Monthly Archives: October 2012

Aside

There have been the craziest internet issues at my place during the last week–as soon as I manage to get online it seems the connection is gone again. We’ve finally figured out that it looks like there may be damage to the line and someone is going to take a look at it tomorrow. I am hoping that solves our problem immediately, but if it’s a big issue it may be even longer yet.

But I’ll be back and posting as soon as I can! In the meanwhile, everyone stay as healthy and low-pain as possible!

Internet Outage

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Dogs and Pedicures

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Harriett likes to lick my feet. She does it  pretty much every night, when I lie down in bed and start reading. She runs down to the end of the bed and licks my feet. She’s really thorough, too. If she really is into it, she’ll even use her teeth on the calluses on my heels. It’s probably weird that I enjoy this, but I do. And how cool is it that I have a dog that does pedicures, right?

I found out about dog nail polish last week. Who knew, there are actually multiple companies that make nail polish for dogs! They dry quickly and have fewer nasty chemicals. I assume this means the finish isn’t as nice as in human nail polish, or else, why aren’t the people nail polishes less toxic too?? So I decided to buy a few and paint my doggies’ nails to match their harnesses. (I went for the Pawdicure brand. I’m such a consumerist pet owner sucker!) But it seems only fair to do a little pedicuring back!

I’ll put up some photos if it goes well. Harriett and Crackers had never had their nails trimmed before they were rescued, so they were so long their little toes were getting deformed, but we’ve been working them back. The vet says not to stress about it, as the next time they get their teeth done, he’ll cut them off close while they’re under anesthesia. So there is still plenty of nail to paint. I’m so amused. Dog nail polish!

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Disability and Grief

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Aquarium cleanup

Aquarium cleanup (Photo credit: Cochonou)

Before my injury, I had an amazing job. I worked as an aquarist, which is a zookeeper for fish. I got into this career because I loved animals, but I was allergic to most of them! The ones underwater, however, didn’t make me sneeze. I have fed mola-molas, stingrays, moray eels, sand tiger sharks, zebra sharks, nurse sharks, and white tip reef sharks from inside the fishtanks. There’s a youtube video out there of me inside the tanks in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal helping get it set up, and I’m in countless family photos from my time in the water in Spain and Guam. I’ve wrestled sea turtles and sharks for medical treatments, had baby walruses suck on my fingers, and trained a fish to kiss a target on a stick in the water just like how they train dolphins and sea lions for shows. I saved the lives of many animals by noticing and fixing mechanical problems before they were too late, and I did the research and work to extend the lives of animals from electric eels to jellyfish to octopuses by finding out how to take care of them better. I’ve gone into the tropical sea and helped catch new animals for the aquarium, designed exhibits, and diagnosed and treated sick fish, worked feverishly and daringly to save sick and injured animals, rejoiced when they healed, and cried when animals under my responsibility died. In the 7 years I worked in aquaria, I chopped tons of seafood and cleaned square miles of aquarium windows and backdrops.

I went to school two extra years to get into this career, and I worked my butt off in school and in every job I had after school. I was pretty good at what I did, and was always working to become a better fish keeper in any way I could. Before I was an aquarist, I drifted a bit–I majored in biology, worked in a microinvertebrate laboratory, almost wrote a groundbreaking paper on slow loris behavior but got distracted, worked doing field research on playground bullying, and then ended up working phones and reception for a major hospital. I made some of the best money I’ve ever made at the hospital, but I never felt like I was making enough of a difference, and my aquarist career was like finding my life purpose.

Then, on July 5th, 2009, as I was wrapping up for the day, my shoe got caught in some stairs behind a tank and I stumbled down the stairs, twisting my ankle hard at the bottom. I heard something snap. It hurt a lot. There’s another post about how I slowly lost my career and then my ability to work at all to the CRPS that developed from my injury. But when I say I lost my career, I lost something that wasn’t just an acceptable way to make a living. I lost my vocation, my daily love, my purpose in life. Something I had moved across oceans for three times. Something I had given up a relationship to learn how to do. I lost something so precious to me that even writing this right now brings tears to my eyes. I lost, not the 7 years of my life that I threw myself into heart and soul, but I lost the reason for doing so.

Before my injury, I liked to dance. I took hip-hop in University and was in a little modern dance troupe,. While I attended aquarium school, I sang and danced in the chorus of several local musicals. I have been a singer since I was a little kid, and when I moved to Guam, I sang jazz in some of the bars with the local bands on weekends.

Before I got hurt, I would go snorkeling on Friday mornings and take pictures (or try to) of the amazing animals I’d see. I would drive around the island and stop to take photos of the things I found beautiful. I went hiking sometimes, too.

Before I got hurt, I would go on dates with my sweetie. We liked to travel and find ways to enjoy trips together with our opposite traveling styles. I went traveling alone quite a bit too.

Before I got hurt, I would sit at my computer for hours, designing web pages, writing poetry.

Now, if I sit up for more than an hour or two at a time, I start to hurt too much and have to go lie down. I can’t pick up and hop on a plane when the tickets are on sale, walking the foreign cities I love to explore. I rarely go out with friends or on a date. I don’t snorkel or hike much, although with careful planning and luck of a low pain day I can manage something that doesn’t go too far or take too long, as long as I have someone to go with me. I can’t stay out late enough to sing at bars, and I don’t jump or dance anymore. It’s hard to imagine having the energy to be in a musical.

And I’m not an aquarist. I’m not a chemist. I’m not even a receptionist. I’m disabled. Is that who I am?

I have lost so much. For a long time, I didn’t know what I had left. I didn’t know if I had enough left to scrape together a me. I didn’t know who I was now, without the things I used to do. A lot of people with CRPS (and with other chronic pain conditions) commit suicide. It’s not hard to understand why, when we’ve lost so much of ourselves we aren’t even sure who we are anymore. One of the first things a stranger asks to get to know another is, “What do you do?” What do you do when you can’t do what you do?

