Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vanity (and Survival) In a World of Pain

I have a friend who has really been dealt a bad hand when it comes to being healthy. She's got all kinds of health issues. She and I get along really well, and Skype each other often. Sadly, she lives in Canada, so we can't get together very often. That whole couple thousand miles apart bit gets in the way.

But anyway, fall of last year, she got an episode/pain flare that was a record breaker in terms of length. At the same time, I was getting horrible pain spikes that would last for weeks on end as well. Most of our Skype conversations from that period were either gripe sessions or else grand pauses of silence while we writhed privately in our own pain, all the while claiming that the other had it worse.

Then, one day when I called her, she looked healthier than she had in a couple of months. I commented on it, and congratulated her for the break of her episode. To my surprise, she laughed weakly and told me that the pain was actually worse than it had been the last time we talked. But she looked healthy/er! When I looked thoroughly confused, she explained that she was wearing makeup.

This just confused me even more, until she explained: the foundation made her look less waxy, the eye shadow, which she'd learned how to apply correctly several books in the library, and a colored lip gloss gave her color that she otherwise wouldn't have.

This intrigued me to no end, because she really did look quasi-normal, but from her voice I could tell that the pain was bad. In addition, I'd noticed that I'd started giving away when I was in a lot of pain, myself, by my coloring. I'm naturally pale, being Scandinavian, and then also never going out in the sun. So pale wasn't unusual for me, but I too was getting the kinda glazed-over/dead look from the migraines. So my friend took pity on me, and gave me her secret.

There was a website she sent me to where some of the beauty supplies (I had none except some mascara) were just $1, and the really high quality were $3/each. So I spent maybe $15, and got some high quality brushes, and, because of a sale that the site was fortuitously having, a huge eye shadow pallet for next to nothing.

After I got the package, my friend walked me through how to apply the make up, from how to use the right brush for foundation, how to brush it on, and how to blend it, to everything eye. I also got a tube of vivid almost-red lip gloss at her recommendation. I grasped the basics quickly, and began to try to improve my technique on my own time, when we weren't Skypeing.

Soon, I noticed that I could, indeed, look healthier than I felt. I really liked this because I've always hated showing how much pain I'm in. I don't want people to know, but I was losing the "mask" I'd been able to wear, and the makeup gave me a mask back. But that wasn't it:

When I was wearing makeup, I actually started to embody the phrase my 2nd grade teacher had drilled into us regarding preforming: "Fake it til you make it." The makeup actually made me feel a little better.

It didn't lower my pain levels, no, although that would have been awesome. But it did improve what I guess you could call my quality of life. I would be minding my own business, and glance up and see me in a mirror or something, and I'd see somebody who looked "healthy", and, at some level, I managed to fake my brain into believing it. My functionality improved slightly, and on days that I was wearing makeup, I'd be able to sit up longer for dinner, go out to a doctor's appointment and talk coherently about what was wrong, make a quick trip to the library, etc., all because of some eyeliner and lip gloss, which sure is easier on my body than adding more medications.

So, what started out as an almost vanity trip, trying to fake the world into believing that we weren't dead with pain, has turned into something so much more for the two of us. People on the street treat us differently, more like equals and less like inferiors made out of glass, when we spend the spoons to put on makeup in the morning. Thus it's not, as some inferred in the beginning, vanity that motivates us, but rather a need to survive and a desire to not be perceived as "broken", or a personification of a disease, but rather just a fellow human.

So I have this to say about the cost of my "vanity":

brushes = ~$20
make up pallet = ~$15
lip gloss = $5                        
being treated as an equal = Priceless

Quantum in me fuit,


Monday, January 30, 2012

Pets and Reality

One of the sillier things that I've done lately was to get a dog. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it definitely wasn't one of my usual moves.

I grew up with a string of golden retrievers and loving mutts from  the pound f that we'd rescued. So dogs are nothing new to me. My sister begged for a dog of her own since I can remember until she finally got one and got to train it herself. I, however, never really showed much interest in getting a dog. Instead, I went the reptile route. 

First I had a bearded dragon I named l'ej (pronounced Ledge). However, l'ej proved a picky eater. He wouldn't eat any of the crickets that had a calcium supplement on them. As a result, l'ej didn't get enough calcium, and eventually petered out. I was devastated. Years  later, Mom bought me a ball python for my birthday, when I was in the middle of the terrible period where I slept away three years. 

Adam, the snake, was a boost in that I had something I had to take care of. Fortunately, Adam was also exceedingly low maintenance, once I figured out the ins and outs of snake ownership. I loved Adam, and would have him to this day, had it not been for how large he was growing, and thus demanding medium sized rats for food. I didn't mind Adam's size, but I did have a problem dealing with rats that were bigger than my hand. SO I said a reluctant farewell to him.

That was a couple years ago, and I was fine with it. Mom and I still have the dog my sister got to train, and eventually had to leave behind for college. However, I'm not sure, even now, how exactly it happened but last fall, Mom forwarded me an email about a dog who needed a new home; and I fell in love. The dog, Colette, was a lovely, loving dog, but she hated being left home alone while the owners were at work. 

Well, I pretty much am home all of the time, unless I'm out at doctor's appointment or something thrilling like that. I'm fine with being at home that much, I've been like this for... years and years now. So I knew that I would be able to be here for Colette. Colette is 9, so she didn't have a puppy's level of energy, which was a huge caveat. 

So I acquired a dog, and she is awesome. Colette is a total love, and an attention hog. She makes me "wake up" and remember that there's a world out there and that I have to interact with it. She demands scratches and makes me smile. When I'm in a marathon migraine spike, I've actually found her to be a calming presence. Her kisses can ground me and she's usually aware of when I need to be left alone. But, on the other hand, she seems to know when to push just a little. Like today, when I was sitting at my computer and she kept nudging me until I finally managed to walk her around the block.

