Liquid Cleanse: Day 3

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Surprisingly I wasn’t starving today. I thought it would get more difficult as I reached the third day of this cleanse, but even the cat food did not look appealing. I had a smoothie, some soup…and then, well I went out with two friends and blew the whole thing to hell.

I ate healthy, but I did have chicken and a baked potato..and it was darn good. I’m over it. I missed the last 10 hours of my cleanse. Because I didn’t get on the scale, I have no idea if I lost weight, but I did like that I was a lot less hungry today. My biggest problem is snacking. I don’t have 2 crackers, I’ll keep eating them as long as they are in front of me.

My meals are fairly healthy — my snack choices, not so much. So if anything, I’m more conscious of how much I was snacking during the day. My goal is to drink more water and really wait until I know I’m hungry before grabbing a snack.

In terms of my autoimmune life, today was difficult. The cold is really weighing on me. I came home this morning and was so cold that I got under my electric blanket and turned on my heating pads. I was there most of the day and just couldn’t escape the chill.

As I was trying to explain to a friend tonight, I’m just really puffy. My hands are nothing like some of the RA photos I’ve seen online, but for my hands, they are puffy and swollen. I can’t wear jewelry or anything because it bothers me too much.

We’re supposed to get a big warm-up on Sunday with the temperature getting to 38 in time for the Super Bowl. I’m not a football fan, but I enjoy watching the commercials (such a girl). We’ve been invited to my sister-in-law’s house for a party, but it’s likely that I will stay home with my daughters because it turns into a late night. We’ll make some sort of snacks and throw our own party.

I hope it’s warmer where you are and that you’re feeling as pain-free as possible.

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Friends Come and Go

Photo by Sureshkumawat

Photo by Sureshkumawat

Someone told me today that friends come and go. I’m going to have to disagree with that for the most part. I think acquaintances come and go. You take some time to get to know people and if they are worth it, you let them in. At least that’s how I am…even if it makes me sound bitchy.

I am blessed with good friends. I don’t have to talk to them every day to know they are there in my life. As a matter of fact, I could go two months without talking to them (other than on Facebook) and there is no animosity. Most of my good friends have kids and they understand how time gets away from you between driving to sports and ballet, and other the other crap we parents do, like dinner, baths, homework, etc.

I was very hurt two weeks ago that my friend laid into me about starting this blog. He’s been a good friend for a long time, and is someone that I let into my life. While I was really angry at him for putting down something I was really excited about, I was also hurt that he sees me as someone who is very negative about things.

Of all the things I could say about myself, the first is usually my good (or quirky) sense of humor. I can laugh at myself, my life, my kids, and even my autoimmune disease. My friend is someone who asked how I was feeling or doing…I’d even say he asked a lot. I would give him an honest answer, whether that meant saying it was a good day or if it was a tough day. I think that’s why I was so bothered by his outburst.

Don’t ask questions to your friends if you don’t want an honest answer. I honestly never felt like I was talking about things all the time, but maybe I relied on the friendship too much in that way. We did talk most days by text, Facebook, or phone, and inevitably he’d ask how I was feeling. I started to second guess myself and how much I complained about my aches and pains.

Then I thought a little more about the countless nights I listened to him go on and on about his own life issues. During our argument, I  asked him if I ever made him feel bad about talking about what he was going through. And I got my answer, and it was an answer I already knew, but I wanted to hear it from him…it was NO.

I’m far from perfect. I’m the first one to admit it. I could be a better mom, a better worker, a better house cleaner…and this list could go on. The people I love always come first, though. I’m not angry at my friend anymore, though we haven’t spoken since our fight. I think I just have a clearer understanding of how things are in our friendship. He could call tomorrow all upset about something, and my door would be open because that’s who I am. And you know what, I like who I am.

Again, I’ll say how lucky I am to have good friends. I like that I’m not involved in the town clique of sports parents. I like going to sleep knowing that the people I love and trust also have my best interests in mind. It’s a nice feeling. And if all else fails, my cats still like me.

