Friday, 28 February 2014

Practical Dreams

Once upon a time, we were all five year old children. Not at once- that would be a lot of kids. But none the less, at some point in time we were all five years old. We sat on the floor surrounded by a teacher who told us something wonderful: That we could do anything we want to be when we grow up. She read us stories about people doing incredible things. We were encouraged to follow our hearts and reach for the moon, because even if we missed it we would still land among the stars. And we were still told this as we got older. But I can't remember when they first said, "Follow your dreams- as long as they're practical." I don't remember who taught us to question, "Is that actually a real job?" And every time I hear "You don't have to love what you do: You'll love your pay," my stomach does a little flip.

This post is not about careers. This is about why we are told not to dream big.

Humans push the boundaries of 'normal' every day. It's amazing what we've accomplished as a race, even in the last few years. But still, people seem a bit trapped inside a box. When we dream of doing something great, which we all do, many will dismiss it as a nice thought and move on to 'realistic' dreams (whatever that is) or even to no dream at all. I think it's sad people keep their ultimate wish in the back of their head, only to watch a lifetime go by without trying to reach for it. Maybe they don't have inspiration to work towards achieving it, or it could be peer pressure that keeps someone from pursuing it. But I think that it's a monster in our heads who screams "You can't! You never will!" A monster who was once a baby, unable to speak, but quickly learned and grew louder as we were told "No, you can't." It's a monster who screams over the little dreamer in our head who gives us constant inspiration and encouragement, but who can only whisper.

Dreams are different for everyone. Sometimes it's to see the world, learn to paint hyper realistically, to record an entire album of music or even to be able to walk without pain. Even when it is grey and bleak outside, we have to keep holding onto our dreams and working towards them. We can't dismiss them; after all, what if achieving it is what brings sunlight into your life? I think we'd regret never trying more than we would ever regret trying and not reaching it. Life is too short for 'realistic' and 'practical' dreams, whatever the heck that means. Act like the person you want to be, scheme for the future, set realistic goals and keep your dreams close to your heart.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Love for Friends

"I love you" doesn't mean "just for now."

It doesn't mean "until someone else I like shows up." It doesn't mean "until this is no longer fun." And it doesn't mean "until times get tough."

There have been lots of people in my life. A lot have come and lots have gone. They taught me a lot, especially about love. Everyone has 'fake' friends. I've had my fair share of them, and I expect to have more in my lifetime. Fake friends aren't necessarily bad either. Sure, you can't count on them for anything but when they're bored it's always fun to be invited for coffee. It's just the toxic ones you need to avoid: the ones that make you feel bad or talk about you behind your back. But even the toxic ones can help: they make you treasure the real friends you have even more.

Real friends aren't the oldest friends we have. They aren't the ones who you talk to the most often. They aren't always unrelated to us. And they aren't even the ones you have most in common with. Real friends are the ones who share a mutual love for. It may be unspoken but it's still there. And it can feel odd to talk about love when you mean your friends. I don't know why but people think it's odd for others to feel love towards their friends, instead of only their family and romantic partner. But the way I see it is, is that a family doesn't need to be related just as a home doesn't need to be a house. If we looked at the world like that, people I have no blood relation with would be my siblings and I wouldn't know some of the people I am related to.

Love can be unspoken but is shown. It is present when someone stays with you during the worst of times: They might be silent, but they never leave. They're the ones who accompany you to MRIs just for the heck of it. They die laughing at your morning cocktail of drugs. They are the ones you have conversations with for hours on end with that never get boring but often get weird. They are the ones who pick on you for being sick when you're okay but are the most concerned when you actually are sick. They're the ones who, like you, are on a first name basis with your rheumatologist. And they're the ones who immediately offer you a kidney when you tell them something is wrong with yours.

Real friends aren't just the people you met a school or work. They can be anyone. Parents. Siblings. Cousins. Even 'Internet friends.' And, of course, romantic partners. Friends are the people who we love and who love us back. Even if you would never say it outloud.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

To Four Years, and Many More

It's so rare to find a great, cute pair of shoes when you have chronic pain. So let's celebrate the great, cute ones we do have.

