There are stages we go through after diagnosis that go something like this:
At least these are what I have experienced, along with an underlying grief that tends to resurface now and then.
In my first blog entry I talked about my diagnosis and my shock. When I was done freaking out, I moved in and out of denial for awhile. I figured as long as my symptoms weren't bothering me too much then I could just pretend that scleroderma didn't exist in me.
And while I was busy in denial, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, babysitting 5 kids in addition to my own, and generally knocking myself out with housework, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and being chauffeur to play dates, sports practices and games, I realized that if I was going to try to keep up at that pace, then I was going to have to ask for help.
Since I was (and still am) not good at asking for help, I had to let some things go, beginning with my yard. It saddens me since I have always loved gardening and enjoy the feeling of a hard day's work and seeing the before and after. I take pride in my home's landscape. Now I had to watch the weeds grow, let my dream projects go and try to not let it bother me.
I have not given up on my gardening. I just do what I can, when I can, and try not to stress about what's always left to do. A garden is never reallly "done" anyway. But here is where that grief comes in. I will always long for the days when my body allowed me to do pretty much whatever I wanted. And I still grieve for the loss of what once was.
I still have a tendency towards denial, or "functional denial" as I like to call it. Sort of a healthy denial if you will, in which I do acknowledge scleroderma; I've taken my doctor's advice on treatment; I have made adjustments in my life to accommodate my limited abilities and I continue to go about my business of living life to its fullest without even thinking about scleroderma for the most part. So, I suppose you could call it acceptance.
Making adjustments was and is hard. Really hard! When you've always been one to do it yourself as well as for others, it's just not in your vocabulary to ask for help. I still have a hard time asking for help and won't unless it's absolutely necessary.
Making adjustments has been a real learning experience. I have had to learn to look at a scrappy yardscape and not care (too much). I have had to learn to be able to relax in a messy house. I have had to learn to not feel guilty for feeding my kids instant oatmeal for dinner two nights in a row and for having to dig dirty socks out of the hamper for them to wear because I just couldn't get around to doing the laundry. (Incidentally I solved this problem by buying more socks. Lots and lots of socks!)
Replacing the word "lazy" with the word "pacing" was helpful. If I was a healthy person, you could call me lazy. Since I have scleroderma, I am pacing myself. Most days I can get up and clean the house for 20 minutes then I need to take a break for 20 minutes. And that's okay. Things take longer to get done and I don't get near as much done as I would like to, or as I used to, but it's just one of those adjustments I've had to make and I accept it gladly in exchange for being able to do it at all.
I also learned that accepting help was almost as hard as asking for help. It does take a bit of pride swallowing and with my esophageal problems.....well you know.
After learning more and more about scleroderma and its tag along friends like Raynaud's, interstitial lung disease, the GI business and more, I decided I was going to take a proactive approach to my treatment and care.
I noticed some loss of range of motion in my hands. I dread losing any function in my hands. So I went to hand therapy as a preventive measure. I learned a lot of great stretching exercises and bought myself a parafin wax bath as well as a small hand massager that helps to keep my joints flexible. I use it on my tight face too and it helps a lot.
Since getting any kind of outdoor exercise in the cold months is aggravating to my Raynaud's, I bought myself a treadmill with the gift money from my dear ol' dad. Now just finding the discipline to get on it regularly is another story. But hey, it was a proactive move!
I also finally started making multi-vitamins, probiotics and glucosamine a regular part of my "pharmaceutical food group" as a fellow sclerodermian in my town refers to her handfulls of daily pills.
Massage is also something I would like to make a regular part of my care but it ain't cheap! Our town has a school of massage and offers student massages 3-4 times/year at a great rate, so I try to hit those.
It feels good taking charge of my body and my care and treatment. I feel empowered and determined to not let scleroderma rule me but for me to rule scleroderma.
I have two very active young boys who need me and too much life left to live to let sclero get the best of me.
Next: Gratitude, Acceptance and Peace