As for my absence and what dragged me away from my blog, well, let me tell you, it was probably the best thing that happened to me in 2013.
2013 - NOT A GOOD YEAR
Last year was not one of my better years. Successful Hepatitis C treatment the previous year left me starting 2013 at a real low point physically and emotionally. It left my body battered and struggling with a whole new set of treatment-induced medical problems. Then, 3 months into 2013, I sunk even lower. A car accident in March added injury to insult by starting a humongous pain flare-up and adding another new set of problems.
Six weeks later, I was shocked and saddened by the news that my favorite Facebook game, Pet Society, would be closing in 2 months' time.
I want to share all about these new health issues with you, but I'm afraid that is going to take a lot of time. So for right now, I promise to write more about them in future posts.
DISTRACTION TO THE RESCUE
Time and again, I've written about how distraction is the primary way I cope with chronic pain.
Nothing helps me more than getting lost in a good book, television show or computer game, spending time tending to my container garden, playing with my pets or working on arts and crafts projects. I have devoted time to creating lists of activities that I can participate in, regardless of how good or how poorly I feel on any particular day. One of my most important rules for living well with chronic pain is Have Fun Every Day and these pastimes, aka distractions, make it easy for me to have some fun each and every day.
Because really, if I have no choice but to live with moderately-severe to severe pain 24/7/365, I might as well figure out a way to have fun doing it, right? Because life with chronic pain is absolutely no fun at all. And with increased medical problems and pain, I needed distractions more than ever in 2013 to help me get through all the tough stuff.
DISTRACTION IN MEDICINE
OK, so this is a little off-topic, but did you know, there is a reference at Wikipedia about this very concept?
Distraction is useful in the management of pain and anxiety. Dentists, for example may intentionally hum an annoying tune or engage in small talk just to create a diversion from the dental surgery process. Topical ointments containing capsaicin, provide a superficial burning sensation that can momentarily distract a patient's attention away from the more serious pain of arthritis or muscle strain.
LOSING A FAVORITE DISTRACTION....
With everything going on, this was NOT the time to be losing a tool out of my chronic illness toolbox! Pet Society, a lovable little online Facebook game, provided me with hours of distraction from my chronic pain and fatigue.
As an early adopter of Facebook games, I honestly didn't think that a day would come when my games would be taken away from me. Clearly I never stopped to consider the business side of gaming or took the time to read the Terms of Service for one of my favorite pastimes and coping strategies.
....& GAINING A NEW ONE
I'm not even sure how I got swept up into the #savepetsociety protest movement or how I became such a prominent participant in what would unfold next. What I do know is that my participation in this protest became a substitute for the favorite distraction I was losing.
Now protesting wasn't as fun as playing the game, but it showed me how to use some old skills in a new way.
In my former life as a (somewhat) healthy person, I chose social work as my career. I loved working with individuals, groups and communities, helping them figure out ways to address their needs and, in the process, create better lives for themselves. This occupation requires a lot of interpersonal interaction, something that I no longer have the energy, concentration and stamina to do.
Interacting with people on a daily basis is what I miss the most about my career as a clinical social worker.
Fortunately, I discovered Facebook, Twitter and blogging in 2008. Though not the same as an in-person social life, online social media became an alternative way for me to be social when I was able.
During the last 8 months of protesting, I used 1) all my old community organizing skills and 2) all the things I learned about social media to advance our campaign to give our game a second chance. While ultimately our protest didn't achieve it's goal, our group put up a good and valiant fight and in the process got our message heard by Electronic Arts (EA), the gaming community and journalists in the business, human interest and gaming sectors.
That said, I am glad that things are winding down now. Knowing this was a time-limiting endeavor, I think I might have pushed myself too hard, breaking my Golden Rule of Chronic Illness:
If you push, you will pay.
If you pace, you can play!
NEW YEAR, NEW GOAL
So as I move into this new year 2014, I wonder how I can translate what I was able to do and accomplish through the #savepetsociety protest into something more permanent in my life.
To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what that would look like. Perhaps a new role as a "armchair advocate" or some very flexible part-time work on social media campaigns? Perhaps a place to start is to reread my copy of Women, Work, And Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! by Rosalind Joffe to get some ideas.
While I doubt there are existing work-when-you-can employment opportunities available for us sick chicks, it doesn't stop me from daydreaming about participating in life as much as I am able. Who knows? Maybe I can convince someone with the time, energy and resources to help make this a reality for myself and others like me.
It is certainly a good idea, one that would help all us Chronic Babes overcome some of our handicaps and live our best lives despite chronic illness. Don't you agree?