Dear Shoes,

When I first bought you, I never knew we would become so close. Something about you caught my eye: Was it the black suede that called to me? I fell in love and knew you would be coming home with me. And now, four years into the future, we're still together. Through think and then, we stayed together. We made it.

I remember the first weeks when we we're getting to know each other. We fought a little: You would pinch and I would insist on wearing you anyway. There were times were life consisted only of swollen feet and ankles. But we got though that. The struggle was well worth it: The support you have given me has been priceless. You protect my weakest spots like ankles and have given me tremendous comfort.

Shoes, you have been there through everything. You are perfectly casual, but always clean up well and are perfectly dressy as well. You've been there for interviews and charity events, for parties and dinners. Do you remember my first date? You supported me the whole time. I don't know how I could've done it without you. You've been there for post-dancing recovery and for new orthotic arches. You have helped me stand tall through the years and brought me so far.

Four years? It's flown! Most shoes don't last this long, but not you: You still support me and stand strong. We still have lots of future events: Here's to another four years.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

How Elizabeth is Doing Now

Last year, I did an eight week course. It was an art class almost every Saturday morning, from mid October to December. I really did enjoy the class: It was a lot of fun! I made friends within the class and got a lot of good artistic advice, and even more confidence in my work. I don't regret doing the class what so ever.

My body, on the other hand, hated it very much. I tend to be busy over the week (and by 'busy,' I mean going to school, coming home and doing homework in bed). But those weeks were extremely busy for me: Things started popping up from nowhere! It was a bit more than I could handle. There was actually a point when I became so stressed out that accidentally spilling coffee on some paperwork I was supposed to be sending out sent me into a hysterical screaming fit.

Mentally, I was breaking down. But the physical toll was much more intense. I lost my Saturdays to recover from school since I was out of the house by six thirty in the morning (just like every day). The class was three hours of standing to paint or draw. And since the train schedule is a bit different on Saturday, there was lots of waiting around. Sundays were reserved for sleeping only. There was no going outside or doing any chores. In fact, if I had a bed pan I don't think I would have ever gotten out. There was a lot more pain, and even new joints experiencing pain. My shoulders began to ache from the world I carried on my back. I was burning out.

The end of the class marked the beginning of the winter holidays. I got two weeks to attempt to recover. But to be completely honest, I'm not anywhere close to where I once was. I may not have been energetic before my Saturday courses began, but I wasn't fighting to keep my eyes open in school either. I was making a lot of progress before the class, and my rheumatologist and I decided to try going three months without an appointment. When I saw him in January, I wasn't nearly as run down but it was enough to send off little alarms in his head. I was sent for labs that required 80% of my blood and I'll be seeing him again shortly to discuss where we will go from here. I know many things are being questioned at the moment medically, and I will share them once I know. I just don't want to tell you my own suspicious and come off as a hypochondriac. Which I'm not.

I'm just an unpaid medical investigator.

I like to pretend I'm Wonder Woman. I love coming across as being able to save the world and still be home in time for supper. As open as I am about being chronically ill, there's this part of me that still fights it. I come up with the dumbest reasons why I can't do something or don't want to go somewhere. There's over a hundred excuses I've given for taking public transportation, walking or riding with friends instead of just driving my own car. Honestly, It's just that driving is too much to handle. I've told people I don't work after school because my parents insist I focus on my school work only. And though that is actually true, it's because I can't handle it. I volunteer once a week for three hours, and it takes me a few days to recover from that: How am I going to work everyday after school?

I admit it: I'm not a normal young person. A lot would call me lazy. And that's okay.: They don't know what it's like to live like this. I resist peer pressure say no to doing drugs to become 'cool.' I resist peer pressure and say no to burning myself out just to be 'normal.'

