Belated Farewell to 2022

Well the years start coming and they don’t stop coming, as Smashmouth said so many years ago, and it is painfully true. The hits also keep coming, but we roll with them, because the alternative is to break, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

This year has been its usual mix of ups and downs – I got through this year of university with my service dog at my side, my wrist has healed, and I can do things. I still have to do a lot of things off-handed, but I can still do them, and that’s what counts! I’ve realised some things about myself and my amazing human being that have settled much anxiety on my part, and are pushing me towards a new and exciting

Well the years start coming and they don’t stop coming, as Smashmouth said so many years ago, and it is painfully true. The hits also keep coming, but we roll with them, because the alternative is to break, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

This year has been its usual mix of ups and downs – I got through this year of university with my service dog at my side, my wrist has healed, and I can do things. I still have to do a lot of things off-handed, but I can still do them, and that’s what counts! I’ve realised some things about myself and my amazing human being that have settled much anxiety on my part, and are pushing me towards a new and exciting future.

Amazingly, and I’m going to do a full write up of this, I have found some medications that have considerably helped with improving my energy levels, physical resilience, and recovery times. With that, careful exercise, and a collapsible mobility scooter (seriously if you don’t have one you should absolutely get one), I have had more energy to put into things I love doing.

This next year is going to be a slog, one more year of intense university to go, but then I am free to decide on the future I want.

Anxiety and Decision Paralysis

I am regularly overwhelmed with a feeling that, after many years, I have realised is severe anxiety. It is a restless, painful feeling. It constricts my chest and tightens my stomach and sets my mind spinning in useless circles.

I can only describe it as a feeling of wanting to do something, wanting to do everything, but wanting to do nothing. It results in me sitting on the couch doomscrolling Facebook. I think of all these things I’d like to do – play that game I’ve got, write a bit, go for a walk, clean (literally anything) – and my immediate and very visceral reaction to everything is ‘no, I don’t want to‘.

It is a feeling I am overly familiar with. It’s something I experienced quite intensely during my relationship with It. It’s something I continue to experience today, although I do have to admit it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be. It’s also a feeling I really struggle to break out of.

I’ve realised over the years that this feeling is tied to how well I am managing to stay on top of the things I must do (whether that’s work or university), as well as how often I have been outside in the last few days. Which, right now, is not at all and not at all respectively. I’ve been unwell with the non-COVID-flu-like-thing (well, so far I’ve tested negative) for the last 1 1/2 weeks, so I’ve been inside and not attending lectures for all that time.

On these days I usually realise I’m going to be dissatisfied with anything productive that I do, or I’ll be irritated while I do it, so I dumpling up on the couch with a good book (or, more recently, a suitably trashy regency romance manga) and write the day off as a loss. I also typically have the lounge wide open to let the fresh air in.

Unfortunately it’s winter and, as I just realised, everyone is running fires. So I’m now well smoked out. Oh well. Back to trashy manga, and stay safe everyone!

Farewell to a Feline

I got him a mere few months after moving out of home for the first time. I was nineteen or twenty and I lived in what could generously be called a walk-in-wardrobe sized room in a dingy, moldy flat. I lived on cheap mince, noodles, porridge and frozen peas while he ate digestive care food and probiotics, because he had an upset stomach for weeks.

He would sleep next to me on my pillow as a tiny kitten. He was the first cat that was truly All Mine. My responsibility. My love.

I moved next door while painting was going on, and sadly had to put him and my second cat, who I got shortly after him (she was already 2 years old), into a cattery for months. He grew into such a big dude while he was there. I wish I had been there for that development – I feel like I missed out on a lot. I’m also sure this was Asshole’s way of trying to separate me from my cats, because he kept dragging on and on with the painting.

I finally got them back and they lived through years of our house being the Party House. They tolerated a lot, but they were also very well loved.

We finally moved to a larger house, and instead of being shut in the only bathroom during parties, they were kept in my room with the ensuite bathroom, and they could be left alone in peace.

We moved countries, and they came with me. It was an adventure, and they took it all in their stride. Cutie just loved to be around me. He was always asleep on my side of the bed, snuggled into my legs or my back. His purr could be felt through the bed.

He kept me company while I went back to uni, instantly sprawling across any textbook I had open on my desk. He was a superb study buddy.

