The Seeds Were Planted Early On

By guest blogger Carrie Ann Golden

You can find her blog at A Writer and Her Adolescent Muse

My writing journey began at the age of eleven when a friend challenged a group of us as to who could write the scariest story.

The year was 1982 and I was living in a small hamlet in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.

During this time up there, the medical field was still a bit archaic; no where as advanced as that in the larger cities to our south (such as New York City or Boston). As a young girl with moderate hearing loss and speech impairments, I spent lots of time in imaginary worlds of my own making. With no other outlet, I usually acted out the things my imaginary friends wanted which at times led me to trouble.

When I accepted this challenge, I had no inkling as to how much this very act would impact my life.

Through the written words, the worlds and people in my head were breathed into life. The feeling was euphoric for me especially as I read over the story I wrote. It was surreal as I found it difficult to believe that those words came from the pencil I held with my own fingers.

No, that had to have been written by someone else.

I’d get that sense over and over in the coming years.

I still do.

Never Thought Myself As a Writer

For many years afterward, I never thought myself as a writer.

I wrote albeit in journals (instead of fictional stories). It became a form of therapy as I tried to deal with certain challenges of life. I’ve always had a difficult time expressing my feelings and thoughts outwardly; but they came more easily through the written words.

During this period of my life, I was a student (high school then college) and an athlete. I pursued a degree in hope of getting into a field where I could work with highly competitive athletes (I had an opportunity once to get a position with the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid). Things were going well until in April 1992 when I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa.

I Just Gave It All Up

Up to this point, I’ve accepted my hearing disability and managed my mild speech deficit. I was at the brink of realizing many of my dreams when this diagnosis came.

Who would want to hire someone with moderate hearing loss AND progressive vision loss? I kept thinking to myself.

I believed my dreams were now dead. I gave up and just went through the motion until I graduated with my degree some years later.

No One Told Me That It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

I saw the best specialists in the medical fields and it was confirmed that yes, I indeed had RP (Usher Syndrome when including my hearing loss). There was NO cure OR treatment for what I had. And that was that.

No one bothered to pull me to one side to tell me that regardless of my disabilities, my dreams -with improvisation- could still come true.

Not one doctor or specialist saw a need to refer me to a counselor who would be able to help me deal with the depression and anxiety and despair that would nearly overwhelm me.

No one to encourage me, to push me to keep moving forward no matter how frustrated I get. To keep fighting.

Instead, after graduating, I withdrew back into my mind and hid in my tiny apartment shutting out the real world. I lived vicariously through the characters portrayed in movies and TV shows. Throughout this period, not once did I pick up a pen to write. I’d even given up on journaling which had been so therapeutic in the past.

It was as if I was punishing myself.

Somehow I’d felt undeserving of anything that was good or resembled anything like success

I’d completely given up on myself.

The End?

I was 28 and it felt like my life was over.

Until Jay came back in my life.

Jay and I first met as freshmen in college (October 1989). We quickly became friends. Although we were dating other people, there was a special connection between us. At the end of our freshmen year, he went on to enlist in the Navy instead of returning to college. The last time I saw him was in early December 1990. He’d just finished boot camp and was about to be shipped overseas for the imminent war in the Persian Gulf. At the time, officials were expecting high casualty rates and he was visiting friends and family members before leaving as he was unsure of his fate. He was single at that time but I was dating someone. He and I had a few moments together but little did I realized, he wanted to tell me his true feelings for me but wasn’t able to since I had to leave to be with my boyfriend.

I left that college a year later to attend a local community college. A year after that, I was diagnosed with RP.

In 1993, I met Aaron whom I would marry less than a year later.

Our short marriage was a tumultuous one at best.

Bitterness over my worsening sight, and the uncertainty of my future in any career field, I made his life hell.

Something I’ve regretted ever since because it was something I can never undo or make up for.

On March 11, 1996, he was killed in a car accident.

Pain and grief and regrets were my constant companions. Instead of trying to work through them, I held them close. I’d felt I was deserving of them. My penance, my punishment for being inferior (because of my disabilities) and for being a cruel and unfeeling bitch (for the way I treated Aaron).

When I graduated in 1997, I moved in my own place. Here was where I shut out the real world, and my parents and siblings. Here I stayed until May 1999 when Jay came back into my life.

And changed everything.

The Journal

Okay, we need to rewind just a little. Back to May one year earlier (1998).

