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Another pain joins the party

How does a person who doesn’t move when they work (writing on a computer) get a work-related injury? Hello carpal tunnel syndrome.

My ring finger has been hurting badly for over a year and I assumed it was fibromyalgia or arthritis that was the culprit. So did my doctor when I saw him. About 6 months ago, I had to stop wearing my wedding ring because of the pain. The pain spread to the other fingers around it, and I thought it was just another fibro hot spot developing. Next, I got a searing pain shooting up my lower arm.

I looked up those symptoms online and discovered it was classic carpal tunnel syndrome. Yes, I know, I should not diagnose myself online. However, whenever I tell my doctor about a new pain area, he says it sounds like fibro. I really don’t talk about particular places hurting with my doctor since I told him, multiple times, about my right shoulder hurting. He said it was just fibro until I was in the emergency room waiting to have my gallbladder removed. He did apologize for missing the classic presentation of gallbladder problems.

You see, I have two things to worry about. I worry about health care specialists ignoring me because I’m fat and blaming every problem on my weight. (Note, I was not heavy until I got sick). Now, everything can also be blamed on fibro. Between the two, I don’t think I’ll ever get a straight diagnosis again until things go terrible. I will always have a workable explanation for things that go wrong with my body, and a tough time getting doctors to focus elsewhere.

I self-diagnosed and order a wrist-splint on Amazon. Carpal tunnel pain is a special new kind of pain. It can go away if I don’t use the wrist for a long time. I stopped writing for a week or so, but then had to get back to the keyboard again. I’m a writer. It might be easier to get a notebook out and write with my right hand only, but then I go really slow.

The wrist brace is nice. It holds my wrist straight when I am typing or holding a book. However, when I go outside and garden, it admits its limitations. On the best days, I sweat inside the brace until I soak it. On worse days, the dirt I tend to get all over myself gets all over the brace, too. And with the wet that was already there, I have a muddy arm.

I’ve got an appointment with the doctor in a couple of months. I’ll tell him about it then. Heck, I will probably wear the brace when he sees me next. Maybe I won’t say anything and then see if he raises the issue.

I can only pick up light things with my left hand. I can carry a mug of tea, but not my large water bottle. Only I keep forgetting this and keep picking up things with my left hand to be awarded with a suite of pains. If I’m cooking, I have to find my partner to break out any of the large pots or pans. I learned I can clean the bathroom literally single-handedly, (except for the tub or the floor.)

But, hey, I’m not down about it. The new meds that I last wrote about got dumped in favor of other meds and two really stinky vitamin pills at night. Between that, my turmeric/meadowsweet tea, and the cannabis, I’m on an even keel. I am managing most of the pain, too. I still have the deep background ache that grows throughout the day, shoulder and neck pain, and it’s hard to move in the mornings. That is pretty minor, compared to where I’ve been these past few years.

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Psych meds and a garden update

A plant mandala I made of Solomon’s seal, cleavers, chickweed, thyme, and marjoram.

No news on the pain front. Everything still hurts, but what I’m doing (drugs, meditation, weed, and rest) is keeping it enough in control for me to function. Some days are good, some are bad, and changing the weather offers some experiences.

I think I’ve spoken on this blog before about my depression and anxiety. I live with pretty severe cases of both and have worked to live better with them daily. In the past, things have gotten terrible. I was suicidal and went in for a course of electro-convulsive therapies. They stopped the existential urge, but left my memory, sense of direction, and more damaged. The trade was fair.

Today (again) the psych nurse practitioner, is changing my meds because they are not working. I was declared treatment-resistant long ago. They have yet to find anything that completely curbs the depression. (The weed is a superstar for curing anxiety.)

Changing medications is always a crap-shoot. You have one fading out of your system as another jumps in. Not only are the effects of the drugs changing, but their side-effects are changing as well. I’ve started new drugs that made me flat-out psychotic, seeing things that were not there and hearing voices. That is not a fun experience. And a lot of meds have side effects in the bowel area. I won’t go into any more detail than that.

This time, she is changing two drugs at the same time. They are looking at the conjunctions between drugs in my treatment now. I have steeled myself for whatever changes may be hitting. Which means the anxiety goes up. Then my choice is to take more cannabis and become much less functional, or deal with a layer of itching anxiety and acid in my stomach. Cross your fingers for me. I need all the luck I can get.

