Thursday, October 30, 2008

I’m At The Beach With My Friends And Everything’s Ok

For some reason I felt like fatigue really hit me with a hammer yesterday. (Or, I suppose, kicked me with several thousand horses, as it were). I had to get up pretty early to go to yet another doctor’s appointment. Then I felt like the weight of my backpack with several casebooks in it was literally crushing me while I walked between the bus stop and the law school. And Wednesday is my long day of classes, so I was pretty worried about being able to be alert through them all. However, I also discovered that large quantities of caffeine do nothing for fatigue – I just ended up feeling exhausted and jittery.

And when I wrote that sentence, I decided “exhausted” wasn’t a tired enough word. So I looked it up in the thesaurus, and I got a good laugh out of the options it suggested:

all in, beat, bleary, bone-weary, bushed, crippled, dead, dead tired, debilitated, disabled, dog-tired, done for, done in, drained, effete, enervated, frazzled, had it, kaput, limp, out on one’s feet, outta gas, prostrated, ready to drop, run-down, sapped, shot, spent, tired out, wasted, weak, weakened, wearied, worn, worn out

Drained is pretty good. Sapped, spent, beat. Run-down, I’ll take. Bone-weary is fairly accurate, especially considering the pain in my joints. But crippled?? Disabled??? Hey – that isn’t very nice, thesaurus! DEAD?!? Oh. Ok. Moving on.

Anyhow, after I finally got out of class yesterday I had a fairly overwhelming desire to crawl straight into bed and not get out for several days. But I’m really glad I didn’t. Instead, I headed downtown to see an old friend who was in town for a couple of hours. We were really good friends in junior high. I was there when she started to teach herself to play the guitar and made her first attempts at songwriting. (The title of this post is one of her 8th grade song lyrics!) We sort of drifted our own separate ways during high school. And it had been a good eight years since we had seen each other, or even really talked.

It was really good to see her. In some ways, she was the same friend I remembered from when we were thirteen. (And she confirmed to me that, even as a seventh grader, I was a ridiculous over-achiever.) But she was also different in a lot of ways. While she was a serious pre-med in college, her life took a different turn after a serious injury. Instead of med school, she is now a very successful professional DJ! DJ Lady Sha was recently the first female DJ to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off in Miami! She’s pretty amazing.

The thing that really struck me was that she had a trajectory for her life – a really specific plan for what she thought she was going to do – and then her life forced her to change direction. And while she ended up taking a completely different path, she is really good at what she does and she seems really happy. I think it probably isn’t easy for anyone to completely change the direction of their life and still be happy and successful. But now I’ve seen proof that it’s possible. And that’s worth getting out of bed for no matter how bone-weary I feel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Except for the Part Where the Horses are Kicking Your Wife

I got a free subscription to a magazine called “Arthritis Today” that is supposed to have modern techniques for living with arthritis. I was flipping through it tonight while we were getting ready for bed when I came across an article entitled “Relationship Realities.” The tagline read: “Although maybe not as visible as the physical symptoms, the interpersonal side effects of arthritis can be just as painful.” Sounded interesting and potentially useful to me and APL, so we decided to read it together.

A few paragraphs in, we realized that the tone of the article lacked a bit of the "positive thinking" concept supported in other parts of the magazine:

Arthritis does not impact just the person with the diagnosis. It also affects spouses, children, parents, friends, and even co-workers. The truth is, chronic illness often curtails social activities, impacts intimacy and requires extra patience and understanding. In fact research has found that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have less emotional support and social companionship than their peers without RA do.

APL’s righteous outrage response: RA sounds like a fate I wouldn’t want to wish upon my enemies – who wants to die alone in a cave? With no sex? And P.S. and your joints are creaky and you have no friends. Isn't this magazine supposed to help you live with this disease ? Instead they are saying, “well…you’re boned!” I mean, who studies this shit: “Do your knuckles hurt? Hmmm…do you have any friends? Oh, I see….”

By this point, we were laughing quite heartily about how bad this “good” advice was. Then we got to the part of the article that explained that good communication was key to saving your relationships:

To cope, Lynne Matallana, 53, of Anaheim, Calfi., and her husband have created a game to better communicate. “He asks, ‘How many horses?’ and I tell him, ‘Today it feels like I’ve been kicked by 50 horses,’ or ‘It feels like I’ve been kicked by only five horses today’” she explains. Developing a “code” such as this serves two purposes: It enables Lynne to be honest about the amount of pain she’s experiencing, and it strengthens the bond she feels with her husband. Likening pain to a heard of wild horses certainly won’t make it disappear, but the thought of dozens of mares kicking in unison, like a line of cancan dancers, is an image that has the power to elicit a smile

APL’s righteous outrage response: Hahaha! Horsies kicking! How fun! Except for the part where the horses doing the cancan are all KICKING YOUR WIFE, YOU DOUCHEBAG!

APL makes me laugh and he’s going to save me from the line of cancan kicking horses! Also, he was willing to read through an article with me that might have had good advice for dealing with the third wheel that has suddenly appeared in our relationship: my chronic illness. And even when the article sort of turned out to be a great big cancan of scientifically studied depression, APL helped me laugh all the way through it. I can honestly say I enjoyed reading the article – because I did it with him.

I love love love APL.

Unsweet Dreams

I haven’t been sleeping well. I know I’ve already explained how sometimes I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, but that’s not all. For a while now I have also been having a seemingly unending stream of anxiety dreams. Here’s a nerve-wracking sample:

~I dreamt that I had to drive from the house I grew up in to my high school, a drive I have done at least a million times. But in the dream there was something wrong with my eyes and I couldn’t see properly. So I had to do the drive by memory and sound, just hoping I didn’t run into anyone or hurt my sister, who was also in the car.

~I dreamt that my mom had done a huge and expensive remodel of her house, but it looked absolutely horrible. She asked me what I thought about it and I found my tongue totally tied – it was so horrible that I couldn’t lie to her about it, but I was too worried about hurting her feelings to tell her the truth.

~I dreamt that I had a baby but it was sickly and I didn’t know how to take care of it. Then I found out that APL’s parents were coming over and I was panicking because we hadn’t told them about the baby and the baby didn’t even have a name yet.

~I dreamt that I needed to be somewhere – somewhere important – and I knew that whatever it was it was starting without me. But no matter how hard I tried in the dream, I just couldn’t wake up and I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to be.

