

It felt restorative, rejuvenating, and soothing. I was the closest that I've been to my pre-Spoonie self than I've been in years. Granted, it took a lot of assistance to get that, but that doesn't diminish the experience at all. It's a series of memories that I will cherish for a long time to come, I can guarantee that.

Our week went something like this…

Sunday: Colleen (sister in law) arrives and we more or less intend to leave that day, but don't because I'm feeling poorly and it takes me forever to pack, and also what's the rush? We make a list and Colleen packs for me, which is awesome.

Monday: We leave in the morning after stopping by the local muffin store (Yum-azing!), I sleep all the way to Tucson. We go grocery shopping, Colleen cooks supper, take a walk around University, get locked out of house upon return and Colleen ends up breaking in through a window that was unlocked.

Tuesday: Visit an art store for shopping, go clothes shopping for me at a thrift store nearby, have dinner with Colleen's best friends and I have my first margarita. The night is capped with my first hookah smoke and we talk late into the night.

Wednesday: Walk the main drag near the University and visit the tea house we've had our eye on, go to dinner at a fancy place and run low on time, get trapped in the parking garage because of a faulty ticket and barely make the play we've been looking forward to seeing (and pre-purchased tickets for). End the night by returning to the main drag and hanging out at a coffee shop smoking hookah and eating Mediterranean pastries until the shop closes late.

Thursday: Drive to town an hour or so away to spend a few days with my friend Rose. She was interning with the Victim Rights department during the trial that put my molester in prison, and so she was sort of a victim advocate for me and we've kept in touch and maintained a friendship since. Get settled, I get a haircut and Rose takes me on a mini tour of the Army Fort and beautiful surrounding scenery. I fall asleep in the car and nap upon our return, wake to find company over for dinner, and we all hang out until dispersing for bed some time after company leaves.

Friday: Take a 2 mile walk with Rose (yeah, that's right! I'm fuckin' proud of myself!!!), nap briefly before we all pile in and drive to Bisbee to check out the stores and sights. Colleen buys her first "real" piece of art and is now an official adult, and I find some amazing souvenirs and a smaller cast iron skillet of a size we don't already own that I take home for Corey. (He likes it a lot, and used it for the first time tonight to make a sort of omelette.) After coming home, Rose's "Gathering Of The Awesome" party starts a while later, consisting of awesome women that she knows and invited to an evening of yummy light food, good drinks, good conversation and company, and a fun art activity that was also insightful and connecting.

Saturday: Leave Rose's and head back to Colleen's house, go grocery shopping for afternoon picnic planned. I nap for a few hours, then she, I, and one of her best friends that we went to dinner with go up Mount Lemmon and have a picnic, sort of start a fire to keep ourselves warm, and watch the sunset on the drive back down the mountain.

Sunday: We both sleep in, and eventually she packs up the car and takes me back to Yuma but leaves shortly after because of work the next day.

I was feeling pretty good throughout the week, at least as far as "good" for me goes, but as the week went on I could feel myself wearing out. By Friday night I was running a mildly low grade fever and felt pretty gross. Saturday night I declined a proposed meet up with a friend of Colleen's in favor of staying in bed because I felt shitty, and Monday, the day after I got back, I pretty much did nothing but sleep in hour-to-several-hour increments for about 24 hours. I'm still recovering, but part of it is that I don't have that medication that helps so much with the stiffness and pain in my joints anymore, so I just feel more arthritic and whatever than usual anyway. Also, period should be coming soon, and I'm always exhausted the week before my period and sleep more than usual, so I'm not surprised there, either.

I cheated a lot with allergens on vacation, so I'm returning to being a "good girl"… but oh man, I had some of the best food in a long time. Have you ever had fresh sopapillas? Then you are missing out on the culinary equivalent of salvation for your soul, I swear to you. They are so. good. I've also been on a huge muffin craving kick since we hit that muffin place on the way out of town. I had forgotten what I was missing, but now I am constantly reminded of my suffering due to lack. Alas, alack, woe is me, woe betide, and all that sorrowful jazz…

It was a good trip. It was a very good trip. I don't expect to have an experience like that again anytime soon, but I will surely treasure it. I feel different somehow from having  had the experience, but I'll think on that more later. I am so indebted to my ladies, Rose and Colleen. My gratitude knows no bounds. I know that they really went above and beyond for me… and yet for them, I'm sure it seems somewhat of a simple matter. It's funny how perspective works. From my perspective, it was a chance to live life again, to have fun and forget the frustrations and complexities of trying to juggle doctor's appointments and bills and finding rides and medication snafus and all that… to simply be a young woman again and enjoy things… to just have fun, pure and simple! From their perspective, it was doing things that maybe they don't get to do every day but have been wanting to, but it wasn't particularly mind-altering I don't think. It was pretty much business as normal, but on vacation time.