Do You Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Photo by MyBestTreat

Photo by MyBestTreat

Chronic fatigue syndrome. Who doesn’t think they have this? Ask any parent how tired they are at any given moment. Between homework, dinner, and getting kids to all of their activities, any person can be exhausted. So what makes CFS so different? A person with CFS feels completely worn-out and overtired. The often feel flu-like symptoms along with the exhaustion.

With CFS, extreme fatigue and exhaustion make it hard to do the daily tasks that most people take for granted — like showering, getting out of bed, or even eating. No matter how much rest you get at night or during the day, the feeling of exhaustion is still present. The exhaustion can also be made worse with stress, exercise, or even just plain overdoing it.

There’s no definitive way to get CFS; it can happen over time or come on suddenly. Like fibromyalgia, RA, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, people who have CFS can feel fine one day and then feel extremely tired the next. Other symptoms may include:

  • muscle pain
  • trouble focusing
  • insomnia
  • low-grade fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • difficulty focusing
  • tender lymph nodes
  • muscle weakness
  • visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain)
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, and noise/sound
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the face, hands, or feet

Any of those symptoms sound familiar? If you’ve been diagnosed with any autoimmune disease any and all of these symptoms can be present, which means similar to fibromyalgia, a person may have to rule out things like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus before a diagnosis can be made.

According to at least one doctor that I spoke with, it is common for the symptoms to be present for six or more months before they will consider a diagnosis. There is no definitive lab test for it.

If you think you may have CFS, see your doctor. Your doctor will:

  • Ask you about your physical and mental health.
  • Do a physical exam.
  • Order urine and blood tests, which will tell your doctor if something other than CFS might be causing your symptoms.
  • Order more tests, if your urine and blood tests do not show a cause for your symptoms.

Usually a classification of CFS is made if your symptoms persist for approximately six months, and your testing does not show any other issue that would be causing them. This process can take a long time, so try to be patient with your doctor. While these tests are being done, talk to your doctor about ways to help ease your symptoms. Although CFS is not a form of depression, as with many other autoimmune diseases, patients may develop depression as a result of dealing with a long-term illness.

Liquid Cleanse: Day 2

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It looks like I survived another day of only having liquids. I probably had too much of the Weight Watcher’s potato leek soup that I made, but it was delicious. I had two protein shakes with fruit (I like using frozen fruit so it tastes like a milkshake), and a lot of water and green tea.

To be honest, I was fine all day in terms of hunger, but now I’m hungry. Even the cat food looked pretty darn good this evening. I was jealous of my cats (pictured above) as they chewed food! I might have a Jell-o…that’s liquid, kind of. The bottom line is that I doubt I could keep this up for a week, but hopefully it’s giving my stomach a bit of a rest.

In terms of pain, I have to say I’m doing better than last week. Last night wasn’t so great. My hip continues to bother me and I’m walking like a 90-year-old by the end of the day. I don’t know what I’d do without my heating pad. My hands are also a huge source of pain. I am reaching the point where I don’t remember what it’s like not to have some sort of pain going on.

I guess it’s more a matter of how bad the pain is rather than do I have pain or not. It’s a tough realization that I really don’t have pain-free days anymore. I’m hopeful that this will change when it gets warmer. It’s ridiculously cold here in the northeast.

I’ve joined a lot of Facebook groups in the last few weeks trying to learn as much as I can about fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. There are a lot of depressing posts, and I would be lying to say it doesn’t scare me. No one wants to end up unable to leave their house, and no one wants the deformities that can come along with RA.

It’s darn scary, but what gets me through is my sense of humor. I might be in pain, but I refuse to let these autoimmune diseases define me. I am working on accepting the fact that I might not feel well enough to attend every family party or event, but I am still me. The person I am inside hasn’t changed, but I’m still working on the fact that I’m not as fast as I used to be.

Slow walkers drive me nuts! I am a fast walker with my short little legs and it kills me to limp and be slow. It bothers me that I can’t always open a jar or hold a cup of tea tightly in one hand. A lot of things bother me about having fibromyalgia and RA. But, I can’t change it.

