One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Archive for the ‘Believe’ Category

Lupus in the light of a rainbow’s promise

wp_20170123_16_24_13_proOften, many days go by when looking outside at the nearby trees is overlooked.  The cold rainy day had soaked everyone as they made their way to the office.  Lupus grumbled loudly as aching joints and stiffness responded to the damp chill penetrating the office.

The thermal glass was much too thin to block the deep chill penetrating the wall.  The storm blanketing the mountains to the north with deep layers of winter snow brought a biting chill to our arid desert valley below.  Pelting rain struck the office balcony and trees below, as the sky gave a message of promise read by everyone standing there in awe.

320px-Butterfly_sikkimDark gray clouds hung heavy in the eastern Arizona sky as a billowing contrast to the brilliant brush stroke arc of colors swept across the sky.  The southern clouds even carried a faint echoing hint of a barely perceptible second bow.  Standing where an outstretched hand could touch the drenching rain, the combination of invigorating chill and the intensely beautiful sky snapped away the lethargy of the  aching rainy day.

wp_20170123_16_23_49_proRemembering the story of the first such rainbow adorning Noah’s sky refreshed a keen awareness of God’s many promises spanning the ages: never to flood the whole earth again, His Word delivered through holy men of old, the birth of a Savior, and the cross and resurrection that promise new life to those who believe and receive Him, and even now the promise of forgiveness and mercy while adventuring toward a heavenly future home.

With a heart full of these thoughts, today’s rainy day aches of Lupus were somehow dwarfed under the shadow of grand colors of promise hung over skies of history.  A deep cleansing breath and lingering sigh were the only utterance that really described the sight.

The duties of the day soon called out the time to go back inside and into the office kitchen, where a fresh cup of hot coffee waited to warm and nudge persistently back toward the reality of waiting duties on a desk inside. The image of that gorgeous sky evoked thoughtful quietness as I sat down again to view the distractingly beautiful scene outside my office window.

Lupus Awareness Month, Manicures and Missing Toenails

WP_20141129_15_16_32_Pro (1)Infusion day seemed a fitting event for experiencing Lupus Awareness Month with flare.  With the day spent in a circular junket around town, my little PT cruised from doctor to doctor for treatment for lingering problems from a recent car accident, and then to an annual Plaquenil eye check up.  With two hours to spare, I stopped in for manicure and a pedicure, and had an interesting discovery.Hair curls, manicures, pedicures but no lupus cures...

When the nail tech removed the bright purple nail polish, she noticed that the big toe nail had separated from the nail bed, but without any apparent reason such as fungus or infection.  It appears my big toe nail completely died, and the nail stopped growing several weeks ago.

The salon suggested that trauma during my late March trip and fall at the shopping mall killed the nail.  Perhaps while scuffing knees and straining the ankle, the nail bed base also sustained a hefty wallop on the edge of the cement step or the sidewalk.  The nail salon urged me to show my toe nail to the nurse while at the rheumatologist’s office for my monthly Benlysta infusion.

The verdict,  “Expect to lose the toe nail soon.”  Well, it seems the summer  fashion forecast lacks any nail vanity, and just in time for sandal season.  It will be interesting looking for closed toed summer shoes for a niece’s late July wedding.  What fun!

The infusion was the last planned stop of the full “medical” day.

infusion in handThe afternoon passed in the infusion chair with a monstrous accounting textbook perched on my lap and a fresh yellow highlighter gliding across the pages.

Eventually it was hard to pay attention to studying for my college class.  The friendly chatter of a couple of other patients getting RA infusions was more engaging than dwelling on the accounting formula, “Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity”.  Without asking, it was clear they obviously didn’t want to chat about accounting!

No one does.  The reason is hard to pin down, but no one else seems to get very enthused about chatting about or otherwise dwelling on accounting theory, either!

Lupus adventures in accidental forgiveness at the side of the road

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Softening that first impulse… Stop, breathe, think and pray!

Accidents happen!  For emotional and spiritual health, it is important after a traumatic injury to start by sorting out emotions and clarify the difference between fault and malice.  If someone was at fault due to negligent, careless, or otherwise the unintentional actions causing an injury, for our own health and peace of mind we should try to forgive them. They did not mean to cause hurt, as there was no malice in their actions.

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Admitting responsibility

We should not confuse forgiveness with the need to hold others responsible for the results of their actions, but we should understand we will only hurt our own heart and spirit by rehearsing and feeding anger and resentment toward someone who caused our injury.  Imperfect humans cause accidents, and we should see them as simply that.  Imperfect.  Human.