Don't do more than you can handle. It might seem worth it at the time, but you may regret it later. Don't be mad with yourself if you find you can't handle it anymore. You're strong for going as long as you could.
Don't destroy yourself with work that you feel you're drowning in. It's not worth it.
Do take care of yourself. You're worth it. You're beautiful.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Driving Me Painful

Driving is probably the most common form of transportation. Most people learn when they're a teenager, and learning is a rite of passage for many young people. And though it's considered to be a very easy, common thing to do, a few don't agree one hundred per cent.

Think about the physical act of driving. Your legs are stretched out in front of you and you have to keep control of the pressure you have on them to control the pedals. Your arms are stretched out in front of you to steer. And let's not forget turning your head to look around. And if you're backing up, let's not forget the painful twisting and turning there! It can be really intense and take a lot out of you!

Driving for some is really painful. Some will say you're very lazy if you don't want to drive, or if you never were able to learn. I beg to differ. It's very hard to force yourself to do something that causes pain. It can also make you feel very unsafe: we know pain can be extremely distracting and it can distract you from concentrating on the road. Also, you can feel very restricted by stiffness and it may be hard to look around. People don't understand the struggles some of us have with this 'simple task.'

My tips for driving?

  • Make your seat as comfortable as you possibly can. This may mean having a small pillow for your back or even one for your neck. 
  • Take breaks as often as you need them. There is no reason your safety and health should not come first.
  • Large steering wheel covers can help you hold the wheel comfortably. 
  •  Insider driving with someone who doesn't mind switching off if you need a break.
  • Don't force yourself to drive if you are really not comfortable or very tired. Nothing is worth putting you under a lot of stress and sucking away your energy.
Driving isn't a favourite past time of mine. Usually I take advantage of public transportation and anyone's offers to drive.  It doesn't mean I can't if I have to. It's that I don't like how unsafe it feels when I can't concentrate on the road ahead because all I can think about how awful my joints feel. Some call it laziness. I call it smart.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fight or Live

 "Do you fight this disease or do you live with it?"

I was recently presented with this question. And to be quite honest, I gave no answer. I had to think about it for a while before I could answer it. 

Chronic illnesses are very complicated by nature. When you're diagnosed with an illness that is serious and are told that there are only treatments to try to control it, it's devastating. That diagnosis can make your life flip, even if the symptoms already seemed to turn the world upside down. It can be confusing and there are even times you might not know what's really going on. But if there is anything I remember clearly from the time of my diagnosis, it was discussing treatment options that can making living with arthritis easier. There was little talk of fighting, so to speak.

I think a lot of the time we use the terms "living with," "deal with" or "try to control" to describe what treatment for chronic illnesses are for. Very few flirt with the idea of saying "to fight." It's not purposeful, it's just what people get use to saying. They may even think it implies the same: It's the case of thinking one thing but saying something else. But some people are very clear when they say "live with," and others "fight." Living with is very passive, fighting is very aggressive. To think, those are just words. 

In reality, I think most of us live at a happy medium in the idea of fighting and living with. We treat ourselves in many ways to control chronic illness- be it through medicines, surgery, diets, exercise or combinations of those. We fight through treatments. But we live too. We live because the chronic implies that if we stopped life for illness, it would stop for a very long time. There is no choice in whether life goes on, but it is our choice to continue to live. It's a choice we must take advantage of when we are able.

There's no fight or live. It's both.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Teen Discrimination

Children: Some people love them, others don't. Teenagers: Mostly everyone hates them. Maybe that's an overstatement, but that's how I usually feel. I know, I know: We're annoying. We're these disproportioned, pimply creatures that expect to be treated as adults, act like children and have unpredictable moods. I can't really blame you for rolling your eyes every time you see a rowdy group of teenagers walk by. But, I was wondering if we could stop the 'all teenagers are annoying and rude' stereotype? Please?

I don't know if this is a world wide phenomenon or if it's just me, but some adults treat me very... Well, not with the respect I treat them with. For example, I was waiting to pay for something at a store. There were two women in front of me. The cashier greeted the Both of them very kindly. Then it was my turn: the cashier wouldn't look at me and didn't even speak to tell me my total, even though I greeted her. One time I was out right ignored by a cashier and not served. Another time I got kicked out of a candle store when I was looking for a specific candle for my mother's birthday. A clerk followed me around the store and finally just asked me to leave. Unless I'm in a shop or other place that is specifically for young people or is run by one, one of the above scenarios tend to be the case. It's odd how sometimes I'm just buying milk or something for dinner and people look at me like I'm causing a problem and drawing attention. And no, I don't look the type to cause problems, though looks aren't a justified reason to judge.