~I dreamt that I was a teacher, in charge of a class of fifteen five-year-olds who were all totally out of control. But I couldn’t get them under control or do a real lesson because their parents kept coming into the classroom to yell at me about what a bad teacher I was.

~I dreamt that the windshield in our brand new car had been completely shattered. There was glass all over the street and it was snowing and the car wouldn’t start.

Sometimes, I can’t even remember the story from the dream, I just wake up feeling anxious. Maybe one of the drugs I am taking is causing the dreams? I guess I should probably ask the rheumatologist about that.

But maybe it’s just that I’m not doing as good of a job staying calm and finding outlets for my stress as I thought I was. I also find it interesting that these dreams are basically fantasy anxiety dreams – they are all sort of off-the-wall and pretty unrelated to what is actually going on in my life. The things I am really worried about – falling behind in school, impending exams, being able to do the things I want to do in my life, getting depressed about feeling so physically icky all the time – don’t seem to show up directly in my dreams. Maybe I am too anxious about the things I am anxious about to even have anxiety dreams about them?

In any event, I’m not really sure what to do about the anxiety dreams. All I know is that I’m exhausted.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sew What?

I used to sew. A lot. By hand. My best friend since kindergarten, LK, and I used to buy clothes at thrift stores and sew them into new designs that we called “recycled fashions.” We even sold some of our clothes online. In college, when people needed a costume for a costume party, they usually came to me and I would help them make something. I used to do a lot of sewing by hand. It was relaxing and enjoyable.

Today my hands are so demented it just took me half an hour to replace a button on the shirt I was wearing yesterday. Granted, it was a weirdo fabric-covered button (i.e. not your ordinary button with a couple of holes in it), but still. It was one button. It should have taken approximately three minutes, tops.

::sigh:: At least I did it in the end, I guess.

If You Stay Out Too Late, You Turn Into a Pumpkin

It’s 11:08a.m. on Sunday, October 26. Barack Obama has just started his speech at the rally in Denver and APL is there watching him. Unfortunately, I’m at home in bed even though I would have really liked to go. But just like the weekend we went to see the aspens changing, I was forced to recognize this morning that I had passed my tolerance point.

Despite not being able to go to the rally, I have had a wonderful weekend. On Friday afternoon, my friend RK (a.k.a. Judice) and I made caramel apples at RK’s house while our puppies played in the pasture. The caramel apples turned out to be a lot easier than we expected, and we really enjoyed making them. Then both our boyfriends came over and we made some pasta and garlic bread for dinner and we all watched a movie. It was a really relaxing and fun way to spend a Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, APL and I went with a bunch of friends to a local farm that had over 100 acres of pumpkin fields. Pumpkins as far as the eye could see! It was amazing! And it was a gorgeous, sunny, fall afternoon. We wandered through the fields until we all found the perfect pumpkins – some of our friends even found several! Then we bought some pumpkin bread and orange soda and lost ourselves in one of the farm’s corn mazes for a while. We also picked up some of the most alien looking gourds I have ever seen.

We bought the pumpkins in preparation for our third annual pumpkin carving party, a tradition APL and I started when we moved to Boulder. Unfortunately, by the time it was time for the party that evening, I was already exhausted from spending the afternoon at the farm. I decided that achy hands + slippery pumpkin guts + knives = not such a good idea. So I didn’t end up carving a pumpkin this year. But I did enjoy hanging out with my friends while they carved their pumpkins. I watched a little bit of Army of Darkness, which we had playing on a loop in our living room, and ate a caramel apple. And the end result this year was awesome! We had sixteen pumpkins and they looked incredible all together. We spent some time just sitting in the glow of the pumpkins in the living room. I really enjoyed it.

Of course, by the time most of the party left and my closest friends helped us clean up a little bit, APL & I went to bed well after midnight. We were planning to get up early to catch a bus to Denver to see the Obama rally, so I was already nervous that I wasn’t going to get enough sleep. I don’t know if my nervousness kept me awake or what, but I hardly slept at all. It took me an hour or more to fall asleep in the first place, and then I kept waking up. I tried everything I could think of to make myself more comfortable so I could sleep. I put socks on. 1:54 a.m. I got up to go to the bathroom. 2:15 a.m. I got a drink of water. 3:04 a.m. I turned the fan off. 4:39 a.m. I tried a new pillow. 5:55 a.m. No luck.

Needless to say I was less than thrilled when the alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. Also, all the wandering around at the farm yesterday had left my feet feeling like someone had run over them with a steam roller, which didn’t bode well for walking the twenty or so blocks from the bus station in Denver to the park where the rally was taking place. When I told APL how I was feeling, his immediate response was not “we don’t have to go” but “you don’t have to go.” It made me feel sad that my body was so uncooperative and also that I can be such a burden on APL. Even though I really wanted to go to the rally, when I really thought about how I was feeling I realized that I would only be a drag on APL and his friends if I tried to push myself to join them. I’m exhausted, I would have trouble walking, I wouldn’t be able to stand around for very long, and APL would have to take care of me instead of enjoying himself. So APL met his friends and caught the bus to Denver without me, and I, mercifully, actually got a little bit of sleep after he left.

When I woke up again I felt, if not better physically, at least a little less sad. I did have a really wonderful weekend otherwise. And I really am supposed to be resting, not running around like I have all the stamina in the world. I have to pick my battles, I guess, and this weekend I picked friends and pumpkins. Sorry about that, Obama. Guess you’ll have to make do with 99,999 supporters today.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Yesterday in my Mindfulness Class we learned about lovingkindness meditation, which focuses on bringing kindness into our meditation practice and into our daily lives. Our teacher told us that an attitude of lovingkindness can help support us in remaining composed while dealing with the difficult parts of our lives. This concept may sound seriously hippie woo-woo, but considering how frustrated I’ve been with my condition lately, and how this frustration has been spilling all over the people I love, I think lovingkindness meditation will probably be a really useful skill for me to work on.

Our teacher gave us an article that perhaps describes the practice of lovingkindness a bit better than I can: “The practice of lovingkindness meditation brings to life our innate capacity for connecting to ourselves and others. The lovingkindess we cultivate breaks through the habit of indifference of judgment that keeps us feeling separate from others. A capacity for friendship and kindness exists within each of us, without exception. No matter what pain we might have gone through in our lives, that capacity is never destroyed. It may be – and often is – obscured, but it’s there.”

So, in class, we started with a gratefulness circle, which is exactly as hippie woo-woo as it sounds! Basically, we went around in a circle and said, out loud, things we were grateful for in that moment.

