Bright blue sky behind a natural arches in Arches National Park with Title Text in White: Traveling Across the USA in the Time of COVID-19: Living FULLY Despite Pain

Traveling Across the USA in the Time of COVID-19

What was supposed to be our 35th-anniversary trip this past May, turned into a fall adventure this October. As a newly retired teacher, this is my first trip during “school-season”. With Covid-19, though, I really wasn’t thinking we should travel beyond our safe confines of home. And while most of our reservations made for May were able to be canceled, we had one VRBO rental that wouldn’t refund our money but allowed for us to rebook. “October, yes, that will be a safe time,” we agreed last spring never thinking that this virus would be actually raging in every state but three across our country.

After doing a few backpacking trips away from home but still in our state, we decided that we could use enough precautions to remain relatively safe. We packed our car with everything we’d need to be mostly independent. We brought some freeze-dried backpacking meals and our Jetboil backpacking stove for meals on the road and vowed to eat at establishments that respected mask-wearing, leaning towards those that had outside dining available.

As we drive across the country from Michigan to Utah, I’ve decided to write about how I’m handling the trip healthwise as well as notice how the people in each place we visit are handling the pandemic. I will be using this month’s October prompts from A Chronic Voice: Producing, Acquiring, Switching, Disappointing, and Forming. Being I have spotty Internet access, I’ll be writing a bit here and there and hope to capture the complexity of this moment.

Time to Transition From a Time of PRODUCING

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

Unknown

A dirt  two-track covered by golden aspen leaves going through the middle off into the distance.  On either side, white aspen tree trunks, their branches still holding onto golden round leave, lit up by the sunny blue sky.  Green pine fill in the lower portion under the aspens.
My soul soared as we walked through this pine and aspen tree forest.
The beauty of letting go becomes obvious in this setting.
There’s a sense of peace that comes from the high energy of summer to the mellowness of autumn.

The summer months are a time of producing with September being the time of harvest. The fall is a time of slowing down, reflection and letting go. I have spent this summer focusing on producing a quality blog and becoming a patient advocate for those living with chronic illness. To do this, I switched from a free website platform (Blogger) to a paid platform (Lyricalhost.com) which has bumped up the level of what I can do on my website. Devoting time to learning new technology, becoming involved in groups that focus on supporting those with chronic illness, and developing new connections within those groups has been greatly enriching for me. The time and effort I’ve given to this gives me a purpose and helps me to grow an area of passion.

With last month being Pain Awareness Month, I poured extra time and effort into producing, reaping new connections and skills. Instead of one post a week, I wrote six total: two of which were interview posts (my first attempts) and one was a collaboration with another chronic illness blogger. A Facebook Group that I help to moderate, Chronic Illness Social Pod has started a new Instagram group @cispfriends. It’s in its infant stage, but I’m excited to be a part of it. I had to make a 1-minute video to help explain the purpose of the group. It took me about 3-hours to create and two-minutes in length, ha! ha! Besides all of that, I spent many hours learning new skills for blogging as well as connecting with others from the chronic illness community and sharing out on my social media. This can consume a lot of time, energy, and focus.

My intro video for CISPfriends Instagram Group.
We welcome any blogger who lives with chronic illness to join us.

So, it’s been quite a transition into stillness as we’ve traveled from Michigan, through Iowa and Nebraska, to Estes Park, Colorado, and on into the National Parks of SE Utah. Literally, I would say most of each day has been a forced detox from all things digital. Not only is there no Internet connection, often no phone connection, but we also haven’t been able to listen to the radio. I do have a downloaded audiobook that I have listened to as well as off-line Pandora and Calm guided meditations. But, mostly, we have quiet. This has led to simple yet meaningful conversations between my husband, Kelley, and me as well as just hunks of silence as we soak in the scenery.

By the time we’ve gotten to our place to stay each night, I have been too tired to do much of anything online. At first, I was feeling a bit guilty for not keeping up with my “blogging work”, but I’m seeing this time of being unplugged as a good time for reflection as to my goals and savoring the connection to Kel and our time in nature which we both find restorative.

Driving into Dixie National Forest listening to Simon and Garfield sing
The Sound of Silence via our off-line Pandora station.

ACQUIRING Respect for Mother Nature’s Power

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence.

Thomas Hood

Golden aspen trees and dark green ponderosa pines in the foreground with the smoke-clouded Rocky Mountains in the back ground.
The Rockies were a bit smoggy due to the extensive fires happening in the west. While the courageous frontline firefighters are doing their best to put them out,
it’s only at the mercy of Mother Nature that they can really get any control over them.