That awful ex of mine turned into a raging asshole, and Cutie comforted me. He left and Cutie sat on my lap for days. He also got fed up of me sobbing my guts out and smacked me across the face, once. It shocked me out of crying, that’s for sure! There weren’t any claws involved, so I wasn’t scratched.

My best friend moved over for six months, and he occupied her lap while she relaxed and read. He was such a big and glorious cat.

We moved back to my home country. They moved into the back room in Mum’s garage while I looked for a place to live, and then we were moving again, this time into a house with two dogs (one of them was mine). Poor Cutie got outside a couple of times and was chased by the other dog and ripped out a lot of his claws. He was very patient as I soaked his toes in saline every day, before covering them with honey and wrapping them back up. He was still on antibiotics, but one toe wasn’t healing as well as it should have. He took it all like a champ, purring away while he was fed bits of meat while his toes were treated.

We moved cities into a small, warm, dry house where we lived for the next five years. This was where Cutie really came into his own. There was just my dog and my other cat and a flatmate, and Cutie lived to be on my lap. If I was sitting down, he was there. If I wasn’t sitting down, or if I wasn’t sitting suitably, he was hovering around waiting for me to settle. When I had naps, he would lie on my chest and purr.

He once again became my study buddy, sitting on my text books and purring with glee. I would set up a decoy text book and encourage him to sleep on that one. Most of the time he fell for it. He would sleep on my bed with me, curled into my side. I could still feel his purr through the mattress.

He would sit on my lap as I sat and knitted. He would sit on my lap as I gamed. He would sit on my lap as I studied. He was my constant companion while my life slowly unraveled with stress, burnout, and depression.

I took a year off university and became very sick, and still he was on my lap, or my side, or my chest when I was napping. He was always there, purring away. He was there when I went back to uni, and sat with me as I did all my lectures at home. He would sit on my lap as I wrote my notes. He would purr as I studied for exams. He was there when my other cat became horrifically sick, when I got trigeminal neuralgia, when winter sucked all my energy and left me bereft.

COVID happened and we went into lockdown, and he was there, gleefully sitting on me as we were all confined to home. I ruptured the ligaments in my wrist and couldn’t continue with university, and the whole time he was there, on my lap, on my chest, on my side, on whatever part of me was stable enough to dumpling on.

He started a slow and steady decline then. But he was still well enough in and of himself, still cheery, still chatty and shouty and cuddly.

He was there as I came to terms with being disabled. He was there as I fell into fibro flus after exercise. He was there as I spent all my days and nights sleeping, just dumplinged on me and purring.

He started to really go downhill when I went away for my surgery. He wasn’t eating as much. He was really depressed and quiet. Even when I got home he didn’t perk up as much as I thought he would – he became aggressive towards the dogs, grumpy towards Itzy, and just not as happy as he normally was. He quietened down. He spent more time sleeping on the more comfortable pillows instead of on me.

Then I woke up and he didn’t come to greet me as I came out the door. I looked for him. The pillow on my chair that he usually sat on had been knocked to the ground. I searched for him frantically and found him, lying on his side, behind my armchair. He had been straining to defecate for who knows how long. He had liquid faeces down his back legs and tail. It had dripped onto the carpet. I helped move the faecal nugget that he could not expel and he vomited in exhaustion. I knew this was it. I didn’t want it to be.

I settled him back on his pillow and sheepskin and fretted. I finally told my lovely human that this was it. I told Mum. I called the vets. I took him in.

He passed away in my arms as I cried and kissed his head. He had been my constant companion for almost sixteen years. He had been my cuddler, my love, my first pet.

None of my other pets are cuddlers. In fact, no one else in this house is particularly cuddly. I’m touch and purr starved, and I will not do anything to ease this until my other cat has passed. She’s a very old lady now, and she deserves peace and quiet in her final months.

I am bereft. It’s been a week and it doesn’t get any easier. It hurts so damn much to know that I must now live the rest of my life without him. The rest of my life is a terribly long time.

Farewell to 2021

I won’t look back on 2021 with fondness, and I won’t sugarcoat it by highlighting the few silver linings. I will mention them, but I will not say “they make the bad things worth it” because, to be honest, they don’t.

2021 sucked. It was hard, it was painful, it was stressful and expensive. I was diagnosed with postural hypotension, and discovered that I would convulse if the almost-fainting episode was severe enough (I suspect this is convulsive syncope, but there’s no real way to diagnose it, unless I have an observed episode). I was dismissed by doctors for both that and my munted wrist.

