What I’ll remember about 2013, good and bad. .

As the new year rings in, I am going to quote from my favorite author, Robert Jordan (1948-2007):

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”

Well. the Wheel has turned, 2013 has passed, and 2014 is now upon us.  Now I sit here evaluating  last year, and look towards the new year.

First the Bad:

 

2013 was a miserable year for me. I had more “bad days” with my fibromyalgia than good ones. My teaching license expired unused. My hormones were screwy, leaving me to have some of the worst female troubles I’ve ever had. I damn near had a nervous breakdown at work.
I spent six months unable to get medicine from the VA because of some wacky error in the system.

Speaking of work: I started 2013 as an electronics sales associate, where I was stalked and harassed by three customers, who were only caught and stopped sometime in the early spring. Management did not believe me for a while, and my coworkers thought I was crazy. Until they harassed another department. The guys’ excuse was “She’s a redhead.”
Around that time, I had my annual evaluation for job performance, only to be told that I would not be receiving a pay raise. Effectively because my health problems made it damn near impossible for me to do my job well.

So, I looked for another job, and found one at AIO wireless, taking a 75 cent pay raise on the promise of a good commission, for every sale I made. I never saw a single commission check the entire time I was at AIO wireless.
I got robbed by a guy at AIO and was blamed for the robbery.

That job caused me a lot of undue stress, particularly in the area of my health and anxiety. Even when I was on my medication.
pain dayThat photo was taken at work.

And about a month after the robbery  the company fired me because of my disabilities. Without warning. 

I did not want to fight it. Because that job wasn’t paying me enough to live on. They’d schedule me for a three-hour day, when it took me 40 minutes to get there. Not worth it. 

When I was fired, I was highly upset, but I started my path to disability , something I’m still on.

Other bads of 2013: Our one working car died, and we’re borrowing one from a friend still, an older vehicle with a lot of problems.
Our new car savings went into helping us through the rough patch after I got fired, and I’m now very, very broke.

I missed my sister’s graduation, my mother’s wedding celebration. Because I couldn’t afford to go.
I raked in a cool $2000 in traffic tickets because our now deceased car couldn’t pass inspection and we couldn’t afford to pay for it.

[stockpholio.com]-5430563388_5

So, what Good stuff happened in 2013?

Well, I started getting paid for some writing I do for my friend’s company. It’s irregular work, I don’t get a lot, and I’m considered freelance, but I get paid to write for him.
I started maintaining two blogs: this one you’re reading and Land of the Nerds.
Two of my articles were published in The WOD newspaper in Arizona.
I wrote a screenplay for a short independent film my buddy is producing about Pirates and Tattoos.
I finished my first novel.
I had an entire calendar year without my dogs getting sick.
I started my new career path.
My husband got a job, all be it a low-paying one with almost no hours.
I started watching Dr. Who, and found a new fandom.
I met some amazing people through my work with Land of the Nerds at Space City Con.
I have some wonderful friends who have helped support me (emotionally and financially) with my mini-crises. Even a bit helps.

What I want out of 2014

I want my disability to start.
I want a new pair of glasses.  (No, that’s a need)
I want to finish book two in my series. Book 1 should be published before Valentine’s day. I’m working on cover art and completing editing at the moment.
I want my friend’s business to be a bigger success so he can afford to pay me more.
I want my husband to have either more hours at his current job, more money per hour, a better-paying job at the company, or a job worth his Master’s degree.
I want to be able to pay off our traffic tickets.
I want a working functional new car.
I want to have creditors leave me the hell alone.
I want to visit my family in Georgia.
I want to end this year on a high note.

Why I don’t do Flu Shots

I know, you’re reading this title, and probably thinking, “HOLD ON! Is Mandy some kind of weird anti-vaccination lobbyist?” No, I’m not. What I’m actually going to discuss with you here is further from the truth. I am actually very pro-vaccine. Children should get vaccinated to avoid catching some of the nasty illnesses that, thanks to vaccines, are no longer a threat.
I wish the chicken pox vaccine was around when I was young, as I would have liked to avoid that week of torture. shot

However, there is one annual vaccination that is pretty debilitating for me. and this is something of some controversy. The Flu Shot.

