Summertime Sizzle

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Cookouts. Lightning Bugs. Ice Cream. Sunflowers. Bright green grass and leaves. Sunshine. Thunderstorms. It’s the little things that make me smile.

I really do love summer but it’s become more of a challenge to enjoy it like I used to. I can’t handle the heat or humidity anymore. Before chronic pain and fatigue it was never a problem. So it’s a little frustrating when I can’t just go out and walk when I want to. The best time to go out is in the very early morning. The weather for July so far has been relatively mild but the heat and humidity are returning for the time being. That seems to be bad on my joints and muscles just like damp and cool weather.

I have had some bad days with pain the last few weeks. I’m still amazed that I can have “manageable pain” one day and can barely move the next day. I do have to remember that I need recovery time after events and plenty of downtime to recharge my batteries. I’ve ignored that at times and my body rebelled. I need to keep doing things to make life easier on myself, like prepping meals in the morning or even better: using my crock pot.

I have taken a short break from making any art as I’ve been on the couch most days and can’t stand at the counter to work on it. But I’m still thinking and planning what I want to paint next and how to start selling some of my work. I guess I’m recharging my art batteries too.

There have been some fun times this summer already like cookouts and learning how to fish. And I hope I can remember to appreciate the small things and also continue to learn new ways to enjoy the summer. For example, maybe I need to find some more things to do inside my air conditioning while I’m on the couch. (Writing is one of them.) And maybe I can start taking walks more first thing in the morning when the sun comes up so I can get more exercise in, depending on how the body feels about that. I could sit outside at the end of the day and drink a tea. I am determined to still enjoy my favorite season and make the most out of what I can. My conditions aren’t going away so the sooner I learn some things, the better off I’ll be.

What keeps you busy and sane in the summertime? Do you like the heat? Does it affect your body?

Coping, Not Concentrating

The definition of “cope” is 1) to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success and 2) to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner.

Facing problems or difficulties successfully means that I have an inner peace and a sense of calm. This can be challenging but I have found one of the best ways to cope is to have healthy distractions so I don’t concentrate on the pain so much.

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Creating my art is such a nice distraction, especially lately as my pain level has been higher than normal. It gets my mind off of the painful moments and onto something else I can focus on. I struggled for years to make any art. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I viewed it as too difficult and I had such a low self esteem that I believed I couldn’t create anything “good”. I would dabble in something but then loose interest quickly. Confidence would quickly fade. And when the anxiety and depression were at a high level I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the worry and pain. I couldn’t even take deep breaths. I still have worry and pain but now it’s at a more manageable level and I’m able to concentrate on something outside of that.

My therapy cat Alice is also a nice distraction. Some days I just stare at her and I notice my breathing is more calm and steady. It’s so nice to have her snuggled at my feet on the days I can’t move too far from the couch.

Having healthy relationships have also been a nice distraction. It’s helpful when you have friends and family you can talk to, someone you can turn to when you’re in distress. Strengthening my relationship with God has been a great distraction too. I can turn to my prayer notebook, journal, or my Bible and feel like there is hope and a path to wellness. I can listen to worship music and let the words sink in.

Nature is a beautiful distraction and I’m constantly gaining inspiration for my artwork. I painted a mallard duck after a few trips to the pond near my home. Being in nature is so good for the soul. And when I can’t make it out, I stare at my goldfinch feeder on the tree just outside. I have a perfect view from the couch and love watching the goldfinches visit.

Gone are the days of unhealthy distractions and the good ones are here to stay. I will keep adding more as time goes on and as I discover new passions and interests. What are some things you do to cope and not concentrate on your pain, problems, or difficulties? Are you successful in keeping your mind off things for awhile?

Writing an Artist Statement

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I have been painting more and thought I needed to clearly outline what it is I’m doing and why – not just for others, but for me, too. Writing an artist statement was the perfect solution. I needed to ask myself a lot of questions about what I’m expressing and where that motivation comes from. I had to really look at my artwork and the process I go through in creating it. Here is my artist statement in it’s final form – for now.

