Day 215. My Secret Pain Self

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting quite as much of late.  That has been for two concurrent reasons.  I have been in the middle of writing about how fantastic my phsyical therapist is–because he is really great. Then at the same time, I have been in an existential crisis about how miserable I am because I am in pain and horribly fatigued as a result of physical therapy.

Over the weekend, I was so miserable; I had to miss doing two things I really wanted to do, and I barely un-beached myself from the couch long enough to eat another caramel rice-cake with tofutti cream cheese, honey, and cinammon (my absolute favorite GF, Dairy-free treat…but more than three of those a day will put a girl into two size 22 mu-mus, sewn together, mighty quick).

But I digress, as usual.

I went to PT on Monday and told Mike about my misery.  He was very concerned and jumped right into diagnostic mode.  At the same time, though, he reminded me that I had come in happily last week and announced that my shoulders had never been so relaxed in recent memory and that I thought we were making real progress with this body work.  I do have a vague memory of saying that. Here’s the problem:  When I am in pain, I can only think: pain,pain, pain, pain.  When the pain is over, I can’t remember or describe it clearly (without referring to journals).  Seriously.  He asked me to explain what happened over the weekend that was so bad, and I was hard pressed to elaborate.  It’s embarrassing because it sounds like I am making it up.

I think I have a dissociative response to my pain, to some extent.  On a large scale, people who have a dissociative response are really in trouble, because they are disconnecting from themselves or the world; for example, dissociative identity disorder is the present name for what in the past was known as multiple personality disorder. But a more adaptive form of dissociation frequently occurs to people in something as mundane as, say, a car accident; dissociation from the fright of the situation is gives the person a safe place to stash the self, so people often report having watched the accident occur as though they were watching it on TV. Disconnecting from the whole scene to process the deep and difficult feelings, including pain, may be the safest way for some people–like those of us with very intense feelings–to do it.

Maybe I disconnected one tiny bit of myself that day my parents walked me down the hall of my apartment building and I went to the hospital with an exploded leg aneurysm.  Without any doubt I had the sense of standing above the stretcher where I was lying and watching the radiologist tell me, “Yup!  See!  This is an aneurysm right here.”  And I looked at the angiogram with great interest, as though it belonged to that imaginary patient we always see on television. That dissociated piece of myself has undoubtedly remained….well…split.  And it has a tough time articulating much of anything, particularly pain.  I am sure that is why, on the rotten days like today and yesterday, I tend just to fall asleep.  When that dissociated part of me takes over, I’m not available for talking or thinking much, so the porch light’s off.  Nobody’s home.

There’s going to have to be a whole chapter on physical therapy in my book.  It’s complicated.

Day 218. Positive(?) Results


As happens with technology I spent a long time making a great looking PDF that should load when this blog opens up.  Now it won’t do it, even though the YouTube I watched shows that it does so seamlessly….so, I must ask you to click on this link to see the pretty file.  See what you think of the information, and don’t forget to hit the back arrow on your browser to make comments if you have them.

march 26, 2012 COL3A1 POS

This is a guest blog I did for my friend and fellow writer, Michele Berger. She is doing a series on women writers who inspire us in her blog on creativity and asked me to guest blog. I recommend subscribing because she writes about great stuff.

The Practice of Creativity

Guest Post by Heidi Moore

I’ve just fallen into literary love with a writer I assumed was brand new, Edith Pearlman.When I finished reading her short story, “Tess,” I put down my iPad and sat still for a moment with the intense feeling it left me. It’s a difficult sensation to describe to those who haven’t yet learned to love the short story. The sensation feels as though an important truth about one corner of the whole world has been encapsulated in an exquisite, but simple, jewel that I have just held in my hands, and I want to know how it is possible the author could have constructed something so precious there.

Anyone who wants to know how to write, or even read, a short story would wisely begin with Pearlman. One reason her stories are so remarkable is Pearlman writes amazing sentences; these are sentences that tell a…

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Day 230. A Bump in the Road

Still Life With Pucker

Warning for the faint-hearted:  this entry is all about whining, and not the good oak-y kind from Sonoma.


Doing my best not to be disappointed about being absolutely miserable from the drive back home the beach.
It was one of those miserable trips up the East Coast, an accident here, a detour there (How did they justify simply blocking off the exit ramp to 95 N in Va. Beach on the Sunday of Spring Break weekend, for instance?).  By hour two, I had already chewed my mother’s head off, and it took well into the sullen hour three and a half to realize that I was ready to gnaw off any one of my limbs to deaden the pain.
We left for this trip on Thursday.  Arrived Thursday night.  Thursday night I was up all night in this kind of pain.  Riding in the car makes me crazy with pain.  I thought this time would be different because I have a potent muscle relaxer I didn’t have before. Ha!  That muscle relaxer laughed at me and my pain.  So, Friday was not fun (compounded by the fact that it was a rainy day).  But I didn’t complain.  The foul weather was pretty.  There was the puzzle with the family.  Etc., etc.
Every time I go to the beach I have another reason to think that This Is The Time It Will Be Different.  But every time, riding in the car for five hours (which is the duration of the trip when the traffic gods smile on us) puts me into paroxysms of pain.  What is to be done?
This feels like an enormous bump in the road.

