Monday, January 14, 2019

My Social Media Meltdown

Friday was a day for the record books. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I woke up off. I was moody and melancholy and all-together miserable. The world was a dark, awful, hopeless place where I didn't belong and couldn't find a spec of beauty. I hadn't felt this down-and-out in months. It's not that I thought my sick days were behind me, per se, but I was beginning to believe we'd taken a break for a while so I could actually make some progress in my life.

But not on Friday. No, Friday was one of those days where I poured myself a stiff one at four-thirty in the afternoon. Once that was done, I decided to set my sights on social media. I have a terrible relationship with social media and usually try and avoid it. Especially when I've been drinking. It's become a platform for bullying and hate, and I find my mood, faith in the future, and self-esteem significantly lower if I spend too much time on it.

Especially on Friday. I was relatively tame on Instagram. It was a picture of my first drink. In hindsight, I realize I was warning the world to watch out for what was to come. But how was I supposed to know that at the time? I drank two more and started posting smart-aleck comments on a few big "influencer" pages I follow. Well that got my toe wet, but apparently I was looking for something more akin to a full-body soak. So I moved on to Twitter. By then the ranting raver had come out. I blasted the writer of my favorite show about how disrespectful the season premiere was to the characters' arcs. Then I went to a couple websites that had reviewed the episode and gave my peace of mind to the comments section. But apparently that was too impersonal for me.

So I sunk my teeth into Facebook, which is the most convoluted place I could've possibly gone. And by this point, I was really in a tizzy. All the pent-up rage I've been suppressing by utilizing the site as little as possible started flowing outa me like lava. On my fibro support page, I went off on Facebook for not circulating my posts because I don't pay them. They've decided I'm a business, which I'm not, and are going out of their way to ignore my content until they get their paper. So what's next? I went to my feed and scrolled. It only took a few minutes before I completely freaked out. The post I wrote on my profile page was definitely more of a rant. I mean, everyone's blatant political agenda and lack of human decency really offended me. Except what I wrote was extremely dramatic and made people start asking if I was okay...


Then my computer, literally, died. Now I'm a conspiracy theorist from jump so that sent me over the edge. I know my phone and computer are already recording everything I do and say. Now it seemed like they were going so far as to send the information to the appropriate parties. And my punishment was instantaneous! Is it fair to say I went wild?

I woke up Saturday morning having returned to a refreshingly normal state of mind. Thank God. I had to figure out what was wrong with my computer and felt a little sheepish for acting like such a freak online. But as my grandpa loved to say, there's no use crying over spilt milk. My frustration at social media met one too many bourbon drinks and bubbled over. Good riddance.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Cleaning Up Sick

I realized the other day that I'm unhappy. Not depressed, miserable, anxiety riddled, or on the verge of a meltdown, but just that general feeling of melancholy that means I spend my days in a touchy state of unhappiness. I may be doing worlds better as far as my illness goes. But the coping mechanisms I relied upon to get through my three-year relapse--basically bourbon, Taco Bell, and watching excessive amounts of television--are still very much ruling my day-to-day existence. My bad habits, and the results of said bad habits, are making me unhappy.

But this is good. Because unhappy I can work with. Unhappy I can do something about. Unhappy doesn't mean I'm descending into a cesspool of misery with no ability to pull myself out. Unhappy isn't me freaking out because I'm too sick to exert a modicum of control over my own existence. And unhappy certainly doesn't indicate I'm so full of anger, it's all I can see. Lord knows I've spent enough of my life in those places. No, unhappy simply means I've grown complacent with my life. And as a result, I'm making some not-so-great choices in order to distract myself.

Now that I recognize it, I suppose it's time to get to work. I've got to clean up the bad habits being so sick for so long left me with. But where to start when, like, everything needs to be fixed? Yes, I may have more energy, but I also have more pain now because I'm doing more. That delicate balance of taking care of me and taking care of life is something I've got to continue to respect if I want to remain on this trajectory...

This new inspiration to get my crap together is most likely inspired by epic amounts of indulgence over the holidays. My answer: on Thursday I walked/ran on the treadmill for 23 minutes. So much exertion caused a vicious stomachache of epic proportions. I had to come home and lay on the floor in writhing pain for a while. Then I was shaky and weak the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Sigh...I forgot how hard this is. Nevertheless I did eat better, stayed off the sauce, and managed to annihilate myself by doing a little exercise. No, the laundry didn't get done. But that's what tomorrow is for, isn't it? Provided I didn't just send myself into an epic flare.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Flare or Flu?

