Lazy Sundays: The Benefits of City Life

So I’ve lived in the city for almost eight months now and I’m really just starting to get used to it.  Obviously it has its drawbacks but so does living in a rural area.  What are some of the benefits I’m appreciating right now?

  1. If I want to go to a concert, I can just hop on the bus and go that night.  I don’t have to plan two days so I can travel to the city (what used to be a four hour drive), watch the concert in the evening, stay in a hotel and drive home the next day.  It’s actually amazing.  So far this year I’ve seen both Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony live.  For a classical music lover like myself, seeing pieces I’ve listened to over and over on CDs being performed live has been exhilarating.
  2. You can get food pretty much any time you feel like it.  Feel like eating Subway at 11:00pm?  Well, there’s one down the street from my apartment.  Want to watch a movie at 1:00am because of your insomnia and you don’t have any snack foods?  There are 24/7 convenience stores located close by.  In my hometown everything closes down at 6:00pm but in the city, you can pretty much guarantee something is going to be open at all hours of the night.
  3. Not having to travel for everything.  If I wanted to go clothes shopping back home, I’d have to drive an hour to the nearest large town.  In the city, I just ride the bus for 10 minutes and stop at one of the four main malls.  Of course this has been a big temptation when it comes to book shopping since there’s an enormous Indigo store right next to one of the malls.  As if I didn’t have enough books already.
  4. Racism, misogyny and homophobia are far less commmon.  Of course, wherever there are human beings there will always be discrimination but I find that it’s a little less common here in the city because of the more diverse population.  And it helps that the city is large enough that when you do find a horribly prejudiced person you can easily avoid them (unless you work with them).  In a small town, you’d encounter that person constantly.  It’s a really nice change.

As I said, city life isn’t perfect (the air quality leaves something to be desired) but I’m so much happier than I ever was in my hometown.  Getting away from rural life has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

My Chronic Pain Story: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance…and more Anger?

I’m so angry right now I don’t know whether I want to scream or cry.

The anger seems to rise up in my throat as my hands shake and my heart races.  I am not the sort of person that experiences blinding rage very often so it’s almost terrifying to experience it now.  But what I’m feeling at the moment is more than just anger.  It’s the five stages of grief all at once.

I’ve discussed my chronic back pain at length in the past.  One thing I never metioned was how sometimes I get a shooting pain down my right leg that makes it go quite stiff, giving me a visible (and painful) limp.  I never mentioned it because it only happened once or twice a year.  But slowly, as the years have gone by, it became more and more frequent to the point where this January it began happening once or twice a week.  So although I had accepted my chronic back pain, I went through the five stages of grief once again as I mourned the possible loss of my mobility.  This time the depression stage was much shorter but the anger lasted almost twice as long as it had when I realized my back pain was only getting worse.

I was so angry that not only was my back pain still a problem but that I was also experiencing pain in my leg that limited my life even more.  While we as a society have made quite a bit of progress when it comes to physical disabilities we’re still not perfect and my occasional limping has made that painfully clear.  Not only did the pain make me angry, people’s reactions to me did as well.  It’s hard to go out to the mall and get stared at by almost everyone because you’re an otherwise physically normal young woman with an obvious limp.  It’s hard to go from nearly having to fight salespeople off in every store you enter to being left alone (and sometimes actively avoided) by everyone.  But I digress.

So why am I angry now?  I’ve gone through the five stages of grief for my back and my leg.  Well, two days ago I had an appointment with a physiatrist (physicians who “treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons“).  Instead of acting like all of the specialists I’ve seen to date (i.e. immediately dismissing me as “too young to be in pain without any obvious physical defects”) he took the time to examine me and ask me questions about my medical and family history.  And because of this physical examination, the questions he asked and the MRI I had done three years ago he was able to diagnose me within fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

I have been in constant pain for nearly five years.  I’ve seen specialist after specialist, sometimes waiting for up to a year to book an appointment that lasted ten minutes and ended with the specialist accusing me of lying or seeking drugs.  And the worst part?  At least half of those specialists should have come to the same conclusion as my physiatrist given my medical and family history.

Essentially I, like 10% of the population, have hypermobile joints.  I have naturally loose ligaments and so my joints extend beyond the normal range of motion.  For a lot of hypermobile people this isn’t really a problem.  However, in my case I seem to have extended my back too far and caused stress on a vertebra in my lower spine.  This caused the muscles in my lower back to tense up to compensate for the stress on this vertebra, which in turn caused the muscles in my upper back to tense up to compensate for that.  And as I had to give up the sports I loved due to the pain, the pain got worse as I lost core strength and my muscles had to work even harder to hold things together.  The stress seems to be worse on one side of the vertebra, which caused the intense shooting pain that runs down my right leg.

