amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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Kids, I’m going out, without you

Now this is a post I drafted a couple of years ago while on holiday with my family, camping in De Veluwe, a beautifully wooded area of The Netherlands. One afternoon, I escaped and loved it. So here are my thoughts on why I don’t want to be with my kids all the time. Taking time away from my kids has been my saving grace, in recovering from burnout and to staving off care-giver burnout. It’s how I stay sane and happy.

I love my family but I don’t always want to be with them.

Once you’ve had kids, it seems to be that all your friends have kids.

It’s not that all the people you know also had kids. Nope. It’s that somehow, over time, you lose touch with the childless friends and start hanging out with other mums.

Which I love. They get me and I’m very happy that I have found my mama tribe.

Yet there seems to be this pervasive sense in the world that once you’ve had kids, all you’re supposed to want is to spend all your time with your kids.

Well bugger that. I don’t.

I love my kids. AND I love my time away from my kids too.

I want to spend time with my friends. Working. Doing the shopping on my own (oh the horrors of toddlers and shopping!)

I want to be by myself.

So we’ve been camping for a week and started to feel antsy, that I just want to get away. Everyday I watched the kids leave our camping spot to join the activity team or to play on the bouncy castle (yes, this is camping heaven for kids and parents) a voice inside my heart whispered

I want to go off and do something too

So I sent J to go and be with the kids and I went off on my bicycle made for one.

It was wonderful.

I could go in any direction I wanted.I could slow down and admire the sunlight through the trees of the forest I was cycling through. With no-one asking me what’s wrong. No racing to catch up with the rest of the family.

So I stopped. I admired the sunlight. Dappled, that’s the word. Gentle shadows. Glimpses into the deepness of the woods. So many shades of green.

The smooth new path. The bumpy, cracked concrete where the roots are pushing up.

The silence.

Oh, the silence.

Soothing. I can breathe here. I feel unfettered. Loose. Flowing.

I love to be alone.

Kids, I don’t hate you, I don’t dislike you. I love you, more than you can imagine.

And I also love to be alone. A lot.

So just as you go and play, so will I play. In my way.

Alone.

 

 


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The balancing act of chronic illness

So if you’ve been following my blog you know that I am the queen of “give it time” and “fight for help”.

Waiting for your child’s health to become stable, for them to start eating, to stop vomiting…. it takes a multidimensional approach and time.

And sometimes, you just need to get in the doctors face and say “enough”. Now you need to listen to me and do something about the vomiting, not eating, etc.

It’s a balancing act and it requires a lot of strength, patience, and fortitude.

Well, it turns out that I’m pretty good at doing that for my daughter, but not so good for myself.

My endometriosis, IBS, and depression got really bad a couple of years ago and I took action. I tackled the IBS which helped the depression (did you know that there is a link between inflammation and depression? Well that’s were my depression was coming from and I changed my diet to reduce inflammation en voila, I felt physically and mentally better).

The diet change for the IBS has also alleviated some of my endometriosis pain. It’s brought it back from constant and excruciating, to just pain most of the time and manageable (manageable for someone whose just so glad not to be in pain everyday).

Which means that for the gynaecologist I saw in Jan, I am no long “sick enough” for them to offer anything other than pain ills and contraception.

Nice. I’m contraindicated for both. Thanks Mr and Mrs Specialist. How is that I understand my illness and medical records better than you?

So I’m currently caught in this other type of balancing act:

  1. If you help yourself, you are no longer sick enough for the doctors to help you

  2. If you don’t help yourself in every way you can, then you are in a lot of pain

How do I find that sweet spot between

being seen as ill enough for the doctors to actually do something

and

not being in excruciating pain?

LIE. Just lie about it.

That’s another balancing act for people with chronic illness:

Truth versus Honesty

So at my next appointment I’m going to describe how it used to be. Pretend that I still have it. Because endometriosis is a progressive illness, and it creates inflammation in the body.