Regardless of who felt what, there is one thing that we should all be feeling right now, and that's pride. Pride in me, of course. Why? Because it's only been 3 days since I got home, and I'm fully unpacked! Yeah, baby! (This is fairly unheard of, just for context.) Now that I'm home, back to responsibilities, I feel a little better equipped to handle them now that I'm not so frazzled and frayed because I had a pleasant break. On the other hand, it makes me not want to deal with real life at all anymore and just continually live the vacation life on someone else's dime… Heh. If only, right?
Corey came home a day early from hunting! So he's been around as I've been slowly wending my way through the day with the intent to pack interspersed with frequent naps. I'm happy that I got to see him before I take off for a week, but it would have been okay had we missed each other like we thought we were going to as well.

I was in bed, just on the edge of slipping into the depths of real sleep after a phone call had awoken me, and I heard the front door open amidst shuffling sounds and a muted jangling of keys. Confession: I can't stand to be encumbered by layers of fabric when I sleep, so I didn't feel that I could jump up to investigate in naught but my birthday suit! I lay there drowsily alert, trying to decipher activity based on the carrying sounds when Corey breezed into the room, all salty, sweaty woodsmoke smell and smiles, bending over the bed to kiss me. It was a warm kiss, but something was awry-- he was eating  licorice!!! (I despise and detest licorice, especially the black kind! Oh, and he knows this quite well.) I determinedly kissed him anyway, but exclaimed afterward how cruel and gross he was, and he grinned and laughed and got a kick out of that.

The day has been a long, slow one. Much resting on my part, and the essential absence of any kind of deadline for being packed or leaving today has been a welcome knowledge. I fell in the shower today when I tried to sit on the stool I have. It slipped out from underneath me and I crashed down, banging my back on the edge of the stool's wooden seat and wrenching my hip a bit. I suppose I shrieked amidst the resounding thump and crash of the fall, so Corey came in to see if I was okay and found me huddled on the floor of the tub, unable to get up by myself and curled in a painful little ball repeating my mantra of "Owwwww, owwwww, ouch, owwww….!" He helped pull me to my feet and I was suddenly incredibly grateful that he'd come back a day early.

My sister in law accompanied me to dinner with the friends of mine that I celebrate the Anniversary with, and we all had a nice early supper at Olive Garden to celebrate the Anniversary. Everyone got along well, which is good. I was not really worried because C is a very charismatic and personable person, but she's not religious at all and my friends are, so I was hoping there wouldn't be a clash of interests or basic world views. We stayed away from the religion topic, though, and all was hale and hearty.

After coming home and all relaxing with books and television shows of choice for a while, I convinced Corey to come cuddle with me as I was going to be falling asleep for a bit (maybe the whole night, maybe just a few hours? I have no clue at this point, though I'm rather hoping for a whole night's sleep). We lay there in the dark for a bit, talking about his hunting trip and how it went, but soon the conversation ebbed away and I found myself dozing off. Just about then Corey got up and left the bed and I was very disappointed that he'd get up and leave just as I as falling asleep. What a super awkward moment to disappear, right? I vocalized my disappointment, but it turns out that he was just closing the door that had been propped open so the cats could come and go as they please. He came back to bed to be with me again and, well, all I have to say is that conjugal relations are awesome, and even if it's been a long time and you feel like a broken record by coming on to your partner again and again without apparent success, keep at it. Keep at it only if you mean it, though; when the time is right a lovely experience will unfold.

I'm gonna come straight out with an honest, brutal truth here that some people may find uncomfortable talking about: stress kills sex drives, and lowers intimacy if you let it. Truthfully, it has been a long time between the last time we were intimate and this time, and that's because we are frazzled a great deal of the time. Sex involves and requires a lot of emotions, and a lot of energy too, and when you're dealing with a mountain of stress being poured over you like a thick, viscous pudding it's really hard to dig up the motivation to do something that isn't "vegging", you know? For me, having sex actually helps me to cope with stress better and it alleviates my depression and anxiety to a degree, but my husband finds himself more drained by the act than I do. I'm revitalized by sex, but he is exhausted. I have a higher, more demanding libido than he does even when things are normal and especially so when things are stressful and out of sync, so that's something that we have both become aware of and keep in mind. It took communication to reach these conclusions, but there was a period of time where I was hurt and confused by his constant rebuffing of my advances; I thought that he no longer wanted me in that way because I had gotten sick, or that maybe he didn't find me attractive anymore, or that he was afraid to hurt me, or that he really just didn't care about me much. I was so wrong, but you can understand how an almost daily (or several times daily) rejection of a flirtatious sexual advance can give the impression that one is unwanted by and unattractive to the object of the flirtation.

