Motherhood: The Perpetual State of PMS

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Well, ok motherhood doesn’t come with bloating, but the emotional highs and lows of being a mom closely resemble my hormonal change during the month. I won’t lie. I’ve always been that person that gets overcome with emotion and cries thinking about a moment. What someone put into something; what it must feel like; etc.

My children mock me because I cry at every one of their events from First Communions to dance recitals, to football banquets. It’s jut a known family fact that if my kids are doing something special, in all likelihood I will cry. I tell them it’s my God-given right as a mother.

Today my oldest daughter, who is 11, had a recital with her vocal coach. She is my shy kid. It’s not easy for her to get up in front of people and she panics. When she panics, I panic for her. I decided in the car the other day that I’m like an empath. I take on other people’s feelings. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Last year was the first year she sang alone and she did fantastic. She completely broke down during intermission and didn’t think she could do it, which then had me on edge wondering if she was truly going to be able to do it and what we’d do if she ran off or it didn’t go well. I wasn’t going to let her back out because I knew she could do it, and I knew she had the talent. There is no way I’d force her to sing in front of an audience if she wasn’t really ready to do so.

This year she shocked me and chose a song that was really hard. It switched keys in the beginning and switched octaves later on. The good news was she was singing BEFORE intermission this time. She would get it over with and not have to panic for the entire recital.

I dropped her off to warm up and my younger daughter and I went to a few stores to kill some time. I ended up buying my daughter a bracelet that says, “She Believed She Could, So She Did.” It’s a struggle to get my daughter to believe in herself. I wanted to get her something to remind herself that she needs to remember she has the strength inside to do whatever she sets her mind to.

As I stood in the store choosing the bracelet in tears (again), my younger daughter who does not sugar coat said, “Mom, pull yourself together.” (She’s 9.) I was blessed with my youngest daughter for a reason. She challenges me a lot and will likely be the cause of all of my gray hair, but she make me laugh like no one else can, and she says exactly what she thinks which is mighty refreshing.

I popped a half a Xanax when we got to the concert, don’t judge. I did okay through her groups numbers, but the solo killed me and I cried the whole time. Oh I tried to cry quietly, but apparently I made everyone in the rows across from me cry because they were watching me cry. But, my daughter sang beautifully and I was so proud.

Later we went to dinner and once again my kids were asking why I cry so much at events and I think my son was wondering if I cry in particular at his events. I’ll admit I don’t cry during football at this point. I cried the first time his name was announced. I cry at the banquets when the coach is speaking about him, but he doesn’t always catch those moments. My son has been struggling to find his place in the world of sports. He desperately wants to be a great baseball and football player and maybe he will be, but right now he’s just okay. But when it comes to golf, the kid is amazing.

I turned the subject to golf and said, “Well someday when you’re playing at the Master’s, I’ll be at the side of the putting green sobbing while you’re trying to make a very important putt.” I also asked if he’d wear pants with flamingos on them if he was going to be a professional golfer but I was completely shot down on that.

My kids are all kind of finding their own way and it’s a good thing, but they are getting big and it’s just a new phase for us. My son does baseball, football and golf. My oldest daughter was just offered a spot on a dance team, and my youngest has moved away from dance and found a great love of gymnastics. Honestly, I could care less what they pursue as long as they are active and happy.

Back to the empath issue. When I was driving the other day I was thinking about a friend that was going through a difficult situation. Immediately I can put myself into her shoes (as much as possible) and feel that devastation to the point of almost a depression. It can also go the other way. When a friend has a wonderful success, my feeling of happiness and joy for them is very intense, like I can feel the joy they have inside. I decided I’m an empath and that’s not a good thing.

It causes me to have some highs and lows that really have nothing to do with me. Do I sound crazy enough yet? Eh…it’s a blog. If I’m crazy, I’m crazy. At least I’m honest about it.

In other news, I’m down 20lbs. I still look terrible and heavy, but I’m down two pant sizes. I need to be down two more before I’ll really celebrate, but it’s a start. I was gaining 2-3 pounds per week with the medicines I was on for chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety and birth control.

I am off meds for chronic pain, and yes…I’m in pain. No Alleve doesn’t fix it, but moving often helps. I hate when people tell me that, but for me it has helped. My neck has been pretty bad lately and that’s been tough, but other than that I’ve really been okay. As I mentioned in a previous blog the anxiety has been rough.

My new combo of meds is allowing me to lose some weight, though. So for that I’m thrilled. I have a lot of work to do, but I’ll just keep walking/moving/jogging and cutting down on late night eating, which is darn hard when you’re an insomniac. I get hungry at 2AM!

