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The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The realist adjusts the sails.

--William Arthur Ward

GIVEN TO BOUTS OF THE VAPORS

by Sheryl Suko

When I, a GIA-trained Jeweler and Gemologist and owner/operator of Mrs. Gottrocks Fine Jewelry and Gifts, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (or Fibromyalsia) (FM), I remembered a quote by William Arthur Ward (see above). Ever a realist, I found a whole lot of sail adjusting followed in my life. One day I felt like the Queen of my tiny realm, going in five directions at once, and then I was in bed struggling for the energy to just take a shower. It was horrible. In the beginning I thought my life was over. I've learned since then that it isn't over, its just taking in different winds.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are disabling conditions with symptoms which vary from person to person. Most generally they consist of repeated bouts of dizziness, fuzzy vision, insomnia, the inability to concentrate or read, chronic all-over body pain and overwhelming fatigue which is annoying at its best and crippling at its worst. I had never heard of it, but it took over my life when I was 45, and it has defined my life ever since. But I have not allowed it to define me. My story follows, along with some resources I've come across.

[ Letters I've Received ]

To Join Fibromyalsia Email Discussion Group, follow these steps:

    THE CRASH...

After a mid-life career change, which included spending 18 months away from my home and husband to be trained at GIA in California, I opened my own jewelry design studio and worked repairing and designing jewelry. When I realized I would need a larger nest egg to grow in the direction I wanted, I tried branching out to work for another jeweler full-time, but found growing pain, fatigue and "brain fog" making my performance and reliability less than stellar. I remember crying just about every day on the way home, wondering what was happening to me. Even though the jeweler I was working with was very supportive, I realized I was not giving my best so I resigned in defeat - the first time in my life I felt overwhelmed by a job that should have been simple for me - but it was not the last.

I was fortunate to be offered my old job back, so I went back to work as a government contractor full time, while continuing to operate my design studio part-time and to adapt Mrs. Gottrocks to a strong presence on the Interent. It should have been a breeze. It was not. I found myself forgetting things, constantly distracted by the pains and fatigue which were increasing. I had lived with the stress and long hours of that job for many years before changing occupations, but suddenly I was unable to cope with it or do the job well. I found myself yearning for anything which would just let me lay down for a while, not to sleep, which I certainly needed as insomnia had become a big problem, but for rest. I daydreamed about fender benders, broken arms, ANYTHING which would give me the rest I needed so I could catch up with my life. I felt like gravity was working overtime, pulling me down by the shoulders, making every movement weighty and hard.

Irritible Bowl and Colius. I developed Irritible Bowl Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitus, adding to the pains I already had to live around.

High SED Rate. My doctor would do blood work, and my SED rate, which indicates inflammation in the body was jumping from 60 to 200 and back, where normal is a high of 20. They finally gave up looking for what was wrong in frustration.

Repetitive Pains in Muscles and Joints. I complained of "arthritis" and other sharp pains - like someone was following me around with a knitting needle, poking me relentlessly in the same spots, or burning pains which would not go away. Pains which were chronic and distracting. Some nights I just sat, rocking and crying because I was so miserable. I began keeping track of how I felt, using a form, and writing on the back anything that wasn't covered by the form, like if something stressful was going on, or if I did something out of the ordinary - anything to give the doctors information on what was happening to me.

Depression. I was becoming depressed. I was supposed to be the Jack of All Trades AND the Master of Most of Them, but my work performance was not living up to my former reputation. These feelings became so overwhelming, one day at work I just collapsed, and I never returned.

Diagnosis. My doctor finally ran out of things to eliminate - and that's what FM and CFS are, conditions which are left over when everything else is ruled out. I was diagnosed with CFS and FM. I found myself unable to read a book, to design a piece of jewelry, to remember the simplest things, or to be reliable in the workplace either from lack of sleep, pain or fatigue.

Short Attention Span, Insomnia and Extreme Fatigue. My small attention span made it hard for me to watch TV shows and keep up with plot lines. The prescription drugs I needed to take if I were to make it through the day also made me sluggish and incapable of getting out on my own. I became house bound. I had always been your basic Germanic worker bee. Then - nothing! Down for the count!

Panic Attacks and Anxiety Difficulties. I began having panic attacks which often go hand in hand with CFS. My concern for my Mrs. Gottrocks business and my customers was overwhelming. For years I had made my living by my reputation - and suddenly it seemed the only thing I could do was make simple afghans and watch TV. My depression was worsening, and the anxiety made me feel like there was a motor running all the time. I became hypersensitive to sudden motions, light, extremes in temperature. I was miserable.