So…I have to get through one more day of only liquids and I may be blogging tomorrow night about the delicious cat food I had for dinner. Hopefully I can make it. Until then….

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

Photo credit:  ericalaurend

Photo credit: ericalaurend

It’s not in your head! Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and muscle tenderness throughout the body. It also causes extreme fatigue, digestive problems, migraines, and sleep issues.

One of the big problems with fibro is that it’s often difficult to diagnose. Any person can walk into a doctor’s office and say they are suffering from exhaustion, but many of us often ignore the aches and pains until they become unbearable. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have had migraines, muscle tenderness and joint pain for years prior to my fibro diagnosis.

One of the primary ways to diagnose fibromyalgia is by reviewing a your symptoms with your doctor. It may also be necessary to see a rheumatologist, who deals with autoimmune issues more regularly and thoroughly than an ordinary general practitioner. With fibromyalgia, pain sometimes affects several areas of the body, such as the shoulders, back, hips and legs, and is generally located both above and below the waist. It may become more intense in cold weather or during stressful periods.

For many people with fibromyalgia, extreme fatigue and/or insomnia is one of the main symptoms and often the reason people seek medical attention. Fibromyalgia patients often wake up still exhausted and fatigued even after 8 or more hours of sleep. Fatigue can also be so severe that it interferes with everyday activities, including maintaining a job, family responsibilities, and normal everyday activities.

Not all people with fibromyagia suffer from the same symptoms, which also adds to the difficulty in diagnosis. Other symptoms may include migraine headaches, restless leg syndrome, or sensitivity to bright light. Some patients may have (or may develop) anxiety and depression. Cognitive problems may also develop, including memory lapse and concentration difficulties, often referred to in the autoimmune community as “brain fog.”

There is no specific medical test to diagnose fibromyalgia. This definitely makes the diagnosis more challenging in that many of the symptoms of fibro are also symptoms of countless other issues.. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, it takes about five years for a patient to be accurately diagnosed. For me, it took 2 years and three different doctors. Of course the jury isn’t in yet if I also suffer from early rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Both keep getting thrown around because of the swelling in my hands and how quickly I went from being basically fine to feeling like I got hit by a truck.

It’s important to see a doctor if you’ve had one or more of these symptoms for a period of 2-3 months. Of course, if the your level of pain is more severe, don’t wait.

Traditionally, a rheumatologist will do a “tender point” exam. Established by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990, the tender point test designates 18 spots throughout the body as possible painful areas, located near various joints including the hips, elbows, and shoulders. During the exam, the physician applies pressure with a finger to the points.

A fibro diagnosis used to be made if 11 of the 18 trigger points experience tenderness. Although the tender point exam may still be helpful in making a diagnosis, its results aren’t considered a primary indication of fibromyalgia. One reason is with fibro (and other autoimmune diseases) symptoms may come and go, and trigger points may hurt one day and not another.

Doctors now consider widespread pain for more than three months to diagnose the condition. The problem is, fibromyalgia symptoms are very similar to those of other conditions, like RA and lupus. It’s not uncommon for patients to undergo several other medical and blood tests to rule out other conditions. It is also not uncommon for these symptoms to be present in anxiety and depression–another instance of what came first the pain or the depression?

For those of us dealing with fibro and other autoimmune issues, it’s not uncommon to have some sort of depression. Your life is in turmoil, not knowing how you will feel from one day to the next. It’s hard not to feel depressed if you’re cooped up in the house unable to move without pain. You may miss important events, etc. This isn’t easy on autoimmune sufferers. It’s one thing I struggle with. It’s difficult to make firm plans when you don’t know how you’re going to feel from one day to the next.

The bottom line is, if you are experiencing these symptoms, most importantly widespread pain (the spots can change from day to day), see your doctor and don’t stop asking questions until you get some answers. I have heard the talk that fibro is diagnoses when they can’t find anything truly wrong, but for those of us suffering with it, it’s very real.