The cure for this?  Targeted physiotherapy.  The physiotherapy I had before, shortly after the pain started, only exacerbated my problems as the physiotherapist had me doing exercises that forced me to move my joints beyond the normal range of motion and put additional stress on them instead of stabilizing them.  Basically, I need to go see a physiotherapist with experience treating hypermobile people who will determine what exercises I should be doing on my own time and that’s it.  It won’t happen overnight and I’ll always need to do them, but the exercises should essentially cure me of my chronic pain.  And as I get older, my ligaments will naturally tighten up so my joints won’t be so prone to moving in ways they shouldn’t.

Which brings me back to the anger.  I’m feeling so many things right now: a weird combination of denial, acceptance, depression, despair, etc.  But the prevailing feeling is definitely anger.  I’m angry that for years doctors dismissed me because they couldn’t find an easy answer.  I’m angry that all they saw was a hysterical young woman instead of a patient experiencing pain.  Had they looked—actually looked at me instead of relying on a stereotype—maybe I would have had a diagnosis sooner.  Maybe I could have already been doing proper physiotherapy for months, years even.  Maybe I didn’t need to be in constant pain for so long.

I’m angry that I missed out on so many things because I was in pain.  It’s infuriating to think that I gave up things I loved like volleyball and swimming because of a treatable, easily diagnosable problem.  And it’s especially aggravating that I gave these up because of pain that could have been managed shortly after my symptoms began.  Every single doctor that bothered to examine me remarked upon how flexible I was despite the pain.  They didn’t think this was a clue, one that might lead them to conclude there was something wrong with my connective tissues.  No, they just took it as proof I was a drug and/or attention seeker who was wasting their time.  After all, someone who is in so much pain shouldn’t be able to move better in certain ways than a normal person, should they?

It’s only been two days since my diagnosis but already the anger is subsiding.  It’s still here but it’s fading, making way for something I haven’t felt in a long time when it comes to my health: hope.  The hope that with a lot of hard work and a little luck I can go back to something resembling normal.  That maybe I can sit or stand for more than half an hour without being in excruciating pain. That maybe I can walk around the mall without everyone’s eyes on me because my appearance doesn’t match their idea of how a disabled person should look.

After all these years of pain and suffering, things are finally starting to look up.

I’m Back! (A Blogging Update)

I know it’s been a while and some of you probably think I’ve given up on blogging for good but now I’m back and I’m here to stay.  Life was difficult after moving to the city for a number of reasons but I’m finally in a place where I can spend the time and energy I want to here on The Mad Reviewer.  I could have tried to do half-hearted posts and updates these last four months but I didn’t think that would be fair to you guys.  Now, however, things should be back to normal after tomorrow’s special post.  Thank you so much for sticking with me.

I’ll also be catching up on all of the emails and other updates from authors I’ve received in the past few months.  Please be patient!  I will get back to you as soon as I can.

And the Winners of the 2015 Mad Reviewer Reading & Reviewing Challenge are…

Well, I won’t keep you guys in suspense.  The winner of the draw for the 2015 Mad Reviewer Challenge is Sadie of See Sadie Read, who completed the Mad Reviewer level.  Congratulations, Sadie!  I’ll be in contact soon to give you your $50 Amazon gift card as well as a paperback copy of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook copy of Aranya by Marc Secchia.

And of course thanks to these authors, I can announce three runners up:

  1. Elena of Elena Square Eyes  (Crazy Reviewer)

2.  The Daily Opine  (Sane Reviewer)

3.  Chelsea of To Each Their Own Reviews  (Mad Reviewer)

I’ll be in contact with each of you guys this Monday with details about your prizes!  Here are the prizes:

Runner up #1: Ebooks of Wish for Me and Dream of Me by Diantha Jones, an audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet.

Runner up #2: An audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia.

Runner up #3: An audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet.

Special thanks go to Diantha Jones, Marc Secchia and Cheryl Koevoet for their generous donations!

Blog Move in Progress

In just a few hours today the awesome people at WordPress are going to move my blog over to my own domain!  I’m very, very excited about this but it means I can’t post or change my blog at all for about 24 hours until they email me saying the transfer is complete.  It’s a little inconvenience for a great benefit so if you don’t see me around much today it’s because I’m staying away to let more tech-savvy people do a pretty tricky job.

Don’t worry.  Once the new website is up I’ll have a big announcement and everything.  I can’t wait to see it!

