Thursday, June 28, 2018

#bodypositivity

The ideal shape of the female form has changed a lot during my lifetime. When I was a kid in the '80s it was all about Jane Fonda's Original Workout. Thin and toned with tits, that's what we were supposed to want to look like. By the time I became a teenager in the '90s, the "supermodel" had been born. If we couldn't manage to waif our bodies into the Kate Moss prototype, we at least had the decency to shoot for the slightly more sultry, if equally hard to achieve, Linda Evangelista. Then Jennifer Lopez blew everything up with what, at the time, was considered a rather large rump. Hip hop rapped about the glory of big booties and small boobies. It was the first time I became aware of how valuable diversity in the feminine aesthetic truly is.

So much has changed since last century. Now women get implants in both their boobs and their butts. The plus-size model isn't only for the plus-size catalog anymore, if season sixteen of Project Runway was any indication. Women are lifting weights on their quest to obtain both strength and health. I know that was my impetus when I started weightlifting in 2013, and it revitalized my life. It also, inadvertently, dropped me into a size six. Although I weighed close to 150 pounds, all that muscle made me appear smaller than I'd ever been in my adult life. It was glorious. I looked great, I felt great, and my fibro was darn near in "remission." Then the grand relapse of 2015 happened. Too fatigued to even drive to the gym, let alone complete a workout, exercise was one of the first things I lost.

It was a brilliant idea to get rid of all my larger clothing when I was sliding into that six, let me tell you, because today I'm back in a size ten. My arms no longer have visible muscles, just a thin layer of cellulite. I'm wearing a Brazilian waist trainer when I go out, which does a reasonably good job of squeezing my belly fat into both my boobs and my butt. But seriously, I'm struggling. When I look in the mirror I see a woman who used to look good and, sadly, just don't no more. What's worse is I've allowed it to affect my self-esteem. Deeply. I'm trying to accept the concept that I'm supposed to love my body regardless of her size. It's hard. Ashley Graham is my spirit guide on this journey. Every time she posts a size-sixteen bikini or lingerie pic on Instagram, I study it. For a girl who grew up being told Heidi Klum was "the body," my attempt to normalize what I see is a work in progress. However, the irony isn't lost on me that I'm in awe of Ashley's radiance because it comes straight from her sense of self-confidence.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Write Like Nobody's Reading

Me and this blog, we have a tenuous relationship. I made a big fuss about how I was going to resume blogging and return to facebook a few months back. Like every other attempt to return to this construct, however, I quickly fizzled. Blogging went fine, except I had no clue what the point is or why I'm doing it. Finding myself purposeless, it didn't take long before I didn't know what to say. Facebook, on the other hand, was a profoundly disappointing experience. And this time it had nothing to do with the people. The people were quite wonderful, actually. But facebook himself was inhospitable. Every time I logged on he informed me in BIG, BOLD, RED letters and numbers how poorly my page was doing. I'd been gone a long time and people weren't engaging with or responding to my posts. I mean the ones facebook circulated got attention. But since I declined to pay facebook, my posts were circulated to very few people. Say 500 of the roughly 12,000 who follow, if I was lucky. For a girl whose type-A will never die, it was extremely frustrating. Eventually the negativity became too much. I filled out a scathing survey about how user un-friendly the whole experience was and stopped logging on.

Yet here I am again. At this point in my three-year relapse, I'm finally getting my illness managed. Again. I could be chronicling my journey--how hard it is to exercise when I hurt this bad, how I tapped out on my anger and have been basking in the afterglow of acceptance, how aimless and purposeless I feel trying to rebuild my life... But I'm not. Because I still haven't found my purpose. All I know is I cannot continue to write a blog where I'm defined by my illness. Fibromyalgia is not the sum of my whole; it's a part of my person. Yet it's the topic I founded this blog on, named it after, and have spent years and years ranting and raving about. Where on earth do I go from here?

There's a whole world going on around us I want to write about--not as it relates to fibromyalgia, but how it relates to me. My thoughts, perceptions, feelings, opinions, experiences, and pain. Frequently my illness comes into play, for it is a defining presence in my life, but it's not always about dealing with fibro or its impact on my day-to-day operations. Sometimes its just about me--a woman reacting to the world I live in. Yet the very concept is terrifying. Opening up my truth in an age rife with so much unfiltered, unadulterated hate seems idiotic. Giving anyone with an opinion access to judge my life and words feels like I'm begging for a kick to the teeth. I'm not. But if I don't write like nobody's reading, if I don't start telling my truth without regard for the reaction of others, I might as well put this pen down right now.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Six Months Later

Last August my husband embarked on two new endeavors, both of which meant a lot to him. He signed up for a once-a-week night class and started independently studying for a really intense licensing exam. As a man who works full time and logs in another part-time job's worth of hours in overtime, he's already stretched really thin. I didn't vocalize my concern at the time, lest I appear unsupportive, but I couldn't conceive of a world where he had enough energy to devote to all three commitments successfully. Unwilling to proclaim his ambitious efforts destined for failure, however, I refused to give breath to my fears. In fact I did the opposite. Like a good wife I shut my mouth, smiled, and threw all my support and encouragement behind him.

