Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Controlling the Pain

Fibromyalgia causes pain. Some days more than others. But always, there is some level of pain. Most days, there is also other annoyances who come along with the pain: low energy level, brain fog, total lack of motivation..the list goes on. There are days when I wonder WTH is wrong with me and then I remember, it's fibromyalgia. I've tried turning that blind eye and deaf ear to it, but it seems to have gotten worse over the years. I am not a taker of meds so I refuse to go that route. So, what do I do? I have found a few things that help calm the flares and keep the pain, sometimes, in check.

Ten things I do to help keep fibromyalgia in check:
  1. No processed foods. If I slide back into some processed foods from time to time, my body lets me know almost immediately. The effects on the fibromyalgia mean increased pain, increased brain fog, painful stomach cramping...I convinced that eating processed foods contributes to fibromyalgia flare-ups. Makes you wonder why I ever pick up anything processed, doesn't it? Part of the reason is that I am a southern gal and I do love certain foods- macaroni and cheese, biscuits, grits (smooth and creamy, of course), etc. I can make these foods myself and not feel quite as bad but, they're not the best for helping reduce the effects of fibromyalgia.  
  2. No sugar. These days, I also notice a difference immediately after ingesting sugar. There is no pick-me-up feeling when sugar is involved. Nope. It's a downer for sure. I'm always left with less energy than I had before I ate anything sugary. Except fruit or smoothies. And I feel that this has to do with the type of sugar but I'm not a chemist or doctor or nutritionist so...
  3. Exercise. Taking oxygen in while performing some sort of cardio exercise has a huge impact on my fibromyalgia. It's difficult while I'm working out, no matter what the exercise is, but it feels good afterward. And for a long time afterward. Unless the feet act up, then it's not so good. 
  4. Yoga. It amazes me how a practice that is so difficult for me makes such a tremendous difference in how I feel. The gentle stretching and deep breathing have the most beneficial results of anything I've tried yet. 
  5. Weight loss. The fewer pounds I have to lug around every day, the better. I've noticed this being true on those few occasions where I actually lost weight and felt the difference. Not that this fact motivates me to keep the weight off or take it off again and again, though you'd think it would. Think of it like this: it's not that easy to carry around extra pounds under 'normal' circumstances. It makes your feet, knees and hips ache because of the pounding of merely walking around. It works your heart harder than it needs to work and makes you uncomfortable. It's unhealthy. Now, combine that with the aches and stresses of fibromyalgia. Yikes! My problem here is an addictive personality. Not to alcohol or drugs. To food. I have used food as my source of comfort for so long I don't even know if I can get out of the cycle. But one thing about me is that I do not give up hope. So, I keep trying.    
  6. Ignore as much stress and negative people as possible. Stress causes tension in my entire body and, when you couple that with fibromyalgia, the results can be nearly debilitating. Stress rips through our bodies causing all sorts of physical and medical problems. If you have fibromyalgia, stress hits those tender points like a mack truck. Negative people drain you of your energy. You're already low on energy with fibromyalgia. Being around negative people can be just what it takes to send you into a depression. Getting rid of those people is helpful. I'm still figuring out what to do when you are stuck with them.  
  7. Organic everything from food to laundry detergent. When you have extreme (and that may be an understatement in my case) sensitivities to all things affecting your five senses, you cannot use or be around chemicals. If I use a shampoo with chemicals, for example, my head starts itching, every part of my body that it touches turns red (like hives) and I get a headache. My nose burns and my eyes water. And that's just shampoo. This only started happening in the last seven or so years. 
  8. Meditation. This helps me focus and feel like my mind is clearer. It also helps with the achiness. It also helps with the negative people and the stress. I use it when I need it.
  9. Laughter. I know. It sounds crazy but when I'm surrounded with the right cast of characters, laughter ensues taking my focus to a much happier place. I've been around people who have kept me laughing so hard that the only reason I notice pain is because of the laughing.
  10. Develop a can-do attitude. I'm a stubborn individual. When I make up my mind, that's it. And I made up my mind a long time ago that fibromyalgia would not get me down. It's not going to make me feel sorry for myself or seek sympathy. It's not going to rob me of having fun and doing things I enjoy doing. I just keep going. Like that silly Energizer bunny. Ha!   
The nice thing about not having to go to school anymore, besides taking care of Baby M, is that I have time to do all the things I need to do to feel better. Even though, some days, it doesn't matter a flip what you do the discomfort, low energy, brain fog, depression, etc. will present itself and stick around as long as it wants to. And that could be for a few hours, a day, a week, months...it just depends. 

