It’s been a while…

I don’t know what it’s like for other people who write similar blogs to me, but I constantly think of things to upload on here and I just never get around to doing it.

Life has been busy for me over the last couple of months. In my role, as Operations Assistant, the end of year amps up, rather than slows down. We have our staff retreat, Christmas related events/activities and then long days of Payroll.

That doesn’t mean to say there haven’t been things I’ve wanted to share on here. For example, I went away with my mother for a week a couple of months ago and I have some beauty pics to share (like below) and I went on the previously mentioned staff retreat just recently.

I’ve also had a rheumatologist appointment and it was disappointing to say the least. I felt like I didn’t get any answers, the computer was broken so the rheumatologist who was seeing me (not my normal lady) couldn’t see my history, and the ultrasound machine was broken, so we were unable to check the inflammation in my joints properly. I felt like the lady was misunderstanding the small amount of medical history she was able to access and was not listening to me, and she couldn’t give me any advice about the side effects of the rheumatoid arthritis medication I’m on. It honestly felt pointless, and therefore disappointing. Aside from that, though, I’m doing pretty well in regards to my arthritis. I still have days were specific joints hurt more than others and I’m generally still tired a lot faster than I used to be, but overall I’m doing well.

I feel lucky to know what kind of condition I have (although they can’t 100% confirm) and I’m taking medication that seems to be working and I have a workplace that is really flexible with my hours when I have appointments to attend.

Anyway, I thought I’d pop by to say hello while I had the chance, and I look forward to my free summer days where I can share more on here.

P.S. my doggo passed away a year ago and I miss her dearly. It was a horrific evening, the night she passed, but it doesn’t reflect the absolutely wonderful life she had and the joy she brought to our family. Love you forever, Brown.

How well do you look after your teeth?

For years, I barely looked after mine. I hated cleaning my teeth, and I didn’t have the money to get them checked out – so much so, that I didn’t even think about getting them looked at. Last year, I finally decided to sign up to a dental plan so I could keep my teeth regularly maintained… and it was a fantastic decision. Yes, I’ve had to spend a lot of money fixing problems caused over the years, but the longer I waited to check my teeth out by the dentist, the more damage that would occur. There are a couple of areas of my teeth (mostly my back teeth) that need extra help, and the dentist has put in these temporary ‘covers’ (don’t know the official word) to help the teeth naturally work on themselves. In a couple of years, after well maintaining my teeth, the dentist will decide what to do with them – hopefully not all permanent fixtures, if I’ve done things right!

“By joining our Lumino Dental Plan, you can rest assured that you’ll be taking care of your oral health the best way possible through regular check-ups and hygiene appointments. For less than a dollar a day* you can be confident you’ve got the basics covered with:

  • A comprehensive dental consultation, including an exam and x-ray
  • Two hygiene visits
  • 10% off any additional treatments,  excluding Dental Implants and Orthodontic services
  • Text alerts when your appointments are due”

– Lumino 

Totally. Worth. It.

Overall, I’m so glad that I finally started caring for my teeth properly. It’s something that I regret not doing earlier, but apparently (so says my hygienist) it’s quite common for people to stop going to the dentist through their uni years due to money. But, fear not! I am regularly chewing sugar-free gum, flossing (although I still find this the hardest to remember to do regularly), cleaning my teeth with fluoride toothpaste and using mouthwash. I’m also eating less sucrose and fructose – or, at least cleaning my teeth/chewing gum asap afterwards! I also purchased an electric toothbrush to help me clean my back teeth slightly better and easier, as the toothbrush head is smaller. FYI that my dentist said I didn’t need to buy an expensive one – he said the main difference is the battery life and I always have mine plugged in.

So, how well do you look after your teeth? No judgement here, but here’s a reminder to get them checked out if it’s been a while!

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

Self-care on the Road to Recovery

How self-care affects recovery

Over the past 8 months, I have come to realise that self-care is a dominant player in my Rheumatoid Arthritis recovery. I am a true believer that recovery is holistic and that overall well-being is important, not just physical improvement. During a conversation I was having with my physio about ‘pacing’ activities (I’m focusing on walking at the moment – read more about ‘pacing’ here) I realised that not only has my ‘pacing’ been helping my recovery physically but so has spending time in nature! I love a good flower find and enjoy breathing in fresh air.

Taking care of ourselves

We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – that can be in the context of a parent-child relationship, friend-friend relationship, with your partner or even with a stranger. This concept has been explained to me in relation to flying in an aeroplane – we have to put our oxygen mask on before we can put the mask on a child/any else that needs help. This is pointing out that if we are struggling, it becomes a lot harder for us to help other people.

So, what can we do about it? 

