Thursday, August 26, 2021

Flaring Depression

Am I depressed or in a flare? Am I flaring or suffering from depression? How, after all these years, damn near two decades of living with these conditions, can I not know the difference? A flare comes with insomnia and pain. Depression comes with a situational helplessness it doesn't seem will ever alleviate. A pressing down of my person into a flatness the three dimensions of life cannot reside in. A flare feels chemical, internal, an entity inside my body that has taken over control. So am I saying depression is a choice? Because anyone whose ever been there knows it sure as hell is not.

I'm on that hamster wheel running to nowhere. I'm trudging through quicksand, the struggle of placing one foot in front of the other sucking up the hours in my days. Life is backing up on me. Too much to do, too little time. And even less of a desire to get up and fix my reality. Just that panicky feeling, anxiety producing and overwhelming, every time I contemplate what's required to get back on top of my game. The amount of work required to right this ship isn't unfamiliar to me. I've stood at the bottom of this threshold many times in my life. Sometimes I've had the fortitude to take a shaky step out from the trenches, other times I've collapsed back down and rolled around in the mud a while longer before that strength finally knocks on my subconscious and yells at me to get it together, damn it! We aren't getting any younger over here, and the longer you put it off the more work there is to do!

Depression doesn't care. So I guess that's my answer. My melancholy is a symptom of my illness. But which one? Will this lift in a few days or will it continue to progress until the next few years are swallowed whole? The only thing I do know is the only way out is through. God I hate that saying, probably because it is so incredibly true. No magic pills, no quick fix. Just a slow and steady mastication of obligation. Taking one small bite out of what's required to make my life run until the day arrives when I wake up well-rested and enthusiastic, ready to slay the dragon again.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Weight Management

I've struggled with carrying extra weight since childhood. As a third-grader, I remember racing home from school to eat an entire package of Top Ramen every day, which I have since learned is packed with calories and fat and makes me wonder what my mother was thinking??? Getting braces in seventh grade helped me drop a few pounds, since my mouth was frequently too sore for me to eat for a few days after the orthodontist would tighten them up. By tenth grade I had discovered boys and partying and food was the last thing I cared about. Then I went to college and gained the freshmen fifteen or twenty or whatever I wound up packing on. Eating French fries and iceberg salad slathered in ranch dressing from the dorm cafeteria every day didn't help. Neither did beer.

When I was twenty-four I joined Weight Watchers in preparation for my wedding. Was it really as easy as I remember? The romanticized hindsight of my memory has me believing I lost a good three to five pounds each week when I would step on the scale. Maybe I did. I was twenty-four, after all. I do know for sure that my seamstress told me I had to STOP losing weight or she wouldn't be able to alter my dress small enough to fit for the big day. Not long after the wedding we moved to San Francisco and there was a bar literally downstairs from our apartment. I spent far too much time there, followed by ordering pizza late night, and eventually got big again. By this time I was battling reoccurring bouts of acute pancreatitis triggered by my genetic triglyceride malfunction. I've had four over the course of my life and would be remiss if I didn't admit I've never had a pancreas attack when I wasn't 1) overweight and 2) off triglyceride medication.

One attack was so severe I spent two weeks in the hospital and almost died. That experience changed me. I quit drinking and eating fatty or fried foods and started exercising and again, the weight fell off. Unfortunately a few months later my symptoms that would eventually be diagnosed as CFS and fibro started. The ups and downs I've gone through since 2005 make up the majority of this blog so I'm not going to rehash. Long story skipped, I find myself sitting here today not obese, per se, but not healthy either. So back to Weight Watchers, now known as WW, I go. The thing is I signed up earlier in the year, didn't have anything close to the success I experienced in my twenties, and quit. But with no accountability I make ridiculous choices (like eating a bagel slathered in cream cheese every morning for breakfast) and while I've only gained back five of the ten I lost in the spring, in actuality I still need to lose twenty-five.

Like many things in life, my high expectations had set me up for failure. I thought I would input my food consumption into the app and the weight would fall off like it did when I was in my early twenties. I mean I was eating so much better! Yet no dice. So this time I'm going into it with reasonable anticipation. If I lose a pound a week and it takes me a year, so be it. It's better than gaining weight. If I stick to my points five or six days a week and fly off the rails on Saturday or Sunday, it's drastically better than what I was doing before. And if I have a glass of wine at night but don't have three, that's a marked improvement. Showing myself an ounce of compassion is worth the slow and steady climb toward health if that means I can stick to something long-term and actually get off the yo-yo for good.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Off My Game

I've stopped writing. Like everything. I'm still banging out short book reviews for my bookstagram page, and actually got a job as a freelance book critic which is awesome, but as far as the "Leah Tyler the Writer" concept goes, I feel like a fraud. I finished my book a while back. My writer's group is receiving the last few chapters and then it will be 100% workshopped. It's past time to start shopping for an agent and publication. I even started to write a short story but never finished it. I feel like my writing just sucks. The thought of composing a second book seems inconceivable to me in my present state of maladjustment.

