Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fear of Forty


Last week I officially crested the top of that middle-age hill and am now on the other side. The stress and anxiety I felt during the last weeks of my 30's had me tied up in knots. Turning 40 was such a daunting prospect, especially considering where my life's at, that all I wanted to do was cry. And a few times I did. Like the date on my birth certificate swirled up all the anger and frustration over how little control I have over my life. Then it happened. I turned 40.

Now I'm laughing, because turning 40 is so much worse than being 40! 40 is, actually, glorious. Like the date on my birth certificate allowed me to accept everything about my life, and stop being mad at it. It helps immensely that I'm now getting a string of days between flares, and the flare that just ended yesterday didn't present itself with its usual buckets of anger. Sure I zoned out on yet one more TV series as I distracted my awakening brain with epic amounts of Scorpion Solitaire. What else is a person supposed to do when they're too fatigued to function? But I didn't get mad about the fact that three days of my life are just...gone. 

I just was. Where did this acceptance come from? Where did the anger that's consumed me for months just up and go? My husband reminded me this is how it happens, how I slowly start to stabilize and regain my footing. Funny, because I forgot. I didn't remember what it was like to feel a positive emotion, let alone not dissolve into puddles of anger anytime I felt anything. Whatever this is inside me they call fibro, it's a Beast. And it took the Beast releasing a little of its stronghold for me to remember how complex, dark, and all-consuming the Beast truly is. 

And also for me to remember what a blessed gift acceptance is. For if I accept my reality and work with it, not rail against it, I actually make progress. Eventually that progress is measurable, and I can look behind me and see some distance between me and the Beast's prison. Don't get me wrong, the Beast is still walking beside me, trying to take a swipe out of me anytime it feels like it, but I no longer live in its world. The Beast is living in mine. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah       

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Different Me

This week the flare hit so hard I didn't know what was happening to me. All I could feel was more anguish and desolation than I could bear. The why's of life started swirling around my mind again, their utter uselessness distracting me with the unfairness of it all. I seethed hatred and anger at my life, the consequences of my existence, and mostly the prison my health has left me in. That was Monday and Tuesday. Miraculously on Tuesday night I slept, which was but a pipe dream the two nights before. On Wednesday I woke up and felt, dare I say it...human? Every inch of my body didn't hurt and I didn't want to hurl myself off the nearest bridge. Victory!

That's when I realized I'm getting better. See that flare state I just described above was my continuous reality for months...and months...and months. I've known for a few weeks now I was stabilizing, that all my juicing and resting and exercising was starting to right the broken-down vessel that is my ship. But I didn't realize how much I'd improved until I was thrust back into the netherworld of constant and pervasive fibromyalgia. 

So slowly I turn my sights forward. Gently I can start to reclaim the small parts of myself I had to bury deep inside to survive my last relapse. But my natural tendency is to race full-speed ahead to replace everything I lost. Quickly, like the less time my life is missing from my life, the more I can deny it was ever gone. But I built my house on sand before. Sure I may have physically managed my fibromyalgia, but inside I was still broken and flogging myself for allowing such a predicament in the first place. I was in so much emotional pain when I embarked on my fitness journey in 2013, all I could do was shove it all aside, plaster a smile on my face, and pretend it was real.

Somehow I have to figure out a way to do better this time. A way to stop pretending and make it real. Lasting and authentic. I've been given an 86th chance. So many patients never figure out a way to improve their symptoms so they can improve their lives. I have. But my greed and impatience in wanting my "healthy" life back fooled me into believing I could just push my way into it. I can't. I'm a different me, something I've accepted in the past but its never really stuck. But it's really about time it stuck.

Thanks for joining,
Leah         

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Perspective of Hope

I know a woman whose fourteen-year-old son is dying of cancer. He was diagnosed at age eleven and has fought an insane battle, but isn't winning the final round. Of course it goes without saying that the impact on the entire family has been utterly devastating. His mother is a gifted writer who provides incredible insight into the reality of their nightmare, and she recently wrote a post that utterly moved me. It was about the changing stages of hope. Four of them, to be precise, coinciding with the advancement of her son's cancer. It started with the natural hope that a person so young would beat the disease and sail into adulthood to live a full and rewarding life. But by the time she reached the fourth stage, it was all about hope for courage. More precisely, the courage to watch her child die.

