Friday, December 13, 2013
Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses - Finding it not "Easy" ... To Be... Me.
I heard this song last night on a movie we were watching... Oddly enough I found that David Grey's songs really hit home with me, when I was brand new in a huge city. I had never lived anywhere but a small town, & huge cities were something I "visited" to go shopping, to doctors and so forth. I got "introduced" to this man's music just after moving there, when my entire world had been completely transformed. I had gotten on a bus and road for almost 3 straight days and nights, to a job that I had never done, in the middle of Seattle that I knew nothing about, would have to "learn" how to go back and forth from Seattle to the islands around such as Bainbridge, drive in a city that had almost "mountains" in places in the main streets & to where every single thing in my whole life was going to be in the "background". I shall be "reborn" in a manner, you could call it. I was doing a job I never had done before, which was being an assistant manager at one of the apartment buildings in the "creative & quirky" part of Seattle known as Capitol Hill. Even the way of speaking was different there. Words we frequently used in Texas were not said much in Seattle. For instance, the "grocery store" as we called it most of the time in Texas, was the "market" in Seattle. Dinner was used, not "supper". I slowly "self-learned" to try and "lose" my "Texas dialect" and try to sounds more like a I was "home grown" in Seattle. Of course you can take the girl out of TX, BUT you can never take the Texas Accent out of the girl! Just about everywhere I went the first question was after I said "Hello" was where are you from? I got asked if I were from "GA, MS, NC & several others that people tend to associate with a "southern accent". Yet, even though Texas is considered southern, they have their own unique accent. In fact we sound like a bunch of hicks from the hills. I couldn't completely take away the inflection from my born and bred accent, but what I could do is sound "less" like a southern dummy, and more educated. By the way, the FIRST thing just about every person, man or woman, said to me after I opened my mouth and they heard me speak was "Oh, that is so charming"! Man I almost hated to hear someone say that after while. I did NOT want to sound "charming". To me that just indicated I still sounded like some South Southern woman, who was about as dumb as a brick, drinking iced tea with a sprig of mint in it, wearing some frilly, flowery dress & ordering her many "staff" around all day long. Thus charming did not set well with me... LOL...
Of course being in Seattle for 5 years did "rub off" on me. I began to use "their" colloquialisms. In fact, I brought some of those back withe me to Texas. I never "wash clothes", I do laundry. I never to go the grocery store, I go to the market, the ending meal of the day is not Supper, it is Dinner. By the way I did learn another tidbit of information on "West" coast speaking from a dear friend in Lancaster CA. One day I was talking about their local sheriff's department staff and I called them the "county boys". She about fell over laughing as she asked me to say that again. Never had she heard the term for the County Sheriff's Officers, called the County Boys. Another one she had not heard, and I noticed it in Seattle also. A "toliet" on this side of the USA is known as a toliet. In Texas it is also a commode. Along with several other "slang" terms. The "pot" is one my Mom says all the time. I think I've rubbed off on her a bit though. I notice now she may say restroom, rather than the pot etc. And when you went to “do laundry” on the western part of the country, in the south you were “washing clothes”. Now the funny thing about that one is due to my Texas accent, it sounds more like “warshing clothes, rather than washing. So of course that just made her laugh more. In fact, I have so many little “sayings” “comparisons”, things my Dad would say, and you hear from on television now or in a place that is quite southern in nature, or Texan, you will hear a few of the sayings my Dad said so often they just rubbed off on me. For instance if you are chronically late for an appointment, Dad would say “He would be late for his own funeral”. Let’s say some one happened to be a bit uneducated, or just say something “off” that may sound a bit stupid, he might say “He couldn’t pour “pee”, with instructions on the heel, or if someone may be a bit frugal with their money, then you might hear, “He is so tight he has to screw his britches on in the morning”. LOL!!!! Believe me, I could write an entire book, on just the sayings I heard all my life, and many of them come straight out of my mouth quite frequently. My husband told me I had so many of these “sayings” that came from my years of growing up with my Dad, and here in Texas, that I should write an entire book on them. I probably do have plenty for a short book honestly. When I sit here and begin to think about them, I can recall hundred’s if I made my mind up to get them all written down.
