Dear Friends,

I don’t know how many out there consider me as a friend. I know there are various shades of ‘friendship’. You have people who you talk to daily, or see regularly. You have people you know and you occasionally trawl their Facebook, just to see how they’re doing. And then, you have those people who are so close to you, they can feel your fire and they know you better than you know yourself.

I’m not sure which one I am to you. Maybe I’m the one where you just occasionally read my Facebook and like my ridiculous ramblings.

Whichever you are, there is something I need to tell you. Not just on behalf of myself, but on behalf of every person who lives with chronic illness – whether it’s Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or some other crappy lifelong condition.

I’m sorry that my illness takes up a better portion of my life. I know my Facebook feed is 75% cats and Ehlers-Danlos/Chiari related shit, 10% memes, 10% Tumblr reposts and 5% what the fuck is that! I imagine those sick pictures of my scars and boo-boos are probably getting old. It probably feels like most of your feed is filled with negativity. I promise, if I could have it another way, I would in a heartbeat. Please don’t give up on me. I want to hear about your new kid, or your new job. I want to know how you are. I still want you in my life. I want to see you and I want to make you laugh. I want to wish you happy birthday, merry Christmas, or whatever else. I want to be the person who wipes your tears away after a bad day and asks who I need to beat up on your behalf.

But please understand, sometimes I won’t be able to do that – because I’m a bit tied up putting my joints back in (literally), or cleaning up vomit because I didn’t quite make it to the toilet or sink. Sometimes I will be too tired for a night out, or to have you over. I can promise you on the days I am feeling well, I will want to see you or talk to you.

I am sorry for all the times I have cancelled, or will have to. I am sorry for all the times I slept through your calls and texts. And I am sorry that my life is a mess. That is not going to change anytime soon. But if you’ll have me, I will be the best friend I can be. Chronic illness has given me this amazing super power – empathy. I will always understand when you need to cancel, or when you’re too depressed, anxious or afraid to function. I’ll be there to hold your hand, literally or at least figuratively, when you grieve the loss of someone you love, or maybe when you get sick. I will make you laugh when everything seems so shitty and impossible, because let’s face it, my jokes help me survive my own situation. I will advocate for you when it comes to your health, safety and sanity. And no matter how many miles between us, I will love you and care about you.

Positivity Porn II

It’s been a couple of days since my most recent piece Litany of Positivity Porn. A friend of my shared it and it’s made a few rounds in some circles of chronic illness groups. That’s great, but I need to add to it. I feel as if I didn’t completely expound upon the idea of positivity porn and selling happiness in the place of legitimate change.

The friend who shared my article informed me of an awesome movement known as The Icarus Project. This movement focuses on the intersectionality  of mental illness in the world, while exchanging social support, ideas and pushing for a cultural shift towards acceptance. This is primarily why I wish to further discuss positivity and inspiration porn.

The foundation of selling happiness in the place of tangible assistance is damaging to anyone who experiences poverty, implicit and explicit racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or ableism. That is what is so powerful about this language in my recent blog post. It can be applied to the experience of being told to buck up when you do not have control over serious, debilitating problems that are systemic or institutionalized. It is for anyone who faces the invalidation, marginalization and dismissal from their peers, families, friends, doctors and co-workers.

I wanted to further recognize the intersectionality of disability, chronic illness (physical/mental) and chronic pain. Humans are complicated individuals and everyone has a different story. Their experience is valid, it is real, tangible and it has affected that person in many ways.

I never want any of my readers to feel isolated because their voice is a little different from my own, or because they experienced something slightly different than I do. This isn’t to suggest that anyone even indicated that I left them out, but rather I felt I had left people out. I felt like it wasn’t enough just to discuss the core issue of positivity porn with regards to chronic illness. It is not authentic to suggest that positivity porn only effects a single group of people – no it is so much more than that. We cannot co-opt this experience as some singular instance.

This post is dedicated to a special friend, fellow spoonie and zebra – Gowen. Thank you for encouraging me to continue to use the power of my language, my voice and my writing to support my fellow humans.

Beep beep boop.

Beep beep boop

That’s what WordPress says when you click to make a new post.

I apologize for a bit of silence in my journal. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mind doesn’t have a clever phrase or thought to deal with the ramifications of humanity’s fragility. I mean, let’s be honest – most of us have an originally brilliant phrase or analysis of some situation only once in awhile. Hardly ever, even. We tend to feed on those brief droplets of inspiration, squeezing the creative lifeblood out until it withers and dries up into nothingness.

I have not had one of those little nibbles of inspiration in awhile. I admit, I have been depressed. This isn’t really outside the realm of normal for me. The thing about living with chronic pain and illness is… you will at some point end up depressed.