Sex can be a huge source of assumptions, miscommunication, frustration, and simmering resentment, anger, and bitterness, and sometimes it's awkward to talk about but you just gotta do it for the health of your relationship. I'm serious. (Plus once you get the kinks worked out and both partners feel understood and validated, you can get some serious toe curling action up in there! If that isn't worth it, I don't know what is.)

Now I'm going to attempt to sleep (again, for however long) and ignore the steadily mounting pain. Falling in the shower and banging yourself up does nothing to alleviate an already worsening flare. Maybe the fatigue will overpower the pain, yeah? Funny how you can play one symptom against another to achieve a benefit to yourself, huh? The Monopoly of Illness, or some such.
It's so strange to be filled with this overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, as if I am overflowing with a past sense of myself. I swear that these past few days, I've been transported to my years as a teenager. I couldn't say why, absolutely cannot put my finger on it, but… I still feel like that old ghost of myself, wandering around empty halls in search of…?

It could be the crazed nightmares, the fact that Corey is gone and not around "all the time" like he is normally. That's quite reminiscent of my teen years. Most of my dreams have been about lack or loss of control, about danger and physical harm and incidences of great stress. Could be that I feel a little lost, a lot exhausted, very unsure of things and myself and just plain done. Tired of being an adult, so I regress?

It's strange, falling asleep at 8 pm because I'm wiped (again, and after being awake only a few hours) and waking up at 1 am, shuffling out to the familiar scents of my own home but feeling disoriented, empty and weepy somehow, as though disaster has struck elsewhere and yet I'm still affected.

I'm wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, watching Dirty Dancing for comfort. Something about the music and the sight of Patrick Swayze grinding his hips every which way is soothing ;)

I have this sort of premonition feeling that this trip I'm taking in a day or two is going to be important for me, personally, for my personal growth somehow. I haven't really gone off on my own since I got really sick, so that could be part of this strange feeling and the anticipation/loneliness that I'm feeling.

I tell you, it is just strange to feel a decade younger again all of a sudden… especially when that past self and current self are overflowing with a sense of… um… whatever it is? Above and through it all, though, is the same sense I had as a teenager, and that is a desperate and deep craving to be loved intensely and obviously, wholly and completely, in a way that makes me feel totally safe and surrounded, like a song or a movie. Totally unrealistic I'm sure, but the craving is still there (and probably exacerbated by a month plus of celibacy). And it's been there my whole life, the stage of uncertainty set by abuse and neglect and a casual indifference of my specialness. So we're back to that, and I hope this time to move through it with strength and purpose, or at least just an awareness.

I really don't care to be a teenager again. Too much uncertainty. It's funny how we pretend that it goes away when we become adults. I don't think it ever does, really… Heh.
I'm sorry I've been so sketchy at writing. It's just that usually I'm so tired and my brain is so fuzzed up that it's hard for me to keep a train of thought going, even during conversation. In addition to that, it seems like things are both not happening at all and yet so many things are happening that I don't have the gumption to write it out. Any feels I have these days I usually cry out in the tub, or into a pillow, or onto Corey's shoulder. (I've also decided, what's up with the aliases? It's hard for me to keep track of them now, and internet anonymity is really kinda not much of a thing these days unless you work really hard at it and I'm just not willing to put that much effort into it anymore.)

I've made some friends, new friends, and one of them drove me to the pain doc in LA yesterday. It was a fun experience… she's basically like a version of myself in 20 years, so we get on great. Anyway, the doc mentioned it last month, but this month he was really emphatic that he thinks I'm dealing with seronegative arthritis, which is arthritis that doesn't show up on blood tests. Next month I've got an appointment in Tucson at the University with the rheumatology department there for a diagnosis. I was thinking EDSH, maybe, but now there's this question of arthritis… maybe it's both? Who knows, really. Maybe it's "just" hypermobility syndrome and also arthritis. I dunno. Whatever the case, I think things are finally starting to get figured out, and that's a relief.

I am so tired of trying to wrangle all of these doctors and appointments and trying to get all of the doctors to work together and communicate and send the dang files when they're supposed to and, just… my goodness. So done.