Alone in my apartment, I’d begun to think back on the college I went to as a freshman and Jay entered my mind for the first time in years. As the memories of our times spent together filled my mind, something dawned on me for the very first time.

Did he like me more than a friend?

I began to remember the last time I saw him. I remembered how he tried to get me away from my boyfriend. It was like he had something urgent to tell me, but I just shooed him off.

I had this awful feeling that surged through me. I’d felt sick as the realization of what he wanted to tell me before heading off to war sunk in.

I didn’t even know if he was still alive. Did he make it through that war? Oh why didn’t I think to keep in touch with him?

Just a few months prior, I received a personal computer donated by the NYS Commission for the Blind. It was on this same device I searched for his name on that college’s alumni directory.

And got a hit.

He’d left an email address.

That evening, I composed a brief message and pressed “send.”

By this time it has been nearly eight years since we’d last talked. Would he still remember me?

Less than twelve hours later, he responded -“Yes, I remember you.”

On and off over the next year, we corresponded; until late May of 1999 when we met up at a mall near my apartment.

It felt like not a day was missed as we fell right in place as friends.

I asked about his time in the Persian Gulf; and what happened to him after the war.

As he told me his story, I was awestruck. He went through just as much pain and loss as I but in different ways.

The war left its mark on him both physically and emotionally (I plan to share more of his story at a later time). Now battling PTSD and an injury sustained during a search and rescue mission on the Philippines after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Jay was not the same boy I knew back in college yet he was.

I suppose the same could be said about me.

Life has a way of doing that whether it’s for the better or not.

The experiences we gained and the hardships we endured enriched our friendship, and something more blossomed from it.

It didn’t take me long before I knew I was in love with him. I guess I had always loved him just didn’t recognized it for what it was years earlier.

We reunited near the end of May; less than a month later, we were engaged. On September 4th, 1999 we were married.

A few weeks before the wedding day, Jay picked me up from work (at the time, I worked as a stock person for a local grocery store which, by the way, was very challenging with my limited vision but somehow I got through that without harming myself or anyone else!). Inside his truck, he gave me a gift.

A beautiful leather-jacket journal.

He’d remembered from our time as freshmen that I’d mentioned how I loved to write. After we reunited, he knew that I no longer wrote and that I struggled emotionally with unresolved issues from my past. With the journal, he’d thought I would return to writing in the hope of finding some sort of healing and peace.

It was one of the most precious gifts anyone could have given me! And it did set me on a path that led to the kind of healing and closure I so desperately needed.

In A Journey There Are Many Paths

In 1999, I returned to writing which I used to center myself; although it was mostly in the form of journaling, I still did not see myself as a writer.

2007 found me living in North Carolina. We’d bought a house in the suburbs, and had a son (born in 2003). I now worked a desk job as a Loan Operations Specialist for a local bank which just relocated to the heart of downtown Raleigh.

Both Jay and I grew up in small towns and considered ourselves as “country.” By 2007, we’ve been living near a large metropolitan area for well over six years. The lifestyle grew more and more hectic, the days long (on the road by 4am for the long commute and home as late as 7:30pm). His PTSD was starting to affect our marriage. Anxiety staked a foothold in my life and disrupted everything. Journaling just wasn’t as effective anymore. My vision continued to worsen and I began to tire more easily even by the simplest of tasks.

Misery, anger and isolation became the mainstays of our lives.

Around this time, a new co-worker came to my department from another bank.

Mel.

She and I would work together for the next eight years. I learned early on that Mel was a writer. Not just a writer, but a published one. She kept a blog too. And was a poet to boot.

I was in complete awe by her accomplishments, and of her knowledge about the writing industry as well as all-things blogging.

My interest in what she wrote was enormous as I peppered her with so many questions I’m surprised she never told me off; she seemingly never grew tired of my questions and answered each one graciously and with great patience. And it was through her encouragements I would try my hand at a short story (the last one I wrote was as an eleven year old girl).

A story that would end up being my very first published piece.

Because of her, my life would never be the same. She inspired me to delve deeply in writing as I experimented with each genre as well as with poetry. I even began my own blog (the first one was on LiveJournal). Through her, a whole new world opened for me which would send me off on so many different paths.

Paths that I am still exploring and traveling to this day.

For a Writer, There Is No “The End”

Today, I still struggle with my disabilities among other things, but with the endless discoveries of new worlds and characters, I have created new dreams.