Amazingly and unexpectedly, healing began right at the scene of a recent accident, when the man who caused it stood there by the side of the road, holding out his hand with regret on his face.  Hands were shaken and the lament in his eyes was clearly genuine, his words of apology were real, and his full acceptance of fault meant only one thing.  He was concerned with my wellbeing, took responsibility for his actions, and deserved nothing short of immediate forgiveness.

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Expressing a response of kindness

Thanking him for his integrity and sincere apology, it was somehow easy to  shake his hand and respond with a message of kindness.  Agreeing the insurance companies would work out the financial issues, our clear understanding was that the gentleman was clearly at fault.  I felt compelled to assure him of the absence of resentment or anger toward him.

As we shook hands again upon leaving, our polite agreement was that it was just an accident, and that it had happened because we are imperfect and make mistakes.  It was a heavy, bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic jam, and we were grateful only the two of us were involved.  Accepting this perspective on the situation helped immediately dismiss strong negative emotions and shift attention to thankfulness for the good aspects of the otherwise generally negative experience.  Considering that we both walked away in “one piece”, no one else was hurt, and we amicably communicated at the side of the highway, we had much to be thankful for!

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Bright spot in memory of accident

In the midst of the early pain of injuries, the gentle human connection with the other driver remains now a little glimmering bright spot in memories of the traumatic experience.

Sometimes we feel justified in our anger, but we are not forced to exercise that “right”.  If someone causes injury for reasons such as mal intent, criminal negligence such as drunk driving, over aggressive driving, or road rage, it might still behoove us to show charity of heart and pity them for their poor self-control and lack of wisdom, and not focus the inwardly destructive potency of hatred upon them.

Many times these infractions ultimately put the erring doer in jail, with severe legal punishment, fines, and restitution.  We should choose to let that be enough.  God’s important message to us in the Bible on this issue gives us that better perspective.  “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink… be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12: 19-20.  The negative emotion of resentment hurts the one who hates more than it affects the object of such feelings.  Just as forgiveness is emotionally and spiritually healing and freeing, resentment and hatred bring a painful grip that hurts and damages the hater more that the hated.

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How many times must I forgive?

Jesus said we should forgive our brother that hurts or wrongs us, not only seven times like an inquirer had suggested to Him, but instead we should forgive them “seventy times seven”.  That comes to 440 times!  It seems pretty clear that He did not infer that we should stop forgiving the 441st time someone wrongs us, but perhaps by then we will have well exercised our ability to forgive with reasonable success.

thL96KOAO8While it is impossible to count the number of other people throughout time who have ever lived on the face of the earth, Jesus bore the sins of all of us in His body on the cross, that He might bring us to God.  He offers lasting forgiveness to us, not at the side of the road, but at the foot of the cross.  If we will accept his sacrifice there for our own sins, and receive his offer of love, forgiveness, and eternal life, we can walk away spiritually healed and whole.  The apostle Paul explained, “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 3:23.

The body will heal, although lupus may flare after trauma, that will pass in time.  More important than the healing of our body, or any flares of chronic illness such as lupus triggered by trauma or stress, is the healing of our heart, soul and spirit.  Sinners like me who are saved by God’s gracious undeserved kindness, can choose to extend the healing of simple forgiveness to fellow sinners who happen to collide with them on the roadway of life.  With God’s help, I can, too!

Forgiveness does not happen by accident, but rather it is a choice.  I have made mine, and as a result, am well on the road back to health!

Lupus Adventurer reflects on the first Christmas

One Perfect Lamb

Down from the glory of eternity’s home,
a baby was born as a carpenter’s Son.
Willing so humbly to enter our world,
Creator and Master, the Savior did come.
History splitting, prophecy fulfilling, sin forgiving,
life transforming man,
Jesus Christ, both Son of God and son of Joseph and Mary,
a miraculous plan.

Three decades passed without one wrong or sin,
lived as the One Perfect Lamb.
He offered Himself, life and blood for man’s sin.
Buried three days, He arose up again!
Overcoming sin, death, sickness and the grave,
giving life unto all reborn men he would save.
Accepting His gift, true forgiveness is found,
New life, new joy, and truest Christmas blessings abound!

Thank you for letting me share my poem from several Christmases ago with you again, this year.

Jesus Christ is my reason for Christmas!

