Operation Relocation?

**Disclaimer: I made a gastroparesis blunder today and overestimated the capacity of my system. Therefore, due to extreme nausea, this blog is being written under the influence of medicinal marijuana. I doubt I’ll edit it before posting. Hopefully my point is made.**

One of the harder parts about being chronically ill, is the financial strain. Even with good insurance, the medical bills pile up. Maybe your main plan has a low catastrophic cap, but what about vision and dental? In my case there is also the reality that I’m the only one that is capable of bringing money into the home. Yes, I get alimony, but along with the finalization of my divorce, comes the reality that I’ll have to pay to keep insurance, and that excludes vision and dental.

Inhale.

The reality of my current state is this…working isn’t possible. Lately walking the dog around the block has been a victory. That victory is short lived because walking the dog wasn’t the only task for the day, and now I’m exhausted. I’ve been waiting on disability, but could still have to wait over a year for my court date. What is a person supposed to do when they’re disabled, but can’t get disability?

I have a credit card that was maxed out between my knee surgery, and chemo. I’ve reached the very end of the road when it comes to pretending you’ve got everything under control.

People can tell I’m faking.

Relocation has become a hot topic, because where I currently live (San Diego) has a high cost of living. I, personally, don’t feel like I have a ton of other options. I have a large service dog, a small retired service dog, and no income aside from alimony. There is nothing in San Diego I can afford, and not many roommates are willing to tolerate the dogs. Family has implored me to move back east, but for a variety of reasons, including all that snow, I’m not sure that would be a responsible choice.

Recently I was offered the chance to live in my aunt’s condo, rent free, in Florida, from May through November. My first thought surrounded the word “free,” but the following thoughts were full of pros and cons. I have made a list, on my whiteboard, and they are exactly even as of right now. Medically there is the fact I’d have to find all new doctors, comfortable with Behcet’s, and then find new ones again because I’d only be there for six months…

Okay, enough about me.

I’m not the only person who faces financial stress because they’re chronically ill. How many homeless people have you met with severe mental or physical disabilities? They didn’t just decide to live outside one day. Society needs to do a better job of helping those who cannot reliably work. I could get a job tomorrow, but I would lose it by next week. I don’t know what days I can eat and what days I can’t. I don’t know when I’ll have severe pain, or nausea, and be unable to make it into work. This is something most of us “sick” folks deal with.

My friend was lucky, she worked for a grocery chain that let her work when she was well, and accepted her absences when she was gone. She didn’t make much, but it made her feel good to be working. When you’re not working, it can become depressing, You want to be contributing. So why don’t we have something for the chronically ill that allows them to work when they’re able, and receive disability benefits regardless?

The assumption is that tons of people abuse the system, and file for disability or other benefits because they’re lazy. Maybe some do…but the process of being approved for disability is beyond broken. I have friends who have been in the system for 3-4 years, while they have bones literally fusing their spines and ribcages. This friend would still work on good days, because she likes feeling fulfilled. That doesn’t mean she isn’t disabled.

Think about it like this: you have a system designed to provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work do to a disability. The reality is that some of those people would work when they felt physically able, but the amount of work they would be able to do would never be enough to provide for them financially. So, instead of working, they wait for their disability benefits. The limited funds must be carefully regulated, so they wait a long time. What if the government realized that those of us who cannot work enough to financially provide for ourselves or our families, could still work in some capacity? Couldn’t we have the chance to work within the disability system itself?

I am great at office work. I am amazing when it comes to organization and filing. You need a friendly face to greet guest at reception? That person would be me. It just may only be me for 2-4 hours at a time. It also may only be me a day or so per week, with gaps in between. I want to contribute, I want to be part of something bigger and better than sitting at home, or at the doctors office. I think most of us who are chronically ill, want to still have a purpose that we pursue.

