Thursday, March 18, 2021

Loneliness

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. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah

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,

Leah

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,

Leah

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Chronicles of F.I.B.R.O.



Well hello there. It's been nearly a year since I last posted a blog. Is it too dramatic to say that between February 7, 2020 (my last post) and today, the world has pretty much flipped on its head? I don't think it is.

The break did me good. It's not like I haven't wanted to write in all this time. I just haven't known how to keep writing a blog centered solely around having fibromyalgia. Back in the day when I started blogging I was a very sick girl. Sick was the only way I knew how to relate to the world. My days were spent in a defensive huddle trying to fend off everything life hurled at me, a perpetual victim too burdened to take charge. I still have those days but thankfully that is not every day, anymore. Once I gained a semblance of control and found some stability, I was able to branch out and start moving forward. My worldview expanded and for a while there I was even hurling toward the stars. I believed I had conquered fibro and "that phase of my life" was behind me. Then it became very hard to write this blog.

Can I pick myself up off the ground and stop laughing, please? Because it wasn't long before I tumbled back down to hell and all that progress I thought was mine forever vanished in an instant. I relapsed. And with the physical relapse came an immense depression. They both took me years to recover from. Somewhere along the line I realized talking about my feelings was helping to keep me sick. So I stopped. It was easier to shift my focus to doing something else than feed the immense negativity threatening to swallow me whole. So what on Earth was I supposed to blog about then?

What a decade it has been. Throughout all of these ups and downs, I've grown tremendously as a person. Be it age or experience, my swings aren't as wide and lows don't dip nearly as deep. This has allowed me to pile the plate of my life high with a variety of different interests. They keep me marching forward regardless of the fluctuating state of my health. So how, given the many changes I've experienced over the last ten years, do I keep writing a blog solely about being sick? My answer is I don't. I write a blog about experiencing the world as a person who is sick.

Welcome to Chronicles of F.I.B.R.O.: a chronicle of my journey to find inspiration, balance, resilience, and optimism. I'm an aspiring novelist, rapacious reader, devoted dog mom, dedicated wife, avid health seeker, wine enthusiast, and commentator on life. All fit into a package who lives with chronic illness.

If so inclined, please drop me a comment and let me know how you are doing!


Thanks for joining,

Leah 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Stupid Society

The Super Bowl commercials this year were dumb. Usually they're funny, or poignant, or heart-tugging. This year exactly two of them made me laugh and two of them made me tear up. That's it. Everyone's been raving about The Irishman. All the billboards told me it got 9 Academy Award nominations for best picture! I watched it and was furious I wasted three-and-a-half hours of my life on such a pointless journey. Aside from Al Pacino's acting, I was not impressed. I'm sorry, were the women even invited to speak? Yet this is the stuff everyone thinks is groundbreaking...

I'm constantly on my own case for not engaging with society. Write a blog, I tell myself. Connect with people. Reach out. Go on Facebook. Post on Instagram. Tweet something funny or silly. None of it's that hard. Yet I don't. I remind myself that there are people in the world who care about me and I make no effort to reach into their lives. Why can't I force myself to engage with what's relevant? Is my social estrangement even necessary anymore, a condition of my ailments, or is my self-absorption pure habit. I'm not depressed. Is this a symptom of long-term bitterness?

But maybe it's not me. Maybe my Super Bowl Irishmen experience showed me the world has just gotten stupid. No wonder I don't want to engage. I don't want to dumb down to intermingle with mainstream society. I'd rather sit in my isolated existence and write a book, praying one day it's good enough for people to read. People in the world I've completely lost touch with. Don't worry, the bigger picture of my conundrum isn't lost on me.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Supplement Yourself

I've always wondered if nutritional supplements work. I started on them in 2006, the year I was diagnosed, and have tried pretty much everything under the sun since. There's no way to really know if anything is doing anything. I don't know what's malfunctioning in my body, giving me fibro in the first place. So how could I possibly know if a specific herb is helping a specific problem caused by I don't know what? My pre-surgery experience gave me some answers.

My doctor instructed me to lay off herbs and fish oil for two weeks prior to my surgery. Science doesn't know how they impact bleeding. Most vitamins, minerals, and amino acids were fine. So per her instructions I stopped taking milk thistle, turmeric, resveratrol, spirulina, and fish oil. I stayed on magnesium, potassium, lysine, vitamin D, and a probiotic. By the end of the first week my flare had taken me over. It was the kind of flare I get when I'm in a much sicker overall state. I hadn't had one this severe in months, possibly even a year. Of course I throbbed and ached, couldn't sleep, and found it impossible to keep my eyes open for the better part of the day. But all of that paled in comparison to the mental takeover. I became absolutely convinced there was no point in continuing to live. Surgery was a waste of time and money. I'm such an unimportant member of society, why was anybody squandering their efforts on me? I was terrified it was going to increase my pain or create more problems than it fixed. I wondered if it was going to kick me into another five-year relapse, which is not outside the realm of possibility. The world became a dark, cold, awful place I was certain I didn't possess enough strength to survive. I actually called my mom and told her the devil had taken me over and she probably shouldn't come out from Arizona to help assist me. I had no way to guarantee my mind would perceive anything accurately. The last thing I wanted was to permanently damage our relationship. Lord knows I've done enough of that.

Fortunately for me during this entire experience of mental anguish, I couldn't take a full breath to save my life. That's one of my earliest symptoms of this illness I don't experience very often anymore, the inability to breathe. The whole time my mind was folding in on itself, my lungs were rejecting air. It was an astounding physical reminder that my emotions were not coming from me, they are a manifestation of my illness. My physical impairment was so strong I couldn't ignore its relevance. Perhaps that's the only thing that got me to surgery day without losing it completely, the constant reminder every time I tried to take a breath that something was seriously sick inside me.

The day I came home from surgery I started on my full regiment of supplements immediately. I haven't dipped as emotionally low since. I haven't flared as badly since. I haven't been unable to breathe or want to obliterate my own existence since. No, I don't know what's wrong with me, what fibro is, what's actually causing these problems inside my body. But after my surgery/supplement experience I'm more convinced than ever that my potions and herbs make a tremendous difference.

Thanks for joining,
Leah