But I have a "vacation" of sorts coming up in a few days. My sister in law is coming to pick me up and I'm going to spend the better part of a week in Tucson with her and an artist friend, just kicking back and enjoying the sights and being a tourist. Both of them have a clear grasp of my health status and my limitations, and I'm so very grateful for that. I wish I didn't have so many damn limitations, but it is what it is. I'm looking forward to a chance to go have fun, to be out and about and also have reliable rides the entire time, to more or less be catered to I guess? And the last time I took a trip that wasn't for a doctor's appointment was in March, when we went to the Renaissance Festival. Seriously.

Marriage. It's been strained in ways, because of our tight, tight finances. I was denied disability and I'm still working on finding an attorney to appeal it. I had a lead but that closed down today, so I have to keep searching. I only have 30 days. The stress has been hard on both of us, but it's also led us to be very, very honest with one another, to have some good talks, and we've had a lot of fun together as well. There are pros and cons both, as with all things. One reason I had been somewhat unhappy a while back is because I had fallen into that tempting trap of comparing us with others. First of all, we are a unique couple, and healthier than pretty much any other couple I know (neither of us could think of a healthy marriage that we could turn to for mentorship; isn't that horrifically sad?!), but more than that we are dealing with chronic illness and a terribly unique situation. There is no manual for this. We're making it up as we go. Sometimes it's rougher and tougher than others and I cry a lot and feel sad and lonely and unfulfilled, but those times seem to be further and farther between now, especially once I embraced the fact that we have to make our own journey and I have to look for the ways that Corey uniquely expresses his love toward me. He's not a writer or a poet or a very traditionally romantic guy. I'm not going to get grand gestures or sweet notes or thoughtful surprises. He will, however, drive me to and pick me up from a doctor's appointment on a day that he has called in sick (which he never) does because I am not well enough to drive myself any more except on very rare, desperate occasions. He got up earlier than he wanted, while sick, and drove me to the appointment and picked me up, all while not feeling good. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is love. So, stuff like that. I would love flowers, sure, and he likes to get them for me, but we can't afford that right now. We are having an alarmingly difficult time with basic bills and food, as hard as that is to admit. He is kind of depending on the hope of my getting disability to help us pull through in the long run, but I found out today that I just don't qualify at all for SSDI. I didn't work long enough and recently enough to get credit for that. I really hope I can get SSI, because it's our last hope, really. If I can't get that, I don't know what we're going to do. I just don't. I've been making some crafts in the hope of selling them, but the price for a stall at the swap meets is outrageous! I'm still hoping to sell them, though. That may help a bit on the finance side, but if nothing else then at least it's been a good outlet for me.

There's a lot of feeling overwhelmed for me these days; overwhelmed with feeling lousy almost every second of the day, overwhelmed with juggling doctor's visits and records and lab tests, overwhelmed with paying for all of this doctor stuff, overwhelmed with trying to "be sick right" and eat the right things and take the right supplements and meds and exercise and do everything that I can to keep my health up so it's not my fault, overwhelmed with sorrow that my financially stable husband is now struggling to handle basic life costs because his wife is so high maintenance to just keep alive and semi-functioning.

But, you know, there's also good stuff. There's always good stuff. Life isn't entirely bad, except when I'm going through a particularly bad depression slump, lol. I suppose that instead of feeling pressured to write about everything going on at the moment maybe I should just pop in and write little blurbs here and there, like small anecdotes that give a picture into my actual life rather than just my thought and emotional life. Hell, maybe one of these days I'll actually put together a coherent blog post on a topic, rather than just rambling! Perhaps not. I don't think that's the type of blogger I am, at least not on this blog. This one is for me to come and feeling-vomit and walk away feeling a bit lighter.

Speaking of lighter… I am gaining weight, so much weight, and I can't seem to stop it. I am revising my diet, exercising more (yes, even with the pain!!), trying to eat less… and still I've gained 18 lbs in the last month?! What the hell is that?!?! I don't know what's wrong, I don't' know why this is happening, but I dislike it. I hate it. I don't want to be fat, but I am. Today, though, I looked in the mirror after dressing and I thought to myself, "I am not going to try to look like a skinny girl because I'm not; I'm a big girl. I am a big girl, but I'm still pretty." And I actually felt that, I believed it, and it was a nice place to be mentally.

The cats are going stir crazy because I've kept them inside for the past half a weekish, due to Halloween. People do awful stuff to animals around this time, and I want them to be safe. I have a very strong protective urge that centers around those in my "circle", including my family, pets, friends. I guess I just feel the need to take care of people. It's been bred into me since I was a young'un, living in such unpredictable, dysfunctional environments and being the oldest it made me the caretaker of the kids… and of the adults, after a fashion. That urge has never died, though it has matured, become tempered a bit and and much healthier. Learning about boundaries and implementing them in my life has made a huge honkin' difference, though I know I still have stuff to learn in regards to that. As far as the cats go, they get their freedom tomorrow. As for me, freedom comes in a couple of days, Monday specifically. Unfortunately, the morning I leave is the day of the afternoon that Corey comes home. We're gonna miss each other like ships in the night and I won't see him for over a week by the time I get back, which is gonna be kind of a bummer, but it'll be great to see him when I get back.

