Self-care

For years, I never gave much thought to taking care of myself, not in an emotional sense anyway. I was raised to help others and essentially bury my feelings to be understanding and empathic towards others. It wasn’t until a few years ago that a friend finally wore me down after weeks of nagging to finally set up a self-care plan for myself. 

At the time, I was so stressed and burned out that I wasn’t sleeping or eating and my stomach was in knots.  My job really took it toll and I wasn’t taking time for myself which in turn made my arthritis flare. I spent all of my spare time doing things for others instead of taking a few minutes or hours to myself each week. 

I try to do at least one thing from my list each week. It sounds simple but we all know life has a way of sneaking up on us and suddenly we don’t have time to get everything done, even when we organize and prioritize. Below are a few things that  try to do on a regular basis. 

  • Warm shower
  • Face mask
  • Read a book
  • Watch a movie
  • Play with my dogs 
  • Take a walk
  • Mani/pedi
  • Light a candle
  • Sleep in
  • Watch church service online
  • Shopping
  • Coloring 
  • Talk to friends
  • Coffee date
  • Journal
  • Relax in bed
  • Bullet journal 

If you’ve never tried self-care, you’re missing out. Taking even 15 minutes a day to do something for yourself makes a world of difference. Let me know what you do to de-stress after a crazy day. 

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Sleeping with Chronic Pain

Sleep is such a wonderful thing. I mean really, who doesn’t love sleep? Unfortunately, sleep is something that we take for granted…until it eludes us. Having lived with arthritis for 15 years, I’ve had my fair share, and my sister’s share, of sleepless nights for various reasons.


Usually, my insomnia comes from not being to turn my brain off or shooting pains from my arthritis or simply not being able to get comfortable. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few things really help me to relax, mentally and physically.

Warm shower (or bath).

There is something relaxing about standing in a warm shower while the water and steam relieve all the aches and pains from a long day.  I also like to do some stretches in the shower to work out the kinks from a busy day.

Heat.

Nothing sooths my sore joints like sitting in bed with my heating pad or electric blanket. For me, heat works better than ice on my swollen joints. If I’ve had a particularly rough day, I spend about 30 minutes snuggled up, relaxing. I especially love this one during the cold, winter nights.

Warm drink.

I love having some hot cocoa before bed. I’m learning to like tea and just starting to get into it but something about a warm drink and a good book that is very relaxing. Mint cocoa is my favorite, for those of you wondering.

Medication.

If I’ve had a rough day physically, I will take an Aleve, or a prescription medication if needed, before going to bed, even if I’m not hurting at that moment. I know that as soon as I stop moving, my joints will start to seize up and stiffen. I try to be proactive with my pain management as much as possible. By taking an Aleve before bed, it allows the medication to work while I’m sleeping, making me less stiff in the mornings.

No electronics.

I try to stop using my phone or watching TV about an hour before I want to go to sleep. I used to be obsessed with checking social media right up until I went to bed. I was the queen of “one more scroll”. By putting my phone away an hour before bed, I’m able to relax more and let my body have some quiet time.

Read a book.

Reading is very calming for me. Getting lost in another world, in character’s problems, allows me to shut my brain off and forget about my own crazy life for a little while. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars”. I’m a little late on the bandwagon but so far I’m really liking it.

Make the bed.

For years, I never made my bed. I always felt like it was a waste of time when I was just going to mess it up again. However, making the bed before I get into makes a world of difference. I love a freshly made bed. I mean really, is there anything more relaxing and comforting that freshly tucked sheets?

These are my tips to getting a good nights sleep with chronic pain. Let me know your tips for relaxing and falling asleep at night in the comments. Sleep tight!

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Arthritis & Fashion

As someone who struggles with arthritis, fashionable and arthritis are not generally used in the same sentence. Finding clothing, shoes especially, that are comfortable, supportive and cute (not sneakers) is more difficult that you’d think.

Last night, I went out with some friends to see Twelfth Night which is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays of all time. We met up at one of my friend’s house and went together. The play was hilarious, most of the actors were fantastic!

 Afterwards, we went to a late night, hole-in-the-wall burger joint and holy moly! They had the best burgers! I highly recommend Bunz on Baxter Ave if you’re ever in Louisville.


I knew a head of time what our plan was but I was unsure how much walking was involved. Parking downtown is so unpredictable! Picking out footwear was like playing Russian Roulette with my arthritis. My common sense was telling me to wear the sneakers; be comfortable and don’t kill your feet. But, I hadn’t been out in such a long time, that I wanted to wear the cute leopard print flats. After some debate, I went with the flats.


Man, am I paying for that choice today! Between the 3 hour play and walking to dinner, my ankle is incredibly angry with me today, even though it was taped. Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it to spend a fun evening with friends. Someday I will learn to take comfort over fashion but apparently, yesterday was not the day.

