Things have been busy in the last 6 months. Hell, thing have been busy in the last year. In fact, the last year has been a difficult one, which is why I’ve been so scare on the posts. It’s hard to write humorously when you’re mired in shit. That doesn’t mean that I’m not finding humor in my life, or that I’m focusing only on the bad times…just that I’m finding it difficult to take some of our everyday situations and turn them into a funny commentary on parenting, relationships, mental illness, atypical neurology, and what raging assholes 3 year olds are. Actually, that last one might not so so hard to write…
In the last year, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, have had to readjust my expectations and my life based on my body and the medications I have to take to prevent irreversible joint damage, started weekly psychiatry appointments for Future Cult Leader to get a handle on her anxiety, ADHD, and daily meltdowns, I’ve struggled with my bipolar disorder, helped my mother after her surgeries (plural, with another one likely coming up) and the after effects of those surgeries (MRSA flare!), dealt with my aging grandmother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease, hospitalization, moves to different homes and a rehab center for her severely broken shoulder and subsequent surgery, and other minor annoyances that are just part of life that have complicated some of the above events.
On the good side: Future Cult Leader is safely in a healthy weight range, has become a lot easier to handle, Evil Genius has made strides learning how to use the bathroom like a human being (no diapers, holla!), I’ve made some awesomesauce friends, gotten addicted to Words With Friends, had the privilege of officiating the marriage of 2 close friends, have managed a couple times to get my joint pain under control, have strengthened my relationship with Monsieur Stoic (today marks the 6th year anniversary of the day we became a couple), turned 30 (fuck yeah, 30!), have improved my photography skills (maybe eventually I can turn it into a career…who knows?), done a bit of traveling, and I’ve gotten to know my long lost brother who recently moved to Oregon from the Easy Coast to attend Oregon State University. So it hasn’t been all bad.
Tell me, readers…how has your last year been?
Yup. I’ve been MIA.
The last several months have been whirlwind of…well, stuff. School started and since I was trying to be Super Bad Ass Mom Extraordinaire, I signed up to work my flat tuches off for the school. A position on what amounts to a PTO’s board (which sounds more important than it is), taking over an art literacy program, volunteering to work with kids in Future Cult Leader’s classroom, and various other projects meant I was often busy. And, you know, mom stuff: clean the house, hang with the kids and Monsieur Stoic, attempt to have a social life, keep in touch with extended family, hookers and blow, advise the president. You know, business as usual.
Then something happened.
I’ve experienced joint pain for almost a year. It comes and goes, but it kept getting worse. Then it got baaaaaaaad. Like, I couldn’t button and zip my pants bad. I couldn’t hold hands with my husband. I couldn’t squeeze the damn toothpaste tube. And there were times I was so stiff in the morning I felt like I was going to shatter when I walked down the stairs. And tired. ALWAYS tired. So I did what any rational person would do. I imagined myself on the show House MD and decided I was going to die of some obscure disease.
Not really. I called up my doctor who gave me a referral to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist listened to my complaints, checked my x-rays, looked over my body, and told me I have rheumatoid arthritis.
I had already suspected as much, since both my mother and grandmother have RA, but I was kinda hoping for an explanation of the pain in each of the joints that were hurting. I was more or less flattened by the news. RA is some bad, bad shit. It’s not like normal arthritis (osteoarthritis) where the cartilage in your joints break down from wear and tear and injury. It’s an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks the lining of your joints, leading to painful swelling, joint deformity, and erosion of the tissues and bones around your joints. Even the small joints in your ears can be affected. It also affects your organs: skin, eyes, heart, lungs, just to name a few. It also causes extreme fatigue. Osteoarthritis looks like the kid who gets picked last in gym class in comparison to the big, hulking bully who steals your lunch money on the playground that is RA.
The weeks following my diagnosis were dark. I was already struggling with not being able to go at the speed I was used to, which was a blow in and of itself. But finding out that this wasn’t something that would go away with time? Depressing as hell. I was already aware of some of the risks after watching my mother deal with it for the last 10 years, but I wanted to take charge of my disorder. So, I did some research. Let’s face it, worst case scenarios aren’t exactly the greatest pick me up. And then there were the reactions of the people around me. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of supportive and understanding people in my life. But man, the sucky responses can really get to you. I got everything from telling me not worry and changing the subject to making it about them to people avoiding me like the plague. Stoic wouldn’t even talk about it until I picked a fight with him over it.
Within a few days, the medications started fucking with me. After a couple weeks they went from fucking with me to waterboarding me on the rack. Mental and mood changes were listed as side effects and oh yeah, I had those. I got all spun up. Couldn’t sleep (there wasn’t a sleeping pill in the world that could knock me out), couldn’t focus, itching to move around, extremely irritable. And I was worried about everything. That means one of two things:
–my anxiety was my puppet master
–I was headed into a hypomanic state.
My therapist, who is totally my hero, jumped right in and prescribed another anti-psychotic. Which was great and all, except it’s extremely sedating. So on top of the joint pain and fatigue, I was so groggy and slow and felt like a total moron. I was sleeping 10-12 hours a day and had basically abdicated my role as a parent.
That was a few weeks ago. I’m doing better now. My new anti-psychotic dosage was reduced, so while I’m still pretty groggy in the morning I’m at least functional. I’m more at peace with my diagnosis and had a really good visit with my rheumatologist this week. My RA is early and mild, which means that joint damage will be minimized. The medications have already improved my quality of life. Even better, they could still take another month to show me what they can really do. Since they’re working so well right now, we don’t need to think about the heavy hitting drugs that can cause cancer and wipe out my immune system. I have a good prognosis and a good chance for remission.
Despite the good news, sometimes I get really angry because, hi, a couple of chronic mental disorders and now a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease? WTF did I do to deserve all this?! Most days, though, I’m okay with life. It’ll get better. I will get better.
I apologize to my readers (all 30 some of you!) for my absenteeism. Hopefully I don’t have to start sucking up to you for forgiveness.