The Mad Reviewer Reading and Reviewing Challenge 2016 Sign Up

2016MRRCWell, last year’s reading challenge is over (although you can still confirm your reviews until January 15th if you head over here) so now it’s time for the 2016 Mad Reviewer Reading & Reviewing Challenge.  A huge thank you goes to the amazing Diantha Jones for designing the lovely challenge button you see above for the fourth year in a row.  If you’re participating in the challenge, you can grab the button above. Here is the HTML for it:

<a href=”//themadreviewer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016mrrc.png” rel=”attachment wp-att-9400″><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-9400″ src=”//themadreviewer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016mrrc.png” alt=”2016MRRC” width=”250″ height=”255″ /></a>

Once again, the challenge is the same as last year:

The Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge is to read and review (either on Goodreads, Amazon or your own blog) 104 books in one year starting January 1, 2016 and ending December 31, 2016.

I’m fully aware that not everyone has time to read 104 books which is why I’ve created different levels of the challenge that you can aspire to:

1.  Mad Reviewer: 104 books in one year. (2 books a week all year.)

2.  Crazy Reviewer: 52 books in one year. (1 book a week all year.)

3.  Slightly Sane Reviewer: 26 books in one year. (1 book every fortnight all year.)

4.  Sane Reviewer: 12 books in one year.  (1 book every month all year.)

RULES

1.  Self-published, independently published and traditionally published books are all completely acceptable.  Whether you read print copies or ebook copies makes no difference at all.

2.  No audiobooks.  I’d prefer people to read the books themselves, not have someone reading to them.  Audiobooks can absolutely be a valuable tool for busy readers but they’re not really in the spirit of this challenge.

3.  I don’t have a sign up form but if you intend to do this challenge you must post a comment below so that you’re officially signed up.

4.  You can review your books on any site.  Your own blog, Goodreads, someone else’s blog, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.  The point is just to review the books you read!

5.  The last day you can sign up is July 31st of 2016.  I’m not taking any more entries after that, sorry.

6.  The draw for the 2016 prizes will take place in the first few days of January 2017.  This will give everyone time to tell me they’ve finished their chosen level and I’ll have time to actually verify the reviews.  I’m not chasing people around like I did in 2014; especially not now that my challenge includes 50+ people.  So at the end of the year, in December, head on back to my blog and tell me through the Contact Page or my submissions post I’ll have up on December 30th.

If you have a blog it would be great if you could use the button at the top of the post designed by the lovely Diantha Jones for me.  (She also designed the 2015 version and my banner.)

PRIZE SELECTION

Anyone who completes the level they stated as their goal will be entered into a draw.  How many entries you get will be determined by what level you’ve achieved:

Mad Reviewer (104 books): 4 entries

Crazy Reviewer (52 books): 3 entries

Slightly Sane Reviewer (26 books): 2 entries

Sane Reviewer (12 books): 1 entry

I know life gets in the way of reading and reviewing frequently, so what I offer to people who don’t complete their goal is a second chance of a sort.  Say you aimed for Crazy Reviewer and only reviewed 30 books.  Since you reviewed a minimum of 26 books you can still enter the draw as a Slightly Sane Reviewer.  That way you’ve at least achieved a level of the challenge as well as had your name entered in the grand prize draw where I’ll be choosing a winner and three runners up.  (This second chance applies to any level.)

HOW TO SIGN UP

Just post your name, the link to where you’ll be reviewing your books and the level at which you want to participate in the comments below!  I’ll be posting a separate list of all the challenge participants (and their goals) as the comments flow in. If you could also publicize the challenge using Twitter, Facebook, your own blogs, etc. that would be great.  The more the merrier!

Lazy Sundays: Looking Ahead

I’m not one to get sentimental very often but looking at back at where I was in the beginning of 2015, I can’t believe how much has changed.  I’ve moved to a city hours away from the only place I’ve ever lived.  I’ve made friends my own age that share some of my interests for the first time in over a decade.  And I’ve realized that no matter how bad things get, there is always a silver lining even if that silver lining is that the bad thing will (usually) eventually go away.  It’s been an nteresting year and I can’t believe the optimism with which I’m looking at 2016.

I’ve made some blogging New Year’s resolutions but I have also made some personal ones.  One of the things I want to do is go to the gym at least twice a week.  It’s not that I necessarily want to lose weight but right now my back pain is being managed better than it has been since it began five years ago.  If I build up my muscles again while I’m feeling good I can stabilize some of the vertebrae in my back and thus provide a lasting solution to my pain (hopefully).  And even if that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll be exercising, which comes with its own separate health benefits.

Another thing I want to do is date.  Back home my options were comically limited but now I feel like I have so many more opportunities on the romantic front.  It’s been years since I’ve dated so things should be interesting but fun as well.  We’ll see how things go, I guess!

I think these are both fairly achievable goals and I hope they’ll make 2016 a much better year than 2015, 2014 and the last ten or so years.