My health is in a strange place. Fibro is not my primary complication anymore, thank God. But I am my primary complication. My choices, my motivation, my dedication to the concept of health are all severely lacking. I've gained a significant amount of weight since my relapse in 2016. But I've been out of the trenches of that intense immune fatigue for a few years now. Covid lockdown didn't help, nor did my decision to start drinking wine pretty much every night in order to cope with said lockdown. I joined Weight Watchers to try and instill some accountability. After three months I'd lost like eight pounds, was starving, and totally lying to the app. So I quit when the gyms opened up a few months back. You bet I hit it it hard, considering the previous success I'd had in completely transforming my physical state back in 2013. Three days of intense weight lifting every week, for two months, and I feel myself getting stronger but not smaller. What the hell is going on? Besides the fact that I'm still drinking wine every night to cope with...what exactly?

I saw an old college friend last weekend and she asked me what I was up to these days. "I'm a very mediocre housewife," I said. We laughed, but I wasn't joking. I wrote a book but have done nothing with it. I'm very disillusioned with my trajectory in life right now. My ability to manipulate words into something evocative or impactful or beautiful or compelling just isn't inside me. I get angry when people call me in the middle of the day to "chat." Like whatever I could possibly be doing doesn't matter. Or my husband steps away from his home office to pop into the bedroom to "say hi and see how I'm doing." NOT WELL! Nobody takes me seriously! But am I taking myself seriously? Don't people treat you the way you let them treat you?

So here I am. We begin at the end. I started blogging in 2010 in order to teach myself how to write, so that's what I'm gonna do now. Remind myself how to become comfortable with words again. Reach inside myself and find my voice, my purpose, a spark of that passion that got me through the hardest years of my life. I'm not blogging for an audience, or accolades, or attention. I'm just a desperate woman over here doing the best I can to rediscover myself.

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Thursday, March 18, 2021


A few years ago my husband was studying for a licensing exam and had to devote the majority of his non-working hours to cramming. He works best at the coffee shop, so after work and both days on the weekends, that's where he went. I was already living a solitary life and losing contact with the one person I saw on a regular basis hit hard. This was during the middle of my big relapse and I was quite depressed. The isolation compounded my desolation. I acutely remember walking my dogs on Saturday mornings and crying because I was the only person who was alone on the street. Everyone else was with friends, or their children, or other people. But alas I did endure, he passed his test, and we resumed hanging out. Slowly but surely I came out of my relapse and the accompanying depression lifted.

Fast forward to March of 2020. My husband came home from work on a Friday afternoon with three massive desk monitors and an ergonomic chair. He informed me that due to this covid virus that was going around, he would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Now at this point I had settled back into my solitary life and was doing quite well. Isolation was my happy place and where I found my greatest productivity. But now I had to adjust to never being alone. Ever. That was almost as hard to adapt to as solitude. My productivity tanked. I couldn't write, not with somebody in his dining-room office yelling into the phone all day. How on Earth was I supposed to concentrate? Our apartment was tiny. All those delicious hours of crafting my own agenda were gone. He was freaking out, I was freaking out, everybody was pretty spastic. Right when I'd be able to get my head into my narrative, he'd come busting in with some news of something that had happened at work. He, unlike me, was used to spending his days surrounded by people. I think I took a lot of naps and relished in my solitary dog walks because it was the only time I got to be alone.

Six months in we accepted things weren't going back to normal anytime soon and decided to move. We found a much bigger place with enough space for his office area. I got my dining room table back and was able to put my desk in another part of the house with two whole doors I could close between us to create silence. It's certainly had its challenges, but I believe we've done a remarkably good job of adapting to togetherness. But on Saturday morning when he took off to go run errands and I settled in for a day alone at the house, it was blissful anticipation for us both. Walking my dogs in the sunshine I realized how far I've come from that depressed crying girl who felt stabs of loneliness every time she saw people together. I just wonder what the adjustment is going to look like when he goes back to the office. 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

And Then I Got Covid

It was a Sunday evening in early November. I was lying on the sofa watching TV and my body was aching far more than it usually does. Shooting pains pinging against my flesh, my clothes hurt my skin and eyeballs ached. I had a gross taste in my mouth. And I was really cold. Probably a bad flare, I thought, while reluctantly pushing myself off the couch. I went into the bathroom to rummage around for the thermometer. I'd been relying heavily on that thermometer since March. Ever since covid happened, each time I felt crummy I'd take my temperature to decipher if my symptoms were a flare or if I had indeed contracted covid. Fever is not a fibro symptom for me so I figured as long as I didn't experience a temperature spike, I was dealing with fibro. For seven months my logic held steady. Flopping back down onto the sofa, I pushed the button and stuck the stick under my tongue. 99.4. Shit. I'm usually around 97.5 so this reading, given my other symptoms, registered as a low-grade fever.

