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.

Seven months in the house

When we decided that I would isolate for Covid-19 because of immune system problems, I really didn’t think I’d be still doing this after 7 months.

I am not totally isolated. I have my house and garden. We visit my best friend and her family (co-bubbled). I sometimes go for car rides. I have been in one store once – the dispensary. I have my D&D group weekly over Zoom. And a few other Zoom things here and there.

Really, I thought the government would have this under control by now. But between governmental incompetence and a nasty virus, we don’t seem to be any closer to getting it under control than when we started. And I’m still in my house.

I’m not putting up the red, spiky Covid-19 ball that everyone uses. Here’s a green ball – I was very happy to have my partner bring home a watermelon.

I live in a box. It’s a nice box that holds all my favorite things. Fall is the best time to live in a box, assuming you have to live in a box. I can see the leaves changing colors and falling. I can see my garden still stretch and try to grow while other parts of it are dying. When winter comes, I fear the monotony which is mostly broken up by cardinals at the bird feeder.

Time has lost meaning. Day and night set my schedule during the summer. I was up with the sun and down with the sun. Now, night comes so early. And next week they shift around the hours again. But I have no place to be. We don’t even have TV on a schedule because we use streaming services. Sometimes, when the ticking annoys him, my husband turns off the clocks. And I just float in place. At least time passes quickly.

I try to structure my day. I get up and putter on the computer for a couple of hours. Then I switch over to writing for another couple of hours. I do the dishes and clean a little. And about then things fall apart. I become torn between what I need to do (write and clean) and what I want to do (crafts or television). Then I end up taking a nap and the afternoon is gone and I have to make dinner.

The evenings are generally gone because of the chronic pain. I wind down early and physically cannot do much. I’ve been like this since the pain moved in. So it’s TV, podcasts, or books after dinner. And then reading in bed until I fall asleep.

Little changes in this routine. Except when time fogs out, like the days I am dealing with email and then look up and it’s already 2 pm and I haven’t even eaten lunch. Or the days I am just counting down the minutes until I can take a nap. And the days when the cat yells at me all day wanting food even though I just fed him an hour ago. When his timer is off, mine follows.

Days are not really different. Except on weekends my partner is home all day and we will visit my best friend on some days. But some days we stay home and he goes for a walk and a nap and I feel like I’m back into the weekday pattern.

There goes one attempt to describe life in the time of coronavirus. Now I’m just tired and a bit foggy, so I’ll tune out now.

Pandemic hair

I’ve got a bad case of pandemic hair. Do you?

I had long, long hair for a few years. Just before the pandemic started, I got it cut off into a cute chin-length shag. And have been absolutely unable to keep it up because I cannot go to the salon.

Oh, yes. And I cut my own bangs. They are not straight. (But my hair is long enough to be held up by a single pencil.)

The salon is open. My favorite place re-opened on August 31. I’m sure they are taking all the precautions they can against the spread of the virus. But I’ve got an autoimmune disorder and just don’t trust that it will be good enough.

It’s not just them. Here’s a list of place I have been since March:

  • My house
  • My yard
  • My best friend’s house
  • To the doctor’s office
  • The cannabis dispensary (once – knowing they take top precautions)
  • In the car

Yep. That’s it. My world has gotten very small. And there are no hair stylists in it. My hair is long again. I know I’m in the same boat as many other people. This is our new normal and we have to adjust to it. But I never thought it would last this long. Today, it feels like I have been living this greatly reduced life for years.

My hair chokes me when I sleep. I have to tie it up in a tight knot on top of my head. Otherwise, it will wake me several times in the night twisting around my throat or stuffing into my mouth. The good news is that the knot on top keeps my CPAP straps in place.

I am trying to learn more up-dos and braids – but those are limited by the amount of time I can stand in front of a mirror with my arms up in the air. The pain that lives in my shoulders hates that position. I find myself taking a lot of breaks, and a lot more time to get anything done. The ugly ponytail becomes the style of choice on most days.

Ghost (?) story

Gamma, a bit younger and healthier

Here’s a break from your regularly scheduled programming to tell a story that happened to me this week.

I have an old and sick cat named Gamma. He regularly hollers repeatedly if he wants something – or just because. The sweet old man was hollering in the hallway the other day, and I was trying to get him to come to me. He wouldn’t, so I shushed him a couple of times.The next time he hollered, I heard a shushing sound answering him. I didn’t do it and I was the only person at home. It kept up for about 6 hollers, and then the cat stopped.

I haven’t heard it since. I tell myself it was likely some outside noise that just happened by coincidence. But at the back of my mind, something in my house was shushing my cat. Perhaps the house itself even. What do you think?

Turning to cannabis for pain relief

Disclaimers. I am not a medical doctor – or anything medical. This is not to diagnose or treat anybody’s anything. Talk to your doctor. Do your research. Find what is best for you.