So I’m going to try and sleep before I get up and eat something.

 

 

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Insomnia Again

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I should be sleeping. If you’re reading this shortly after it’s posted, you should be sleeping, too! Not being able to sleep just plain sucks. I took 10mg of melatonin a few hours ago along with a xanax. Usually that combination is enough to make me tired by 11-11:30PM, but tonight it’s not doing the trick–not even close. I can’t even say there is something bothering me that’s keeping me awake. Today was relatively uneventful.

I went into the pediatrician’s office and it was my slowest day there in weeks. I was actually able to catch up on a few other things. My pain level is low and I’m not feeling bad at all. So why the hell am I wide awake? I have no idea. I’m one of those people that has a very tough time shutting down for the night. Sure, I hear you saying, turn the computer off. Turn the television off and it will be easier to sleep, but it’s not like I haven’t tried that. I find that to be even more frustrating because then it’s just me alone with my thoughts, and sometimes that’s not a great thing. I tend to overthink things when I have spare time.

I can almost laugh at the idea of spare time. What mom of three with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Raynaud’s has spare time? My spare time is usually spent napping during the day whenever I can catch a few minutes of alone time. My house is a complete disaster, yet my nap comes first and I’ve learned to be okay with that. There are days I wish I was a neat freak, but I also know it would put a lot more stress on my body if I didn’t stop and rest when I need to.

Lately I’ve been really trying to listen to my own body and let that dictate what I can and can’t do. I didn’t get to my cardio workout today, mostly because it was rainy and cold and I couldn’t walk outside. Tomorrow there will be no excuses. My calves and shins with be much better by tomorrow so after my class, I’m walking or getting on the stupid elliptical. At least I can say I haven’t been eating too many snacks. I’ve been stick to regular meals and not having snacks unless I am really hungry.

I did get some rather bad news today about my uncle. He’s my mom’s step-brother and that family tree has a lot of crooked and broken branches since my mother’s death. In the years since my mom passed away, this uncle cut ties with the rest of the family except me. My mom was the family peace maker and I somehow took over that role, mostly because I’m kind to all of them. I don’t talk about any of them badly, and I really do try and understand each of their side.

My cousin posted on Facebook today that his father was entering a hospice facility. We haven’t spoken since my grandmother passed away a few years ago and there was a big fiasco with the will. This particular uncle wanted to hire a lawyer and sue another uncle. Long story short, my brother and I were told by my grandmother that her will was split two ways between her two children with half going to my mom’s biological brother and half to be split between my brother and I since my mother was no longer living. When the will was read, everything went to my mom’s brother. We knew my grandmother had opted to cut the two step-brothers out of the will, and I advised against it because of the drama it would cause afterward, little did I know, I’d be involved in the drama and my uncle would walk away with everything and send us a letter postmarked from France with a check for $5,000 that was portioned to us from the will. Suffice it to say, if the will was what my grandmother had told us, it would have been closer to $150,000.

I had a choice. Do I cut off everyone over my anger when I really have no other connection to my mom? I was hurt and pissed off, but I made the decision to not discuss it again with them and move forward. We know my uncle convinced her to change the will, but there is nothing we can do to change it. It’s my mom’s brother and I needed to let go of my anger. That didn’t happen over night, but it did happen (not that I don’t have my moments).

Anyway, I haven’t seen my mom’s step-brother since my grandmother’s funeral. They live in another state and hate my mom’s biological brother. Are you following this? Is every family this crazy? To be honest, individually, I think they are all good people. They just have a grudge against each other stemming from childhood. Their arguments go back to silly things like a typewriter my grandmother gave to one grandkid at Christmas. Ridiculous things! I guess I’m just wondering at the end of my uncle’s life if he’s thinking of some of those moments and realizing how truly unimportant they were in the whole scheme of things. He hasn’t really spoken to his own biological brother in years (and yes, I talk to him, too).

I don’t know. If nothing else today I realized that though I have made many mistakes in my life, I think I’ve always put my kids first. I’ve always let my family know that I love them, and no matter how pissed I am, I try to find a way to work it out. Now that’s easy to say because my immediate family rarely does anything to piss me off. My biggest issue is not being invited to my niece’s Christening (I’m still not over that). I love my brother’s wife to pieces. She’s truly a wonderful person, but her family always comes first and they area  huge family. In an effort to cut down on the party size, she had the godparents and grandparents only. Um…I only have one brother and he’s all I have. That was the one and only time I ever have told them I’ve been upset…and I was hurt. I got the invite after I expressed my feelings and opted to go to the church and not the party as a matter of principle.

