Here is what I wrote on my Facebook page today, I think it pretty much sums it all up:
Six long years, and I finally won my SSDI case! Fully favorable! Feel like crying and screaming. Been sick and in pain so long, sometimes I wanted to give up hope and die, but glad I hung in there.
All those people who doubted me or thought I was just being “lazy” or “dramatic” can kiss my ass. To all those who have showed love, empathy, and encouragement, thank you so much for helping to keep me alive and fighting.
My fellow bloggers here on WordPress definitely fall into the second category of supportive, encouraging people, so thank you all so much!!!
By the way, the decision was just made yesterday and my lawyer was the one who called and told me, so it will still be a little while before I get the back pay or monthly payments started, but I’m on my way!
Over the weekend my husband and I visited Indianapolis to see the Star Trek exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. My husband was in heaven lol. I was there. I did find a few fun things to concentrate on though.
I annoyed my husband by sitting in the captain’s chair like this:
My personal favorite in the exhibit was this painting of Data’s cat from The Next Generation, I would hang this in my house:
My husband got assimilated and beamed up (along with a little friend):
I did get to ride the museum’s carousel (one of my favorite things to do at any museum, zoo, or park). Unfortunately, I threw my hip out climbing onto it. I think from now on I may need to sit on the little benches on the carousel like all the other old, broken down bodies:
I also got a photo op at Candyland:
Now I am back home, exhausted, sore, and will probably need a few days to recuperate.
I am not afraid to die –
but I am not yet
unafraid of living.
I’m not sure I have ever written truer words than the 3-line poem above. This little gem came to me while taking a bath last night, so I repeated it to myself like a mantra until I got out of the tub and could write it down.
It is true that I am not afraid of death. I am a bit afraid of the actual feeling of dying, mostly because of the instinctual anxiety I fear it would bring. However, I am not afraid of being dead. In fact, I rather look forward to it. If there is something after death, it will be awesome to explore and find out what else is out there. If there is nothing after death, it will just be like the times I have passed out or been put out for surgery…simply a loss of consciousness which often sounds like a relief in itself. No more worrying. No more pain. No more anxiety or depression.
However, living is scary. Knowing I may have years and years of dealing with anxiety and depression ahead of me. Knowing that I will likely suffer from chronic pain and chronic illness until I die. Knowing that my degenerative conditions will likely worsen with time. Fearing that my husband may get sick or die and I will be alone. Fearing financial ruin. Fearing homelessness. Fearing potentially abusive situations. Fearing the entire planet going to shit (a justifiable fear from my point of view). Fearing that I may end up committing suicide if life becomes unbearable (not the ending I would desire for my life).
It’s been a rough week physically. I had a CFS/ME flare-up, which feels a lot like mono if you’ve ever had that, or the worse flu you can imagine. During these flare-ups, I run a fever, my body aches horribly, I feel too exhausted to move, too exhausted to breathe, and if I sit up or stand up long, I feel faint. Trying to do the simplest tasks is overwhelming and can make me feel like passing out, even just putting up my dishes or trying to take care of my personal hygiene.
Yesterday I was finally feeling well enough to get out and since the weather was warm, my husband and I went for a picnic at a local park. We got subs and then after eating, walked the short distance to the lake edge. As you can see, it was pretty darn muddy:
I’m glad we went, because I needed the mental distraction, but now I am really sore and exhausted from even that short bit of activity. Trudging through the mud really wore me out because the mud sticking to my shoes made my feet feel like they gained 10 pounds, and I almost slipped and fell a couple times. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to go, but mentally I needed to feel alive again, even if just for a little while.
Feeling like shit today. Woke up after sleeping 10-11 hours, ate breakfast, and then went to take a nap for another couple of hours. So, why am I so exhausted and feeling like I got run over by a steamroller?
Well, yesterday my husband was driving home from work when a tire fell off his car. I had to go pick him up and once I got there, we had to wait for the tow truck to come get the broken down car. It was supposed to be about an hour before the tow truck arrived, instead it was almost three hours. Three hours of sitting in the cold (we did turn on the heat in my car occasionally, but didn’t want to run it the entire time we were waiting). Three hours of sitting in a position that is not good for my back, neck, and joints. Three hours of my joints stiffening due to the cold and being cramped in the car.
I knew today I would feel rough after all that and expected my CFS/ME and Ehlers Danlos to flare up. As usual, I was correct, but I wish I wasn’t. Those who don’t have chronic illness and chronic pain have no idea how easy it is for normal, annoying life events to set us back for days. I think it is something you have to experience to truly understand.