Since early March, those of us in the USA have come to acquire a new respect for Mother Nature. In this day of technological advancement, we get the wrong-headed notion that we are in control. 2020 has shown the world that, no, we cannot control the march of nature. COVID-19 will run it’s course whether we try to intervene or not. Yes, we hope to be able to contain it through health protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing our hands more often, but it will do as it will do, much like the fires that are burning much of the west. Viruses, fires, murder hornets, hurricanes…have all shown us that we are not the ones in control.

My husband, Kelley, and I had one scary event that brought home just how powerless we are. We were on our drive from Estes Park, Colorado through Rocky Mountain National Park to our next destination, Moab, Utah. At the very top of the mountains 12,000 ft elevation via Trail Ridge Road, we lost all connection, even the ability to make an emergency phone call. What we flatlanders of Michigan (and other states like Nebraska) don’t always consider is the lack of oxygen at that level. Kelley and I were somewhat adjusted to it due to the hiking in the park at Bear Lake Trailhead to Emerald Lake at 10, 000ish ft elevation which was a gain of 600 ft. However, getting out of our car at the various scenic pull-offs into the bitter winds on top of the harsh tundra at the top of Sundance Mountain was still a challenge.

Debating to stop for a bathroom break, Kelley started to slow down when we saw an older woman waving her arms at cars as they passed. I have to say, things are a bit surreal in my memory, seeming to move slowly and out of reality. We parked as she quickly walked over to us, out of breath and visibly upset. “Thank you for stopping. I didn’t think anyone would. My husband has passed out,” she pointed to the heavyset man slumped in the driver’s seat of their van. “He has COPD. I don’t know if he’s breathing. He is making some gasping noises now and then.” Kel and I rushed over, seeing that the older gentleman was indeed unconscious but thankfully breathing, as his chest was rising and falling. The shaken woman explained that they were from Nebraska and hadn’t been in the Rockies for many years, “We haven’t been in the mountains since he developed COPD, among other issues. We just thought this would be a safe get-away because we were afraid of him getting the virus.” She asked if we could call for help because she had no service. I knew we didn’t either, but I had thought the 911 would work; turns out it doesn’t in remote places like this. Just then a white Rocky National Park truck with FIREFIGHTER on the side went by. I waved and jumped, but he continued on, not seeing us.

We then looked to power-up the man’s C-Pap, but she didn’t have a converter that would plug into the power sources of her car. That was when we realized that the only thing to be done was to get them down the mountain to where the air was more saturated with oxygen. She said she’d be able to drive, although, “I’ve never driven in the mountains before,” she explained, obviously nervous and worried. We decided to move him from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat just behind. Moving the seat back and sliding open the side passenger door, we prepared the area by moving their beagle and his bed over enough so the elderly man had a place to sit. However, Kel and I knew trying to pick him up was going to be nearly impossible for us. Luckily, he “woke-up” although he was pretty incoherent. We were able to explain what had happened, and he agreed to move to the back with our help. Kelley took his arm and with a bit of lifting and guidance, he was able to get him slid into the seat. We got a pillow that they had packed to prop under his head. He thanked us and assured us that he was okay for them to drive back down to Estes. Kelley told her just to take it slowly, and it would be doable to drive down the steep and winding road. We watched them drive off as we headed down the other side of the mountain, leaving us to worry about how they fared.

DISAPPOINTING Times

Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.

Wallace Stegner

Man wearing a blue hospital mask with a wide brimmed hat, next to a woman with white, long hair wearing dark sunglasses and blue hospital mask, in front of seated people wearing masks.
My husband and I have mostly felt safe while traveling. Here, we’re taking the Zion shuttle bus. They removed seats to allow for social distancing. Masks were required.
Also, the beautiful weather allowed for windows to be open.

We planned to be careful as we drove the 1,776 miles between Michigan and Utah: stay to ourselves as much as possible, eat out in places that had outside seating and safety protocols, and sleep in higher-end hotels that were taking the protocols seriously and had the means to thoroughly clean rooms.

However, dead tired after driving 8 hours our first day and 2 more to go to get to our first hotel, we stopped in a small town off the highway in Iowa to fill up on gas and get dinner. After having face-mask order in our state of Michigan (as well as the other precautions), I was really shocked when we stopped at the gas station to see so many not wearing facemasks. Then, when we drove into town hoping for a meal, we came upon the only non-fast food restaurant that was open. The reviews on Google sounded good, so we went in. No one was wearing masks; however, they were social distancing the tables. I’m sorry to say that we gave in and had our meal, sitting as far away as we could from others and close to the door, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and have been worried ever since. 14 days later, thank goodness, we don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19.