Day One of My Liquid Cleanse

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Well I survived the first day drinking two smoothies with Greek yogurt, fruit, and chocolate protein powder and then a dinner of butternut squash soup. Am I hungry? Yep. Do I want to munch or crunch on something? Yep. I just keep drinking my water and hoping I can fall asleep early.

I think the fact that it’s only three days is making it bearable. I’m not sure if the man on Dr. Oz meant for me to have butternut squash soup with cream in it, but look, I’m making an effort. Truth be told I saw a picture of myself recently and I was horrified. I need to do something to jump start my weight loss.

I’m working out every day, but I’m finding it difficult to do cardio exercise. At the moment I’m saving money for a good elliptical machine because I’m thinking that’s my best bet for something that isn’t going to be too stressful on my joints. For now I’ve been doing a little step in my basement and some kettlebell work, which gets my heart rate up a bit.

I do abdominal work on my own each day and some weights. Some days even that is too much when my hands are so stiff that I can’t even grasp the weights. The point is I’m really trying to move and do something each day. I keep hearing that arthritis commercial that says: “A body in motion stays in motion.”

As much as that commercial annoys me when I’m lying in bed unable to move, there is some truth to it. I find that even if I can get in 10-15 minutes of yoga or stretching it does help.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing another two smoothies and I’m making potato leek soup. There is no method to my madness right now. I’m desperate for a change. I’m hoping to give my stomach some time off by only consuming liquids. I suppose I should have gotten on the scale today so I could let you know how I’m doing, but that would involve me learning how much I weigh! I’m hoping mainly to decrease the amount of snacking I do on a daily basis.

And About the Weather

It’s back to frigid cold here, but from the sounds of it, it’s freezing cold over most of the U.S. right now. Surprisingly, today was a decent day after the first hour or so. I keep getting numbness, almost a painful numbness if that makes sense, in my fingers. Do any of you have that symptom?

Also, if you would like to follow Autoimmune Mama on Twitter you can follow @autoimmunemama1 and I also have a page on Facebook, which is a great place to start up a conversation and ask questions of other people with autoimmune issues. Autoimmune Mama on Facebook

It really has helped me to read your comments and see your posts. It’s very difficult fighting an invisible illness on your own. We have strength in numbers!

My Three-Day Liquid Cleanse

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Heaven help me, I’m trying a cleanse. I really wanted to do a 30-day one, but it was well over $300 and I can’t swing that right now…especially if I’m not even sure I can stick to it.

The idea start with Dr. Oz today. Though I fit into two of the categories he mentioned, I’m going to try and do liquids for the next three days. Protein shakes and soup. Can I do it? I’m certainly going to try. I will be blogging as I go in the hope that it keeps me on track. Dr. Oz says I need to give my liver a break.

I am trying to psych myself up for it. I think the hardest time of day will be the evening. I like to munch on snacks, but I need to do something to shake up my system. They mentioned an anti-inflammatory cleanse as well, but that is a 7 day challenge. I think starting with a short term goal of three days is all I can handle at the moment.

If I can do it, I’ll have the confidence to try the anti-inflammatory one. Wish me luck! I begin tomorrow and I’ll likely be writing a cranky post in the evening (and for the next few days).

Sleep and Autoimmune Diseases

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It’s no secret that one thing people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia need is sleep. But for many of us who suffer from these diseases, that can be much more difficult than it sounds. Johns Hopkins’ Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment information page says rheumatoid arthritis  patients “often need over ten hours of sleep a night, or eight hours a night and a two-hour nap during the day.”

Seriously? A 10 hours of sleep a night? That would be a dream. Between not being able to fall asleep and waking up in pain one or more times each night, I’d be lucky to say I get 6 hours of sleep each night. I do have the luxury of napping during the week on most days and that keeps me going, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

I wake up exhausted, no matter how many hours of sleep I have had. My rheumatologist reminds me at every visit that sleep deprivation can lower resistance and increase flares in patients with autoimmune issues. I’m not arguing that. I’m just saying sleep eludes me most of the time.