As I mentioned in my earlier blogs,  I have Fibromyalgia, an illness that I’ve lived with since I was in the US Army.  For those of you unfamiliar with Fibromyalgia, it is a nasty thing to live with. Muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritable bowel syndrome, brain fog… the list of symptoms goes on.

Symptoms_of_fibromyalgia

And that is by no means complete. Life for me is a roll of the die. Each morning I wake up not knowing until I make the move to get out of bed if I’m going to have a flare, or how bad that flare is going to be. Joint pain for me is not just “morning stiffness,” it is “my whole body is stiff all day.” I don’t sleep well, my mind is always active, I wake up if the wind blows. I have times where my brain fogs, and I’ll forget what I’m saying mid sentence. (My Husband calls it “Shatnering”).

Here’s a lovely image of the Fibrobrain (not mine):

The Fibro Brain. Note: clicking on this image will send you to the original source of the image. I don't necessarily agree with the image's original site on all things.

The Fibro Brain. Note: clicking on this image will send you to the original source of the image. I don’t necessarily agree with the image’s original site on all things.

Now let’s look at the flu and it’s symptoms. Here is the flu:

Flu

Cute little booger, isn’t he?

Well, he might be cute, but the Flu is actually quite an awful illness. Let’s look at the symptoms:
512px-Symptoms_of_influenza.svg

Joint pain. Fatigue. Headache. Vomiting. Enough to put a normally healthy person in bed for several days.
Now, if you add the two together, Fibromyalgia+Flu, you get a nasty combination of a flare-up along with the added joys of coughing, vomiting, runny nose, and sore throat.

So you would think the Flu shot would be a wonderful boon to me, something to give me the chance to avoid getting a sickness that will flare up my illness.

Wrong.

Other than my Fibromyalgia and my anxiety, I am generally a healthy person. I might catch a cold once a year, and generally, I’m better within a day or two. Every so often, when I work myself too hard, I will get a fever. I don’t get “Sick,” I am ill, but rarely sick.

For my purposes, “sick” means “contagious.”

I have had the Flu shot before. The U.S, Army required I get them annually during my time in the service, and the Veteran’s Administration consistently tries to get me to update that shot every year. It is one of the worst things I’ve ever done.

Let me give you a quote from WebMD, in answer to the question “Can the Flu Vaccine give you the Flu?”

Despite the scientific impossibility of getting the flu from the flu vaccines, this widespread flu myth won’t die. Experts suspect two reasons for its persistence.  One, people mistake the side effects of the vaccine for flu. While side effects to the vaccine these days tend to be a sore arm, in the past, side effects often felt like mild symptoms of the flu. Two, flu season coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air.  Many people get the vaccine and then, within a few days, get sick with an unrelated cold virus. However, they blame the innocent flu vaccine, rather than their co-worker with a runny nose and cough.

Okay, so WebMD says that people confuse the side effects that one gets from the virus with the actual flu.
But what happens when I get the flu virus? Do I get just a sore arm and mild flu-like symptoms?
NO! This is what  I feel like on the flu shot: zombedToo Zombie to get out of bed.

That’s what it is. The side effects of the vaccination cause me to be so sick that I am bedridden for days, sometimes a week or more, just from the shot.

Now, if I were prone to getting “SicK” instead of just “Ill,” I might consider getting the shots.

It’s a controversial topic. I’m not the only Fibromyalgia Survivor that has suffered ill effects from the Flu Shot; it’s happened with others as well. Some doctors who treat chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia recommend against  the shot, though others argue that the effects of the flu are more devastating than the illness itself.

Fibromyalgia: What it is like, for me.

Okay, so this is not a post about how I discovered my Fibromyalgia, as that is a whole other topic, and I discussed it briefly in My Disabled Vet Story. I will probably at a later date discuss the circus I had to go through just to get a diagnosis.