I’ve felt like there was something I have wanted to say or flesh out into some form of art for almost three weeks. But each time I sat down to write, draw or work in photoshop, I just kind of blankly stared. It has been similar to an itch you can’t scratch. I had two of those for four days. I think it has something to do with coming off of an anticonvulsant and nerve medicine. This shit seriously fucked me up for the three weeks I was taking it. It made my entire face hurt. I never knew the edges of your teeth could hurt until I took this medication. It made everything significantly worse. I finally stopped taking it because I couldn’t handle it anymore. Unfortunately, coming off Lyrica can be as bad as starting it. I can’t say for certain my itches were caused by coming off this medicine. But I wouldn’t be surprised. There was a small patch, probably one inch by one inch, that itched so deeply on my ankle. If I scratched it, it would hurt, but if I didn’t touch it it would just itch like fucking crazy. There was no rash, bite or anything. No dryness. Nothing. Then two days later, same thing but in my left nostril. The itching has mostly subsided, but both spots hurt now. These were the most insane itches I had ever experienced in my life.

Riveting story, right?

I guess that’s all for now folks. I hope to have some more stuff for the non-fiction book I’ve been working on soon. I have also been considering a fictional blog because to be honest I fucking miss fiction writing.

Toodles.

Thunderclap Awareness

This post is copied with the permission of the original author, a friend on Facebook.

I know EDS Awareness Month is officially over, but I’d really appreciate you all clicking to support this EDS Thunderclap campaign. If you don’t know how Thunderclap works, it’s really simple and amazing. You click to support via Facebook (or Twitter), and on June 15th at 12:00PM, everyone who has signed up will have a Thunderclap message about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome posted to their timelines all at once. Can you imagine the awareness potential here? We could possibly reach 10,000 people or more, all with the click of a button and literally no effort on your part. It’s one of the best uses of social media I’ve ever heard of, and I’d love for you guys to participate. EDS affects 1 in 5000 people. We’ve had several people in our support group pass away from EDS complications recently, because many doctors aren’t aware of the risks associated with it and have never knowingly treated an EDS patient. There’s no cure for our genetic mutation, but if we can continue to raise awareness, the outcome in catastrophic events could improve. Please help!

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/27295-we-are-stronger2gether?locale=en

I think Thunderclap is a pretty neat feature, I only just learned about it. So, if you could take the time to press the button that would help so much!

Last Day (Not)

It is officially the last day of May and coincidentally, the last day of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome awareness month. It has been a good month and I have been able to connect with many people, illustrating the stark reality that is chronic illness. But we are not done, this is a lifelong fight for awareness – not just one month out of the year. However, in the spirit of awareness, I hereby dedicate this final post to the final day.

Wouldn’t it be so nice if we could go, “Today is the last day of our illness. Tomorrow is the first day of health, happiness and life.”?

I noticed some people in my life do not like discussing depressing prospects. They say things like, “Wow, S. that’s really sad…” and they seem uncomfortable, like maybe I should just stop writing and talking about it. Yes, well living with chronic illness is very sad. It can also be very happy. I need to talk about it, for myself. If you are uncomfortable with the realities of life, which is pain, suffering and death, then perhaps you should reevaluate your position in life and yourself. There is nothing, in my eyes, healthy about turning your back on someone, or some situation because you are uncomfortable with depressing stuff. Life is a mixture of sadness, pain, failure, anger, resentment, but also happiness, success, empathy, love, laughter and greatness.

In any case, I will not stop talking about my life, my illness – the depressing stuff or the successes, happiness, love and laughter.


Quick side bar, I would like to link a really awesome post by a fellow zebra. Her struggle is very different from mine, however, she also suffers from hypermobility type of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I am linking her post to illustrate the vast differences between patients, even patients with the same type of EDS. You can read it here. She is a young woman, a bit younger than I, who has severe gastrointestinal manifestations in her Ehlers-Danlos, nearly killing her, resulting in feeding tubes and a very limited life. She is UK based and has been writing to share her story and raise awareness about how sinister this genetic disorder can be, especially if left unchecked.


So, as a part of my integrative care for Chiari and Ehlers-Danlos, I started seeing a psychologist. I have already undergone some intensive therapy, spanning over two years, including a couple facilitated support groups. But, in the interest of showing my primary doctor how serious I am about integrative care, I sought out a clinical psychologist to manage the social and psychological implications of living chronically ill. She is an okay psychologist. It isn’t so much that I feel I need to see a therapist at this moment. I am in the best place I have ever been in my life, emotionally, socially and psychologically. But the truth is, living incurably comes with random, unforeseen complications. That is the very nature of both of my conditions.