I couldn’t think about my loss, because every time I did, the negative emotions would make my pain flare. I went to see a therapist. I wanted to know how to move on. She first told me I had to grieve, and I tried, but it just make my pain so out-of-control that it wasn’t worth it. I decided I had to move on. I knew I wasn’t my job, or my body. I knew I needed to accept my new situation and make a new life, but even though I could think it through logically, I just couldn’t move past the feeling that I had lost myself along with the rest of what I’d lost to pain. I was stuck. I went back to the therapist and tried to explain more clearly. I was angry at myself for understanding what I needed to do to take the next step and yet not being able to do it.

I kept saying to myself, “Get over it already! It is the way it is, and you know wallowing is no good for you!”

This wasn’t working.

The therapist explained that without grieving, without acknowledging the depth and severity of what we’ve lost with kindness and understand towards ourselves for hurting, we can’t move on. You can’t bully yourself past the grief step. You just get stuck. And that is what I had done.

My therapist and I set up a safe time to grieve. I could stay away from my loss when I was at home, needing to cope with my pain. I couldn’t afford to grieve full-time. But I could do it part-time, every week, in her office. I had to honestly, mentally pat myself on the shoulder and say, I know, I understand, this really really sucks.

And the moment I gave myself the acceptance and kindness I needed, I started to be able to accept my new life, my new self.

I don’t think I’m done grieving. I think that I’m going to be grieving in little bits for years. Right now, I can’t go to an aquarium, but I expect that won’t last forever. That’s going to be painful and raw for a while.

But I’m also learning how to love my new life. And I can! I love blogging, I love sewing, I love love love yoga. I love finding other people with chronic pain and trying to find out if I know anything that might help them. I was empathic before, and I love that I can be a better empathizer now. And I love the kind of person that learning to live in the moment is making me.

I may get to do some of the things I used to do before, I may not. I probably won’t ever work in an aquarium again. That’s sad, but okay. I have great memories of the time I spent in that dream job. I’m ready to find a new dream. I’m feeling the oceans of possibilities open up around me for a new life that I love. I’m no longer in a rush to get anywhere. But I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

Everyone grieves at some time. Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding instead of impatience and frustration is the only way to truly move through grief. We may worry that we’ll get trapped in the sadness and not move on–I know I had that fear. But it turned out I was bigger than that. I just needed to trust myself. I hope that by sharing my grief that maybe even that struggle will touch another person in the way they need to help them grieve. And if not, that’s okay too. I learned what I needed to from my experience, and that is one person that is the better for it. Everything else is gravy =-)

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Simple Overlap Pillowcases

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I made two pillowcases the other day. I was feeling intimidated by fitting (I’ve been reading books that are at a much more advanced level of sewing than I am) and needed to do something to boost my confidence.

I purchased two “European Style” pillows at Ross the other week that I thought would make good couch cushions. They were 24 inch squares, and I didn’t have anything to cover them, so I used some of the yoga bag project seersucker material and made them cases. Now they’re on the couch and being used instead of sitting in their plastic covers waiting for me!

I used the seersucker weave to get my cuts straight, and each pillowcase was a rectangle 25″ tall and 33″ long. That gave me 1/2″ seam/hem allowances and 4″ of overlap on the back of the pillowcase, so I didn’t have to bother putting a zipper in for a closure. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of my work in progress, but I do have a couple of the finished product! The pictures have a bit of a greenish tinge, but it’s really a natural, unbleached cotton color.

 

Pillow 1

I used the yoga bag seersucker fabric.

Pillow 2
The 4″ overlap worked out just right!

 

 

Hem

I’m proud of how nice and straight my hem turned out!

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Just One Pose, Every Day

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English: Child's Pose (relaxation) Български: ...

English: Child’s Pose (relaxation) Български: Баласана/Детска поза (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was my most recent yoga therapy homework: I am to get on the mat and do child’s pose every day. What comes after that is up to me. I HAVE to give myself permission to stop after one pose. Why? Because otherwise I won’t get on the mat. If I have energy for more, great! If I don’t, congratulations me, I’ve done my yoga practice for the day.

I thought this was a perfect, brilliant assignment. Just what I needed to start forming that habit of daily practice. I thought my reason for not being on my mat once a day was that I was being too hard on myself. If I was going to get on my mat, I needed to do my full yoga routine. And that seemed like way too much some days. Child’s pose, however–that I can do no matter how I feel.

It’s been a week and a half, and I’ve hit my daily goal about 50%. That’s kind of awful. I mean, how hard is it to do a restful, bolstered child’s pose every day. I may be hard on myself, but honestly, this shouldn’t be beyond me.

So what’s the problem? I’m not sure. I keep thinking of it, and putting it off, and then it’s late, and I’m tired, and I go to bed. It could be that, since this has been a particularly high-pain couple of weeks, I’ve been so absorbed in my distraction mechanisms I haven’t been able to pull myself into the moment and spend time with my pain. I’ve certainly watched more than my usual share of TV this last couple weeks.

I also have not felt much like taking care of myself lately. There really isn’t anything more important I need my energy for (how could there be?), but to be honest, it feels like a bit of a waste to spend it on myself when I’m in so much pain. That sounds really terrible, doesn’t it?

I don’t know exactly why this brilliant plan isn’t working. I’m clearly, despite logic, choosing not to participate half the time. I feel guilty about this, and yet I continue. I’m not miserable, even with the high pain, but I’m not doing everything I can to feel better, either. Why not?

Sounds like a question for my psych therapist, perhaps. Anybody reading ever go through this? What did you learn about yourself and how did you find your motivation?

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