Merry Christmas,
Lupus Adventurer

Copyright 12/24/2010

Managing Lupus While Managing Grief

Stress of loss

Stress of loss

The stress of loss

Losing a loved one is hard on everyone, and it seems we can never be ready for it.  Over fifteen years ago mom passed away unexpectedly, and now my dad has gone after a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s.  Although I thought I was adjusting to the idea, and in a way I was already grieving the loss of my father as I knew him before Alzheimer’s, it feels different than I thought it would.

It is just difficult any way you look at it.  When people you love are gone, it leaves a vacuum where a warm loving soul once was in your daily life, and it hurts.  With a deep ache beating in your chest, your heart sobs in silence.  Pain is stressful, whether the cause is physical or emotional, and that stress has predictable influences on health.  Stress can weaken us physically, weaken our immune system, or aggravate an auto-immune disease, such as lupus.  Sustained stresses like grief, stretch out their load on the normal endocrine balance, that is already somewhat out of whack when a person has auto-immune disease.

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

The part of our body chemistry that produces a surge of helpful chemicals to sustain us during a fight-or-flight situation or crisis, becomes very strained during periods of prolonged, sustained stress.  This crisis mode response can only continue for limited time, while glands pump out “emergency” help.  After a while, a body’s chemical response to continued stress becomes weaker and weaker, and the person experiencing sustained stress has a seriously reduced ability to cope in the face of continued pressure.  For someone with lupus, ongoing presence of stressful situations become the perfect environment for lupus to flare.  So, it becomes especially important to communicate well with our doctors about the major life events we are experiencing and about how these stressors are impacting physical health.

The storms of life

The storms of life

The storms of life

Over the years, many helpful articles about employees going through life’s most stressful events have passed over my desk in human resource magazines and legal management journals.  Usually they merit at least a few minutes of my attention, since employees routinely drop by my office, sit down with a sigh opposite me, and start to talk about the major events taking place in their personal lives.  Sometimes, employees have multiple stressful events raining down on them at one time, and some face virtual storms of stress, and even rarely an occasional emotional or spiritual hurricane!

My heart goes out to these burdened co-workers, and I privately pray earnestly for them, because I know personally how hard it can be to cope when flood waters of stress wreak havoc and bring unexpected mayhem.  It is no wonder these overwhelming events are commonly called “the storms of life.”

Stress affects people physically

The different responses people show to these events get my attention, and often I’m motivated to start a conversation about what they are experiencing.  Ever since reading an article years ago about how stress affects people physically, I have been especially focused on how it impacts employees, friends and others in my personal life when they go through unusually stressful circumstances.  What I see most often is employees who struggle with either the severe illness or death of a family member, face surgery, are moving, their spouse has lost their job or they are having turmoil or difficulty between members of their household.

I too, have had my share of these stressful situations, and some of these have triggered past lupus flares and at times some lasting escalation of lupus severity.

Measuring the stress of life’s events

Measuring Stress

Measuring Stress

A couple of research psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, studied over 5,000 people to understand better how stress affects health.  They developed a time-honored list of the most common stressful life events that people routinely face, assigning a “stress score” to each type of stressful event.  The total score falls into one of three basic ranges of impact.  People with lupus or any other auto-immune disease may easily find that their stress score indicates a moderate or high likelihood of illness.  The items on the list may seem obvious, but reviewing it was thought-provoking for me.

Striking up a conversation about the effects of stress on people who are going through rough times usually starts by mentioning that they are experiencing one or more of the major stressful life events on “the list:”

Life Event Stress Score
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Death of a close family member 63
Imprisonment 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Business readjustment 39
Gain a new family member 39
Sexual difficulties 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Beginning or end school 26
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in church activities 19
Change in recreation 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in eating habits 15
Change in number of family reunions 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11
TOTAL EVENT RELATED STRESS SCORE:

Add up the numbers of stressful events that apply to you in the past two years to get your own score: _____

th3SLP7QUMHow might the level of your life stress be likely to effect your health?  If you are a lupus patient with active disease (53), high medical costs (38) and have lupus affecting your ability to keep up with recreation (19), your social life (18), and pain keeping you from sleeping well (15), you could easily have a score over 140.  Add just one more event on the list, like moving (2) or getting pulled over for a traffic ticket (11) and you have a moderate risk of illness.

Score of 300+: At risk of illness.
Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).
Score <150: Only have a slight risk of illness.

Read More about the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale @ Wikipedia.