Travel seems like something I can’t live without.  When have I not traveled? My earliest memories are in Spanish, when I was living in Argentina.  I have been to many places in the Americas, the Islands, and some in Europe.  That is so little of the world. I was planning on traversing so much more of it: Asia, Eastern Europe. But right now, I’d be happy to make a car trip, say, to southwestern Virginia (on the Tennessee border), to visit my little brother at Emory & Henry College.

Oh puhhleeze, Heidi.  There’s more than just a hint of the whinge here. In my defense, though, it feels to me as though I whine the best and most when I am problem solving.
I want to be able to take my older brother on a trip for his 50th birthday, but what good will I be if I can’t travel?   If I force myself to travel under present circumstances, I may ruin everyone’s trip.
Mike, my phenomenal physical therapist, educates me about the neurochemistry of pain.  He says that if you have chronic pain, at the spinal cord level, your body’s neurons can misfire.  Rather than firing up toward the brain, they fire backward, releasing neurotransmitters back into the synapses in the body, which creates a hypersensitivity to pain. The more the body floods with those neurotransmitters, the more the entire makeup changes. Of course, my explanation is grossly oversimplified, and only one part of what happens, but it is an important part of the explanation.
However, the good news is that these synapses, or connections between the neurons, can be completely rewired in seconds, minutes, or hours, which means that the pain response can be entirely different by the end of the week.  In other words it is entirely possible for you (or me) not to have any more chronic pain by Sunday.
Some fascinating recent research demonstrated that patients with chronic pain in abdominal muscles lit up numerous areas of the brain in a functional MRI that shouldn’t have been lit up when they tensed those muscles. SO, when their doctors explained this pain response to them for three hours in just the language I used now, and then asked them to tense the same muscles, the functional MRI showed a dramatically improved response.
The theory behind this doesn’t argue that this is a “mind over matter” transaction, but rather that knowing, intellectually, that this process exists can help rewire the body’s neurotransmitter response.
The idea is to un-learn that pain is a threat, which is counter-intuitive. For me, that has been difficult:  I am too good a researcher and am capable of imagining precisely what sort of danger this or that pain could be.  However, I’m working on that and have it down pretty well. So this week, when suddenly my right wrist just hurts and is swollen for the first time, I’m just pissed off, rather than worried (C’mon, man, it’s my writing hand!). Clearly, it is some dumb Ehlers Danlos thing; what a massive inconvenience now to have to wear a brace for a week. But, I can’t let those neurotransmitters get me down.
I don’t know how far this will get me down the road, whether it will take me far in terms of travel downstate, cross-country or cross the pond.  I wish I had some ideas about that.  I’m hoping those issues will resolve themselves with my new resolve.
What is your bump in the road? What are you overcoming?



Day 234. Spring Break

Imagine that: I was feeling guilty because I wasn’t writing in my blog this week.

Sunset at the Beach House

I filled the early days of the week with other writing tasks (including finishing a short story I am excited about). Then, I felt rushed as I always do about all the things I do before a trip (mindless: figuring out which three sweaters and t-shirts were going in the suitcase, making sure I had enough of the eleven-teen medications, and the eleven gluten-free, egg-free, wheat-free, nut-free things to eat).

Then, it was off to the beach Thursday morning. First trip of the season. It felt like swimming weather when we arrived at the Outer Banks of North Carolina that afternoon, almost 80 degrees, but overnight, the rain began, and Friday felt like a mad, mean Nor’easter, with nothing but fierce wind-driven rain. For a couple of hours, great tufts of fog completely engulfed us, and it looked like we were the only house on the tiny island where we are.

There was such great peace and fun just sitting there with my nephews doing a big puzzle the size of a card-table, a picture of about 100 different kind of candy wrappers.

Today, it is freezing cold. Sweater and space-heater weather. Taking a shower this morning reminded me of being in school in Vermont, when I would have to have lengthy, cajoling discussions with myself, including a system of rewards, just to get my lazy, ice-cold self into that tile-floored bathroom for a shower. “C’mon, self. If you’ll just get in the shower and wash your hair, you’ll feel SO much better,” and “You can have a donut for breakfast if you’ll just get up and DO IT now.” It was a tug of war this morning, but I did hose off the filth for the good of my family. The cold just feels so much colder here than it does at home in my cozy apartment in Virginia.

I kind of love it.

