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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Flu

On Saturday morning the strangest thing happened. I didn't feel sick. I woke up feeling good, well rested, and ready to take on the day. My normal layer of fatigue was missing. I didn't have a headache, stiff neck, scratchy throat, or sinus pressure. I didn't feel weighted down by the oppressiveness of trudging through life feeling like crap all the time. I kept mentally scanning my body over and over again searching for any ping or pang of pain but just couldn't find one. It had been so long since I've had a symptom-free day, I forgot it was even possible. I also forgot how motivated to live life I am when I'm not shrouded in sickness.

So I went to Ikea. It's a big place and by the time we were done shopping I was way past hungry, so we stopped for a burger. The second I sat down at the restaurant I felt it, all of it. All those symptoms listed above that took a vacation for the day had come back home. Except my scratchy throat was razor-blade sore and I felt simultaneously chilled and feverish. Never knowing if I'm coming down with an actual cold or flu, or just good ol' fibro, all I could do was wait to see how my symptoms manifested. I think I asked my husband to feel if my forehead was hot at least twenty times. I kept drinking water, trying to swallow the razor blades away. Then around midnight I caught a chill so violent and intense, my entire body started convulsing. I was shaking so uncontrollably as I stumbled to the fireplace, I could hardly breathe and certainly couldn't speak. All that water I drank trying to chase away my sore throat got caught somewhere between my convulsions and inability to breathe. So like the completely melodramatic freak of nature I was in that moment, all I could do was croak at my husband to get me a bowl to puke in, limbs spasming and teeth chattering.

Needless to say I got the flu. It's a mild flu, as far as flus go. My fever broke in twenty-four hours and I (cross my fingers) haven't spent a night of sleep unable to breathe out of my nose yet. I feel like crap and am bogged down with fatigue, but what's new? I'm more excited about those glorious eight hours that I didn't feel like a sick person. How do I get back to that? Trying to do laundry and walk my dogs with my lingering cold has reminded me how impossible it is to accomplish anything while only able to halfway function.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Inching Forward, Thankfully

It's not quick, and it's not linear, but holy smokes my health does seem to be stabilizing. I can fall asleep at night, wake up kind of the same person every morning, make a plan with myself and stick to it, and spend a significant part of most days somewhat productive. My flares no longer consume me, they merely suck. They don't render me housebound, utterly destroy my psyche, and send me reeling backward for months on end. Phew. That was a horrible, terrible, no good, very long flare that seems to have met its match. Thank God.

While in the throes of my two-year relapse, I lost hope. Not only that, but I lost my faith as well. Hindsight explains why things got so bad. How on earth was a sick, hopeless, faithless girl supposed to keep looking up? I believe given my particular set of circumstances mixed with my personality type, I would have been suffering from extreme delusions and denial if I hadn't utterly freaked out. At least I didn't detach from reality; I floated down the river of misery fully aware of my surroundings. Thank God for that.

My anger and bitterness stem from my helplessness. I can't imagine how different it would be to have an illness the world at large believes is real. Since I don't, I spend my life playing "Me Against the World" on repeat, fending off double invaders: the very real disease attacking my body and the public perception that I must be insane to consider myself sick--seeing as I look so healthy and smile so much. But now that I've got a wobbly sort of control over this disease, I don't feel so helpless. This means I'm not seeking approval, I'm focused on getting my life back and doing so in a way that doesn't make me feel awful. For this shift in my perspective I am astoundingly grateful.

I am toiling tirelessly to reclaim every inch of my lost self. I aim to be better than I was at my best, and strive to go beyond that. Someday. But today I'm paying attention to the pain in my body and melding it with how to complete my lowly To Do list required to get ready for Thanksgiving. I'm taking joy in walking my dogs in the late November sunshine and how powerful it feels to contort my aching limbs into a simple routine of yoga poses. No longer consumed with that ugly bitterness, it seems I've found my lost hope and am thankfully shuffling forward.

Thanks for joining,
Leah