No, today I’m going to talk about what living with Fibromyalgia (and my other illnesses) is like.  One common description of Fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses is the Spoon Theory.  I’m not going to discuss this in terms of the Spoon theory. This is a discussion of my typical day, when I worked, with Fibromyalgia.

For sake of example, the day I’m describing below is an example of a day back when I had a regular, retail job at a Big Box store in the Electronics department, where i cover photo lab, electronics, wireless, dot-com orders, and lay away in the holidays.

The first obstacle in my day is waking up:
catfibro

Regardless of the amount of sleep I’ve had the night before, the mere physical act of getting out of bed sometimes involves intricate acts of morning parkour. For those of you who don’t know what that means, check this video out:

Yeah, it’s like that. I have to sling my arms and legs out of bed in a heroic attempt to win the battle with the bed.

I’m not always successful.

After overcoming the amazing feat of getting out of bed, I now must tackle the morning bathroom ritual. Easy enough, but then I must build up the energy to walk my dogs, these two cute little puppies here:
my dogs

Don’t let the cute, lazy, laying down image fool you. First thing in the morning, these two kids are really energetic and spunky. Since we live in a second floor apartment, morning walk means I can’t just send them outside to play, I have to get dressed.

Yeah, getting dressed. can’t I just wear a night-shirt? Nah, I have to wear pants to go outside.

So i get dressed, then I search for my shoes, because the parking lot I have to cross to get to the grass has a lot of broken glass. Once that chore is complete, I have to put leashes on the dogs, exit the apartment, cross the hallway to the stairs, climb down the stairs, go outside, cross the parking lot, and walk the dogs. While they sniff, use the bathroom, mark their territories, and bark at every squirrel, bird, dog, person, car, and everything that crosses their path. Oh, and Big Dog Ulmo is pulling on the leash in one direction while his sister is stopped sniffing or pottying in the other direction. Then I have to cross the parking lot again, climb back up the stairs, and reenter my apartment, where my husband is still snoring in the bedroom.

And I haven’t even been up half an hour.

Next I take off leashes, shoes, and pants, feed the dogs, and then I need to sit down and relax. That little jaunt took a lot of energy out of me, so I sit down on the computer and catch up on various social media and forums for a time. Then I piddle around doing housework for about half an hour. My anxiety is telling me that my house is filthy and that I must clean up all the (whatever is bothering me) Now! usually it is dishes, but sometimes, it is putting away clean clothes, straightening up the cluttered living room, cleaning the kitchen counters, or whatever. Even if my house is otherwise ‘clean’ I generally find some kind of clutter I need to clean.
By this time, my husband is up, and he’s using the computer, playing games, preparing for a gig, or working on breakfast.
All this time, I have a headache. Or my shoulders itch. Or I feel like my hip joints are tearing apart. Or, the fun one: every joint in my body feels like I’m on fire. That one is lovely.

everything

But it’s time to get ready for work. Now, I have to get dressed (again) for work, find my keys, purse, phone, wallet, (which is not always in my purse) and go back downstairs, walk to the other side of the building where I have to park (the large truck we drive doesn’t fit well in most of the parking spots in our complex).

And I have to drive to work. Driving, Yeah. Driving causes me stress and anxiety, more so because I am not comfortable in big vehicles. We are borrowing one because we don’t have a car at the moment. I stress my entire ride about accidents, worry about being pulled over, stress on being late to work (I am habitually 10-15 minutes early) and hot as anything because the truck doesn’t have A/C and I’m in Texas.
Yes, I have the windows cracked, but that doesn’t matter, because it is so humid outside that opening the windows lets the damp air in.
Yuck.

Oh, great. Traffic jam at the red light. (wait forever) Finally, I can turn right, go to cross the MASSIVE bridge (another thing that causes me worry) and crap. More traffic at the far side of the bridge because of the boardwalk. Then it is slow, almost snail speed from the bridge to the Store where I worked.
I park the truck, go into the store, walk the LOOONG way to the back to my locker, grab my badge, clock in, and go into my department, which is in the back by the clock, so not far to go.