After that experience, we committed to not being caught off guard again. Luckily, every hotel we’ve stayed at along the way has had good safety protocols. The National Parks, all have had mask requirements, ensuring as much social distancing as possible by requiring reservations for shuttles and only allowing a certain amount of people in enclosed spaces at any given time. They are also providing hand sanitizer in almost every public place of gathering. I’ve been thankful to the other visitors who are being respectful to give distance on trails and in open spaces and who wear masks whenever we can’t be 6ft apart.

On our first night in Utah, we stayed in Moab. We were able to go on a Sunset Cruise on the Colorado River to view the canyon walls and night sky (a designated dark sky zone). Before the cruise, we had a delicious “cowboy” dinner in which safety protocols were followed. Before the boat ride, we had time to use the restroom that was outside of the dining area. My husband, known for his sneezing fits whenever he looks into the sun, took a step out onto the patio leading to the restrooms. The sun was still bright and like clockwork, he began to sneeze. He had on his facemask. When the gentleman more than 6 feet away noticed me looking uncomfortable about Kelley sneezing, he said “Bless you!” Then, he went on to say, “Before COVID, we said ‘Bless you.’ Now, we say ‘Oh Shit!'” and he jumped out of the way to emphasize. We all started to laugh. I kept laughing at that for some time and am snickering as I write, imagining his body contortion as he dodged Kelley.

One small town where we stayed two nights at a wonderful bed and breakfast (being careful to take care of it’s travelers by timing out breakfast, social distancing, and providing hand sanitizer), we ran into problems with no COVID-19 prevention protocols being followed. This town population of 240 and its county of fewer than 3,000 souls are deemed “green”, thus not needing to follow facemask, social distancing, etc. within their businesses. However, this is a town of TOURISM being it’s so close to Capitol Reef National Park (and others). So, it is crazy for them to think they’re safe when people from literally all over the world are coming there (some because it IS a GREEN COVID-19 area). Kelley and I were prepared this time. We went one night without a meal, too tired to pull out the Jetboil. My stomach was upset anyhow, so Kel ate his GORP and called it good until the wonderful breakfast of eggs and potatoes the next morning at the bed and breakfast. The next night, we called one of the restaurants to see if we could get take out, feeling that would be okay, the owner actually told us they did not provide that service but tried to convince us to come in for a meal. We instead, found a burger and ice cream place that had outside seating and the staff was wearing masks. When Kelley told the worker who took our order behind a plexiglass guard that we appreciated them taking the care to do the protocols when no one else in town seemed to be, she said, “Well, we get a lot of visitors from all over here. We’re protecting ourselves and our guests.” Yes! That’s exactly what I thought should be the sentiment.

I decided to look into the situation more. I found out that the town had had only two infections up to that point- a child and an adult. However, they also only have a traveling doctor who visits two days a week. The bigger towns with tiny-sized clinics are about 50 miles away. At the time we were there, the news showed that Utah’s COVID-19 wards were near to full and cases were climbing in the state. Being much of the state if VERY rural (no services in many areas), there just isn’t a lot of fully-equipped hospitals with skilled personal. Should the little town of 240 be hit by the virus, oh boy…I can’t imagine! One resident who was elderly and had health issues wrote to the local papers that she wouldn’t be able to participate at all in her community because they weren’t going to put in the simple protocols of mask-wearing and social distancing. How lonely and scary that must be for her and others whose home is in that town and county.

And in the last couple of weeks, we have learned that the mandates set by our Michigan governor had been narrowly voted down by the Michigan Supreme Court. So as we prepare to head home, we are essentially going back to that town in Iowa that won’t be following any safety protocols. This is beyond disappointing. This is dangerous. I’m thankful to hear that the school districts I’m in contact with are keeping with the protocols they established at the beginning of the year and that the health departments are stepping in to give guidance. I just wish that our national government would put safety protocols in place so that traveling through our country wouldn’t be such a gamble.

SWITCHING From Fear to Awe and Pain to Peace

If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.

Victoria Erickson

Smiling man with redish beard and little hair on his head is taking a selfie with smiling woman wearing a blue baseball cap.  Behind them is a red sandstone Natural Bridge of Bryce National Park.
The beauty of Bryce National park takes a back seat to the realization
of the force and time that it took to create it.

I have to say that being in Utah this fall has been pretty magical. I mean this on several levels. The scenery (which really isn’t a just word for what we’ve seen) is inspiring to say the least. My mood has gone from fear to one of peace and joy. Seeing these immensely awe-inspiring rock formations that have happened over billions of years has helped me to put myself and this time into perspective.