It’s now 12:45 and I’m no closer to sleep, just stalling trying to sleep by jabbering on about my family dynamic. Families are just so odd. My life would have been a lot different if my mom was alive because she was the glue of the family. She did all the holidays. She was the only person who talked to everyone in the family. That fell to my shoulders at 14. We stopped doing big holidays and no one invited my brother and I to their family get togethers. We celebrated stuff with my dad and step-mother after that and it wasn’t the warm, Italian event we were used to. Not bad, just different.

Anyway, it’s time for me to pretend like I’m tired. Too late for an Ambien. This means I’m definitely going to need a nap tomorrow.

It’s a Two Xanax Kind of Night

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I’m having a panic attack. It could be a multitude of things that set it off, but it’s been bad for the last hour so I just took Xanax number two (totaling 1mg) and hopefully I’ll relax sometime soon. For the most part today was uneventful. I was able to thoroughly clean my kitchen, even getting down on my hands and knees to clean the floor (it was pretty gross down there).

My son had a baseball game tonight, and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how I dread those. I try and support anything and everything my kids do, but lately baseball has been nothing but a downer and causing stress for my son (and for me). He hasn’t had one hit in this travel league. I will add in there that for the most part he gets walked. The pitchers have trouble adjusting pitches to his size in our batting order.  We have our tallest player hitting right before him, and my son is the smallest kid on the team. I’m not saying he hasn’t struck out, too–oh he has–but, more often than not, he gets on base with a walk.

As a mom, I’m happy he’s not out. As a kid, the poor guy just wants to hit the damn ball. He had some really great hits during our Park & Rec season and his confidence was up, but he hasn’t had a hit in this travel season and he’s beating himself up. So I see him walking up to bat. There are two outs, and of course, as any good mother does, I cringe and begin praying.

The pitch is right to him and I’m see him swing. Much to my surprise (and everyone else’s) he hits the ball and starts running. Now I’m praying that he makes it to first base. In the meantime two other kids score runs as my son runs in what seems like slow motion toward first base. He gets there just as the first baseman gets the ball, but luckily the kid dropped it. As I’m thanking God for the kid’s error, I see my son’s coach start yelling at him for not running straight through the base. He hesitated when he saw the kid had the ball. The kid hasn’t had one hit all season. You can’t let him have one freakin moment?

I sat there pissed off, but they played long enough in that inning for my son to score, so I was happy and he looked happy. They were winning 13-3 when he was up again, and as luck would have it, lightning struck and they had to end the game. When we got home (we had taken separate cars) I congratulated him on the hit and he said, “It wasn’t…” oh crap I don’t remember what kind of hit he said it wasn’t. I’m not a baseball person. In other words, it wasn’t a good enough hit. It wasn’t a hard enough hit. He waited for this moment, and it wasn’t good enough. I hate his coach tonight.

Then I felt stressed because my cousin sent me a Facebook message asking why I didn’t bring the kids over to see her puppy as we had talked about prior to our fight when she said I betrayed her at cut me out of her life. I thought about my response for a good 40 minutes and I think that’s what caused the panic. I hate drama. I wrote back that she should re-read her instant messages from the other night that decide whether or not she’d feel welcome. Then I mentioned that I did not have time to discuss it further. She wrote back that she was sorry.

DRAMA!!! Anyway, we’ve been having these storms every single night and I really believe they are messing with my RA and fibro. Tonight I am fighting a migraine, and I am still dealing with the intense pain in my hip and low back. I also have a lot of tightness through my neck. I took some Alleve, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything. When I’m finished with tonight’s blog, I’m going to get my ice packs and turn off all the lights to hopefully get some sleep.

I’m not sure why but my insomnia has been really bad this week. I haven’t fallen asleep before 2:00AM in the past 4 nights. Last night I was up playing online Yahtzee (Dice with Friends) with random people at 3:00AM. You know you’re really bored when you’re trying to get people to play Yahtzee with you in the middle of the night.

And my random outburst of the night: What is up with so many people leaving their babies in cars? Yesterday another child died in a hot car and this time it was only two towns over from me. The father worked all day and didn’t realize he forgot to drop his son off at daycare. Now, let me first say that people who live in glass houses should never throw stones. When that first case came out a few weeks ago, I was so upset and I tried to put myself in that father’s shoes. Maybe he didn’t usually drop the child at daycare? Maybe the child was sound asleep and not making noise? Maybe the father was so stressed with things he was frazzled and now would spend the rest of his life paying for this horrific mistake?