I also decided the only way to get through this next phase was to subjugate my own needs to take care of his. While there was some gallantry to my thought process, it pretty much lacked logic. The reality is I'm a high-maintenance trainwreck who's constantly sick and struggling to fight my way back from an atrocious viral relapse. Not exactly a model cheerleader, let alone life partner, to get someone through an intense time of personal improvement. Nor am I a person who has the luxury of not taking care of myself. Especially once the stress and exhaustion of his demanding schedule started turning my husband into an ogre...

Ultimately life became unbearable. Again. My reaction was to stop talking and retreat into myself. I felt increasingly trapped in a life I couldn't stand and had no control over. But my husband was near the end of his commitments and struggling to stay afloat, so I couldn't very well say anything to him. The last thing he needed as he raced toward success was a nagging wife to distract him with her whiny little problems. Isolated, alone, and angry, my mental health took a hit.

He passed the flippin' licensing exam last Friday. The floodgates of my misery burst open on Saturday. For the past week we've done a lot of talking. I'm sitting on months worth of unexpressed anger and resentment that has turned me bitter and hostile. He's got an entire life he's been avoiding and has to start participating in again.

While I'm relieved things are on the right track, I'm disappointed in us. We've been together nearly nineteen years and have had more hard times than most people have hairs on their head. You'd think we would have learned how to navigate life's challenges without falling apart, as individuals and as a couple. But instead of coming together, we both retreated into our own individual survival modes and wreaked a fair amount of havoc in our own lives. That havoc has to be cleaned up. So while it seemed like passing that licensing exam meant the hard work was coming to an end, I'm quickly realizing it's only starting to begin.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dying Inside, Again

Diminished. Irrelevant. Unnecessary. Incapable. Right now, those are the words that describe me. My inability to engage in life, which I'm working so hard to change and thought I was improving on, is simply inadequate. Nobody's got the time or the patience to sit back and wait for me to get it together. And why would they? I've already squandered enough of both to suck up everyone's lifetime.

Is there a soul on the planet I can talk to? Because right now I feel alone and isolated, like a woman existing on an island of herself. But that island has no fruit left on her trees, and the wildlife have all swum or flown away. So I sit and stare out at the sea. Starving. Wondering if anyone is ever going to rescue me. Knowing full well they won't. I'm responsible for every ounce of my survival and can't even feed myself.

This is what year thirteen with an invisible, chronic illness has done to me. Annihilated my self-worth, estranged me from those I know and love, suppressed a life that was supposed to get lived, and turned a vibrant and capable woman into a blithering, pathetic pile of weakness.

It didn't have to be this way. It didn't have to get this bad. I could've gotten sick and not lost my mind. I could have, at least once on this thirteen-year journey, encountered a doctor who didn't treat my life-altering insomnia and muscular pain like a t-shirt I decided to don because I liked the way it felt. Is it a myth, or are there people who get this illness whose friends and family rally together and lift them up? Are those people accepted for who they have now become and not persecuted for never being enough?

I'm retreating further into myself. Every time I get this low, a piece of me dies and stays here. There's less of me to pick up and move forward with. Right now I wonder if I'll ever be able to move forward at all. Thirteen years ago my life splintered off into a parallel universe. Although it seemed like I was still part of the normal world, my truth no longer existed there. Now I'm floating in an abyss of madness existing somewhere between my truth and everybody else's world. My reality is pecking at my flesh, nibbling on my toes, eating chunks of the goodness that was once my soul. At the pace I'm going it won't be long before there's nothing left inside me at all.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Healthy Burnout

I don't know if it slowly crept up on me or hit me like a freight train. All I know is I woke up last week utterly unable to continue spending the majority of my time in my kitchen. To fully understand how I got here, I've got to rewind to last April. Picture it: Los Angeles, 2017, 4:30 a.m. I was sitting on my sofa sobbing because I couldn't sleep, hadn't slept in I don't remember how long, and was still getting sicker following my relapse in 2015. I was so out of control of my circumstances, desperate doesn't even begin to cover it. So through my tears I grabbed my computer and dialed up Amazon. I'd been hearing about a revolutionary book that uses nutrition to heal mystery illnesses for some time and, quite frankly, short of joining a cult was willing to try anything to regain my grasp on my health. So I spent $15 and ordered the book.