Physically, I am feeling better than I have in quite a while. Just before our trip, I had been in a Fibro Flare for three or so weeks. That included higher levels of pain, brain fog, fatigue, and depression. But in the past 16 days, I’ve been feeling next to normal. Yes, I have pain (I always have it nearly everywhere on my body), but I’ve been able to manage it. In the car, as we drive from place to place, I’m using my two Yogu balls under my thighs, my back from shoulders to lower back, under my bum and hips, helping to release the tightness of my muscles. I also have my Renpho massager which is battery powered, fully charged for in the car. I use this on the tops of my thighs, stomach, feet, calves, chest, and neck. I brought my newly purchased YUYU hot water bottle for in the car which I can fill up with hot water using our Jetboil stove.

Each day, we’ve hiked between 6-9 miles many times with elevation changes- some as little as 100 ft and others as much as 800 ft. I had one down day that had me really feeling unwell and had taken me by surprise. After that, though, we’ve made better plans to pace, taking rests during the hikes more consistently (using my FitBit to watch for changes in my heart rate) and taking full days for rest, like I am today. When we get back to our home spot (with electricity, water, and Internet), I’m using my heating pad, massager, and shower. During our hikes, I stop and do yoga-type stretches, using my walking sticks to help with that. As well as I am taking moments throughout the day to do short breathwork meditation.

I’m not fully certain why I’m doing so well. Is it the dry air of the dessert that everyone says can ease joint pain? Is it the medication change I made? I’m now taking my Low Dose Naltrexone two times a day (instead of one time at night). I now take 2.5 mg at bedtime and 1.5 mg on waking. Or is it, as my husband thinks, the fact that I’m being more physically active? Could it be spending most of my waking time in nature and not connected via the Internet and phone? I don’t know what it is, but I sure am thankful for this time of being able to live more FULLY.

FORMING

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Smiling woman's face; she's wearing dark sunglasses and has her white hair pulled back off from her forehead.  In the background is a river, trees, and mountains.
Hiking back from the Narrows of Zion National Park.

Sitting on a boulder next to the Virgin River in Zion National Park, I sat in wonder at the development of the rock formations that surrounded me (and those I’d seen on the rest of our journey through this area). Ever so slowly, patiently the elements have carved out these spectacular, seemingly impossible places of beauty and tranquility. One luxury I carried in my waist pack was my journal and pen. Feeling, finally, the spark to write, this came tumbling onto the page.

A poem in white font within a brown square set on top a photo fo the red rock formations of Bryce Canyon.
Not all the rock formations were created through flowing water.
Some were created through the freezing and thawing of moisture as well as wind.

My hope continues because of this. No matter what we face, if we persist, no matter how weak our efforts seem, we can, in the end, form a new and brighter dwelling place within ourselves, our communities, our world. We can’t give up. We must not give in. We must fight for what we know is right, for our own selves (as in taking care of our bodies), for our disenfranchised communities, our fractured countries, and most importantly our hurting Earth.

What are your thoughts on traveling during the Pandemic? I am really glad we took this time to see areas of the USA that we hadn’t. I’ve found new inspiration and hope through what we’ve experienced.


The format for this post is thanks to A Chronic Voice linkup. This month, the topics were Producing, Acquiring, Switching, Disappointing, and Forming. Each writer takes the given topics and gives them their own spin. Check out these wonderful writers at October 2020 Linkup (scroll past the prompts to find the linked up posts).



teal line drawn waterlily with teal lettering of the title and motto
Wooded path with Title in white font: 4 Top Tips for Taking Your Grandkids On Outdoor Adventures

Four Top Tips for Taking Your Grandkids On Outdoor Adventures

Forest scene with the text: Engaged Grandparenting Despite Pain: 4 Top Tips for Taking Your Grandkids on Outdoor Adventures; teal colored water lilly icon on white circle over the text painfullyliving.com

The outdoors is one of the greatest places to teach kids about the wider world and is good not just for the body, but the mind as well. Making a concerted effort to get kids out from behind their screens and into the fresh air can seem like an unwinnable challenge. Especially if you yourself struggle to get around most days due to chronic conditions as I do. 

On the whole, though, the benefits will always outweigh the risks, especially for a child’s long term development. As a grandparent, you may have the time and ability to show your grandchildren the wonder of the great outdoors.  I have found it to be one of our favorite things to do with our granddaughter who lives in an apartment with her parents in a small city.  While they do family outings when they can, my husband and I can use our times with her to especially encourage her to be curious about nature.  We are seeing her grow in love, comfort, and interest in all things to do with getting into the wild. In addition, we are building memories and bonds through our adventures that will never be erased.

