5 Things Every Sick Person Needs

1. A “sick” friend. If you’re blessed with a diagnosis, then by garsh, you need to find a friend with something similar. Only yourCarie Sherman sick friend will understand the uncomfortable feeling of everyone on staff at your pharmacy reaching for your prescriptions without needing to ask your name. When your sick friend says, dang, that sucks, you know she gets it. Being in a constant state of sickness steals your rationality. It takes a sick friend to call BS, say, when you’re constantly looking on the bright side. Your sick friend is the one who says, it’s BS that you feel like this, and it’s okay for you to say so. (Note this sick friend will also call you on any over-the-top pity parties or irrational dropping off the face of the earth.)

2. A creative outlet. Find what makes your heart sing. Maybe it’s knitting. Maybe it’s coloring in your adult coloring book. Maybe it’s using your imagination to find ways to make the crap that frustrates you most, better. And now please—do not give me the song and dance about “not being creative.” Just because your high school art teacher didn’t marvel at your genius doesn’t mean you can’t live a creative life. My favorite definition of creativity is from Bill Moyers (as quoted by Brainpickings): “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” So what if your creative outlet is organizing your sock drawer. If it feels marvelous to you, then it surely is.

3. A health advocate. My primary care provider has gone to bat with insurance. She’s held my hand while I cried. She’s comforted other patients by telling my story of things we’ve found together that have made me feel better. Recently attended a gastrointestinal conference and was told about a probiotic strain that was good for IBS-C (one of my many diagnoses). She stood in Whole Foods for 30 minutes looking at every brand of yogurt strain to find one that contained this particular strain—then told me about it straight away! (Thanks, McKenzie!)

4. A basic trust in the universe. Or, a healthy existentialist attitude. Whether you believe the world is in constant motion to bring you to your highest and best—or if you believe the world is indifferent to you so it’s on your shoulders to try to make the most of any situation—the comfort gained from leaning inward toward your essence is immeasurable.

5. Child’s pose. When everything else fails, and you’re not sure about anything, get down on your knees and put your head to the ground. If this is too painful, and sometimes it is for me, try a supported version. This is medicine I use daily. And it works. No matter how angry or sad or frustrated or overwhelmed I feel before, I feel immensely better after spending time in this yoga pose of surrender. I suspect you might, too.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.


The Ugly Truth About Life with Chronic Fatigue

I have three sources of energy. Sleep is not one of them. I pretend it is by monitoring all aspects ofCarie Sherman my slumber, trying different bedtimes and wake times and room temperatures and routines, diets and sleep apnea treatments and light therapies and doctors, but here’s the sum of what I’ve learned: It doesn’t matter. I’m still chronically tired.

I feel rested in three hour increments. It doesn’t matter what I do during those three hours: Somewhere between 150 to 210 minutes after my last bout of sleep, I’m exhausted.

My Sources of Energy
• Source 1: Adrenaline. Lately my adrenaline rushes come as a reactionary response to negative stimuli. Usually a deadline—as simple as an article that’s due or the refrigerator is devoid of anything fresh. My favorite (ha) is the Shame Deadline. Maybe you’ve experienced it, too: the laundry in the washer is beginning to stink; your child cries when you stuff her feet in her too small athletic shoes; you haven’t left the house in 3.5 days.

• Source 2: Sugar. I’m in a constant struggle of managing blood sugar and managing a stomach that hates most food that enters it (thanks, IBS). Veggies or protein; sugar or fat, it matters not: I can feel hungry and crash, I can feel satiated and crash, I can eat greens and crash, I can eat dairy or chicken breasts or tofu or legumes and crash; I can eat Reeses Peanut Butter cups or the gluten free almond donut served at my favorite coffee shop and crash. Can you guess which one gives me the most energy, fast? I’m fully aware that eating sugar and carbs will spike my blood sugar. But I’m crashing no matter what I eat. Might as well ride a momentary high.