Through writing, I can reinvent myself over and over. There is no end to one’s imagination.

The key is not to put limitation on yourself as a writer. Think outside the box! Be bold! Don’t be afraid to try a new genre!

There is power in the written word.

As a writer, you have the power to impact lives.

Writing has changed mine. The journey I began all those years ago is still ongoing. A journey that if it wasn’t for a few key individuals, my life would never be as it is today.

Hot Honey Recipe for Pain

Cayenne peppers and other hot peppers are marvellous medicine for pain, both taken internally and used externally. Cayenne is in many of the heating patches and creams you can buy at the store. You can eat the hot peppers straight and hot sauce if you have the taste and stomach for it. On the other end, you can get cayenne in pills, so you don’t taste it at all.

I live in the in-between zone. I like medium hot, but do not have time to cook food to balance the peppers. A friend gave me a jar of hot pepper honey. It went great in my herbal tea and eased my pain a bit. I reverse engineered it, and am putting the recipe below.

Putting cayenne in tea can help ease pain and inflammation. However, heat tolerance varies greatly from person to person. If you are a hothead, fill the jar with as many whole peppers as can gently fit. For a medium hot, put 4-6 small peppers in the jar. For the mildest flavor, remove all seeds from the peppers before putting them in the honey. You may have to experiment before you find the perfect amount.

Note: You can buy dried hot peppers cheaply at an international foods store or anywhere that sells Latinx foods.

Cayenne pepper honey

Ingredients:

1 small clean jar

Cayenne or other favorite hot peppers—dried

Honey to fill

Directions:

 Place your peppers in the jar (see note above). Fill the jar with honey so it covers the peppers. (You may need to cut your peppers in half first.

Let the jar sit for at least a week. Taste it and determine its heat. If it is not hot enough for you, let it sit longer. I let it sit for a month.

When it is hot enough, strain out the peppers. (The peppers can grow mold even in antibacterial honey.)

Put a spoonful in your cup of tea—or on other honeyed items.

I think strong teas taste best with cayenne pepper honey:

Chai—or any tea with strong warming spices

              Strong warming spices are also great for pain and inflammation. These include:

              Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cardamom, cloves

Turmeric tea with black pepper

              Hot honey and turmeric go together perfectly. The sour and bitter turmeric changes tone when you add the heat and the sweet.

Coffee substitutes—roasted herbs have a strong taste that rises to meet the hone

chicory, carob, dandelion root, burdock root, cacao nibs

Strong, dark tea—If the British would have it for breakfast, it is good.

Berry tea—you can make a “tea” out of dried berries – and the leaves of raspberry plants

Rosehips, hawthorn berries, elderberries, currants, hibiscus (not a berry), blueberries, raspberries

Ginger-lemon tea—If you have a cold or sore throat, ginger lemon tea is the best. You can buy tea bags or make it by putting sliced ginger and sliced lemon in a cup and pouring hot water over them. The honey is good for the throat and the cayenne is good for pain. I live by ginger-lemon tea with hot honey in the winter.

My cane and visibility

A couple of years ago my arthritis advanced to the point where I need to use a cane for a while. (I’m not using it now thanks to physical therapy). At first, I was a little upset. But then I realized that walking slowly with a cane is better than just walking slowly. I was moving into the category of the visible disability and away from being able to hide it invisibly.

Tons of us have invisible disabilities. We can pass for normal as long as we are not directly forced to exhibit our disability. They can be mental disabilities. They can be pain-causing disabilities. Or we may just be really good at covering things up and pretending things are normal.

I thought that people seeing me with a cane and the cane would buy me a few privileges. People would be more willing to hold doors for me or give me more room to pass. It could buy a little more patience when I was slow to get up or down.

Boy, was I wrong.

The famous cane

If anything, the cane made me more invisible – as people actively tried not to see me. People taking up the entire shopping aisle would not scoot over to give me room coming through. Doors were let go to slam into me. If I dropped something and was having obvious difficulty picking it up, no one helped. If I dropped my cane, no one helped.

It was pretty awful. My visible disability rendered me invisible. Folks would turn away or scuttle sideways to enhance their plausible deniability that I was not there.

The one group of people who did see me was people with canes themselves. Men with canes would almost always hold doors open for me. Women did too, sometimes. I got a lot of comments on my cane. (It was pretty with peacock feathers drawn on it.) I noticed people with canes, too. It is almost as if the cane gave me and others 3D glasses to see the world differently.