Needless to say I was incredibly humbled. And ashamed. See the last six months have been living hell for me. I got really sick again and had to quit my job. I didn't realize how sick I actually was, however, until I quit that job and tried to resume my normal housewifely duties. That's when I fell flat on my face. I went through my own grieving process, which mostly consisted of anger and hating myself for being so sick it totally screwed up my life. When I was at my worst I even prayed for my own death, and raged at God for sparing my life when I had those two strokes six years ago. It would have been such a natural way to go, and would have saved me years of suffering...

I bet my friend's son would rather live every day of his life as a double-stroke, four-pancreas-attack, CFS/ME, and fibromyalgia survivor than die in his early teens of cancer. While I don't subscribe to the belief that someone else's problems invalidate mine, reading his mom's post was an incredible dose of perspective. I've been given the gift of life. A sick life, a life with a lot of concessions and heartache and sacrifices and surprises. A misunderstood life outsiders judge very harshly. And a life that really flippin' hurts. But the thing about life is it's not final. It's fluid and can change. If observing this family's experience has taught me anything, it's what a fool I was to wish away my life. For no matter what depths of despair I may sink to, there are probably quite a few people out there who would gladly take my living hell.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Luxury of Sick

I've spent the last two week laying around doing nothing. I shouldn't consider it nothing, considering I'm desperately trying to rebuild my health. But instead of saying, "I've spent the last two weeks laying around healing," I fault myself for such a monumental lack of productivity. I feel guilty for not doing the laundry or putting on makeup or going to the grocery store-- things a normal woman my age should do as an afterthought in her thriving, busy life. Yet when I do venture into the land of normal, those simple activities comprise my entire day and usurp all my energy. As I watch my muscles turn to mush and tummy fat muffin-top over my jeans, I wonder if I'll ever be able to return to the gym. And for the love of all things holy, I pray I'll someday gain enough confidence to even glance at the book I bothered to write, let alone try and sell it.

Rebuilding from the splatter of hitting bottom is hard. It wasn't until I accepted, again, that this illness is in control right now, and stopped flipping out about how bad it sucks, that I was even able to stop my decline. It's a daily battle, to be kind to myself, to forgive myself for being sick, to accept the limitations placed on my life. And to remember I've been far worse off before, and it's gonna take some time to improve, but I will eventually get my fibromyalgia managed again. I just don't know when.

Patience is a wicked virtue. Not one I was given in my basket of traits, via either nature or nurture. I'm a driven, competitive, type-A, bossy achiever. When life pushes me, I push back harder. But this does not work with fibromyalgia. I can't "mind over matter" or "action breeds progress" my way out of this one, and Lord knows I've tried! I do know of people who have managed to find peace and happiness while so sick they can barely function. I, my friends, am not one of them. I've tried to be. At times I have been. Right now I'm actually succeeding. But once the pain lifts, and the simple act of showering doesn't wipe me out for three hours, or I wake up with a speck of hope or optimism in my heart, I start racing to the finish line. Well not this time. I'm working hard for every ounce of health I can find, and unwilling to give it away because I want more. No, this time I'm building myself up slowly, gently, generously. I'm respecting where I am, where I've been, and where I want to go. And resting firm in the knowledge that I only begin to heal after I give myself the luxury of being sick.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Friday, June 10, 2016

Do Cocoons Hurt?

I always assumed the process of turning from a caterpillar into a butterfly wasn't a painful one. Sure, it seemed like a lot of work to spin that silken cocoon to wrap up in, and getting out seemed a bit tricky, but I never gave much thought to what actually happens inside there. I guess I thought it was a womb-like transformation-- where awareness doesn't exist and growth just happens. Turns out I was wrong. Inside the chrysalis the caterpillar digests itself by releasing enzymes to dissolve its own tissues. Then a group of surviving cells rearrange into a butterfly. Ouch. As a person whose own pancreas has tried to digest itself four times (pancreatitis), I only pray some opiates are mixed in with those enzymes to dull the poor caterpillar's agony.