I was grateful for my boyfriend, APL.

I was grateful that my second Remicade treatment was over and seemed to go well.

I was grateful for my friend, we’ll call her Judice (ha!), who went out of her way to drive me to my Mindfulness Class that afternoon, because otherwise I probably would have stayed home.

I was grateful for my puppy, River, who always brings a smile to my face.

I was grateful for ANTM and the mindless enjoyment I get from watching it with my friends.

I was grateful that internet that allows me to stay connected to my friends and family who are spread all over the world.

After the gratefulness circle, we took some time to think about the experience. And I realized two things. First, we went around that circle six times and I picked a different topic each time, but I could have easily offered six different reasons that I was grateful for APL or six different reasons that I was grateful for Judice. Despite how icky I may feel, I still really ought to try to show my gratefulness to the people I care about more often, because I honestly wouldn’t be able to get by without them. Second, I realized it actually made a difference in my mood to think about things I am grateful for. Despite the fact that I am honestly pretty unhappy with the shape of my life right now, there are still good things. If I focus more on those good things, maybe things will get at least a little easier. Probably another one of those goals that is easier said than done, but at least I can try.

Then we moved into the formal practice of lovingkindness meditation, and I thought that was really interesting too. Like the article describes, “We begin with ourselves because truly caring for ourselves is the foundation for being able to care for others.” Our teacher directed us to repeat silently, over and over, the following phrases:

May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I stay calm and patient while I try to work on these things!!

From there, our mindfulness teacher directed us to offer the same phrases to a person who has been a teacher or a mentor in our lives, someone who has shown us the best in ourselves. I immediately thought of a professor we call “the Guru.” He has been my professor, my boss, my mentor, and my friend. He has taught me, guided me, appreciated all the hard work I have done, and been there for me during difficult times. This semester I’ve realized exactly how much I appreciate him because he is on sabbatical in California and I miss him!

Guru, may you be happy. Guru, may you be healthy. Guru, may you be peaceful. Guru, may you be safe. Guru, may you come back to Colorado soon!

Next, we offered the phrases to a friend. I immediately thought of Judice, who was pretty much responsible for me being there to do this meditation in the first place. She knew I was feeling exhausted from my treatment but that the mindfulness class was good for me, so she picked me up at my house and drove me to it. She also gets the majority of the credit for helping me survive through 1L year of law school. Actually, for helping me survive law school in general. And since my diagnosis she has been an especially great friend. She takes River hiking when I can’t. She helps me talk through my frustrations over delicious hot chocolate (for which APL should also be grateful!) Also, sometimes she brings pie! I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.

Judice, may you be happy. Judice, may you be healthy. Judice, may you be peaceful. Judice, may you be safe. Judice, may you laugh at me calling you Judice. Also, may you have facebook in the Pennsylvania courthouse because otherwise I have no idea how I will survive without you next year!

We then had to try to offer the phrases to a difficult person in our lives. Someone who has annoyed or frustrated or hurt us, or all of the above. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into the details of this person here. But I tried to offer the phrases as a gift, expecting nothing in return. And I tried to offer the phrases as true – not only to help that person but also to help myself in dealing with that person.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe.

In the end, we offered the phrases to everyone.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be safe.

And may I try to keep this attitude of lovingkindness. At least some of the time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nemo & Me (and the IV)

I went for my second Remicade treatment today. I sat, all by myself, hooked to the IV and the blood pressure monitor and the pulse monitor for about three hours. It wasn’t so bad. I considered trying to get some schoolwork done while I was there, but then I re-considered and watched Finding Nemo on my laptop instead.

At the beginning of the treatment my rheumatologist came by to check on me. He examined each of my joints for swelling and pain and said he thought he could feel improvement in them. Honestly I’ve been feeling so upset and frustrated lately that I’m not sure I can say I’ve witnessed any improvement, but I guess it’s a good sign that the doctor thinks I’m improving.

I feel pretty ok right now except that I am really tired. But I can’t tell if it is the medicine making me tired or the fact that, for some reason, I hardly slept at all last night. Needless to say I’m grateful this week is coming to an end. Getting through classes and attempting schoolwork this week has been particularly hard. While I’m freaked out about the weeks disappearing without me getting enough schoolwork done, I’m also really grateful for the weekends when I feel like I can take things a little slower.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mild Civil Disobedience

I’m really exhausted today – headachy and tired and just generally feeling pretty icky. But, I have to admit that I am slightly cheered by the act of mild civil disobedience that APL and I have masterminded.

Our HOA (with whom we have had several previous “beefs”) has decreed that a maximum of ONE political sign intended to impact the outcome of the election may be displayed within the confines of our lot, so long as it is smaller than 36” X 48” and gets taken down immediately after the election.

Way to let us express our political feelings there, HOA!! How awesome that we are able to use our homes as we may please to influence the election!!! Apparently, even though we own the house we have contracted away our Constitutional freedom of speech so that the HOA will cut the lawn.

This rule really bugged us – not only because it meant we were forbidden from hanging two (gasp!) Obama signs in our bedroom windows if we wanted to, but because it was completely unnecessary rulemaking! It’s not like the complex was out of control with political signage! Of the 150 units in our complex, I think there were maybe three political signs. Oh, how horrible the complex looked with those three signs!!! It seemed to us that the HOA was unnecessarily legislating on the subject because they wanted to flex their power muscles.

So, of course, I immediately set my law school skills to work reading the fine print of the rule they had written to see if there was any way for us to get around it. Unfortunately there wasn’t – not at least within the lot that our house is on. But the street that runs through our complex is a public street (which the HOA themselves informed us when they were once yelling at APL for parking a truck that turned out not even to be his truck). We never agreed to let the HOA regulate our cars. I mean, I have every right to plaster my car in bumper stickers and park it on a public street. Thus I have every right to fill my car windows with Obama signs and park it on a public street. So we did. With two cars.

This is a double win because (1) we get to show our support for Obama who should clearly win the election (don’t even get me started on how terrifying Sarah Palin is!!) and (2) hopefully it will annoy some of the power hungry HOA board members. And that makes me smile at least a little. Guess it’s the little things that keep you going…

P.S. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, you should really check out the SNL sketches featuring my favorite Alaskan governor. They are hilarious yet terrifying, because half the time they are literally quoting words that have come out of Sarah Palin’s mouth.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just Keep Swimming

I just got some pretty excellent advice from AJ: just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Dory: Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do?
Marlin: No, I don't wanna know.
Dory: [singing] Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.
Marlin: Dory, no singing.
Dory: [continuing] Ha, ha, ha, ha, ho. I love to swim. When you want to swim you want to swim.
Marlin: Now I'm stuck with that song... Now it's in my head.
Dory: Sorry.

