Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Flare Of My Dreams

I've been doing so well lately I was starting to wonder if I still had Fibromyalgia. Then I woke up this morning. My eyelids were heavy, head ached, and I felt like I was trudging through quicksand. My determination to overcome this horrible illness is so tunnel-visioned I managed to push myself all the way to the gym. Once I started my workout I knew this was more than just a mild fluctuation in my immune function, the main symptom I seem to be left with these days. Regardless, I made it through my workout only somewhat annoyed my diminished cardio-endurance had me huffing and puffing with nary a sweat bead rolling down my forehead. On the way home I started feeling worse. The familiar flu-like symptoms I spent years at the mercy of descended around me like a blanket, snuffing out any post-workout endorphin-glow I might have managed to achieve. Now I sit here feeling so awful I'm trying not to sink into a PTSD fit of "screw my life" despair.

Because really, as bad as I feel today, this is NOTHING compared to the disease that disabled me. A mere 2 on the 1-10 symptom-scale of impairment. What I would've severed my right arm to feel like when I was at my sickest. Back then I was in so much pain simply driving to the gym was a pipe-dream. Today I dead-lifted 70 lbs. before coming home to feel sorry for myself. In the midst of my aching face and body chills I'm outrageously grateful I don't live like this every day anymore. It's also been a harsh reminder as to why Fibromyalgia decimated, obliterated, and annihilated my entire life. This is unbelievably miserable, and I'm not even in pain! 

I somehow seem to have found my way to the other side of this disease. As I actively try to maintain my new-found health I'm also very busy trying to put my life back together. It's an exhaustive task, but one I never thought I'd have the opportunity to embark upon. Days like today make me take a pause from my determination to prevail, and recognize how awful being chronically ill truly is. It doesn't just make you feel bad. It wiggles and worms into every nook and cranny of a person's existence until there are so many damn holes, life collapses. Observing this phenomena through the rearview of my life's trajectory makes me more determined than ever to conquer this bitch and press on. As soon as I'm over this flare, of course.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

#fibromyalgia #flare #fibro #fibroflare #chronicillness #chronicpain 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nourishment Is Not A Fad

As a child growing up in middle-class America I believed nutritional information, that little box with the breakdown of calories, fat, carbs and sugar on the back of packaged food, was nutrition itself. By the time I was in high school the calorie-obsessed '80s had given way to the fat-obsessed '90s. So basically I believed nutrition consisted of grams of fat, and little else. How was anyone to know polite society wouldn't truly grasp the real nuts and bolts of nutrition until the Atkins-obsessed '00s taught us about the evils of carbs? What freedom! Everyone gleefully chucked their white pasta and fat-free Wonder bread for bacon-wrapped fried cheese and steak.

It took me many years to unlearn the bullshit passed off as nutritional knowledge in the good ol' U.S. of A. It took me even longer to finally source what nutrition actually is. Nourishment. I no longer give a rats woo-ha about calories, fat, carbs, sugar or food-guide pyramids. In fact, I rarely eat food that even comes in a package to put a label on. But when I do, the FDA's nutritional information chart is the last thing I look at. Instead I focus on the ingredients. My aim is to eat as little processed, refined, chemically enhanced and genetically modified as possible. In the beginning it was hard. After a few years it's second nature.

By far the biggest shift in my relationship with food came when I started juicing vegetables in late 2013. Almost instantly my food consumption dropped drastically, because I just wasn't hungry. Miraculously, I stopped obsessing over food, and pretty much stopped thinking about it all together, except when I needed to refuel. The desire to eat when I was bored or upset or in pain or feeling sorry for myself or celebrating or deserving some indulgence just...went away. Of course I'm laughing my ass off because not only did all the weight I'd been struggling to lose for much of my adult life just fall off, Fibromyalgia became a totally manageable illness. My body was nourished, and the wonderful gifts its given me in return just keep on coming.

Thanks for joining,
Leah
*Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who voted for me in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! There's still a day or so left to vote so if you get the chance, please click the link above. Seeing so much dedication and support sure gave this tired ol' blogger quite a boost. Cheers!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #healthblog #diet #nutrition #chronicillness #chronicpain #juicing #healthline  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goodbye Chicken Little!

For the woman who loves Mondays, simply because they offer a clean slate to do better, you betcha I'm thrilled it's a new year. While I'm not quite in 'resolution' mode, I am hell bent and determined to implement two changes in my life. The first is to stop reacting. To anything and everything. Always. Forever and ever. This doesn't mean if some horrible tragedy befalls a loved one I can't cry, but it does mean I can't run around like Chicken Little holding my wounded head and declaring to anyone and everyone that the world is ending. Which is something I frequently do. But it hasn't ended yet, hence the resolution to stop reacting.