I’ve been feeling rather sad and isolated the last few days. I think a lot of it comes from the stress of dealing with chronic illness and chronic pain. Anyone who has chronic illness is probably familiar with spoon theory, an illustrative way to describe why you have to choose carefully how to use your energy to do things when you have very limited physical ability.
In other words, sometimes you have to choose whether you would like to go out and socialize for a short period of time, spend that energy getting some much-needed housework done, work on a hobby or personal interest, or even simply take a shower…because you just don’t have the energy and the physical ability to do them all within the same day like a healthy person could.
Most of the time I end up choosing to spend my “energy” and limited abilities to either spend time with my husband, work on my art/writing/blogging, or take care of personal hygiene or light housework. Prioritizing these things leaves no extra energy or time to socialize on a wider scale or do much outside of the house, other than maybe occasionally going out for dinner or doing a little necessary shopping. Even the thought of going to a movie is often too exhausting to contemplate.
All of this makes me sad, especially when I remember how I used to enjoy so many other things I can’t do any longer. I used to love hiking, playing tennis, roller skating, bowling, dancing, working, swimming, being a foster parent, and going out to various activities with people I know or share interests with. I’ve pretty much lost all of that for good. And that is depressing.
Sorry I didn’t update you all yesterday after the hearing, but I was just too exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically after the stress of the day. Overall, I think the hearing went ok. It didn’t start out very well since my husband and I had trouble locating the right building and ended up walking through the thick, slushy snow so far that I had an asthma attack, started crying, and was totally soaked from the knees down by the time we actually found the right building. The roads were bad too from the snowstorm and parking was almost impossible since none of the parking lots had been cleared yet.
Once we got into the building, I had a few minutes to recover from the asthma attack and calm down at least. I also had about 15 minutes to meet with my lawyer before the hearing to go over everything again. During the hearing itself, I was quite nervous. I was doing a lot of rocking back and forth (“stimming” in autistic terms).
I think I only had the nerve to look at the judge two or three times the entire hour I was in there. I mostly stared at the microphone and tried to block out everyone else there while answering questions. That seemed to help my social anxiety. I think I did a decent job answering the judges questions…and she asked a lot. I never lost control of myself, although in my closing remarks I did tear up a bit and got a little emotional talking about how hard it had become for me to keep a job due to my physical and mental disabilities.
Unfortunately, the judge did not tell me her decision yesterday. I will have to wait to receive the official verdict letter. On the positive side, my attorney did say afterwards that he thought it went great and even on the off chance that the judge gave a negative verdict, he thought I had a strong enough case that he would appeal that. I hope it doesn’t come to that though, God only knows how much longer that would make the whole thing drag out…and quite honestly, we need the money as soon as possible, especially since I just got a $1,500 ER bill (our deductible sucks).
Tomorrow morning is my SSDI hearing. I’m super anxious about it. I feel a little nauseated just thinking about it. I’m afraid I’ll do or say the wrong thing. I’m afraid I’ll burst into tears and feel embarrassed. I’m afraid I’ll somehow misrepresent my reality. I’m afraid the judge will say no and ruin my foreseeable future.
I know the judge probably won’t even give a straight “yes” or “no” answer tomorrow, but that makes it even worse because then I have to wait who-knows-how-long in suspense and worry. I hope I’ll feel better when it is over, but knowing me, I’ll probably spend the next few months picking apart the experience and everything I think I did wrong until I get an answer.
I’m still struggling with migraines, but am starting to think that they might actually be cervicogenic headaches (caused by issues in the neck). The last few days, the left side of my neck has been visibly swollen and extremely tight, causing a great deal of pain. I can’t help but notice that the worse the neck pain is, the worse the headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue become as well.
One person on Facebook who also suffers from Ehlers Danlos even suggested that perhaps the migraines may be due to a chiari malformation or craniocervical instability, which are both common issues associated with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I have wondered about the neck instability possibility, as I often feel like my head is excessively heavy, not supported well by my neck, and sometimes bobbles around almost like a bobblehead. Whenever I sit for long, I have to have a neck rest because my pain worsens quickly if I have to hold my head up without support.
Unfortunately, it looks like if instability is the issue, the answer might be this huge, horribly-uncomfortable-looking neck brace that looks like it would be sensory hell for me. Of course, I do know from a prior MRI that I also have degenerative disc disease throughout my cervical and thoracic spine, and at least a couple herniated cervical discs. Whatever the issue, I wish it would clear up soon! This is miserable and I feel like I am living on NSAIDS, muscle relaxers, and Lidocaine right now.