Makes me feel a bit better. Only now I want to leave the library and go home and watch Finding Nemo. Which isn't exactly productive, AJ!

Have You Seen Me Lately?

I’ve just had an experience that I can only describe as the verge of total panic. I’ve been trying so hard to keep myself calm about everything lately that I think I just reached a point where I sort of lost the ability to stay calm.

I guess it started last night. We were watching a movie at a friend’s house when APL got a headache. Despite the fact that I keep a drug store’s worth of different kinds of painkillers in my purse, his headache got worse. Now, on the one hand, APL can be a little bit of a baby when he doesn’t feel well. I think it has to do with the fact that he so rarely feels sick. But on the other hand, when a person doesn’t feel well it is totally reasonable that they might mope a little or feel a little grouchy. No one is really expected to function normally when they don’t feel well, at least in theory. The sane part of me wanted to take care of him and do whatever I could to make him feel better. He takes such good care of me that he deserves to be babied every once and a while when he isn’t feeling 100%.

But then there was this unbalanced part of me that wanted to shout at him. Actually shout at him while he wasn’t feeling well. Because he wasn’t feeling well! It’s only a little headache! Why are you being such a baby? I have a headache most of the time and my feet hurt so bad that I feel like I want to cut them off and I feel like I haven’t slept well in three weeks! What are you even complaining about? How is it fair that it’s ok for you to mope about a little headache when I have to try to function like a normal human being while I feel horrible all the time?!?

And the sane part of me said: what’s wrong with you? APL takes care of you all the time when you don’t feel well. You couldn’t even begin to get by without him. Why on earth would you want to make him feel worse when he already feels bad? But, unfortunately, the sane part of me couldn’t shut up the unbalanced part of me. I was so frustrated about how unfair it is that I feel so awful all the time and yet I still have to keep going. When we got home, I had to shut myself alone in the bathtub to keep myself from being unnecessarily mean to the one person who is always there for me. It wasn’t good.

I felt a little better this morning. But then I started trying to catch up on homework. And I worked for a couple of hours but I only made the smallest amount of progress. And I realized that the list of things I have to catch up on keeps growing and growing. Every week I add readings and assignments that didn’t get done to that list. But when on earth am I going to find time to go back and do it all? If I can’t even find the time and concentration to do the reading I am supposed to do for this week, when on earth am I going to find time and concentration to do all the reading for last month? It just doesn’t seem possible. So then what am I going to do? How on earth will I get through finals?

Calm down, I told myself. Just keep working. Just try to make a little dent in it. Do as much as you can and we’ll figure out what to do with the rest of it later. But then it was hot in my study but I couldn’t open the window because I was afraid the noise outside would distract me. And there’s no screen on the window and there have been a lot of flies getting in our house lately. But then APL was cleaning out his study, so the living room was covered with his organizing – a.k.a. currently a total mess. The kitchen table was for some reason also buried under stuff, so there wasn’t anywhere else in the house to work. Plus, all the mess and clutter was starting to make me feel a little panicky. Which also made me want to shout at APL for the house being such a mess, which clearly wasn’t his fault as he was trying to clean it!

I know that I can’t be taking my frustrations out on the person who supports me most, so I decided I had to leave the house. I threw my heavy casebooks and laptop into my backpack. I told APL I was going to Panera to work for a while. I got in the car and started driving. It was beautiful outside. The leaves were changing colors and the late afternoon light was making everything glow. I rolled down the windows and blasted some Counting Crows, which has been my favorite band since I was twelve and always seems to make me feel better. And I started feeling a little bit better.

But not better enough. I drove the five minutes to Panera and I still felt like I was about to fly off the handle and/or go totally insane and/or give up on trying all together. So I kept driving. And driving. And driving. I finally forced myself to stop at another Panera about twenty miles from my house. I’m not really sure how I made myself stop, but I think if I hadn’t it is pretty likely I would have driven all the way to Kansas. I ordered a bowl of soup and I made myself write this blog post to see if I could figure out how to calm myself down. And while I feel a bit calmer I still have no idea how I’m going to get through all my schoolwork. Or keep myself from taking out my frustrations on APL.

::Sigh:: I guess I'll go to the law school library and see if I can make a dent in my to-do list. I have to start somewhere.

Get away from me
Get away from me
This isn’t gonna be easy
But I don’t need you
Believe me

Yeah you got a piece of me
But it’s just a little piece of me
And I don’t need anyone
And these days I feel like I’m fading away
Like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio

Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Feet Get An “F”

My feet hurt today. A lot. It feels like all of my toes have been smashed with a hammer and then tied in knots. My arches are cramping and the cramps are starting to move into my calves. It’s really no fun to walk. In fact, I don’t even want to stand. But, then again, sitting is not a whole lot better because it still doesn’t make the pain stop. Nothing seems to help. I don’t have anything profound or insightful to say about it. It just sucks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maybe Next Week?

Today I had a small victory: I did all the reading for my Toxics and Hazardous Waste Regulation class this afternoon. The class only meets once a week, so the reading list can feel sort of hefty. I think today may be the first time all semester I actually got through all of the assigned reading. I read the text. I read the cases. I even read the statutes.

However, as it turns out, I actually sort of have permission to be unprepared for this class. The professor, who knows about my situation, has been super understanding. He told me flat out that he was never going to “cold call” me in this class. That basically means that he’s not going to turn to me in front of the whole class and say “Mariah, what is the holding of American Mining Congress v. EPA?” (Although I am delighted to say that today I would actually be able to answer that question!)

The thing is, while I am really grateful to have the pressure taken off me in that class, it feels really obvious, at least to me, that the professor avoids calling on me. There are a couple of other quiet students that don’t volunteer in class, but he still calls on them fairly often. In fact, since there are only eleven students in the class, he calls on everyone fairly often. Everyone but me. I do worry that my classmates will think I am getting special treatment without a reason. So maybe today I will be able to volunteer a bit in class since I am actually prepared. I think if my voice is heard in the discussion occasionally, no one will notice that he didn’t actually call on me.

