Friday, January 15, 2016

Freedom from Crazy

Yesterday I almost lost my resolve to stop emotionally reacting to my health, circumstances, and life. I had an extremely painful infected cyst on my back I had to have drained by a surgeon. Then I got a cold. And having slacked off so much on my exercise while completing my commitment to gainful employment left my muscles tight, sore, aching, and all together screaming in pain. And have I ever mentioned I suffer from insomnia? Being this sick for this long makes me crazy. I try so hard to not let it, but am really just one woman being swept into a sea of afflictions and am sometimes just not that strong.

And it's okay. I don't have to be strong all the time. In fact, as long as I don't sabotage myself in reaction, the whole experience is really quite human. Quite normal. And quite possibly one of my biggest triggers. See, I spent years furious with myself for getting so bent out of shape over 1) how sick I was and 2) what that sickness was doing to my life. So once again it was my reaction, not my reality, that made things worse. But did I really just expect myself, starting at the age of 28, to gracefully lose my ability to live my life, earn a living, and engage with the world-- with nary a care of concern? Come on now, that's just not the way people are built! Especially me.

I'm in my eleventh year of living with chronic illness and have finally found an acceptance that has evaded me until this point. It's made me realize acceptance is freedom. Freedom from having to be different (not sick), freedom from living up to the expectations of others (give them love and a smile, not a commitment to host Thanksgiving dinner), freedom from believing I could have handled any of the previous ten years any better. And freedom is, most of all, the ability to move forward without giving into the crazy. So I guess, seeing as I wanted to give into my errant emotions but instead redirected my focus on organizing my Tupperware lids, mission accomplished.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Incurable Fog

One day while driving down the street I forgot where I was. Mind you I just left Target and was headed toward home so had certainly been there before, but in that instant I couldn't have told you where I was on the planet if my life depended on it. I had to pull over and cry for a while, gnashing my teeth and pulling my hair over the fact that I was thirty years old and becoming so sick with something so unfixable, I was literally losing my mind. Flash forward a few years to when I had settled into the reality of living with fibromyalgia. Working retail was a painful necessity that was quickly running its course, so I set about trying to figure what on earth to do to earn a living. Naturally, this required me to take a Spanish course at the local community college. Not because I wanted to earn money off my non-existent Spanish 1 skills, but because I desperately needed to know if my brain was capable of learning and retaining new information, and I took French in high school. 

I worked really hard for that A. I'd get up at 7 AM to study, regardless of how poor my sleep quality was the night before, determined to prove I was still a viable human specimen. All that learning made interesting things start happening to me, like I could listen to music again and started to remember why I walked into a room. It was an incredibly liberating experience. I'd far surpassed the "no treatment no cure" diagnosis I was given in 2006, but never expected to get my brain back. In hindsight this was like a cruel teaser. Because little did I know, I was about to lose it again. 

By the time Spanish 2 rolled around the following semester, I was a double stroke survivor. I attended one session and promptly dropped the class, considering my brain was such mush I couldn't even make my mouth say ¡Hola! I even tried Conversational Spanish the semester after that but was still too screwed up. Getting my brain back after my strokes took a lot of time to heal and, once again, demanding an excessive amount of mental prowess from myself in order to write my book. But imagine how differently the next six years would've gone if I hadn't succeeded in my little Spanish 1 experiment. Perhaps knowing I could take a perceived limitation and put in enough work to triumph over my tribulations gave me the will to keep going, even when everything was at its worst? All I know is I was told to accept my illness, so I decided to challenge it. That attitude has gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years. I'm always pushing myself and overdoing it and crashing and burning. But I've also come leaps and bounds from that poor sick girl in 2006 who was told she was never going to get better. While I may not be "better," through one challenge at a time, my life certainly is.  

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Reboot Pain

Man do I hurt. I haven't been exercising and it's really starting to take a toll, proving to me once again that moving my body is the best pain pill I've found. As my immune system tanked, so did my ability to engage in cardiovascular activities. When I was in the worst of that two-month-long monster flare, my mile-and-a-half morning walk with my dogs turned into a pathetic shuffle around the block. Coupled with the fact that the gym hasn't seen my sorry ass since November, it's no wonder I freaked out and quit my job. Since I'm still knee deep in survival mode, I'm not even really doing yoga. It's all I can do to fulfill the completion of my obligation at work, so I've been put on hold. And man do I hurt. 

Not to mention I've gained ten pounds back. That alone would seemingly send me running to the weight room to bicep curl myself back into my former shape. But I'm not. Then I finally realized I'm so darn terrified of getting that sick again, I'm babying myself. What a delicate balance, this living with chronic illness thing. I have to challenge myself just enough to slowly move my life back toward health, but too much "challenge" sends me flying down the tunnel of unending sickness. For flippin' reals, yo?

