New ACEO Artworks! Fireworks & Wedding Themes

The past few days have been rough, due to my back going out again, so I haven’t been in the mood to write much, but I figured I would share a couple ACEO artworks I made this week.

The first is just an explosion of color and motion. It makes me think of fireworks, which seems appropriate since tomorrow is the 4th of July:

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I also made a wedding themed sticker collage that I thought turned out pretty cool. I especially like the almost see-through effect created by laying the alcohol markers over the stickers:

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If you like these artworks or want to see my others currently for sale, check out my Ebay store!

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Vacations: A Harsh Reality of Chronic Illness

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Over the weekend my husband and I took a short vacation to Louisville, KY to celebrate our 15th anniversary and spend some quality time together. I did have a good time, but I must admit that I dread and sometimes even regret vacations just as much as I look forward to them.

Why? Simple. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Vacationing when you have CFS sucks. Big time. Planning the vacation wears you out. Packing wears you out. The travel wears you out. Even though I don’t do the driving, I am still exhausted by the time we even get to our destination. Often, as soon as we get to our hotel I immediately have to lay down for at least a couple hours to recuperate, even if it is only a 2 or 3 hour drive as this one was.

The main excursion we planned was to the Louisville zoo. We had never been there before and both my husband and I love animals. Luckily, it wasn’t a huge zoo, but by the time we had toured about half of it, I was in really poor shape. I had to sit on each bench we came by and rest. I even had to make do with the floor a few times and just collapsed. I was nauseated, felt like passing out, developed a migraine-like headache, and felt extremely overheated, even though it wasn’t that hot out and I stayed hydrated. Heck, most of the buildings were even air conditioned. THIS is what living with CFS is like.

I didn’t get to see much of the rest of the zoo. I was too busy looking for places to rest and recuperate for the trek back to the car. My legs ached so badly and felt so weak that I feared they would give out on me multiple times. My entire body felt like I had been run over or slammed into by something big and heavy. Somehow I did make it back to the car (after resting many, many times on the way there), and then we went directly to our hotel so I could recuperate for the rest of the day. I didn’t even have the stamina to go out for dinner a few hours later, so we ate at the hotel.

I went to bed early, hoping I would feel better in the morning, which didn’t really happen. The next day we visited a cool indie bookstore I had wanted to go to, but I was almost too tired to even enjoy that. We went and found a place by the Ohio River to sit and watch barges pass by, which was peaceful and relaxing. During the drive times to our locations, I curled up with a pillow and laid my seat back to doze.

By the time we headed back for home, I was too exhausted to care about much of anything. When we arrived home, I went almost straight to bed, even though it was only 5pm. The next day (Labor Day), my hip and back were so sore (with a pinched nerve thrown in), that I spent most of the day laying in bed watching a Lake Placid marathon on the Syfy Channel. Any form of movement was excruciating.

All of this makes me wonder if vacations are really worth the trouble. It also makes me wonder if maybe sometime soon I will need to get a motorized chair to even survive simple outings like this. I hate to give in and do that, but my worsening symptoms make it an almost certain possibility eventually.

Good Therapy Session Update, and Books for Emotional Healing

I had a really good therapy session today. We talked more about the symptoms I am currently experiencing which might be related to a mood disorder vs what might be related to PTSD and my past. On the mood disorder (or Bipolar) front, I think I have made some progress, especially when it comes to sleeping and making hasty decisions I later regret during hypomanic phases. Unfortunately, not much seems to help the depression side of it, whether it be cognitive therapy techniques or medicine.

As I told my therapist today, I feel like my personal “normal” emotional state starts at -1 (mildly to moderately depressed), so I only really have down to go from there if the depression worsens, which it often does. According to my mood charting so far, I have about the same number of mildly to moderately depressed days as I have moderately to severely depressed days. And then I have a day here or there where it goes even lower and those are the dangerously depressed days. It actually makes me feel a little better though to know some of it is probably the mood disorder and not just me “refusing to get well”, which I have sometimes accused myself of in the past. After all, if I really WANT to be well, why aren’t I yet? That is the way I used to think about it, but with a mood disorder it doesn’t work that way.

