Chronic Illness, Family Life and Extreme Sexiness
8th June 2015
I’ve been a bit under the weather the last week or so.
This fun and cheerful chronic sinusitis problem I’ve been juggling for a couple of years now is an up-down adventure. It’s a lot better since having surgery a year ago, but the underlying problem - a chronic inflammatory response in my sinuses - remains. So my sinuses swell for some mysterious reason, and then the bacteria that is easily flushed through a normal system is more easily trapped, so I’m prone to infection,…after infection… after infection. When infection starts, my immune response kicks in and makes more mucus. Yummy, yummy. Mucus for everybody!
Before my surgery I spent about 100 days on anti-biotics. Post-surgery, I’m still getting sinus infections, and am trying my best to fight them without anti-biotics (sometimes successful, sometimes not.) My sense of smell is gone (good for poo-splosion situations, bad for cooking and everything else). I’m really hoping that’s not permanent, but nobody can say for sure. Next step is to see an immunologist (Sydney or Wollongong suggestions welcomed) to see if there is an underlying immne system disease or dysfunction.
I’ve tried lots of stuff - giving up gluten, dairy, sinus osteopathy, sacrificing virgin goats at sunrise. I flush out my sinuses at least once a day with salted water and steroids. I’m taking Vitamin C and multi’s and olive leaf. Broth. Lots of water. Blah blah blah. It’s time consuming and boring.
This week I’ve been trying a new thing where you take cough mixture at intervals throughout the day. It’s active ingredient ‘guaifenesin’ has a mucus-thinning effect, so it can help to avoid infection. It’s disgusting though - and drinking cough mixture is habit forming, so local mums, if you see me at the school run with a Slushy cup full of Red Bull and Robotussin (I think Lil Wayne calls it ‘crank’), stage an intervention.
Ah, such fun.
I’ve had a spine full of hardware for twenty years, and it has occasional weird moments. One of its party tricks is to pop out of place (nobody can explain exactly why) so that a golf-ball sized knob sticks out the back. Whut? The hells thut? I think of it as Golfie. If I catch things when Golfie is just threatening - that part of my back starts to feel really unstable and weak, and it all starts aching a lot - I know to take anti-inflammatories and lie flat until its weird tantrum subsides. I can usually prevent Golfie popping fully out these days, but it is a massive pain in the arse.
Frankly, if I was a horse, I’d be having nightmares about the glue factory.
Having a chronic illness or injury is actually a lot like having a really shitty part-time job; one where your cranky boss can suddenly call you in with no notice and refuse to tell you when your shift ends. You have to just take a breath and push through. The family system just has to adjust and fall in around it.
But the physical management of pain or illness is not the hardest thing, and nor are the modifications of how to manage work and life. The hardest part is managing the emotional stress of it all.
As a mum and the primary care-giving hausfrau with three small kids, I’m the emotional barometer of the family. Everything is thirty percent harder when one is in pain, and little kids are incredibly finely-tuned to their parents emotional state. When I am impatient and irritable, the kids act up. It’s really hard. Everything, everything is on the floor. It hurts my back to bend, and when I get my head down, my sinuses give me a kick.
I try hard to be be patient, loving and present, and to keep the atmosphere light and joyous. When I’m in pain, ‘present’ sucks. ‘Far, far away’ - in mind, if not in body - is much preferable.
Energy must be saved for the essentials, like driving kids about, getting the shopping done, the dinner on the table, the washing on the line. But the second-level of living gets neglected. Properly cleaning some filthy corner of the hovel. Getting down on the floor for Lego and craft and cuddles. After a while, the stuff I’m not getting to really starts to weigh on me. When all you’re managing is the mundane basics, you don’t get any of the joy from the fun stuff.
It can start to feel a bit bleak.
I really love this little homestead of ours. We play games, we make music, we cook together, and Keith and both put effort into building a family life that we love. But it all takes energy, sometimes more than I have. When I’m struggling with my back, Keith comes up for lunch and then he’ll play with little Pudding while I rest. At six, he finishes work for the day, we’ll all have dinner and then I’ll exit. I have to go lie flat while my angry back slowly calms. I have to do that so that I can get up again and do the mother marathon the next day.
I don’t want to overstate the case here (she says, descending fom the ceiling on a half-moon while playing a tiny violin…) I’m actually good. I think I’m beating this recent sinus infection (that crank is some real good shit), and my back is feeling a lot better - little Golfie has stayed put this time. Apart from activating a little of the Fear, it’s been a minor episode. It’s been a whole heap worse than this before, and chances are (sadly) it will be a whole lot worse sometime in the future.
But it takes work, this shitty part-time job of chronic pain. My kids and Keith are so good and kind, but they don’t like Mum’s shitty part time job either. And if any of you out there have that job - bad boss, no benefits, lifetime contract - then I send you my best. If you’re anything like me, your chronic pain probably stops you from being quite the Mum and partner you would like to be.
I think can hold certain gifts, however: compassion and understanding for others, perhaps; a knowledge that the surface picture might not reflect the reality of another persons life; and a commitment to enjoying the small and beautiful details of the mundane everyday. Holding some worries and fears about the future is a damn great incentive to enjoy your life as it stands right now.
And I do, I do. I love my life, shitty part-time job and all.
Finally, my apologies but the bit in the title about Extreme Sexiness is a lie. I said it because I came across this cartoon and it made me laugh.
I do feel bad about not putting out for you though. You want sexy, here’s Rod Stewart. Don’t say I never gave you nothing.