Then the reports came out that the dad was researching how long it would take for a dog to die in a hot car, and how long it would take for a child to die in a hot car. Then there were reports that he was sexting while the poor baby was in the hot car. The very man that I was doing my best to try and show a shred of compassion for, even in all his stupidity, was a horrid man. So now I’m jaded. I’m asking how this father in Ridgefield, CT worked a full work day and didn’t once think of his son. Not once did his mind wander to what his son might be doing at daycare that day.

How? How does a parent not think of their child all day? How does that happen? Why does someone need to leave a shoe in the back seat of their car to remind them that their child is there? I talked to my kids in the car. I’m a stressed, frazzled, forgetful mom. I forget appointments, paperwork, dinner. I never forget my kids. All I’m saying is I don’t understand. I now find myself looking in every car in every parking lot. Why is this happening so often? I don’t get it.

And Back to Insomnia

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I have been taking Melatonin fairly early in the evening and it’s been working pretty well for me. I’ve been falling asleep around 11pm or so most nights. I forgot to take it tonight because I was bust being a mom and trying to help my son cope with a “friend” being mean to him about his baseball ability.

Okay, it’s wrong of me to say, but I’d like to punch the kid at the moment. My son is not the star athlete. He’s not going to be the next Derek Jeter, but he loves to play and he tries very hard. He also improves a great deal from year to year. This year his hitting is light years above where it was last year. I used to cringe and pray every time he’d get up to bat. This year I no longer cringe, but I still pray. He’s hit some darn good balls!

From what his father tells him, baseball is 75% mental. He needs to go out there with more confidence, and he just doesn’t have it. Not only in sports, but in life. He lacks confidence in most things. It’s a constant struggle and one he sees a therapist for. Anyway, my son really wants to fit in with these cool athletic kids. My husband is good friend with one of the dads, and my son just automatically assumed that would make him best friends with the sons. It doesn’t work that way.

And guess what, I’m not so disappointed they don’t want to be his best friend. They are great friend material! Friends don’t tell other kids you suck at baseball. Friends don’t say mean things about you to other kids. Friends don’t make fun of you. My son’s instinct was to want to get this kid in trouble, and we tried to talk to him out of that. He’s in fifth grade and the tattling stage needs to end. The best revenge is for his to go out there on Thursday, nail a great hit, look the kid square in the eye, and say, you still think I suck? And I suggested he say it right in front of the boy’s dad who is the assistant coach! I also suggested his father (the coach) talk to the team as a whole about talking about other team members, without specifically calling anyone out.

Obviously this kid knows what he did, and he’ll get the point without causing any repercussions for my son. My son doesn’t understand the repercussions part of it all. Anyway, this took up a large chunk of my evening, and then cause me a lot of stress after the kids went to bed because I blame myself for everything. I’m not sure what I could have done differently to make him a better athlete, but whatever…I’m sure I did it.

Regarding my autoimmune life, today sucked! Not quite needing the cane suck…but for the first time ever my elbows are getting so stiff that it hurts to straighten my arms. My hips are still in quite a bit of pain, so I’m slower than usual, but I’m moving. It’s frustrating, but we just had some really crazy storms move through CT, so I’m not sure if that played into it all. The arm thing was bothering me today because that’s a brand new symptom. My arms have never bothered me. It usually my hands, feet, and hips. I don’t want to add another body part into the mix!

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to a morning of being able to put the kids on the bus and going back to sleep for a nap. It sounds so silly, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that, and the end of our school year is coming. I need to get my naps in now! Hopefully this insomnia won’t keep me up all night and I won’t sleep the day away tomorrow. If I’m feeling up to it, I’d like to get out even for a quick walk. Something is better than nothing, especially since all my cheating over the weekend only brought me a one pond weight loss. Very disappointed! I need to step up my game! Adding exercise back into the mix is the only way to do it. I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it.

Until tomorrow…

 

Welcome Brutus!

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I did it! I went back to Home Goods, and I bought the flamingo! His name is Brutus and he was a bargain at $39.99. He is pictured above in the driver’s seat of my car. My neighbor and I had a little fun with him when we went to pick him up. We giggled the whole way to get him, the whole time he was in the cart, and the whole way home. It was quite the excursion, and I now have a 4-foot metal flamingo in my yard, under my cherry blossom tree. He’s magnificent. He makes me laugh and he was a bright spot in a day of cleaning and getting ready for Easter.

