Taking care of myself


In light of everything that has happened in the last 5 months, of which I have not yet blogged[1], I am not doing very well. My ulcerative colitis has been flared up since I had a colonoscopy in April.[2] The flare coupled with extreme amounts of stress has left me weakened and sick. I have been unemployed since the end of August and I am really not very much better now than I was then. It feels as though the negativity is peeling back one layer at a time; each layer more difficult than the one before.

I have been seeing my counsellor since the middle of September. One of the things that we touch on all the time is how I have unrealistic expectations for myself that I would not have for others. We have explored where this comes from. A lot of this stems from my abusive childhood where I endured not only sexual and physical abuse but a great deal of emotional abuse as well. Most of the emotional abuse centred on my weight, which I have come to learn, is an immutable part of my genetic makeup just like the colour of my eyes.[3] I was consistently told that I would never be successful because I was fat. In my family the scale measured your worth and I was always found to be wanting.

My family was also extremely volatile and angry. I learned to walk on eggshells at a very young age with my young mind trying to think of things to do for everyone else to keep the calm. Of course, I was never successful but that didn’t stop me from trying. Almost every outburst or argument I would blame on myself thinking that if I had only done this or not done that then the fight might not have happened. I have carried this behavior into adulthood. As I age, I am beginning to learn that I have no control over what other people do or how they react but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still feel I could have done something. I have taken care of people my entire life and it has taken a toll.

My counsellor has pointed out to me that by anyone’s standards I am a success. She has pointed to my educational achievements and job success as examples. But the one job I have never taken on is looking after myself. I look after other people all the time and rarely show vulnerability to those around me.

When I look back over my life, I have never actually taken time to look after myself. I have never really put myself first. I have urged many other people to set boundaries and to look after themselves. While I have played at the edges of true self-care, I have never really taken the plunge. At my counsellor’s urging, I am taking the plunge. My job for right now is to look after myself. It means sleeping as much as my body needs to, removing unrealistic expectations and really allowing myself time to heal physically and emotionally. What a radical concept. Please wish me well as this will not be easy.

[1] Short form: bullying and loss of employment.

[2] It’s somewhat common for an invasive colonoscopy to set off a flare.

[3] Or so says the 3rd level, research endocrinologist at VGH.

Never again!

Well it seems I doom myself if I make bold statements on my blog about how I am doing health-wise. After my positive statements yesterday, I went on to have a huge anxiety attack and I slept until 2 pm today. Plus, just to add insult to injury, I have been running to the bathroom all day today.

Since I developed a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)[1] a couple of years ago, I had already had a taste of not having control over my body. Six years of the ravages of ulcerative colitis the anxiety disorder arrived. Once might wonder what it is specifically about ulcerative colitis that would cause one’s anxiety to run out of control.

The obvious first thing is the unknowing of when you will be hit with the need for a bathroom. In the early days this would come on all of a sudden. I would be literally sweating and crying as I drove to try to get to a bathroom. At its worst, ulcerative colitis had me going to the bathroom upward of 20 times per day with great urgency. The place I worked at the time was laid out in a circle. The place I sat was all the way at the back. When the urge struck I did not have much time to make it there. It was incredibly stressful. My hour-long commute was something I constantly dreaded, as I never knew if I would make it to the office. I had to stop eating breakfast because any food in my system would stimulate my colon. Even though I would be going to the bathroom many times a day I was completely constipated.[2] Instead of passing stool, I was passing large amounts of blood and mucous. Every day, I grew weaker as I lost more and more blood. This constant blood loss landed me in the hospital in January 2008.

After being hospitalized, I then had the anxiety of not ever wanting to be that sick again. Once the bleeding was under control, I would move between constipation and diarrhea. Mostly constipation though was the order of the day. I also began to develop severe pain. The debilitating, chronic pain put me very much on edge and contributed to the anxiety. My doctor then put me on an anti-depressant to help with the anxiety. Once the pain was being treated with morphine on a daily basis things did get a little better on the anxiety front – enough so that I could go off the anti-depressant. Sadly that did not last long and I have been on another one for over a year. My doctor keeps hoping my pain levels will go down, as do I. However, I have yet to see that happen. There are days I require less morphine and I take less. It is a funny thing; I never think to take it unless I am an agony. Even then sometimes I will try to wait it out. It is probably not a good thing for my GAD.