It might be age, instead of the cane, that people were avoiding. We are really good at not seeing old people. Old folks and their problems are perhaps too much to deal with, even in extending everyday courtesies.

My challenge to you is this: start looking for canes. See if other parts of your vision shift along with it. I’m betting the world will look a lot different if you do.

Cannabis dosing for pain

Dosing cannabis for pain is difficult. Most people want a dose that takes care of their pain but leaves their mind alone. (Some want to go into couch-lock and completely forget the pain. They will take higher doses.) The general rule is to start with a small dose and slowly raise it until it helps enough with the pain. If you can get your doctor involved, they can be your best guide to determining a dose.

Note that with cannabis more does not need better. Everyone has a sweet spot. As you take smaller doses and move up to your dose, it may feel like every increase is better. But as you go past that dose, additional amounts are often wasted in your system – or can start lessening their effects. Your sweet spot may be 1 mg or 15 mg or 250 mg. You just need to find it.

CBD

It is difficult to take too much CBD. CBD dosing ranges from 10 mg to 3000 mg per day. Bowel disease has a recommended 10 mg/day dosage. Cancer pain can call for 600+ mg/day. Poor sleep calls for a 25 mg dose. Anxiety is 300-600 mg. All of these recommendations are on early studies, and researchers are finding different doses and uses frequently.

You should start with a small dose – about 2 mg, and raise that amount until you feel the desired effects. Or until you cannot afford the dose any more. That’s my limit, the cost.  I take 5 mg once or twice a day (depending on how long I need to be active). I have a tincture to supplement that amount if it isn’t getting rid of the pain, but I don’t use it often because I cannot afford to.

THC

THC dosing generally falls into a smaller range. Pain treatment can start out at a micro-dose of 1-2 mg. Five to 20 mg/day is a fairly common dose for pain. Recreational uses tend to use 10-15 mg. Be careful going over 20 mg /day because you are very likely to get negative effects. Some people with pain, particularly cancer pain, can go up to 150 mg under a doctor’s supervision.

It is good to start slow with THC. Take two mg and wait. If you don’t feel better in 2-3 hours, take another two mg. Five mg works well for me, in maximizing pain killing effects while minimizing disruption to my thinking.  Do not take more than that until you know how it affects you. People take too many edibles when they eat more assuming the dose isn’t working and get in trouble. (Edibles can take 2-3 hours to start working.)

Combinations

When you are taking CBD and THC together the dose of each will affect the other one. So if you are already taking 25 mg of CBD each day and you add in 10 mg of THC, your CBD needs may stay the same or go down to a lower dose. And the amount it goes down does not have a direct relation to the amount the other rises. Basically, it’s a crap shoot. Most people taking cannabis for pain have to go through a long trial and error period.

Other cannabinoids

There are many more substances contained in cannabis and its extracts. Some of these have given folks great pain relief. People find relief with CBN, CBG, CBA, and THCV.

Actual bud

When you buy cannabis in it’s natural form, dosing can get quite difficult. I would recommend first finding your dose through more measurable types of cannabis – and then doing the conversion over to the actual plant.

When you purchase bud, most sellers have the amount of THC and CBD listed on the product. Some types are high in CBD and low in THC and vice-versa. Different strains can affect your body entirely differently. You can use trial and error for different strains.In the end, you will have to try several strains to get the one that works for you.

The amounts of THC and CBD sellers list are only averages. You could grab a bud that is higher or lower in these components. When used in something like an edible, the amounts of weed may not spread evenly through the food items. You will never get the even dosage with bud that you will get with a tincture or an oil.

Note well: I’m not that kind of a doctor. (I’m a JD / PhD.) Never stepped foot in medical or nursing school. This is not meant as medical advice. It’s just based on my experiences. Always take things to your doctor – and listen to their advice. They may have to adjust your other medications to fit with the cannabis.

Ways to use cannabis (for pain)

I use edibles (mostly) to get my cannabis – Mindy’s Gummies 5 mg CBD/5 mg THC, to be exact. This is one of many ways you can use cannabis. I am giving you my review of the different methods of taking cannabis.

Smoking

Smoking cannabis is the traditional way that most people took it for years. Smoking is one of the most “natural” ways to take cannabis, in that the weed is minimally processed. It is also one of the ways to access the greatest number of varieties or strains. Each variety feels different in the body and the mind, so this allows you to finely tune your cannabis therapy.

