Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Pain and Medication

Today discovered Dana Jennings, who blogs with great insight about his experiences with prostate cancer. I read one of his posts about pain, treating it with modern medication versus the stoic, sometimes misdirected handling of it in some ancestral communities. It brought me right to my current situation.

Two days ago I was overconfident about the recovery of my right arm. I carried something that was too heavy, and now I am paying for it. I've had two days of intense pain. I've medicated it enough to dull it and make me functional, but it underlies every thought and activity of the day. I've even put off my knitting group for a bit because I'm debating whether I can be social and not grumpy and distracted.

Pain has been an issue for me ever since lupus was diagnosed 18 years ago. In the early years (until about three years ago, I believe) I avoided pain medications. I would handle a day of pain by sitting quietly and doing some activity that took my mind off the pain. I would avoid using whatever joint or limb was hurting. I could effectively keep myself from dwelling on the pain, and everyone around me congratulated me for it. My psychiatrist said I should teach others how to do that. My rheumatologist laughed at the way a bottle of pain medicine that was written for a month would last for a year. I patted myself on the back for my extraordinary powers of self-control. After all, I had worked in methadone clinics and seen the pitiful souls who allowed themselves to become addicted to prescription pain medicine. I was not going to wind up like that.

What nobody saw, including me, was that I so severely restricted myself from using pain medications that I also limited my function and fitness. No one advised me that I should take enough medicine to get off my couch and be more active. No one related my persistent weight gain to that lack of activity and avoidance of pain. In the end, I didn't become addicted, I just became a sedentary lump.

My medical background did me a disservice. I was intent on taking medications that cured or helped my disease, and avoiding those that just provided comfort. If a medicine didn't decrease the immune response or stop inflammation or make nerve cells work better, it wasn't worthy of my use. I underestimated the importance of treating the pain that attended my condition. In the end, that wasn't good medicine. It contributed to weight gain, osteoporosis, fatigue and depression. It left me less able to care for myself and be independent. It was this that finally opened my eyes and made me more responsible about treating my whole being, and not just the disease.

These days I take my pain medicine thankfully, grateful to the researchers who developed ways to keep us functioning despite the pain, happy that I don't have to use so much energy enduring and ignoring this discomfort. My life is fuller, more productive, and I am more useful to myself and others.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Free Hat Pattern: Rolled-Brim Bulky Hat

Holy Cow! I'm here for the third time in a week. Who died and left me Blog Queen? I don't know. Maybe I'm just discovering once again that making this download of emotions and reporting my activities more faithfully increases my sense of well-being.

Anyway, today I made a perfect hat by accident and I decided to share it. Sometimes a yarn says "Try this." I've learned not to ignore those pleas. When I sat down next to a ball of Point 5 this morning, it was begging to be a hat. Not a structured, carefully shaped hat, just a simple pull-on hat with absolutely no embellishment in the way of stitch-work, cabling or ribbing. As always, my patterns are copy-righted, so feel free to use them for personal use or gifts, but please do not reproduce the pattern or the product for sale.


Yarn: Colinette Point 5, 1 hank

Supplies: Size 10 needles for working in the round; yarn needle to weave ends

This simple hat is a one-day project. It is knit completely in stockinette stitch in the round and the beauty of the yarn is all the adornment needed. It is highly customizable. You could add a knitted bow or flower on one side, attach long braided ties over each ear, or change the rolled brim to a fitted, ribbed one. For a whimsical change, you could add tassels to the top, or knit ears and attach them. It is an easy, quick, multi-purpose hat pattern.

Finished size: 20 inches (51 cm) circumference.

Gauge: The thick and thin nature of the yarn makes gauge difficult to assess. To be more accurate, you should measure at least three times in different places on your swatch and take an average. Be sure not to miss the smaller stitches in the thinnest strands of yarn when you count. 11 stitches = 5 inches.

Cast on 42 stitches. Join to work in round.

Knit every row loosely until piece measures 7 inches long.

Decrease rounds

Round 1: *Knit 7 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 2: Knit.

Round 3: *Knit 6 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 4: Knit.

Round 5: *Knit 5 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 6: *Knit 4 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 7: *Knit 3 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 8: *Knit 1 K2tog repeat from * to end of round.

Round 9: K2tog repeat to end of round.

Cut yarn, thread through remaining stitches, pull tight to close hole. Weave ends.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today I Was Ugly

Today I was ugly. Not physically - I was well-groomed and matching and had a new product in my hair - but emotionally. I was irritable and once rubbed the wrong way, there was yukky resentment bubbling inside my head. A friend at knitting complained about her job, and all i could think was what a blessing it is to be able to work. She named some legitimate things that are a problem with her work; inside I said "You should be glad you can work." She complained about her schedule; "Hell, my schedule is totally dependent on what my body and this disease are doing today." She continued to complain, "Jeez, would you suck it up, you big baby." I just didn't have graciousness and light in me today. Thank goodness I was holding it in, although I think the tone of some of the thoughts I actually uttered was not the most generous.

