Monday, September 29, 2014

Fear Of Engagement

Last weekend I ran into a former coworker at the mall. She relocated from San Francisco to the L.A. area and is working for our previous employer again. It was so wonderful to see a friendly face from my past! Memories of a time when I had a paycheck, friends, and somewhere to be haunted me for the next few days. I realized a large part of me missed my life as a department store makeup girl. I didn't miss working weekends and holidays, standing on my feet for eight hours, or dealing with an often difficult general public. But I do miss having a professional identity and a way to make friends. After not getting a paycheck, of course. 

In the four years since I've worked I've become a recluse. For a long time after my two strokes my brain was fried. Darn near every public encounter left me either confused or in tears. I took a couple classes at the community college. That really helped pull me out of my shell. Engaging with the world, working on a deadline and cultivating relationships forced me to move forward in life. Going back to the gym even exercised my public encounter muscles. But I'm still a recluse, and have to admit I've developed a bit of social awkwardness. So when I got my friend's text, asking if I would ever consider returning to my former profession, I didn't know what to say. Lord knows I need the money. But, like everything else in my life, it all comes back to my health. I've got this outrageously high-maintenance lifestyle in place to manage my Fibro. It takes up a significant amount of my time and without it I get sick again.

So I talked to my friend and inquired about freelance makeup artistry. Then I hung up and freaked out. What am I thinking? I can't do retail! I'm not trying to go back to living on narcotics and tears of pain! I'm a writer now! Albeit unpaid, but I have to finish my book before I can sell it. Am I only considering this opportunity because it's familiar and won't challenge my fear of the unknown? Or do I need to shut my ego up and realize this is this a great way to make ends meet while pursuing my passion? But I haven't even looked into writing employment. Why would I just go backward without trying to move forward first? And the questions keep coming. The doubt and fear and uncertainty scare the dickens out of me. In an all together different way I'm facing a familiar cliff, and just don't know if I should jump.

Thanks for joining,
Leah  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Cost

On Friday I skipped the gym for absolutely no reason whatsoever, other than I didn't feel like going. It's the first time I've done that since I started working out six months ago. Naturally, I proceeded to flog myself over my own lack of discipline. Within an hour I became convinced I was going to gain all the weight back I worked so hard to lose. When Shingles pain started throbbing in my face a few hours later, I realized I was actually in a pretty bad flare. That made me remember I've been in a horrible suppressed immune system flare for months now. In fact, I've pretty much been rolling from one flare to another with a mere couple days in between. My weakened state easily overexerts when I'm exercising, and I've taken to injuring some random tendon or ligament or another every time I workout. No wonder I didn't want to go to the gym!

Moving to California knocked the management of my Fibro back to pre-juicing days. A place in time where I couldn't count on myself for jack squat, avoided the nitty gritty of life because I just couldn't cope with reality, and most certainly didn't wake up even close to the same person every morning. I was one sick girl who was rapidly losing the will to keep fighting. This marvelous refresher in Fibro 101 reminded me how hard this illness is to live with, and how difficult it's been to get my life back. The experience helped me find some much-needed compassion my recent flourish of anger forgot was so necessary for survival.

I'm a driven, determined woman on a quest to live a quality life, accomplish my dreams and make a difference. I also happen to share my body with a virus that damaged my central nervous system, hijacked my immune system and generally obliterated my entire life. While said virus won't kill me, it ain't goin' anywhere. We've had to learn to live together, Fibro and I, seeing as we share the same host. While we haven't made peace, per se, I've found a way to keep going by becoming as healthy as I possibly can. But the truth of the matter is sometimes those efforts cost a really painful price.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Desperately Seeking Motivation

Hindsight is so golden. I'm sitting here desperately trying to regain the quality of life I worked so hard to achieve in Arizona. It's not working. I'm back to falling asleep after 2 AM and getting up at 11, keep injuring myself at the gym, and am so damn bitchy I'd do anything to get away from me! My discipline is sorely lacking and anger is back to defining the way I spend my days. Sigh. I've already danced this tango, and almost didn't survive it once! It was so much work, but I actually got to a place of ownership in my life, and felt like I had a modicum of control over my circumstances. And then I had to go and move back to California.