• Source 3: Caffeine. Oh, how I love thee. Without you, I wouldn’t get my daughter’s lunch ready or get her dressed on time or ever comb her hair. I never leave my house except for the search for your glorious head rush. You hold my eyes open, as if little toothpicks have been jammed between my eyelids. I might as well be asleep, for all the cognitive ability I have in those shaky moments where you let me forgo a nap, but you get me through the day. Thank you.

I know so many of you will argue—correctly—that I’ll feel poorly as long as I ride these highs. I’m sure you’re right. But unless you’ve been forced to live in three hour increments, and unless you go to the doctor every three months to make sure your organs haven’t decided to maim you, and unless you’re going to take over my life long enough for me to completely wean my body off the only things that keep me going, then this is how life shall be for me. And until this mess is resolved, you can take my caffeine when you pry it from my cold dead hands.


I’m Not Taking Good Care of Myself. This Was My First Clue.

Have you ever had one of those poor mental health days, one in which you find yourself driving homeCarie Sherman from Target with a load of bags that, later in the day, you’ll angst over, both in terms of the decisions you made and the money you spent; a day in which you nearly drown from a sudden downpour of tears; a day in which your brain won’t shut off and you obsess over every thought that pops into your consciousness, such as why you’re so unhappy (when you have so very much to grateful for) and how much you have to do and how you’ll never get it done and why so many people in this world have so little and how people can be so filled with hate and why you still get acne despite nearly 40 years of living on this planet?

A day in which you force a smile yet you allow yourself to dive deep into intrusive thoughts that range from whether you need Botox to why your dog has to get old to wondering if your sister is angry with you over a comment you made that was meant to be flippant and self-deprecating but later ruminations reveal may have been perceived as insensitive?

A day in which you’re certain your stomach, which is particularly sensitive to your emotional well-being, has teamed up with your autoimmune disorder to stage a hostile takeover?

A day in which you’re certain if you look at said stomach, it will resemble a snake that’s just eaten a rat, but when you glance you see nothing but a well-insulated gut, which triggers your anxiety over the extra pounds you’re carrying, anxiety that is not at all relieved by unbuttoning your jeans?

A day that, by the time you pull into your driveway, you forget the unbuttoning and give your neighbors a show of your ample backside as you reach across the car seat to wrestle with those Target bags that by now you’re sure you’ll return because you pick out terrible gifts and Why-Oh-Why did you spend so much on groceries when you could have easily braved Wal-Mart and spent far less?

A day in which you tweak your shoulder as you lift those stupid bags onto your kitchen counter?

A day in which you bark at your loving partner, about what you can’t remember, but who, bless his heart, sees you’re not your normal happy self and tells you to sit while he starts you a hot bath?

A day in which the barrage of your brooding thoughts gnaws and nags until you know you must make it stop! so you try deep breaths and counting those breaths but you can only count to 5 before your brain again takes center stage to berate you for not walking the dog and missing your great aunt’s funeral and telling your daughter she ate all her Swedish Fish when, in fact, you spent the greater part of last night devouring everything in your pantry with high fructose corn syrup on the label?

Have you ever had one of those poor mental health days?

A Break from My Self Indulgent Drama

Post hot bath, post nap, post breakdown, I recognize why I feel like shit: I’m not taking good care of myself.

So today’s “to do” list includes: Yoga (gentle), quiet time, hot tea, Epsom salt bath, easy walks in sunshine, chat with a friend, take breaks, read a good book. Etcetera; etcetera.

I hope my ranting and raving sounds nothing like your internal monologue. But in case they do, it’s probably time to slow down and take care of you. And in case you don’t think you need to practice self care or self care doesn’t come easily to you or you haven’t stopped to take a breath in years so you don’t even recognize you need self care, check this out:

You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self Care Guide

Now then. What are you waiting for? The holidays and all the fun and stress and worry and excitement they bring are coming. It’s a great time to remember how to be good to you.