The speech about stress

Down-to-earth advice

As the manager of a government legal department, when an employee goes through these rough times, one of my roles is to approve sick leave, bereavement leave or vacation, or to encourage them to otherwise take care of themselves.  After pointing out that they are going through one of life’s most stressful experiences, the advice is usually down-to-earth and pretty simple: 1) breathe, 2) drink, 3) sleep, 4) rest and relax.

Why?  Breath deeply, because so often people seem to psychologically hold their breath during intense stress, and deep cleansing breaths help reduce the effects of stress.  Drink plenty of water because it helps the brain function, supports the immune system and flushing out toxins from the body (usually I am the one who goes around offering glasses of water to everyone.)  Get enough sleep and rest, because stress is exhausting and emotionally fatiguing, and lack of sleep just increases stress even more.  If proper to my relationship with the person, I also suggest prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing in the times when sleep just doesn’t come, because finding spiritual rest through these alternative activities can help in the absence of sleep.  Rest and relax, because they need to be reminded to give themselves some slack and to realize that what they are going through is a normal human response to stress, and to be expected.

thRTKMIR17Every new employee we hire gets a similar version of this speech as part of their orientation, along with explaining that almost every employee we have hired in the past 25 years (except one exceptional person who either listened especially well to my advice or was just an rare physical specimen) became sick within their first month on the job.  Every employee gets the speech again as a friendly reminder, every time they go through something on the top half of the list, or any combination of things from anywhere on the list.

This type of stress seriously affected my health many years ago.  Just one week after my mother died, my father and I both visited his doctor to treat our severe bronchitis.  Grief and bronchitis do not go well together!  During the year that followed, I was naturally still grieving deeply, and that normal process had its impacts on my body and my lupus.  Within a few weeks after losing my mother, I was hospitalized with a ruptured abdominal artery, infected appendix and ruptured ovary (a very close call!) and within six more months my spine destabilized around an old trauma (and required neck braces and neuro rehab) while my lupus escalated to organ (CNS) involvement.  Within just one year of mom’s death I had graduated from treatment with only plaquenil to requiring adding weekly methotrexate, daily high dose prednisone and Imuran (azathioprine).  For ten more years, my medications never could be rolled back to the earlier levels, and eventually even those would no longer control my lupus.

Four resolves in grief

So, it is time to follow my advice.  My hope is that as I now grieve my father’s death in the coming weeks and months, the advice repeatedly shared with others will ring in my own ears and hopefully may help me remember to grieve healthfully.  These are my four resolves…

breathe

Breathe, hydrate, sleep, rest and relax!

First, I will breathe!  Taking long draughts of air, in and out, deep and full, inhaling, cleansing, body-calming breaths.  I will take my asthma sprays on schedule, and listen for my body telling me when it is having trouble, and I will make a point to intentionally breathe.

Then, I will hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Easy to say and harder to do.  But now, there is no fluid better for me than the cleansing goodness of pure, refreshing water.  I will carry it with me in the Arizona heat as I drive around, at home or work pour another glass often, and even set a timer if necessary to remember to drink water.  Eight ounces every hour, would not be too much water!

Next, sleep is the hardest resolve to carry out right now, but I will keep working at getting the sleep I need.  Since lupus robs me of so much sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night with pain, this takes some extra effort.  Yet, I am promising myself to make the most of my opportunities to sleep.  This means I need to replace my broken c-pap machine as soon as possible, since I fall asleep faster, rest better and wake up less often at night when I am using it.  Using my c-pap for my sleep apnea helps reduce fatigue, and that’s a good idea, especially now.

Last, I know that prayer, Bible reading, singing hymns and playing them at the piano are forms of worship that can become a bridge to real rest.  When I simply cannot sleep, I will turn to these until I get exhausted enough to fall back asleep, and in the process find a different kind of peace and rest.

When emotional or physical pain robs me of sleep, there is no place like the shelter of the Most High to calm and comfort my weary soul!  In the shadow of His wings, I sing for joy!  Even in my grief, even in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.  These were some of the last words I read to my father from the Bible a few hours before he left us.

Now, they speak peace and health to my heart as I grieve and remember.

Independence Day Goodbye

Independence  Day

Four years ago his eyes looked out ahead for times yet to be,
Seventy-nine years from birth till then, but what came next he didn’t see.
Falls, confusion, miscued words, and soon a sudden turn,
Hospital, rehab, sixteen flights before daughter could home return.

