Friday, June 24, 2016

Always Keep Fighting!

One of the more delightful aspects of rheumatoid arthritis (yes, I'm being sarcastic) is the very real issue of brain fog. What is brain fog? It's when you feel confused, forgetful, lack mental clarity, and in all seriousness, feel like you are in the early stages of dementia.

Unfortunately, many of those with chronic illness suffer from brain fog, and I'm no exception. I used to pride myself on my memory. I could have a list of things to do in my mind and never forget a single one. Words came to me easily. Focus wasn't hard. Conversations were easy since I hardly ever lost my train of thought. And now? I'll be writing and can't for the life of me think of a simple word I need to use. This happens in conversations, too. And many times, I'll be talking and struggle to find my words, which results in me feeling quite embarassed  since I flounder around like a beached whale. I am forgetful, make mistakes at work that I never did before, and can't find the focus I need unless I literally close my eyes and force myself to.

It's not fun. But it's something I have to deal with, and I'm learning to find ways to work around it. For example, I make lists. It's a must. And at work, I have to force myself to slow down and double check my work. Zipping around on social media, flitting from Twitter to FB to Pinterest doesn't help, so if I really want to focus, I need to have all those tabs closed. Finding my words is harder to fix, but slowing down when I talk to people or pausing to collect my thoughts is about the best I can do.

And writing? Oftentimes, I'll rely on my thesauraus to help me out - the word I want is often listed amongst the synonyms of a related word.

Brain fog isn't fun to deal with. It's frustrating and at times, scary. But having a plan of action to combat it is vital.

Lately, I've had to really force myself to look at my illness in a different light. Yes, I have a chronic illness. But it doesn't have me. I am more than my illness. It is not my identity. That's hard to remember when my joints are aching so bad that I'm in tears, or when I'm so exhausted all I can do is sleep. However, it's necessary for good mental health. I'm not going to lose who I am  - and I am many things: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a niece, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a writer, a creative person, a historian, a fighter - to this disease. I am far, far more than my illness!

If you're suffering with a chronic illness or condition, please know that your illness does not define you. It is a part of you, yes, but you are made up of many, many parts!

I always like to turn to Jared Padalecki (of the TV show Supernatural) and his wise words of wisdom: Always keep fighting!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Random Thoughts Edition #2698

Ok. So I haven't really had over 2,000 "Random Thoughts" post. Instead, I just picked a random number out of a hat. Because that's what these random posts are all about!


1) Rheumatoid arthritis? Inflammatory polyarthritis? Inflammatory polyarthropathy? Ah, the medical world. I've had two rheumatologists diagnose me with the last two, but they have not yet pulled the trigger on an official "rheumatoid arthritis" diagnosis even though these three things essentially mean the same thing. Oh, there are different types of inflammatory polyarthrisi/arthropathy, and RA is just one of them - but it is the one that my symptoms most closely match. Why won't they give me an official RA diagnosis? That is a darn good question. One is that my bloodwork doesn't show certain results associated with RA. Except...a large chunk of those with RA don't have those markers. The whole thing is driving me crazy. I'm going to my rheumy tomorrow (this is my second rheumy after I had to let the other one go because he was NOT helping me) to talk about all of this mumbo jumbo.

2) Depression. When you have a chronic illness (see above) and can go for a few weeks without having a good day, depression becomes a very real problem. Yesterday, I managed to do some housework and get groceries with my husband, but that was it. I ended up on the couch, watching episodes of Supernatural all afternoon (because Sam and Dean are so hot that it takes your mind off of almost, well, everything). I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to do anything else. It really stunk. I'm feeling better - emotionally - today, and as far as the chronic pain? All I can say is thank you, God, for meds that help make that pain manageable.

3) Oh summer, how you vex me. That's probably one reason I was depressed yesterday. It was 100 degrees Saturday and Sunday and that just made me mad. I cannot enjoy summer when the heat takes your breath away the moment you step outside! Again, I think an isolated place in England or Scotland would do just fine.

4) And speaking of isolated, a lone cottage in the middle of the Highlands would get me away from crazy people. This world is going bonkers. Okay, it's always been bonkers, but social media has highlighted the bonkerness (is that a word?) so much more.

5) My husband is awesome. Some men would have turned tail and ran the moment they found out their wife had a lifelong, debilitating chronic illness. Not mine. It's frustrating for him, yes, but he sticks by me. And he also makes sure I have plenty of chocolate.

6) The new novel is going splendidly - or it was until yesterday when the depression climbed into my head and refused to let me work on it. I mean, I didn't even want to be on the computer at all yesterday. That's pretty unusual for me. But I remain confident that this will be temporary and I'll get back to tormenting my characters. And believe me, these two are tormented.

7) I miss going to Curves. I miss feeling my body grow stronger and leaner. I haven't been physically able to go for several months now, and I actually dropped my membership since I wasn't using it. Maybe I'll get to go back someday...

8) Oooh! It's my birthday Wednesday! And my husband will be home and so will my daughter. We are going to have lunch together at a local Italian restaraunt resteraunt restaurant (I misspelled restaurant at my junior high spelling bee, and it was the word that got me kicked out of the finals! GAH!). Maybe we'll catch an afternoon matinee. Bottom line is: I WON'T BE AT WORK.

9) Through my cousin, I learned about a man from my hometown who served in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA) during World War II. He went on missions behind enemy lines. I found his OSS file in the National Archives and I'm ordering it pronto. I cannot wait to see what that file reveals. WW2 espionage and secret missions are my sweet spots when it comes to WW2 history. I love those kinds of stories! Research, here I come!

10) I want a cookie. Like right now. But I don't need a cookie. Lack of exercise due to chronic pain/illness + comfort food to get me through the pain + menopause = weight gain. I'm trying to adjust to this, but if I could lose some weight again, that would be fantastic. And eating cookies doesn't help with that (especially since I had some cookies last night). I need to get back to my "one dessert a week" rule. But chocolate doesn't count in that rule. Ha!

So. Those are my random thoughts for the day.

I'll leave you with this:

I have done this multiple times!

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Longest Day

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion. As a World War 2 historian, it's always a day of special significance for me. This invasion brought about the eventual liberation of Europe. But the cost was heavy, most notably on Omaha beach where the Americans suffered horrific casualties.

There have been many movies documenting this invasion. Saving Private Ryan is probably the most recent, as is the highly-acclaimed HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, though BoB shows the airborne invasion.

My go-to movie for D-Day, however, is 1962's The Longest Day. The all-star cast, directed by noted director Daryl F. Zanuck, includes actors from the UK, America, France, and Germany: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Henry Fonda, a young Sean Connery (before he was Bond), Richard Burton, Eddy Albert, Peter Lawford, Robert Mitchum, Wolfgang Preiss, and others. Why do I turn to this movie in particular? Because it shows the invasion from every side: the French Resistance, the German Armed Forces, the US Armed Forces, the Free French, and the British Armed Forces. And it shows the perspectives of regular soldiers, generals, and civilians - actual men and women who were involved in the D-Day invasion.

If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend taking the time to do so. It doesn't show the horrors of battle nearly as well as newer movies - i.e. you won't have to worry about seeing blood and guts. But that doesn't diminish it's power.

I can only imagine what it was like to be a part of this day. What a mammoth, incredible undertaking it was, an invasion that liberated the people of Europe enslaved to Hitler's fanaticism. Thank God they succeeded.

Missing My Manuscript

After I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I wanted to take a break from it, get some distance before I started revisions. That didn...