Still unconvinced, I writhed around for the rest of the evening as I continued to feel worse. Advil would've helped but given the serious nature of covid, I needed to let the symptoms bloom to see if they went away (fibro) or increased (a flu but hopefully not covid). At midnight I went to bed and took my temp again. 99.9. Not going in the right direction. Seeking peace of mind that it was just the common flu, I went onto the CDC website and made an appointment for a covid test the next day. I froze in a feverish half-sleep all night and woke up feeling awful. In the morning my temp was 100.4. So I relented and took some Advil. My money was still on the old-fashioned flu because nothing had hit my lungs, which is what covid did, right? Yet I had no coughing, no congestion, no shortness of breath.

On Monday night I tested positive for covid-19. I immediately slid into a hyper-paranoid state, obsessing over every physical symptom being the beginning of the end as I waited for it to kill me. But it's a strange virus. I had a fever for like three days that easily abated with Tylenol. My doctor told me to get a pulse oximeter and my blood oxygen levels remained in the high 90s. I had a sore throat, some days but not others. And my taste and smell abated for a week but never fully went away. Mainly I slept like 18 hours a day for around three weeks. I would wake up, eat and get dressed, and fall back asleep. Toothpicks couldn't have propped open my eyelids but I was too tired to care. Everyone who depended on me for anything got ignored. Yet it was not the worst flu I've ever had. I'll admit, I was having flashbacks to when I had CFS/ME. Was this going to last forever and destroy my life too? But honestly I was too tired to care. Being awake for six hours a day doesn't leave much time for freaking out.

I would say it took over two months before I felt like covid was gone for good. Not that I was sick the whole time, but I would frequently wake up feeling crummy and figured this was it. The "deadly" part of this virus had finally gripped me. Yet it never did. I don't know if increasing my vitamin D and zinc supplements made a difference, or if the daily aspirin my doctor recommended helped, or if doubling up on my antiviral med (not remdesivir but in the same family. Also, not something my doctor told me to do) stopped it from becoming an extreme case. I'll never know. I'll never know why I didn't give it to my husband. I'll never know why it kills some people and for me was a moderate flu. And I'll never know why a mysterious virus invaded my body sixteen years ago, gave me CFS/ME and fibro, and never left. But covid was a flash in the pan for me.

If you're so inclined, drop me a comment to let me know how covid or the side effects of living in lockdown have impacted you.

Thanks for joining,


Monday, February 1, 2021

The Writer Who Doesn't Read

The cook who doesn't eat, the dog trainer who's never owned a dog, the marriage counselor who has yet to be married. I mean honestly, how effective can one be? Yet for a number of years I fell into the aforementioned category. I was a writer who didn't read. I could list my litany of excuses but that's not the point. What matters is my apathy was rewarded quite painfully. I spent years writing a novel. Then I had some people read it and realized I had made an excessive amount of mistakes and needed to rewrite it. So I did, then I tried to find an agent and my manuscript garnered absolutely no interest. So I rewrote it again and joined a writer's group. Within a few months I realized the mistakes my beta readers had pointed out were the mere tip of the iceberg peeking through the surface. The foundation of my book was a hulking mess. I had made a disastrous point-of-view mistake, what's considered a fundamental flaw in the structure of a novel that usually requires a(nother) rewrite to fix.

In my defense I read voraciously in my younger years and literature had evolved quite a bit since then. Not that I would've known, seeing as I didn't read. Which is why I was staring at the prospect of writing the same book for the fourth time. A notion which made me vomit a little bit every time I thought of it. Nevertheless, I persisted. I think it was upon presenting my fourth chapter to my writer's group that another major issue resurfaced. I had so many characters and storylines going on that I wasn't effectively representing any of them. Why was I trying to pursue a career I had absolutely no education in?

Taking a bite out of my original idea and chewing on it for a while, I devised a way to split my book in two. My initial objective had been to write a story about a girl who gets fibro and it rips her life apart. In order to accurately represent the experience, I gave her a full year of normal living to prove she wasn't "crazy," just damaged like everyone else, followed by a series of physical catastrophes (what we call trigger events) to highlight the fallacy of the "fibro's a psychological problem" conspiracy. Redrafting, I decided to make her sidekick the protagonist during that year of normalcy and basically write the prequel.

At this point it was painfully clear I needed to become acquainted with my contemporaries. I read a few books but didn't really know what I should be reading. So I joined a book club. It was 2019, around the time I was trying to pull myself from the isolation of my last relapse and rejoin life. Ohhh I felt like an alien. Luckily this book club was of the "bring a bottle of wine and some pot luck" variety. The liquid lubricant helped ease my social anxiety and eventually book club became the highlight of my month. So I joined another and was forced to discover audiobooks. Because who on Earth has enough time to lie around reading two books a month? Certainly not me. I was trying to write one, remember?

In 2020 I read 86 books. Audiobooks became my lifesaver back in March when lockdown was mandated and my husband started working from home. I could slip on my headphones while doing housework and not have to listen to him shouting into the phone all day. What joy! Not only that, my writing has improved exponentially. I have since moved on to a more professional writer's group and am happy to say I just submitted chapter 23 for review. Not that my manuscript doesn't need polish, but it seems the nuts and bolts of writing fiction no longer elude me. 

If you're so inclined, drop me a comment to let me know about your reading or writing journey!

Thanks for joining,