Despite the raging heatwave scorching the Southland, and my broken air conditioner, I don't regret the choice to relocate. I just don't know why everything had to go so seriously wrong for months on end. When I start recanting the litany of ills we've endured; movers not showing up, car accidents, broken appliances, flooded dining rooms, a sick dog, termites...and the list goes on and on...people tend to laugh at the absurdity. I wish I was laughing. Any one of those complications are stressful and time consuming. But everything strung together in a consecutive string knocked this Fibro patient over here on her ass. 

I don't know how long it's going to take me to regain my lost ground. When I wake up in the morning I'm mad. Then I remember I used to get up happy and full of purpose, which makes me feel desperate and abandoned. The only good thing is I'm reaching the end of my victim-complaining rope. Endlessly kvetching about my reality is getting old. I want to move forward! I want to contribute to the world's health and well-being, not gnash my teeth and pull my hair because life turned out a lot harder than I ever in a million years imagined possible. I want to succeed and accomplish and inspire our collective consciousness. I want to have a positive impact on my broken, hurting patient population. I want to help the world to understand what living with Fibromyalgia is like, and help Fibromyalgia patients survive the way this horrible illness can wreck a life. I want to do all this and so much more! Maybe simply writing it down, and making myself accountable, can be the first step?

Thanks for joining,
Leah  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nothing To Give

My interpersonal relationships have been struggling tremendously since I moved back to my hometown. For two and a half months I've been vacillating between fulfilling expectations and stewing in resentment. The more expectations I meet, the more demands seem to come my way. I knew full well I couldn't keep going at that pace, but didn't know how to relieve myself of the normal, everyday, healthy-human burden of reciprocal relationships. Ahhhh, this is why I don't have friends. I'm not capable of reciprocal relationships! I barely have enough to take care of myself and my husband. Being there for other people isn't even in my lexicon. 

I suppose I should sit everyone down and deliver a dissertation on how my life is different than theirs. Explain that while they are merrily pursuing that inalienable American right called The Pursuit of Happiness, I'm barely hanging on to mere survival. It seems more like seeking approval, though. Laying out my trials and tribulations, listening to bad advice that only makes the advice-giver feel better, inviting judgment of my lifestyle, or strategies on how I can change my circumstances. None of which take into consideration I am a chronic illness patient. And really, Miss Jaded & Bitter over here doesn't expect it to make any difference, so why put myself through the torture?

I'm defeated and broken. Spent and exhausted. Weary to the bone. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. And even more sick and tired of pretending life is okay, when it so profoundly isn't. I can't do it anymore. For whatever reason my journey in life is a tremendous exercise in struggle. So much trauma for so long has severely limited my ability to engage in the experience of living. My life can still be good. I can still achieve success and experience joy just like everyone else. But unlike everyone else I can't do it towing five other people behind me. This lone wolf simply won't survive a pack.

Thanks for joining,
Leah    

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Was Looking For Health

August 2014

I got sick in 2005, when I was in the best shape of my life. The previous Thanksgiving I suffered from a near-fatal pancreas attack. My inner party-girl took a backseat as I started exercising and learning about nutrition. It was a short-lived effort. Over the course of the next six years medications, inactivity, pain, fatigue, panic and anguish took a terrible tole on my physical appearance. But it was nothing compared to what I felt like on the inside. Now I know the inner workings of health are written all over a person's exterior. But back then I was quickly descending into a prison I couldn't escape, the endless nightmare of constant and pervasive sickness. My doctors called it Viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I called it sheer, unadulterated hell.