Here's the best explanation I've found describing what fibromyalgia feels like:

Wow. This is one of the most accurate things I have ever read to describe fibromyalgia. But you need add in the fact that your short term memory gets dumped more often than the trash gets taken out.:

Doesn't sound like fun, does it? You're right. It isn't. But you learn to deal and do your best. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia are not cry-babies (although you might find us crying by ourselves from the frustration of it all.) We are well aware there are others out there who suffer from far worse than we do. That doesn't mean we don't suffer. So, before calling someone lazy, or stupid, or before reminding them how good they have it, think. We really have no idea what other people are going through in their lives. It's probably a good idea to just be kind.

What are some things y'all do to deal with fibromyaglia? Chronic pain? Depression? Low energy? Brain fog?  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Bullies Suck

Fibromyalgia is not the easiest chronic disease with which to live. It is also not the most difficult. Point is, fibromyalgia is real and it is no picnic. When you are surrounded by a bully or two, it's even more difficult. 

Yes, fibromyalgia is real. It's the name someone came up with for the symptoms when there was no other name. I suppose I should say, the symptoms are real. I know because I suffer from quite a few of them. Though not nearly as badly as some other folks I know. And I'm quite grateful for that because if mine isn't that bad, I'd hate to know what the bad cases are like.

For those of you who don't know, fibromyalgia is characterized by:
  • restless sleep
  • serious morning stiffness 
  • terrible headaches
  • tingly and numb hands and feet as well as pain
  • memory loss and foggy thinking
  • tender points which make touch painful
  • widespread pain throughout the body
  • awakening feeling tired
  • chronic fatigue
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • disturbance in bowel function
  • sensitivity in all five senses

Not a short list. I have, and still experience, each of the symptoms listed above. It's exhausting. You can imagine what getting up every day of the week to go teach elementary students was like. Some mornings weren't that difficult. But you never know how you'll feel or how the day is going to go when fibromyalgia is your partner. 

Having to go to school every day was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it made me get up and go regardless of how I felt or the level of pain on any given day. A curse because it made me have to get up and go regardless of the level of pain on any given day. It's not easy to go and be your best when pain is screaming throughout your body. But I also tried to keep everything in perspective. I may be living with chronic pain but I am not suffering from a disease that can have fatal results. For this, I am grateful.

Am I looking for sympathy? No. I hate being pitied and I hate being the center of attention. I am not a fan of attention of any kind- good or bad. I don't play the victim. That's why a lot of people have no idea that I even have fibromyalgia. Another reason most are unaware is because of the fact that some of those who do know are not always kind. I've been called lazy and stupid so many times I have come close to believing it. Close. But there is enough of me to know that I am neither. I've been told I hate fun and that I hate my job. Nope.

I cannot walk into a store where perfume is sold because the smells burn my nose and I can taste it just from smelling it. This leads directly to a headache. Same with being around people wearing perfume. Or smokers. UGH. So, I have to be careful where I go and how close I stand to people. Loud noises can reduce me to tears. Putting on lotion (whipped coconut oil) can hurt as does brushing my hair from time to time. Bright lights cause me to close my eyes so I'm careful about driving. None of my soaps or shampoos etc. can have chemicals in them. Life is interesting.    