Some have been lucky to have family and friends to stay with during their financially challenging times, and I’m not saying this as a slight to my friends or family, it’s just something worth noting. There are people who, for whatever reason, rely on themselves during the challenging times, and it’s definitely an anxious thing.

Social programs need to step it up, because they could be so much more, and they could help so many more people. In the meantime I’ll just be figuring out whether it’s time to relocate. It isn’t an easy decision, sick or not, and it’s something that is really weighing on my mind.

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Operation Relocation?

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

My friend Molly lives in Mexico. She works in the U.S., but she lives in Mexico, and she loves it. Lately I’ve been struggling financially. That’s a lie, I’m drowning financially. As I try and come up with ways to stem the financial hemorrhage, while my symptoms increase, my mind starts to scramble, I start to tell myself I should just run. It isn’t rational, and I know it…but I can’t help but embrace the flight after so spending so much time embracing the fight.

This is why you don’t make a decision while you’re panicking.

In the past month, I’ve thought about moving to Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Washington DC, Washington State, Los Angeles, and Texas. This isn’t an over exaggeration. If anything, I’m forgetting a state or two. The only real reason I haven’t moved forward is that I love it where I am, and the thought of having to move myself, and two dogs, wherever, is daunting. I’d also have to rent my room out.

It isn’t undoable, it’s just not something I should (or would) rush into. I have thoughts, though. I think about stopping my medications, seeing what happens. It isn’t because I want to get sicker, but because some part of me hopes that I would get better. There is no logic behind it, in fact, I know logically that it would be a terrible plan. Even on my current medications, I struggle to get by. I required IV fluids on Monday, and I’m sure gastroenterology tomorrow will decide I should be getting IV fluids more often. (At least I hope they come to that conclusion. Waiting until I’m sick enough to warrant an urgent care or ER visit, is just not good for my body.)

I want to go camping. I want to have a normal life. I want to ice skate on the beach. I want to fish off a pier.

It isn’t just about what I want though, it’s about what I need.

As I move forward with scheduling an appointment with the new mental health provider at literally the only clinic within 30 miles that takes my insurance, I have to face the reality that they’ll force me back into counseling. Don’t get me wrong, counseling is a wonderful tool, and it has definitely helped me in the past…but the type of counseling I would receive, isn’t the type of counseling that would help me in this instance. We could go through my history, and evaluate why I feel how I feel about myself, the causes for my low self esteem…but that won’t change the limitations that I have now.

I’ve found a lot of counselors don’t know how to approach someone who is chronically ill, which is a part of a the reason why I blog, and started an Instagram. It’s also why I plan on starting up a YouTube channel once I’m able to acquire the space and privacy. Us sick folks talk to one another, but we aren’t really honest about the emotional toll our illnesses take on us. We may joke about not having personal lives, being in long-term relationships with our heating pads, or cheating on Naproxen with Acetaminophen…but the thread in all of that is that we joke about it.

When you’re chronically ill, you’re more likely to make light of your difficulties, than to be honest about them. You’ve been judged for complaining, so now when you need to vent, you do it in a comical way. Friends laugh with you, even chronically ill friends…but who do you have that is willing to listen to you when you’re genuinely struggling?

I think the answer to that question is probably scary. I had a friend who would always listen to me, and I would always listen to her…until one day she told me my disease was consuming me. This was about a month ago, and I shut down. I threw myself into only being positive about my disease and the conditions that sprung off of it. And while I know that there is a lot of positive things that I can focus on as a result of having Behcet’s, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I grieve the loss of a lot of things, especially this time of year.

When I was younger I made plans. I was the insane planner. Even when I began to get ill, I still had plans. I didn’t think about my disease worsening. I couldn’t have imagined the path my life would take. While the divorce should have been foreseeable (it was to those around me), my Behcet’s becoming the severe was never even on my radar. My ex told me nobody would ever love a sick girl like me, but I had told myself he was only saying it to hurt me. He knew that I was insecure about my health, I still am, and he couldn’t have known at that point in time that my health would rapidly decline…still…the words haunt me.