And that is a slice of my life as it lays right now.
Today is the 8th anniversary of The Accident. Back in 2006 I was attending a small Christian boarding academy (high school) about 4 hours away from home. There were several of us kids from Yuma there, so the parents had worked out a carpooling system for the occasions that we came home such as holidays or Home Leaves. This particular event was a home leave, and several of us piled into the Astrovan owned by a good friend of my family, whose son and granddaughter both went to school with me. The other Yuma kid declined to go with us because he had some other plans, but a Korean foreign exchange student that was good friends with the son and on the same Acro team as the son and I joined us for the trip. He was excited, because he wanted to see more of America before he graduated and went home at the end of that school year. He couldn't stay and tour afterwards, because apparently Korea has a law that mandates all young men to do a certain amount of military service once they are done with basic schooling, and I'm also pretty sure that he didn't have that kind of money.

The stretch between Phoenix and Yuma is pretty barren and empty, but there is a town almost exactly halfway between the two, and we stopped there for snacks, bathroom break, gas, and Fred, the dad, put air in the van's tires because he thought they looked a little low. (There are SO many details that I'm omitting, but I don't feel like typing that much, and it would be a small pamphlet at least if I did.) It was not too far underway from that town that the back left tire blew out, and the van swerved then rolled and flipped several times. I was hit in the head with something flying around the interior. (I think it was the old school portable tv, the heavy ones? Or maybe it was some sort of tack because Fred hadn't emptied out the van from the last time he had been at the stables to tend their horses. I don't know; I'll never know.) The blow to the head caused me to lose consciousness and go blind for a period of time I estimate to be about half an hour, 45 minutes maybe? I was very devastated because I thought I couldn't read anymore. (A famous line/joke from the experience is when I was led to Fred after being freed from the van and I told him I was blind. I was crying about how I wouldn't be able to read anymore, and Fred comforted me by saying that he would read to me. My response was to wail, "You don't understand-- I really like to read!!" LOL)

As far as injuries go, I was blind and had a severe concussion, was having an asthma attack, had an internally bleeding mushy spot on my skull from being hit, whiplash, of course, and there was some injury to my ribs as well. Oh, and I cracked a toe. The granddaughter, A, had unbuckled her seatbelt to lean forward and grab something just as the crash happened, so when the glass window from the sliding door popped out she was thrown through the opening during one of the flips or rolls and then the van rolled over top of her. She was Life Flighted out of there (as as I) and ended up in ICU for a week with a lacerated spleen and a fractured pelvis, along with the requisite whiplash and concussion.

The two guys, J and the Korean S, had bad whiplash and S had a bloody nose. I'm not sure if they had any other injuries, but they didn't say so, and they still went to play in the tackle football game a day or two later that they had been planning on. They are both big guys-- tall, solid, lots of muscle, and sturdy-- so they were an important part of our school's team and they didn't want to let the team down by not playing. *smh* Men.

Fred threw off his lap belt when the van began to swerve and leapt into the space between front seats to help control the van, so he was unbuckled and tossed like a salad as we flipped to and fro. He also ended up in ICU for a week, but they didn't fly him out because he looked okay until after A and I flew away. He collapsed and they ambulanced him to the Phoenix hospital as fast as they could, and all I remember now of his injuries is that his spleen exploded into a bunch of pieces. SO not good. He went into emergency surgery, obviously.

When I came to after the crash itself, I was blind (blackness, everything blackness with purple lightning bolts shooting through and across in every direction) and disoriented and sooooo tired and sleepy. I tried to unbuckle my seatbelt for a minute or two but it was too hard and I couldn't do it, so I began to drift off to sleep. Turns out I was the only one in the van because A had been thrown from the vehicle, J and S jumped out as soon as the van stopped, and Fred jumped out to help as well. We landed on our side, with the driver's door on the ground, and the window beside me had broken but the blanket I was using as a pillow while I napped kept the broken glass from reaching my face or neck.