That walk tired us both out (and increased my head pain) but it was a reminder that the real world exists. So now, Colette's leaving me be, and I'm desperately wishing I could nap. (Edit: I took a three hour nap after writing this..) Still, Colette helps me, and I consider her to be almost a companion dog, who helps me out. So I guess maybe it was just a silly thing I did, in getting a dog?


Quantum in me fuit,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Basic Breakdown of My Upcoming Surgery

Everything's a go for my orthognathic (jaw) surgery. And by that I mean that I've had my first of three pre-op appointments with my oral surgeon.

It was a little odd that he only had three month old X-rays of my jaws, when I had had some done earlier this month, I thought. But in any case, the bone around where my wisdom teeth had looked good as of three months ago, so it means that I've got jaws strong enough to hold together in their new positions. The literature I have on this procedure states that there needs to be a minimum of six to nine months after the extraction of the wisdom teeth for the bone to heal before the surgery is viable. And I'm good to go.

Dr J was looking at the models of my mouth made recently and, indeed, surgery is still needed. He blueprinted (very roughly) what kinds of cuts will be made. All five will be relatively minor, which is nice. Dr J also said that I won't look much different than I do now, as, currently, I thrust my lower jaw forward quite a bit in order to breathe.

At my next appointment, in about a week, they will take "many" molds. These molds will have mock surgery preformed on them, as a dry run, to see the final results. Then, the day before my surgery, (a week after the second appointment) I'll go back to the office for a "detailed" consult, and, I hope, see the molds that have been changed. Dr J said he would be drawing pictures for me at that time, and answering any final questions that I might have before the surgery.

I'll be NPO (nothing by mouth) for the morning of the surgery, but that will be no hardship as I'm due at the hospital to check in at about the time I usually am waking up. After the surgery, it will be interesting to see how well I rouse. I say this as, at my wisdom teeth extraction, it wasn't until I got coffee in me that I really woke up to their satisfaction. However, I doubt that this time, I'll be allowed something as caustic as strong coffee. So that (clinical) need for caffeine will be something that will need to be discussed.

There's a good chance of me being held overnight for observation, and then I will see Dr J when I'm released to have two small stitches removed.

Then comes the recovery... stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January Blog Carnival link, and other business

The January Blog Carinval was posted last week. Sorry for the delay in putting up the link, I've been fighting my migraines again. But please, go and read all the different blogs.

Today I have the first of three pre-Op appointments with my jaw surgeon. Today's a general check up on my jaw, as far as I can tell. They might do blood work, but but my understanding was that that would be done on the middle or final appointment before my surgery on Feb. 9.

There are several things that I would like to get straightened out with Dr. J, however. The chief concern of mine is not "Will it hurt?" (that's a secondary, yet still important concern) but rather, How can I take my pills, some of which I take 4 times in a day, if my jaw is either wired or banded shut?

If my jaw is just banded shut, then I would be able to remove the bands, take my meds, and then band my mouth shut again. But I, personally, can't see that my taking the bands off four times a day, especially at the beginning, would be good for the healing of my bones.

Thus I am going to take in a detailed med chart to the appointment, and, hopefully, will get an answer as to how this will work.

I will also be taking in my med chart, as I have on it not only my Daily meds, but also my PRN meds, and, also very importantly, all my counter-indicated medications. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. This is especially important as, when I got my wisdom teeth extracted last summer by Dr. J, he prescribed me a pain killer which contained acetaminophen.

Fortunately, I'm not allergic, it simply increases my migraine pain levels with rebound migraines, but still. Fortunately, my pharmacist knows about my rebounds, and wouldn't fill the script. Instead, she called Dr J's office and demanded a different painkiller be prescribed for me. One was, but I'd like to not have a repeat performance of something like that while I'm recovering from the jaw surgery.

I'm planning on taking some notes today during the appointment, and will post again later with some general, and slightly more specific information about the lead up, the procedure, and the recovery stages of this surgery.

Until then,


Friday, January 13, 2012

2012's Resolution

"What do you resolve to do in 2012 to better manage your migraines?"

2012 started on a sour note for me, with a marathon migraine that’s ended me on a course of Prednisone. However, I have great hopes for the new year. That is because, come in less than a month, I’ll have come to the culmination of over 6 years’ worth of work on my TMJ when I go in for my orthognathic surgery.
Let me explain:
It’s common knowledge that I have had the same migraine for over ten years now. What is not as well known is that, even before 2001, I had as many as six to eight different kinds of separate, identifiably different migraines that I got on a regular basis.
One of the most prevalent types was muscle tension related. My neck and shoulders are like iron most of the time. I’ve been fortunate to find a wonderful massage therapist who has been able to help identify things that were going on in my body, years before we discovered that my TMJ was as severe as it is. The problem lies in my jaws themselves, where the upper is a U, and the lower is more a V shape. So after many years of night guards and bite deprogrammers helping to ease that kind of head pain slightly, it was decided that, to make the very temporary help permanent, I’d go through with the surgery. 
Well, that was over a year ago, as there was a lot of orthodontic work to get me to the stage where I could have the surgery, and now that very special date is less than a month away!
So for my resolutions, I resolve to take my Post Op instructions seriously. I need to take care of my mouth, my body, and my mind as best as possible during the healing process, which will last several months. I resolve to take time to breathe and not push my limits simply because I feel a guilty need that I “should” be doing more than I reasonably can.

I resolve to take care of myself.