I’ve tried tea that is supposed to help you sleep, natural remedies like valerian root and melatonin. I’ve always used over-the-counter drugs to help you sleep, as well as prescription drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. While I do have an active prescription for Ambien, I don’t use it that often. If I’ve had three or four nights with very little sleep, I will break down an take one. The problem I have (well, one of them) is that I wake up even more groggy than usual. I won’t even get into the numerous phone conversations and online shopping excursions I’ve had on Ambien, which I have no recollection of.

I get made fun of for my morning or afternoon naps, but I honestly don’t know how I could make it through without them. I don’t have a normal tired feeling. It’s possible that people who don’t suffer from autoimmune issues don’t understand our kind of exhaustion. I’m not just tired, I am ready to fall over and can’t keep my eyes open.

I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a lot of new people through this blog and I’m wondering what you do to help with sleep. I’d also like to hear if you wake up with a numb sort of pain. This is new for me in the past month or so. I wake up and my whole arm is numb, but it hurts terribly. I’ve had the “maybe you’re sleeping on it wrong” suggestions, but it’s not that. It’s a stiffness through the elbow that causes a pain down through my fingers. I am basically unable to use the arm for at least the first 20-30 minutes of my day. Is this common?

As always, I’d love to hear from you. If you have any great ideas to help me (and other readers) fall asleep, please share. Knowledge is power and there is strength in numbers. It’s important to gain strength from others fighting the same fight.

10 Things Not to Say to Someone with Fibromyalgia

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Having an invisible illness, as some call it, is hard enough without people offering “helpful” advice. Heck, there are still a lot of people that think fibromyalgia is all in our heads. If you have fibro like I do, we can assure you it’s not in our heads. The physical pain can be both excruciating and debilitating. The exhaustion and brain fog are difficult to describe.

I think every fibro sufferer could come up with a list of the top comments they’d never like to hear again, but here’s mine:

  1. You just need to get up and moving. Yes, that’s it. The problem is that getting out of bed is often a big enough ordeal. When you wake up with a numb, yet painful, arm, hip, and hands, your first thought isn’t “let’s just right out of bed and get moving.” While I do firmly believe that exercise and even light stretching can really help, but first thing in the morning is very difficult. It takes time for me to get out of bed and get going.
  2. You’re just getting older. I’m 41 (soon to be 42). I refuse to believe that’s old. Fibromyalgia doesn’t mean it takes a little longer to recover from your workout than you did at 20. Guess what? I know plenty of people in their twenties with fibro. Fibromyalgia isn’t simple aches and pains of the day. It can mean high sensitivity to touch, crippling muscle pain, migraines, fatigue, and joint pain.
  3. Maybe I have that. I’m tired a lot, too. While exhaustion is one of the symptoms of fibro, just because your life is over-scheduled and you are tired running after your children does not mean you have fibromyalgia. Every parent is tired. Everyone who works at a stressful job is likely tired. Tired doesn’t describe what it’s like to have fibromyalgia. It’s exhaustion beyond belief. It’s your body telling you that if you don’t rest, you’re going to be out of commission for days.
  4. You just need to get out of the house more. Guess what? I’d love to get out of the house more. I work from home and that was a choice I made after being laid off from small corporate America. Honestly, I feel very blessed that I’m able to work from home because I’m not sure I could do an office 9-5 anymore. I didn’t have fibro and RA when I was working in an office. I didn’t wake up with fingers that I couldn’t move for several hours at a time. I’m sure that would go over well in an office! I get out of my house as often as I can. Trust me when I tell you, I look forward to days when I feel well enough to go to an event or even just go to the store.
  5. I heard they only diagnose fibromyalgia when they can’t find anything really wrong. No one wants to hear that your doctor doesn’t believe fibromyalgia is a real disease. Anyone suffering from it can tell you the pain is not in their heads. The swelling in my hands and feet are not in my head. I’m suffering from this horrible disease and you are not helping by telling me it doesn’t really exist.
  6. Are you sure it’s not just depression? I can tell you that it is darn depressing to be in pain most of the time, but feeling depressed because you are unable to do the things you used to be able to is normal. I don’t need to talk to a psychologist about my pain, though I know many people that do. I just don’t think people should offer this suggestion because again it goes back to the disease being all in your head.
  7. Have you tried blah, blah, blah? Let me ask you this…if you were in constant pain, wouldn’t you do every bit of research you can to find a way to ease the pain. If you think I’m dumb enough not to have researched both natural and pharmaceutical products to help ease my symptoms, you are sadly mistaken. I’m sure you think you’re suggestion is helpful, but I hear these suggestions more than you realize. It gets old.
  8. That’s the disease on the commercials for the drugs with the terrible side effects like death. Gee thanks for the reminder. I happen to be contemplating taking one of those drugs at the moment, and I, too, hear the list of side effects every time I see those commercials. I know people that have had many benefits from using drugs like Lyrica and Cymbalta. I’m weighing my options and discussing the pros and cons with my doctor. You watching a commercial and reporting back on it doesn’t really factor in to the difficult decision of taking a prescription drug.
  9. But you never feel well. It’s hard enough not to feel well most, if not all of the the time. I don’t need the reminder that we’re never feeling well. What I need is a friend or family member that will listen without judgment. I need someone to just listen. You aren’t going to be able to fix the problem, but I am suffering from a disease with no cure. Different body parts are hurting all the time. Don’t ask how someone is feeling if you don’t want a real answer. I’m not humoring you with “fine” when I feel like hell.
  10. You don’t look sick. I wrote a whole blog post on this subject so I’ll keep my comments short. Having an invisible illness can be difficult because on the outside I look fine. On the inside I’m not fine. It’s a struggle to stand up after I’ve been sitting for a while. It’s difficult for me to stand too long. I actually had someone say to be yesterday that I should save the chairs at a children’s sporting event for those that really need them. How the hell do you know I don’t need one?