The van was steaming as it was resting and J thought it was smoke, that maybe the van was going to explode and I was still in it. Everything smelled like gas. I used to love the smell of gasoline, now I'm not so fond of it. J came in and kept me awake with talk, which annoyed me to an incredible degree, while he cut me out of my seat belts. What had happened is that Fred's lap belt got tangled up in my shoulder belt while everything was being shaken up, and I couldn't see to undo it and J felt that it would take too long. The van was about to explode, remember?! Because of my weakened state (concussion, asthma attack, shock, etc.) I was unable to lift myself out the hole above me that had been the sliding door's window, so J kicked out the windshield and took me out that way. I jokingly flutter my lashes at him and swooningly croon, "My hero!" when that story is told around him, hehehe.

There are a ton of funny and touching stories that go with all of this, and maybe I'll share a story every day or every other day this week in honor of Life and Second Chances. For right now, I'll sum up by saying that even though there were some scares and lots of camping out in the ICU waiting room, we all survived that harrowing experience with very little in the way of long term damage. It's practically unheard of! We were and are very fortunate, and that is why Fred and I like to Celebrate Life on our Anniversary, though the others (J and A) don't see the point or enjoyment of it and choose not to celebrate it. J feels very guilty because he was driving, but it could have happened to anyone. Really. A lives far away, and S is back in Korea, so… Actually, I think they are both in Korea, come to think of it! A married a military man, so…

Anyway, if nothing else at all I learned the value of every split second. We carry on as though life is assured, and rightly so I think or else we would be paralyzed by the thought of impending mortality, never enjoying a thing or being productive, but it is the realization that life and consciousness can be taken away in the space between two breaths that really gives context to the value and delicacy of life itself. For instance, yesterday was David S's birthday. My adopted dad who died of cancer last year. Yeah. The birthday of a dead man whom I loved dearly, and then the next day a Celebration of Life, another "birthday", if you will" with other people that I love dearly, who are all still here and kickin'. It's just so… puzzling. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it, except the certainty that

Life will end. Yours, mine, your fish, the Pope, and certainly that pretty caterpillar you saw last week… our lives will inevitably cease at some point. Mine could have stopped on October 25th, 2006, but it didn't, and I'm very grateful for that. My essence, the core of who I am, my conscious soul or whatever, that could be snuffed out by any number of things even while I type this blog post. But I'm still here, so I'm gonna enjoy it and try to be a good person and make life as good as I can for those around me who are still going as well. It's as much of a goal as anything else, right?

Happy Anniversary, Life!
So it's been a while! After a while, news builds up and becomes all the newsier, meaning that I'm really doing everyone a favor by waiting a long time in between posts to make sure that I actually have something to talk about. The problem is that life just keeps happening, no matter whether I'm writing or not, and as it all builds up and builds up the thought of writing about it becomes more and more exhausting until I've totally talked myself out of it! Or sometimes I'll talk myself into it, but forget the most important parts lol.

So what's been going on with me? Well, I saw the head doctors, both of 'em (neurologist and psychiatrist) and I'm trying out two new meds. The one from the head shrinker is a mood stabilizer for Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (because I'm too complex to just label with bipolar or manic-depression, of course!) and it has the potential to make me quite depressed. I've been feeling that for sure lately, though not entirely certain it's med related. I was having problems with depression at least a week before I saw the psych, and it only got worse for a while there but it feels like it's easing up some. Now I'm struggling with sleep problems. This could be related to an interplay between the new psych med and the mild sedative from the neurologist to keep me from twitching, but for a few days at a stretch now and then, and for past several days right now, it seems that I can't stay asleep but I can't stay awake either. The result is a groggy, drowsy, constantly nodding off lady who wakes up to find herself doing random things or finishing sentences that make no sense at all and have no bearing on what's happening around her. I'll have a thought process going on that is much like the thought processes you have in dreams, so very disjointed and unrelated to reality, but I'll come back and "wake up" halfway through or right at the end and say the last part out loud… but realize as I'm saying it that it's thoroughly nonsensical. I was talking to Bob Cat earlier today before hopping in an Epsom bath for my legs and was saying something about how it wasn't going to happen until I'd swallowed enough jade. It made perfect sense until I woke up at the jade part and finished my sentence, with a mental image of myself downing handfuls of jade beads like they were prescription pills! Crazy.

So there's that, and I feel like I'm going crazy and my days are just a muddle of nonsense, but when I'm "sober" I'm doing quite well. There's a storm front that moved through last night and today and I am definitely feeling it! I'm taking my regular strong pain killers, plus a couple extra (since I now have that luxury when needed), and drinking an ale now and then to help give the pills some "oomph". I know you're totally not supposed to do that, but even with the really strong pain meds I'm at "take me to the Emergency Room" pain levels, which is saying something. Can you imagine where I'd be at should I not have the good medication that I finally have? I'd be done for.