So I'm putting down my computer and doing my Namaste Yoga DVD. It's gentle, yet very effective, but given my pain-seeped state is going to hurt like hell. Tomorrow it will hurt a little less, and in the next couple weeks I will hopefully be geared up to go slap around some iron with a bunch of over-inflated muscle heads. It took me two years of yoga to even get back to the gym, and two years of intense cardio weightlifting to get to where I was, but the benefit of having done all that work is a relatively quick recovery. If I start now, don't overdo it, and for the love of all things holy, can somehow avoid another monster flare.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

So I Rebuild

Life has stopped working for me a couple of times. The only way I got it going again was to take a long, hard look at the lady in the mirror and decide to change. Not my circumstances, or my associations, or my reality. I'd already beat my head against the wall 500,000 times trying to change those things, with sorry little improvement. No, this time the change was me. It was my perceptions and attitude, and more to the point, the way I choose to experience my experiences. Since it was the only thing that was flexible in my life at the time, that's where I started. And after a hell of a lot of hard work, the results were staggering.

Another huge change is upon me. This time it isn't juicing or weightlifting I'm looking toward to revolutionize my reality. The changes I seek are of a far more internal nature. It's not bulging biceps I'm after, but internal peace. Having to quit my job made me swallow a huge dose of acceptance all that juicing and weightlifting allowed me to ignore. I'm a sick girl with limitations. It is what it is. But I can also have a fabulous life. And the things standing in my way this time aren't my physical ailments, no matter how God awful I may feel today, but my mental patterns.

The time to rebuild physically isn't mine for another couple of weeks, but I'm not waiting one more moment to begin walking toward mental freedom. Hindsight is so sweet, and allows me the perspective to recognize I built my house of health on sand, with my frantic, take ultimate responsibility for everything, no excuses approach to managing my fibro. Then my immune system crumbled and my house got swept out to sea. So this time I'm being kinder, gentler, and far more generous with myself. I'm recognizing how I'm different from everyone else, not just trying to be the same. And I'm looking deep inside to create a life of intention-- because of the circumstances that have been thrust upon me, not in spite of them.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Leap of Faith

Please click this link to visit Healthline's Best Health Blog Contest and enter "Chronicles of Fibromyalgia" in the search box. Thanks for all your support!
Thanks for nominating me for Healthline's Best Health Blogs of 2015 contest! Last year we made it all the way to 16th place, which is really quite remarkable. I started this blog in 2010 full of fervor and determined to change the world-- or at least the way fibromyalgia patients experience it. Then two things happened: I realized what a supremely difficult place fibro patients hold in society and I completely fell apart. It all seemed too huge, too big, far more insurmountable than anything I had ever fathomed, both my life and fibromyalgia awareness. So I narrowed my focus, kept blogging, and set about trying to fix the mess that was me.

The last five years have shown me more ups, downs, and sideways progress than I ever dreamed possible. I learned more about myself, constantly having to pick me up off the floor, than five lifetimes should have taught me. Who I am today is an all together different woman than the one who introduced herself to the world five years ago. I am strong. I am powerful. I am incredibly capable. And I've worked extremely hard and am ready to soar.

I sit here on the cusp of 2016 bursting with excitement. As I prepare to conclude my department store cosmetics career in these next few weeks, I am setting my sights on the future. A future unknown, of course, but a future I have toiled to the bone to make happen none the less. My quest to raise the awareness of what it's like to live with this illness is finally coming to fruition. Although not always physically strong I am spiritually, mentally, and emotionally clear and focused, which allows me to keep my sights firmly set on the future. A future that is requiring me to take a giant leap of faith. But a giant leap of faith is movement in one direction...forward.

Thanks for joining,

*Please vote once per day- follow this link: Healthline Best Health Blog Contest and enter "Chronicles of Fibromyalgia" in the search box. Thanks for all your support! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Simple Choice

It's astoundingly easy to decide what I have to do next. Not because of what may happen, but because of what has happened. Unfortunately, my fibro got on top of me. I went from spending my days off of work at the gym to being too sick to haul my sorry ass into work-- in the span of a few short months. In order to make it in on the days I'm not too weak and dizzy to stand up or drive, I've had to re-start two medications I'd previously discontinued. For me, this is necessary in a pinch but unacceptable long term.

What I want is to be off all medications. For someone who juices as much as I do, eats so freakishly clean, and used to exercise with such dogged determination, it should be a no brainer. Unfortunately, all my lifestyle efforts keep my illness managed, but whatever is broken inside me is still not fixed. And right now, my lifestyle efforts ain't doin' jack squat to manage much. Now, I've gone down this road many times before. The illness gets on top, my doctor prescribes more meds, I get sicker, push myself harder, get even sicker, take more meds, and before you know it...I'm in the hospital with pancreatitis or, heaven forbid, two strokes. Like I said, it's not because of what may happen, but because of what has happened that requires me to make this choice. 

I made a decision in 2010 to live. By 2011, I was so broken down I tried to renege on that choice a couple of times, but by the end of the year found a way to move forward. In 2013 I discovered juicing vegetables, which stabilized my immune system enough for me to start lifting weights again. Suddenly a whole world, a world I thought I permanently vacated--the world of the living--existed. Sadly, few things last forever, and my upswing is currently faltering. I'm now being faced with the same choice I had to make before. How far do I let fibro sink her fangs? Or do I push the pause button and decide, as I did once before, to live?

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