Smoking comes in several forms. Rolled cigarettes and cigars are popular. To take smaller doses a pipe – regular or water – is handy. But remember marijuana smoke is carcinogenic, but less so than tobacco smoke.

Effects come on fastest with smoking, but they also go away the fastest. It takes 10-15 minutes to feel the effects and you need to re-dose every half hour or so to maintain pain relief. This is not good for most pain control, unless your pain is spiky and doesn’t hit you often. I want a product that lasts as long as possible.

Additionally, smoking comes with all the lung problems. I smoked cigarettes for 18 years before I quit. Now, when I try to smoke anything I cough, wheeze, and have problems. So no smoking or vaping for me. If breathing is at all an issue with you or those around you, do not smoke the weed.

Vaping

I have problems with vaping or, more correctly, people who vape. I remember (unwillingly) riding in a car with someone vaping. She blew her smoke right in my face to prove that it was nothing but water vapor. Bad way to make a point, plus I got stuff more than water from smelling it.

Vaping does have several benefits over smoking. It does not contain the combustion that causes some of the problems with smoking. You are inhaling a vaporized version of a cannabis oil. There are ways to vape with crushed cannabis as well as dabbing or super-heating a resin.

Vaped cannabis does hit fast and leave fast like smoked cannabis. It still harms the lungs. And the oil it uses can have added ingredients (like vitamin E acetate) that are causing new sets of problems.

Tinctures and oils

Tinctures are mixtures of alcohol and water into which cannabis plants (or their constituent parts) are infused. Oils are similar, where cannabis oils are mixed into carrier oils.

These can be dosed through a dropper, a spray, or put into capsule form. Capsules tend to work well for pain management. You can use these oils and tinctures in baking or creating your own edibles. The most popular way is to mix the oil into oil or butter. You can also mix them into tea, water, or another drink.

Many people place oils and tinctures directly under the tongue to go quickly into the bloodstream. This placement allows the cannabis to affect you faster than taking edibles, but slower than smoking. It’s a good choice for those folks are not ready for how long edibles last. I generally place my edible gummies under my tongue, with the theory that some of the relief will happen faster,

Edibles

Edibles are one of the healthiest ways to take cannabis, as long as you do not take too much too fast. Edibles generally take two hours to start working and three to peak. The cannabis effects last 6-8 hours and provide full-body relief. This lasting effect is the largest reason I use edibles.

People do have problems navigating around this slow start. Folks tend to think that the weed is not working and take more before the dose kicks in and take too much. Overdose can involve paranoia, increased heart rate, and panic attacks – not fun. You have to trust the edibles maker that they contain the amount of cannabis they say they will. Start small, at about 2 mg of THC and initially give it about 4 hours between doses, so you can trace how it affects you. I take 5 mg of THC, once or twice a day. Check with your doctor if you go over 15 mg, because some people have bad side effects at higher doses.

Edibles come in many forms: gummies, drinks, chocolate, honey, butter, even ranch dip mix. You can even make your own, but know that cannabis needs to be heated to certain temperatures for certain times and do your research before you start. Decarboxylated is the technical term.

Topicals

Many pain-people get relief from topical application. They use cannabis salves or lotions to apply it directly where the pain is. This method is good for when your pain is limited to a small area. Topical application will not bring on a “high”. This is a good choice for those who want to avoid that side of marijuana entirely.

Unfortunately, I am not one of the folks who can get relief this way. And I am not the only one. have tried a number of creams and rubs and felt no relief at all for my pain. I did discover, on the side, that hemp oil is great for my dry skin – so I still use it that way.

Transdermal

Transdermal patches look promising at delivering a steady dose over time, however my store doesn’t sell these. Many of these seem to be tied up in the maze of deregulation and medicalization of cannabis, at least in Illinois where I live. I expect to see these more in the future as they maximize the cannabis you receive over time by getting it directly into the blood stream and delivering whole-body relief. It also minimizes the psychoactive effects of the drug.

On headaches

One of the most annoying things about being in pain is that you are constantly on painkillers – many of us doped up to over the level that would actually be reasonable. So, when a little more pain piles on – like a headache – there often seems like no place to go. Take a Tylenol? I’m already on a very large dose. NSAIDS? No, problem stomach. Here are a few places I go when I need a painkilling boost for a headache. If you want to know more about headaches in general, I found a good source here.

