Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Craving Life

Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." - Joseph Campbell

I always thought when someone says they are 'craving' something it was food.
I wish right now I was craving 'chocolate' or 'ice cream' or even 'a sandwich filled with ham, jam, cheese and peanut butter'. I wish I was craving something I could physically pick up, devour and then feel satisfied.

But instead my body/mind/spirit my whole being is craving 'freedom from pain'.
A break away from pain, frustration, exhaustion, medication and limitations.

Right now this is my craving for the 'perfect day'. To wake up feeling rested, rejuvenated and fresh. Jump out of bed energised with no restrictions. To shower standing up, get changed in one go and eat breakfast with no effort. In my perfect world I would go off to my job as a social worker and be able to put my four long years of study to use. To sit around at lunchtime and talk with my colleagues about trivial things like how my partner left his towel on the bathroom floor this morning or complain how this new dress I brought didn't fit me anymore. Later I would return home from work put on my 'work out' clothes and go for a run around the block. I would then shower again and create a beautiful dinner that required multiple culinary techniques. Sit down eat dinner then do the dishes leaving my kitchen spotless. I would then finally curl up on the sofa and watch TV then head to bed where I would fall asleep immediately. This would then be repeated five times a week if I wanted to get really greedy!!

To most of you reading this I expect this sounds like your existence, the normal routine weekday. Give and take a few details! One that you often worry about that is 'too boring' or 'too routine'. But to me right now this is what my whole being craves. To have no pain and unlimited amount of energy is a concept my own brain cannot process currently at this time.

I don't like focusing on the negatives but the reality is this is my life at the moment and its hard and painful and every day is a struggle. Currently my biggest achievement is getting up and having a shower without having to go back to bed and sleep from sheer exhaustion. How do you accept that at age twenty three? Should you accept that?

Its frightening when the only relief you can get from the pain is morphine, when crutches become like a second pair of legs and you dread people asking you how you are because the reality is you don't know anymore. But each day you wake up and you fight, you strive to achieve something even if it is a shower. You look for beauty in life's simple pleasures; a hug from a loved one, a genuine smile, a cup of warm tea and the text from a friend who tells you she is thinking of you. The reality is now the small things matter in life and soon these little things will consume your life and help to block out the scary/ painful moments.

 Every day I still do have a choice; do I choose to focus on everything that I cant do, or do I look at all the things I still can do and all the blessings which are right under my nose?
Do I stay in bed in my pjs all day and let my body and mind be consumed by the relentless pain or do I force myself up even through tears to have that warm comforting shower and smile because I achieved something?
Do I focus on the physical pain or do I let emotions and feelings of love, happiness and peace flood my soul?

Every day there is a decision to be made and some days physically, mentally and emotionally no matter how much determination or drive I have my body will have the final say. I am learning to let that be
okay. To not compare myself to what other people my age are able to do because that only causes added pain. Instead to create my own little pieces of 'joy', to stop and smell the roses, put flowers in teapots and drink sweet tea out of beautiful china!
There is always joy some days you just have to stop and wait a bit longer to find it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come on Lungs!

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength.”― Theodore Roosevelt 
You know have a chronic illness when all you have to say to a friend is 'guess where I ended up last night?' and they automatically know it was the hospital. Unlike most people my age my Friday night was spent in the Emergency Department. Music was substituted with groans and moans, the closest I got to alcohol was the swab on my arm before my blood test and dancing was replaced with watching my heart rate racing up and down to it's own beat.

Not long after my last post I noticed myself going downhill. My inhaler began to give me no relief and getting air into my lungs became exhausting. 'Liv you are okay!', 'Come on just breathe', 'Relax' no matter how much I tried to deny it I knew I was in trouble.

My parents had left that morning to visit my very sick Nanna six hours away. The thought dawned on me that for the first time in my life I was going to have to do this without them. A scary thought when your parents have been there through every hospital visit since the age of three. Honestly at the time I didn't even think about this thought I just knew I needed relief and to be able to breathe.

My partner Dan arrives home from work (he's a chef) to find me wheezing and struggling. I can only imagine how unsettling that must have been for him. The dreaded question was asked 'do you need to go to hospital?' My immediate answer was 'no!', although my lungs told a very different story. I did not want to go to hospital but the fact was i needed to go. That's the thing when you are chronically unwell you will continue to fight. You are so used to fighting to function that sometimes its not until someone else sees you that you realize how truly unwell you are.