Today was a much better day in terms of pain. I was able to get a lot more done than I did yesterday, with far less pain. It certainly didn’t hurt that it was fairly warm and the sun was shining. The damp cold of yesterday was gone. I’m finding that when it’s that damp kind of cold, those are my worst days. I can’t get warm and my joints are at their worst.

I’m really unprepared for Easter, but it’s not bothering me too much. I usually have a bigger crowd, so tomorrow just seems like a regular dinner. I’m not going all out. I have more people coming for dessert than dinner, so I have more of a plan for that. At the moment I’m realizing it’s 11pm and I don’t think I have anything to wear. I thought about things to put on the table to make it pretty, but heaven forbid I think of anything to put on myself. I remembered to buy the kids nice outfits…yeah, at some point I’ll remember I need to dress myself!

I still have to put candy in the plastic eggs  and hide them, but my son was still pretending to be asleep about a half an hour ago so it wasn’t quite safe yet. My youngest daughter came into my room a few hours ago fearing that she might have seen Santa in the window. At that point I was pretty sure I failed somewhere along the line in my parenting, but it still gave me a chuckle.

I have been having a really tough time with insomnia the last few nights. Last night I was up until about 3AM. I haven’t taken much because I feel tired, but I’m just not sleeping. I have been working on an online auction for a nonprofit organization that I work for and it’s been fun. I have been seeking out  companies for donations for future auctions, and for some reason I choose 1AM as a great time to do this. It’s my quiet time and I can focus, but it’s not so good for my sleep patterns.

I’m going to try and be finished with everything by 12:30 tonight and actually shut the computer off. We’ll see how that goes. I really don’t want to take a half an Ambien tonight because I don’t want to be groggy in the morning. I think my mind is just going in a million directions. I really like my job and I am having fun with what I’m doing, so I want to do it. I have had a lot on my mind the past few weeks with my family. My father went from definitely going to have heart surgery, to now not needing it in the matter of two weeks.

Like everyone else in the world, I just have a lot on my mind. Is there ever a point where we don’t have a lot on our minds? I’d like to get to that point of boredom! I’ve been doing a little research on neuropathy and it’s making me a little nervous as well. I keep losing all feeling in my fingers and toes. The just go numb or I have pins and needles for a long period of time. If anyone else has this, I’d love some insight so I can keep myself away from WebMD. You’d be surprised the things I think I have 🙂

For those you celebrate Easter, I wish you a peaceful and happy holiday tomorrow, and to everyone a pain-free day!

 

Exercise, Swelling, and Kittens

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Today was a really good day for exercise! I taught my class this morning, and we decided as a group that we’re going to do this 30 Day Ab Challenge. It’s doable people, join me! I did the Day 1 schedule after my class, so I was able to do a lot today. The odd thing that happened was that my fingers began to swell during class. It didn’t start out as a high pain day, and to be honest, I’ve had much worse, but at one point I couldn’t hold onto my weight (light ones) with my right hand.

At that point my fingers turned red, yet my hand and palm were white. They are still red and a little swollen, but surprisingly they are too painful right now. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

So I know you’re all dying to know how I slept on my new mattress last night. And that answer is…awful! Here’s the thing, I was super comfortable, but still wide awake. I suppose I can’t expect the mattress to cure my insomnia. I plan on popping a half an Ambien tonight because I have a monthly staff meeting tomorrow that’s over an hour away and I need to get some sleep tonight.

At the moment, I’m having a hard time focusing on my blog because one of my kittens seems to be in a lot of pain. She won’t put her little foot down when she’s sitting, and she is limping when she walks. We are concerned she may have jumped onto the wood stove. Our big cat, Cheeto, jumped onto the wood stove when he was a kitten. He was playing with the dog and jumped from a play kitchen set right onto the hot stove and burned all four paws.

I can’t tell with Cookie (our girl kitten–the gray tabby pictured above with her brother Biscuit) if that’s what happened. She little pads on her paws are black and I can’t tell if they are burned. If she’s still in pain tomorrow we’ll take a trip to the vet after my morning meeting. I hate to see any animal in pain. It’s awful. She was looking at me and meowing over and over like she wanted me to understand her. Poor girl!

So not much else to report tonight as I’m a little scattered. I hope you’ll join me for the 30 Day Ab Challenge and help force me to stick to my plan of getting in shape. Let me know how you do!

