After I Tripped I Got The Hell Back Up! (Friday Series Finale)

Many of you have read both of my Friday series. Previously; Before I Tripped Over a Stone and currently After I Tripped. Today we are going to conclude the series.


I was told to report to my local social security office to apply for disability. I begrudgingly agreed, for no other reason than to say to them I didn’t want their money! During that time, I remembered being a teenager and having reconstructive arm surgery. I was almost 16 and ready to take on the world! The doctor who was overseeing my case said he would go get the disability paperwork we could fill out because I now qualified.  I shook my head “no,” and my mom said, “But she plays the piano!” (Like that had anything to do with it!?!?) But due to the birth trauma I suffered, I did indeed qualify. I didn’t take the disability then, and wasn’t going to now! I’d get better, one way or another. No mysterious illness called fibro-what-ever would stop this gal!

I walked into the social security office, was greeted, and lead to a seat at a desk with a woman who appeared to be really organized. She advised me that they had received all necessary paperwork from my lawyer so we would only need to sign some release forms. (Efficient, this one.) I asked her if I could decline the disability pay even if they approved my claim? She looked at me surprised and said, “Oh… no honey, you’ve already been approved, are you back to work?” My jaw must have hit the floor! I explained I wasn’t currently working but would be one day very soon. She smiled and said when I returned to work, call the office, and they’d discontinue payments.

Wait… was that it? What the…? What was going on here??? I thought I had to go to assessments, special doctors, maybe even court to qualify for this ‘disability’ pay. Nope. Already approved … not for Fibromyalgia Syndrome but for clinical depression and chronic pain.

So I moved out of the little farmhouse and into a metropolitan area with my younger sister and her family. I enrolled in a community college to become a chemical dependency counselor, It would only take me a year as I already had my bachelor’s degree. I would do daycare for my sister on days I didn’t have class. Long story short, I moved closer to the college, they moved to a new city. Within 7 months after starting my coursework, my fibromyalgia became so unmanageable I had to leave the program. For the first time in my life, I became idle. I had no plan, I did nothing… but sob.

One evening, about three months after I quit my college coursework, I received a call from my mom. My brother, who was in the Army, was being shipped stateside. He had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. My mom wanted to know if I could go to him? I booked a flight that night and the next morning flew to Texas to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. You can read about it here.

After losing my brother, I started dating my high school crush. A man that was my friend. A man I had known my entire life, my current (and only!) husband, Jeff. You have read bits and pieces of our relationship throughout this blog. We continue to laugh a lot, discuss many things, love each other and offer support to one another. We also have a date night at Menards or Home Depot at least bi-monthly! (Keeps the marriage off the rocks!)

Then in 2012, I got very, very ill. This was not because of my fibromyalgia, this was a completely different issue. I was hospitalized many times and went through surgery after surgery. It was my pancreas. It was inflamed and was shutting down. You cannot live without a properly functioning pancreas. My type of pancreatitis was idiopathic (unknown) but thought to be from a likely bile dysfunction. There are so many who believe only alcoholics have pancreas or liver issues, but that is just not true. Never assume. You can read a bit about it here.

Now that I’ve been given the green light to keep on living, we are working towards a nomadic life. We’ve decided to downsize and travel before we retire! Jeff has completed his studies and is a day trader. I finished my book, and the royalties are rolling in! Not really, have you bought my book? It’s a journal with interactive questions!!! Enticing, isn’t it? You can get it here.

Shortly after starting to write this blog, I started writing my book. Never had I experienced a community like this ever in my life! So supportive. I am thankful for each and every one of you. I am so honored to be a part of this blogging tribe of imperfectly perfect people! I never understood how internet friendships formed, until now! Amazing. Grateful.

Now, this series has come to an end. 

Thank you all for sharing my journey thus far, and remember to always live your best life!

img_0749-1~Kim

After I Tripped; New Hobbies. (Friday Series #11)

I was now staying with one of my sisters at my Dad’s old home place on a farm. Small, 2 bedrooms, screened in porch, on a lake with farmland that we rented to another neighbor… I found utter peace during those months I lived in that old farmhouse with my sister.

I was attending therapy; physical and mental. I decided I would take on a new hobby or two. Making soaps and candles seemed like proper hobbies for a young lady on a farm. The sister I lived with could sew, craft, cook, garden… some of these skills must’ve rubbed off on me? The other sister, (the youngest of us three girls) was a computer wiz and a talented graphic designer! My 3 brothers all had creative skills, too. I MUST craft… something.

