Monday, August 26, 2019

Isolation Street

I'm doing it again. Isolating. Not writing. Not engaging. Nothing is important enough to blog about, so I blog nothing at all. I'm back to being fully enmeshed in writing my novel. My YouTube channel is still the thorn in my side, like each time I have to step out of my book to create, film, and edit our weekly episodes, I'm being pulled from the womb of creation. Shoved into the cold, bleak reality that I actually live in, not the over-dramatized and fully manipulate-able world I'm creating where people can engage in all sorts of insane behaviors and I suffer no actual consequences.

My real world is nowhere I want to be right now. Especially after I spent 12 hours in the ER the week before last, suffering from and being diagnosed with an acute case of colitis. The simple action of receiving a diagnosis in 12 hours is a miracle that's hardly lost on me. Hell, I've had fibro for 14 years now and they still have no clue what's causing that... But I guess my body wanted to offer up some diagnostic proof for my pain, so the CT showed inflammation in my lower intestine. Is this another chronic illness or a one time thing caused by an infection or something? I don't have any of the symptoms of colitis on a regular basis. Did intermittent fasting, or the way I was doing it, kick something off? I guess I won't know until my GI appointment in September.

The mentality I had to adopt in order to survive my CFS relapse is, by normal standards, the laziest way a human being can possibly live. Basically I had to lay around all day and could only be active in short burst, until the first moment that veil of fatigue started to slide over my eyes, whereupon I had to immediately resume doing diddly squat. ASAP. If I ignored the muslin obscuring my view and pushed on, I faced long spells shrouded in thick velvet cloak of extreme fatigue. No short bursts were possible at all. That does something to a person's mind, forcing oneself to not exist while existing. To squash down every biological impulse telling me that to endure I must fight, push back, work harder. Where in the survival of the fittest life chain does a person with chronic fatigue syndrome exist?

It took years, and I'm still not sure why or how, but thankfully my tango with CFS is behind me. But my mind has not recovered. It's not that I sit around all day doing nothing. No, that's not it at all. But that extra push that's required to get me back to a normal, functioning, productive, part-time member of society, well, I'm terrified of it. I'm terrified of myself. I'm terrified I don't know how to recognize the line, what it takes to not fall flat on my face in the cesspool of never-ending sickness. So I sit here in perpetual excuse mode going nowhere with my life. Years are passing me by.

The only times I've ever changed my life were when I got so sick and tired of my own shit I couldn't handle me for one moment longer. Or I became so terrified of the impending consequences continuing to travel down the road I was on would yield, I didn't feel I had an option. So what I really want to know is, am I there yet?

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Check out the YouTube channel I started with my husband! We're vlogging about our experience with intermittent fasting...which I don't think will be the channel name much longer!

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Reunion

My birthday came and went with a bang. The celebrations are still trickling in, actually, in the form of the twice-a-year get-together-for-our-birthdays with a couple of friends. This fortieth didn't hit me nearly as hard as my first fortieth, or even my second. I haven't noticed any new wrinkles. My gray hair isn't multiplying. No new aches or pains. Thanks to intermittent fasting, I've even lost eight pounds. So naturally I thought I could sail right into this next year feeling, well, not older.

Then I found out about my twenty-five-year high-school reunion taking place at the end of the month. Seriously? Like, I graduated from high school twenty-five years ago? How is that even possible? So I called up my best friend from back in the day and we started reminiscing, bringing up all sorts of people I haven't thought about in years. We talked about what they're up to, how life turned out, how many kids and what kinds of jobs, how many husbands or wives?

It was all fun and games until that feeling of having my life robbed took over. Sigh. I'd made such progress in taking responsibility for my circumstances. Showing myself compassion, not anger, for never having become a famous interior designer or cosmetics CEO. Accepting my reality for what it is and seeking to enjoy and improve my life instead of being angry over what getting sick has cost me. But hearing about what my contemporaries are up to depressed me. Everyone seemed to get the whole cake while I'm sitting over here with a sliver of pie.