My narcissistic ex-husband finally sorted out paying me (and my mother) for his debt / things he borrowed, and while that was great, the nightmares I experienced during this were something else. At least now I can file for divorce.

I gained and spent a small fortune. I’m still kicking myself for spending that much. I have so many regrets about that it physically pains me to think about it. I still don’t know how.

Because of my ruptured triangular fibrocartilage complex, I was unable to attend university last year. I was also unable to work. Unable to knit, crochet, write. I became very depressed, which resulted in me becoming one with the couch for the majority of the year. I gained another 8kg.

I had surgery for my ruptured triangular fibrocartilage complex at the start of November. They found a lot more damage than they expected. They repaired a ligament connecting the medial and proximal carpal bones in my right wrist, admired the joint capsule I had busted up, and took a redundant ligament from my inner wrist to become my new ECU sheath. Since late December I have been permitted to begin moving my wrist, though it remains sore and stiff. The scar tissue adheres to the underlying tissue so quickly, I must keep massaging the extensive scarring to break down those bonds.

There were bright spots in 2021. I got away to the beach for a bit with the dogs. I have increased my energy levels considerably. I’ve worked hard to gain more fitness and strength. I have made it to the end of 2021 with the same number of animals as I went in.

I will work hard to make sure 2022 is a better year than the last one.

Taking Responsibility For Your Chronic Illness

This is a delicate topic because we often equate responsibility with fault. Indeed, I still do, and I am consciously working at changing that.

So I will explain what I mean right at the beginning. What has happened to you is not your fault. Your chronic illness and how it has progressed is not your fault. The things you now can and cannot do because of your chronic illness are not your fault.

How you manage your chronic illness is your choice. How you manage your chronic illness is your responsibility. You’ve been dealt a crap hand. What you do with that hand is up to you, and that is what I mean by responsibility.

We have a choice of how to manage our chronic illness, and every minute of every day is a reflection of our choices. Some days I choose to manage my chronic illness by being proactive and booking myself treatments (acupuncture, personal training, chiropractor, etc.). Other days I choose to manage my chronic illness by going back to sleep. My choices change depending on what my chronic illness is doing – this is a necessity. While I could choose to go on a run on days where I’m in a lot of pain and fatigue, that would be an irresponsible choice, because the next day would be worse. However, if I choose to have a nap on days where I’m in a lot of pain and fatigue, or do something that requires limited energy expenditure, that is a responsible choice, because it gives my body the rest it needs and sets me up for a (hopefully) better tomorrow.

This is what I mean by ‘take responsibility for your chronic illness’. Don’t passively allow things to happen, make choices. Even if that choice is to stay in bed, consciously make it. Taking ownership of your actions and reactions is incredibly powerful, even if you don’t do anything differently to what you always have. It gives you a sense of strength, a feeling which I regularly find myself lacking in. It can also give you a sense of achievement. You choose to do a thing, you then do the thing, you have achieved what you set out to do. That’s an amazing thing. Yes, even if that thing is having a shower!

Last year I really grabbed the bull by the horns and took responsibility for not only my chronic illness, but also a substantial injury to my wrist. I decided I would do everything I can to improve my body so that when I did go through surgery, and the subsequent immobilisation of that arm, I would have a lot of good fitness and wellbeing to fall back on. Since then I have attended personal training twice a week (most weeks), acupuncture, and a chiropractor. The first several months I slept around those appointments, as each treatment took everything out of me. I went through months of napping in the morning, in the afternoon, and then sleeping through the night. Now, after almost a year later, I am able to walk around without my cane. I went for my second Couch to 5K ‘run’ (it was a slow jog). There are days where I don’t need a nap. This is all down to making an active choice to change the status quo, to respond to my injury and chronic illness by working to improve my fitness and overall wellness.

Sometimes the good choices are hard choices. Sometimes the good choices are easy choices. Sometimes you don’t have the energy to make the good hard choice so you make the easy choice. This is okay. This is being responsible for your chronic illness and for your life.

(I just point out here that I am incredibly aware of my privilege with this. I am privileged to have enough money to be able to afford these treatments. I am privileged to have enough time and energy to be able to attend these treatments. I am overall privileged to be in a position where I have these treatments available to me. Not everyone does, and not everyone can. Be kind to yourself above all and do what you are able, and do not beat yourself up for what you are not able to do.)