Cut the Aspartame Now

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If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m working on the whole gluten-free diet thing. I’m not counting today, as I ate fast food and I feel like hell from it now. Tomorrow is back to gluten-free!

When I was researching things to help my fibromyalgia pain, I kept seeing articles on the links between aspartame and chronic illnesses. About two years ago, I was in a hellish cycle of migraines, and my brother-in-law, who is a neurologist, asked me how much diet soda I was drinking. The answer even bothered me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a day without my diet soda.

At that point I’d have done anything to be headache free and I gave up diet soda cold turkey, The first few days were rough, but then I didn’t miss it so much. Little by little it crept back into my diet about a year ago. Not a lot, but every now and then I’d have one.

I started looking more into the artificial sweetener aspartame when I read an article on how artificial sweeteners can make you actually crave sugar. I needed something to blame being fat on, so I jumped on that bandwagon. Through more research, I also found that aspartame can make many chronic illnesses worse.

Among the adverse reactions people can have to aspartame are joint pain, dizziness, migraines, weight gain, anxiety attacks, depression, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, vertigo, muscle spasms, and irritability. Um…a great big yep there. I think I have had all of those at one point or another.

It’s kind of a cycle. I was feeling tired and fatigued, so I’d have a diet soda to give me that caffeine kick. Little did I know the aspartame likely making my problems worse. I also read that aspartame could be causing fibromyalgia. While I don’t consume enough of the stuff to believe this is the cause of my fibro, I did start label reading and it is in a lot of products.

I thought giving up diet soda eliminated the aspartame from my diet, little did I know it was in my yogurt, my breath mints, Jello, cereals, and my iced tea. I thought I’d just use this as an opportunity to give my own little public service announcement to remind you to read the labels and cut this stuff out of your diet if you have a chronic illness.

It’s bad enough to be having an awful flare due to the freezing temperatures, I don’t want to add to it with what I eat.

Welcome Back Arthritis Flare

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Today didn’t go as expected. I should know not to have big expectations. My schedule was thrown off because my daughter was sick with a cold this morning and needed to stay home from school. This put off my plans to meet with the First Selectman until tomorrow, which was okay with me.

The Polar Vortex is back and it was everything I could do to get warm today. My hands were either on the heating pad or grasping a warm cup of tea. They are still stark white from the Raynaud’s and they are so cold that they ache. I ended up needing to take pain medication this evening as I could hardly walk and I started getting a migraine.

I can’t even tell you if it worked or not. I suppose the pain is lessened but when I have a migraine that’s the only thing I can feel. The left side of my neck to the shoulder is one big, giant knot. I keep trying to stretch it, but it hasn’t done much good.

Basically, I’m telling you that I’m one big downer today in terms of pain. Otherwise, I actually had a nice day spending some one-on-one time with my daughter. I worry about all my kids for different reasons, but my oldest daughter lacks confidence, just like I did as a child. I wish she could see what I see what I look at her. She is beautiful inside and out. While there are times when she gives me an attitude, she is such a genuine person. I love watching her grow and I’m more proud of her every day. I worry that like her mother, she’ll let her fears get in the way of her dreams.

Today she told me she’d really like to sing next year in the school fourth-grade play. This is my daughter that refused to speak to anyone for half of kindergarten because she was too shy. She performed in the Nutcracker the past two years, and I see how much she’s grown and trying things out of her comfort zone. I’m in awe of her. She’s such a good kid.

When I’m feeling down on myself I really do look at my kids and think, well, I’m not perfect, but my kids are kind and funny and good people. I’m doing something right despite my mistakes.

So here I sit at 10:30 at night with a migraine. Sleep is going to be difficult and I’m trying to decide whether or not to take a half of an Ambien. It’s such a catch-22 (one of many with autoimmune diseases). I need to sleep to help the migraine, but I can’t sleep because of the migraine. It might be stress related because of all the town drama and me getting worked up about talking to this guy tomorrow.

I am trying to tell myself he’s just a person. He might see himself as more powerful, etc., but he’s just some guy and I don’t care if he doesn’t change his mind, I am going to at least have him listen to me. Our town is so divided and dramatic right now. People are aligning themselves on different sides, and I want no part of that. I’m going to talk to him about my concerns for the education system, and that’s it. I’m just praying I don’t have this migraine when I am trying to talk to him.

For the moment, I’m sitting here watching “I Have 5 Wives.” How do I find these gems on television? In tonight’s episode the wives are all jealous of the wife who has the same birthday as the husband. The husband has stress because he is trying to keep them all happy. Clearly, this is must see tv. I need my readers to start watching this crap so I have someone to discuss it with!

