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Friday, September 11, 2015

Pretend I'm a Pretty Pony

If it's good enough for my horse. . .

Dry brushing - it sounds like an oil painting technique. It can look downright laughable.

Now, depending on whom you ask, you'll get explanations on dry brushing that involve increased circulation and improved draining of the lymphatic system. There's a fairly concise and easy-peasy explanation over at Birchbox.

I take it down to basics.

"Here's a face brush; now, pretend I'm a horse."

Yes, I have a soft face brush purchased from the tack store that I have my husband use to brush my feet, legs, shoulders - anywhere that is experiencing pain or swelling. (Stiff bristle brushes leave me feeling like I have a sunburn.) It looks bizarre, feels wonderful, and the most ridiculous part of all is -

It works. Just five minutes or so of brushing, and the swelling in my legs will be gone in thirty minutes, maybe less. The process, which places less pressure on my body that even stroking with an open hand, even gets deep knots in my back to release. Something only a TENS unit could achieve before.

Now, that's not to say I'm pain-free. I have never been pain-free, despite everything I've tried, in the past three years, or so. But it does reduce the pain dramatically. For me, dramatically means going from a 9/10 down to 6/10.

Using my TENS will take me from 9/10 or 10/10 down to a 4/10 or maybe 5/10, but the result is very different. With the TENS, there is almost a numbness associated with the relief. As thought the area is trying to yell about being hurt, but has lost its voice. Something is being reported, but it's difficult to describe.

With dry brushing, it's more like the area downgrades from screaming to rather loud grumbling.

How do you dry brush?

Ok, the first thing you need is a brush. You will have people insisting at you that it must be made of stiff, all natural bristles. 


Listen to your body.

If you have skin that is very sensitive, particularly fibro aggravated skin like mine that feels sun-burnt when you run a stiff brush over it - maybe you should consider a different kind of brush. 

Before I purchased my brush at the tack shop (And yes, I stood in the aisle and tested everything before making up my mind. Got more than a few raised eyebrows, I can tell you), I used to use a synthetic bristle brush where the bristles had coated tips. Of all my brushes, including the softer camel-hair ones, it was the only one that wasn't painful to use.

Got your brush? Good.

Now, the basic principal is to gently brush across your skin, drawing the brush toward your heart. So, you would go toe to knee, finger to shoulder, etc. Always moving the strokes toward your core. 

However, with regard to the lymphatic system, there are ports at various points on the body that allow the system to drain more efficiently. Some of these ports even align to common fibromyalgia trigger points. There is a good reference image at

The next part, and for me, the suckiest, is experimentation. Some bodies respond better to soft, elongated strokes. And I know some people say they have better results with shorter, firmer strokes. Take time to test out different methods, over the course of several days. Why take so long? Simply put, your body may have a more sluggish system, and results may not be apparent in 15-, 20-, or 30-minutes. It may take an hour or more for you to really feel any changes. Give your body time to adjust and talk to you.

And then of course . . . 

There is always the possibility that dry brushing doesn't help your body. And that is ok, too.

I have yet, in all my years of searching, to find that great panacea that cures everything for everyone.

Physicians, friends, random-ass people in the mall, told me over and over that heat would help my fibro pain. Warm, moist compresses. Warm, dry compresses. Center-of-the-sun, fast-food-coffee hot compresses. I tried them all. And my pain and stiffness got worse. Even just the summer heat here makes it worse.

At physical therapy, my therapist tried large ice packs that covered my back, and that finally worked. Ice and a TENS unit - my perfect Tuesday.

But now I have a new tool in my bag of tricks. So while I ice down and tingle from the TENS, I just have one request. Brush me pretty, please.


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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Minivan and Capris Optional

Hello, everyone. My name is LT. And I've become a soccer mom.

I hope you don't mind "soccer mom" not having leading capitals. There's a small part of me that vainly screams there is a vast difference between a soccer mom and a Soccer Mom, but my hands have typed enough documents over the years to know it's less than a flicker of the Shift key, and keep the hysterical optimism in check.

