Friday, November 9, 2018

My Disabled Dog

In July my family went on vacation. On the first day, my thirteen-year-old Yorkie was injured. More precisely, he stopped walking on his left leg and started hopping around like a little bunny. So we took him to the vet and were informed he most likely had a partially torn knee ligament. Anti-inflammatory meds and rest were prescribed, with the hope that the ligament would resolve itself. It didn't. So on August 24th, he had major reconstructive knee surgery. Turns out in addition to the fully torn ligament, he also had a slew of genetic knee disorders his arthritis and advanced age had exacerbated.

I thought his recovery from that surgery was going to be the end of both of us. My little dog came home pissed. He stood in the barricaded living room, with the cone of shame surrounding his head, barking at me incessantly. I didn't sleep for three nights. On the fourth night I slept a little. Until I got up in the middle of the night, tripped over one of his barricades, and face planted into a wall. That resulted in a black eye that lasted for two weeks.

Nevertheless, his progress progressed and he started slowly but surely walking on his left leg again. Until two days after his first physical therapy session, when he started hopping and refused to put pressure on his left leg in any way, shape, or form.

Back to the surgeon's we went, where she informed us the band replacing his ligament had come loose and the surgery had to be done again. It may have been something the PT did, but there was no way to tell for sure. All I knew was my baby boy had to go through that horrible, exorbitantly expensive surgery again. It was the worst possible outcome I'd have given anything to avoid.

So on October 10th he had surgery #2. Luckily this time his recovery was but a fraction of the nightmare. In fact, he started walking, slow and stable, on his left leg the day after coming home from the hospital. He did that steadily until Monday. That's when, again, the left leg went up and my little bunny started to hop. Again.

I have completely altered my life to accommodate my dog, who is much more of a son, in order to rehab his disability. In an effort to eliminate his jumping, I got rid of my box springs and bed frame and invested in a low platform bed. I also got a huge coffee table that blocks his ability to jump up on the sofa. When we walk, three times a day, he spends three-quarters of it in a stroller. Each night he sleeps barricaded between pillows at my feet in order to prevent him from moving around. He's on more supplements to support his joints and ease his arthritic pain than I've ever taken for mine. There isn't a damn thing more I could have possibly done to ensure these surgeries stuck.

Mentally I'm preparing to have a permanently disabled dog. It's heartbreaking, especially considering how youthful, energetic, and vibrant my puppy still is. He's in perfect health, save for his damn left leg. Putting him through another major surgery, considering the success of the other two, is the last thing I'm willing to consider.

But I'm furious. Outraged. I feel duped. And I can't believe that after all this, my dog doesn't have use of his leg.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, November 5, 2018

First Spark of Life

It was October of 2016. To say I was not doing well would be a monumental understatement. I was, in fact, losing it. Mind, body, and soul, I was sicker than I'd been in years. My CFS/ME was in full charge of my physical capabilities, major depression had taken over my mind, and I'd lost my faith in...everything.

My husband decided we needed to get away. He figured removing me from my environment might allow me to reset, gain some perspective, find some hope, who knows. All we both knew was I was in desperate need of serious help. But for people like me, there isn't any. Not from external forces. Any success I'd ever achieved in managing my chronic health issues came about because I found a resolve inside myself and fought like hell to get there.

We were driving up the 101 Highway toward Cambria. I was looking at Instagram. My husband had tagged me in a post. It was 2 side-by-side images of a former anorexic turned fitness competitor. He was impressed by her shocking transformation. She'd gone from a 68-pound girl who, quite frankly, hurt to look at and turned into to a sculpted and toned woman any chica I knew would've loved to look like. But it was a sentence in her caption that rocked my world:

"Life cannot compromise with death, the same way strength cannot compromise with defeat." That simple statement reminded me that I don't have the luxury of giving up. For while my fight for health may be insurmountable at times, it's still a fight I'm required to win if I want to stay alive.

My husband looked over and tears were streaming down my cheeks. For what he saw that inspired him to tag me was a girl who looked a lot better now than she did before. What I saw was a woman who had healed, in perhaps the most remarkable way imaginable. As a way to combat her eating disorder, she decided to embrace true health in every possible way: mentally, physically, and emotionally.