This whole post may seem negative, but for those of us dealing with the effects of fibromyalgia every day, it’s very hard to really explain how we feel. There are days I can’t even pinpoint what hurts. All of my skin hurts. Some days just my hands hurt; other days it’s my hip. My point is that every day is different. For me the one constant is exhaustion.

Please just consider that sufferers of fibro hear these things constantly. What you can do is listen. You can ask if we need help with anything. We may not accept the help, but we will never forget that offer. A little kindness and an attempt to understand, even when you don’t, makes a big difference.

The Suck Just Keeps Coming…

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Did I mention my kitchen pipe was frozen? Yeah, well, it thawed out around 3AM and I didn’t hear anything until about 4AM. That made for a nice flood of two inches in the kitchen (there were dishes in the sink). It also ran through the ceiling downstairs into my newly finished basement. From there my morning consisted of using towels and a shop vac. I rented two large dryers from Home Depot and then went back to bed for a few hours.

The picture on this blog is my hands early this morning, all swollen and painful. I can tell you the last thing I felt like doing at 4AM was getting water out of my house, but it’s not really like I had the luxury of saying “no, thanks”.

After I was able to nap for a few hours, today got a little better. I was able to make it to part of my son’s wrestling tournament and see him win a match. I’m new to wrestling, but if you’ve never been to a tournament, it’s a long day of standing around and waiting. I was able to find a chair, but #3 wanted to sit on my lap the whole time.

I feel silly saying I’m exhausted from sitting around watching kids wrestle for most of the day, but it’s the truth. Sometimes just getting out of the house is a big event. Anyway, I’m glad I was able to see him and he came in 4th for his weight class…not bad for his first season. I don’t know if he’ll do it again, but I think it was good for his confidence. He let his anxiety take over before his third match, and I can’t help myself for passing that on to him. As a child my nerves always got in the way of me trying out for things or doing sports. I think he has the ability to be good, but he hasn’t truly realized that yet.

We’re getting a little more snow, which might be the reason for my migraine. I’m like a human barometer. I just took some meds for it and I’m looking forward to just relaxing and going to bed early. Exhaustion doesn’t even describe how I feel.

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