I still think about the last few months before I found this pain doctor, and how excruciating they were, and how I was honestly dying. My body was under so much stress from the unceasing, incredibly high levels of pain and other symptoms that my vital strength was just… slipping away. Fading. My organs were shutting down, bit by bit. Blood tests tell me that the functioning is good, so I'm happy about that. I'm mostly happy to not feel like I'm fading away, to feel like even though I'm still sick and being "attacked by gremlins" (as we've decided to euphemize the situation) and that won't likely change in the course of my life that I can still participate and be a real person, not just a fading ghost or a memory of the friend someone used to have.

I have had some interesting new health news from the past few weeks of dr's appts, and that is that I have a double stranded DNA, whatever that means. I guess I have to do some more research on that one and what it can mean, but one of my lupie friends assures me that it can mean any number of things. Then there's the whole Mood Disorder thing; that was a bit of a surprise! All of the doctors and specialists I've seen in the past couple of weeks, though, have totally and completely supported my EDS theory and my work towards going to Tucson to see the Rheumatology Department there for a diagnosis, if possible. The pain doc brought up another possibility, due to my "testing positive" for Lupus again (from blood tests done just last month), and that is arthritic lupus, rather than the kind that gets in there and destroys your organs and whatnot. He is seeing more of an arthritic type of involvement with the pain than simple fibromyalgia can account for, so we'll see. I have been dealing with a very strong and potent case of pitting edema in my lower legs, ankles, and feet as well as intermittently in my hands and forearms, but I have a doctor's appointment next week to see if that's of any concern at all. 

I started physical therapy yesterday, and I can tell that it's going to be grueling but beneficial. I'll have to keep strong boundaries with my therapists and not completely destroy myself trying to please them, as I have energy barriers that most patients don't have to deal with I think, but my therapist is very understanding and good to work with, so I should be fine. We'll be focusing on my back, and also on exercises to help me lose the weight that I've gained this past year from the meds, improper diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. They will be very valuable, as I'm hard pressed to find exercise that are effective yet low impact and considerate of my physical de-conditioning. I realized during my evaluation with my therapist that I'm really a lot weaker than I've ever been.

Oh, one more "exciting" thing that happened is that my disability claim was denied. This was rather expected, as the odds of getting approved the first time through are notoriously low, but I was hoping that we might be one of the lucky ones. The "Tiara Fund" fundraiser that I started has really really helped to take some of the immediate financial pressure off of us that we were facing, and so has the monthly couple-of-hundred from BioDad, but honestly the financial difficulties haven't eased up at all. If anything, they've increased since my doctors keep adding more and more specialists to my treatment team, and while that's a good thing I just don't have the money for all of these appointment copays and the bills that follow after and the prescriptions I need to get by!  Just looking at the funds raised is kind of laughable, because what difference is $400 going to make in the grand scheme of things? And yet… it lifted a heavy burden from the Robot's mind because we were not relying solely on his paycheck for basic living expenses and medical funds. He makes enough to keep us in house and home, but that's it. If something unexpected happens, or if I need some money for medical stuff, that's a straw that'll break our little glass camel's back. Don't feel sorry for us-- we're doing just fine, and there are plenty of folks who have it much tougher than we do, I know that. It just does get tough sometimes, living with the constant stress of "how in the world am I going to pay for this?!", especially when the "this" is necessary medical help.

Anyway, enough of medical and financial woes! Exciting stuff, exciting stuff… this is getting hard to do, as I'm still in that "drifty" state where I keep nodding off to sleep in the middle of typing. It makes my words a little unpredictable in spelling, and also the content of my thoughts a little outrageous. That last sentence, for example, almost came out as "It makes my outfits a little unpredictable, but they benefit from it in the long run." I had an image of this radical blue tiger stripe tie dye shirt-dress that I was wearing instead of my usual more boring clothes, and I was genuinely excited for a moment about opening up the package and wearing it for a minute… until I realized it wasn't real and that I was supposed to be talking about words. Gaaah! Focus, woman, focus!

I have a massage in just a few hours, which can't come soon enough, as the weather that passed over brought me to the ground with pain and swelling in my legs. I tried to get Drogo to rub my feet, ankles. and lower legs, and he did so briefly and reluctantly, but he really dislikes massaging. It's like pulling teeth to get him to rub my back or feet or something. Doesn't matter that I could really, really use it or that he could be "fixing the problem" as he so loves and is deeply motivated to do, he just doesn't like it and is bored by it and so I go massage-less most of the time. I often wake myself in the night with my arms lifted above my head, massaging and stroking my hands and forearms, or my face and head and neck. It's kind of weird, but whatever. I'll get by. I always do.