The point of all of these things that I am talking about is to find out, even though all of us speak “English” and I guess technically, “American English”. Yet, if you traveled through most of the 50 states, you would find there are all types of sayings, dialects, or colloquialisms in just about every state. I also found out that in some states, they really do not have a quirking type of accent, such as someone from the Southern states, and so forth. They barely have an accent at all. Seattle was that way. There really was not any “accent” or particular dialect. That was what made them different, rather than having a great deal of inflection in their speech.
Onto, the beginning of all of this. Being an absolute music lover, of almost all types of music except Opera, I listened to music almost 24/7/365 when I could. I had probably heard a “David Gray” song in TX a time or two, but I never knew who he was. So, some of the people in the Seattle area really loved his music. Thus, I was introduced to his particular style and sound, of lyrics and music & I just loved it. His lyrics “spoke” to me, especially about how I had came through such a horrendous journey, allowing lots of water to flow under my own bridges, as I burned some, mended others, and built some new and stronger ones. Another one of my favorite songs, and it is the chorus that I truly love is
(There’s so much time to make up, everywhere you turn, time we have wasted on the way, so much water moving underneath the bridge, let the waters come and carry you away.) Crosby, Stills, and Nash….
Then I hear these lyrics by David Grey, along with many of his songs, and lyrics. When I heard this one in particular, it summed up for me, all that at that time in space for me, I felt the same as the song says, “It’s not easy to be…. me”.
(Lyrics by David Gray - It’s not Easy To Be Me.
"I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find
The better part of me
I’m more than a bird…I’m more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me
I wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
'bout a home I’ll never see
It may sound absurd…but don’t be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed…but won’t you concede
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me
Up, up and away…away from me
Well it’s all right…You can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy…or anything…
I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees
I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
inside of me ...... inside of me ...(x2)
I’m only a man in a funny red sheet
I’m only a man looking for a dream
I’m only a man in a funny red sheet
It’s not easy ... wu.. hoo.. hoo..
I don’t mean this in a haughty, self-righteous way. I meant it in a way, that everyone expected me to be this “Super Human”, with the answers to it all. It seemed I was expected to be “perfect”, yet I was just a woman, and women have to bleed, and I was truly looking for a dream. Part of that dream coming true was found by me in Seattle.
Every once in a while my Mom and I are talking, and some subject comes up about me and living in Seattle for so long. Honestly, if circumstances wee different, I am almost positive I would still be in Seattle. Where you did not need screens on your windows, no bugs and flies were. For the most part your windows could be open much of the year. Many places had no air conditioning, because you didn’t need it. The seasons there are so mild, Summer is rarely very hot, the Winters are somewhat cold, and you do need heat, much of which was baseboard heating, that I had never seen. Or many of the older apartments in down town still had the old fashioned, boiler type heaters. The ones that are usually sitting in rooms, all iron and they go in loops. A boiler keeps the water hot, and it flows through pipes up to these iron steam type heaters. I had never experienced anywhere that did not require screen on windows or A/C units.
Mom sometimes brings up really silly questions that I’ve answered 20 plus times about my being there for those years. I healed in Seattle. I did NOT WANT to “come home” to Texas. When that bus hit the road from Ennis, and I got to the Dallas bus hub, and hopped on the one that would take me to Washington State, I never looked back. The healing of my heart, emotions, mind, and my body at that time began. I felt alive, and as if the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. As those years began to slowly heal me there, the last thing I wanted to do, is come back to the very place, that caused me so much grief. Sometimes it is difficult for other people, especially those closest to you to understand ideas about loved ones because they are too close to the situation. There is no way to look at something “objectively” if you have your own heart and spirit.
The “waters” that carried me under those bridges, came full circle and brought me back to where I began the journey. Yet, this time I was much different than when I left. I had put my own self back together again. I did it by myself. I didn’t have anyone to “tell” me or express to me what “they” that I should do. I did exactly as I wanted to do. So, when I entered my “home town” after 5 plus years, I was very different. In a good way. I’m not sure my two kids and Mom, may not have seen it, but I knew it. That was what counted. One thing that I didn’t realize was that I had not fully grieved the loss of my Dad, earlier that year. I thought I had. I felt angry, bitter, mad, sad, and so many more emotions that I was not expecting to be here to slap me in right in the face and hit me in the gut so hard.
After once again delivering a small novelette to my readers, I am sure some of you maybe wondering “does this have one thing to do with Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses”?
To answer that question is “YES! Absolutely!” Although I had shown many “symptoms” of Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses, for many years of my life, even when I came back to Texas, 2005, I had not been given a diagnosis of any type of autoimmune illness. I had heart Degenerative Disc and Joint Disease. I had heard that my joints were just “Falling apart”. I had 2 Arthroscopic knee surgeries in 2007, one on my right shoulder, my left wrist repaired, and was in chronically severe pain every day of my life. I was exhausted all the time, my brain seemed not to function, I began to “feel” sick frequently. Then came the “pain pump” surgery to put in internally. There has only been 1 doctor back in Seattle to mention he felt I needed to see a Rheumatologist. He was sitting that appointment up, but we moved from WA state a few weeks before the appointment. So, I am not quite sure what brought the entire symptom/subject around to my PCP and I. I believe it was just a mixture of symptoms, and possibly my own research over these same symptoms, pain, fatigue, my joints being so fragile, my fingers slightly bent, and so forth. So, between his thoughts on it, and my thoughts on what I had read, he ordered about 28 tubes of blood to send off to do the ANA and every other possible test for any type of autoimmune disease. It took them a couple of hours to even get all of that blood out of me. My veins roll, and are thin. So believe me when I say it took several sticks, and several lab techs to get enough blood in those many, many tubes.
A week or more later, I got a call from his nurse saying he had the labs back and he wanted to discuss the results. Of course I knew something mush have shown up, or he would have just had her tell me all of the labs were normal. I “hoped” as horrible is this sounds, they all of those lab tests showed SOMETHING WRONG with me! Sure enough my ANA levels, inflammation blood labs were off, along with several issues the lead to him thinking first of all I had Lupus, along with Osteoarthritis. He immediately sent me to a Rheumatologist who was very intelligent. He was elderly, and probably needed to retire, but he still knew what was important as far as labs, and as he examined me, along with asking all the questions he needed answers on, he felt it “maybe” Lupus/RA, BUT due to the wide variety of symptoms that he seen, he first diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder. I did not know a great deal about this particular chronic illness honestly. I first thought maybe it was another one of those “trash can” diagnosis, used when doctors can’t put an exact finger on a real diagnosis. He had told me on the very first visit, after doing X-rays of my feet/toes and hand/fingers, that I showed quite a bit of damage in my toes, fingers and especially my thumbs. He also told me I had Raynauds. He mentioned that I suffered from “hyper-flexing” of my joints. We call some people “double jointed” when they seem to be so limber, but this meant my joints tended to bend backward rather than just straighten out when I was walking and so forth. In other words rather than my knees “stopping” in their proper position when I took a step, it was like my knee would continue to push out further, thus many of my joints did the same. It was also another symptom, of all of the autoimmune disorders that were to come. I went to him for about nine months. He did a great job with extensive blood work, and examining me with each visit. He also had the greatest bed side manner, plus he had to be pushing 75 or 80 possibly years old. Yet he would remember each and every detail about the patient and if a spouse came, the spouse also. He called Jim by his name every visit. He would ask him questions, and have Jim involved in the entire visit. He also rarely looked at my chart. When he came into that examination room, he had everything in mind. He has to have the the best memory I’ve ever seen. Once all of the blood work, X-rays and so on were complete, and he still decided he was not quite sure about the Lupus/RA yet, he put me on Plaquenil. The only ONE thing that both my husband and I really was disappointed with him was, that he did NOT believe in “aggressive” therapy. In fact he even showed on paperwork to still be doing “gold injections”. Which as far as I know have been not done in many years. He also was truly not versed on the newer medications, such as the biologics, that were really coming out strongly about that time.