Those of us who suffer from fibromyalgia are not lazy. We do not hate our jobs. We are not social introverts. We do not hate fun. We are in pain most days and we have no energy. Everything affects us in a painful or uncomfortable way from bright lights and loud noises to a gentle touch to just standing up or sitting down. 

I have lived with fibromyalgia for 16 years now. Unfortunately, I've noticed that it has gotten worse over the years. Not horrible, but worse. Or maybe I'm not as good as faking it these days. There are times I forget I have fibromyalgia and I drive myself crazy trying to figure out why I'm so tired or why I lack motivation or why everything hurts. And then I remember, it's fibromyalgia.

I didn't cover as much as the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure. However, getting information out there is helpful no matter the amount. Next week, I'll share what I've found helps me deal, when I deal. And that's another thing about fibromyalgia. It can zap you of your energy and motivation to the point you just do not deal with it some days. There are some things, however, that do take the edge off and I'll cover some of those next time. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

School Board Stupidity

The infinite stupidity of the school board in our county has struck once again. Is there no end? 

Let me start with the difference between certified teachers and classified employees. Certified teachers at our school have undergraduate degrees and a few have master's degrees as well. The story is the same for our classified employees- all have undergraduate degrees, some of us have master's degrees, and one is working on her Ph.D.--do you see the difference? Thaaat's right. The difference between certified teachers and classified employees is the certification. Of course, there is also the difference in pay (seriously, master's degree or not, a classified employee is lucky to bring home $1500/month) and responsibility but, in terms of education, that's it.  

You'd never know it, however, when you witness the difference in the way the two types of employees are treated.

If you are a classified employee and you do not feel like a mere peon, give it time. You will. No matter how much you do or how hard you work or how many times you go well beyond that extra mile they will, at some point, put you in your place. This antiquated treatment happens when you get further up the food chain. But not too far. 

What's the latest humiliation to be suffered by the lowly classified employee? They must punch a time clock.

Punch. A. Time. Clock.

Now, I realize that there are jobs in which people have to punch time clocks. But working as a classified employee in our school is not one of them. It is one more way for the powers-that-be to insult the worker bees they view as peons. Classified employees are the only ones who have to punch a clock.

Why? How would I know? Y'all don't think they'd actually tell us why do you? Because that doesn't usually happen. When they have people by the proverbial balls, they don't have to tell why, do they? Perhaps other schools are having trouble with some employees putting in an eight hour day? Perhaps someone on the board is getting kickbacks from the Kronos company? Perhaps someone's cousin's brother's girlfriend's sister works for the company? Maybe they decided to go paperless? Most likely it's a micromanagement issue. Who knows? 

I was a classified employee who holds a master's degree and two undergraduate degrees. I gave at least 110% every school day. I was on committees and offered computer club every Tuesday afternoon (my own idea which I gladly and enthusiastically offered for three years FOR NO PAY.) I added classes to my already filled days just to make sure students had access to coding classes as well as the special area classes they attended. I was in charge of MAP testing which required me to arrive early and leave late most days, run reports for the principal and all teachers (who could easily have done this for themselves.) If there was a technology problem, I was expected to sort it out even though we are told by the district to call the Help Desk in these situations. I won't even get into the extra duties that were asked of me, some of which were above my pay grade. I did not work less than 8 hours/day. I did, however, work more to the tune of nearly 40 hours/school year. And I NEVER asked for overtime pay. I did this for the kiddos and considered it voluntary.

I would not do that now if they made it a requirement. Because, when you force the peons to punch a time clock, you rob them of their joy and motivation.

I am not the only classified employee at our school who does more than his/her fair share. This is not about appreciation. Our AP has always made me feel appreciated. Always. I feel certain she has made others feel the same. That's not the point.

The point is, the Charleston County school board has got to stop humiliating people. Trying to make others feel less than they are is BS, I don't care who you think you are. This is not the way to inspire loyalty, productivity, or honesty in your employees. It is, however, a successful way to destroy those qualities. Who wants to work for someone who insults and humiliates their employees?