I truly believe that self-care is a crucial part of everyone’s health and well-being, but especially those who are recovering from something, like myself. This is when active self-care comes into play. It’s about making sure we take time out to care for ourselves. There are basic self-care aspects, such as ensuring you are feed balanced, nutritious food and have the appropriate amount of time to sleep, but there is also a deeper level of self-care that we need to take into account. We all have physical, emotional/mental and spiritual needs that we have to consider when thinking about self-care. Self-care changes from person to person, as well. It’s all about listening to your body and being aware of what you need.

How do you know what works well for you? In my experience, it’s all about trial and error. You give something a go and see whether it works for you. For example, sometimes self-care is all about spending time alone and sometimes its all about spending time with others.

Where do I start? 

Below is a list of self-care habits I personally like, which you are encouraged to try out:

  • taking a bath
  • quality time reading a book
  • eating some of my favorite food
  • ‘earthing’ – physically connecting with the earth e.g. walking on the beach barefoot or lying on the grass looking up to the sky (although my hay fever is not a fan of that one)
  • going for a walk either by myself or with friends
  • having a nice nap
  • listening to some music that makes me feel good
  • spending time trying out some new recipes
  • spending some time with my best friend
  • lighting a candle at my meal time and sitting down at the table to eat
  • watching my favorite TV show
  • asking to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while
  • buying something that I usually wouldn’t buy
  • going to the movies
  • doing a face mask
  • thoroughly cleaning my teeth

Self-care can be part of your normal daily routine and it can also be a special time that you have allocated. There are some habits I tend to perform more than others, as I have learnt over the years what I need to on a regular basis and what I need when I’m feeling a certain way.

Can you recognise what self-care habits that you do on a regular basis? If you have any self-care tips, let me know!

A Slow and Steady Journey: Arthritis Update

I’ve been a bit MIA on my blog lately, as life has just been jam-packed full of activities and appointments. Now that I have a bit of time up my sleeve, I thought I’d give an update on my arthritis. For those that haven’t read my previous blogs, I have Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, which developed after I got Reactive Arthritis as a result of getting salmonella. This was back in December 2017 and things still aren’t back to normal, but they are improving – here’s how:

  1. I had a terrible sleep on Saturday night, so much so that I actually only slept for about an hour over the whole course of the night, for no particular reason that I could tell. It was a humble reminder that only a short 7 months ago, I was having to get up every two hours in order to take pain medication to get through the night (and day) without being in excruciating pain. In terms of pain, I have come a long way.
  2. A couple of weeks ago, I had a rheumatology appointment at the hospital to see how I was going. There is still a small portion of active inflammation in my joints (those affected for me are; both ankles, both knees, both elbows and both shoulders), but overall, it has significantly gone down since my first visit with my rheumatologist. In terms of active inflammation, I have come a long way. 
  3. I started driving about 2 or so months ago. That means I had about 6 months without driving and without having any independence. That was hard for me. I still get a sore leg after driving, and the parking isn’t great where I work, so my mum still has to drive me to work and back every day, but I’m driving outside of that, for social events and errands. In terms of driving, I have come a long way.
  4. This week, I had my first physio appointment. I had asked to see a physio as I am still having trouble walking properly, as well as getting the sore leg after driving. It was a great session and he said I haven’t done any damage, but just need to improve my strength – something I already suspected but appreciated hearing. I think back to when this first happened and I couldn’t walk at all on my right leg (where I first got the inflammation). I was then on crutches for about 5 months and have since been using a walking stick. I still have the walking stick, to help when I’m having to stand in the same spot for ages or when I need to walk long distances or generally need some support. In terms of walking, I have come a long way.

I still have a long way to go; I can’t ‘go for a walk’ yet, I’m still using a walking stick, I struggle to stand in the same spot for too long (e.g. showering and cooking), we’re still trying to figure out what treatment will work best for me, I’m still coming off the steroids, I still need to try and lose the weight the steroids caused me to gain, I still get sore if I push my self too hard…. but, I’ve come a long way.

The rheumatologist has said that it’s more than likely that I will be living with this arthritis my entire life, but as long as I take the medication/once we’ve found the right balance, I should be able to live a ‘normal life’.

The physio has tasked me to try ‘pacing’, i.e. with walking, spend a few days trying to figure out how many minutes I can walk at once (I’m doing after work), without pushing myself enough that I need a rest. I then need to calculate the few days together and figure out the average – I’m thinking it will be about 10 minutes. Once I’ve done that, I need walk for that amount of time every day for a week. If everything is going well, add another 10% on for the following week and so on. This concept is based on trying to stop or discourage a cycle of overdoing it and then needing rest, then overdoing it again once you feel better and round and round it goes. What we want, is to build up my strength slowly so I can function on a day to day basis without needing to take a day of rest in between. I also have a few exercises to do, one I can do at my desk at work and the other I need to do at home with an exercise band (pictured).