The heat of summer also makes things worse. I am not sure why but it seems to be a feature for most people who have an autoimmune disease. When it is hot outside and I am overheated I really suffer. This year seems to have been particularly bad. I was hot even in the winter. I also lose one of my very effective pain relieving treatments – my heating pad. Since I started using a heating pad a couple of years ago, I have noticed that I have far less pain in my back. I sleep with a heating pad at night on my both my stomach and back and it does help to relieve a lot of pain. With the really good air conditioner we now have, I can sleep with the heating pad all night.

Fatigue is also a huge contributor to my anxiety levels. If I have to get up early and be somewhere at a normal morning time[3] I have a really hard time. Even if I get 9 hours sleep I still suffer. Last month I had to attend an all day training session in Vancouver that started at 9am. I was completely exhausted. I had to drink tea all day to stay awake. It took me about a week to recover. The stress of having to be places when I am extremely fatigued causes me a great deal of anxiety.

A byproduct of being an anxious person is loud noises and beeping. I have a visceral reaction to loud noises. I find them extremely jarring. Beeping is the same thing. I fit goes on for any length of time it really stresses me out. It seems to that the list of noises that bother me is getting very long. Yesterday, the movement of dishes in the dishwasher was too much.

I try really hard to identify the cause of my anxiety and deal with it. If I am not, I sit by the air conditioner; if I am in pain, I take something; if there are loud noises, I move away. Sometimes these methods don’t work so then I add in deep breathing and trying to focus my mind on something else. Last night all of my tricks did not work. I could not breathe and was bordering on tears. I took a clonazepam. I really don’t like to take them and my doctor won’t give me that many so I save them for the really bad days. Interestingly, it seems to take me 2 days to get over an anxiety attack. Today with all the pain I had to medicate again.

Not having control over some of the functions of my body is very disconcerting. It really doesn’t matter if it is the ulcerative colitis or the GAD. Having your body do or not do things that you need it to do causes all sorts of problems. The stress of not knowing when I might have a ulcerative colitis attack or an anxiety attack makes things very difficult and stressful. All of this becomes a feedback loop and the more stressed I am the more I have problems with the ulcerative colitis and the GAD.


[1] I am just reading the definition in Wikipedia and it says things like numbness in the hands, sweating and hot flashes. I seem to have even more symptoms.

[2] This is a factor of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This is different from Inflammatory Bowel Disease of which ulcerative colitis and Crhon’s Disease are the primary manifestations.

[3] Like 9 am.

Completely Opposite Day

As horrible and dark yesterday was today has turned out to be the complete opposite. Something that had been done to me and had reminded me of all the hurt and insult I went through was righted today by a group of kind people. It has certainly made me feel better about my place in the universe. I have also decided to challenge something else that has been nagging at me for months now. It is fixed now and I hope it will change my overall outlook.

I am beginning to ponder some other changes. There is nothing much I want to say about it right now but it has to do with enhancing our quality of life. Right now between my ulcerative colitis and Deb’s MS plus working full-time, our quality of life is pretty much in the toilet. If either of us gets a virus (like the one I have had for over 10 days) we are even sicker and it takes much longer to recover. I am not quite sure what is going to change at this point. What I have come to realize is that I do not see how things can continue without some way of improving my health.

I often complain about my daily calls to my mother. Tonight was different. She gave me very good news that will ease pressures on us. I think she hopes we could be of more help to her as she is now facing having to use oxygen. She was able to breathe much better when she was on the cruise and when she was here. Anyways, it was very, very good news that has really made my day.


I can’t seem to get enough to sleep this weekend. It is not that I am getting up all that early either. I suspect it is just the mere fact that I have to get up that is the problem. I am hopeful that I will be able to sleep in on Tuesday morning.

Right now we are watching “Dirty Dancing.” We have also watched “As good as it gets” and “Catch me if you can.” Tonight we are going to the Copper Room in Harrison Hot Springs for dinner. It is a bit of a drive, about 1.5 hours each way. Hopefully it will be a good dinner.

Bad Day

Today was a really bad colitis day. I will spare you all the details because it really does creep into TMI land. Suffice it to say there was lots of pain and very little relief even with narcotics. I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better. On the upside my thrush is just about gone. Oh, and I was woken up again by the asshole neighbours. Sometime this week I will blog about the scrumptious stuffed pork tenderloin we made today. There will even by pictures.

Move along…

Nothing interesting here tonight. We are doing visioning work this week so I was at the office until 9 pm and I have to be back for 10 am tomorrow. I did shoot some awesome video of Zoe and Sawyer play it. I will post it this weekend. See you all later!

Insanely Busy

This week has been insanely busy at work. I have been going flat out, non-stop and staying late. I am tired. I will be back tomorrow hopefully with some real content.