I've been struggling. This long ordeal with having a sudden worsening in my health, and having to set a new standard for making myself deal with pain and fatigue and disability, it has just been wearing me down. Lately I ask myself every day why people do this, if there's a point, if it is worth it. So far my answers have always been "because we have to", "yes" and "yes", but will I get to a day when those answers change? It's just so damn hard, all of it. The sitting down and the standing up. The awakening and the laying down to sleep. The cooking, the fetching, the dressing, the washing. The household chores.

But the past week has brought some relief, even if it hasn't completely chased away my doubts. My arm feels stable again. I no long feel that nagging weakness and feeling that things are out of place. I am confident when I raise my arm that the muscles won't spasm and make the fracture shift and make me scream. I can reach for something without wondering how it will go, or whether I should have used my left hand. Pain is still there, but not gnawing at the bone, keeping me awake and making it impossible to sit still.

Other good things have moved me this week. My knitting is better. My hands no longer feel like they are accommodating a weak link when I hold the needles. I can knit my usual hours and end a day feeling okay, able to get up the next morning and knit again. I've especially enjoyed my baths, as I can trust myself to lie back and put my head in the water and relax. No arm spasm will interrupt and make me flail and catch my breath in fear.

I Skyped with my daughter today. You might think we do it all the time, but sometimes the missing is too intense, and neither of us can tolerate a flood of tears and the dredging up of sadness. We talked for an hour. She toured me around her apartment. She showed me classwork she has completed, fascinating now that she is creating every day in so many ways. The photo is a piece of cloth that she dyed to match a flowered shirt, an assignment for her fabric class. And she made me laugh my ass off. Falling over, bellowing, not carrying how I looked laughing. It washed out some of the ugly. Maybe most of it. I feel inspired now, to do something interesting. I'm going to experiment with some slip stitch crochet that I just read about. My evening will be fun, and hopefully I won't be wondering if this day was worth it.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Day for Action

It's been ages since I woke like this - alert, moving, ready to go. I've had a series of minor setbacks with the body, plus been through a round of rituximab treatment. I felt like I was putting fingers in multiple dikes, just trying to make it to the next hour, next day...a painful way to survive. No thriving involved. But today (courtesy of lots of meds and a good night's sleep) I am good. I'm actually waiting for the post office and drug store to open so I can do the errands that I want to complete before it hits 90 degrees again.

I have so much going on in the knitting arena that I have to list it to make sure I'm pushing each project forward: one custom cape, one custom afghan, one custom baby ensemble, patterns and ideas for my book, a box of products to post to a northern boutique for consideration, a couple of local Christmas markets to apply to, and refreshing my Etsy store with new photos and products. At some time in the past this knitting thing officially crossed the line from hobby to business. Now I'm trying to make it a profitable business, and sell more wisely.

One thing the broken arm has taught me - don't rely so much on physical methods of doing business. I have not been able to return to selling at the Chattanooga Market, and I don't know if I'll be ready by the end of the season. My days of heavy lifting and tedious setups in bad weather may be over. We'll see. The arm has made progress, maybe the rest of me will move forward a bit, too.

My girl is safely off to school in Georgia, three hours away. It's a blessing. She loves the UGA art school and sends me teeny phone photos of her work. Our conversations about ideas and creating stimulate my work and make me think of new ways to do things. Seeing the way she tends to the tiniest detail on her drawing and fabric work reminds me that I can do much more embellishing with my knitted items. I even have plans for some embroidery on pieces that I'll publish in the book.

The loneliness from my daughter's absence is a lesson to be learned all over again. She was here for a year, and I forgot the void that her leaving creates. Moreover, the past two months my sweet pooch was cared for by a friend while my arm recovered enough to be the caretaker again. I have talked to the walls and the television set and mostly to myself during this time. I've had to learn again how to laugh by myself, and how to breathe out the pain and sadness and let myself be okay. Some of us are created to be social, and it is a struggle to be physically restrained from that. My body as anchor, keeping me rooted to this spot...

I have had more than enough thinking time. I have come to terms with the fact that desire and will power and hard work may not be enough to reign in my weight problems. I'm totally satisfied with the way I am managing it, trying to keep my prednisone low, moving when I can and cooking healthy meals. I must accept that when I get on my bike for 10 minutes and then have a week of inflammation in my knee, it is beyond my control. Yoga? Chair yoga is my next exploration. I so want to lose. Even 50 pounds would make it easier to get around and care for myself. I've cut some real favorites out of my pantry (peanutbutter!) and stocked up on high-fiber ingredients. The price of tofu just dropped dramatically at one of my favorite groceries, and I'm learning more ways to enjoy it. Curry is in my kitchen vocabulary, and I'm baking regularly instead of buying $7 loaves of bread. My strawberry muffins are to be envied.

Can you have a fling in your mind? An old flame has been in touch, and reminded me of the positives in our relationship, long past. For a few weeks I entertained thoughts of us together, brought to an abrupt stop by some recurrences of behavior that is intolerable for me. I didn't have to think twice about mentioning this here - one huge incongruity in our non-relationship is his refusal to learn any computer function beyond email. Oh well...

Enough supposing. This day is for action! Peace!