But today wasn’t a total victory. I didn’t do any of the reading for my Foundations of Natural Resources Law class. In fact, I’m about four weeks behind in the reading for that class. I’m also quite behind in the reading for International Law. Not to mention that even though I did all the reading for Toxics today, I have quite a bit of catch-up reading to do from previous weeks. And I need to take notes on all this reading so that I will have good outlines to get through exams. I used to be really diligent about taking notes at the same time as I was doing the reading, but this semester I’m just trying to get through the reading so I’ll have some idea of what’s going on in class. I’m using a highlighter and putting off the actual note taking until later.

It has been extremely difficult to do even the small amount of work I have managed this semester. The pain in my body distracts me. The fatigue makes it hard to concentrate. I’ve been having really bad headaches. I’ve feel so downright icky that it has been really difficult to force myself to sift through complicated readings that are not always the most stimulating. Half the time I am so out of it that even if I did “do the reading” I wouldn’t have absorbed anything anyways. So, even though I am doing as much of the work as I can make myself do, the mountain of work keeps growing and I feel like I’m falling further and further behind. Actually, I am falling further and further behind.

I am trying to keep the “non-judging” attitude working as is pertains to my schoolwork. I’m trying not to judge myself. My inability to concentrate and be completely diligent on schoolwork right now is a physical limitation of my body that I have no control over. I’m trying to step back and congratulate myself for the work I do get done and also not be too hard on myself for the work I am unable to get to right now. I just try to do what I can, one day at a time.

However, this calm acceptance of what is essentially horrible procrastination is based on the theory that, maybe next week, I will be feeling better so I will be able to go back and catch up on my work. I keep telling myself that, in a week or two, the treatments will kick in and I will find it easier to concentrate. Then I can go back and do a good job on my notes and make sure I really understand the reading. Then I can get back to being a good student.

But the weeks of the semester are ticking by. While I am confident that we will eventually find a treatment that works for me, what if that eventually takes until spring? What am I supposed to do about this semester? What if all the weeks disappear and I never get to the point where I feel well enough to be a good student again? How will I ever catch up? How will I get through finals? How will I salvage my GPA?

I guess I just have to keep up hope that I will be feeling better next week. Maybe next week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Halloween Candy

I realized this evening that I take a lot of pills every day. In addition to the Remicade treatments I am now receiving by IV, these days I take at least seven pills every night. Three are vitamins. One is an iron supplement because my body is still rebuilding its iron stores from this summer, when I was seriously anemic from the undiagnosed autoimmune disease. The second is a combination fish oil/flax seed supplement, because supposedly both of those things are good for people with RA. The last is a general women’s multivitamin, because I figured my body is pretty messed up so I am probably missing out on something I need!

The other four are drugs. The first is a thyroid pill that I have been taking every day of my life since I was diagnosed with my other autoimmune disease in kindergarten. That’s right, I already had autoimmune disease number one – RA is actually number two. The first one is called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, where my immune system attacks and destroys my thyroid gland. So I’ve been taking supplemental thyroid hormones since I was five.

The second pill is birth control, which is pretty much mandatory when you are on RA drugs that result in pretzel babies, should a baby happen to occur. Though I must say (perhaps mom and other family members might want to skip the rest of this sentence) untreated RA pretty much serves as birth control all on its own. The third pill is an antibiotic that the doctor gave me for a rash under my arms that may or may not be a side effect from one of the other drugs I am on. It seems to be making the rash go away. The last evening pill is ambien, a sleeping medication, which is supposed to help me sleep better. But I still haven’t been sleeping that well or feeling rested when I wake up in the morning.

So that covers the pills I take in the evening. In the morning I take another dose of the antibiotic, and I also take my daily dose of prednisone. Prednisone is a steroid that is supposed to be helping with the RA pain, but I honestly don’t feel like it is doing that much. But I am on a pretty low dose of it, due to yucky side effects, like weight gain. Honestly, I would probably be worse off without it. However, even with the prednisone, I usually also take several pain killers throughout the course of the day, just to get me through my classes and errands and whatever else needs doing.

On Sunday mornings, I take six methotrexate pills. It’s a weird prescription that requires you to take six pills, once a week.

It’s a lot of pills to swallow. Especially after a long day where I still feel like I am far more exhausted than the few things I managed to accomplish today merit.

But a good friend of mine, who has some experience with health issues of her own, told me that I should think of my medicine not as a burden but as a blessing. She said that I should view the medicine like candy – something to look forward to because it will help me. And I think she might be right. Trying to stay positive about my situation has really helped me get through this so far, so I guess it could also work with my medicine. Maybe the power of positive thinking can actually help my medicine help me feel better.

So, I’m really going to try to think of my medicine like candy. And it must be Halloween!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mommy & Me (and the IV)

I finally had my first Remicade treatment on Thursday. After all the hoops I jumped through to get myself to that appointment in the first place, the treatment itself was surprisingly simple. The nurse did somehow manage to spatter my blood all over the floor when she placed the IV, which was lovely, but after that nothing really happened. I had the IV in my left hand, and it was connected to two bags of liquid hanging from a tall rack next to me – one of saline and one of Remicade. These were both slowly dripped into my system. I had a pulse monitor on my left index finger, which started beeping if I moved around too much, so I had to sit relatively still. I also had a blood pressure monitor wrapped around my right arm that took my blood pressure every half hour or so. And that was it. I just sat there like that for about three hours. It was actually pretty easy.

Still, I was pretty nervous about what the treatment would be like. The only other time I ever had an IV was when APL took me to the emergency room for a really terrible migraine about two years ago. I was so out of it that time that I barely remember it, plus they basically just gave me fluids and a little bit of pain killer. Remicade, on the other hand, is a pretty serious medication with a lot of nasty side effects. I was concerned about how I would feel during the treatment and afterward.

I also really don’t like hospitals or doctors. They make me really nervous. I actually have a condition doctors call “white coat hypertension,” where I get a temporarily inflated blood pressure just from being at a doctor’s office. And there was something pretty creepy about this room full of sick people hooked to IVs, especially since most of them looked a lot sicker than I did. The nurses kept asking me if I knew about the side effects of Remicade and had agreed to accept them, which made me feel like I was doing something dangerous. And it really made me feel like an invalid when I had to get up and go to the bathroom – a nurse had to unhook me from a bunch of different machines and I had to roll the IV into the bathroom with me.