March 2011

In 2011 I was 34 years-old, and could hardly hobble down a flight of stairs. I was in so much pain gravity felt like it was crushing my organs. I struggled around with limbs so heavy, it felt like they were injected with lead. My muscles crackled with snaking whips of ripping pain. My mental state was as broken as my body. I simply didn't want to live. It was too hard, hurt too bad. And there was no helping me, the double stroke-survivor who cowered under the shield of her Fibromyalgia diagnosis. Modern medicine had no answers for me. I couldn't function in society, engage in activity or relate to the world in any way. The only thing I could do was be sick. 

From this broken and dejected low I rebuilt my health one painstaking step at a time. There isn't any one plan I followed, or guru I assigned blanket trust. Just one woman, determined not to keep getting so sick I almost died, set out to make sense of the health sham perpetuated by the modern American lifestyle. I unlearned everything I knew about exercise and nutrition. I relearned how to live in healthy harmony with my body. My relationship with food evolved from one of dependence and indulgence to something that helps manage my illness. Exercise used to not only cause me horrible pain, it would make me sick. Now it's my favorite immune booster and narcotic in one. It was a very hard road getting here. But today I feel so much better it's like crushed-by-gravity girl is floating on the fluffy cloud of a wonderful dream. People keep telling me I've lost a lot of weight. Undoubtedly, I have. But that was never the focus. I went on a quest looking for heath. On that path I reclaimed my life.

Thanks for joining,
Leah    

Monday, August 25, 2014

If I Choose

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”  ~Jose N. Harris
I heard Samuel L. Jackson's wife once answered a question about the secret to the success of her forty year marriage with "amnesia." Apparently she got a lot of flack for her frankness. Personally, I think she's brilliant. So right on the money I had to tell my husband of thirteen years. We laughed, and wholeheartedly agreed with Mrs. Jackson. Of course other elements must be present for a long-term relationship to sustain, such as love, compatibility, respect and a desire to be there. But sometimes you just gotta forget the past. It won't ever change, and is so flippin' awful if the past must remain the present, a person can't endure. That is where this Monday finds me.     

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. It has to be. The utter futility of spending one more moment embroiled in the bitter past consumes me with such fervor I just can't do it anymore. I'm so sick of crying the same tired anthems! The same struggles over the same issues involving the same people and everyone's tried-and-true same behavior dysfunctions, most pointedly mine. Well stop the world, I want to get off. Every moment of the past thirty-eight years has brought me to right now. A state of complete rejection of what is. Not for acceptances sake, but for future sake. I can't take what is into tomorrow. Hell, I can't even take it into this afternoon! I must be free from the past that burdens itself upon me.

Every darn action I subconsciously take comes from a broken and battered soul. My reactions, capabilities, coping skills, efforts and intentions are all tinged by the hurt from the past. Every breath I take floods lungs reeking of fear and trepidation with the stale air of a present that won't ever change. But it can change, in this moment, if I choose. I can be free from the woman who came before me, the one who allowed anger and unfairness to rule the roost. If I choose. I can allow the snakeskin of contention to shed itself from my slithery underbelly. I can respond to life with gratitude and compassion. I can allow revolution to rage inside me, a lotus to bloom where my clenched heart used to reside. I've been blessed with many gifts in this life, some the result of intense hardship. What I do next is what I choose.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 18, 2014

Divorcing Expectation

This Monday finds me where most Mondays find me...exhausted, worn out, spent, sick, overwhelmed and all together disgruntled. Fortunately, I've hit my max. I'm so sick of being in this state of perpetual victim-hood. It's like life is just something that continues to happen to me, turning me into nothing more than a ping-pong ball bouncing from reaction to reaction. All the mental coaching in the world isn't flipping the switch this time. Purpose, positivity, resolution, all very lost concepts my sick soul can't seem to grasp. And then I realized that is precisely why. My soul is sick. This goes so far beyond my physical ailments. This is me at my essence, at my core. I'm lost.

Somewhere along the way I started seeking approval again. In my world, that's the quickest slide down the rabbit hole. For I don't know one single person, save for my husband who has been by my side watching the entire thing unfold, who approves of my life. After exposing myself, during one of my weakest lows in recent history, to the endless expectations, opinions, judgments and criticisms of how I should be living differently, I'm a woman about ready to pull her hair out. Yank out my fingernails with pliers. Anything to distract myself from the bevy of disapproval I've opened myself up to, and for some sick reason, taken as truth.