This is my own experience and my thoughts and research. I hope that this may be useful to other people who are making choices about taking care of chronic pain. I am not linking to any brands of anything, and am not making money off any referrals, sales, etc. In the past 20 years, I have only used products legally.

This will be a series of blog posts covering cannabis and pain-related topics that I find interesting. If you have requests for topics, let me know.

All right –

I started taking CBD (cannabidiol) for pain a couple of years ago. I found it helped, but certainly didn’t stop the pain or hugely lessen it. Recently, I started using combined CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which greatly reduced my pain. The pain is still there, but I have regained a lot of movement and the ability to focus on things for much longer. This combination has been close to miraculous for me.

I do not get high. I do not want to get high. I take low doses aimed solely at pain relief. (No offense to anyone who does. I do not judge you – do your thing and be happy.)

I do not smoke weed. I do not smoke anything. (I quit cigarettes in March 2008. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. And I cannot smoke anything without choking these days.)

I had heard of other people – many people getting relief through cannabis for pain and other problems. I wanted to try it because I will try almost anything if I can afford it. Pain has been my constant companion for 30 years and that is not the way I want to be living. I have tried a lot of remedies. Many work a little bit. Many do not work at all.

Before this started, I had wanted to try medical marijuana. I talked with my doctor about it and he did not prescribe. I started looking into getting a medical card in Illinois. The process was long and costly. Dispensaries were about an hour away. I did not know if it would work. I decided not to bother at that point.

When all this started, I began to see CBD mentioned online and in the news. I read up about it, learned that it worked for pain and anxiety in many people. I have both of those. I decided to try it out when I got a chance.

I got my chance when I went to Oregon to visit my brother. Oh, lovely Oregon. You are so progressive. Maybe one day I can visit you again. Cannabis was legal in Oregon. Every kind of cannabis.

We visited a dispensary and I was able to talk with a nice young man who agreed that CBD was what would help me best. I did not smoke or vape so edibles seemed the perfect thing for trying out different brands in small quantities.

I took the CBD as soon as I got back to my brother’s house. I started to learn that whenever I try a new cannabis product, it goes to my head. It does not matter if it has THC in it or not. It is only on the first try. No, I have no idea why this happens. I was very giggly. My brother made it worse by playing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” I was useless that afternoon.

The second time I took it, we were going to see the Portland Timbers play soccer. I really, really do not like crowds. Or large noises. Or commotion. I do love soccer and particularly I love Diego Charra of the Portland Timbers. So, I popped a CBD and went along. This time I did not feel much and that was great. I was able to go the game in that huge, rowdy crowd and I felt nothing. I was able to sit for most of the game in ball-park seating. I was able, after the game, to go on a huge hike to find the restaurant he wanted to visit. No problem. And that was amazing!

Did I still hurt? Yes, but I hurt at a lower level. More importantly, CBD clicked something in my brain, and I stopped giving a rat’s furry butt about the pain. This was not being high. This was just not caring about things like pain and crowds and discomfort and movement that had plagued me for years. I do not know how this works. I have tried to find out, but this not giving a parrot’s tooty patootie was not mentioned in any of the articles. Folks (and I mean the government here), you need to open scholarly and medical studies on cannabis ASAP.

Whatever it was, it worked for me. I used CBD for the rest of a great trip. And came home to Illinois where it was still illegal. And waited a couple of years.

I first saw CBD at the Neighborhood Co-Op health food store. It cost nearly $100. And I mentally sorted it into the big pile of treatments I cannot afford. I talked about it with my husband and he was excited about it. He thought I should try the CBD and we could figure out how to afford it.

So, I bought it. And it worked some. Not as good as the Oregon CBD, but ok. I have since found that there are different types of CBD and different brands can be quite different. (I will write an entire blog on this later.) It took me a while to find a brand that worked well, but I did. And I was good with using CBD for a couple of years.

The only good thing of 2020 happened on January 1 when recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois.  We drove to the hour to see the dispensary. There was a line of people fully around the building. In January. Every time we drove by it was just as busy. Even with the CBD, my legs cannot stand in line for that long.

I waited. Covid-19 struck. I was stuck at home ALL the time now and getting tremendously grouchy with my pain and everything else. I learned that the dispensary now had a program where you ordered online and went to the dispensary at a designated time to pick up your order. I could do that.

I did that. Showed up for my appointment with my mask and gloves. Got my ID checked. Went into a waiting room, took a socially-distanced chair, and waited, looking around at the 8 other people in the room both masked and unmasked. A masked person opened the door, calling out “next!” A man got up and walked with them. I had no idea how he realized he was next. They didn’t give us numbers. I started to pay really good attention to who was in the room and who was coming in at that point.