So I am extremely grateful that I didn’t have to go through that first treatment all by myself. APL had to work, so he couldn’t be there, but my mom had the day off from work. So she decided to fly all the way from California to Colorado to take me to the treatment and spend the weekend with me. She came a long way for a treatment that turned out not to be a big deal, but I am so happy she did. We spent the three hours that I was hooked to the IV talking and flipping through stupid girly magazines. And while I registered that the situation was a bit creepy and made me feel sickly, with my mom there it wasn’t that bad.

The rest of the weekend was also really enjoyable, and my mom helped me do some errands I have been putting off forever due to feeling icky and having no energy. We went bra shopping. We went to Target and bought me some slippers to wear around the house since me feet are always cold these days. She did the driving when my feet were feeling too cramped and sore to drive. She helped me do some laundry I have been neglecting. She cooked me my favorite Polish food for dinner. It was awesome.

I don’t think I’ll ever be too old for a little mommy & me time. Thanks so much, Mom!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Remember how I went through all that trouble to work up the courage to tell my friends and family about this blog? And how that was sort of a big deal for me? Well, I guess I didn’t realize that if your blog goes from being a semi-private diary read only by your boyfriend and one college roommate to an interactive blog that people are actually clicking and commenting on in a single day, that gives your blog the characteristics of a spam blog. So, while I was delighted to receive some comments on my previous posts, I was less than delighted when I visited my own blog and received the following message:

“This blog is currently under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations.”

Huh? I’ve violated Blogger Terms of Service by sharing difficult emotions with my friends and family? Actually having people read my blog makes me look like a spammer? I seriously apologize to any friends or family who followed the link I sent them only to get that message. It’s sort of embarrassing, to be honest.

And I have to admit that I was even less delighted to discover that the “possible violation” led to my blog being locked for two days – meaning that I was unable to publish any posts during that time. Unfortunately, I feel like the momentum I had going, which wasn’t easy to come by in the first place, has sort of been lost. I was just starting to get into a habit where I was writing stuff down that was troubling me when I had my venue blocked for a couple of days for no apparent reason. It was pretty frustrating.

So, if you still happen to be reading this, please bear with me while I see if I can make this work again.

Monday, October 6, 2008


When I first got diagnosed with RA, aside from APL and a couple of friends I saw on a regular basis, I literally hid from the whole world for a couple of weeks. For some reason, it was extremely difficult for me to tell people about the diagnosis, probably because it required me to explain all the unpleasant details I hadn’t even figured out how to accept for myself. Not to mention that telling someone you’ve been diagnosed with a degenerative and painful autoimmune disease is generally followed by an onslaught of well-intended pity that only ends up making you feel worse. So, somehow the courage to be honest with people – even people I really care about and who I know care about me – eluded me for weeks.

On the other hand, interacting with people who didn’t know about my diagnosis also seemed impossible. I felt like my life had been flipped upside down and inside out. Everything in my world revolved around figuring out how to deal with the RA, so how on earth could I talk to someone who knew nothing about my diagnosis? How could I talk to them at all if I didn’t have the courage to tell them? The ideas I came up with for answering the innocuous “how’s it going?” without mentioning RA were basically downright lies. So I hid. I withdrew myself almost completely from interaction with the world.

After a week or two I was desperately lonely. I realized I had to let people know so that I could build a support system to help me get through all of this. But, for some reason, I was still having an extremely difficult time making the words “I’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis” come out of my mouth. So I told my mom, and I asked her to tell the rest of the family. I found it was easier to talk with people once they knew about the RA, even if I wasn’t brave enough to tell them myself. My mom told my sister and brother and my aunt. My aunt put me in touch with my cousin, who also has RA. And my support system slowly started to grow. With a little practice, telling people started to get easier. Or, at least, it wasn't quite as hard.

One particularly bad day in July, feeling lonely and sick and dealing with a great deal of pain, I finally managed to email a few friends from high school and college and tell them about my diagnosis. I’d like to think it was courage that finally got me to send those emails, but in reality it was probably cowardliness. I was afraid of what would happen to me if I kept trying to deal with this alone. Either way, I was immensely relieved that I had gotten my out-of-state friends involved.

A dearly loved college friend, AJ, offered to gather a posse to attack RA! She said we would fork its yard! Tie-dye its lawn with froot loops! Give it a wedgie in the hall! Put vasoline on its doorknobs! Her humor and enthusiasm lifted my spirits more than I can say. But when I explained to her that my hands were in such bad shape that vasoline on a doorknob was actually terrifying because it could lock me in a room for eternity, she got a bit more serious with her suggestions.

AJ suggested that I start a blog. Originally, I wasn’t so sure about it. She has her own blog, called “A Taste in the Life” (it’s listed in “My Favorites” to the right). She is a fantastic writer; she studied it in college and now she writes for a living. And since her engagement at the beginning of August, her blog has become a hilarious account of the trials and tribulations of planning a traditional southern wedding while keeping her own modern flair. It’s basically guaranteed to be an entertaining read and it is always uplifting.

I didn’t think any blog I wrote would be like that. Mine would probably complain about how much my body hurt and how despondent I was feeling. Who would want to read that? But AJ patiently explained to me that she didn’t start writing her blog for anyone else – she started it for herself, a form of cheap therapy to work out whatever was spinning around inside her head. She said she thought that would be good for me. She said I wouldn’t have to show it to anybody if I didn’t want to.

So I took her advice. One afternoon I sat down and starting writing and here it is. I have to admit that even if these posts are a little depressing or frustrating to read, working through these issues paragraph by paragraph has actually helped me to relax and settle my mind a bit. So I think writing the blog has been a good thing for me. The only weird part has been the issue of who to share the blog with.

At first, I only shared the blog with APL and AJ. AJ said she was proud of me for starting the blog, but that she wouldn’t list my blog on her “favorites” if I didn’t want her to. This led me to a very weird realization: it wouldn’t bother me if she listed my blog on hers because anyone following that link would be a total stranger to me. That means the thought of anonymously telling my problems and fears to total strangers didn’t bother me. The part that actually scared me was the idea of sharing my problems and fears with the people I know and love. But that made no sense at all! I’m afraid to tell my own friends how much I’m suffering? I don’t want my own friends to know how scared I am? Why not?

It made me start thinking about the “non-judging” attitude from my Mindfulness Class. Maybe, just as we are constantly judging ourselves, we are constantly judging each other. Dealing with RA makes me feel weak; like I’m somehow less than myself. Was I worried that my friends would read my pains and fears and judge me? That it might change their opinion of me? Because, the truth is, ultimately my friends may need to change their opinions of me in order to begin to understand everything I’m going through. If I want to have them there to help me through this, shouldn’t they know what is going on with my body and inside my head? With a better understanding of this RA conundrum from all perspectives, maybe we can all find a better way to help me handle it.

