I find this time of the year to be extremely stressful. As my regular readers know I find summer unbearable. The heat adds an extra level of distress to my otherwise complicated and difficult life. The heat makes everyday activities that much more difficult. Even though we have air conditioning in the house and at work the heat is still an issue. Errands and other activities don’t stop just because it is hot.
Living with a chronic disease accompanied by chronic, unrelenting pain is very difficult at the best of times. Ulcerative colitis makes life unpredictable at the best of times. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say I need to be in close proximity to a bathroom at all times. Then there is the embarrassment of the entire situation, running to the bathroom plus the amount of time I spend there. I remember one time, it was my birthday and it was a really bad day. I was in the bathroom for about ½ an hour as I was really, really sick that day. When I came out there were about 20 people waiting with a cake and waiting to sing happy birthday to me. I was completely humiliated.
Then there is the unrelenting, unremitting pain. It is there all the time, in different degrees but there nonetheless. I take long-acting morphine everyday. I also have short-acting morphine for when the pain breaks through. I have emtec (basically tylenol 3 minus the caffeine) too which helps some of the time. All of the pain and uncertainty contributes to anxiety to the point where I have developed a generalized anxiety disorder.
Of course I also have the normal stresses of life. I have a very busy and demanding job. I love my job and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. I commute a minimum of one and a half hours per day in a construction zone. I have many of the common stresses that go with an aging and sick parent and a crazy-ass sister. They both rely heavily on me but then get mad if I don’t say or do what they want.
With all of this going on I need to have lots of strategies to cope. I am seeing a counselor to try to find more productive ways to deal with my anxiety. My doctor believes (as do I) that the main key to reducing my stress and anxiety level is to make sure that I have enough pain medication. However, there comes a point where I can’t take enough medication to make the pain go away some days. I have to function, I have to drive and I have to make decisions. Obviously if I am home I can take more medication. On the days I cannot I need to use other strategy like breathing and using heating pads. I pretty much live on a heating pad.
Music always helps me to cope as well. I need to listen to music in my car more often. I see my massage therapist every other week which, really helps. We have been working together for a long time and she knows me and all my knots. There was a point where she kept me at work by freeing my tendons from my knotted shoulders. Sometimes I augment that with a trip to the spa to see Quang who works magic too!
Finally, going away for a little get away is important to my mental health. By about this time of year I get pretty desperate to escape the heat and get room service. We went away last year in August as well. We have booked it for next weekend. I can’t wait and I know Deb can’t either.