It'd be so nice to write about how I woke up on that fall day in 2016 and slowly but surely started to climb my way up. No, that took another year. I was severely sick, and it took quite a while longer before my physical illness settled down enough that I could begin to address what had happened to my life. Yet that day gave me the first spark that reminded me overcoming odds is not an impossibility. It's essential, in fact, if I want to continue to do this thing called living.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Decision to Make

I'm officially reentering society. I've joined two writer's groups and have read my material aloud and received critical feedback from both. I'm attending a conference on Saturday. I'm making commitments and able to see them through, for quite a few weeks now. Somehow, finally, miraculously, I've found myself in a position to start living again.

Yet as I dip my toes back into the living waters of life, I'm scared. I'm scared of who I've become. I'm scared to let people know who I am. I'm scared to tell people about what I've been through. I don't want their judgment, and I don't want their sympathy. And I certainly don't want to have to explain and try to make people understand... 

But I don't really know what I want. Perhaps to pretend the whole mess never happened? To never let anyone see anything past skin-deep? To be taken at face value, like somehow my life could become as superficial as it looks from the outside perspective, if only I don't address my truth?

If only. So I have to decide. Who am I going to present myself to the world as? This was a big issue last time I got healthy enough to work. I learned that when it comes to me and other people, I look too healthy to say I'm sick. Trying to exist in that dichotomy felt like a really big burden was placed on top of an already insurmountable struggle. They would look at me like I was nuts and treat me like I clearly didn't understand what true hardship was. So now I find myself electing to stay silent.

The result: people think I'm a happily kept housewife who grew bored so she decided to write a novel. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I find myself doing zilch to change perceptions. It's too hard to try and convince the world that what I'm dealing with is real. Ironically, that's the entire reason I wrote the book in the first place. And why I continue to write this blog. So yeah, I have a decision to make; how much of myself do I keep to the vest, and how much do I let be known.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Friday, October 19, 2018

If You're Not First, You're Last

I'm stupid competitive. The need to succeed and be the best is deeply ingrained in me. So deep, I have a terrible time accepting when I'm not. Perhaps this is part of the reason this illness is so difficult for me to live with. I know plenty of patients who, by year thirteen, have accepted their limitations and gone on to create meaningful existences where they are reasonably happy. They have filled their lives with loving, supportive people and respect themselves despite the struggles living with chronic illness puts them through. As much as I wish I was one of them, I most decidedly am not.

I seem to exist in one of two states. Either I'm beating this beast into submission, or I'm writhing around on the ground throwing a tantrum because I'm not winning, fibro is. There's no middle ground with me. It's almost like every time I relapse, just like when I got sick in the first place, I take it beyond personally. A shining example of how bad I'm failing. I can spend years twirling in the question vortex of "How could I let this happen?" Which is a really pointless question to ask myself after the fact, when my focus should be on loving myself so I can stand back up as quickly as possible.

No, instead I spend years adulating my anger at what is. Furthermore, it's only when I've stabilized enough to climb about halfway up that I can stop my foolishness. Luckily, for the first time since 2015, I'm here. Stabilized. Starting to live life again. About half as sick half as much as the time as I was those first two years. Finally. For a while there, I didn't know if I'd ever reach this place again. I'd done it before so knew it was possible, but couldn't stop bathing in my fury long enough to have faith.

But this is nothing if not a slow climb. As much as I'd give anything for life to be as simple as a decision for me, it's not. I'm starting to exercise again with a modicum of regularity and it's no longer sending me into major flares, but of course it's not nearly as frequent as I'd like. I'm getting out more and starting to be able to keep commitments again. But it feels small and pathetic considering what I've done in the past and what I aim to do in the future. There's still a tremendous gap between the me I am and the me I need to be.

Yet being able to do a little has calmed me down a lot. While I constantly have to remind myself that there are many other roles to play in life other than winner or loser, I find I'm generally getting a grip. A productive day followed by a down day isn't the worst thing anymore. After all, it's worlds away from being too sick to turn off the TV and get up off the sofa for months on end.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Saturday, October 13, 2018

VOTE!