Eventually, I figured out that I might be next and went inside to pick up my order of three types of small-dose THC and CBD/THC blended edibles. I wanted to take it in the car. But I did not do that because it is illegal. I got home, took my first THC dose, and a little while later somebody just turned the dial down on the pain.

They turned the dial WAY down. I could still feel it a little. (And I do still have bad days.) I would notice it. But the pain was not getting in my way. And with the CBD I didn’t give a flipping cartwheel about things that used to bother me. Life is suddenly better, much better. I can live with this level of pain.

Over the next month, I kept moving more and better. I could stand up to chop vegetables at the kitchen counter. I could bend over and pick something up off the floor. I could sit down and stand up without additional pain. I am not playing dodgeball or anything crazy, but I am moving. And moving more and better all the time.

That is my basic story. I plan to write a round of other blog articles: different cannabinoids, other ingredients like terpenes, micro-dosing, different delivery methods, avoiding the high, how to tell if your cannabis is quality, and more.

Malaise – I’ve got it

Making myself try to write is not working. I’ve gone down pretty hard. My body and mind want to do as little as possible. Things I have to do are not getting done, let alone things I want to do.

Yesterday, I sat staring at the shelf where I keep my beads for about an hour. I thought about making a pretty necklace for myself, which is something fun that I like doing. And I just sat there and thought until I finally forgot about making the necklace.

Who is here with me? I know this virus is doing strange things to people. My best friend is not sleeping. My husband’s anxiety is high and he is trying to micro-manage the cats. (Cats resist micromanagement pretty well.)

Every day, I try to break out of it. But it is so hard to get up and do something – or even sit here and do something in the case of writing.

I want to:

  • Write
  • Go outside and garden
  • Plant the mail-order plants that are sitting around my house
  • Go outside and sit in one spot and pick up all the gumballs within my reach
  • Make banana bread
  • Make that necklace
  • Eat food that I do not grab as a single piece from the kitchen
  • Wash the windows so I can look at outside without thinking what a louse housekeeper I am
  • Look up the Netflix password so I can watch Netflix after the system reset itself when I had the cable disconnected
  • Paint my nails
  • Shower
  • Crochet
  • Cross Stitch

The bar is not high.

What I am doing:

  • Reading (a lot)
  • Playing World of Warcraft (64th level elven hunter)
  • Teaching my best friends kids 3 mornings a week
  • Sleeping
  • Petting the cats
  • Doing fake cross-stitch on my Kindle
  • Creating clothes-mountain
  • Cleaned the toilet
  • Going on drives to nowhere just so I can see different things
  • Reading more news about Covid-19 than is probably healthy

But know, if you are going through this, you are not alone. I know it is trauma but it sure doesn’t feel like traumas in the past. This is the slow creeping trauma. Trauma that whispers from the deeps like an Elder God in a Lovecraft story. By the time we see it for what it is, it has been already happening for a long while. It’s settled into our bodies and our homes without us realizing it.

Now that it’s in, it is harder to remove. If we could have seen it coming, we could have actively stopped it. But we could not see it coming. It entered in a tendril here, a puff there, a news article, a Facebook post, one twisting bit of dread at a time.

At least I am not my neighbor who is fanatically and constantly mowing his lawn. I think that would be worse – but he is at least getting some exercise.

A day of quiet

I took today to do nothing and it feels great.

I’ve actually been busier than normal during the times of self isolation. I’ve been going over to my best friend’s house and helping homeschool her kids – so she and her husband can get work done. The girls are great and we are having a lot of fun. But, still, it’s exhausting and I come home from that and tend to collapse.

Now, we are working into a schedule where I come over on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. As today is Wednesday – I took it for me. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing. Instead, I’ve been doing nothing useful. I’ve read a book, a magazine, and things on the computer. Cuddled with the cats. Played World of Warcraft. Worked on a D&D character. Breathed. Showered. Painted my nails (spring-green). Ate ice cream. Saw a new sparrow at the bird feeder. So, nothing.

Gamma is doing nothing so thoroughly that we can stack stuff on him.
I aim for that level of slack.

What I didn’t do: cook, clean, plan lessons, write (other than this), or get anything done I was supposed to do. I didn’t even do my crossword puzzle. This is what I was hoping for in a scary-virus quarantine time.

I love a blank day. I know so many people who are going nuts because they can’t go out and do. They can’t work, or have to do partial and odd work at home. (My husband is doing the partial and odd.) No shopping, no movies, no sports. No meaningful contact with non-family humans. And I get it that those things can be trying.

But I’m a Gen-Xer. I know how to slack. There is an art to doing nothing and I urge you to study it.

What am I going to do next? Sit on the sofa. Maybe watch some ghost-hunter television shows. (Our newest addiction) Crack some Brazil nuts. Eat popcorn for dinner. Look at a bead catalog. Join me, I promise it will be fun.