As soon as I said yes my body breathed a sigh of relief, it was time to get help. Thankfully I only live about two minutes from the hospital so the ride there was quick but it was an anxious drive for Dan who gets around on his scooter not my car. Not the ideal time to have a driving lesson with your partner wheezing away, it raining and being pitch black. But he handled it so calmly and drove perfectly!

'Dan i'm scared!' 
'Its okay I'm here and I'm not going anywhere'

Thankfully at 1.30 am ED was very quiet and I was triaged quickly and taken to a bed where I received the works; an IV line, bloods tests, ECG and was hooked up to have my oxygen saturation levels and pulse continuously monitored. Due to being on beta blockers for having constant tachycardia (high heart rate) the nurse was concerned about giving me a nebuliser without seeing the doctor first. Nebulisers often make your heart rate increase. So the wait began....thankfully as hard as it was to breathe my observations showed my oxygen levels were stable.

As time ticked by though I began to get tired of struggling to keep up with my breathing. Dan became worried when my heart rate began to rise 120, 130, 135, 140, my body had had enough. The nurse came and gave the some oxygen to help and went and found the doctor. One look at me and a listen to my lungs and next thing I know I'm hooked up to a nebuliser to relax and open up my airways. After two nebulisers breathing was a lot easier and my wheeze had diminished. The doctor returned with a smile on his face stating I looked and sounded a lot better and that I had him worried. Finally at 6.30am I was stable and able to return home to my own bed for a much needed sleep.

My lungs have still decided to play up and on Monday ended up at my doctors needing two nebulisers again and narrowly avoided having to go back to hospital. The fight continues....but I am extremely blessed to have someone there who will hold my hand, wipe away my tears and make me laugh no matter how hard things get. "Liv we will get through this together, your fight is my fight".

So we continue to fight....together!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Overachieving body

“ As long as you are breathing there is more right with you than wrong

no matter how ill or hopeless you may feel.” (Kabat-Zinn)

The unfortunate fact of living with a chronic illness is that from time to time you will get 'normal person sick'. Of course my body seems to strive to out do itself and wont be happy with just the flu it needs added complications on top of it!

For the last three weeks now I have been battling a nasty virus that has invaded our family.When my family gets sick its a tiny insight for them into my world; the extreme exhaustion, body aches, headaches, nausea etc but the reality for them is they will get better. A tiny part of me feels slightly envious that after a week or two they will bounce back and life will continue on. Don't get me wrong I would NEVER wish illness upon my family but it does highlight for me how different my life is. Sickness is my normal!

The dreaded tickle in my throat turned into pounding headaches, blocked nose, sore ears, hot and cold sweats, body aches and a horrible cough. For two weeks this battle went on inside my body. Finally I thought my body had cleared it and I was free however things changed early this week.

On Monday I awoke unable to hear out of one ear. Great ear infection I thought! I struggled through the day with a lot of "pardons" and frustrated tears but mainly I hoped to avoid having to go to the doctors. That night I awoke at 3am with an unusual tightness and pain in my lungs. On a positive note my ear did feel better though! I managed to fall back  asleep and the realization kicked in that this was no longer something my body could battle by itself. A trip to the doctors was my next move!

 My doctor took one look at me and asked what was going on? I really feel for her as I am one complicated case. I explained how I was 'normal person sick' but its advanced into something else. No surprise my ear that was sore was filled with fluid but it was my chest that was more of a worry. Wheezing, rattling and spasming as I attempted to breathe in and out. Now normally my doctor would have put me on a nebuliser to open up my airways however due to me being on beta blockers and having trouble with a high heart rate it would have caused more problems. Instead she decided to try me on an inhaler and get the nurse to watch me and make sure my heart was okay. Thankfully my heart decided to behave itself and I tolerated the inhaler. I felt I could breathe a bit easier but my chest still sounded awful. So I was loaded up with an inhaler and spacer to take home as well as a increase of my steroids to 20mg to fight the inflammation.

It is now Friday and I am still feeling miserable. I struggled through last night with terrible wheezing but thankfully my inhalers offers some relief. At times it feels like I am breathing through a straw and cant get enough oxygen in which is an unsettling feeling. I feel for my poor body but I have to keep reminding myself it is doing its best and it is not purposely punishing me. Its fighting so hard so my job is to give it as much rest, fluids, medicine and love as it needs. Things will get better but for now its one wheezy breath at a time.