The other change I'm striving for is to finally, once and for all, no ifs ands or buts, get myself on a normal schedule. Staying up till after two in the morning, then sleeping till eleven the next day, is completely annihilating my ability to move my life forward. The problem is it's frequently hard for me to fall asleep, and I'd rather stay up until my face is planting in the keyboard with exhaustion, anyway. The late night is when I do my best writing. But I guess I'm growing up, or something equally awful, because what my late nights are costing me is the ability to resume a high degree of normal living.

Herein lies the problem. When I don't get enough sleep I flare, which for me starts with the most scathing case of 'devil woman' mood. Not only do I want to obliterate any and every person on Earth I've actually met before, but the entire planet, as well. Next I get really hopeless and lose my faith in any sort of a future, which usually prompts me to don my chicken costume and run around holding my wounded head, declaring to anyone and everyone that the world is ending. This stupid cycle has reprized so many times I can't take it anymore. So I've just gottta bite the bullet and overcome this absurd pattern. Try and go to bed as early as I can, painfully vacate dreamland when my alarm goes off way too soon, and expect the flares. I mean, if I know they're coming anyway, can't I just not react?

Thanks for joining,
Leah 
*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! Still hanging in at 10th place, thanks so much for the support!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #healthblog #newyear #resolution #chronicillness #chronicpain 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My First Sick Christmas

So I’m strolling through Instagram last night, and come across a very young woman who is disabled with ME/CFS. She’s popular, a couple thousand people follow her, and quite open about her struggles with this illness. She got sick after catching a “flu” virus. A year later she isn’t better. I stopped trolling for likes on my juicing post, and immediately started sobbing from the depths of my soul. I know her plight so well I want to scream into the loudest microphone in the world! CFS is what first got me sick. Fibromyalgia wasn’t my initial diagnosis. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was. And just typing the words makes me wail like a wounded baby. Because if I knew then, nine years ago in my twenties, what I know now, a battered and broken warrior in my late thirties, OH MY GOD, what could I have done to salvage my lost life?????!!!!!! Is there anything I could have done to make the last nine years not happen? Is there anything I could tell this girl, who is so upset to be looking at her first Christmas tree after a year of being sick? Anything I could do to aid her plight or lessen her burden or make it last less than a lifetime?

No, there isn’t. Because I don’t know much more now, than I did then, about this disease. Christmas 2006 was my first disabled holiday. I was still living in San Francisco. My family came to visit. I knew I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t even hold a knife to chop, I was buried in so much fatigue and pain. And I don’t mean tired or overworked or exhausted. I’m talking, “if I have to stand here for twelve more seconds I will cease to exist, that’s how weak I am,” kind of fatigued. So I ordered takeout and set the table. Except I couldn’t do that. I mean I could, if my husband picked up the food, and after each piece of silverware I placed, I rested for twenty minutes. But when my family actually arrived, all that ‘setting the table’ business left me without enough strength to even open a bottle of wine. Literally. How do you explain that? How do you get them to believe you, to understand how serious it is, to recognize the world is threatening to swallow you whole, from simply being unable to exert the energy required to set the table and open a bottle of wine?

Clearly I don’t know how. I’m a failed experiment. My personal relationships are in shambles. Literally every single person I know is either completely disappointed in me, or has given up entirely. My family is still waiting around for me to contribute to a 'reciprocal relationship'. The fact that I keep trying, unsuccessfully, only makes life harder for all of us. Of the few friendships I have left, one of them recently asked me what I needed to be happy in life. How could I do anything but laugh, and bitterly inform her happiness is such a frivolous luxury it’s no longer even in my lexicon? Who the hell, in this industrialized nation chock full of first-world problems, wants to be friends with that? Is this seriously who I’ve become? So angry and alienated from society I can’t relate to someone I've known for twenty years on any meaningful level? Why do I even engage in these conversations at all? In fact, why do I keep going at all? 

And as quick as my descent into utter madness starts, I make it stop. Because if there’s anything I know by now, it’s how to survive the ugly condition of despair. How to distract myself with reason, numb myself with distraction, or reason my way into numbness. I've gotta get a grip, or my perceived reality will smack me down faster than any one aspect of my actual reality ever could. And Lord knows I've worked far too hard, been given too many second chances at this thing called life, and haven't even remotely completed what I was put on this earth to do, to let that happen.