He travelled far, a first class flight away from his lifetime home,
Living where helpers and aides would bathe, or help him use a comb.
Then doctors, surgeries, changes in health meant needing a different place,
Humbled and weakened, but stubbornly clinging to dignity’s final trace.

At first, decline was slow, but soon, escalating bit by bit,
next cane, then walker, then rolling around while having just to sit.
Memory, too faded out in stages, either gradually or by spurts,
Children, marriage and life forgotten, the watcher’s heart just hurts.

Daughter’s face was known at first, but then confusion grew,
“Are you my cousin? sister? mother?” at the end he had no clue.
The limbo land his mind dwelled in, imprisoned him in a lonely place,
A soulful gaze from forlorn eyes possessed his troubled face.

Last visits made, scriptures read aloud beside his quiet bed,
Everything saved but before unspoken, at last today was said.
Fittingly, it was independence day, a day when suffering would cease,
then sudden decline, soon slipping away to death’s last final release.

Many prayers offered over the years by children, grandchildren and kin,
That he’d find God’s forgiveness, mercy and love and be truly born again.
Where would his dying soul abide through eternity’s longest hour?
This secret is known to God alone, through His just and gracious power.

I love you Dad, goodbye.

By, Lupus Adventurer
© July 4, 2014

 

Dad and Me

Dad with Nate

Dad and Mom

Dad and the Family Budget

Dad in his mid 50s

Dad and his Uncle Wesley

Dad when I was 5 years old

Dad at his 80th Birthday

Dad at Work Pre-Computer Days

Dad with Mom’s Fragrant Cloud Rose

Dad in Navy – Flight Navigation

Dad Training Navy Pilots

Dad on Leave During Korean War

Dad with Lyle and Ariel

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Dad and Elisabeth

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Dad and Mom

 

Lupus and the undying hope of a glorious morning

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Glorious Morning!

Glorious morning!

These were not the first thoughts or words a few mornings ago!  Many nights, after dropping off into a hopefully deep slumber, the next realization at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. is aching joints, malaise, deep bone pain or neuropathy pain, breaking up slumber like an unwelcome intruder.

Then, comes writhing around in bed in the dark of discomfort for a while, until it is clear the best option is just to get out of bed.  It would be nice to say prayer is always the first tactic, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case.  But, even when prayer is remembered at the top of the list, God’s answer does not always come in the form of more sleep.  His wisdom is unsearchable!

The pursuit of more sleep

The things that sometime help are reading, checking email, or playing mindless computer games (bubble popping games are the best,) while sipping a cup of decaf fruit tea.   Sometimes these efforts are enough to make going back to sleep possible, but sometimes the only thing that will bring sleep back is medication for the pain.  When  intense neuropathy is the culprit, augmenting nightly gabapentin with pain medications calms the gnawing nerve pain.  When it works, a return to sleep is sweet relief.

But, on nights when none of these tactics work, pain-induced insomnia becomes intensely wearing and frustrating.  These sleepless, painful nights often end with a realization that night is over, just as first rays of morning light peek over the backyard fence.  The sunrise comes much too early, often bringing with it a not-so-glorious morning. Prayers for sleep shift into requests for God’s gracious help to cope with the responsibilities of the day ahead, and for strength, encouragement and wisdom.

Perhaps one unlikely positive that comes out of a painful sleepless night, is that despite simple mental weariness, there is often little brain fog when morning arrives.

Out of a rough wearisome night emerges an opportunity and adventure of faith: accept the uninvited challenge and be unwilling to be undone by lupus!

A great many work days follow this kind of sleepless nights and personal prayers the next day for God’s help and strength never go unanswered.  As professional demands of the day arise, it is obvious my responsibilities cannot be met alone.  Silent prayer becomes my silent partner throughout each hour of the day.  The opportunity to strengthen faith is woven into the fibers of the day’s duties and activities.

On these bleary-eyed days, my human frailty and weakness is unquestioned, and petitions for undergirding and support are quietly fulfilled.  I clearly see and feel God’s presence and nearness.  As I am weak, He demonstrates His strength.  Borrowing from Him, the unspoken need of each hour is liberally supplied.  Shielded from the sight of all eyes but my own, the hidden miracle of God’s nearness and merciful care is displayed.

Not every sleepless or weary painful night is a battle ending in victory over the next day.  There are days when prayers for wisdom and strength are answered with a clear understanding that lupus flare and physical health situations require retreat into a day of rest and recovery.  Human limits, further narrowed by the effects of lupus, sometime require the wisdom to know when to put on armor and go to battle, and when to wave the white flag in a temporary defeat!