Unfortunately, lack of courage is still the issue here. I came to the conclusion that I should share my blog weeks ago. But for seven previous posts I somehow wasn’t able to find the courage to let my friends and family know that this window into my life even existed. I’m still not sure I have the courage to do it, but I’m going to do it anyways. As the Cowardly Lion said, “If I only had the nerve.” So here’s the nerve: right after I publish this post, I’m going to send an email to my friends and family with a link to this blog and tell them that, if they are interested, they are welcome to read it. It isn’t a cry for help and hopefully it won’t lead to any unfair judging about what I’ve been going through. I just hope it will increase openness and understanding with the people I care about and make it easier for all of us to get through this. I never really understood this phrase, but: here goes nothing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Josh Blue

I am registered with Disability Services at the University. Admitting to a University official that there was something I couldn’t do was no easy task, because up until this point in my life I have been an extremely dedicated over-achiever (see my first blog post – i.e. I graduated with honors from an Ivy League University, never had a C on a transcript in my life, etc.) But I had to do it. I may be able to withstand the pain and cramping in my fingers for twenty minutes while I type this blog post, but there is literally no possible way that I could type for three hours in a row right now.

However, typing for three hours straight is exactly what a law exam requires you to do. And even in my “healthy” past experience I have needed just about every minute of the allotted three hours to even attempt to properly address the questions. Not to mention that a law exam is an extremely high-pressure typing situation because the exam is your entire grade for the course. So no matter how carefully you have done the reading, how well you have paid attention in class, and how thoroughly you have outlined the subject in your notes, if you mess up on the exam it shows up on your transcript. Period.

After my diagnosis I literally had nightmares about law exams. I would be halfway through explaining the fundamental rule of pacta sunt servanda when my fingers would become so cramped and twisted that I would start hitting the wrong keys. Suddenly my well-reasoned answer was gibberish on the page. But before I could go back and fix it, time would run out. And since those nightmares are now legitimately possible, I realized that I had to register with Disability Services to see if they could provide me with some accommodations for my physical limitations, at least until we identify a treatment that makes the pain more bearable. So, I submitted paperwork from my doctor confirming my physical disability and I admitted, out loud, that there are some things I simply can’t do right now.

In the end, I’m really glad I did. And not just because it will help me get through exams this semester. On Monday, Disability Services sent out an email offering free tickets to a comedy performance. APL and I both love stand up comedy, so I responded immediately and was awarded two free tickets to see Josh Blue. I had never heard of him, and it’s been a really rough week, so I didn’t get a chance to look him up on YouTube before we went to the performance last night. I was just looking forward to an evening that I hoped would take me away from my own troubles and let me laugh a little bit.

So I have to admit that I was a little surprised to find out that Josh Blue has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. It’s caused by damage to the brain, usually occurring during fetal development. A lot of his jokes were about living with his disability, how he deals with it, and how other people view him. And let me tell you, Josh Blue is hilarious. One thing you’ll miss out on if you watch the links I posted is the interaction he had with the interpreters who were there for the deaf folks in the audience last night, which were so funny the whole audience was practically rolling on the floor laughing. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

I don’t think it makes sense to compare Josh Blue’s physical disabilities with mine, as they are obviously very different. And just because his disability may be “worse” than mine doesn’t make it wrong that I’m having so much trouble dealing with the new pain in my life. I think everyone is dealing with their own disabilities, in their own ways. But I am happy to say that Josh Blue’s performance last night really helped me in dealing with mine; it was exactly the lift in spirits I needed. I certainly don’t mean to be condescending, but I thought he was pretty inspirational.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I’ve always been fascinated by Japan. I started taking Japanese as an eighth grader and studied a total of three years in high school. When I was fifteen, I went to Japan for a summer with the Rotary Club. On that trip I visited Kyoto, Tokyo, and Hiroshima and stayed with four different host families in the Tochigi Prefecture. Then I studied Japanese for two more years in college, and spent another summer living with a Japanese family in a small fishing village outside of Ishikawa.

I’m sort of ashamed to admit, with no chance to practice over the last five or six years, I have forgotten a lot of the language. But, even though the words and the kanji (characters) may be fading from my memory, my love for Japanese food is as strong as ever. I’ve never found a single Japanese restaurant with food as good as my host mom’s in Ishikawa, but pretty much any Japanese meal will bring a smile to my face. Miso soup. Ginger. Maki. Katsu. Perfectly steamed rice. But now there’s a problem: chopsticks.

This afternoon, in an effort to cheer me up, APL took me to get Japanese food for lunch. And though I still really enjoyed the food, I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed by my inability to work the chopsticks. My fingers just cramped up too much for me to move them properly. Where I used to be able to manipulate chopsticks perfectly, making movements tiny enough to pick up a single grain of rice, today I was reduced to eating sushi with my fingers. I never felt like such a gaijin in my life.

Gaijin is a Japanese word made up of two kanji: gai which means “outside,” and jin which means “person.” So the word literally means “foreigner” or “non-Japanese.” So, technically, it would be a proper thing to call me. However, a lot of Japanese people consider the word to have taken on a negative or derogatory connotation – something closer to “stupid white person.” The term has become politically incorrect and is generally avoided by television and radio broadcasters in Japan.

Not that it really matters what some strangers in a restaurant think, but no one looking at me today would ever have guessed that I have spent months of my life eating every meal with chopsticks while conversing with my host family in Japanese. They would have seen a stupid white person eating sushi with their fingers. And, worse, that’s what I saw too. And trying not to think about before didn't really help. Even if I never had used chopsticks before in my life, it would still be frustrating that I couldn't physically do it today.


This entire week has been extremely difficult to get through. I did somehow manage to make it through the Scholarship Reception on Wednesday, and I think I even managed to make a decent impression on my donor, but then I came home and absolutely crashed. And I wasn’t at all ready to deal with Thursday by the time it came around. And I still feel horrible. My rheumatologist seems like an ok guy – he’s very optimistic about my prognosis and keeps insisting that we will find something that will make me feel a lot better – but the process of finding a treatment is frustratingly slow, and there are way too many hoops I have to jump through. And feeling horrible while jumping through hoops is no fun at all.