Back to my hands for a moment — if any of my readers also suffer from Raynaud’s, I’d love some ideas for what to do when my hands get this bad. I know it technically isn’t a big deal, but when they are this cold and white, they really hurt. Even running them under warm water is painful. I’m so focused on the fibro and rheumatoid arthritis that I never really ask about the Raynaud’s. It’s more of a bother than anything else. I’d love some insight if anyone has it.

This post is very random tonight. I just re-read it and I’m all over the place. Chalk it up to me being scattered and in pain tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

Is It Old Age or Brain Fog?

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It’s a term used often in the autoimmune community, brain fog. But what is it? According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson: “Brain fog may be described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity.  It is called brain fog because it can feel like a cloud that reduces your ability to think clearly.  It can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and often discouraged and depressed.  It usually is present most of the time, meaning it does not come and go, although it may become better or worse depending on what a person eats, or one’s state of rest and hydration.”

Ok, so let’s recap. Brain fog = forgetfulness and reduced ability to think clearly. I’d like to state for the record that I’m a mother of three. Some days I don’t know my ass from my elbow. I can’t keep track of who has what activity or appointment, let alone things I need to do for my clients.

I tried to think about it as a whole and figure out whether it’s just something that comes with age and being overwhelmed with my own To-Do List. I think I’d have to admit that my crazy schedule certainly plays a part in my personal brain fog. The difference for me is noticeable when I am in the middle of a rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia flare.

During a flare exhaustion is just as difficult a symptom as the pain. With the exhaustion definitely comes brain fog. I do lose the ability to think clearly and organize things when my body is hurting and I’m exhausted.

So, based on this, I’m going with I’m not THAT old, and despite my crazy life, I do also have the symptom of brain fog, especially during a flare. I suppose that my insomnia also factors into the mix. It’s hard to think straight when you haven’t had any sleep.

I think what bugs me is brain fog is one more thing that is subjective and can cause the rolling of eyes. Even at the beginning of this blog, I was going through the possibilities in my own life that could be causing brain fog–aside from my autoimmune issues.

  • Crazy, hectic schedule
  • Kids
  • Job stress
  • Lack of sleep

What parent doesn’t have most, if not all of those things? It’s easy to shrug off this symptom because it’s not tangible like a certain area of pain. I hate symptoms like that because they add to the stigma that goes along with some autoimmune diseases.

Heck, I’ve heard fibromyalgia is what they diagnose when nothing else is wrong with you and there is no real reason for what you’re feeling. I’ve heard chronic fatigue syndrome is for tired soccer moms that have run out of steam. I’m sure if you’re reading this blog and you have an autoimmune disease like CFS or fibro, you’ve heard things like this.

It all goes back to the beginning — it’s all in your head! Well, it’s not. And along with the pain and exhaustion, there IS such thing as brain fog. You heard it here, and I’m standing by it.

Sleep Issues Linked with Chronic Pain

Valerian root photo by oKikos

Valerian root photo by oKikos

Shocker, right? it’s kind of a catch-22. I can’t sleep because I’m in pain, and the fact that I’m not sleeping adds to my pain. I can’t win. According to a study on Arthritis & Rheumatology, researchers found that non-restorative sleep, a type of sleep where a person wakes up feeling unrested no matter how many hours they slept, “was the strongest predictor of new onset WP [widespread pain].”

So this study begs the question, are sleep issues causing widespread pain like that experienced in fibromyalgia? I could go either way with this one. On one hand, when I am exhausted and have insomnia, inevitably I feel terrible in the morning. The thing is, with me, I don’t remember I time when I slept well. From the time I was a young teenager I had trouble falling asleep. The chronic pain came many years later.

We all know sleep is beneficial to your overall health. Getting a good night’s sleep aids in memory recall, as well as mental alertness. When I person has periods no insomnia it can lead to lethargy, irritability, and an increased risk of certain diseases. So let’s get this straight…when you don’t get enough sleep, you become irritable — another shocker.

So what do those of us with sleep issues and autoimmune diseases do? For many of us, pain is adding to sleep issues. My doctor prescribed a muscle relaxer for me to take at night (Flexeril). I also have Xanax to relax. I can tell you that neither one of them help me get to sleep. The Xanax worked for a while, but I think you build up a tolerance to it.

About 9 million U.S. adults use prescription sleep aids to ensure quality rest, according to a recent CDC study. But experts caution that sleeping pills aren’t always effective or safe, and many think their use should be limited.