I'm seriously flagging here, so I'll wrap things up by sharing the most adorable thing EVER! My friend the Artist went to a Comic Con  a few months back, and I was super super jealous because she got to meet the most amaaaaaazing people within the geek culture and see the coolest stuff, etc. etc. etc. So she paid to have an artwork commissioned for the Robot and I, but it's taken this entire time for the artist to get around to it I guess. Today she posted it on my Facebook wall, and she had some really neat things to say about it in the conversation we had around the picture itself. Another friend of mine also commented on our marriage in a very positive way, and it was very encouraging since I've been feeling a little discouraged about our relationship lately (a lot of it fueled by chronic stress, and insecurity over my appearance now that I've gained so much weight). We even had a "talk" on Sunday, which was mostly me talking at him and explaining what I was feeling and why and citing some examples and him explaining his perspective and me reordering and reorganizing my thoughts around this new information and realizing that we're actually okay after all and it was all fine and I was just breaking down under the stress is all but he didn't mind because he's awesome like that and just bore up under it patiently like he does and walked me through it. I could wish that he were more passionate in daily life, more demonstrative of deep affection and emotional displays, but it is the solid bearing up and the refusal to be flapped and bothered and moved out of place that signals his love to me, strong and sure as a beacon. I just sometimes lose sight of his particular version of affection and passion, start comparing our relationship to "others"… and let me tell you something: that doesn't work. Ever. Even if I were healthy and we did have the sunshine and rainbows that we so long for (because we've walked in a miserable, cold, rainy mist for so long now!), every relationship is different and looks different and functions differently, and my main concern ought to be "Are we healthy? Are we okay with us?" Because that's what's important. It's not important whether or not he does _____ like so and so does (although that would be super cute and sweet and nice), it's important that he is still here, and not going anywhere, and that he still thinks I'm pretty and that he believes that I can still do things but he also doesn't hold any illusions about what I can no longer do and he keeps me from sailing off of a cliff with the best of intentions to carry me forward. The picture that my friend commissioned, it's… well, it's perfect. It's us. And seeing it, reading her description of her hopes for its creation, really helped to remind me that what we have is perfect for us, and we have made no mistake in coming together and creating a life that is a blend of the two of us. We have done just what we needed to, and that's beautiful. We're beautiful. And seeing us from an outside perspective did a little something inside of me to push away some of the stress and make a cozy little space where I could just nestle down and really see and appreciate the beauty of what and who we are as a couple.

Without further ado (because I'm totally rambling now), I give you… the Robot and his Lady!

My friend the Artist (not the artist who drew this), says, "I know the one thing I really wanted out of this, was to show that through the ups and downs of stressing over bills, you battling your illness and Corey stressing over how to handle things, that no matter what you guys can make it. And together you guys make a great team, warriors and lovers, conquering any obstacle that comes both your way. I remember paying her during the time when I was up in phoenix when you were going through at lot when I was reading your blogs. So I figure this would be a perfect gift for you guys. and I am very happy how well she was able to illustrate in what I wanted." My other friends said, "Oh my God this is perfect," and "JFC that is so Corey. Look at that leer."

In addition to those little gems, the "this is perfect" friend and I were having a conversation and my sex life came up as a topic. She had this to say, which (combined with the picture and sentiment behind it) totally cemented my faith in my relationship and its unique power and beauty.
"You two will be fine. I personally find that sex is best with a person you already fiction well with outside the bedroom, and you two are made for each other. Inviting someone to come over and play is a unit decision, a group activity, and only works because you two are already perfect together on That level. You'll be fine."

Yep. We are perfect together, and no matter what we can make it. We are warrior-lovers! The Artist also said, "And during the time I was reading the blogs up in phoenix, I felt really sad and helpless not being able to somehow get rid of the depression and the stress that you were going. So I figure I ask this, that way it shows some happiness that it can bring about through trouble times. I mean I can choke illness out of people, but I do much best to try to create something or think of something to present as a gift through help of others such as this artist or form a gift by myself. And of course I did my best to pay whenever money I had for the sushi up when you had your doctors visit. But yeah, I am going to cry up a storm here when I keep talking like this. Anyways you have amazing friends that have your back, how about that :)."

And she's absolutely right. With the Robot/Drogo firmly ensconcing me in his arms and my amazing friends at my back, there is no way I can not kick ass as I live life facing the gremlins. My various diseases may never go away and they may never be totally tamed and managed, but I'm not going away or being tamed either. I will continue to wear my tiara to doctor's appointments and to paint my walker bright colors to cover the shame and anger I feel at having to use it. I will prevail, and I will do so with or without this elusive thing called "sleep"! For now, though… I'm going to try to catch some. :)