However,  taking a young child (we started at age two or so with her), isn’t as easy as just heading out into the woods.  I’ve included four tips to make your times go smoothly so that you have an enjoyable time together as you venture outside.

Plan ahead

Especially if you are someone living with a long-term chronic condition you must make sure to plan ahead before you go charging off into the woods. Make sure someone who can come and get you knows where you are going and how they can reach and be reached by you. Plan your route carefully so that you aren’t going to difficult to access areas that may exacerbate any problems you have that day. Plan for the weather also as you don’t want a cold and wet day to ruin any fun you may have had planned. Pack the right kit to keep the fun going.

Make it an interactive experience

Kids can get bored easily if all they are doing is walking. Plan for some interactive moments during the trip, such as bird or bug watching. Getting the kids to partake in the trip rather than just being on it is the best way for them to enjoy it and to start getting them wanting to go back. Turn the trip into a game. See who can spot the most unique birds or bugs or who can spot the most rabbits. Get them thinking about the area they’re in and they’ll come to love it.

My granddaughter loves to play make-believe. We are often superhero fairies or pirates. We just follow her lead and the storyline always is fascinating. Many times she and I hide behind a tree while grandpa searches for us. We’re ever so sneaky! We learn so much about what she thinks about and finds important during these walks in the woods.

Start small and build-up

If you are someone living with a chronic illness and aren’t used to the outdoors, you know not to go charging into the nearest forest. You don’t have to be out for hours to appreciate the wilderness. Start with taking the kids somewhere local first, such as a nearby field or walk around the block. You need to find your limits before you can start to really enjoy the fresh air. Keep your walks to 20-30 minutes then, after a while, try 45. Then an hour. Slow and steady wins the race.

We love planning for breaks. Her “Bapa” is a cookie monster. So is she. So he packs their favorite cookie so that they can have a cookie break about halfway through. If you’re on a longer adventure, having a book downloaded to your phone to read aloud is also a favorite. One fun trip involved collecting beautiful leaves of different types. Leaf Snap is one phone app that you can use to identify plants.

Pack what you need

Just like planning ahead you need to pack the essentials on your little day trips. Food, drink bad weather gear, all this needs to be taken into account before you leave the house. Are you going to be outside long enough to need medication? Are you going to need food or drink for your blood sugar levels? Do you have the means to contact someone should the need arise? What about sunglasses when out and about during summer? If you struggle carrying a large amount of weight for long periods of time then this is going to limit your outdoor trips quickly. Especially if you are out for several hours at a time.

Ideas for what to pack

  • Small First Aid Kit with a whistle for emergency
  • Water bottles and extra water or water filter & small drink mixes
  • Sunblock
  • Hard or chewy candies-great for a short break
  • Light lunch: Peanut butter & jelly tortilla rollups hold up well and are yummy
  • Baggies for found treasures

The times we have spent outside with our granddaughter, noticing bugs, picking wildflowers, watching an eagle fly overhead, or conversing with the loons on the lake have been my favorite times with her.  Sure, we play games on her tablet (have you heard of My Talking Tom games; they’re funny!) and do inside activities like coloring or baking, but our times spent outside have really been magical.  And that’s the way to a kid’s heart, sharing in wonder and magic.

Misty mountain background with the text: This is a sponsored post via fatjoe.com with affiliate links to products that I use or have researched and find valuable.

What are some of your favorite outdoor experiences that you have had with your children or grandchildren? Share your stories so that we can add to our idea-collections!

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.  Thank you for your understanding.

My granddaughter says “Sharing is caring.” 🙂

White background with teal waterlily icon and the phrase Pain FULLY Living: Living FULLY Despte Pain.

The Benefits of Nordic Walking for Those Living with  Fibro and Chronic Pain

The Benefits of Nordic Walking for Those Living with Fibro and Chronic Pain

teal line drawing of lotus flower

If you’re looking for a safe, fun way to get active while getting outside, then Nordic walking is ideal. Nordic walking is a full-body workout that appeals to all ages and fitness levels. It actually originated as a way to train for skiing during the summer. It’s essentially hiking with poles which help to enhance your experience.

Good demo for how to correctly use trekking poles (used for hiking) and nordic walking poles (used for exercise).