Scent

I’ll start with smelling lavender oil – I keep some lavender essential oil diluted in sweet almond oil by my work seat. If the headache is just coming on, or is small, this can often do the trick. I also diffuse lavender (lavandula augustifolia) when I sleep. Scientific studies show that it induces relaxation and calms the nervous system. Scientists have even found it works for migraines.

Other people find rosemary or peppermint oil to help as well. Rosemary is full of antioxidants and relieves inflammation (the top cause of headaches) as well as raising alertness. Peppermint stops spasms and some studies say it may help headaches, but more studies need to be done before we know for certain,

Dark and quiet

If that doesn’t work, there are a couple of places I go. Generally dark and / or quiet help me calm down. A lot of headaches trigger the same part of the brain (the thalamus) that reacts to light and noise. Also breathing exercises when I try to pay total attention to my breathing in and out and what it feels like. If that’s not enough – a cold, wet cloth over the eyes will at least get me calmed down.

Tea

Image by Shae Davidson. Tank Girl and cats are also great for headaches.

I really like drinking herbal tea in general, so tea was a good place to find some remedies that work well for me. Chamomile is a strong choice for headaches, studied by both scientists and working herbalists, and found to work against migraines and other headaches. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and protects the nerves. Take the tea as strong as you can – using as much chamomile and steeping as long as you can stand.

I add other ingredients to chamomile much of the time. My go-to headache and stress blend is chamomile with meadowsweet, lavender, and rose petals. Meadowsweet (Filipendula) has a long history of use for headaches, back to the Druids in Ireland. It contains salicylic acid like aspirin, but has substances that buffer the impact on the stomach. It works in a different way than chamomile, and pairs well with it.

The lavender is proven for relaxation and rose (Rosa) is another pain reliever. By mixing these four herbs together (in equal parts), I make a tea that eases pain that pops up on top of my regular pain. The tea doesn’t kill of all the pain, but often takes it back to a livable level.

Other tea ingredients that can work for headaches include willow bark (same ingredient as meadowsweet but doesn’t taste as nice), basil, ginger, catnip, feverfew, and fennel. Most of these herbs can also be infused in an oil to rub on your neck and temples, if you don’t want to drink the tea.

Conclusion

Focusing on headaches, I have a number of tools to use to tamp down additional pain that overrides my painkillers. Herbal scents and teas lead the batch, and lessening light and sound are great helps as well. None of these work like in the pre-pain days when I would just take an ibuprofen and a half an hour later the headache would be gone. But they all do work a little bit.

I have a different tea (turmeric ginger) that I use for body pains. I’ll share that recipe soon in an article that focuses on body pain relief.

Through a fibromyalgia flare-up

I’ve just weathered a nasty fibro flare. It lasted about a week. But now, I am starting to get used to pulling out my tool kit and actually using it when flares happen. I still have to stop, think, and give myself permission and I look forward to the day when it is just automatic. Here’s how this one went.

I started feeling bad, and as soon as I felt bad, I gave myself permission to stop. I stopped doing things around the house. I stopped writing. I stopped everything that was on the supposed to list. This is very hard for me – that list is still big and lurking.

Instead, I gave myself permission to do whatever felt best to my battered body and mind. I took naps, I went to bed early or slept in late. I played video games, I watched TV. (YouTube plug here for Norwegian train videos. They mount a camera on the front of the train and you travel with it in real time. It’s amazingly soothing,)

I gave myself permission not to be able to read or write in large amounts. When I hurt my brain fog moves in. It is hard to read something like a novel where I have to focus and remember what happened from one reading to another. Luckily, I had a number of magazines arrive – and their articles are much more within my ability when I feel bad.

I picked back up my crochet. Every time I drop it for a while, I forget just how soothing the repetitive action is. I’m sure most other hand-work hobbies are the same from weaving beads to painting miniatures.

I gave myself permission to ask folks around me for stuff. I think it was mostly my husband filling my water bottle or getting me drinks. But we went over to my best friend’s house and I just sat in the comfy chair all day. I had my bag with crochet and my Kindle and they all brought conversation and activity to me – which feels really nice.

As I started to feel better, I began to take the little energy I had and use it to help others. 1) I cooked easy dinners for myself and my husband, 2) I started decorating a tree outside for the birds and the holiday, and 3) I went onto Quora to cheer on and advise people who were having problems with depression and school.

Now, I am mostly emerged from it. I am tired and sore all over – but not as bad as before. Now I am starting to turn to that list of things that needs done, but I’m still giving myself permission to go slowly. If I get a thing or two done in a day, then that’s fine.

Gifts for pained people

Four lists for gift-givers to folx with chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, back pain, and other pain.

Gifts for less-mobile people

Gifts specifically about pain

Free/cheap gifts

Gifts to think twice before giving

I’m not doing links – I’m not getting any kickbacks for any of these. Not even the brands I endorse directly. But if you have questions, I’ll answer them.

Gifts for people who cannot move around as much as they would like.

  1. indoor/outdoor thermometer with humidity reader – so you can tell what the weather outside is like even if you are not able to get there
  2. soft throw pillow – for nesting – ones that can be bent into multiple shapes are especially good
  3. gift cards to a streaming movie service
  4. gift cards to a streaming music service
  5. warm, soft socks – This might just be the #1 gift for people over 40.
  6. bird feeder (with installation) outside the most used window – maybe one of those that mounts directly on the window
  7. nice hand lotion – I’ll endorse Hempz, but there are many good brands. Check for one that is unscented or only slightly scented.
  8. lip balm – I’ll endorse TonyMoly’s Liptone as my current fave.
  9. hydrosol or facial spray – helps feel clean when you cannot get to wash
  10. magazine subscriptions – I can often read magazines when I cannot focus on books
  11. Pashmina scarf – the real ones are super soft and double as blankets
  12. gift cards to a food delivery service
  13. fancy or pretty canes – something that matches the personality of the recipient
  14. leggings or joggers – but get something fancy, we’re often in the same clothes for a long time and want something that helps us feel nice
  15. sunlight lamps for the winter
  16. essential oil diffuser – frankincense, ginger, and rose are good for pain, bergamot and lemongrass are also mood lifters, lavender and chamomile also help with rest
  17. a houseplant
  18. speakers for computer or TV
  19. visits from a cleaning service
  20. laptop pillow – to comfortably hold computer – maybe with a cup holder

Gifts that help specifically with pain

  1. Arthritis gloves (IMAK brand)
  2. Turmeric tea – curcumin helps calm pain
  3. IMAK also makes a great compression mask to cover your eyes when headaches hit.
  4. Ted’s Pain Cream
  5. topical CBD products
  6. Biofreeze or another lotion/gel/spray painkiller
  7. Theracane – a device for self massage on tough-to-reach spots
  8. heating pads – especially that one that wraps around neck and shoulders and is filled with lavender that smells good – also the large heating pads
  9. essential oil roller sticks – lavender, rosemary, or ones labelled for pain, headaches, or sleep (Often we are on so many traditional painkillers that we cannot take a Tylenol for a headache – something like this helps.)
  10. support pillows for in the car
  11. TENS patches or sets – sends electronic charges to relieve pain
  12. Calm, Buddify, Headspace – or other meditation apps
  13. infrared heat therapy devices
  14. acupressure therapy mats
  15. pain management apps – like Curable

Gifts that cost little or nothing

  1. Make a list of fun websites you think they will enjoy.
  2. Make a list of movies, songs, etc. that they might want to check out.
  3. Hand over the last book you read and really loved.
  4. Teach lessons on how to do a craft you like knitting, whittling, or paper cutting.
  5. Design coupons for days to come over and make dinner (or meal delivery from your kitchen).
  6. Give a massage – if its a person to whom this offer won’t be creepy.
  7. Kids art is always fun. Adult art can be amazing as well.
  8. Offer to go shopping for them.
  9. Ask them if there is a task they need an extra hand with – cleaning the gutters, clearing old garden beds, taking things in and out of the attic.

Check before you give these gifts

  1. candles – some people dislike certain scents
  2. strongly scented lotion / body spray – same as above, but more so
  3. mugs – who doesn’t already have enough mugs? your friend? then give one
  4. food / candy – many pain folks are on restricted diets, make sure any gift fits with those diets
  5. books about their condition – some folks will love these, others will think you are trying to communicate a message to them about their illness – in a bad way
  6. exercise equipment – make sure it’s wanted and usable by the person to whom you are giving it

Total and Permanent Disability

“Total and Permanent Disability” – that’s the phrase that stopped me in my tracks. Several years ago, I had lost my job as a professor and was trying to make a different sort of life. I couldn’t work and my partner did not make much money, but I was still facing large and looming student loan payments. So I started researching student loan help programs.

