Monday, December 23, 2013

A Gulp Of My Truth

A telling sequence of events unfolded recently. It clearly revealed how far onto the health-nut bandwagon I have climbed. For my bedtime snack I would eat a few dollops of yogurt with a small handful of granola. Long ago I learned most store-sweetened yogurt was full of sugar and/or chemicals. Mixing stevia, vanilla, cinnamon, and a drop of honey into plain, low-fat yogurt, makes a pretty healthy tasting concoction. But the granola was either super expensive, or full of sugar and/or it's evil twin, high-fructose corn syrup. So one day I found myself on the internet researching home-made granola recipes, and decided I'd positively lost it. When the final verdict of my recipe search was to improve the health of my midnight mastication by scratching granola altogether, and instead throw a handful of raw trail mix into the mildly sweet and relatively spicy yogurt, I knew I'd entered an entirely new realm of neurotic.  

For that reason it is vitally important I clarify the gaping juxtaposition straddling my life. In no way, shape or form, do I believe diet cures Fibromyalgia. Nor does exercise, pushing through, magical thinking or the Tooth Fairy. It is not an illness somebody gives themselves because they don't know how to handle life correctly. Most assuredly, Fibromyalgia is not a manifestation of depression, or some mind-body connection that can be overcome by determination. I'm going on my ninth year of living with this beast of burden beating on my back. It is a very real illness with a disabling set of symptoms, so varied and inconsistent the irregularity alone made me think I was going loony-bin crazy. But I wasn't. I was sick. The irony is, once I got enough of my health back to gain a bit of perspective, it erased every last bit of lingering self-doubt from my mind. Fibromyalgia is as real as the oxygen I breathe.

In the eight years I have been sick, I've done just about anything a person can do to get better. For many years nothing mattered, I was too sick for incremental changes to make a difference. No amount of removing aspartame from my diet, or mediating, or stuffing epic portions of supplements down my throat, "cured" me. If any one thing even made a small difference, it was horribly hard to tell, because everything else was so wrong I couldn't tell my ass from a hole in the ground. Through the years I've either lost, given up, changed or surrendered everything I thought mattered. I kept trying, trying, trying, to find a way to live life that wasn't more accurately described as living hell. Whatever combination of things I've done, mingled with my specific disease profile, mixed up with a million other unknowns, and luck I believe only comes from the good Lord above, life is worth living again. But that is just me, my story.      

Whatever this "thing" they call Fibromyalgia turns out to be, scientifically, it's certainly complex. Something is twisting immune suppression, central nervous system damage, and thermostat dis-regulation, along with who knows what else, into a very "custom" chronic illness. I don't know one single person who experiences it the same way I do. Sure, some symptoms overlap, but the way we respond to treatment is as unique as the way we ache. So while I run around crediting juicing and a positive attitude with a truly miraculous turnabout in my life, it is important to note this is not the first time I have tried either of them. Just the first time it's made enough of a difference to keep talking about. 

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Awareness Of Silence

It's hard to believe months have passed since I pushed the "power down" button on my social life. At that time, everything was spiraling around my world in utter chaos. I was one hot mess, and needed to retreat and regroup, before everything I knew and loved went up in smoke. Initially, the silence was golden. Once the clutter started settling down, I was able to separate my issues from other people's. There was tremendous freedom in not feeling responsible for the weight of the world!

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As I found me, I discovered so much more about the world at large. The pressures, expectations and control dramas people force upon each other bitch-slapped me with profound ridiculousness. While I was driven to understand this dynamic, and the function it serves in society, it also propelled me into a world of my own creation. Suddenly, my pressures, my expectations, and my control dramas, were all that really mattered. The day I discovered I can decide what I experience, and what I allow to permeate my reality, was one of the most powerful days I ever lived.

