Goodbye 2013…a summary of my life this past year

"Facing the Storm" ACEO mixed media artwork. Kind of how I felt this year!
“Facing the Storm” ACEO mixed media artwork. Kind of how I felt this year!

Hmmm….so 2013, how was it? How about I just sum it up with 5 highlights and 5 lowlights?

Highlights:

1. Hubby finished his master’s degree and now he has lots more time to spend with me and do fun stuff ūüôā

2. My husband took a break from ministry. That has relieved a lot of stress off of him (and me) and it also gave us the freedom to pursue our own spiritual growth and the chance to get to know some pretty cool people at other churches.

3. Although in foster care, my nephew has ended up with a great foster family who makes sure to keep us connected to him.

4. I have really focused on my art this year and it has paid off! Literally! Now people actually pay for my art and display it in their homes. I couldn’t be prouder.¬†I want to say an extra-special “Thank You” to all who have supported me and my art.

5. Getting an actual diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome….it explains so much that I never understood all my life and has helped me see what I need to work on and how to more efficiently use my gifts.

Lowlights:

1. Health issues! Fibromyalgia, migraines, IBS, MRSA, shingles, infections, severe allergic reactions, sprains & strains, Tietze’s, nasty viruses…

2. My nephew’s dad dying. Such a very sad event, especially since it made my nephew an orphan.

3. Some very hurtful words from people I thought I could trust and who I thought supported me. I’ve forgiven, but it still hurts, especially when one of those people continues to be routinely unkind.

4. My hubby’s job hunt. We could really use the extra money from a higher position, but due to my hubby’s own health problems this year, it could be a blessing in disguise that he hasn’t found a new position yet. Still hoping he finds one soon though!

5. PTSD. Between losing my grandfather to cancer, my sister to suicide, feeling powerless to help my nephew, finding out I have a lifelong disability (Asperger’s), chronic health issues and being mistreated by people who may not have realized how much their words and actions affected me…I have had a hard time coping the last couple years. However, I do feel that I am slowly digging my way back to the surface and hope that I will continue to heal over time.

Well, that is my year in a nutshell. I hope you all had a great year and that 2014 brings even better things for all of us!

When you are sick, but no one understands…living with CFS

"Painful Descent", an expressionistic picture representing the downward spiral into chronic pain that many of us suffer.
“Painful Descent”, an expressionistic picture representing the downward spiral into chronic pain that many of us suffer.

Today’s subject is inspired both by my personal experiences with¬†health issues and the experiences of others I know or have known that suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). Although I myself have not been formally diagnosed with CFS, my doctor has ruled out many other autoimmune conditions and it is looking more and more likely that CFS may be the culprit. Of course, this post is one that many others who have an “invisible illness” will be able to identify with. Please remember that just because someone doesn’t look ill on the surface, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering or fighting a tough battle.

So, what do you think of when you hear the words Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Do you¬†call it the¬†“Yuppie Flu” like so many others have in the past? Do you think these people are lazy, faking it for attention or all hypochondriacs? I hope not, but if you do, maybe some facts might change your mind. For instance, did you know that fatigue is actually just one of many symptoms of CFS? In fact, you have to have multiple symptoms to even qualify for a CFS diagnosis. Here is a list of some of the symptoms of CFS that afflict most sufferers to one extent or another:

  • Incapacitating fatigue for no apparent reason
  • Extreme fatigue after exercise or exertion
  • Sleep problems
  • Pain in joints
  • Muscle aches and muscle weakness
  • Chronic infections that are hard to cure
  • Sore throat and ear pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Constantly swollen lymph nodes
  • Nausea and IBS symptoms
  • Constant flu-like symptoms
  • Mental fogginess
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness
  • New or worsening allergies
  • Sensitivity to noise, light, odors, foods, chemicals, medications, heat and cold
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hypotension, possibly fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Depression and anxiety

And those are just SOME of the symptoms! I personally have experienced all of the above symptoms, some worse than others, but I am still one of the lucky ones with CFS. I can still get out of bed without fainting and I can still walk and do some normal activities on good days. Some people with CFS can’t climb a flight of stairs to the second floor of their home and some sufferers almost never leave their bed or home (especially those who have severe hypotension and fainting).

Also, for those who think this illness is all in the head, did you know that there have been reported outbreaks of CFS in communities where hundreds of people came down with it all at once and suffered severely from it for at least 5 to 10 years? This research leads scientists to believe that at least some cases of CFS are actually caused by a virus that really messes up the immune system for some reason. Although some CFS sufferers do eventually feel better, only a small percentage will fully improve and never have symptoms again. There is also no tried and true treatment so far. Treatment options currently used include antidepressants, stimulants, exercise, nutrition plans and various other alternative approaches. Although some of these treatments do help some people, there are still many CFS sufferers who have found nothing that helps them. Perhaps that is why the suicide rate for those with CFS is high compared with many other physical ailments.

So, after reading all that, has your view of CFS and those who suffer from it changed at all?

Determined to get healthy

Since I started fostering kids, I have let my own health and wellness fall to the wayside somewhat.  I have been so involved in helping these hurting kids and making sure that they have what they need, that in some ways I have neglected my own needs.  I used to exercise almost every day and put a lot of effort into eating right, but between family visitation, therapy, doctor, dentist and vision appointments, foster care training classes, school events, and all the other responsibilities that come with parenthood, I have turned to fast food far too often and rarely find time to exercise in my schedule.

So what made me decide changes are needed?¬† Well, for one thing, I don’t feel good.¬† My IBS has flared up a lot recently, a problem which I had nearly conquered in the past by changing my eating habits and making healthier choices.¬† I have also found myself sick quite frequently, even more so than normal.¬† I do have some immune system deficiencies, but I know that unhealthy habits only compound those problems.¬† Another problem is that I have found myself out of shape, and although I’m not exactly fat, my muscles have become rather flabby.¬† I get out of breath easily, and my asthma is actually¬†much worse, which I believe is due to a lack of cardiovascular exercise which strengthens the lungs.

Getting in shape isn’t going to be easy.¬† I’m surrounded by temptation at every turn.¬† Church means good home-cooked food and¬†freshly baked desserts, our busy schedule guarantees that we will have to eat out at least a couple times a week, and having kids in the home means that I am tempted by cookies, candy, ice cream and other sweets.¬† But those kids are part of the reason why I want to make this change.¬† After all, if I’m unhealthy, I’m not very capable of helping them attain emotional, physical and spiritual health.¬† Plus,¬†“set a good example” has always been my motto, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite!

Help for teens with weight issues

‘Weighing In’ written by Sylvie Boutaudou and illustrated by Laetitia Aynie, is a great read for any teen or pre-teen who struggles with their weight or other appearance issues.¬† The book is written in a down-to-earth style that appeals to young readers and includes many colorful and sometimes funny illustrations to keep the boredom factor at bay.¬†

The book is split into three sections (called phases in the book), including Phase 1: Overweight, Under Happy, Phase 2: How I Got to be so Heavy and Phase 3: How to Lose Weight.

Overweight and Under Happy addresses the emotional and social problems that go along with being overweight…

To read the rest of this article, please visit Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/books-in-dayton/weighing-help-for-teens-with-weight-issues