After I warily stared at it for a few days, I finally picked up the darn thing and started reading. By the time I turned the last page, I was ready to give it a whirl. Thus began the indexing and cross-referencing and researching of various nutritional supplements to find out how to treat my myriad symptoms in the most efficient and affordable way possible. There were significant foods I had to eliminate from my diet and others I had to figure out how to add. This book preached veganism, which I didn't even begin to try, but ultimately I took what was already a healthy diet and turned each meal into a supercharged dose of nutritional medicine. And what I did was a half-ass attempt compared to what was prescribed...

It's been nine months and I'm feeling worlds better. I'm also severely burnt out on nutrition as a concept and want to set fire to my kitchen. I want to throw my juicer and blender off a cliff. I want to stop buying produce and eat tater tots and queso dip for dinner every night, followed by a midnight snack at In-N-Out. I want biscuits and gravy for breakfast, not a fruit-and-algae-infused smoothie. The thought of pushing one more stick of celery through my juicer makes me want to yank out my hair by the root...

All this animosity has been brewing inside me and it finally roared last week. Clarity came to me as I thought back on the early days of learning how to eat healthy. Back in 2011, the number one commitment I made to myself was to make slow, reasonable changes I could stick to for the rest of my life. But 2017 me was so desperate to stabilize my immune system, I delved head-first into a "diet." The long-term result of this diet was I became food obsessed. It was too restrictive to last a lifetime and inspired cheating that was far worse than what I ate before I began. Which is why diets don't flippin' work. Never one to throw out the baby with the bathwater, I'm reassessing and adjusting. After all, I am feeling worlds better. There are many beneficial components I'm keeping. But I'm also moving forward with balance and the firm knowledge that it is only what I can sustain that can sustain me.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mood Swing With Me

I have a bone to pick with people who aren't moody. People who wake up in the same smiling mood every day and proceed to go about their business in precisely the same manner as they did the day before. As if nothing's changed. As if it isn't a new day fraught with new challenges and new opportunities and new situations at hand. How is it possible? How has life insulated them from the ups and downs it hurls at so many others? How do they not react when it does? I surmise the non-moody of this world have either suppressed their actual feelings in order to create stability in their own lives or genuinely don't experience shifts in their outlook, perspective, hormones, chemicals, or the bevy of other things that make me go from zero to sixty in 2.2 seconds.

Sometimes I wake up crying: my eyes wet with tears, my heart bursting with anguish, my body riddled with pain. On those days my mood is very different than when I wake up dry-eyed. Sometimes I wake up angry: either I'm pissed off at the world and my inability to fit into it or mad at whatever person did something to drive that point home. If I can contain my anger, which means it's not flare-induced, those are usually rather productive days for me. Nothing fuels my fire faster than fury, that's for sure. But when it's a flare stoking those flames, my efforts at productivity usually leave me scatterbrained and running in fifty directions--rendering me exhausted and utterly useless. And in a rather unhappy mood, seeing as I'm reminded of how little control I have over my own life. Now sometimes I wake up happy. It does actually happen. For a few years I woke up happy most every day. Then I lost my grip on this illness and my happiness went away. Now I'm back to the mixed bag of not knowing what me I'm going to get when I wake up in the morning. It's exhausting.

But back to those non-moody people, which I have clearly established I am not. They have somehow set the standard in society and are really screwing it up for the rest of us. See my moodiness is considered a weakness, a flaw, something I am criticized for. Really, I'm just a human being doing what human beings do--being imperfect. Yet the fact that all I'm doing is feeling my feelings tells me the problem isn't with me. No, I absolutely cannot take out my moodiness on other people. They didn't create my reality and aren't responsible for fixing it. I am. But I've kinda had it. I'm sick of lying when people ask me how I am. I'm sick of telling everyone I'll be fine in order to make them feel better, even though in that moment the world is coming down around me. I'm sick of the expectation that I'm supposed to be smiling and happy at all times, regardless of the flu-like symptoms ravaging my body, or the three hours of half-sleep I got the night before, or the fact that I'm in so much pain I can't move. I'm sick of not being allowed to be sick! My illness is not a dirty little secret. It's my reality and sometimes it pisses me off, makes me feel physically awful, and erodes my desire to engage in life. And I react. I know this is an inconvenient truth to the non-moody of the world, but I also know there are plenty o' moodies out there, just like me. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah