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.


Horrible Halloween

My happy Jack O’ Lantern – an attempt to salvage a bit of Halloween

This year was the worst Halloween ever – thanks directly to Covid-19 and all of those who, at the national level to the local level, are working hard to avoid doing what needs to be done.

My partner’s uncle died of Covid-19 on Halloween. He had been in intensive care for a while. One lung collapsed. When the other started, they tried to get him into surgery. But the OR was too full and he died while waiting.

Everything else seems small compared to that. One small life out of the million killed by this virus.

Covid-19 hit me directly. I have what I am pretty certain is a mild chest cold. I have a sore throat from removing phlegm from my lungs, and its a little difficult to breathe. So, I pulled out of going over to my best friend’s house (the only place I go) for a small celebration.

I was at home, not feeling well. With my partner, who was exhausted and in a bad mood. Add in my chronic pain and I was a total grump, at him and at the world. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday, but there was nothing for it this year. I took a nap just so I could be unconscious for a few hours.

When I got up, we got ready for a socially-distanced Trick or Treat. We put a table out front and filled bags with goodies for the kids. (It was in doing this that he got the call about his uncle. So now, things are even worse).

The good news is that we got more kids than ever before – mostly in groups. We ran out of the “good” candy bags and had to make some lesser ones with fewer things. I got to look out the front door and see their costumes, which was lovely. My partner was a ball of nerves – which always makes me a ball of nerves – and he had to supervise all the Trick or Treating to make sure everything stayed safe.

That was the day. I know worse days have happened. But it was a bad holiday. Yesterday, I could barely move at all from my fibromyalgia. I had to lay down for a while because I couldn’t get together the energy to hold myself upright sitting.

Today I get to be tested for Covid-19 because I’m going in for surgery on the 5th. And tomorrow is election day. I’m steeling myself up for a rough week. Just keeping writing is going to be a major challenge. Wish me luck!

Our Halloween table and goodie bags. I heard kids getting excited, so I know we helped keep Halloween alive for at least the 40 or so Trick or Treaters that we got.