I'm now an Assistant Coach to DS's soccer team, and I've volunteered to take a course to become a referee - the league is short. Okay, and they compensate you for your time ref'ing.

Let's be clear - I never expected to be assigned the position. It's one of those things I do thinking someone else will get the part, but, oh, if I do get the position I'll get an excuse to get more exercise and I'll feel more comfortable than sitting on the bleachers. I don't know how I'm pushing 35 years-old and I still don't realize those kinds of situations tend to bite me in the ass.

So, the last few Thursdays, my duct-tape-and-shoestring-body and I were on the field, trying like hell to keep up with my head coach. My herniated disc, not to mention my luxating kneecaps, was not happy, and quite loudly protested me trundling around over the uneven ground, herding five year-olds-and-under like a geriatric goatherd.

And that first practice, where was DS? Having emotional issues on the other side of the field, poor thing. He gets so tense around new children, and he told my husband that he was upset that we hadn't brought his soccer ball, like some of the other children had. He finally came over to play Sharks and Minnows, but that was a brief interlude as one of the younger child (maybe 3 or 4), ignored the rules of the game and stole DS's ball, even though he was "safe". 

So, back into a huff went DS, while some of the other players just collapsed on the field to rest and others were trying to make a break to the nearby woods and freedom. We tried a few more passing games, but ultimately called it.

I spent the next 3 days sleeping about 16 - 18 hours a day. I couldn't believe how shattered my body felt - practice only lasts 45 minutes!

Ok, ok, so maybe the fact that I started taking Tenex to help with my ADHD (because my insurance won't cover Intuniv) played a role. And maybe, yes, my prescriber and I weren't sure of the dose, so maybe after research I saw I was taking the maximum and figured I should cut back. And, yes, I had forgotten my morning doses of Lyrica the two days leading up to practice.

But still.

16 hours of sleep. Damn.

The only thing I've found to help, aside from my medication, is dry brushing, something I'll cover next time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baby Steps . . . Sorta

So, one positive thing to come out of the debacle of dying relatives, lost jobs, and just general "YIKES!" moments of the past year: we moved to Garrett Co. MD.

For the most part, I like it here. It reminds me of going to college in the Shenandoah Valley. But, the majority, and I mean vast majority, of people we meet here make it clear that we are outsiders, and outsiders are not welcome. Well, their wallets are welcome, but not the people. Go ahead, try to figure out how my money is going to be spent where I'm made to feel a blight on the world. I'll wait...

Now, GC is largely known for Deep Creek Lake. And, like any other touted beauty spot, the Lake draws tourists. I don't think it would be as many as we used to see in the Outer Banks, but it's more than a fair few. Not belonging to either the local crowd, or the tourist crowd, I sometimes get a bizarre third-person experience watching the interactions of the two.

I get why almost everyone I've met users the term "tourons". There's the typical sense of entitlement from some of the tourists you'll run into. "I'm on vacation - I won't be here for long and I don't care about your backstory. I want enjoyment and I want it now." Even I, avoiding the Lake area as much as I can seeing as our house is less than 2 miles from Wisp, can feel the haughtiness and disdain oozing from the shoppers at Shop N Save or Walmart. It pisses me off, and I've only lived here about a year. As an aside, it reminds me of Eddie Izzard's description of Americans pursuing happiness. Look it up, it's worth it.

Now, so far I've bitched a bit, where's the positive?

Well, when the established population labels you as a "touron" based on where you lived before, and you have to fight to be recognized as something other than "part f the problem", nonsensical struggles lose their luster.

Such was the case with psychiatrist. I know there's not a whole lot of selection in mental health providers here, but back in March I informed my provider's office that I was beginning to have serious problems with depression, and would he like to see me sooner to look at my medication. I never heard back, even after I started cutting myself to cope with the intense periods. I was genuinely scared for myself. I sure as hell wasn't going to the local ER, though. The last time I saw my psych before that I had stressed that Lamictal made me too tired since starting the Lyrica, which just made the depression worse. My now former psych thought my best treatment option would be ECT.