Nordic walking can be done anywhere in the countryside, the local park, from the mountains to the beach, and even in urban areas. Why not discover some hidden gems near you? It’s a great way to meet people and there are many groups online that organize walks. And the bonus side of this, it is supportive walking (to help with balance issues), arms are a part of the process (so it’s all over strengthening and off-loads pressure on the hips), and you can go at your own pace and distance (slowly gaining strength and cardio) Here are some more benefits of Nordic walking:

Ideal for neck, shoulder and back problems


Nordic walking has many physical benefits. It’s good exercise and uses 90% of the skeletal muscles. If you have problems in that area it could be very beneficial. Always speak to a back doctor for an expert opinion before you take on any new hobbies or sports. The poles also help to reduce pressure on your knees and joints, while at the same time burning almost 50% more calories than regular walking.

Physical Therapists talk about how and why walking benefits for back pain.

Improves mental wellbeing

Getting in touch with nature is important for many aspects of emotional and physical healing. The fresh air, the scenery, and the enjoyable exercise all contribute to improving your mental wellbeing. Research has shown that humans react positively to being in nature; our brains even function differently. By using the poles, you can also walk in all the seasons. Nordic walking is a great way to get out of the city and away from the stress of your everyday life.

Accessible to all ages and fitness levels

Nordic walking is accessible to all ages and fitness levels. Athletes do it for training, but it’s also appealing to seniors and anyone with lower levels of fitness. Those living with Fibromyalgia know that exercise is important and walking is a gentle form of cardio is wonderful. However, using the Nordic poles can add that extra physical support which can’t hurt. It’s a very versatile sport and it mainly depends on where you do it. If you’re new to the concept, here is a beginner’s guide to Nordic walking with more tips and advice. 

Why it’s especially good for those living with chronic pain

Minimal equipment needed

All you need for Nordic walking is a good backpack or water pack, a sun hat, some good hiking shoes, and a set of poles. One of the great things about this activity is that you don’t need to break the bank buying all the equipment. Here are some of the best walking poles of 2020 to give you an idea.

The poles play an important role. They not only support your joints but they also enhance the workout. The poles help to propel you along which means you move faster without realizing it with less force placed on your hips. 

Social benefits

There are many social benefits of Nordic walking. You can arrange a hike with friends or family or even your dog. In this time of COVID-19, walking is one of the safest ways to be with others while social distancing. It’s also a great way to meet people are there are plenty of hiking groups online. You just have to search in your neighborhood. Nordic walking is a wonderful way to discover the amazing landscape near you, or alternatively you could even organize a walking vacation.

And….you can use the poles for supported stretching and strength training!

  • Arm and shoulder stretches
  • Hip stretches
  • Leg stretches
  • Supported balancing

With so many health and social benefits, it’s not surprising Nordic walking is among the fastest-growing fitness trends around the globe. If you want to explore more of the outdoors and get the movement you need in a safe, gentle to your body, why not try it out?

Come So Far! Last Summer to This

Come So Far! Last Summer to This

As you probably have guessed, I am not a trained medical health professional. What I am is a mom, a mimi, a retired teacher, a lover of nature and of music, as well as, someone living with chronic illnesses. I share my journey to provide some insight and hopefully ideas that may be helpful to others dealing with similar issues. Always, consult with your doctor before trying anything new.

Background of teal water and rocks, image of me smiling wearing a blue baseball cap and backpack below it an image of me, obviously in pain, wet teal washcloth covering my forhead. White Font for title: Come So Far Last Summer to This
In the first photo, summer 2020, I was able to go hiking w/camping overnight.
In the below image, summer 2019, I was having withdrawal symptoms from going off of Cymbalta.

July 13, 2019

Me, in bed, wearing my grey comfy hoody and a cool, wet washcloth over my forehead.  I'm in visible pain.
Withdrawal from Cymbalta, after taking it for only 6 months at 20 mg, was three months of H#@!#$.

This was a very low time for me. The year prior had brought me to my bed which then lead to a diagnosis. The only option I was given to have relief from the pain and other devastating symptoms of Fibromyalgia was to start on Cymbalta. While it did help me, it had side effects and long-term addiction that I was not willing to deal with. And so, I stopped taking it.

“I have not felt this bad since I had viral meningitis (I’m not as bad as that time in the emergency room, but man, it’s reminding me of it). Since the purpose of this blog is for me to record my true journey (for healing through the writing and remembering where I’ve been) and to possibly help others who are dealing with Fibromyalgia, I’ve decided to write this (as I can today because doing anything and nothing are both really difficult right now).”

Painfullyliving.com I FEEL LIKE @#$#%

I mostly followed the doctor’s directions for weaning off of Cymbalta. However, I’ve since learned that I’m very affected by any medication (OTC, herbal, or prescription), and so, now I know that what everyone else considers easy will not be for me.