My vote-by-mail materials arrived the other day for November's election. I know these mid-terms are a huge big deal here in America, but I have beef with voting more than once in any given year. It seems like a frivolous waste of time and money to me, not to mention it kills both civilian enthusiasm and voter turn out. Sigh. Yes, this will be like the third or fourth time in 2018 I've cast a ballot. Is it any wonder I leave it to the last minute? I'm usually up until three o'clock in the morning the night before desperately researching who to vote for, and then I have to actually show up at the polling place to drop off my absentee ballot in person--knowing full well my vote probably won't get counted. Still, it's one of the most important civic duties I've been given as a citizen, so to the best of my ability, I persist.

Last election, on June 5th, I sat at The Cheesecake Factory during happy hour pouring over my vote-by-mail materials. There were so many crazy people running for all sorts of things, I could barely get past the candidate statements. And who on earth am I supposed to want on the school board when I don't even have kids... The more whiskey sours I consumed, the funnier the whole thing became. Especially the guy running for mayor who went off for three paragraphs about how we're being poisoned by the drinking water. Like, this is LA. Who here doesn't drink bottled? 

So I would throw out names as various waiters walked past, asking which they thought sounded better for a particular office. Then we would laugh as they offered silly logic to back up their uninformed suggestions. But I couldn't very well transfer such ignorance onto an actual ballot, so eventually I decided I'd voted for the most important positions to the best of my ability and called it a day. Let me tell you: turning in that ballot, in person, to the polling place after happy hour, well it made me feel like a college kid all over again. Like I was sneaking in a term paper after a very important deadline was due following a really big party...

I really need to not leave this election until the last minute. I need to stop procrastinating and start researching. I need to do my part to help my country out of the partisan divide we're deeply enmeshed in. Because somewhere along the way, we citizens of the United States of America have forgotten how to act like adults. How to compromise. How to work together for the common good. Hell, we can't even agree on what the common good is anymore. Nor can we agree on what constitutes a citizen. It's sad, living in an America I most certainly did not grow up in. I honestly don't know if there's a way out for us, or if we'll eventually erupt into another civil war. But the one thing I can do to speak my voice, promote my values, and hopefully influence positive change, is to vote.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Friday, October 5, 2018

Impossible to Be Good

I really did a number on myself when I went on that extreme diet last year. In hindsight I can see how it combined a significant number of what I consider to be unhealthy practices: restricting entire food groups, sweeping overnight changes that aren't attainable for a lifetime, a plan so consuming I was constantly at its mercy--either because I couldn't eat something, I had to eat something, or I was forced to spend hours preparing food so I could eat something. 

Yup, I was that desperate to feel better and nothing else was working. So I set my sights on nutrition. Cleaning up my diet helped me immensely in the past, and this was a new approach claiming to treat the root cause of my illness. Yet the deeper I got into this eating plan, the less functional of a human being I became. Toward the end I was usually in one of two states. Either I was hungry and weak but not allowed to eat because something I drank needed to digest first. Or I was avoiding the whole thing and eating junk because I couldn't possibly face yet one more bowl of salad. 

It's impossible to know if my pseudo-commitment to veganism did anything for me. I've certainly been off it long enough and haven't experienced a backslide. But maybe it healed something inside of me and I never would have arrived here without it? It'll go down as one of life's little mysteries... The one thing I do know, however, is my present burn-out on all things healthy has me eating like crap. Like I've been to Taco Bell more times than I can count after not having eaten such blatant fast food for at least half-a-decade. Because In-n-Out is obviously not fast food.

So here's the result of my year-long obsession with consuming fruits and vegetables: food has lost its attraction for me. Eating is now a chore. I wish it was something I only had to do when somebody  else was paying for a nice meal at a great restaurant. Otherwise, I'm astoundingly sick and tired of thinking about food. When hunger pains strike, I get irritated. It seems like a waste of time to have to stop what I'm doing, prepare food, eat it, and clean it up. Honestly, I'd rather balance my checkbook. So I'm eating bad, not looking all that great, and can barely muster up the resolve to take my vitamins and juice my vegetables anymore. I'd rather go get a falafel. Or a burrito. Anything I don't have to cook and is a breeze to clean up.

Thanks for joining,
Leah