Right now I'm picking myself up from my biggest fall in five years. It's been three months since I last blogged. In that amount of time I've been to hell and am hopefully halfway back again. Again. But every time I break there's a little bit less of me to put back together. My fissures are more obvious, missing pieces more pronounced. And the fresh memory of pain and anguish scathed so deeply into my psyche, I wonder how I was ever able to soothe the raw wounds in the past.

Half my battle was swallowing the bitter pill of acceptance. It took me months to realize I worked too long, my immune system got hit too hard, and I was diving into the unlivable hell of viral CFS/ME again. Too sick to exercise, but still chugging my veggie juice, I finally had to accept that holistic may keep my health from spiraling out, but once my ship has sunk it's not enough to tow me to shore. For that I need a doctor.

After a change in sleep meds and an increase in my anti-viral dose, I can see a fuzzy light at the end of the tunnel. But the woman peering out from inside the cocoon isn't the same woman who went in. And I don't know if I ever will be again. The darkness that filled the void of my soul isn't entirely gone. It almost seems to be a necessary part of me now. A part I want to hang on to. Reminding me of how much it hurts, how bad it can get, and if I am ever lucky enough to stabilize my health ever again, how very much I stand to lose.

Thanks for joining,
Leah           

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad

On Monday I took my dogs on a mile-and-a-half walk around the neighborhood. Our morning walk is the final grasp on daily exercise I haven't totally dropped yet, and I rely on it greatly to create normalcy in my life. A life that is by all other accounts, sliding off the rails. Monday's walk itself was uneventfully wonderful, until I stepped off the curb to return home, and rolled my right ankle. Later that day I woefully reported to a friend, "I twisted my ankle and it's mildly swollen and minorly sore--and I really need this to get better by tomorrow." Full of determination to not let yet one more lame-ass problem screw up my life, I iced it, took Advil, and wrapped it up in an Ace bandage. By Wednesday the bruise was still quite pronounced, but my range of motion was pretty much fine. 

But on Wednesday between my flare and med change, and the fact that I hadn't slept for two nights, I woke up crying. Emotionally raw and too sensitive to exist with the world, I proceeded with my obligations as best as I could. Except for on Wednesday when I was returning from my walk, a woman almost ran me over in the crosswalk. Twice. So as I yielded the right-of-way, I yelled at the bitch. Dirty words, you bet your sweet ass. Then the man behind her yelled at me for yelling at her. ARE YOU FLIPPIN' KIDDIN' ME????? So I flipped him off and burst into tears. I wanted to scream, "Do you want to kill me too?" but was too overwhelmed with the complete mess of a human being I had devolved into. So I walked home sobbing, past the mailman I see every day, and proceeded to wail like a baby for the next three hours. I mean, what on earth is this--a world of horrible people I'm just supposed to exist in, and have I become one of them? I finally got a grip and decided I wasn't allowed the luxury of having emotions at this time in my life, and tried my damnedest to make myself numb. What a peach my husband had to come home to last night. 

So today I'm gun-shy about taking the same walk I've taken every day since I bought my Yorkie ten years ago. I don't want to get killed and don't trust my reactions toward the people who may try, or defend those who do. But I'm trying to be the tough chick who pulled herself from the depths by taking no excuses, so on my walk we go. Or more precisely, we try. Because this time, in my paranoid preoccupation with not getting hit by dangerous drivers, I step off the curb and into a pothole--and splay face-first into the middle of the street. My dogs do, too. Luckily my guardian angel preoccupied the greater Los Angeles driving-brigade until I was able to collect myself, my children, my belongings, and hobble over to the curb. And wouldn't you know it, I rolled the other ankle. So here I sit with a bloody knee, ice on my left ankle, scrapes on my elbows, and puppies who are freaked out but fine. Thank God. Wondering why the hell I'm back in 2013 again. I mean, I barely survived it once. What on earth makes anyone think I can survive it again?

Thanks for joining,
Leah