The desire to crawl back in my hole of isolation rose up. This is hard, trying to rebuild after another bout with this strange sickness. What a nebulous and unpredictable existence. I drop out of life for years at a time, unable to physically and mentally engage with others in any sort of consistent fashion. Then I get "better" and start my juggling act: trying to get all the dropped balls of my life back into the air without winding up sick all over again.

But enough, really. Because this is it. That is my reality. Love it or hate it, I'm forty-three years old and cannot spend one more moment of my precious time and energy being angry at what is. It took this whole twenty-five-year-reunion trauma to remind me how damaging comparing myself to others can be to my self-esteem. So I'm shaking it off and proceeding on my way. Reminding myself that picture-perfect lives usually have their own source of discord. Mine just happens to be plastered all over the outside of me.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, July 25, 2019

That Time of the Year

My birthday's in a week. Already I'm feeling down. Stupid, for a double-stroke survivor to not greet the occasion of every anniversary of my birth with sweet gratitude that I'm alive. But my birthday hasn't been a very joyous occasion for the last couple of years. Since my thirty-ninth, actually. That was a great birthday. I was healthy. I was working. I was hitting the gym regularly and looked and felt better than I had for the majority of my life. I'd moved back to LA the year before and was finally hitting my stride. How was I to know the flu that would kick my whole relapse off was little more than a month away? Lo, that bitter pill of hindsight!

My fortieth wasn't a birthday, it was damage control. It was finally sinking in that my flare, nearly a year long by now, wasn't a flare at all and wasn't going away. No, I was indeed getting sicker. All the juicing and resting and supplements and dietary changes that had helped me get a handle on my fibro before weren't saying boo to whatever ailed me now. My mom, bless her heart, saw the depressed valley I was careening toward. She flew into town and plied me with food and drink to distract me from the fact that I was sliding into middle age with my life completely out of my control.

My second fortieth birthday was better. Kind of. My husband tried that year, he really did. If I'd had normal health like him, he would have knocked it out of the park. The entire day was a surprise. We started off with a gorge-fest through Grand Central Market, an LA institution of food vendors and grocery stalls that's been around since 1917. Super cool, but it was really hot out. Which made our next stop, a lane at the gun range with a .45 caliber, a much more temperate experience. But it was really loud. By the time we'd shot through our boxes of bullets, I had sort of floated into a numb state of sensory survival. Which coupled with bourbon made dinner oddly fun but the entire day completely exhausting. I think I spent the next two weeks in bed.

My third fortieth birthday, what can I say, things were getting worse. My husband and I were now deep into the anger phase of my never-ending relapse. Not that I'm saying a word against the man who's never left my side through the unimaginable. But he cited having to work the next day as the reason he didn't take me out to dinner. Luckily my girlfriend swooped in and distracted me, bless her precious heart. So I was spared having to spend the evening of my third fortieth birthday starting World War III with my husband. No, I waited until the weekend to do that.

I understand calling this my fourth fortieth birthday makes me sound a year older than I actually am. But I've decided to remain forty until I'm fifty, at which point I will then admit to being forty-five. My husband has another surprise day in store for me this year, and has even taken a whole week off. My health is more up than down these days. I've got no reason to be bummed out. But I've reached maximum burnout and need a week in a hammock on the beach so I can find the drive to continue rebuilding my life. Yet no vacation is forthcoming. So I've got to coalesce a little relaxation out of my staycation over here. I may even live life on the wild edge of abandon and go ahead and take the whole week off.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Road to Reclamation

Tuesday concluded my seventh week of intermittent fasting (I.F.). It's been a wild ride. I'm happy to report I've lost six pounds, which certainly isn't going to break the internet but is nevertheless a steady and healthy rate of weight loss that gives me the greatest chance of long-term success.

But do I feel better? Well, yes and no. When I feel good, I feel very good. Much better than I did before. All the stuff I was doing to myself, like eating too much and not stopping when I'm full and eating crap because I have no accountability, that's all but stopped. Nutrition has become extremely important to me again, seeing as I'm only eating two meals a day and have a short window of time to consume my nutrients. I don't feel bloated or inflamed anymore, my wedding ring fits again, and my alcohol consumption is way down. All positive.