So I’m spending the day in bed, relaxing, cuddling with my puppies, watching Hawaii Five-O until I have babysit tonight. Hopefully my feet are less angry with me by then.

Let me know if you have suggestions for cute, comfortable shoes (that aren’t sneakers) in the comments below!

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Workout Frustrations

One of my goals this year is to be more consistent working out. I started this journey last year, lost some weight and then kind of hit a plateau. After I stopped losing weight, I kind of gave up pushing myself and just accepted it was the best I could do. My weight fluctuated around 5 pounds, nothing serious, all things considered.

Since deciding to get back to my workouts, I’ve been incredibly frustrated by my limitations. I’m constantly on Pinterest, scrolling the Health & Fitness board, for workouts, stretches, or inspiration in general. It always makes me incredibly motivated and ready to eat healthy and hit the gym. My frustration comes in the form of lack of mobility.


Obviously, because of my arthritis, my range of motion is incredibly poor; especially in my elbows, shoulders and ankle. This means that I’m limited to what stretches and workouts I can do correctly. I recently decided to get in touch with my physical therapist from my shoulder surgery and get some help regarding my ankle.

To say I was unsuccessful is an understatement. I wasn’t expecting to miraculously get a ton of range of motion back but I was hoping to strengthen my ankle and make it more stable in general. After three sessions, the physical therapist told me that we were wasting time and money. My ankle was what it was and while he didn’t think that surgery is the answer either, he didn’t believe that physical therapy would help because my ankle was just…stuck.

I’m grateful that he was honest without wasting my time and money because let’s face it, physical therapy can be incredibly expensive! However, now I’m left with an ankle that has 14 degrees of mobility. I have to be very careful not to do too much walking or sitting, both of which can cause swelling and pain.

This last month I decided to go back to the gym and work on cardio and some strength training that I can do correctly given my lack of mobility throughout my body. I mainly stick to the elliptical and some light free weights. It’s nothing crazy but I’m excited to be back at the gym.

I also have a workout buddy this time! My sister had a baby 9 weeks ago and has cleared to return to the gym so we are working out together. We set a schedule that works for both of us and are motivated to make a change. I also got some new shoes and a few new pairs of yoga pants and a couple tops. New workout clothing always makes me motivated to look good and show off my new gear.

I’m hoping that my lack of mobility won’t hold me back too much. I would love to know how you stay active and motivated with physical limitations. Leave a comment below!

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Joint Replacements: My Advice & Things to Consider

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I’ve been working on My Joint Replacement Story series for the past two weeks and it’s finally coming to an end. As a parting gift I wanted to leave you with some advice and things to consider when having joints replaced.

  1. Advocate.You know your body. Don’t let anyone, even a doctor, tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong. Don’t let them tell you what you feel. Make sure that you speak up and bring a list of questions or concerns to all appointments.
  2. Research. I did so much research before by first joint replacement. I would spend hours reading reviews of doctors, physical therapists, hospitals, surgery centers. I wanted to be complete sure that I was choosing the right things for me. If you’d like, research the procedure and know what to expect in recovery and in the months to come.
  3. Ask Questions. There are no stupid questions when it comes to joint replacements. You are letting someone cut you open and put in a fake joint. Ask questions. Talk to family members and friends; sometimes they have questions you never even thought of. Write them down and take them to your appointment so you don’t miss any information.
  4. Know the implant. Ask about what implant the doctor will be using and what the risks are. Then go home and do more research. I have ceramic and metal for my hip implant which is supposed to be the safest and longest lasting (at least in 2008). But from time to time there are recalls on the implants. If you are unsure of the implant brand/manufacturer, call the doctor.
  5. Follow Instructions. This sounds obvious but I remember going to physical therapy and hearing people talk about how they went weightlifting two months after having a shoulder replaced. Big mistake if that wasn’t common sense! You will be overwhelmed at times with exercises and stretches to do each day but make the time to do them. After all, do you really want to have that surgery more times than absolutely necessary?
  6. Get a second opinion. Yes this can cost more money but I wanted someone I could trust; not someone racing through the surgery to get as many done as possible. This surgery is about you and quality of life, don’t let a doctor push you into something if you aren’t comfortable with or ready to do.
  7. Stay positive. Surgery is emotional and hard and discouraging at times. Recovery is difficult, especially if you aren’t making progress as quickly as you’d like. But remember to stay positive and things will work out. Research has found that focusing on and thinking positively, makes people heal faster.
  8. Accept help. This was one of the hardest things for me. I’ve always been an independent person but with my arthritis, and especially surgeries, I’ve had to learn to accept help. I still struggle with this from time to time but I’m a work in progress and my family is patient with me.