It is a slow and steady journey, but I am getting there!

 

The KeepCup that’s here to stay

In the lead up to #PlasticFreeJuly, I thought it was an appropriate time to finally purchase a KeepCup. I had been given a reusable cup from my mum, which she got for free after shopping at Farmers. I appreciated the gift and used it a few times, but soon realised it didn’t vibe with me very well. I ended up passing it on to someone who really enjoyed it.

I don’t buy a lot of takeaway coffees, so was in no rush to find a reusable cup that I liked and for those that know me, know that it’s not often I buy things like this when full price. I kept an eye out on places that sold KeepCups, checking out their colour combos and looking out for any sales. Last weekend, when I was at St Lukes Mall, I walked into Stevens and finally found one that I liked. As someone at work said to me, the cup you choose can potentially say a lot about you, so picking a colour combination that suited me was important. I also happened to get 15% off – bonus!!

Have you got a KeepCup, or something similar?

What’s your Daily Mantra?

Thanks to a KikkiK purchase a few years ago (similar to this), I’ve constantly got a ‘mantra’ that I say to myself. A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently that helps create a positive mindset. These mantras not only help create a positive mindset, but I feel like they help create a healthy mindset, too. It’s important to feel confidence in oneself and these little sayings encourage me to practice mental self-care. I replace these KikkK ‘inspiration cards’ weekly, to help me have a focus and feel like I have a purpose. For the week, I see the mantra every morning and say it to myself – well, that’s how it started anyway…

More often than not, I now make up my own mantra and have it much longer than a week. At the moment, my mantra is ‘I can do this’. Why? Well, if you have read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I am currently living with arthritis. It started with salmonella; something that is unpleasant, but not something I knew could cause me to get reactive arthritis. It was supposed to be a rather temporary disease but unfortunately, that’s not the case for me and I now have whats being categorised as ‘seronegative rheumatoid arthritis’. So, every day, I am saying to myself “I can do this” because every day has its struggles and I’m fighting my way through it. Some days are harder than others, but each day has its own battle and whats hard is that it looks like I’m okay to everyone else i.e. when I was lying in a hospital bed, it was obvious that I wasn’t well, but when I’m walking around (albeit still on crutches) most people think I’m doing okay. So, to set my day up with a positive mindset, I start with saying my mantra to myself.

Do you have a statement or slogan that you often say to yourself to help you keep a positive, healthy mindset?

A Quiet Reflection

During the first month of being ill, the pain was unbearable and the hospital visits became extremely tedious, so I’m rather grateful for the position I’m currently in. I can walk more freely with my crutches, spend at least 9 hours of the day out of bed and can put my clothes on without having to sit down (well, most of the time). It really is the small things that count!

My arthritis is still very much alive, however, and I’m having to battle the physical and emotional consequences of that daily. I’m taking an average of 18 pills per day and I’m seriously over it. The medication I’m on causes horrible side effects, where it becomes harder to function and I’m currently living every day as it comes, not knowing what part of my body will hurt next or whether or not I’ll wake up with a headache and feeling nauseous.

Becoming ill has certainly changed my life. With the surplus hours I’ve spent lying in bed, I’ve had time to reflect on my life, thinking about who and what is important to me. I’m having to live life at a slower pace as well and take things as they come. This illness has certainly tested my patience and the patience of those around me.

I recently asked to change roles at my work. It’s a decision I didn’t make lightly, but one that I think is best for my health and best for those who work with me (especially the ones who have been helping out with tasks I’m unable to perform at the moment). I am so grateful for my workplace. The organisation I work for, along with those I work with, are amazing. Everyone has been immeasurably compassionate and flexible with me, making sure I put my health first where needed, being understanding of my shortened hours and finally, my request for a role change has been accepted.

I am also so grateful for my friends. ‘Hard times will always reveal true friends’ is a saying that rings quite true at the moment. It’s funny how something like this would shed so much light on the relationships that I have, making some stronger and some not so much. I’m so grateful for having friends who check up on me, pick me up because I still can’t drive yet, make plans with me even though I’m limited in what I can do and generally show that they care about my wellbeing.

And finally, I am so grateful for my family. I wouldn’t know what to do without them! They have been so supportive, especially my mum who drives me everywhere, rubs my sore joints and cooks me delicious food. It’s hard to live with someone who is unable to function completely without help and I appreciate all the extra effort my family make to help make my life a bit easier.

My hope is that as these negative side effects are emerging, that underneath, slowly the life-changing positive side effects are working their magic too. I’ll be seeing my rheumatologist in about a month, and she’ll be able to tell me whether or not things are truly improving!

I’ll finish with this:

You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way. – Elizabeth Taylor