Anyways, in the second or third appointment, she asked me, “What is it like? Living with these conditions?”. She stared at me, taking a drink from her coffee while waiting patiently for an explanation. I just sort of laughed and stared back at her for a moment. In the previous appointments, I had to tell her my history, including medical. In 2011, I underwent 6 months of self-administered chemotherapy for liver disease (no, not cancer).

So, after thinking for a moment, because I genuinely wanted her to understand, I said “it’s like chemotherapy, that doesn’t end”. She seemed shocked, like as if my previous descriptions of EDS and Chiari had been said in an alien language, or maybe that she thought it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.

“You know, you deal with splitting headaches daily, joint pain daily and random, unprecedented bouts of nausea and even vomiting. Standing up hurts. Sitting down hurts. And you’re just so fucking tired, like you haven’t slept.”

I think she finally got it, when I related it to my experience with chemotherapy.

The description stands true today. But I must admit, my symptoms have actually improved as of late, headache aside.I had an incredibly bad flare in the end of 2013 through the beginning of 2014. I used a cane and I almost never left the house. My husband had to help me shower many days and the pain made me cripplingly depressed. Things began letting up in the summer of 2014 and although it still sucks, it all still hurts, I am not that bad (for now). The reprieve has been nice and finding answers has definitely helped tremendously. Things are still improving, but only because I am finally getting the medical attention I need. My primary prescribed me beta-blockers for the associated autonomic dysfunction and just in the a week of being on this new medication, I am already improving immensely. I am finally sleeping better, my blood pressure and heart rate aren’t doing gymnastics anymore, and I don’t feel like I am going to pass out every time I take a shower. And that is just one facet of my illness being treated. I can’t imagine what will happen when I am under the care of a clinical geneticist. This is great. I can only hope for such improvement when I go to John Hopkins.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my struggles and I will continue to struggle in the future. You will never be able to ask me, “So are you better now?” and get the answer yes. That will not happen. There is no cure. This is progressive, but my victories are moments like these – moments where it is manageable, moments where I can do things and be happy. I know this summer I will begin to have even more victories, because I will have my brain surgery(ies) needed to alleviate my headache and to slow the progression of the Chiari malformation. Moreover, I will continue to make connections with wonderful, supportive people who do not shy from the gritty-shitty aspects of life.

I have been fortunate since moving to Virginia, especially so. I have made some amazing new friends, some through support groups and some who work with my husband. A special shout out to my best friend from Alaska, you know who you are boob, for always enduring my 2am antics and just wholly loving me, supporting me and of course for always being there, when I needed you the most! Another quick shout out, to Fred, a new connection who can relate in so many ways to the struggle that is Ehlers-Danlos. A new friend who I know will continue to be there and who will endure through the same battle, who displays such astounding empathy and who checks on me regularly!

Finally, my husband who has shown me true strength, compassion, empathy and death-do-us-part love in our marriage. I know I would not have survived, thrived and lived to become the woman I am today without my husband. He stole my heart over six years ago. He gave it back, in better condition than I could have imagined and he has truly endured through the struggles many relationships may never face. He has shown weakness, strength, compassion and he has lifted me up with his love. I am so very lucky to have him in my life.

Today is the last day of Ehlers-Danlos awareness month. But it is not the last day of my illness. It is not the last day of voicing the pain and the victories I have and will face.

A Shameless Plug!

Okay, so I have been secretly working on a project. Until recently, I did not realize how attainable this dream was going to be. Now I have fully actualized it and I am ready to divulge a small portion of this dream. I have secretly been working on a non-fiction account, illustrating the existence that is chronic pain and illness. My blog has been a great way for me to feel and chronicle my life in a cathartic manner. But the reality is when it comes to pain, those who live it 24/7/365 rarely have a voice in the discussion about chronic pain, how to treat it, how to cope with it, etc. So, now I hope to give the millions of us out there, who silently suffer, a voice in the discourse!

A snippet from my project:

It is not my goal to alienate allies and supporters of chronic pain patients, but to illustrate to the masses, including our allies, the little things they may say or do that crush our spirits. I live in a state of empathy and the majority of the time, I recognize people mean well when they say things to me. Unfortunately, most of the time, they ignorantly presume telling me “Wow, you’re such an inspiration!” is somehow helpful, consoling, or will make me feel better about myself. Pro-tip: it isn’t, it doesn’t and just stop. This is a bitter pill and I am sorry, it will hurt, but try not to take it so personally. You have been conditioned by social media to martyr cancer patients, children with leukemia and other scary medical conditions. Try, if you are able, not to internalize this. But I have the right to define my existence – you have the right to define your own. This state of being is entirely frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting.

Enjoy! More to come, I promise!

– S.