Talking to the doctor mid-withdrawal, he said that I could have taken it every other day at the 10 mg before going completely off. Unfortunately, by then I was more than a month in, so it didn’t make sense to me to start taking it againnto help with the weaning off.

A New Me

Me, smiling, wearing a pink tank top and blue baseball cap.  Behind me, my husband, grinning, wearing a grey t-shirt with his sun glasses hanging down.  This was our first hike in a couple of years.  I finally felt well enough to participate.
First time backpacking since I became sick. It was a wonderful two days.

July 2020

This July has brought me back to myself and to the joys of summer that I had missed so much. Certainly, I’m having to pace more than I used to and be cognizant of what my body is telling me. I now must take care of myself. If I don’t, then I will have a day or more where my body will hold me down to attend to rest, hydration, nutrition, meditation, stretching, myofacial release, sleep, etc.

My family, friends, and myself have come to understand that I will do things in smaller chunks over a longer period of time. And while that was not at all how I had functioned prior to developing Fibromyalgia (non-stop go without eat, sleep, etc. to get something done), we all have come to know I can now plan and participate within my wellness protocol.

Wander Woman Camping Trip

It was wonderful connecting with friends, even during COVID.
We each had quarantined before hand and we didn’t come in contact with others while we camped at a lovely state park on Lake Michigan.
This was my first such trip since developing Fibromyalgia in June of 2018.

During the second week of July, I was able to camp for a few days, adding in a short hike and swim each day, with my friend group we lovingly call Wander Women. I was able to show them myself protocol; they were especially interested in my making a solution with distilled water and LDN pill.

I ended up needing to go home a day earlier than the rest. While I was doing pretty well, I could tell that one more night on the thin sleeping pad was going to be one night too long. My friends readily understood why I had to say goodbye. However, we made plans for them to visit me at my house (outside only and taking the same precautions) later in the summer.

We hiked in 5-miles to find a wonderful spot to set up camp for the night.
We saw no one but three women passing by on the trail during the two days on the river trail.

Two Day Hike and Camp Trip for Two

My husband, who had just gotten back from a week of hiking Pictured Rocks in northern Michigan, was quick to set up an overnight hike/camp trip on the North Country Trail about an hour’s drive north of us for the last week of July. After my camping and hiking experience with the Wander Women, I felt that I might be up to doing it. However, it had been 3-summers ago since I last did such a trip.

While I was useless in helping with the preparation (too worn out after having a wonderful sleepover with our granddaughter), I was excited to see if I would be able to carry a pack, hike, and sleep in a tent with a pretty thin mat between me and Mother Earth.

What a wonderful trip! I felt so grateful and energized by being in the woods. I will admit, however, that I didn’t sleep well. We will be replacing the thin mats for the next time.

We’ve decided that hiking to a spot, setting up camp, and then hiking from that base will be our way of going from now on. That provides enough chance to rest and recuperate, and it isn’t as difficult to hike since we don’t have the pack on all the time. In the past, we would hike to a spot, set up camp, make dinner, etc, and in the morning pack everything up to be on our way to the next camp site on down the trail.

Realizing that the energy it takes to one carry all the equipment necessary for camping on our backs for the entire hike as well as energy necessary for the setting up and tearing down each day, we realized that we needed to adjust our expectations and modify our energy output.

By setting up camp in one spot and doing day hikes from there, we could take small day packs with snacks and essentials only for the hike. Kelley carried the heavier quarts of water, so I really had almost no extra weight to carry. Also, using my walking sticks (see my post on Nordic Walking and how it aids those of us living with chronic pain), I was able to do the nine mile hike the first day.

Hiking and wilderness camping is something that inspires my soul. This first trip since developing Fibromyalgia gave me hope that I can participate in such things again. #hiking #fibromyalgia #fullyliving #pacing #knowinglimits

Knowing My Limits

By the time we headed back on the second day, I was definitely hitting my limit. My legs were aching and I was feeling weak and fatigued. However, after getting back to the car, doing some myofascial release, and eating dinner at a restaurant with an outside patio, I felt much better.

Admittedly, when I got back home, I had several down days. I had to rest up and do almost nothing. But, the experience, greatly outweighed taking these days for rest and repair. Hiking and wilderness camping is something that inspires my soul. This first trip since developing Fibromyalgia gave me hope that I can participate in such things again.

Photo taken from our 2-day hike/camp from the rim overlooking the Manistee River.

