Posts Tagged ‘Chiari Malformation’

A peek into life with Chiari Malformation

September 11th, 2014 by Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal

Last summer I went to a very fun Blog conference called Blog U, while there I met Christi from Ditching the Masks. When we met we did a typical “spoonie” thing. She came up to me and said “Hey you’re Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated girl right? I’m Christi and I have Chiari.” Then we hugged and made lots of sarcastic remarks and drank wine coolers at an 80’s retro prom… you know, typical stuff.

When Invisible Illness Week came up I knew I wanted to see if Christi would give us a peek into 30 things about her life with Chaiari, whoohoo she said yes.


30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know


1. The illness I live with is: Chiari Malformation

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: April 2011

3. But I had symptoms since: Jr High years

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Realizing that committing to something could mean I let someone down, and not follow through. It’s not how I roll.

5. Most people assume: I am fine. I look like everyone else. No one can see my “big brain” that herniates into my brain stem. No one can see the compression of nerves that changes with pressure fronts each day.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Just climbing out of bed. Insomnia is a constant. Pain levels refuse to allow me a consistent night sleep and pain centers around the base of my neck, the area I am laying on while sleeping.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: HOUSE and Bones

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My iPad (I can still write or connect with the world from a horizontal position and that aint easy!)

9. The hardest part about nights are: …that they are endless. I used to love night time, because I loved the quietness and to just curl up and sleep. Now I love the quiet, but they never end and I wake more tired and unrefreshed than I came to bed.

10. Each day I take 9 pills & vitamins.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I do stretches to try to help, use a heating pad or ice packs, and have a large hand geld massage head that my husband uses on my back and neck to unbind the knots. It will ease the pain in a way that no drugs ever could.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: A choice here is really hard. I am not one to complain. I really don’t want people to look at me and see my illness. I don’t want to be defined by it. I want people to just see me and that’s it. There are times when I am really struggling and can’t keep commitments and have to constantly re-explain what I live with and why I can’t… and it is then I wish people could just see my “big Chiari brain” and be done with it. So I guess for the most part I’d keep it the way it is.

13. Regarding working and career: I recently had to turn down a job that was written to my strengths. I couldn’t take it because I knew how undependable I was and I cared too much about the non-profit company to say yes to the job. It broke my heart. So for now I freelance from home and do what I can to help out in ways here and there.

14. People would be surprised to know: I currently can not drive more than 15 to 20 minutes in a stretch. I can not hold concentration longer than that for driving. If I do, I may “wake up” on the other side of the road or worse. I sometimes even have to take a nap before driving myself back home from where I have been. I will crawl into the back of my van if this happens and nap for 20 minutes to an hour and then be on my way.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Disappointing my family. I missed Easter Sunday one year, for instance, because I was in bed with a full on debilitating migraine. I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow. The kids were old enough to understand, and Dad got them all to Church ok with out me, but I laid and cried to miss my favorite Sunday of the year. I have missed out on tons over the years, and it has broken my heart over and over. The strength and independence I see in my kids makes me proud, what saddens me is when I hear them say, “It’s okay mom, we’re used to it.” I never get used to it. Ever. But it honestly has made them into strong kids who don’t cling, but are prepared to stand up and tackle life, without hanging behind mom’s apron strings.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Get back on stage! I have nearly zero short term memory, and I am very unreliable. But small roles, committing lines to long term memory with crazy memory tricks and a understanding director has allowed me to get my stage legs back and feel alive again. I had been off a real stage for 15 years. I’ve never been so happy as when I got my theater life back.