My flares, on the other hand, are having a revival. They are more frequent and more intense. I'm not just suffering from pain and lethargy. No, that down comforter of fatigue keeps wrapping itself around me for like three days each week. I have no idea if fasting is causing this or not because in all honesty, science and medicine don't know a concrete thing about diet and health. They just have a lot of conflicting theories accompanied by interpretable evidence. So all I pretty much have to go on are random mice studies and I.F. gurus who, like any respectable guru, swear up and down fasting is the answer to every problem that ails humankind.

So where does that leave me, the sick girl over here who after thirteen years is still so determined to regain some semblance of a life, she'll try anything? My fatigue has me back in the trap. You know, the one where I have so much to do on the days I feel okay in order to get caught up from everything I could't do when I was too fatigued to do anything, I'm not getting enough done. Not being productive makes me bitchy and short tempered. So do flares, in all honesty. This serves as notice that I'm officially bitchy and short tempered.

I've all but stopped exercising, which is something I'd been doing twice a week consistently since the beginning of the year. I've stopped writing my book and therefore attending my writer's group, that's how consumed I've been with getting my YouTube channel off the ground (about I.F., of course!), this blog going again, and my social media presence present for the first time in a long while.

Despite all the aforementioned negative, I'm sticking with intermittent fasting. Over the course of my illness, anything that's ever made me feel better in the long run has made me sicker initially. It's just the way it works with me. My life was a flippin' mess when I started I.F. at the end of May. I couldn't for the life of me force myself to pick my healthy habits back up and was well on my way down the rabbit hole of obesity and increasing sickness.

My life seems to happen in layers. Every time I've gotten a handle on my illness, this is how it has happened: First comes nutrition. Then exercise. Then the ability to wake up every day and care about the outside world. Eventually I find myself the same person most days, and on the fringes of resuming my position as a contributing member to society. If it takes me a few months of setbacks to find that path, I'm willing to keep on stumbling.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, July 8, 2019

Earthquakes and Fireworks

For a week that started with an energy dip, followed by a consuming need to lay down the stresses of the world and take care of myself, life sure did ignore my request for some peace and quiet. First off, it was a three-day work week. Which may be nice for the gainfully employed, but I'm one of those people who work for themselves but nobody thinks really work. Meaning holidays frequently leave me with sorry little time to get any actual work done.

Plus there was my book club on Tuesday night. We meet once a month to discuss a piece of quality literature and drink wine. Not necessarily in that order. Instead of cancelling to tend to my health like a good girl, which I most decidedly am not, I pretty much started the party on Tuesday night. The 4th of July kicked off with a bang when on Thursday morning I was sitting on the sofa talking to my husband and the earth started doing this slow, shimmying, unpredictable rolling thing more commonly known as an earthquake.

It's been a while since I've been through an earthquake big enough to make me take pause. As for the event itself, it was uneventful. Thank God. Nothing even fell over. That gave me plenty of luxury to run around in my bathrobe moaning that I was in no way, shape, or form mentally or physically prepared for a natural disaster right now. I mean, I hadn't even washed my face or brushed my teeth yet. I had writhing cramps. My hair was dirty, and I absolutely could not leave the house without doing my roots first. And what about coffee? I still had two hours to go until I could break my fast, for crying out loud. If I'm going to wind up battered by falling objects and homeless, shouldn't I at least have my coffee first?

The fireworks cracked like gunshots all night long. Sigh. We Angelinos love our illegal fireworks. Needless to say, the dogs were freaked out. I was on edge from the damn earthquake and kept expecting another one was starting every time a firework popped off. Which is like the absolute worst way to live when residing in a disaster zone. But not being neurotic has never been my strong suit.

Friday's quakes were a much bigger deal. My apartment rocked and rolled for a really long time. Twice. Again the outcome was uneventful, thanks be to God. But what's so stressful when you're going through it is you never know how it's going to end. You don't know if the earth is about to juke and jive until the walls crumble to the ground. Or will the whole thing stop and not start up again for another five years? Or maybe it will stop and then ten minutes later the San Andreas will kick up her heels and drop California into the Pacific Ocean?

It's pretty fair to say that even after throwing my earthquake pack into the dog stroller, gathering up our electronics and valuables, and setting a pair of tennies and socks by the front door, adrenaline and cortisol were having a party inside this body o' mine. It was much easier to cope with the prospect of another earthquake after a few glasses of wine. Clearly my good decision making was at an all-time high.

Can I get calm and boring this week, please? It would be a wonderful switch from the chaos of last week. A week where, technically, the worst thing that happened was I didn't get anything done because of my stress over what could happen.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Hello Perspective My Old Friend

Last night I was exhausted. Like couldn't keep my eyes open exhausted. So I went to bed. The second I hit the start button on my sleep timer, a switch flipped on inside of me. The Ocean Waves track I listen to for sixty minutes every night to fall asleep, which usually does the trick in about four, was agitating and grating to my ears. So at around 3 AM I got out of bed, took an extra sliver of clonazepam, reset my sleep timer, and was out within a half hour.

This morning I woke up at 10:45. Stepping on the scale, I'd gained a pound since my weigh in from the day before. Sigh. If only I hadn't drank pizza and ate wine the night before, maybe I wouldn't have gained that pound back. Now I could launch into a whole diatribe about the normalcy of weight fluctuations and how a pound up or down isn't something to take to heart. But that's not the point of this particular blog post. And quite frankly I'm glad I ate wine and drank pizza last night. I mean if I can't make intermittent fasting fit into my life, I haven't a chance of staying on it long term. And I'm the kind of gal who drinks wine and eats pizza sometimes. Okay maybe the pizza is sometimes.

Nevertheless, I've been on a productivity tear these last few weeks. The more I'm able to accomplish, the more I demand of myself. It's a stupid cycle I repeat like a hamster running on a wheel every time my physical health gets strong enough to allow it. It's like I don't care if I relapse again, the need to catch up on fourteen years of lost living becomes this driving, super-important force that consumes me.

Plus I gained that pound back that I'd lost the day before. So despite it being 81 degrees outside, I decided to put my 14-year-old Yorkie in his stroller and turn half of our dog walk into a jog. When I came home I had tons of energy (because that's what intermittent fasting is doing for me), and I still had to kill like an hour and a half before I could break my sixteen-hour fast, so I did yoga.

It really was one of those mornings where I should have shuffled around the block with the pups, planted myself on the sofa, and worked on the computer all day doing things that are creative or move my life forward, like my book, this blog, or my gentle toe-dip back into social media. But I'm so freakin' burned out on how much work it took to get the first episode posted on our YouTube channel, the thought of getting on the computer was incomprehensible. And I really had made my flare worse with all that exercise. So I decided to juice and do a bunch of food prep for the week.

Chronic fatigue syndrome was my first diagnosis. When I have referred to relapsing in the past, it is because CFS has taken me down. Last time my relapse was triggered by the flu and lasted for like three years. I have said it a million times and I will say it again, give me fibromyalgia any day over the life-stopper that is CFS. So today after I spent three hours cooking and doing dishes, I felt the tip of that deep, pervasive, enveloping fatigue start spreading from the inside of my bones and keep going until it had taken over my eyelids.

Hello perspective my old friend. What a reminder of what my life could easily become again. I have got to stop running around like a psycho when I feel better. My life is improving. It is taking forever, but ultimately I am moving forward. I am not "behind" in life because I'm a loser or stupid or didn't care enough to try. I'm behind because I'm sick. Luckily my particular sickness isn't terminal and goes through periods where it abates enough for me to trick myself into thinking I'm normal. But that doesn't mean it's impact on my life, and what my life should have been, isn't a son of a bitch.

Getting sick again, to the point where I can't do anything but veg out on General Hospital and Jane the Virgin all day, is the most important thing for me to avoid. It's not being a loser. It's not not accomplishing my dreams. It's not never getting my book published. And it's certainly not failing to get in shape again. No, the most important charge I have, the only one that matters, is doing everything within my power to not relapse. It may happen by circumstance, I have an illness. But I have an obligation to myself, a personal responsibility to put my health first, and I have not been doing that. Tomorrow I will.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Check out the YouTube channel I started with my husband: Intermittent Fasting: Our LA Story!