Oct 24, 2010

Combating Cold Feet

For some reason, possibly from years of torturing my feet in ballet, or possibly just another pesky symptom of dysautonomia, I suffer from icy cold, numb feet. A local neurologist I saw deemed it neuropathy, but he did not know why I had it. This is the same neurologist who told me that "autonomic dysfunction is so rare, you couldn't possibly have it." Needless to say I broke up with this neurologist and now my EP recommended I see someone else instead. One of the issues I am hoping a neurologist will adequately address is my feet. They are duds. They feel heavy and numb when I'm walking around and are nearly always cold and bluish even at times when they shouldn't be (after exercise, bundled in wool socks and Uggs, etc). It is bad enough that I have to wear compression stockings everyday, but now I am practically living in my Uggs too. This illness can really hinder a girl's sense of style. I miss my old clothes and dressing up, which only happens on rare occasions nowadays. As far as I know, there is no magic pill to cure cold feet. So I have developed a few drug-free remedies of my own that work for me at home. So if you suffer from cold feet too, listen up my friends.

The first is to purchase an old-fashioned hot water bottle from your local drugstore. They are about five dollars and last forever. I would recommend airing it out outside for a couple of days before the first use if you are sensitive to scents since the smell of a brand-new hot water bottle is akin to the inside of a tire shop. Fill it with the hottest water as you can get out of your tap. Then place it at the foot of your bed either on top of or beneath your feet. I sleep with mine nearly every night and it usually stays warm until the next morning, especially if you put a blanket on top of it. Many people also use electric heating pads and blankets, which also work fine, but I am not a fan because of the electrical currents running through them. According to my EP, electric blankets can actually alter your heart rhythm, so I don't use them anymore.

The second option, my personal favorite, is the foot massage. Of course the foot massage experience is more enjoyable if someone else does it for you, but if there's no one else around, DIY. You will get the same benefits of enhanced blood flow to the area and experience temporarily warmer feet.

My third recommendation is to soak your feet in warm water either with your favorite bubble bath or my personal favorite, epsom salts, which provide some pain relief and actually help facilitate sleep. Epsom salts are affordable, unscented, and are full of magnesium which is good for muscles and nerves.

My last suggestion is to wear wool socks and heavily insulated shoes, boots, or slippers like Uggs. This is the best option if you are out and about or travelling.

So that about covers combating cold feet in the literal sense, but lately I have been suffering from metaphoric cold feet as well. I am apprehensive about possibly re-entering the workforce, wondering if my body will hold up for eight hours a day, or even a couple hours a day. Of course my job search has been limited to desk jobs because standing is out of the question. No waitressing or cashiering jobs for me, which unfortunately seems to be about all that is available in my area. The other issue is, I need to find a job that is within a five minute radius (maximum) of my house. Kind of hard to do when I'm in a largely residential area and the major industry here is retail, which revolves around being able to stand for long periods and lift things. Not to mention, I am qualified for and capable of something different. I hold three bachelors degrees and have five years of work experience in my field. But because I am not able to drive much anymore, most of the jobs I once dreamed of pursuing are out of the question. I am so glad that I graduated on time and with honors, but really, my education hasn't made much difference in my life yet because POTS came along and ruined my shot at becoming a productive member of the workforce.

If I could travel back in time and do it all over again, I would have traveled the world and taken more risks while I was still healthy. Instead I spent my time studying, working, volunteering, and living up to other people's expectations of me. I never really stopped to consider what I wanted. I was so determined to be valedictorian and go to a prestigious university that I sacrificed a lot of fun along the way. That is why, on my good days now, the last thing I want to do is waste the day applying for low-paying jobs I am overqualified for. Instead I try to spend my time enjoying the good days, having whatever little fun I am able to. Life's too short to do anything else.

The big question for many of us is, how will we be able to support ourselves in the future if we are unable to work? This is something that troubles me greatly. I have always been a good money manager, but in order to manage it successfully, there has to be something coming in. Right now I am pursuing non-traditional avenues of income such as work-from-home positions and my own resume-writing business. I believe in order to meet my financial goals in life without working a conventional full-time job, I will have to secure multiple sources of income. I have not yet pursued disability benefits because I am not sure if I have worked enough years to qualify, and I am stubborn, and would really like to at least try working again before I finally resign myself to the fact that maybe I can't work. But who knows, with any luck my body will start cooperating and I will be able to work again. I miss working. A lot. I miss the feeling of accomplishing something big each day. Now the little feats are victories to me: a trip to the grocery store, a decent night's sleep, or a day with little pain. This is my new normal. And I am trying hard to redefine my own personal meaning of success. It is so hard not to compare myself to others who work full-time jobs and contribute positively to society, because that used to be me. I really hope that an employer will give me a chance soon, a chance to at least try working again and see how my body reacts and adapts. The prospect of working again gives me cold feet for sure. But the prospect of never working again gives me even colder feet. Any suggestions on how to squelch these negative, nervous feelings of mine would be greatly appreciated...

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