So, I began the hunt for a new Rheumatologist. That turned out to be a nightmare! Little did I know many of the “Rheumys” out there, specialize, in one way or the other. I met one that believed ONLY in labs. She was not going to budge on any medications, and she did not care how badly the pain was, stiffness was, and honestly almost took me off of what medications I was already on. At that time I was still on the Plaquenil, plus my regular MD had put me on Methotrexate by then. I went to about 3 visits, and ran. I went to another one that sounded promising. He was more of a “research” and clinical trial for Lupus Rheumy. I ran into one that supposedly was one of the top Rheumatologists in Dallas. It was this huge, fancy, entire group of doctors who had 3 floors in a office building in Dallas. It did not take me but around 20 seconds and I ran. He did not agree with anything any of the other physicians had said. He frankly told me he thought I was just another one of those with “Fibromyalgia”, and that UNLESS my blood work was extremely abnormal, I really was mostly wasting his time and mine. I guess he was a nonbeliever in sero-negative Rheumatoid Arthritis. Besides, he was just another “click” up the ladder to the researchers, clinical trials bunch (don’t get me wrong I am all for clinical trials) but there was just something about him and another one I saw that gave me the creeps. I’ve never looked it up, but I know in some form or fashion, these physicians that do participate in clinical trials must get compensated for it. After I seen and heard what I did, I figure they must get a pretty heavy load of compensation in one way or the other for participating in them.
FINALLY due to a dear friend, who in fact I met on Facebook, led me to the very BEST, venturing to say Rheumatologist in TX for sure. I bet he would rank very high up on the scales in the entire nation! He is an “aggressive” thinker. He also LIKES the fact patients educate themselves, research their symptoms, medications and illnesses. He appreciates those who help him, by helping themselves. In several occasions, I’ve went in to see him with a note about a different medication, or if we can try this, that or the other. And unless he has some really specific reason for NOT using it on me, which it fully explains his reasoning, “we (him and I) have followed some of the things I suggested. As I always say, I am NOT an expert, not a doctor, etc…. but when it comes to MY OWN BODY, I am ranking very high on the expert level of what I feel will help or not help me. Most of us are “experts” when it comes to our own bodies, illnesses, medications, and so on.
Now, to the final “summary” of why all of this long, drawn out detailed story comes about, after me hearing a song that is so “special” to me is, I found my very first deep understanding of myself, and my own life, that 5 years in Seattle. At times is was not a grand picnic. I was lonely some, there was no one there to help me with anything. In fact my car gave me some issues, just before I was leaving on a vacation, and I had to trust my instincts, along with trust people I had been working with, on a mechanic. So, as incredibly much of strength, determination, self-worth, feeling I was capable of taking care of me and all of those good things that so changed in me was only the first leg of that journey.
Alas, what transpired in Seattle to change me, and make me stronger, wiser, and more determined also helped me to be right here, right now, facing each and every hurdle that comes my (our) way.
Coming back “home”, facing the loss of my Dad, and finally facing my own extremely potentially “serious” and could be down right deadly diseases, 8 plus surgeries within 2 years, and all of the other million things here, I WAS able to first of all, be me. I found “me” in Seattle. And “she” came back with “me”. So, “no I can’t stand and fly, and I’m not that naive, I’m just out to find”, “the better part of me” - Even “super people” truly bleed, I’m more than a plane and more than some pretty face aboard a train… yet It’s Not Easy To Be…Me….
p.s. It’s not easy…. for anyone of us dealing with autoimmune illnesses, which rule our very existence so much… to be YOUR own “me”.