I know a lot of teenagers notice this and they just accept it. But I don't. I refuse to accept any of this on the grounds that I am tired of prejudice in all forms.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Don't Order Lemon

 Autoimmune diseases. They're pretty self explanatory: the immune system attacks the body and causes problems. It's pretty obvious that the best way to help ourselves is to try and care for the immune system. A lot of time this can mean taking immunosuppressant medicines. But even when one isn't taking those, it's still important to prevent getting sick since that can make you flare.

Lots of people will suggest things you can do to not become sick. My rheumatologist's absolute favourite is getting the flu jab (no, I've still yet to get it). Others will recommend bathing in hand sanitiser, avoiding contact with people completely and living in your house until spring. However, I have one tip that will absolutely guarantee that you won't get sick:

Don't order lemon.

When you're out to eat and you ask for a glass of water,  make sure to ask for no lemon. Lemon wedges are notorious for being one of the bacteria filled things you can find in a restaurant. This is usually since they are kept in an unrefrigerated container all day and touched by many different people repeatedly. And no, the citrus does not keep bacteria at bay. If you have a suppressed immune system or cannot risk being sick whatsoever (or both), don't bother with the lemon. Ask for another glass of water or request a dish not come with lemon. Trust me.

The other night I went to a restaurant and had asked for a glass of water. It had a lemon in it, which I didn't realise it would come with. I knew it was likely to be dirty but I was too shy to ask for a new glass of water without lemon. So I drank it anyway, reassuring myself it wouldn't get me sick. The next morning I woke up sick. Right now I'm laid up with a fever, cough and pounding head.

Do as I say, not as I do. Learn from my mistakes, my children.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The American Recall Center

Recently I was contacted by The American Recall Center and was asked if I would like to promote their new website. I said I'd love to. The America Recall Center provides Americans with information about things such  as joint replacements and medicines that have been recalled and are unsafe. Even if you don't live in America or have ever had treatments there, you might be interested by their health blog. I hope by sharing this website, I may benefit you:  I would never share anything with you that I didn't believe in. 

Joint implants and prescription drugs allow millions of Americans to live their lives to the fullest. The field of medical research has rapidly expanded over the past decade, and new drugs and medical devices are released to the public every day. Unfortunately the psychiatrists, surgeons, and medical specialists that prescribe these treatments frequently have overbooked schedules. This often means they may not have the time to answer all the questions a patient may have regarding their medical treatment.
At The American Recall Center, we believe in the old saying that knowledge is power. Our goal is to offer patients the information they need to make the best decisions concerning their health. By providing this information in a highly accessible format, patients can quickly learn everything they need. We can help you decide if a certain prescription or surgery may be appropriate for your medical needs, provide you with the information you need as you undergo treatment, and answer any questions you may have afterwards.
Your safety is also our concern and we can provide you with current information regarding product recalls. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled over forty-five drugs that had caused serious illness, irreversible organ damage, or death to prescribed patients. Forty medical device recalls were also issued during this time. 
One high-profile case occurred last November when a hip replacement recall was conducted on a product that afflicted thousands of patients with intense lower extremity pain. This recall allowed many of these patients to quickly undergo surgery to remove the faulty product before it could cause further damage and replace it with a safer alternative. Staying up to date on prescription and medical device safety alerts could make you aware of potential risks associated with your treatment plan and necessary changes that should be made.

The American Recall Center can keep you up to date on this information through our Patient Safety Alerts program, which will notify you when an FDA recall has been issued on a prescription drug or medical device you use. Simply select the drug or medical device categories of interest and you will receive an email when the FDA issues a relevant public safety concern. This way, you can be assured that you have the latest information concerning the treatment plans of you and your loved ones.