The truth is, I need help. But honestly, it’s not as bad as it was.

But as I wait, I can feel it getting worse. Both the physical pain and my mental state.

And do you know the worst thing about depression? It robs you of your will to do something to help yourself.

Actually, this is the worst thing: you start to feel worse. You are also quickly losing the capacity to take action and help yourself. You feel the darkness coming and you do nothing.

Well, I’m not doing “nothing”. For starters, I’m writing about it. Writing really helps me to get clear about what’s going on in my head, in my body, in my soul. It’s a way for me to figure out what to do next. So now I know. Lie my pants of and make the doctors help me.

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The one about the shit train I’ve been riding…

A really good friend of mine wrote this. And it needs sharing. I so get it and I know many of you reading this get it too. show her some love. not the “hugs” kind. you been there, do for her what you would want me to do for you. Amber

Don’t expect a lot of positivity in this post.  It’s hard keeping your shit together at times, and sometimes even the most zen want to just say ‘Fuck it.’

Source: The one about the shit train I’ve been riding…


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What’s different about chronic illness? No.6: When going out could end up with you in adult diapers

You’ve been busy lately and you’re winding down and settling into some rest and recovery time.

Then something terrible happens: you get an invitation. To a party. With other people, probably also people you don’t know and who don’t know you.

If you are asking “why is this a problem?”, then you have never run out of spoons before.

When you are chronically ill, management of your spoons is important. And so is living a full, happy life. And we want it to be full, don’t we?

So this invitation has come along when you are just out of spoons. You yearn to go, let off steam, have some fun. Your good friend has turned into a devilish temptress telling you

it won’t be the same without you. please come. We’ll all have a fantastic time if you are there

Now, even if they don’t say those exact words, it may feel like this. Because you want to go.

To go or not to go. That is the question.

Do you say no? Disappoint them? disappoint yourself? But take care of yourself because you’re out of spoons and what you really need to do is chill out and rest.

Or do you say yes? And go, enjoy yourself, but in the process get so used up and knackered that you are going to spend a week in bed. Silently wishing for an adult nappy

so that you don’t have to get out of bed to pee…

(No! not in that adult baby fetish way. I was going to add a picture for a laugh but I googled it and it was just too disturbing.)

And if you say yes, you’re going to have to borrow against future spoons, using energy you don’t have yet so that you can stand upright, smile, laugh. But borrowing future spoons is like borrowing money from the mafia.

The interest on your future-spoons loan is going to cripple you.

That simple invitation has turned into a poisoned apple.

Finding Shades of Grey

Now I’ve been living with a cocktail of energy draining, sometimes debilitating illnesses for some years now (IBS, Endo, depression, perfectionism and its burn out consequence) and I’d be a hermit if I hadn’t learned to adjust. And with my eldest daughter having a seriously intensive chronic illness, I couldn’t afford to keep on using up my spoons. I had to make a change.

I have always been a full on, “if you’re going to do something, do it well” kind of person. And although I thought I was lazy, my standards are sky high (that’s why I consider perfectionism an illness).

I was a very black and white thinker. But luckily for me, my eldest taught me how to think in grey.

So now when I get that invitation, there is another dimension to my choice of go/don’t go. I have multiple options:

I can go and be lively, chatty and dare I say funny.

Or I can go and find a comfy chair and chat quietly to one or two people.

I can go for an hour. ok, it always ends up longer but I blame that on my #shopkeepersyndrome (you’re the shop keeper so you can’t leave first, you need to be there for others and need to be the last to leave – when it’s closing time and you have the keys). But I can now leave a party early.

I can stay at home and arrange to see them another time.

I can just say no, no explanations, but I’m sorry that I can’t come.

I can even stay at home and actually rest, go to bed, sleep.

So many shades of grey. So many options.

None of them requiring me to resort to adult nappies because I’m too exhausted to get out of bed.


