~secret code stuff~

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Currently (2020) my most updated blog is pinkfeldspar.

Spaz is a useful side blog for sorting other stuff out.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Darker Side of the Force- Sith Lords and Carpal Tunnel

I think the reason the Force was invented was because of carpal tunnel. Everyone keeps dropping their weapons at inopportune times, just easier to will stuff to fly off a wall than hang on to your lightsaber. The worse your carpal tunnel, the more powerful you become in the Force.

My challenge is eggs. Well, anything smooth and curved that I can't hook a finger on or scoop from underneath well or catch on an angle. But eggs got so bad I stopped eating them. I know what you're thinking, all I have to do is just turn my arm over and cradle the egg till I get to where I'm going with it. BUT, first you have to grip it in order to get it to turn with your hand as your arm turns over... I have dropped so many eggs. It got so bad that I learned not to stoop and clean it up because I'd drop the next one, as well, may as well clean up two at the same time. Or three, you get the picture. Got the bright idea to grab the carton to carry over, dropped the carton, most of the eggs smashed. Use the two-hand-gentle-hug-to-the-chest method and then drop it at the destination. Some days it looks a little spectacular, like I'm tossing them around on purpose. Solution? Don't eat eggs.

Click for more fun stuff
Yesterday I learned all about a cool torture called needle EMG testing for if I ever snap and lash out on the world, except I got to learn it the hard way with the needles stuck into me. If you'd like to learn how to torture, as well, here's an intro. Some people make really good money doing this. After a bit of questioning, it became clear to the neurologist that my labor-intensive childhood probably ruined (my word) my hands, because I've spent my entire adult life dropping/throwing things. Years of milking goats by hand (yes, I'm serious), helping move hay bails, holding heavy animals still (imagine your children tangling with animals 4X their size or weight), and hand cranking meat grinders (I beat you all at 'organic living'), plucking mountains of chickens and pitting gallons of cherries, shucking rows and rows of corn and peas- my hands ache just remembering this stuff.

Click for cool behind the scenes info

I watch the Food Network for chuckles. I like seeing professionals sweat and freak out in Kitchen Stadium and noobs fall to pieces in competition shows.

Free plug, check it out
Fave SW comic routine ever. (language caution)

Actually went in for my left elbow, which turned out to be, laughably, nothing compared to what I didn't know about my right hand. Never mind that I've been living with every single symptom of carpal tunnel for years now, to the point of not being able to sign checks or tie shoes during part of my 40s. I'm being extremely serious, I literally could not turn door knobs or keys or can openers or even make a pony tail. Never once dawned on me that was carpal tunnel because I've had so much other nerve stuff going on all over my body anyway that I thought it was all part of the same thing. Apparently not. I thought I've been using my hands much better nowadays, can do all kinds of stuff now, so I was very surprised how quickly I crumbled when we started on my right hand. By crumble I mean uncontrollable weeping. (@bonenado would have fainted.) I barely had the power to point my index finger while that needle was poking in my muscle, pushing back was nearly impossible, like all my strength went super fail. I may have broken and confessed a few of my lesser crimes, but I never once slugged the neurologist, as badly as I wanted to. I asked him if anyone had ever hit him, which probably wound up in his notes...

Click for instructional video
(If you clicked and watched that video and want to see more, here you go.)

Solution for left elbow- stop picking Bunny up, because I keep super fibro flaring around the joint.

Solution for hand(s), YES, HANDSSSS, more surgeries any time I decide I'm ready for them. You know what this means? I'm up to four surgeries now any time I want them. My jaw dropped, b@*#k that. In the meantime, I have been commanded to REST MY HANDS. This means I'll be practicing surprise levitation on random people using only the power of my mind.

I hope to one day recruit an assistant to handle the lesser duties of my Dark Side while I continue to hone my Force choking skillz. In the meantime, every day I'm keyboarding.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

on a scale of ten

Full Metal Pinky
I'm one of those people who doesn't easily identify with a user friendly pain scale. It was invented as a communication tool for patients undergoing medical assessment, and it's actually quite sophisticated in its rules of use.

click to see pic bigger
My challenge communicating my pain level comes in part from enduring so much pain for so many years that even I will assess myself in the 0-5 range on a good day if I'm not doing anything that aggravates it into a more immediate problem. Attempting to communicate that to every doctor I see with a hope that anyone else can help me learn to communicate my own pain better to someone who isn't in my body quickly becomes a dismal jaunt into futility, and aspie me often wants to shut down and not even discuss pain level so we can just move things along. My biggest challenge is communicating relative pain to someone who hasn't lived with continual nerve pain for more than three decades.