For example, two weeks ago today I went to the rheumatologist to tell him that the treatment we are trying right now clearly isn’t making me feel any better. He decided, two weeks ago, that I should start a treatment called Remicade. Remicade is a newer treatment that is supposed to be more aggressive. It is administered by IV, so you have to spend two or three hours sitting in your doctor’s office to get each infusion. Eventually you only have to get infusions every eight weeks, but during the first eight weeks you have to get three infusions. But the good news is that Remicade can supposedly have you feeling better in as little as two weeks. Two weeks have passed since we decided to start the Remicade, so why am I not feeling better? Because I still haven’t even had the first infusion.

First, I had to get a PPT test – which is a test to make sure you don’t have TB. It’s the one where they prick your forearm and then two days later you have to go back to the doctor’s office and they make sure no little bumps have formed on your arm. Even though they could have done the test at the rheumatologist’s office, my labs are only covered by my insurance if I get them done at the student health center. So the rheumatologist wrote me a script to have the test done and two Mondays ago I went to the student health center to get the test.

They wouldn’t do it that Monday. Why not? I needed to have an appointment. Are you serious? I need an appointment for someone to take 30 seconds to stick a needle in my forearm? Apparently I do. Are there any appointments available today? No, there aren’t. Are you sure there isn’t a nurse who could just place it quickly right now? No, apparently there wasn’t. Fine. Give me an appointment.

Last Tuesday I went back to the student health center for my appointment. I checked in, they called my name, we walked back to the nurse’s center, the nurse filled out some paperwork on the computer, she poked my forearm with a needle, she told me when to come back to have it checked, and she sent me on my way. The whole process took literally less than three minutes. Last Thursday I had to go back to the student health again so that they could check my arm. They checked it and decided I didn’t have TB. They faxed the results to my rheumatologist. Great, I thought, now I can start the Remicade right away.

Wrong. I have to get the rest of the paperwork in order. Because Remicade is really expensive: as in my 20% co-insurance is going to be about $600 per infusion. And I have to get three infusions in the first eight weeks. Luckily, there’s this program called RemiSTART that can help refund up to $400 of my out-of-pocket expenses for each infusion. So I have to fill out the paperwork for RemiSTART to help get through the payments. But then I have to ask the nurse at the rheumatologist’s office a question about the paperwork and she doesn’t work on Fridays. So I have to wait until Monday.

This past Monday I got the paperwork in order and finally called to schedule my first infusion. They tell me you can get your infusions on Monday afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, or Thursday morning. Apparently it is completely impossible to get this treatment if you have anything remotely resembling a real 9-5 job. So I ask, how about this afternoon? No, there aren’t any openings today. In fact, there aren’t any openings for the rest of this week. So I have to wait until next week. What about Monday afternoon? I have class until 2:15pm and I can be there at 2:30pm. No, that’s too late. The infusions take 2-3 hours and so they won’t let you start any later than 1:00pm. So that makes Wednesday afternoon out of the question too. So next Thursday morning at 9:00am it is, even though I’m not so good at mornings these days.

So now I have to wait another whole week before I even get my first infusion. And it will be another two weeks after that before I “may” start feeling better, assuming the Remicade works for me at all. So what I want to know is this: how on earth am I supposed to get through all of that? One day at a time, I guess. But with how horrible I have been feeling these days, each day has become more of a struggle.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Flaw in My Plan

So far, my master plan for dealing with my life right now has been to take one day at a time. But this morning I realized that there is a flaw in the plan: what if a single day seems too overwhelming to deal with? It’s 8:35am and I’m already worried I might not make it through the rest of the day.

Last night I tossed and turned and couldn’t get comfortable. It felt like my hands and feet were throbbing to the point where it was audible, and the noise was keeping me awake. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much or well last night. Which made it particularly unpleasant that I had to get up early this morning to meet the painters at our house between 7:00am and 8:00am.

The painters are re-painting the outside of our townhouse to the correct color. If you want to know why our townhouse is the “wrong” color, well, that’s a saga of months of fighting with our HOA and dealing with extremely sketchy contractors that is so tremendously frustrating that I can’t even bear to think about it right now. Suffice to say that in the next day or two, $875 for a re-paint job should finally put the whole ugly matter to rest.

But getting up early these days is no easy task. In fact, getting up at all is pretty difficult. Every day I wake up stiff and painful; like someone broke half the bones in my body by beating me repeatedly with a baseball bat last night and I have been laying in the same position ever since. APL is an enormous help when it comes to getting up. He wakes me gently, giving me time to snooze. Even though he has a rule that the puppy isn’t allowed to sleep in our bed with us, he’s been bringing her upstairs in the morning to snuggle with me and make me smile as I try to get up. On days where I have to get up earlier than usual, APL will make me a cup of tea and put it on the bedside table before he goes to work. Some days I think I wouldn’t bother to get out of bed at all without his help.

But today, while he was putting on his socks, APL accidentally sat on my left foot. The toes on my left foot are probably the most consistently painful part of my whole body. The way they got compressed this morning was so painful that I was instantly in sobbing tears. APL felt awful about it. And I’m sure he felt worse when the time forced him to leave for work while I was still curled up on the bed, sniffling.

I did finally manage to get up in time to talk with the painters before they started this morning. But after that I just sat back down in bed, totally overwhelmed and exhausted at 8:30am in the morning. The list of things I have to do today seems really daunting. This morning I have to finish reading for the classes I have this afternoon. The reading includes a couple of cases and a few statutes, which you really have to be able to concentrate on to figure out what on earth they are about. Today is also my “long” day of classes, though I put “long” in quotation marks because it only seems long to me now – last semester I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at this schedule. My first class today goes from 1:00pm to 2:20pm, and is then immediately followed by a class from 2:30pm to 4:10pm. By the time I get to the end of the second class I am generally really stiff from sitting so long, my hands hurt too much to take appropriate notes, and my ability to concentrate has been almost totally lost. So it doesn’t help that I am behind in the reading in that class, so I haven’t been doing a good job following the last two lectures.

But I think if my day ended there I wouldn’t feel quite so overwhelmed. I can slog through those things, more or less. The problem is that I am expected to attend a Scholarship Recognition Reception this evening from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, to thank the Dean and the donor of my scholarship in person for funding me this year. Not only do I have to be there, but I also need to look presentable and interact with these people so that they believe they have made the right decision in awarding me the scholarship. I have to be at my best this afternoon, appearing the grateful and diligent student, at a time where I will almost certainly be feeling close to my worst.

I have no idea how I'm supposed to get through this day.