I had plans to have kids around the age of 30. I’m 31, single, and am on several drugs that you absolutely cannot take during pregnancy. It also isn’t known whether or not the Cytoxan impacted my fertility or not. My run in with cervical cancer also cost me a chunk of my cervix, right in the center. While I was lucky not to need further treatment, just a few more biopsies and regular tests each year, I was warned that I would potentially need a cerclage during pregnancy to prevent preterm labor. Two different doctors also told me, point blank, that I would be high risk from the second I conceived. The second told me that even without the drugs I’m taking that cause issues during pregnancy, I would still need to carefully plan any pregnancies. It isn’t a case of deciding when I’m ready to start a family, it’s about actually seeing doctors months in advance for blood work, supplements, and other tests.

It isn’t just the idea of starting a family. I know that I theoretically have time for that, and there is adoption and surrogacy if carrying a child myself isn’t possible. The other issue is that it’s the holidays. While most people love this time of year, I find it utterly depressing. For years I was in an unhappy marriage, and the holidays meant making sure to put on the correct face and attitude. I had to be convincing. I had to go to my ex’s coworkers’ parties, and while there were some good times in my marriage that I could lean on for support, there were many many reasons why I was anxious in these situations. Would I say something wrong? Was he looking at me in a way that meant something I should be able to pick up on?

I had thought being free of that would mean that I could relax, but because of my health, I haven’t really been able to enjoy the holidays. While I’ll never truly know what he, or anyone else for that matter, is actually thinking during the holidays, I know that I look around and feel so utterly alone. Thanksgiving? I can’t eat. Christmas? I desperately want to ice skate this year…but I know that doing so would require adaptive equipment and I don’t want to be the girl with a walker on the ice skating rink. Perhaps I’ll go see a movie on Christmas day, to try and distract myself from just how alone I feel…but there is so much of me that resents my body during these periods of time.

Plus time! Holidays remind me that time is passing,g and I can remember last year choosing to do all of my chemo treatments near holidays so that this year the holidays would have to be better. Instead I’m being reminded that I sacrificed those holidays and now I’m stuck fighting for a treatment that manages my symptoms better. I don’t regret doing chemotherapy, it was the right choice, I’m just desperate for something that can make me enjoy my days in general.

The holidays are just anxiety provoking for me. I want so much, but am so limited. Even the idea of getting my wheelchair has been bogged down by the reality that the process takes some time…and my insurance coverage is going to be gone soon. The up and down and go-go-go of the seasons, probably give most people with chronic illnesses a bit of anxiety!

I told myself for Halloween I’d carve a pumpkin, but I didn’t. I told myself for Thanksgiving I would find gluten free stuffing, and spend time with my friend in Los Angeles, but I couldn’t. There are things I want to do for Christmas, but I’m afraid to even say what they are, because I don’t know how to make them happen. Perhaps I will go ice skate on the beach, even if it means using adaptive equipment, but I would have to do it alone. Nobody I know could afford to go, hell I can’t afford to go, but I really want to do it. (It’s on my bucket list.) The people I do know who could afford to go, probably wouldn’t want to see me with one of those stands children use to keep themselves from falling.

To be honest I really wish I could just spend a weekend in a cabin, and see the dogs play in the snow.

Well, I guess I put it into words. Perhaps the idea is to have ideas, but no expectations. I wanted to be somewhere else at this stage in my life, and I may just have to accept that my path has shifted. It doesn’t mean I won’t have the things I wanted, I just have to find a new way of getting there…

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

Grieve and then Grow

I woke up today several times. It was one of those mornings when nausea wakes me up, so I handle it with medical marijuana because it’s the fastest working thing that won’t increase my seizure risk…then go back to sleep until it returns. My rheumatologist messaged me back and basically had said that I needed to see my primary care doctor, or go to urgent care/the ER. My primary care doctor didn’t have openings, and urgent care is closer.