I don't have anything against ECT per se. I did my undergrad work in Psychology. I know the very real benefits. I also know the side effects and risks, particularly to someone of my size. I already have memory problems (due to the fibro, I've been told), and it makes me frustrated and distressed, almost to the point of tears. Could you imagine someone like that trying to cope with the memory problems that might come after ECT treatment? Not to mention that I'd be going into it morbidly obese, with a history of arrhythmia, episodic hypertension, and breathing complications after anesthesia. Not the greatest setup.

So, admittedly not expecting great results, I endeavored to find a new psychiatrist. The behavioral health specialist at my PCP's office actually put me in touch with a nurse practitioner. I've only seen her once, but I'm optimistic. She actively tried to determine how past medications have made me feel, both mentally and physically. Yes, I was over the moon to stop Lamictal. I'm sure that has me a bit prejudiced at the moment.

But the difference . . . Oh, dear Reader, the difference is phenomenal. I know I may sound like I'm waxing manic, but I assure you, I have kept a strict eye on myself, and I'm maybe around a 5.5 on a 10 scale for mood. Maybe.

The first major difference is my mental acuity. I can actually think, properly think, almost all the time. Yes, I do still have spontaneous recall problems, sometimes. And, yes, I do still feel foggy, sometimes. I don't feel like I'm trying to think through treacle, though. My thoughts don't race around, either. They're a little more snappy to the tangential, but I just as quickly come back. That's the ADD, though, which I'll have to fight insurance on later. (The only medicine to ever help my ADD isn't approved by the FDA for adults, yay.)

Second amazingly awesome and fantastically fabulous difference? I've gone down two pants sizes in about six weeks. Yes, I'm a tad more active. I mean, I'll have a day where my back and body pain is around a 4 instead of an 8, so I'll try to do more on those days. Granted, I pay for it the next day, back up to an 8 or higher but the fatigue isn't quite as bad as when I took Lamictal. I'm dead tired in the morning. And left to my own devices, I can easily sleep 16 hours on those days including naps. But my body responds to persistent prodding better. I can goad it into action with a little caffeine (a cup of half coffee/half water, maybe). The fatigue on Day 2 after the activity of Day 1 kinda negates the benefits, so in talking with one of my PTs today we decided it has mostly been water retention and some general swelling to ease. Still, two pants sizes!

I can actually get excited about stuff and have the energy to be excited. My husband told me that he and my mother had discussed how they haven't seen me this "alive" in a long time. I told my PCP and my therapist, this is the first I've actually felt like myself in over two years. Not "manic", not "depressed", just able to think clearer and feel something other than sluggish.

Oh, and just because we stopped Lamictal, it doesn't mean I'm off medications entirely, so please do not be overly concerned. My entire health team and I watch everything like hawks. We're just trying a new combination to test the waters.

Off to enjoy what remains of the day. I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Let's Begin to Begin.

The universe amazes me and leaves me awe-struck at times. The plethora of right turns life had to take for me to see a single day lily growing at the edge of the woods behind me? Breathtakingly fascinating.

And then there is the uncanny knack my life has for encountering monkey wrenches the size of Toledo when I try to make some positive headway.

No, this isn't a rant about the "unfairness" of life. Actually, this has more potential run the other direction.

As I was preparing the second post for this revived blog, I met with my psychiatrist. It seems he felt, with my depression worsening, that we should increase my mood stabilizer dosage. The only issue with that, and believe me, I did my best to stress this point - Lamictal has never helped to mitigate or curtail my swings. All it has ever done, with 100% effectiveness, is make me bone tired. So, with the Lyrica in my system now for fibro, guess who went back to sleeping 16 hours a day? That should sound like an awesome vacation for a mom of a young child. Believe me, it wasn't.