This, too, requires the faith and grace to accept what I cannot control.

Hope springs optimistic

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Hope springs…

Yet, hope continually arises, and the unreasonably optimistic side of my nature anticipates every morning will be better than those that precede it.  Every morning bears new promise to unfold into a wonderful day.  However, some days Lupus just doesn’t get that message and temporarily wins a battle or two.

So, the war against being undone by Lupus goes on, and most days the outcome of the battle turns out for the best. Whether met with brain fog after a night’s sleep, or mental fatigue from a sleepless night, there is always an opportunity to pursue personal victory

Routinely, even after a full night’s restful sleep, the first half of every day always seems to have its own special challenge.  As accommodation for my lupus, my employer has allowed me to shift my hours to start work a little later, along with telecommuting on Fridays.  I am very grateful for the encouragement and support of my supervisors and co-workers.

Most of my days begin with a mentally groggy, foggy, slow moving start.

Why brain fog, in plain English?

Brain

Why brain fog?

Why are mornings with lupus so rough?  As best I can understand, in extremely plain English, Lupus can affect morning mental processes in at least two ways, especially when systemic lupus activity has flared.

First, through accelerated cell death, and second, from inefficient clean up of the stuff those cells were made of.  Beside these common reasons, a small percentage of lupus patients like me, with some degree of central nervous system involvement, may also experience organic involvement of lupus wrecking havoc in their central or peripheral nervous systems.

thKPD1JCKQAs body cells go through the process of replacing themselves with new ones, old cells replicate by sort of unzipping the DNA chain inside the nucleus of the cell and new chromosomes floating around in the cell nucleus connect to each half to create two DNA chains.  Focused around the split up DNA chains, the nucleus divides and the cell pulls apart, separating into two new cells.

This cell division and multiplication happens constantly in the body tissues of every living creature.  As these cells multiply they help replace other cells that have died and broken down by a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Apoptosis can happen at an accelerated rate in patients with lupus.  So, with more dead cells comes more stuff the dead cells were made of.  These pieces of broken down cells put a strain on the body’s ability to clean up and clear these cell fragments away, and can morph into substances that trigger auto-immune response, like lupus.

I found a relatively easy to understand diagram that illustrates this complicated process as a flow chart, located within Chapter 3, “Interferon and Apoptosis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus” of an open access book on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus by Daniel N. Clark and Brian D. Poole from Brigham Young University.  See, http://www.intechopen.com/books/systemic-lupus-erythematosus

Lupus Diagram of Normal and Lupus Apoptosis Clearance - Copy

Even when it isn’t working properly, the human body is an amazing miracle of engineering.  The metabolism of the human body is intricately designed to repair and clean up the effects of normal programmed cell death that tends to take place more intensely during sleep.  In lupus, the clean up is slow and the excess substances (cellular debris) that remain tend to distort the normal function of the immune system.

The effects of this housekeeping slow down are especially noticeable in the morning, and often are described as “brain fog.” With Lupus, left over cell fragments are not quickly cleared out of the body the way they would be in a healthy person. This cellular debris includes substances that trigger increases in auto-immunity and as well as clog up a body’s normal chemistry.

Build up of extra cellular debris, and increased autoimmune activity can both add to morning brain fog, joint inflammation, stiffness and pain.  Yet, mornings have their own special character, and if not quite glorious, there is still the new hope every morning that the fog will clear quickly, and there will be a great day ahead.

Sleep techniques for lupus pain

Sleep techniques for lupus pain

Reclaiming half the day

However, some days, like the one I wrote about from last week, morning brain fog lasts especially long and makes going to work on time nearly impossible.  After waiting for the entire morning to pass before mental clarity returned, that day I shook my body into action and headed out for my office at noon to reclaim the half-day of work that remained.

Every time I exercise the ADA accommodation my employer has granted for my lupus allowing me to work around my physical limitations, I am extremely thankful.  That day was no exception, as I drove to work my thoughts turned to thanking God for the gracious support and encouragement of my employer.

After muddling through writing about this in the middle of that ‘”brain foggy” morning, the realization arrived that it would be smart to wait and proofread the post later, when writing and thinking skills would be better.

Getting to “later” took several more days! There were just too many grammatical glitches buried in what I had written during deep brain fog to correct quickly, so most of the editing waited for tweaking during Friday’s Benlysta infusion.  After one last reading, proofreading was done and it was finally ready to share.

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