As an artist, I work hard to create paintings that depict the beauty in this world. I use firm, black line and spontaneous, spilling color to capture the beauty of my subjects and communicate their character and personality. I create art to cope with chronic pain and fight the anxious feelings and dark places that my mind sometimes goes into. I try to convey feelings of happiness, joy, hope, and peace in my paintings – ideas that I strive for in my own life. My art is a tranquil place to me. It is calming and optimistic. I am inspired by the wondrous plants and animals of this planet. I draw inspiration from other artists and old illustrations. I am attracted to images that drive a purpose, a vision. I use pen and colored inks to complete my paintings and experiment with transparency and intensity. I like the unpredictable nature of ink and find it to be a perfect match for the definite and certain beings of this world that I have come to find serenity in. As I devote my own artistic voice to earth’s creatures, I continue to work hard to express my own joy.

Letting Others In

It’s difficult to share your story with others. It’s difficult to explain your conditions. It’s especially difficult when your conditions are invisible and you look just fine. Feeling misunderstood by others hurts. Feeling judged hurts. But I’m finding it does help to let others into your world. There are people out there who are willing to listen, who care, and who want to help if they can.

It helps to share knowledge. I do my best explaining my conditions and I have found that sharing helps with isolation. It’s easy to withdraw from the world when you don’t feel like you fit into it anymore. I have been working on connecting with others who share similar conditions. It really helps me to know that I am not alone. But even people who don’t share my conditions can still be very understanding and supportive.

I have found that it helps to let others know how you are feeling. It can be difficult to find the right balance because you don’t want to share too much and you don’t want to seem like you’re complaining all the time. This takes constant practice. I find myself venting a lot. But communicating and staying close to others helps me cope.

I have a hard time asking for help or accepting help. I’m trying to get better at that. I realize that some people are very genuine when they ask if you need help with anything like a ride to a doctor appointment. I realize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. But at the same time I don’t want to be a burden. People are sincere when they extend help and it’s up to me to accept their offer. I’m working on it.

There is always a huge uncertainty of symptoms with me and that makes it hard to plan things. I have to let others know that I may not be able to follow through on my commitments (if I even made them in the first place). Much of the time I try not to make any plans because I never know how I’ll be feeling when the day comes around. I’m constantly having to evaluate the effect activities have on my fatigue and pain. This can make it hard to let others in because it sometimes seems easier to just isolate instead of always canceling and not being able to participate. Why bother, right? This is a bad state of mind to be in and I try not to go there. I try to do what I can.

It’s important to create a support network. In order to do that you have to let people into your world. Even though not all people respond the way you may want them to, try not to take it personally. A full life can only be lived with other people living it with us. I have to remember that I need others and others need me.

Waiting and Waiting…

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There’s a lot of waiting that goes along with chronic pain. Waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for pain to disappear, waiting for medications to work, waiting to feel better, etc. But right now I am waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I have a week and a half to go before I see the hand surgeon about my ongoing wrist pain. There may be tendinitis or excessive scar tissue that developed from my carpal tunnel surgery I had years ago and is now causing pain and swelling. The pain covers my wrist, the top of my hand, and can extend all the way up to my elbow. The simplest movements cause pain and it hurts even when I’m not moving it.

So what am I going to do until I see the doctor? How will I not let the pain beat me? For starters, I will keep praying for healing. I’ve added that to my list of things I pray for daily. I am going to try and take it easy and not use it as much. I have a splint I can wear but I feel it doesn’t really help. But it can’t hurt, so I keep trying it. I will not go crazy when it comes to drawing or painting but I don’t want to stop doing that completely as it’s taken me so long to get back into it. There’s only so much ibuprofen that can be taken. I have discovered pain relieving patches so I’m using those now.

I have had to wait for specialist appointments in the past, sometimes for months. So I should be glad I can get in this quickly. It’s still so frustrating being in pain and waiting for answers…and then relief. And it’s even more frustrating when you still have pain in all the other usual places. I will do everything I can but I will not let it beat me. This is just another bump in the road on my journey. SupEARior Susan can handle it.

Welcome!

I started this blog to have a place to share my struggles and triumphs and thoughts and reflections. I will also share some of my artwork that I’m getting back into. I plan to share any articles I find useful and informative on chronic pain and illness, specifically those I deal with (Fibromyalgia, Superior Canal Dehiscence, Chronic Migraine, Anxiety, and Depression). Check out my About page to learn more about me and some of what I’ve gone through and the origin of my name SupEARior Susan. You can follow and sign up to receive emails (on the right sidebar) that will notify you when I publish a new post. Post in the comments section if you have anything you would like to see me address or any questions you may have for me. There is also a contact page where you can contact me directly. Looking forward to seeing where this goes!