I'm an island into myself. My happiness and success is my responsibility. Nobody else is going to fix my life, tell me it's okay, guide me down the path of least resistance. It's all on me, which can be a very overwhelming and isolating feeling, if that's how one decides to perceive it. The anger over such a harsh reality put me in one hell of a tailspin for a long, long time. But in the midst of all this tumultuous living I forgot I wasn't alone. I forgot my faith in God offers me the unconditional love and support of a mother, father, best friend and supreme confidant, all in one. I forgot I don't have to bear the burden of my trials alone. It's still my job, to find a way to live successfully given all my limitations, but I have not been abandoned. I am never alone. 

I must reframe my own expectations, while at the same time releasing the need for approval from others. I will never live up to what the world collectively wants from me. Many people spend their entire lives trying, running against time, racing to satiate the opposing interests in their life. It's certainly how I lived before I got sick, and still after all these years the default behavior I revert to when times are toughest. But I just can't do it anymore. Simply trying makes me a very sick woman. It's just the way it is. So with a lightness in my spirit I didn't have when I sat down to pen this revelation, I'm divorcing the controlling, passive-aggressive, harsh and unrelenting presumption others place on me. If everyone else wants to spend their life in that cesspool of disappointment, go for it. But as for me, I'm done. It's a beautiful day out, and I've got a life to try and figure out how to live. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah      

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dust Settles

Thank the good Lord in heaven, I'm finally coming down off my reign of crazy. Even if the nasty septic tank of circumstances I find myself sitting in makes me want to run right back into insanity's open arms just for a distraction. The biggest lesson I can glean from all of this mayhem is that I can't do mayhem! Unfortunately, most people don't get to decide when, where and what to be stressed about in life. It's kind of something that just happens, a biological reaction to too much uncertainty or too heavy of a demand. Who are those people that walk through life's storms with a smile of assurance radiating from deep within their soul? How did they get that way? Can I ever be like that, or am I destined to be the reactionary, defensive, self-destructive spirit I've always been? Inquiring minds want to know!

I'm learning so much about myself it's not even funny. While I've experienced one giant, rolling flare after another, I've also never been so healthy. Since I got sick, that is. Over the last year I've made an intense investment in myself and my health. I now know all that time exercising and juicing, gulping apple cider vinegar and cooking all my own unprocessed food without chemicals, along with a bevy of other neurotic health-nut habits, are why I'm still standing today. See, so many things went wrong over the last two months, in years past any one of them would've done me in and sent me to bed for a week. Life is nothing if not a double-edged sword, however, because not being sequestered in a dark room with no human contact allowed Miss Type A to keep pushing herself. And push to the brink I did.

Now it's time to center, regroup, claim my balance. If I think about everything I have to do to get my life back to a functional level, I freak out. It's too much! So I only think about the one or two things I can realistically accomplish that day, and promise myself the rest will be waiting for me tomorrow. Surprise, surprise, the rest always is. Perhaps my biggest hurdle right now is the all-consuming negativity my mind seems intent on stewing in. So I'm going back to basics, the same way I pulled myself from the edge of destruction last year. Enter good ol' fashioned avoidance! Let's just say I'm washing the dishes, and I start to get mad at the man who cut me off and made me miss my exit earlier that day. Within a matter of minutes I could be sobbing in a puddle on the floor, and cursing the woman who almost ran me over in the crosswalk, along with the dishwasher repairman who made my kitchen sink spring a leak and flood my dining room. And we haven't even gotten to the people I actually know yet! The only way to not give my life away to the unsavory actions of others is to acknowledge my anger is, if not irrational, totally over-inflated. Then ignore it, and move on to something that either makes me happy or demands so much concentration it's all I can do. Because really, at the end of the day, is an aggressive driver or sloppy repairman worth the cost of me?