I had to declare that I had total and permanent disability to qualify for disability loan forgiveness. On one hand, I knew it was true. I couldn’t work then, and I would never be able to handle a professor’s workload or schedule again. I couldn’t stand on my feet for long enough to get into a service job. My body was too unreliable to hold to a schedule.

Short version of how a TPD discharge works.

But there is something in the words total and permanent. It felt like I was giving up my future. Who knew then what I would be able to do later? Total? There were many things I could still do. I could read short things. I could commit to about 2 hours of a time to work. I could use the step-stool to reach the top shelf. That’s not total. So what if showering is hard. So what if I have to take a nap every day.

Today, I’m trying to build work as a writer. But I cannot work that long or so many hours. So far, in a good week, I make about $100. It’s not much, but it feels odd after declaring I was totally and permanently disabled. I feel like yelling and screaming – “It’s not total! It’s not permanent! See! I’m getting better!”

I have hope. Writing is getting easier and I am slowly building energy. I’m able to work a little more and focus a little better. No. I will never hold a full-time job. But it’s not total.

One off topic thing. When I looked up images online to use for this blog post, nearly everything was a picture of a guy in a wheelchair. No disrespect to my wheelchair friends, but I’m sick and tired of this being used as the only picture of us. It lets people get off thinking they can put in ramps and wide isles and be done with it. (This rant will likely hold for another blog post of diversity of disabilities or invisible disabilities or both.)

And a piece of good news. When I took my loan forgiveness, the entire loan (about $100K) was counted for tax purposes as income. This boosted us into a higher income tax bracket and we had to set up a long-term payment plan to cover $10K+ in taxes. That’s really hitting a gal when she is down. This has changed. Now, this difficult life event is no longer considered income. Thank goodness.

Low Pressure is coming

Do you have a knee that tells the weather? A hand? Mine is a shoulder – and my shoulder says the air pressure is dropping and the weather is changing. While it’s kinda nice to be able to forecast, it’s not so nice when it spreads to my other joints and I get pinned to the sofa.

The wind is blowing in. We have had weather warnings for gale-force winds. And I have my windows open on both sides of the living room because it’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit and the middle of November. That temperature should start dropping any time now and get cold tonight.

It got me thinking of remedies for the weather forecasting body part. My first go-to is Salon Pas or another direct-to-skin painkiller that likely smells like it lost a fight with a wintergreen plant. Anyone who slaps one of those on instantly ages about 30 years with the smell alone.

Step 2 is my heating pad. But I have to be careful because when the heating pad goes onto the already-treated body part it can shoot knives of heat or cold right into the skin. I have found a new toy that I am waiting to try out – an electric hand warmer (with built-in flashlight). It charges through a USB to a plug or computer. I am one of those people with icy fingers all winter. I’m excited to see if it works. It could double as a small, mobile heating pad for my shoulder.

After that, courses of action become less clear. Comfy clothes, of course. A hot shower helps, if I have enough spoons left to take one (not today). Distraction is another good course of action. That tends to mean movies, because the pain lives in my right shoulder – the same shoulder that helps control the mouse for video games. I can really get lost in video games.

What I really want is a large but light piece of armor that I can put on my shoulder. It should aggressive to communicate my pain to other people and keep them from touching me. I bet these folks don’t have problems with people touching their shoulders.

I think I’ve perhaps been playing too much World of Warcraft and thinking about the crazy shoulder armor that everyone gets there.

Since I’d be installing something that large on my shoulder, I bet it would hold my new hand heater pretty well. Or my rice-in-a-sock heater. And really, you could do this for a knee or a hip.

One thing that did help was regular massages, not when the pain acts up, but when I am feeling okay. It works like a tune-up to keep everything working. I haven’t been able to see my masseuse since Covid-19 started. That would be February or March. Too long.

Of course, my inconvenience is minor compared to hers. She is either not seeing her clients (and not getting paid) or seeing them and risking her life and that of her family. That’s not a choice I would wish on anyone.

Getting back to what does work, I drink turmeric spice tea. The turmeric helps with the inflammation, especially when paired with black pepper. The rest of the spices ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice help keep my body warm when the cold comes in with the low pressure. I also sometimes do golden milk – which I think I may do tonight.