At this point I know what I need…fluids and nauseas drugs. I also know the reality is I need something to make this flare go away. Nothing is going to make this flare go away, at least not anything that can be reasonably sustained over a period of time. The ER this time of year is a just a pile of germs, especially after a holiday weekend, and unfortunately urgent care wasn’t much better.

The first doctor was sort of baffled by my symptoms, and wanted me to go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital. She recognized what I already knew…anything they did today, was just going to be a stop gap measure. I needed treatment of the underlying cause, not just the symptoms. Preaching to the choir doctor…but I’m not going to hang out in the hospital while confused staff rheumatologists go through my charts and realize we’ve tried all of the conventional stuff. She also said the marijuana could be causing my constipation. The day I used the most was the day I finally went to the bathroom, probably because I was able to drink enough water that day…

So she gets a bit flustered and says she can’t make me go to the hospital, and I ask if I can get fluids and nausea meds there (in urgent care) and she says yes.

Let the process of trying to draw my blood and place an IV commence…

Look, I have bad veins by all standards, but toss in the vasculitis and even the best nurse is going to struggle. They manage to get the IV in, but drawing blood requires two nurses, because one has to keep the needle in place while the other swaps tubes. I also bleed super slow, so that was making it extra fun. After this point a new doctor comes in, because of shift change, and he’s a laid back guy. He agrees I’m flaring, contemplates trying a different steroid, but after talking about my prior issues with steroids (needing super high doses for any sort of efficacy) he agrees that my original plan makes the most sense. Get the fluids, check the labs, and switch over to a high fluid diet in lieu of solids. It’s better to eat ice pops and Jell-o, than to end up in the ER because I’ve had solids but no fluids.

When you’ve been sick for so long, you learn to sort of gauge what the right response is to whatever symptoms arise. It’s only when something new pops up, that you’re truly thrown off. My doctors, especially ER doctors who haven’t seen me before, are going to struggle a bit to process what the best course of action is. I get it. If I were any other patient, you’d keep me until I had symptom control. I won’t get symptom control that can be extended after my exit from the hospital. It isn’t a pessimistic view, it’s reality. At this point in time, there isn’t anything they can do for me during an admission, that is going to extend beyond 1-2 w weeks post admission.

That is the depressing part. I want a normal life, LA with my friends for the holidays, ice skating, and running around the beach. I want to join a sports league in my city, so I can meet new people, and bowl!

Could I bowl? Absolutely. Could I plan in advance what days I would be physically able to bowl? No. That is the part that sucks. I am normal, but I can’t be normal. I want to work, I want to buy things on Cyber Monday, and I want to make holiday plans. There are so many things my friends and family members are doing, that I just can’t, at least not consistently.

This has been the struggle with disability. There are some days when I am able, but other days when I need medical intervention just to obtain adequate hydration. I don’t get to choose which days are which. I can choose when I get some of my medical procedures, but again, that doesn’t guarantee what days I’ll feel what way.

It isn’t all, “I hate my life!”

One thing I’ve been wanting to do lately, is bring people together who struggle with chronic illnesses. I am optimistic, and I do cope, but I definitely have days when I just can’t, and that is okay! Kick, scream, cry, do whatever it is you need to do. Embrace the anger and the sadness. Why? You need to make peace with the negative parts of your illness. I always thought it was black and white. That if I was pessimistic, at all, I would be giving power to the disease. The truth is that we can’t be honestly positive, until we have embraced the things we’ve lost to our diseases.

How can I appreciate the interest I’ve found in investigative forensics, unless I own the fact that I’ve lost my ability to really be in a laboratory environment on a consistent basis? How can I appreciate the absolute amazingness of my friends who have stood by me, or have come into my life during this difficult journey, until I grieve for the friends and family that I’ve lost because they couldn’t handle my illness?