Our school is not a school of slackers. We work with 700 elementary students. There is no way we can slack even if we wanted to. If anything, the educators and staff at our school go above and beyond on a daily basis. What we have in return is a successful school filled with students who are eager to learn and educators enthusiastic about teaching. We do not do this for the money. We do it for the love of teaching children and our own love and appreciation of learning.

On the other hand, this latest degrading act by CCSD made it much easier to leave my job. Before the time clock issue arose, leaving was bittersweet. Not that I won't miss the students or enjoy taking care of my granddaughter but the time clock has taken a good bit of the sentimentality of leaving out of the mix.      

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Boss

Because there are some rather scathing posts coming in the next couple of weeks (not too bad but I have to get it out- school district stupidity and how PTA has changed over the years, for example) I want to start my end of teaching with a positive...

Have y'all ever wanted to be the boss? Not at home, where you probably already are the boss or, at least, one of the bosses, but outside the home at a job where you receive money instead of fulfillment (not that some of us don't have jobs that fulfill us) and love. I haven't. I just don't want those size headaches. Not even for the money (which, when you're in education is not that much more.)

Since deciding not to return to school next year ( because I get to take care of my soon-to-be-born very first grandchild), I've been reflecting on the last few years and thoughts of bosses have been on my mind. So, my question is: What makes a good boss?

I could tell y'all what a not so good boss is like but when I think of the AP at our school, Cindi, all I can say are good things. Because she's a really good boss. Really. Good. Fantastic, even. Why?

  • She's fair. No matter who, no matter what, she will be fair. She listens and asks questions. There is no assuming on her part. There is no jumping to conclusions. I've witnessed this from her whether she's dealing with parents, students, or teachers. 
  • She's an observer. She watches and listens and makes suggestions based on those observations. She never jumps in without first taking the time to gather her information. You won't catch this one making an assumption and acting on it.  
  • She empathizes. She cares and you know it. 
  • She has a sense of humor. She not only possesses a sense of humor, she appreciates humor in general. It's comforting to know that you can laugh with the boss.  
  • She's human, she knows it, and she doesn't try to hide it. If she makes a mistake, she owns it. She is never afraid to say, "I don't know" or "I'm sorry." 
  • She takes time. No matter who or when she takes the time to hear us out. Most of us have been to her countless times just to vent and she has, each time listened and offered either just the ear or a bit of commiseration. Even when she has to point out that we're misunderstanding a situation, she does it in a way helps us understand that instead of making us feel silly or stupid. She never tries to take away someone's dignity. 
  • She is professional but can 'let her hair down.' In other words, she does not have the proverbial stick up her butt. There is no attitude of superiority from her and this is a huge reason she is respected as a leader.  
  • She is supportive. She has your back. I have never doubted this. Not one single time. None of us have.   
  • She encourages and inspires. You know those people who bring out the best in others? Our AP is one of those. She is always encouraging us to be innovative. She inspires us to be the best we can be as educators and as human beings. We want to do and be our best.  
  • She communicates. We never have to wonder where she stands or what she expects. If she is disappointed, she will let us know. If she sees something that needs to be changed or improved, she lets people know in an inspirational way, never demeaning. She does not make assumptions but gathers facts before confronting anyone from faculty to student (I know, repeat, but this is huge in my book.) If she has questions, she asks them. She's a straight-shooter. 
  • She is honest. I have NEVER known our AP to be dishonest.
This all seems unreal, doesn't it? I would probably think so too had I not witnessed her first-hand. And, if I asked around, I'd probably discover that my list is lacking. There are so many lessons I have learned from her and some that I should have but am just too stubborn in my ways. There are several people I will miss, greatly, at school and she is one of them. Just the daily interactions with her as a friend will be the main thing, But it all ranks up there on the list.

I'm sure she has faults, she is human after all. But those apparently are far outweighed by her strengths because I don't know her faults.

I might even miss this next year:

Just kidding! Love you CP!