What’s a double boiler? Yes, you need one to make candles. What is Lye? I thought it was a poison to kill rats? No, well it can, but it can also decompose dead bodies! Lye, otherwise known as sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide, can be added to your soap to make it harder, or softer. Anyway, this is not a chemistry post, just know it is important

Off to JoAnn’s Fabrics with my sister to get supplies! How-to books, molds, scent, wicks… oh it was glorious! Visions of selling my soaps and candles at the farmers market were dancing in my head. Should I try growing dreadlocks?!?! I could wear tye-dye and bandanas in my hair! I would reinvent myself!!!

Everyone got a jar candle from me that Christmas that did or did not burn. It absolutely did not smell like apple cinnamon! And just to make it really special, each member of my family also got a bar of homemade oatmeal soap from me. I didn’t grind the oatmeal up. Taking a shower with one of those bad boys could lead to severe cuts on the body.

I had to be stopped! 

During this ‘hobby’ time, I received word from my lawyer. A settlement had been reached in the car accident case that I had against the other driver. I won. (I didn’t feel like I was a winner in this at all.) He also informed me that my long term disability through my ex-employer was ending, I would be required to go into the closest social security office and apply for Social Security Disability. He already sent my records to the office.

What… forget it! What…??? Required? No, I don’t think so!

He calmed me down, used some pretty ‘realistic words’ to explain my current circumstances to me, and I agreed to meet (but only meet) with a social security disability office worker…

(To be continued.)

img_0581~Kim

After I Tripped; A New Physical Therapist (Friday Series #10)

(Disclaimer: The STS machine is no longer available for treatment in the USA. The machine is no longer made. I do not know why. I purchased my own STS machine in 2001, and I still use it to this day.)

I started going to physical therapy to work with a man named Dave Solheim. He believed in chronic pain. He believed in Fibromyalgia Syndrome. And he believed in me! He introduced me to the Sympathetic Therapy System machine; the STS machine. The STS machine looks like a TENS unit, the set up is very similar. He warned me the STS machine may work, but it just as likely would not, so not to be upset if nothing happened during this first trial. The treatment time on the machine was 60 minutes. About 20 minutes in, I could feel my body begin to relax, it was working! I couldn’t believe the relief I was feeling! Sharp pains were dulled. I began to cry, and a very worried technician ran into the room to stop the machine! I explained it was working and I couldn’t believe it. I was experiencing a longed-for relief of the sharp, constant pain I was always in. I could actually take a deep breath in without pain! I began seeing Dave three times a week. Within a month, I could receive hugs without reeling from the pain they caused. I was able to purchase my own STS machine. (I used it once in the morning and once in the evening for years, now only as needed.)

The TENS unit creates a buzzing feeling on your skin to send a message up the spinal cord to release pain-killing endorphins in the brain. The TENS machine did not work for me. Unfortunately, it increased my pain. The TENS unit does work for the majority who try it. You can purchase home units rather cheaply. My husband has one for his bad back. The STS machine works on the sympathetic nervous system.

So let’s decipher what the sympathetic nervous system is? I turn to Wikipedia for the explanation because it made me chuckle at the end! This is the description;

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is one of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the other being the parasympathetic nervous system

The autonomic nervous system functions to regulate the body’s unconscious actions. The sympathetic nervous system’s primary process is to stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight response. It is, however, constantly active at a basic level to maintain homeostasis homeodynamics.[3] The sympathetic nervous system is described as being antagonistic to the parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates the body to “feed and breed” and to (then) “rest-and-digest.”

Okay, so since our fibro bodies are stuck in the fight or flight response, the STS machine signals the brain that the body response is not needed. We are able to relax go on to the parasympathetic part of the nervous system to “feed and breed and to (then) rest and digest.” 

This machine did not work for everyone. I fact, it did not work for the majority of people who tried it. Many times the signal could just not get through. I was one of the lucky ones. It worked for me…

Class dismissed! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

(To be continued.)

img_0581~Kim

After I Tripped; The Diagnosis (Friday Series #9)

Returning to my parent’s home in 2001 in Minnesota was comforting, yet disconcerting, and a bit embarrassing at my age. (I was 33 years old, almost 34!) I was moved into the ‘office’ and slept on a pullout couch. I don’t think I did anything the first week but cry and sleep.