Turn the losses into gains, by acknowledging just how beautiful your new circumstances are…because they’ve grown from the loss of something else.

Grieve. I grieve the loss right now, of my ability to do the things I would normally do this time of year. I grieve the opportunity to join a sports club. I grieve for my financial losses. I grieve because it’s natural, and because I know that I will be able to connect these losses together once something beautiful has grown up from their roots.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that positivity allows you to make sense of the things that have happened in your life.

Grieve and then Grow

Revisiting Original Content – My Ex, My Friend, and of course Dating

Okay, so it’s time for a bit of a flashback Friday. Without digging back into original posts, I’ve come to realize that there has been a bit of discussion regarding my personal life, and how my personal life has contributed to my struggle with Behcet’s. After some thought I’ve decided not to delete those posts, but instead, address my situations (past and present) in a new posts.

I got married to my high school sweetheart literally 10 days after I turned 20. At the time I didn’t see red flags, nor did I think anything other than we were young, and we’d need to grow together. That isn’t quite how things turned out. Within a few days of our wedding, he was deployed with the Navy. Within a month, I was sexually assaulted over a period of about a week by a mutual friend of ours. That horror was pursued by an investigation that was marred by, frankly, a ton of disinterest. Civilian officers had other more provable cases to deal with, and military police just wanted my assailant out of the Navy. He was discharged on “unrelated” charges, but it was sort of common knowledge that they didn’t want to deal with the rape charges.

After all of this there was a disconnect between my husband and I. My PTSD from the assault formed the framework for some insidious abuse. Mentally and emotionally I was stripped down, called worthless, and even a whore, despite the fact that the assault was not my fault. Looking back, there were signs before my PTSD, that he simply didn’t think like most people I’d known. He had an entitled air about himself, like the rules and laws shouldn’t apply to him. There was grabbing, shaking, and pushing. He also liked to speed, and then slam on the brakes to scare me. Once I ended up in a shoulder sling because he slammed the breaks while I was turned begging him to stop the car.

This blog post is in no way a post to bash my ex. He has moved on with his life, and I don’t wish him harm or anything negative. The only time I think about him is when I have to stress out over our ongoing divorce (two years and counting), and when I think about his fiancé and their son. I want her and that baby, to be treated wonderfully, and I never want her to feel isolated or alone. Everyone needs someone who can help them if they need out of a bad situation, no matter how amazing your significant other may seem.

That disclaimer out of the way, there was another man I spoke about who was always referred to as my friend or “friend”. Things with that are pretty much the same. I’ve let him set the foundation for whatever it is we are, and we go with what we are collectively comfortable with. While there is a part of me that desires that stereotypical romance with hand holding, and PDA, there is the part of me that recognizes the important part of any relationship, is the care and support you provide one another. We’re best friends, and while I’d be upset if we were only friends with nothing else romantically linked to our friendship, I would be fine so long as he was happy and found someone to make him happy. I know he feels the same for me.

People tell me  constantly that I need to go on dates. They want me to see other men because they feel that two years with one man, without much traction towards official milestones is ridiculous. There are moments when I have to agree. I want to live with someone for practical reasons. I like to cook, and wipe down dust, and I also like to have someone to go to bed with, and split bills with. What I don’t want is to ask. How awkward would it be to tell someone that we function well together and should give cohabitation a shot? I could easily rent my room out, which would reduce rent at my old place, but ensure I had a place to go back to if things at the friend’s place didn’t work out. Alternatively I would my belongings into storage regardless. I would never move in with a man, and not keep my stuff in storage if there wasn’t a place for it in the home/apartment we were renting.

I need a safety net. My dating life was difficult, but that’s an understatement. Falling in love for me is a neurological state of being. Our brains release chemicals, and those chemicals cause euphoria, relaxation, happiness, and in high enough doses, we interpret it as love. Love is real…but it can be explained by science. I want to feel it, and to know that someone feels it coming from me, too. Even overwhelmed by those chemicals, I know I would still put my stuff in storage for when the chemicals wore off. Anyone can love anyone in that chemical soaked place, it’s when you’re pipes have burst, and it’s 3am, and the carpets are being destroyed, that the love you share is tested.