As I thought of all this, resting off the carbohydrates of a (gluten-free, egg-free, etc.) apple pie my mom made me, I realized that spending my last 236th, 235th 234th, and 233rd days here would be just fine, and telling you about it in fewer words than usual would be absolutely on topic.

This right here is part of my cure.

Day 241. Am I Pretty?

Am I pretty?

By the way, there is only one correct answer to that if you’re my friend.

I have enough ego strength to “joke” with you that way.  But then again I am over thirty.  One whole teenager over thirty.

A running theme in my life over the past couple of years has been the idea that if the internet had been around when I was a kid, I would have made such FANTASTIC use of it.  I used to write skits and plays and comedy routines.  Without a doubt, I would have written and produced my own short films and distributed them on my own websites and blogs.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, everything.  I would have ruled it.  Whenever I hear of some teenager coming up with some clever thing that went viral, I think–no sour grapes at all–that would have been me.

So in the past few days, I have heard a couple of stories that changed my mind, like an ill wind blowing through a house of cards.

The first one I saw on Channel Five, our local Fox News (a sensational story from a source known for sensationalizing, but still).  The story describes a “Disturbing Trend” among women as young as eleven and twelve years old who post their pictures online, under the heading, “Am I Pretty?”  They are asking strangers to rate their beauty.

Am I Pretty?

Some of these postings get a huge number of hits, in the millions. The feedback can be cruel, comments like:  “You’re pathetic,” or a screenful of  “UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY.” A screenful.

This may seem as though it is off the topic of this blog, but….talk about sick.  The responses are sick.  Sick-making to the girls, in the present, in the long-term.  They are sick-making to me, too.  I would argue they ought to make most people sick.

The other story is even more galling, if only because it involves someone I know.  The fifteen year-old son of a good friend of mine had dinner with a group of us.  I asked him a question I’m sure embarrassed him, about how his relationship with his girlfriend of two months was going.

This young man shyly told me about something that had happened the night before during a sleepover with five of his male friends (by the way, I am disguising enough details about this to hide the identities of the people involve).  His girlfriend had been jealous he was having a party with his friends and not with her.  She also knew he was losing interest in her, so she (his words) “sexted him,” by sending him a text with a picture of her naked breasts.

When I asked him how he felt about it, he said he was embarrassed for her and sad. The minute it happened, he went and showed it to his dad, and they decided he should delete the picture.  Then, on his own, he wrote to her and asked her why she would ever do something so disrespectful to herself.  She gave him a response that was so sad.

She said that when her last boyfriend tried to break up with her, it worked to do the same thing to bring him back.  Even if she was making it up, and it sounded like she was, that was just so sad that she thought she needed to show her body off to win his affections.

She was very lucky that she hadn’t emailed a naked picture to the average guy, who likely would have texted it to fourteen of his closest friends.  By Monday morning at school, every guy–and girl–would have had a picture of two of her supposed assets.

I don’t mean to embarrass myself, but I can understand how she became involved in something so completely ridiculous, because I was a young, misinformed teenage girl. I wanted so very desperately to be liked. I did and said all kinds of desperate and awful things because I thought they would make people like me.

Not a single one of them worked.  If I was going to understand it, I needed someone to tell me from a megaphone to my ear daily.  Unfortunately, they only whispered it once or twice. I didn’t work that hot mess out until I was in my early 30s.  I am eternally grateful there was no internet.

I can’t say whether I would have posted a picture and asked complete strangers to rate my beauty.  But I can understand the appeal in supposed anonymity.  One can so easily suppose the pre-adolescent reasoning: “If I put my image out there on a blog or Wikipedia, no one I know will ever see it.”

It’s like being invisible. I sometimes feel that way with this blog, which is why when someone mentions it to me in person, I pause for millisecond; my brain does an out-of-context blip of a dance: “How can you be talking about that out-in-the-ether-thing, when you are so clearly human, and standing here?”

Last night I slept terribly, fitfully, full of nightmares. In a single dream that went on all night, I was in Deathville; my health was declining rapidly, and the doctors had informed me that the End was near. Every symptom that arose–my leg pain, my pounding heart, my aching belly–was still further evidence that my number was next up on the Deathville number board, and I couldn’t escape.  No matter which I alley I turned down, I reached the Deathville number board. No matter which safe haven I reached, I injured myself again.

Tossing and turning in bed, I could find no comfort. Finally, I was able to wrestle my aching joints from that painful sleep, coming to consciousness, strangely, on the memory of those teens and tweens.  As I awoke in that cotton-headed twilight, my thoughts came clearer and clearer into focus and I knew with sudden clarity that I would sooner go back to Deathville than to be a tween girl, even if I had a Twitter feed or a YouTube account.  Not for a million, billion dollars.


Beauty, beauty

Look at you

I wish to God I had it too ….

Pretty, Pretty?  (Divine, Female Trouble)