We also talked about the affirmations I have been doing, which I have actually been doing a good job of keeping up with! I even do some mirror work (where you say positive affirmations to yourself while looking into your eyes in the mirror). It really does help! Below I have attached a photo of two inspirational books I am currently reading regarding affirmations:

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The first, “The Body Heals Itself” by Emily A. Francis is a fascinating look at the emotional connection to our muscular system and chronic pain conditions. I know for sure that my physical problems DEFINITELY flare up when emotional issues surface, so there is no doubt a strong mind-body connection. The book includes research, affirmations, stretches, and other practical modalities to try for relief, each separated into specific sections about each body part. I am most interested in the back pain and foot pain sections myself, as I suffer greatly from chronic back pain and plantar fasciitis.

The second book is Jack Canfield’s “Success Affirmations”, which I haven’t been as impressed with, but am giving a chance. For me the affirmations in this book are a bit too long and drawn out. I tend to like simple and to-the-point things better overall.

The Spice Girls of Depression

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Last night my back pain got so bad that I may have accidentally overdosed on muscle relaxers. I was thinking my prescription allowed me to take up to 3 muscle relaxers at a time, but I was wrong, apparently it was only 2 at a time…and I took 4. I’m not sure if there is actually much danger in that, but I probably should be more careful.

Yesterday was also a horrible depression day for me. I think the combination of physical pain and the despair I feel sometimes about the seeming meaninglessness of life makes for a perfect storm. It probably didn’t help that I attended a group early in the day that talked about the sometimes apparent pointlessness of life when you are agnostic or atheist.

So, last night I was watching YouTube videos (trying to distract myself from the depression) when I watched a video about the 20th anniversary of the Spice Girls. While I was watching it, I started thinking that my depression is kind of like the extremely popular but somewhat annoying 90’s girl group. Instead of Sporty, Posh, Baby, Scary, and Ginger Spice, I have Paranoid Spice, Anxious Spice, Angry Spice, Sad Spice, and Hopeless Spice living in my head. Thinking about all these emotions personified in ridiculously dressed, cheesy girl group images did make me chuckle a bit. Imagine those dance routines!

Back Pain Troubles

Not feeling very good today. A lot of it has to do with physical stuff. My back has been really messed up for a few days now. I’m not sure if it is the degenerative disc disease or the slipped disc causing the awful pain in my neck and back, but it is starting to take a toll on my mental health too. I find that even when you are doing fairly well mentally, that if you are in chronic pain, it is almost impossible to keep your mood high.

I did hear back from our health insurance that they approved my epidural shots for my slipped disc, but I have to pay hundreds up front for the deductible, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to afford that. I’m also quite nervous about getting the shots anyhow. Having a needle stuck into my spine is scary.

Goodbye Freelance Writing Career

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I’m at the point I think I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that my freelance writing career is over in many ways. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still plan to blog and do this kind of personal writing when able, but over the past years I also supplemented our income a bit by taking freelance writing gigs from various clients. I covered a wide variety of writing assignments: reviewing books, writing promotional materials and press releases, writing children’s books, editing and proofreading, and many other oddball writing jobs.

Now, I find I just can’t do it. Partly due to physical health conditions (particularly my back/neck pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia), but also due to my mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, bipolar type 2, etc.) Sometimes I’m not even sure which condition is really at fault. Is it the CFS making it almost impossible for me to get out of bed and function at all, or is that the depression? Is my back pain causing me anxiety, or are the panic attacks causing me to tighten up and the back pain to worsen? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Much of the time, I really don’t know. But I do know I can’t go on like this forever, and I definitely can’t take the additional stress of taking on freelance writing jobs anymore.

* Art by Maranda Russell

Physical Therapy and CFS

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Having CFS/ME really sucks sometimes. On Tuesday I went to my traction physical therapy appointment for my bulging disc in my neck and they asked me to do a few minutes of really easy, simple exercises that should have been a breeze. Instead, here I am, 35 years old, looking fairly healthy and fit, and yet, I had to constantly take breaks from even these few little stretching and postural exercises. It makes me feel like I’m really living in an 80-year-old body.

It is embarrassing as well, because I fear the judgment of those who see how little I am actually able to do. I worry they will just judge me as lazy or think I am just being difficult, which is entirely the opposite of my personality. I’m the kind of person who goes out of their way NOT to cause trouble or slow things down. I often wish other people really understood how crippling chronic fatigue syndrome can be. For instance, all my adult life I ALWAYS took a shower every single day and washed my hair. Now, I’m lucky if I can find the energy to wash my hair every other day, even though my OCD traits are going crazy at the change in my lifelong routine. Even typing these blog posts requires frequent breaks.

Sorry if this post seems a bit whiny, it just sometimes hits home over little simple things, how much my life is affected by my new physical limitations, and it is hard to accept.

* Art by Maranda Russell