I have two people I’m working with at the moment: a photo lab person who is taking care of that department and our slow associate. (He’s smart, and but slow and will take 20 minutes to tell a single customer about any item). There are only twenty bazillion customers, and two giant carts full of merchandise that has to be put into the shelves. The game case is broken, so I can’t get customers the Nintendo 3DS games. Oh, and the photo machine is acting up. No, it’s just someone who doesn’t know how to operate it. Oh, and I have the Pick Up Today handheld: so if someone makes an online order, I have to drop whatever I’m doing and go pick the item for the online customer. The Wireless department has no associates in it, so I have to cover that shift today as well. management is mad that the carts aren’t worked, and accuses me of slacking off because they are not worked, but I haven’t had time to look at them because I’ve been pounced by customers from the minute I walk into the department.

warning

I am in a crap-ton of pain. Generally, I feel like this:

pain day

But management expects me to be like this:

Super Me!
When I tell management I’m sick. they give me the “you don’t look sick look,” then fuss at me for being under-productive or not “snapping to do the job right away”

After two and a half hours, I get a fifteen minute break, I sit down, drink a doctor pepper, and let myself relax. I recharge a bit, and eat chips or something. I forgot to eat before coming in, and I’ve been snippish.

I get back out on the floor, and another associate has shown up, or gotten back from lunch. Good! I have someone to help cover the Wireless desk. I focus on emptying the carts for the next two hours, and I get them both empty before my late lunch. I go about an hour later than I am supposed to because Slow associate went late, putting my lunch off. I get one hour, where i eat, read my book, drink another Dr. pepper, and relax. Sometimes I nap.
After my lunch, I have three hours left in the day to clean, straighten, and organize the department. Customers are coming in in droves. It’s now about 8:30-9:00 at night, and most of the department is leaving. By 9:30, I am alone in all departments cleaning and dusting. There is some kind of work I have to do, other than customer service. Returns. more stocking, because another cart came out while I was at lunch. I don’t get my second 15 minute break because I am alone. And no one is in Fish or Fabric departments, so customers from those sections are fussing at me to get help that never comes.

Oh, and since the boardwalk is closed, and I’m by myself, now is time that customers come in like this:

black friday

Can’t leave my department, though. Oh, and people keep calling about the latest movie/game/advertised item every fifteen minutes.

Bear in mind I’m doing this with a headache, sore joints, and my anxiety is through the roof. I’m at a 6 on the pain scale.
Oh, Great! I’m off at 10, but there is no one to relieve me in the department from overnights now. O/N managers want me to stay an extra half hour so they can have the overnight crew meeting. No! I will get yelled at by day management if I stay late. I sneak out like a ninja, dropping the keys and dot-com handheld in the manager’s office, grab my stuff, clock out, then sneak out of the store.
Because as soon as I clock out, if I’m on my way to the exit, I’ll get stopped by people asking for stuff. I call my husband asking if we need anything for dinner, and usually there’s something: Beef, sour cream, bread, cheese, for dinner.

I pick out whatever it is, wait in the long line, make my purchase and leave.

I drive home, stress level rising, as cops are out trolling for DUIs. I drive extra cautiously, and make it home quickly. Stress is even higher because of people’s headlights. Bright lights hurt my eyes, and headlights are the worst.

I park a block away from home, walk home, walk up the stairs, and want to take off my clothes, eat and relax.

Once I get home, my husband FINALLY starts dinner. Never mind that i called to see what we needed, he’s sitting down, playing a game, waiting for me to START dinner. It’s 11:00 pm, and we’re getting dinner. Never mind that I have to be at work at 10 AM tomorrow.

Oh, and we need to take the dogs out again, before we START dinner. I just climbed up the stairs again. When we’re done with dinner, it’s 1 am.
I can’t sleep. I’m in too much pain, too stressed about work, too angry about some random customer encounter from the day before, and my sleeping pills would be ineffective.

And tomorrow??? I have to do it all over again.