Shortly after Thanksgiving my 101-year-old grandmother choked on a piece of food. She came through surgery okay, but after a week or so there was fluid collecting around her lungs and her heart wasn't functioning properly. Like most do when one happens to be 101, her doctors recommended hospice. I haven't seen her since her 100th birthday party, which pretty much consisted of her sitting in her wheelchair while the rest of us ran around having a blast. So last week I decided to hop on a plane and head to Arizona for a 24-hour whirlwind visit with grandma.

It was a terrifying decision. I had to weigh the potential sabotage of my newly-reclaimed health against not seeing my grandmother one last time. Which one would be easier to live with? After hemming and hawing and considering all the potential outcomes, I decided to go. I also decided I was going for me. Not to meet expectations or because of guilt or out of a sense of obligation, but because I wanted to see my grandmother when she was hopefully still coherent enough to have a conversation with me. I convinced myself if I stayed really mellow and positive the whole time, and expected to get through it without a major backslide, it just might be possible.

By the time I got there grandma had a miraculous turnaround, which isn't anything she hasn't done before. Talk of hospice had gone by the wayside as she was efficiently discharged into a skilled nursing facility as a transitional step before going home. I also remembered, in pretty short order, my family is anything but mellow. Nevertheless, it was a good visit and I'm glad I went.

Unfortunately once I returned home, I only had one day to self-care before my husband's darn company holiday party. The one I was supposed to lose ten pounds in twelve days for, but because my week was spent preparing for, executing, and recovering from this trip instead of going to the gym and obsessing over how much I wasn't eating, it didn't even come close to happening. Whatever.

So yesterday it all caught up with me. As I was sitting here watching football, all I could focus on was the feeling of my symptoms coming to life. Yet I couldn't tell if it was a flare of the flu that was on my horizon. I prayed for a flare. Paralyzed with fear, all I could think about was how many germs I was exposed to while sitting in the hospital for two days, not to mention flying on an airplane. I remembered how I was doing really well in 2015 until I got the flu, and here I am three years later just starting to pick up the pieces. It's one of those things where time is the only way to tell. This morning I woke up feeling achy and sluggish but clearly without the flu. Hallelujah! It's a flare!

It's tough, this living sick thing. As much as I'm determined to put my health first, it's an afterthought to everyone else. For years it was an afterthought to me, and I didn't do very well because of it. But last week gives me hope. I'm caring less about what people expect from me, which while making me quite unpopular (what's new), has helped stabilize my illness exponentially. As a result I'm less emotional and more in control of my life, which has made me want to start living it again. Enough so that I was able to hop on a plane, visit my grandma, come home with a flare, and not experience one bit of resentment. That's progress.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Twelve-Day Challenge

I wish I could blame my thirty-five-pound weight gain solely on my sickness. For a long time I was too fatigued to empty the dishwasher and shower within five hours of each other. So naturally anything more aerobic than light stretching went by the wayside. Unfortunately for my sense of scapegoat, I only gained like eight pounds during the first year of my relapse. Although annoying, it seemed like a reasonable consequence to no longer being able to workout.

Then I turned forty. It wasn't so much a birthday. No, the week I hit the big 4-0 was more about damage control. Coincidentally, a friend gave me a bottle of delicious spiced rum as a gift. Well in order to cope with my misery over how sick I was and how bad I was failing at life, I proceeded to turn that one-time gift into a lifestyle. I started drinking way too much and eating bad as well. They seem to go hand in hand with me.

Somewhere along the line I graduated from spiced rum to bourbon. Fast food sneaked its way back into my lexicon. As my body got bigger, my clothes got bigger, and I got madder about the whole thing. Now it's been three years, to the month, since I gave up working out. And I'm like a rapidly expanding blimp over here, as evidenced by the size-large outfit I had to go buy Sunday night for my husband's company holiday party in two weeks. And that's with a girdle.

Yet I'm feeling physically better than I have in years. So my motivation to change is stuck in low-gear. Until Sunday night, that is. I've never accepted my larger size and have totally allowed it to impact my self-esteem. Showing up to the family Thanksgiving gathering was rough because I was ashamed by my appearance. In true paranoid fashion, felt like everyone spent the night whispering about how fat I'd gotten. Like anybody really cares.