Thanks for joining,
Leah
*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! In 10th place, thanks so much for the support!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #healthblog #sickchristmas #chronicillness #chronicpain #cfs #me #cfsme #mecfs               

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Exercise Conundrum

For years my doctors told me to exercise. In that "get up off your lazy ass and move already" kind of way. After a while it got silly. Here I was too sick to work, and I was just supposed to breeze through step class like some bored housewife with too much time on her hands? Seeing as I was in too much pain to carry the laundry down three flights of stairs, I ignored such frivolous advice. The pounds packed on, I gained even more weight from going on medications to treat the pain, and then the pain got so bad Vicodin became my breakfast of necessity. I was back to work, but barely, and every other aspect of my life was descending into total chaos. And still, my doctors told me to exercise.

It was blatantly insulting. Clearly they weren't of the same mindset as I, and didn't believe the fire racing through my muscles was real. They didn't get how much it hurt to do something as innocuous as blow dry my hair. They didn't get it, how miserable I felt in the aftermath of so many insomnia-wracked nights, and how many days they took me to recover. Days I was struggling to meet my obligations of work, home and family, and failing miserably. They didn't get any of it. They just told me to exercise and not be so unhappy. Like it was a switch I could turn on and off at the will of my whim! I recognize now that a person who hasn't experienced Fibromyalgia pain doesn't understand how acute, crushing, and all-encompassing it truly is. But back then all I could do was pray my doctors might try and help me a little bit, if I took their absurd advice and at least tried to exercise.

Today I walk a mile and a half five days a week, do 360 stomach crunches four days a week, bench press 45 lbs., squat 40 lbs., and have started wearing ankle weights to add an extra challenge to my yoga practice. I've gone from a size 18 to a 6. At this point in the game I'd rather give up Dos Equis forever, than renounce my triumph over exercise. It took me more years, flares, setbacks and determination to get here than I ever imagined possible. But I am not in pain anymore, as a lifestyle. Sure I have flares that hurt like hell, overdo it trying to be Superwoman, tweak ligaments while working out and can predict the rain with the distinctive stabbing pain it sends through my tender points. My life is not pain-free, but it's not pain-filled, either. I've achieved a far greater physical recovery than I ever expected. I don't know if any other patient would have the same result. After all, we may not even have the same disease, seeing as Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion. But I do know I somehow found the gusto to stick with it after every self-induced flare would land me in bed for a week. One day I looked back and those weeks had become days, days turned into hours, and my life was kinda mine again.

Thanks for joining,
Leah
*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! In 9th place, thanks so much for the support!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #fibromyalgiablog #fibroexercise #fibrofitness #fibromyaligaexercise #healthlineblogcontest #healthblog          

Friday, December 12, 2014

Est, Baby

My brain is a jumbled, churning whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Fifty urgent tasks ticker-tape through my mind at a frenzied pace. I've got so many different interests pulling on me, it feels like my limbs are being racked on a Medieval torture device. To compound my frustration, all this turmoil only leaves me utterly spent, exhausted, collapsed. I feel like I'm being sucked down, stuck to the earth, unable to get up off the floor. Sick or not, I've gotta get a grip! If I can't catch the whirling ball of my own reality before it crashes to smithereens, nobody will!

So I turned on the Werner Erhard documentary Transformation, about his infamous est seminars from the '70's and '80's. Last year his hard-core philosophy of personal-responsibility, wrapped up in a bunch of insults aimed toward the stupidity of humanity, helped me reign in my out-of-control life. Somewhere between now and then I regressed back to my old patterns of anger, bitterness and avoidance. Indulging those feelings is a mighty short road to total self-destruction. I've worked too hard, and come too far, to let a weak mind simmer away my progress into oblivion! 

Did watching the documentary transform me? No. Anyone with chronic illness knows life is too complicated to make a "decision" and get instant change. But Mr. Erhard's dogma helped. He reminded me so much more is in my control than I believe. The notion that ones reality is perceived by their emotions choked me up a bit. Man have I fallen back into that trap! His unrelenting belief that a person's life is their own responsibility, and theirs alone, was like salve to my aching soul. I realized that's precisely where I've gone wrong. Somewhere in the last five months I lost sight of the importance of owning my life, 100%, and not expecting anything from anyone. Things got so hard I was unable to be there for myself. I stopped standing on my own two feet and became a gaping hole of need. In fact, I've fallen on my ass and am being sucked down into the quicksand of my own creation!

Est. It is. It is what it is. What is, is. The past, which swirls together to create the present, isn't changeable. But the future, right now, is. Each moment is the future, and that is where the fork in the road emerges. Where I can go from victim to victor, angry to actualizer, stagnant to mobile, stuck to progressive. I can clear my mind, pick what's most important to move forward, and sink my hungry teeth into the juicy flesh of personal responsibility.           

Thanks for joining,
Leah

*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! Currently in 10th place, thanks so much for the votes!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #fibromyalgiablog #wernererhard #transformation #est #pickyourselfup #moveforward #personalresponsibility #healthlineblogcontest #healthblog