When Fashion Hurts

I love clothes. I follow fashion blogs and pour over my favorite catalogs and websites like someCarie Sherman people read the news. I use services like Stitch Fix to watch What Not to Wear. Over the years, and especially after I got sick, I became a big believer in having a small, versatile wardrobe in which I can honestly say I LOVE every piece in it.

As such, when I shop, I look for clothes that look great for client meetings or are perfect for girl’s night. I look for clothes that express who I am and look just as good at the park playing with my bug or going to dinner with my husband.

In short, I shop for things that happen, oh, about 3-5 times per month. Total.

What’s happening the rest of the month?

I’m home. On good days, that means writing. On bad days, that means lounging. Both require the utmost comfort.

Ouch

In general, clothes really hurt my body. I’m not sure if it’s the fibromyalgia or the autoimmune issues, but there are days that anything I put on physically hurts. Fabric hurts my skin, jewelry is too heavy, it’s too hard to pull something on/off, waistbands turn into a python.

And let’s not even talk undergarments. My bras are trying to kill me.

But apparently, my other clothes wish me dead as well. Just this morning, I fell down. Why? Because my toe got caught in a hole in the ratty Christmas PJ pants I wear regardless of the season.

I suddenly realized my wardrobe’s duality. I inventoried the clothes I spend the most time in. Here is what I found:

• Two Christmas-print PJ pants– one of which is two sizes too big
• 1 pair of yoga pants that used to be black and are now covered with bleach stains
• 1 pair of grey yoga pants with a ripped pocket
• Three sports bras that are too big
• One sports bra that my mom bought me in 1992 (seriously)
• Two pairs of capri sweats that are identical but can only be worn with a tucked in tank because the seams irritate my skin
• A spring break ‘98 tshirt, size XXL
• T-shirts with assorted stains–most of which I received for free–many of which have holes
• A pair of leggings that are too small so I cut the seams to allow for breathing
• My sister’s high school gym shorts

My Post Inventory Thoughts

In the order they popped in my head:

1. My poor husband
2. I’m gross
3. This can’t be healthy
4. It’s time to do something about this
5. This could be a form of mental illness
6. My poor husband

What the Experts Say

Not surprisingly, lots of people have lots to say on the topic of how you dress. Here are a few that resonated.

• “Our clothes make a huge difference to what people think about us – and without us knowing or in ways we couldn’t even imagine.” Now, I make sure that other people (i.e., people who don’t live in my home) perceive me in a certain way. But what is it saying about me that I allow myself to look so crappy, day after day, in my home–and in particular, when I’m sick?
• “… dressing in nicer clothes makes you feel better.” This study relates to depression. Which, as you know, I struggle with. On days when I feel good physically, I feel good mentally. But I wonder how often wearing Christmas PJs in July and a sports bra that could legally buy alcohol contributes to a downward spiral?
• “… clothes can change the way you think.” I have to be honest. Every single thing I’ve ever written in this blog that reflects joy and learning and growth were written on days when I wasn’t feeling like crap. Despite this cultivated image of positivity, I spend every sick day blaming myself and overanalyzing what I’ve done wrong and hating myself for not being able to control my symptoms better. A change in thinking is very much needed.

Conclusions

Feeling sick is bad enough. Letting myself look as bad as I feel doesn’t help.

I need a cute sick wardrobe. One that feels good if my skin hurts and is easy to put on and can accommodate hot flashes and bloated stomachs and days entirely spent horizontal. And I need to toss anything that I wore before I got married 10 years ago,* as well as things with dangerous holes and stains of unknown origin.

What about you? Do you dress like a slob when you’re sick on the couch? Are your PJs tattered? Are your workout clothes older than the current century?

If you answered yes, let’s make a pact to get our sick $hit together and find cute comfies.

Now, where to start? (Gladly accepting suggestions in the comments below!)

*Note to hubby, if you ever happen to read this: I can part with almost anything. But I refuse to part with my spring break t-shirt. So don’t even ask.