Tips for Falling Asleep without Medication

Put away the electronics.

I’m guilty of this, and in fact it’s going to be a hard habit to break. When I can’t sleep I am online reading, writing, researching, or just playing stupid online games (Damn, Candy Crush!). It’s best if you put your phone to bed in another room, and turn the laptop off about 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. The other tough one for me is to shut the television off. Watching TV and playing on the computer actually stimulate the brain. You may start out thinking “oh I’ll just put on this episode of CSI until I fall asleep. Then what happens? Of course you need to know the ending, and if you’re like me, you will finish watching it.

Don’t laugh but I watched someone one of the morning news shows who said that wearing a pair of orange colored glasses an hour before bed with help the body produce it’s own melatonin. Wouldn’t that just freak my family out if I put on some orange goggles at 9pm. I can hear the screams and laughter already!

Limit Your Intake of Caffeine

As someone who suffers from migraines, I only have caffeine when I am suffering with a migraine headache. Otherwise I’ve eliminated it from my diet. I have never been a coffee drinker, but I know plenty of people that don’t even want to be spoken to before their first cup of coffee. Far be it for me to tell them to give that up. There are benefits in limiting you caffeine intake to the morning or early afternoon. Skip the caffeine full soda with dinner as caffeine in the evening can definitely mess with your sleep. Caffeine stimulated the nervous system. Maybe you’ve even tried one of those energy drinks full of caffeine to get you through an afternoon or work or classes. While it’s true that caffeine affects some people more than others, a good rule of them is not to drink anything with caffeine after 3pm.

A Hot Shower

I always thought there was nothing more relaxing than a hot bath (and I still find it relaxing), but research shows that when you come out of a warm shower into a cooler bedroom, your body temperature will drop. That drop in temperature signals your body that it’s time to rest, slowing down essential metabolic functions including heart rate, breathing, and digestion. The problem with the bath, for me, is that I like it super hot to help with muscle stiffness and pain. This can actually backfire on the relaxation end and make you feel more energetic.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Developed in 1915, this technique will never get old. “Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation in exercise where you systematically tense and then relax all the muscle groups of your body,” according to the clinical director of UPenn Medicine’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program Phil Gehrman, Ph.D., told Everyday Health.

The exercise generally starts with you lying down and taking a few deep breaths. First tense your toes and hold then in that tensed position for a few moments, then relax the toes. You will feel a greater awareness of the muscles in you toes as you release the tension. Continue this working up your body with the calves, thighs, buttocks, abdominals, hands, arms, and even your face. Plan to take a full 5-10 minutes to complete the progressive muscle relaxation technique.

I’ll be honest and tell you that even though this is a very effective technique, when I was pregnant, my husband, who played college football, tried to talk me through a progressive relaxation session to help me sleep. He said they used it to clear their minds before a football game. Just a small note that I found it easier to talk myself through it. Listening to my husband trying to sound soothing and calm made me laugh so hard that tears were coming down my face. The harder I tried to relax, the more I’d laugh at him, which he didn’t appreciate (but it was hysterical)

Meditate
Similar, to progressive muscle relaxation, meditation works by bringing awareness to the stress in your body and letting it go.  Focus on your breathing, feeling your belly rise and fall with each breath. As your worries and issues from the day come to mind, let them go and come back to your breathing. It helps me to focus on a two-syllable word like serene or tranquil so I can breathe in during the first syllable and breath out during the second.

There are many online tips for meditation. This is one I like from the Huffington Post.

Consider a Supplement
While natural supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, they can be effective in helping you fall asleep. The most popular supplement is Melatonin, which can be an extremely effect sleep aid. One thing to note about melatonin, is that instead of taking it right before bed, try taking it an hour or two before bedtime. During this time the body creates it’s own melatonin as you wind down from the day. Adding the supplement will help keep that circadian rhythm.

Another herbal supplement option is valerian root. A few small studies have given inconclusive results, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health. That being said, there are a lot of people online that swear by valerian root.

Don’t forget there is also Sleepy Time tea, and other brand that help promote a good night’s sleep with herbs like valerian root in it. I’m not sure the teas work for me, but I really enjoy the taste of it, and I figure it can’t hurt.

Feedback Welcome

Let me know if any of these tips work for you. I’m always looking for new ways to fall asleep with medication, so please feel free to comment on this post with your ideas or email me to autoimmunemama@gmail.com. I’m off to try the progressive relaxation sans the husband. Perhaps it won’t be as funny this time around.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep to all!

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