Body Parts

OK, so Linda wants us to blog about body parts for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday… But which body parts should I write about?

What about my monkey-mind tangental brain, thinking myriad random ramblings 24hrs a day?

Or my vulnerable heart, sensitive and scarred, permanently open to both hurt and hope? And love, of course, don’t forget to include the love… ❤

Maybe I could focus on my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin – the physical touchy-feely sensational parts of me?

But I have to say the body parts foremost in my consciousness right now are the bits that are failing and slowing and seizing up – so in particular my right hip that is currently paining me night and day, internally screaming like a silent rusty hinge as I wait patiently for an appointment for an X-Ray to see what the joint damage might be… And ooh look, that means I can use this post for Fandango’s One Word Challenge too – result! 🙂

Finding My Feet…

To be honest I’ve never really found it easy to find shoes that fit comfortably but I’ve usually had fun trying on plenty of potentially promising contenders over the years, even though our perfunctory podiatric interactions regularly result in discarded dreams and disappointments all round.

I’m like a bare-foot Cinderella in reverse in the sense that it’s me going round every shoe store in the kingdom asking ‘Does this shoe fit? Nope’… Does this shoe fit? Nope’… Even shoes in my ‘correct’ size are often too tight or too unforgivingly stiff or in some other way just too wrongly shaped for my feet… Without the benefit of finding a magical store called ‘Glass Slippers R Us’, shoe-shopping for me has often been an insurmountable quest with questionable success.

My UK size 4 feet are technically short enough to fit into the bigger sizes of kids’ shoes, and when I was younger this sometimes proved to be a far better option for me than shopping in the women’s section. But nowadays although my heels are still narrow I have rather a high instep and a steadily-broadening middle-aged midfoot, and when I’m walking my toes far prefer to splay out comfortably rather than be crumpled into a too-tight ill-fitting toe-box, so sadly the days of me finding kids’ shoes that meet my specific criteria are long gone.

Mind you nowadays as even the smaller sizes of adult women’s shoes can be far too narrow for me I often find myself either searching out so-called ‘wide-fit’ designs or alternatively buying a whole size bigger in an attempt to accommodate the specific spatial needs of my fussy feet. And on top of all of the frustration of slim-line form-over-function design derailing the whole process for me, the painful pull of plantar fasciitis has created additional restrictive requirements in my futile search for the perfectly fitting shoe – namely good insole cushioning, proper arch support, and neither too high nor too low a heel.

And now it seems I also have to start to accommodate the needs of an increasingly arthritic hip when considering my footwear choices on into the future, although to be fair what works best for my plantar fasciitis also works best for my dodgy hip as long as the resulting shoe is reasonably lightweight too. Fashionable trends – not that I’ve ever been a dedicated follower of fashion in footwear or any other wear for that matter – have necessarily taken a complete back seat in my recent deliberations and decision-making.

Nowadays I simply wear whatever fits that I can walk in comfortably that doesn’t offend the eye. Still, I might not be in the slightest young and trendy any more but I don’t necessarily want all my shoes to be boringly bland – where’s the fun in that? Maintaining mobility may matter more than anything else but I’d still prefer funky over frumpy footwear any day. So I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that all things considered, finding my feet when it comes to choosing comfortable footwear that looks good too might take me even longer than before to get right… Sigh… Good job I like a challenge!

Settling and Accepting…

Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:

Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?

Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.

I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.

My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.  

Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.

I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.

The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.

I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.

The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.

It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.

So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.

Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.

I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).

But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.

Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?

I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…         

Tired…

I’m feeling tired a lot just now. It’s been over eight months since I caught Covid, and although I’m definitely loads better now I’m still not quite beyond being caught up by the last lingering tendrils of Long Covid, holding me tight within its tenacious grasp, never quite completely letting go.

After having been made redundant earlier this year and basically taking the summer off to recuperate I’ve recently found myself a new job, a part time temporary role in a retail clothing store (covering maternity leave), and even though I’m not working overly long hours or too many days in a row I’m still feeling ridiculously tired at the extra energy expenditure. Not the yawning, not-had-enough-sleep, gritty-eyes tired or the done-loads-and-feel-good tired but the bone-weary, brain-dead, limbs-set-in-concrete, dragging-myself-around Covid tired.

I cope reasonably well with it while at work, doing my best to push through it all with a smile then come home and rest… and rest… and then rest some more. I’ll get there in the end, but right now it’s disappointing feeling so exhausted by a perfectly manageable little part time job… 🙂

Insomniac

Toss and turn all night long wide awake

Long-term habit that’s so hard to break

My insomniac quest

Brain and body to rest

Don’t know why I can’t sleep for fuck’s sake… 😦

Nourishing and Flourishing

So many of my blog posts over this last year and a half have included images of or references to my garden, and I worry that I might be boring everyone with my growing personal passion for my outdoor space.

But to be fair, in an effort to survive emotionally on our pandemic-ridden planet my garden has necessarily become a huge part of helping me feel grounded in reality as the seasons progress. My daily world has effectively shrunk to the size of our property boundary, and I must admit that now I’ve got used to it, I find that’s perfectly OK with me.