I mean, I was belligerent without meaning to be, and I think I could have started several world wars had I been placed in the right (or maybe wrong) place during those days. Because as anyone should know - tired people can be cranky. Exhausted people can be downright vicious. And when I'm that exhausted, I'm not snappish and abrasive because I don't care about you. I'm that way because I'm trying to hold back how strongly I feel the urge to just ream people out over things like not transporting dishes the 3.5ft necessary to go from the sink to the dishwasher.

Still, I was determined to come out of the depressive cycle relatively unscathed, so I tried to immerse myself in keeping up with my Gratitude Adjustment and Positive Projections every day. It didn't work so much as I'd hoped. I kept forgetting to write things down, which meant I would berate myself for forgetting, which ultimately made me feel worse.

Right on the heels of the fatigue from the Lamictal came another blow: the hard drive in my laptop apparently died. Now, I say "apparently" because it appears I may be able to revive it, but we'll get to that later. At the time the BSOD appeared, I almost passed out. The laptop in question was the only device in the entire house with ye olde telephony modem. (The house is in the middle of the land economic and technological development forgot, no LOS for a satellite provider, and no reliable cellular data.) Being wiped out from the meds, it took me almost four weeks to develop a workaround.

At that point, after a long night fiddling with drivers and settings, I had restored modem access and was at the library with my son, getting things together for the upcoming school year, when my mom called and said she was having chest pain and had been throwing up.

"Fuck," I thought. I knew she was having a heart attack, and I told her to call an ambulance, but she insisted on waiting for me to drive her to the hospital. That meant at least 15 minutes to get home, get her in the car, and then at least 20 minutes to the hospital to drop her off at the ER so I could pick up DH from work and come back. It occurred to me halfway to get DH that I realized I hadn't eaten yet that day. Bright spot that day - I discovered Sheetz's fried macaroni and cheese bites.

In the ER, the doctor treating my mom tells me, quite calmly mind, that my mother is having a heart attack and there is no cardiologist at that hospital, so she will need to be treated to Mon General in WV for treatment. Which, I suppose, is better than calling the janitor with a plumber's helper, but still . . . No cardiologist? How about they change the sign out front to "Kinda-Sorta Urgent Room: If this is a life-threatening emergency, go anywhere else"?

It is an hour drive, roughly, into WV, so the doctor made the mistake of mentioning that airlift could have been an option in front of my mother. Oh, she was going in a medevac. It didn't matter that the weather was threatening an impromptu trip to OZ. It didn't matter that the little voice in my head screamed, "$$$!!!!" And mind you, it is very strange to have your internal monologue scream symbols at you. She told the doctor she wanted to go via air transport because she's a pilot, and that was that. She made it to WV just after dinner time.

DH, DS, and I didn't make it there until after 9:30 at night. Our initial route to the hospital took us in a complete circle, so we decided to go home, take care of all the animals, and then head out again. We walked into her room in the cardiac unit, where my mother had the audacity to be the outward picture of health. "Just give my cell phone, and you guys can head home. I don't want it to get too late for you." It had just taken me the better part of 3 hours, all side-trips and shenanigans included, to get to the hospital. I parked my ass in the recliner and stubbornly partook of the free guest wifi. Dammit if I wasn't going to get something out of the experience other than clogged arteries from fried cheese. The mac and cheese bites were good,though.

And that was the shitty part. Hard on its heels came a flurry of happy surprises - rockstar parking everywhere I went, paychecks higher than I had anticipated, my mother only had a very mild heart attack and stroke, found money in various forms. And yet, it was hard to enjoy them because I know that the rhythm of my life meant there would be hell to pay after our good run was over.

Maybe its my age, but there is a certain beauty in knowing how that rhythm works now. Yes, I do expect the shit to hit the fan when I'm on a run of good luck. Despite what people used to say in high school, I'm a pragmatist, not a pessimist. I know that there will be good day and bad days. In my life, the better the good day, the worse the shit that follows. Or, maybe it's that I have to go through the shitty days first to reach the great days. Either way, I know that good and bad won't last forever. Now that I'm on to you, Life, let's see who wants off the roller coaster first.