My Mom brought me breakfast in bed every morning for five consecutive days. Then she announced it was time to get up! She wanted me to get back into life and make the best out of my situation. So, I tried…

It was I believe, shocking, to say the least as she watched me try to regain some sense of direction. To witness the constant daily pain I was in. To hear about the struggle, I had tried so hard to hide. 

My mom is a strong, stubborn, full-blooded Norwegian. She is a viper when it comes to her children! She fiercely loves and savagely protects all of her children. God help the person who crosses one of her own. My mom expects the same of us. Be tough, work your ass off, and make something of yourself! (She did not raise lazy kids.) Age has not been kind to her health, she fights her battles too. I love my mom.

As I was struggling to understand what was going on with me, Mom started calling medical facilities. She began with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Next, she called the University of Minnesota, Medical Clinic in Minneapolis. Then she called a doctor friend of a family member, a general practitioner in a small town 40 miles north of us. All were willing to see me, but we started with the closest option. Dr. Olson, the general practitioner.

“You have Fibromyalgia.”

“I have what?”

“It’s called Fibromyalgia Syndrome, do you want me to write it down for you?”

“Yes, please. How do I fix it?”

“You don’t…”

I learned this Fibromyalgia Syndrome ‘thing’ was called “the garbage can diagnosis.” You must be tested for everything it could possibly be [I had been]. If everything comes back negative [it did], you go through a tender spot exam [never had one of those exams until I saw Dr. Olson]. If you have these specific tender areas, you are diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome. I told my mom what the Doctor had said and begged her not to tell anyone I had the garbage can disease! I was NOT going to let this get me… I would find a cure!

I bought every book I could find. I bought every supplement that the books suggested. I did every exercise that was written in the book. I went to a mental health therapist just in case this was nothing more than a mental issue… truthfully, it was a prevalent misdiagnosis in 2001.

One evening I was watching the news with my parents. They were spotlighting a human interest story about a local physical therapist that was treating fibromyalgia patients with something called an “STS” machine. This worked on the sympathetic nervous system. He was having some success alleviating the severe pain people with fibromyalgia suffer. We looked at each other, shocked! I made a call to the physical therapist’s office the very next morning.

Dave Solheim, physical therapist guru, would change my life!

(To be continued.)

img_0430 (1)~Kim

After I Tripped; The Rescue (Friday Series #8)

The strangest thing about fibromyalgia is the progression of symptoms. After the first few years, you start getting worse, not better. Your world closes in until it is just you and your disease. You lose your job, your independence, your identity. Your social circle evaporates. You no longer have the strength to fight for yourself.

I honestly thought of stopping all the pain. I was searching for a feeling of control. Any way I could. Ending my life seemed to be my last chance at being able to control anything!  I had every detail planned. I was prepared. I felt confident in my ability to carry out my suicide. A phone call interrupted my irrational plan. A simple phone call… when I think of the pain I would have caused my loved ones, I am humiliated.


Trigger Warning! You can read my post about the evening I planned to carry out my own suicide in 2001 after I was “medically released” from my job here: The Alice Cooper Lesson. I have no desire to write down the details again in this post. I have no desire to relive it. You may not either.


It was July 2001 when my father called me. He didn’t ask, he told me to pack a bag because my sister would be flying in the next day to get me. She would accompany me back to Minnesota. I couldn’t believe it. “What?!?!” My parents had ‘threatened’ this action before, but I was always able to talk them out of it. Not this time. The phone clicked, he had just hung up! There was no time for a rebuttal. What I didn’t know was that two of my friends had contacted my parents and told them I was not doing well. They believed I needed to be rescued. I believe they were right.

I wish I could describe my dad to you in a way that you could know him. I believe all little girls love their dads. Everyone thinks their dad is a special one. I am no different. I hit the lottery with mine. I have never had a cross word with my dad. I have never wondered if he loved me. I have never questioned his authority. I know he loved me from the moment I was born, but I have loved him my entire life! Both of my parents were very good at raising kids, there were 6 of us kids to handle! As adults, we have all learned to become friends, we may have disagreements but we are fiercely protective of each other.

