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.
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?