Looking Back on the Winding Journey I’ve Been On

The past few years have been one of growth and healing, albeit never a straight one. I’m so grateful for all the help and healing that I’ve received from so many: my family and friends, yoga classes, massage therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, doctors of a few different sorts, meditation courses, fellow chronic pain bloggers, my counselors, those friends I’ve met in Fibro, LDN, and chronic illness Facebook groups, my Wander Women groups (one from work and one from the town I live in), YouTube videos, text and audio books, music, and so much more.

My New Blog

This is my first blog post on my new website format. I have learned a lot about web design over this last year and have much more to go. I’m feeling proud and excited for what I might do with this new love and skill.

With all of this week filled with hiking, family, and building a new blog, this post will be less pulled together than normal. I just wanted to share the progress that I’ve made. I’m including (from My Recommended Resources page of this site) much of what has helped me this year along with links or further information.

I do believe that it’s all of these things/people/resources that have brought me to where I am today. I’m not naive enough to think that I won’t have many twists and turns and ups and downs (just got diagnosed with a rare deformity of my carotid artery called Fibromuscular Dysplasia-not at all related to Fibromyalgia), but I want to relish where I am right now anyhow. If I’ve learned one thing this past few years (and since COVID-19’s arrival), what will be will be; it’s my choice how I react.

Resources That Have Helped Me:

  • Low Dose Naltrexone (Newest addition-55 days in. Started at 0.25mg and am now up to 2.5mg and still titrating up to find my best dosage amount). Sleeping pretty well without any other help; clear headed most days all day; less pain overall, more energy. My first post: Tentatively Ecstatic: My Experience with LDN Part 1  & my latest post I Did It My Way! One Year of Low Dose Naltrexone
  • CBD/THC 1:1 Oil- This didn’t seem to help with pain, but sure did help me sleep soundly. I was taking .25mg sublingually before bed. I stopped because the LDN seems to be helping with it and my GP expressed issues with it (even though I have a medical marijuana card and it’s now legalized even for recreation in MI). My post: Out of the Rabbit Hole: CBD/THC Oil for Fibromyalgia
  • Meditation: I have continued with meditation after finishing the Palouse Mindfulness 8 week free course online. This is making a big difference for me. My post:The Danger of Distraction: Turning Toward Pain to Eliminate Suffering
  • Yoga and Breathwork: This is an ongoing, continuation practice of 20 years. However, I’m having to learn that my practice looks different now. I had always strived too much to get to that perfect form of a pose often injuring myself in the process. I’m doing much more Restorative, Yin, and slow yoga practices these days. 
  • Supplements: Magnesium Malate/B-12/E/D3
  • OTC: Bayer Back and Body (for headaches and pain) & Low Dose Asprin for FMD
  • Prescription: Vyvanse (I was diagnosed with ADD one year before my FMS diagnosis; I do think that the ADD symptoms, though, are more connected to the FMS issues.) 
  • Hot pad, ice pad, Epsom salt baths, and hot tub.
  • Massage & Myofacial Release: Professional massage & myofascial release, myofacial release @home using foam roller and Yogu Massage Balls, and Rhenpho Massage Gun
  • Gentle cardio: walks, hikes, bike rides, and swimming 
  • 10-week Interdisciplinary Pain Management Program through Mary Free Bed – My Post about this: Just Breath and Other Ways to Rewire the Pain-filled Brain
  • Diet:This is an area where I really hate being deprived. I had given up on dairy, prior to developing Fibromyalgia. However, I finally bit the bullet and have gone Gluten Free (Read my post on how it has greatly helped eliminate my stomach pain: Fibromyalgia: Impact of Going Gluten Free. I don’t eat food with high acidity, very much, mostly because my bladder hurts immediately after. However, I just can’t cut out tomatoes, so I take PRELIEF and OTC for lowering acidity of foods in the bladder. I rarely drink carbonation and don’t drink much caffeine. I tend to lean vegan due to the no-dairy. However, I do eat some poultry, eggs, and fish.

I know that I am so fortunate to be where I am right now in regards to my health. I have friends who live with chronic illnesses that are really struggling right now, especially because of COVID-19. Many who can’t get around due to being very at risk if they were to get the virus. Those who have lost their form of income or don’t have health care. Some are dealing with depression, and others are hurting due to their relationships hitting some very difficult times. You are on my heart. How are you this summer?



RELATED POSTS:

One Step at a Time
Beautiful Manistee River from NCT near Mesick, MI.6:15 this morning, Scout, my …
Sleep, Fog, and Vampires
N.B- I do not own the rights to this image.It's been circulating …
Gratitude for these Days of FULLNESS
Boy, I've had a great start to the summer. Well, that is …
teal line drawn waterlily with teal lettering of the title and motto