“B” was enraged as I packed a bag, got into my car and drove away. I picked up my sister at the airport, and we began the long drive back to Minnesota. This was the same drive I had made only 5 years prior when life seemed to have unlimited possibilities. It took us three days to make the drive. When we crossed the Minnesota state line, I crumbled. All of the fear, anger, pain, and regret surfaced. I gave in, felt it all, and sobbed.

I lost everything…

(To be continued.)

IMG_0462~Kim

After I Tripped; The Firing (Friday Series #7)

So it happened. In April of 2001, I was called into the head office and “medically released from my position.” I had been struggling through daily pain to maintain my employment for almost three years.

I had been the sole provider for “B,” myself, and his daughter who stayed weekends with us. Now, what the hell were we going to do? I was still receiving long term disability compensation from my ‘former’ employer, but it wouldn’t last forever. “B” received some disability payments. He did receive a small insurance compensation sum for his injuries in the car accident. “B” had checked out, any money he received went up in smoke, quite literally.

I went to a temp agency against my doctor’s and my lawyer’s wishes. I flunked the stupid typing test. (What the hell? I can type!) No temp work for me with that agency. I enrolled in a writing class, I had an idea for a fiction book and thought this may be the time to change professions. I made it to three classes, I was more confused every time I completed a class! This was not working. I was losing my ability to comprehend written material. There was no way I could write it.

I was in complete pain every minute of every day. I was exhausted and experiencing, what I would later learn was a cognitive fog. I had trouble remembering where I was going and often ended up driving around Seattle completely lost. I usually went on bike rides with “B’s” daughter. I would get on that bike, think I was going straight but would end up in the ditch. I could no longer balance a bike.  I was getting worse, not better.

No job. No prospects. No diagnosis. A permanently high fiancé. A needy 12-year-old. This was the first time I could remember not having a paying job. Even as a young girl I worked in my parent’s store. My Dad showed me how to fill in a time card, and I would turn that into him every Friday. Now I had trouble getting dressed. I was not fit to work anywhere!

I was worthless. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was utterly alone and afraid…

The day would come when I was ‘rescued.’ I wasn’t aware I need rescuing, but I did. That is a story for next Friday.

(To be continued.)

IMG_0462~Kim

After I Tripped (Friday Series #1.)

I wrote a previous series called; Before I Tripped Over a Stone. I wanted people to know I had a life before fibromyalgia. I experienced ordinary ups and downs. I did overcome a lot but had built a life, excelled, and was happy. Then I was in a car accident. This was the catalyst for my Fibromyalgia Syndrome. My memory fades at times, but I will do my best to explain what it was like for me after a car accident took my life and turned it upside down.

We will see how this goes!

Let’s start from the beginning on the day I tripped over the fibromyalgia stone…

I was living in Seattle.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in August 1998. I was 30 years old. My (then) fiance and I were on our way to the Human Society to adopt a kitten. We were traveling through a residential area when he very calmly said, “Hold on, Baby: he’s not going to stop.” At that moment I heard metal hitting metal, and I flew forward, my head hitting the windshield, my knees hitting the dashboard as the car spun counterclockwise. When I came to, my head was resting on the open window of the passenger side I was sitting on. My seatbelt had done nothing to save me in this kind of accident, frequently called being “T-boned.” The little two-door Grand Am I was riding in did not stand a chance against the full-sized Tahoe.

I remember the sounds of the fire engine sirens. They were so unbelievably loud! Then a different sound: police sirens, with the high whine of an ambulance siren not far behind. [I suffered from PTSD for many years after the accident, emergency vehicle sirens would set me off!] I remember a fireman asking if we were OK. My fiance kept complaining about his back. [In all fairness, he had been injured on the job and was preparing for a second, back surgery.] I stopped listening. I just wanted out of the car! The Tahoe was blocking my door. It was getting hard to breath. I was starting to panic. I needed out of that car! I looked for an escape through the back of the car; there was no way out! A paramedic started asking me questions. I answered “Yes” and “No” and “Please let me out of this car!” I finally pushed past the paramedic and made my way to the curb. I refused further medical attention. I was just trying to breathe. A police officer made his way to me and said, “You are not fine; you are in shock right now. Your pain will increase; you need to go to the emergency room today.”

I would have never guessed that the pain I would start to feel over my entire body that afternoon would never go away…

(to be continued…)

 

img_1145~Kim