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Gratitude: it always has a place in your life

Just when one doctor shakes your faith in the profession, another will remind you why you put your trust in doctors.

In the Great Mickey Change Challenge, we have had a lot of set backs, with each event adding to the trauma.

But on Friday, something different happened. Using a combination of a nose spray and laughing gas, we put F to sleep and the mickey got changed.

I could talk about how her blood pressure dropped so low that we couldn’t wake her for 2 hours.

I could talk about how her heart rate dropped to 50 bpm and we had to place an IV to get her salt up.

I could describe how exhausted and worn out she looked as she stepped into the car.

But today is not that day.

Today is a day of gratitude. I’m grateful that the mickey button finally got changed after 6 months, 4 months after it was due.

I’m grateful that the doctor was kind, thoughtful and treated her like a person.

I’m grateful that they saw her flip from sweet angel to angry terrified monster when she woke and saw the IV in her arm (so now they have seen for themselves why the gas is necessary).

I’m grateful that J took her to this appointment instead of me. After my appointment on Thursday with a really stupid doctor, I couldn’t face it.

But most of all, I am grateful that F has finally had a mickey change experience that was not traumatic, frightening or painful.

I’m not sure how long we will need to keep using the laughing gas and the spray, but knowing a timeline doesn’t actually help. What I do know is this: finally we have found a way to make a very necessary procedure easier for F. We are not adding to the trauma any more, we are gently and ever so slowly, showing her that it doesn’t need to hurt. She doesn’t need to be afraid. Not of this.

Gratitude always has a place in your life


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The little white lies

On Tuesday I was talking to someone and mentioned I was at the hospital. People always get alarmed so I usually say “it’s just routine stuff”.

Because it’s not an emergency. These are planned visits.

But this was my “routine stuff” visit yesterday:

after months of therapy and hypnosis, take my 8 year old to have a procedure that she is absolutely terrified of.

That’s my routine.

It was difficult a day and here’s what I wrote.

But, you just can’t dump that on people. It’s just not ok to bring them down into this. This is not their life. So I play it down. I tell a white lie.

So what happened at the appointment? We didn’t get the Mickey button changed. Despite all the therapy and preparation, F’s anxiety was just too high.

So we’re going to see if we can do this with laughing gas, to put her under.

The thought of it makes something inside me itch. I don’t want to do things to her when she is “asleep”. That’s also how she feels. She told me she would be cross if we secretly did it, while she was under.

Putting aside my feelings, I was really clear to hear:

it’s not going to be done secretly. We either change the mickey when you are awake or when you are asleep from the gas. If you don’t want to be asleep, then you need to let us do it when you are awake.

But I struggle. I have always wanted her to be able to choose; that her treatment should always be administered with her consent. And not just that she says yes, but I dream that she says yes happily. But she’s frightened out of her mind. She wants to travel forward in time so that she can avoid the procedure entirely. She’s thinking of time travel and this is what she wants to do with it.

So creative.

So scared.

And I need to accept that she isn’t always going to willingly agree. Sometimes, we’re just going to have to do it anyway. We have to make the best choice for her. And she might resent me for it.

Here’s another white lie I tell:

I’m just doing what any parent would do

I tell myself this often. And while this gives credit to all the wonderful parents out there, it’s actually a way for me to minimise what I am actually doing. Parenting a chronically sick child is hard. So hard. It’s not the same as parenting. The stakes are always high. Every day. So actually I’m not just doing what any parent would do. I’m doing what other parents with chronically sick kids do. Parents with chronically sick kids, be proud. You are amazing. And yes, I am including myself.

Here’s a final white lie

that unconditional love comes from our children

That’s what we say right? That our kids will love us unconditionally. But I think that the unconditional love needs to come from us, the parents. It is our job to love them no matter what.

We parents need to love our children enough to do the right things for them, no matter how hard, even if we risk losing them. And when they resent us, stop speaking to us, dislike us, we love them anyway.