...AND THE BURN

Take 10 Steps Backwards and Call Me In The Morning. I was forced to quit my contracting job and to close my studio location to recuperate, spending nearly a year in bed and another year slowly regaining some strength and testing the boundaries of my limitations. I joked about being a Type A personality in a Type F body, but it was very hard for someone like me to accept that they have limitations. Before I came down with CFS and FM, I was working a full time job, a part time job, working the Internet and working hard within the growing Women Entrepreneur Movement on the Internet. Thank goodness by the time I got critical the website was practically running itself or I would have had to give that up too.

The Web Becomes My Salvation. The Internet, once just a small aspect of my business, suddenly became a way to keep the dream of Mrs. Gottrocks alive. Since then I have tried many drug and physical therapies, and I am slowly beginning to understand what is practical in both my career and my private life. I miss the contact with the public my storefront offered, and I have not given up on the idea of reopening my design studio in my old neighborhood - provided I can stabilize my condition. I may have to sell Mrs. Gottrocks eventually, and take it even easier than I do.

New Doctors, New Hope. I've been to many doctors, tried endless drugs, and generally have improved to where I can function as long as I take things VERY easy. Of course, my lifestyle is about 1/10th as busy as the average persons, I still can't drive and I'm still fatigued very easily, but I get more sleep now than I used to and I have a great doctor now who is determined to find a cure. I am happy to try the therapies he recommends, and each month we get closer to making me feel more human.

New Life. I have gone through the hell of applying for Social Security Disability, which is hard for someone who is not used to saying "I Can't." Now that it is approved, I may find someone to take over Mrs. Gottrocks and concentrate on the pure artistic side of creating and making jewelry. I am learning to paint, and really enjoying it, in case the pain of working on the wax bench or jeweler's bench never fades. Luckily many of my designs can work as either jewelry or paintings.

Mrs. Gottrocks and the Future. Mrs. Gottrocks lives on the Internet thanks to a phone, a laptop and automated catalog which requires little work on my part. I have to constantly remind myself that tomorrow might be a hard day, and not to start something I can't easily finish. Like the father says in the movie Contact - little steps, little steps. Little steps are hard for me. I'm used to leaping. For the last few years, some days I just had to get help. Now, the site is scaled down to where it requires only minor input from me, and my husband takes care of the rest.

DIAGNOSES AND TREATMENTS

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnoses are increasing in the United States - probably as much from our increased understanding as an increase in new cases. I think of when Southern women such as myself were thought to be "weak natured," "delicate" or "given to bouts of the vapors" (my personal favorite). I think this condition has been with us a long long time. I'm just glad I have it in an age when there are treatments and research. Not enough, mind you - ask four doctors what causes Fibromyalgia and you'll get four different answers. But at least women such as myself aren't just ignored or trivialized any longer. We're understood to have a very real condition by enough of the medical world to make us realize we aren't weak or crazy - there is a real medical problem. I have made it from the bed to the chair, and from the chair to a modest amount of activity. I can sometimes read a book now, I can go shopping, even if it means bringing along my wheelchair so when I tire I can sit down immediately. I crash and burn occasionally after an increase in activity - finding myself in bed and useless - but I am still learning what is too much and just the effort of trying to get back to a consistent lifestyle makes it worth the challenge. The drugs I am using are more effective, and the side effects less incapacitating, although some still do contribute to the general brain fog I'm usually under. I am, slowly, getting back to being me, albeit a somewhat slower version.

ADJUSTING THE SAILS

There may come a day when I have to give in and admit that I can never handle the business of a storefront or even work outside the home. I may never be able to be consistently artistic in the jewelry field - I may end up painting, or pursuing some other creative endeavor on only a hobby level. But for now I'm just happy to know I have improved, and new research is yielding new drug therapies every day. For now, and hopefully for a long time, the dream of Mrs. Gottrocks Fine Jewelry and Gifts lives on the web at www.gottrocks.com. My painting skills are improving, and my ability to amuse myself when I am having a bad day is improving. I have every hope that ten years from now I'll be reminded of "that time when you were sick at home" and this will all be a fading memory. Maybe not.

I've been told I will probably never be able to be the Master Juggler I was before. But that's OK. I believe in time I can adjust my sails and lean towards a life equally satisfying.I invite anyone who needs more information on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and my battle to pursue a career in spite of them to contact me at bcsales@comcast.net. Please put "Fibromyalgia Comment" in your subject line so I don't mistake your Email for spam.


Fibromyalgia is sometimes misspelled as Fibromyalsia. This text with the word Fibromyalsia is here for the search engines to find to help people searching for information on Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia to find. I am also adding chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, FM and Fibramyalsia and Fibramyalgia to also assist the search engines.

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