In “the world isn’t half bad” category, spring is here and my garden is leaping to life. Everything is growing so fast, so tall. The yard is semi-mown and full of henbit, purple dead nettle, cleavers, chickweed, violets, and many happy flowers. I have Solomon’s seal blooming, as well as rhododendron, some irises, and one of my thyme plants.

I love going out into the garden and picking things to bring inside. I try to keep a vase of fresh flowers in my house throughout the growing season. The fresh air and connection to the ground do a great deal to life in my most bearish moods. Getting out on some days is just a hope. I have situated things so I have a superb view of flowers and herbs out my window. I can pretend to be a cat and simply stare out the window.

All I need now is new potting soil  – and a large pile of it. I purchased several new fabric pots for tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Getting these is not something I can do, so I am waiting until I can have help. I have fun just imagining where I will put the plants and what will grow in them. Danny, my cat, likes to sleep in one pot, so if I’m lucky, I will grow kittens.

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My drugs have drugs

One of my drugs went bad. It was a new drug that worked great for a couple of weeks and then turned on me and had me seeing things and hearing voices. Those are not side effects I can live with.

I am so tired of all this. I am on maybe 15 drugs for a mix of physical and mental conditions. Some drugs I take because other drugs have caused problems. I have to treat my drugs. Other drugs I have been on forever. And have a handful of prescriptions laying over top of them, without any examination of whether to remove the old drugs.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Last night, I told my husband that I would no longer take half of the drugs. He got very upset and talked me back into taking them. (It is the psych meds – I have treatment resistant depression and PTSD).

I don’t know where to go from here. I can talk with my doctors – again. I cannot really get a second opinion because insurance won’t pay for that at this stage of the game. Do I just plan on staying on these pills forever? They all have side effects I would rather not live with – dizziness and mental confusion are the worst. But I also refuse to be the psych patient who goes off drugs and does something bad.

Does anyone reading this have experience with reevaluating pills that they have been on for an extended time? (My longest is 20+ years). Please comment below and let me know. I am really asking for answers here.

Now I am dizzy, cognitively impared. It feels kinda drunk. But without the happy parts. And I am trying to write – fearful that my words come out sounding like a 4th grader. I will be back when I figure out something else to say.

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I went for a walk

I’m over visiting my friends (the family we co-bubble with) and they were going out for a walk. On my bad days, I would never consider such a thing. But, today I was feeling good.

The author and her brother back in 2007 when we walked all around San Francisco.

Around the corner from their house, the city is constructing a new roundabout. We walked there to scavenge anything that looked like junk so the girls could use tools to build a fairy house. Mostly this is because the girls wanted to use tools. We picked up pieces of wood and a few rocks as building materials.

It is a nice day outside. I don’t know the temperature, but I was comfortable in a sweatshirt. We started home, hauling all the booty of chunks of broken wood. Then my right foot and my leg seized up. The walk home was painful and slow. At least they know me and understand what was likely going on.

Now I am bundled up and sitting in the comfy chair. My legs are bundled up and my foot is raised on an ottoman with a heating pad. The arch of my foot is hurting. It is likely my plantar fasciitis.

I’m still glad I went. This is the first walk that I’ve been on since Winter happened. It felt good to stretch my legs until it felt bad. This is how I balance the competing commands of “get some exercise” and “don’t overdo it”. One really isn’t possible without the other, unless I’m just engaging in some basic stretching.

With so many things to potentially go wrong, it’s always a crap shoot. So I have to make myself move when I can. It’s easy to take something like walking for granted. Don’t.

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Waiting out the winter

My joints tell me it is still winter. So does last week’s major snow. Luckily, I don’t have the Seasonal Affective Disorder that some of my friends have – I hold them in the light. I hold myself in the promise of the light and wait for my croci to appear, followed by the daffodils.

Daffodils from my garden. Yes, that is Lemmy, a wizard, and a guinea pig behind them. Photo by author.

I actually like winter (even if my joints don’t), but at this point my knee is hurting enough to pick up my cane again. I look forward to Spring, to everything not being so brown. To gaining some more movement.

On the good news, they changed my psych meds. Yes, I have depression and PTSD. And, although the new meds make me dizzy, I am proudly depression free for the first time in 30 years. But the side effects are big. I have problems reading. For a writer, that’s a big one. Whenever I read, I fall asleep. What price for a release from depression. I’d pay almost any price.

I got my Covid-19 shot two days ago – and yesterday evening I developed fever and chills, and a migraine. Luckily it passed just as quickly, although I am not particularly looking forward to my second shot. My partner got quite sick after his, and I normally get hit by these things worse than him.

Covid or no, Spring is inevitable. Each day is getting longer. It’s nice to have some light in the early evenings. The days will warm, not much at first. But March is just three days away. While March snows happen frequently, it is March. And March (almost) ends with my birthday on the 30th. By then some flowers are up.

The carpet of violets in part of my back yard. Photo by author.

The wheel of the year spins. Inevitably. Change comes. Inevitably. I finally found a drug that works on my depression. Was it inevitably? Or did I just luck into it? My joints will ease with the warmth of the day. I hope that’s inevitable, too.

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Movement

The light is starting to return. The seed catalogs are flowing in at a rate of several per day. The very first signs of winter ending are starting to happen.

This winter has been a tough one for pain. My doctor took me off gabapentin because it was having terrible side effects and put me on another drug (Lyrica) that doesn’t work as well. Add in the cold and I am not moving much some days. This has me worried. Because I’m close to sedentary on many days. I want to move, it just hurts too much.

How do you get movement in around your pain?

Me and my partner hiking, a few years ago. I do love hiking, when I can do it.

Things that are not working for me

1) Getting up and walking around the house – some days up and down is the worst. And my house is kinda boring to walk around.

2) Yoga / chair yoga. – If I’m home alone, I fear that if I get down on a yoga mat, I won’t be able to get back up

3) Going for a walk outside – Nope – the pain in my knees and ankles is enormous right now. Walking is supposed to be the straightforward thing to do, but it’s not.

4) Going out into my garden – This one normally works for me. I love my garden. A walk around looking at the plants normally ends up with me doing some weeding or other tasks. Right now, my garden is a mess. Gumballs and sticks are everywhere. I know the only thing out there to do is clearing. So I don’t want to go out into my garden and my motivation is gone.

Things that might work

1) Waiting for spring – Is this even a valid option. Can I not move all winter and come back in the spring?

2) Some stretching in my chair – It wears me out quickly, but at least I can feel that my muscles still exist.

3) Puttering around the house – It may not be much, but folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom sink do require movement – and movement of different muscles.

Once upon a time, I went to a gym. It was grueling. They put us through a baby version of cross fit, and it hurt terribly. I did this for about 3 months until my shoulder hurt too bad for me to continue. I thought it was arthritis – and some may have been – but it turned out to be a gall-bladder that had given up. Of course, bad gall bladder in the gut hurts the right shoulder. Someone should write a book about this. Maybe I will. An owner’s manual of what could go wrong with your body and how to tell it is going wrong.

I also used to walk everywhere. Through graduate school, I walked to campus and back every day (at least a mile each way). I had a car, but it was generally easier to walk to restaurants and shops on High Street. All my friends walked (or took the bus) and it was just a normal part of the lifestyle. Then, I got a job. And walking doesn’t fit in well with the requirements of a job. Dress professionally and walk to campus? I lived way too far away. So I drove.

I’m sure both age and stopping the walking have increased and advanced my pain from arthritis and fibro. The weight I gain whenever they switch my psych meds has gotten large (and so have I). I can feel the weight pulling at my bones and hurting more. But losing it is the perpetual question. I’ve tried starving myself and that doesn’t work. I’ve tried exercising, and that didn’t work. I eat healthy food and not too much of it. The real problem seems to be getting me moving. But I cannot as it hurts too much (in a way that won’t go away once I’m into the movement.)

Catch 22

I’m sounding off here, hoping someone who reads this has solutions, large or small, that they can post in the comments. Maybe movements that may hurt less or ways to squeeze in some extra movement on days that are rough.

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Buy me a melon

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/johannahaas

Quick post here. I’ve just signed up for http://www.buymeacoffee.com. If you are reading these posts and want to encourage me – you can buy me a melon. (I changed it because I really want some melon in winter.)

You can also click like or follow me.

I’d put it on as a widget, but then I would have to upgrade to the professional plan, and that’s not happening soon.

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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.

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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.

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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.