So now I'm determined to lose ten pounds before the party next Friday. That gave me twelve days as of yesterday. It's a stupid and unhealthy goal, but I'm going to see what I can do. On Monday I did yoga and went to bed hungry. This morning I lost two ounces under a pound. So today, which was a harrowing and stressful day, I went to the gym when I wanted to go have a drink. And then I didn't even pour a stiff one when I eventually got home. It wasn't as much fun, but I'm teeming for another pound lost tomorrow. With ten days to go...

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

A New Respect

In the past I've assumed an absurd amount of culpability for my sickness. Perhaps it started when I was told by doctors that there was nothing wrong with me, as far as my blood was concerned. So I needed to look elsewhere for the source of my extreme muscular pain and unrelenting fatigue. Symptoms so ridiculous, they rendered me unable to work.

Fast forward a decade. I'd changed my diet, was juicing vegetables, and started lifting weights. It was easy to assume the changes I'd made were responsible for the management of my illness. I was even healthy enough to get a part-time job. Then I got the flu and all that progress went away. Watching my life slip out of my hands, the life I'd so painfully fought to rebuild, was an undeniably catastrophic experience. 

After three years of hibernation, I'm starting to exist in the world again. Funny thing is, I have no clue what to attribute my upswing to. I'm eating like crap. I'm drinking way too much bourbon. And while I'm finally physically capable of doing so, of course I'm not exercising nearly enough. The only thing I am doing with a modicum of consistency is drinking fresh vegetable juice, yet even that effort is frequently half-assed. And while my general "health" isn't nearly as good as it was when I was lifting and eating quinoa every day, I feel better than I have in years. My energy is good, insomnia somewhat managed, pain present but not excruciating. And the mental psychosis this illness paralyzes me in is simply nonexistent.

What else can I do but surmise this son of a bitch, whatever it is, is an honest to goodness real disease? Can I finally let myself off the hook for even getting sick in the first place? I tried everything under the sun to get myself managed. Then I burnt out on all things healthy. These days, it's all I can do to take my daily dose of vitamins without gagging as I wash 'em down with Taco Bell. Yet now is when I start feeling better. Like loads better.

So I guess fibromyalgia has, thirteen years in, finally earned my respect. Based on what this last relapse taught me, whether I'm sick or healthy is ultimately out of my control. Something inside of me gets triggered. I can bitch and moan and whine and cry and throw a pity-party tantrum all I want, but it won't change a thing. I can eat vegan or paleo or keto or gluten-free to my heart's content, but diet is only a fraction of what it takes for me to get control of this illness.

This latest experience has shook me. Challenged everything I thought I knew about both my body and this disease. Everything I built my philosophy on about how to succeed while living with chronic illness has been flipped. Because what the last few years taught me is once that switch gets flipped, it takes time and a whole lot of self-care to get this thing settled down.

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

She Didn't Come Home

I watched her for the better part of six months. Ever since I saw her in the elevator on that spring day and realized she was pregnant, I started paying attention. She lived on the same floor of my apartment building, two doors down. Yet we never spoke beyond the occasional head bob or mumbled hello. Nevertheless, like a fly on the wall, I watched.

I watched as her tummy grew round and husband doted over her. I listened to her chatter to our neighbors about how excited she was to be having her first child. I watched her family haul the abundance of a baby-shower blessing onto said elevator and up to our third-floor landing. I even rode that elevator to the ground with her, during her first moments of labor, as she fluttered around her husband and best friend in a freak-out of nerve-riddled happiness.

And then everything sat silent. I didn't see a single one of them for weeks. Eventually I saw her husband. He looked pale and withdrawn. A while later I saw a woman entering their apartment. Like a grandmother who'd been dealt a blow she couldn't quite comprehend, her face was forlorn and sad. Clueless as to what happened, but possessing no license to inquire, I was only left to surmise.

Then one day I saw her. My neighbor. She came home, broken and disheveled, without her baby. I went into my apartment and wept. How could I imagine anything but the worst? Yet slowly her world started to come to life again. People were coming and going from her domicile, and a smile seemed to have found her guest's faces.

Eventually the baby came home. He was tiny and beautiful. Ultimately the sound of a wailing child met my ears every time I passed by her threshold. I didn't know what she was dealing with concerning the health of her child. But to me, nobody more important than the stranger down the hall, those cries sounded like the joyful proclamation of faith answered: baby and mama had both come home.

She moved shortly thereafter, or I did, thereby severing my ability to Peeping Tom her life. Yet I still think about her every so often. I wonder how things turned out, how the child is doing. How did the story end for her? Was the trauma of early motherhood a temporary experience, or did it leave her life forever changed?

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