Since 23rd March 2020 as a country we’ve either been in full stay-at-home lock-down mode or alternatively in varying degrees of Government-imposed restrictions (greatly reduced for now but still not fully lifted), and with the continuing rise in numbers of the Delta variant here in the UK, it may be some time yet before any return to any real semblance of ‘normality’ as we knew it.

Like millions of others I’ve had no option but to learn to live under whatever set of necessary restrictions are currently imposed on us, although thankfully it seems that some of us have been blessed with the wonderful circumstance of finding ourselves being nurtured by nature right on our doorsteps, in the privacy of our own gardens.

So for now I spend much if my time in my garden in a mutually beneficial relationship based on nourishing and flourishing, and I am content. Happily it looks like my garden is quite content with the arrangement, too 🙂

Up and Down

I’ve been feeling really up and down again this past week.

After my second dose of the Covid vaccine a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to find that after a good five months my sense of taste had pretty much fully returned and my excessive breathlessness was much better – two of my main Long Covid symptoms – so that was a definite ‘up’ moment, a real high for a few days. But I soon discovered that even though I’m breathing better I’m still finding ongoing fatigue a problem, I still seem to get a lot of headaches and my leftover cough isn’t improving either so that’s been a bit of a ‘down’ realisation.

So overall I’ve been feeling a lot better than I have done all year, but still not really fully back to normal.

And now I seem to have caught a cold so my sense of smell and taste is once more drastically reduced and my chest is starting to feel really tight and wheezy again, so I’m feeling really miserable and anxious. Part of me feels it’s definitely just a cold and it will all pass soon enough, but part of me is worried it’s maybe another big dip on the seemingly never-ending Long Covid roller-coaster ride – I’ve not felt well enough for long enough to be sure my symptoms are really gone for good or just teasing me, waiting for me to relax before pouncing on me again.

I must admit it gets me down, the not knowing. The how-long-is-a-piece-of-string-ness of it all. Nearly six months ago I caught Covid, luckily I wasn’t ever that sick and so thankfully I didn’t die. But somehow it’s still there in the background, niggling away, bothering me. I try to stay as positive as I can and push myself to do a bit more every day but it’s really knocked my confidence to not be able to trust myself energy-wise. I still get far too tired far too quickly and that makes me feel old before my time.

So as I said I’ve been feeling a bit up and down this week… 😦

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Up/ Down

Conspicuous By Its Absence…

I had Covid in January, thankfully just a mild infection (as in not hospitalised) but I certainly felt pretty crappy for a good couple of weeks – and OMG for months afterwards the ongoing tiredness and breathlessness and residual cough just would not go away.

I kept waiting in vain for everything to get back to normal but sadly for me the stubborn straggler symptoms of Long Covid seemed to be here to stay. Although my absent sense of smell returned relatively quickly, disappointingly my sense of taste didn’t improve much beyond the basic blunt-instrument differentiation between salty/ sweet/ spicy/ sour – sigh!

I’d read somewhere that for some people, having the Covid jab kick-started their system into a return to normal, so I had my first vaccine dose with high hopes of a similar response but although the grotty side effects certainly passed within a day or two, my Long Covid symptoms did not improve much. So I settled down to accepting (grudgingly) that health-wise I was likely to be in it for the long haul, and began to adjust my long-term thinking accordingly.

Last week I had my second vaccine dose, and this time around didn’t expect so much from it. However I was very pleased to find I had far fewer side effects this time – just a couple of days of extra tiredness, aching limbs and a thumping headache, but lots of rest and a few rounds of painkillers did the job. And to my surprise and delight now those minor irritations have passed I find I can actually breathe properly again, and day by day my sense of taste is subtly improving.

It may of course be total coincidence that things have started to return to normal for me at exactly the same time as I had my second vaccine shot – I mean it’s been five months since I first caught Covid, and ordinarily I would expect any post-viral fatigue to be naturally on the wane by this point.

All I know is that after five months of ridiculously laboured breathing after the least amount of exertion, my previous level of breathlessness is now thoroughly conspicuous by its absence and I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest. For the first time this year I feel like life might actually get back to normal after all, and oh, it feels so good! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Conspicuous

Rest, Relax, Recharge

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks how we recharge when we feel depleted?

Would it surprise anyone who reads my blog that for me, I usually prefer to recharge by spending time in nature. Sometimes that means going for a walk – in the woods, along the canal, by the sea – or sometimes it just means spending time in my garden, whether actively gardening or passively resting.

It’s not a big garden, but as we used to live in a first floor flat in London with no outdoor space at all, with not even a window box allowed, I’m just delighted to have any size of garden space to relax in 🙂

A Walk in the Woods

A few pics from today’s walk – I really pushed myself and went further than I have in a long time, so I’m exhausted now I’m home again but delighted that I did it! I used to be such a great walker BC (Before Covid) and I’m determined to build up my strength and stamina as sensibly as I can to try to beat this lingering breathlessness and tiredness.

It’s definitely a lot better than it was, I do feel some improvement month on month but I wish someone could give me some indication of just how long I should expect this ‘Long Covid’ to last for. Of course sadly no-one knows yet… It seems to be one of those ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions… Sigh! 🙂