If you have any questions, please ask. While I’m not an expert, I can give you my experience with joint replacements. Hope you all enjoyed this little mini-series.

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My Joint Replacement Story: Part Three

Congrats! You’ve made it through two incredibly long posts about surgery; boring for most, informative for some. I’ve written about my hip and knee surgeries and now I’m writing about my shoulder replacement. This was one surgery that I was not excited about having.

I had lost a lot of range of motion in my right shoulder and it got to a point that I could hardly fix my hair. Ladies, you know how big of a deal this is! I was barely able to lift my arm to get anything out of a cabinet. I finally scheduled an appointment with a new orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder reconstruction and after more x-rays and an MRI, he confirmed that I had a torn rotator cuff and needed to have my shoulder replaced. Lucky me!

I had to take a month off work because I drive a lot and I would be in a sling for at least 30 days (did you know it’s actually illegal to drive with your arm in a sling?). Luckily I rarely take time off and my employer has a generous time off policy where we earn 25 PTO days a year. I had just enough Paid Time Off saved to take the entire month of October off. I scheduled the surgery and did a bunch more research (I wanted to know everything about surgery before I had it).

I arrived at the hospital at 5:00am (yes am!) and after checking in, I went back to be prepped. They started an IV and as soon as it was my turn, had the spinal block (definitely better than a pain pump in my opinion). The surgery itself went smoothly. It was weird waking up in my hospital room and being able to get out of bed without assistance and go for a walk or use the bathroom alone. With my previous four surgeries, I needed someone’s help getting out of bed and it hurt to walk. With shoulder surgery, I was completely mobile (with an IV pole tagging along but still!). I figured that I would breeze through the surgery and recovery because I felt better than I had after any surgery.

However, once the spinal block starts to wear off, the pain is real! I thought not getting enough pain medication after knee surgery was bad. Boy, was I wrong! Luckily, the nurse was able to give me a shot of pain medication and though it made me incredibly tired and drugged, it helped with the pain. I was discharged the next afternoon and went home with in-home physical therapy. I was less than impressed with her punctuality but after two sessions in-home, was able to go to the office for PT as long as someone drove me.

Recovery for a shoulder replacement is slow, I’m talking turtle through peanut butter slow. I was given exercises to do at home with the help of my sister or mother but I was terrified about accidentally dislocating my shoulder. The sling supported my shoulder well but caused a lot of pain in my neck. Sleep was also very difficult because the sling had to stay on so I had to sleep sitting and not moving. Very uncomfortable as you can imagine.

I attended physical therapy twice a week for almost 5 months and still don’t have a lot of range of motion. I saw my surgeon on Monday and he was optimistic about my progress. He told me that they shoot for 140 degrees of motion and I was on target. Range of motion is slow to return and he said that I could still make improvements, even a year. However, I’m discouraged because 9 months after surgery, I’m still not able to put my hair in a ponytail.

I’m not happy with the slow progress that I’m making and I can’t say that the surgery was totally worth it for me right now. Yes, the pain is gone but my range of motion is not where I would like it to be. I’ve started doing more stretches, hoping that will at least get me to the ponytail stage.

That’s all my surgeries to date! I’m going to post Part Four which will be about my advice/things I’ve learned from surgery so watch out for that over the weekend. Leave your questions below in the comments.

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4 Reactions to RA

Having been diagnosed with RA at the age of 13 (which was almost 15 years ago), I get a lot of different reactions from people when they find out that I have an “old person’s disease”. I’ve noticed there are a few specific categories of people.

  1. “I know someone who has that.” These are the people that know exactly what you’re going through, even though they’ve never personally experienced a flare up in their life but their barista told them a story about how painful it is yesterday while ordering coffee. These people might actually need to be sedated from the pain if they had to experience it.
  2. “Have you tried (fill in the blank with some crazy home remedy)?” These are the people who drive me crazy. I don’t care if stand on my head eating a banana at 7pm every night worked for your friend’s uncle’s fish. I’m going to stick with the health professionals and my own research. Besides, let’s be honest, how many of us are actually standing on our head’s if we have RA?
  3. “But you’re so young!” These people might be my favorite. I’m aware of how old I am and I know that you didn’t realize someone so young could have arthritis. No it’s not just for old people, even babies can have it and it’s becoming more and more common (sadly). But guess what? There are hundreds (probably thousands) of things that could be worse.
  4. “Bless your heart. Does it hurt?” Not. At. All. It mostly feels like butterflies licking your face. Their hearts are in the right place but these people always seem to ask the obvious questions. They make me laugh the most.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind explaining why I walk funny to people because it is a way to inform people that RA isn’t just an “old person’s disease” but sometimes it gets old and I just have to laugh at how blunt complete strangers can be.

See you soon!

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