17. The commercials about my illness: In the layman’s terms, my brain does not fit into my skull properly. There isn’t enough room. It’s not that I am smarter than most people and have this massive brain – but rather that my skull is a bit too small and so the result is my brain tissue herniates into the brain stem, creating pressure on my nerves. THAT creates amazing physical “stuff” (to be real super technical) and it’s not always fun. I lovingly refer to this as “squished brain syndrome” even though there is no one else out there calling it that. This “stuff,” for me, ranges from debilitating migraines that lay me flat out, unable to get out of bed, pain that radiates from the base of the neck down my spine (think of a stiff neck in the morning and this is what it feels like up and down my back and neck), daily headaches, nausea, balance issues, concentration problems, driving problems (sometimes not able to drive at all) irritability, mood swings, knots up and down the neck, pain and tingling in the shoulders, arms and weakness in the arms and hands, little short term memory, and vision problems. There is a constant pain in my neck and back, and pressure fronts that move through with weather systems change that pain daily. Some days it can take my breath away. Other days, it’s almost like nothing is wrong with me . The inconsistency is really irritating. There is no “cure” – the only thing that can be done is to do surgery where a piece of the skull is removed at the base of the skull to give the brain more room to relax and not be constrained. This is not an easy fix and can be filled with complications and obstacles, as well as not work at all and cause more issues than you began with. I have not personally chose to do the surgery as the odds of it helping me have not outweighed the risk.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Riding on the back of my husband’s motorcycle. I loved doing that with him. I can’t take wearing the helmet and the wind buffering and whipping my head and neck around. It’s just too painful.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: My independence. I have had to ask for more rides than any other time in my life, and that includes when I was a teen and car-less. Asking for help is hard for me. Asking for a ride seems to be one step further and harder yet. I really have to swallow my pride on that one. All my really good friends now simply offer, “Hey, let me pick you up on my way.” I am beyond blessed by that.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: chalk painting little pieces of furniture and wooden organizational pieces. I feels so “Pinteresty!”

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Go on a roller coaster! I can never do that – as it throws my brain around and makes the condition worse not just by far, but includes instantaneous migraines that take my walking and vision away.

22. My illness has taught me: To simply be appreciative for every single day. So often they are half okay and half challenging. I really appreciate the heck out of all days because I know it won’t take much and I will have a fully down day. I feel I need to really use every single day I have that is fabulous to it’s fullest! I don’t want to waste even a single minute of it!

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “Well it must be nice not having to work.” I would give anything to hold a “real job” – so our family could make it. Instead I feel like the reason we don’t. (And why I am constantly trying to find new ways to come up with another few cents I can earn to make sure we do.)

24. But I love it when people: say “You’d never know you had anything wrong with you, there is always a smile on your face.”

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Not to be afraid… it’s not a death sentence, it’s just not curable. It takes time to learn to live with it well, but it really is something you can learn to handle and often no one has any clue theres a thing wrong with you, and really, that’s a very good thing.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: I’m still just me. I’m NOT my illness, even though it fills so many of my days. I am still just the same me I always was and I refuse to let that part of me fade away into the background of it all.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: It was something really simple, but huge for my heart. One day I was at my lowest emotionally, as I was a couple weeks into a really bad spell. My best friend did not even try to come in and visit, but knocked on the door, handed me my favorite Vanilla Chai Latte from our local coffee house, hugged me, and left me to enjoy. My heart was full and I enjoyed sipping that chai for a long while with a good book.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I think it’s important to help people be aware. It’s often easy to make assumptions and not know a whole story. I now personally always give the benefit of the doubt to everyone. You never know what some one is living with that you know nothing about.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Honored. If you made it through all 30 of these it means you care enough to know what it’s like to be in someone’s shoes who has a life no one sees. What you see is what they choose you to see. Know that usually we put on a brave mask and wear it proudly. We want you to know and think of us as the people we are – not the illness that we deal with daily. Know that if we choose to share that journey with you, it is a very private and personal one, and we are assuming you will respect it and us as we deal with it. I hope you understand just a bit more than you did before. Thank you so much for reading! Keepin it real and continuing to “ditch those masks, Christi Campbell ~Dont forget to visit me over at the blogs: Ditching the Masks and  Moms Ft.Wayne, will settle for chocolate

“It is never to late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

chairi supporting-the-fighters