Why is this important? When  a person functioning with a nerve injury has a change in pain level that seems microscopic to anyone else (7.5 jumps to 8, for example), it might monumentally affect function around one's home. That doesn't necessarily mean we must jump into new prescriptions or pain shots or surgeries. What it means is that whereas I was coping with a string of bad days, I suddenly started dropping eggs on the floor or something because an arm got so bad I couldn't force it to keep doing stuff, or I started stumbling while I walk because I'm having trouble lifting my leg high enough to move my foot forward. Reporting changes doesn't mean I'm looking for handouts and fixits. I was so relieved to finally figure out how to verbalize "help me find a way to live with this better without me accidentally triggering it and making it worse instead of throwing another prescription at me", which translated to physical therapy and two years of wonderful relief and improvement.

Sadly, once that much improvement is reached in physical therapy, measured as range of motion improvements in mobility and strength level improvements in endurance, there is no 'need' to continue, and people like me can find themselves left hanging short of further improvement because health insurance isn't about personal training. If I want more I must cough up the cash. I can use what I've been taught and maintain at home, but trying to keep pulling $1800 a year out of insurance for preventive care to hold back an elective $50,000+ surgery and all its own months of therapy afterward is unacceptable to them. Next step is pain clinic, with not much more than a 50% hope that a very restricted amount of steroid shots will be helpful and stacks of horror stories in the search engines from people who suffered further nerve damage because of the shots. Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Because I've lived with so much for so long and have made it through some really rough years to some much better ones without succumbing to shots and surgeries, I know that the subject of pain relief is very relative and subjective, and that making a mission of seeking pain relief can sometimes backfire. I've chatted with a number of people about their spinal surgeries. Some say it was the best thing they ever did. Some wind up on meth trying to handle even worse pain afterward because nothing else works. Some live with irritating tingling and numbness instead of pain, or develop new mobility challenges like limping. A few wind up back in surgeries for complications, and one person I know of wound up paralyzed and so messed up that years of therapies and consequential surgeries haven't improved his life.

Since I have held out this long enduring what others might never believe they could endure, I feel that caving to pain shots and surgery will be more about genuinely rescuing me from ultimate life threatening damage or actual screaming sobbing pain with me curled up on a floor unable to function without assistance than simply just making my pain go away. By the time surgery arrives, I intend to be thrilled if I wind up paralyzed, as long as the pain is gone. Can you imagine how thrilling that would be for me to never have to feel that pain again? I can see me reaching a level where I'd gladly trade the use of my legs if it really meant that, but I know better- life in a wheelchair isn't a breeze by a long shot, and there can be other complications from increased immobility.

Life is pain. Anyone saying different is selling something. I learned that from The Princess Bride. In that movie the pain scale goes up to 50. If I'm somewhere in the upper 30's, I tell people I'm feeling rough. As I cross into the 40's I might say I'm feeling terrible, and as it hits 45 I'm using the word wicked to describe my pain. If I'm using the word nasty to describe pain, I'm at a 48 on the threshold of 50 and about as close to blacking out or throwing up as it comes. A two or three day nasty level is fairly unbearable, but I once did six straight weeks of 48-50 that allowed me to sleep only ten minutes at a time, and only sitting up holding my head up with my fingertips in specific places. Brain scans were fine, no big problems popping up on the neck radar. MRIs are wonderful for assuring me I don't have scary stuff going on, but they don't show you anything about having an odd viral infection hitting a Lymie right in the ol' nervous system. After getting through that one, everything else I go through seems milder by comparison, even though someone else might find my daily pain level, that I would shrug off at a 3 on a 'good' day, intolerable. (I keep saying I'm holding out for an opium patch.)

On a scale of ten, my pain level today is fluctuating around the 8ish point range. I have moments where it drops into the 7s, other moments where 8.7 goes all 9.3 on me and I spend a hellish 15 minutes trying another trick I've been taught by someone who has a PhD in pain management. On weeks like this I get a lot of work done. I must move continually, distract myself continually, rotate through a pattern of up and about or resting, usually in 20 minute increments. If I don't want to throw up and go into throbbing headaches from the higher pain level, I must monitor everything I do, everything I eat, every move I make, and keep my brain racing full blast ahead of the pain.

I started slipping again over the last few weeks. Stuff got hard, depression sideswiped me, I lost my momentum, and stuff in my head got ugly. And then I found out I'm in new territory now. Things could get uglier. Harder. Dangerous... Time to brace for a loop in the ol' roller coaster.

I can do this. I've just gotta get my baditude back on.