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Lost My Laundry Card

The second I noticed it missing my blood surged with panic. I began feverishly roving my eyes around the apartment. As I searched through the melee of my halfway-unpacked home, the instinct of survival known as flight or flight took over. My heartbeat thundered in my ears. Each purposeful step of my foot splashed puddles of trepidation in my wake. "Where is my laundry card?" I cried in a panic. While retracing my steps back to the laundry room, my mind raced with thoughts of the consequences of my negligence. I had $5 on that card, and it’ll take another $5 to replace the card itself. Why don’t I just take a $10 bill and throw it out the window, or set it on fire for my own amusement? How could I be so careless? Do you know how many things can go wrong when a person’s not paying attention? I can’t afford to be so frivolous!

And then I got a grip. I took five deep breaths and forced myself to stop anxiously looking everywhere the eye could see. After about five more minutes of ignoring my better judgment I decided to listen to myself. As my inner crack-head calmed down, the pensive frown on my face relaxed, knot in my stomach untied and heartbeat slowed to normal. I’d given up on my hunt, and was instead far more concerned with the absurdly fragile state of my parasympathetic nervous system. Why on earth did I get so bent out of shape over a lost laundry card? For crying out loud, it’ll either turn up, or it won’t. What good does freaking out actually accomplish, besides making me sick and mentally unstable? My anger at life’s unfairness flared when I realized the move from hell, followed by more calamity than most people see in ten years, left me so reactionary and damaged that misplacing my laundry card was enough to torpedo me into panic-survival mode.

This is the brittle state I’m left in to go rebuild my life. Ironically, in the five times I’ve moved since I got sick nine years ago, this one physically affected me the least. But with far more to do than time to do it, a very time-consuming regiment of diet and exercise to keep my symptoms at bay, and more unforeseeable problems springing to emergency status every other day or so, I’m spent. Beat down. Woman on the verge. Which is why it’s a wonderful thing my perpetually peeled-back eye unearthed the almighty missing laundry card a few short hours later. There it was, lying in the bathtub like it belonged there or something. Wow. Isn't it such a great thing I listened to my better judgment and decided to skip the worry?

Thanks for joining,
Leah           

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Girl Lost

I don't know how to pick up the pieces of my life and start over. All I know is I'm crying every day. Feeling hopeless, lost, and so much anger I can't even see straight. There's so much to do I don't know where to start. We're out of toothpaste, for crying out loud, but have I gone to the store to get more? I'm over halfway done writing a book I can't fathom finishing because my head is such a jumble of chaos. Exercising, juicing, pacing, releasing stress and embracing the positive, those all seem like relics from another lifetime, another person's life. I worked so hard to create an existence for myself in Arizona I could be successful at. Now I live in a place where it's too expensive for me to not work, I have a bevy of rekindled personal relationships to disappoint, and everything I try to do makes me feel like a colossal failure.

Boy, I really need to go watch that Transformation documentary on Werner Erhard that changed my life last summer. Clearly I've lost my grip on the mere concept of acceptance and moving forward in life, not looking back and trading the precious present to stew in the cesspool of a hurtful past. This is what happens when I get stuck on the reactive living train. Suddenly life becomes about what happens to me, not about what I make happen. Then it's a real quick slide into the mire of perpetual victimhood. It's pathetic. It's also my default, the mindset I lived with for so many years. Because honestly, when a person gets sick, life becomes about survival and reacting to what happens. It's the most out of control I ever felt in my entire life, and I absolutely hated it. Hate it.

Is there enough strength buried deep inside me to rebuild my destroyed psyche? All I feel is so much yuck, gobbling up my health, my stability, my future, any hope of having a life. But I want my future! I want the future I planned. The one where I get my book published, change the face of Fibromyalgia awareness in this country, and actually do something to improve the world I live in. Right now I feel so far away from that woman, the one who thought she could impact change, that it's like I never even knew her at all.

Thanks for joining,
Leah