Even if I wanted to date…how could I? I think I’d mentioned in prior blogs how miserably my dates had been before I met my friend. Do you want to be stared at funny, and have men walk out during the appetizer round? Show up and order no food, but a Sprite. Decline the wine. Just sit there, uncomfortably, sipping on soda and making small talk. I’ve had a lot of men unexpectedly get calls that they had to go to the hospital, back home to do work emails, etc. Eventually I just tried to get them to meet me on dates that didn’t involve food or alcohol. Wasn’t easy.

Yes, my divorce still stresses me out, but I let my lawyer juggle the more stressful parts. It would be easier if I didn’t need to pay to keep insurance, but I do. As we move towards procedures that can caused upwards of $10,000 per infusion, it’s important that I keep coverage. Often times my struggle is perceived as refusal to accept the divorce. All I want is to be divorced. If I could work, I’d have signed already, but I need the support while I’m getting back on my feet.

A friend I had but may have lost, mentioned that lately I seemed to be consumed by my illness, and my special friend. Well, my illness has been flaring a lot, despite doing all that chemotherapy, and my special friend has been supportive but must be getting sick of always being the one that has to be there for me. I wanted this other friend to support me as I navigated alternative options for treatment. Instead I received harsh criticism. I’m too focused on my illness and the guy I’m seeing, I’ve lost myself.

No…I’ve found myself.

I am sick. We can sugar coated it with “spoonie” terms and phrases, but I am sick. I’ve begun compensating for deterioration in my nervous system, but people around me have noticed. Missing buttons on the elevator, falling and being unable to catch myself in time, horrible forgetfulness. Add in the sleeping for 10-12 hours at a time (at least) and you’ve got yourself one flaring chick.

It’s okay that I’m sick!

 I don’t have to be one thing. I can be sick, separated from her spouse, in an unconventional relationship based on attraction and mutual respect despite not using labels, sick, and still be me. Just because I talk about the things that I’m struggling through, doesn’t mean I’m not a student working hard on there M.S. in forensic studies. A lot of forensic jobs happened to be part-time, so maybe I can push to try and get my treatments so I have energy to look into the job market.

If someone where to ask me if I were single. I’d say technically yes. They’d as why, and I’d say I have a friend with benefits, but that it’s sort of a complicated version of that fad. He’s my best friend, and the rest is just bonus add ons. If someone were to ask me out, I’d politely say that I’m not in a place where dating is a good idea. My health needs to be more stable so that I don’t back out of too many events.

My prior relationship was a huge source of stress. Having that weight lifted through this divorce, has been amazing. My body is still recovering from chemo, and new meds, but the less stress I experience, the better. Hopefully the divorce with finalize soon, for both of our sakes!

I’m exhausted, so this post may be a little all over the place. I meant no disrespect to my ex, his wife, and his child. I honestly just want the best for the family they’ve created. I chose not to have children with my ex. We were like oil and water, we didn’t mix, in fact, we were more like thin paper and a burning match. We would come together and ignite, eventually destroying whichever one of us drew the short straw, and wound up as the paper doll.

So to recap:

  • Ex is still in play because the divorce isn’t over
  • Friend is “friend” is best friend, and regardless of where life takes me, he’ll always be special to me
  • Dating around isn’t doable because my stomach and neurological issues make most dates impossible to plan
  • I don’t hate my ex. I may hate some of the actions and words that he’s engaged in, but I don’t hate him as a human being. He’s moved on with his life, and I just wish the best for his fiancé and child

 

Someone needs to invent a Tinder for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses…but we’d have to weed out the folks that have a fetish for that sort of thing.

Revisiting Original Content – My Ex, My Friend, and of course Dating