The clarity I exist in now is unreal. On the flip side, I have absolutely no patience for both people who get upset when they can't control others, and people who get upset when others try to control them. It's such a losing proposition! Clearly the only thing a person can control, is themselves! How does everyone not see this, as clear as Christmas on December 25th? Of course my next question is, why did it take me 37 years, and almost dying like 20 times, to figure this out? After pondering this dynamic for months now, two clear motivations rise to the top; the innate need to justify our existence, choices and outcomes, all wrapped up in the need to be accepted. So simple, yet so complex, just like the layered psyche of the human condition it represents. I can honestly say the last thing I expected to find on my journey of silence, was freedom. Yet, without a doubt, it's the most important thing I discovered was already there. I just had to look at it the right way.    

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Health Is Hard Work

I'm so angry at my motivation today. Hanging in this strange balance between sick and capable is overwhelmingly challenging. One minute I feel optimistic, and like I can accomplish anything. The next I'm befuddled by how much work is required to simply NOT be sick. So I drown my anxiety in a distraction, where not only do I accomplish nothing, I get further behind on life's responsibilities. I've been on an upswing for long enough now, certain patterns are starting to reveal themselves. The biggest of all; if I skip my kale-rich fruit/veggie juice for more than one day, I flare. Big time. The 'getting the flu-don't want to get out of bed-life seems hopeless' kind of flare, which is always accompanied by an odd symptom or two. Things like bad mental fog and confusion, or feeling like my bra is made of sharp wire cutting into my flesh.

Now, if I stay on the juicing bandwagon, I feel good. Really good. The 'haven't felt this good since I got sick' kind of good. Life seems not only possible, but conquerable. I may even run around declaring how mind-over-matter and determination inject me with positive power! Seeing as there are so many wonderful things to do when one feels so good, the LAST thing I want to do is stand in my kitchen for two hours and juice. So maybe I skip a day, and then get busy the next, and then I start to not feel so good, so maybe another day bites the dust, and before I know it...FLARE!

What a problem to have! I would've killed for this problem, at pretty much any point over the last eight years. Shock and awe, I finally have some control in my life! It's a powerful feeling. And exactly why I'm sitting here irritated with myself, for having just done the devil's dance straight to flare-ville for the umpteenth time. If life has taught me anything, it's the importance of the balance of living for today, while planning for tomorrow. Counting my blessings, and then looking for more, not weeping over the heartache behind me. And the profound realization that change is really only one mind-shift, and a hell of a lota hard work, away.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Litmus Of The Staircase

Nothing shines the flashlight of scrutiny on my flaws quite like admitting to them. From that point forward I can no longer bury my head in the sand, rely on denial, or let excuses placate me into doing nothing about my problems. It's overwhelming, how utterly undone my life became. The more I do to organize, simplify and progress it, the more I realize how far into the land of the lost I sunk. 

A few years back, when I was coming off high-dose Prednisone to treat two hemorrhagic strokes, I fell on my knees. It was winter, always a more painful time of year for me. Fibromyalgia and I were entrenched in a reunion of epic proportions, after the blissful psychosis of living on steroids for six months, relatively pain-free. When I tripped I landed with the full impact shooting up my knees, something like 100 daggers spearing into an egg. It was easily a good six months before I could do more than stiff-leg it down the stairs, and pray I didn't lose my balance. That was when I lived on the 2nd floor. 

Now I live on the 4th floor and have an elevator. I think it started as a silly challenge to myself. I wasn't exercising as much, and convinced myself if I could take the stairs up four flights every few days, it may help my bottom form a better shape. Like the big, bad wolf, I huffed and puffed and wanted to...go get in the elevator, every time I walked up those darn stairs. But I kept at it. Eventually that "I think I'm going to die" feeling turned into a satisfying burn on the back of my legs. I could just feel the cellulite melting away! The intensity of rejuvenating blood pumping health throughout my body! 

Now I take the stairs exclusively, save for carrying up groceries and such. Every single time I do, I think about the girl who couldn't walk down a single flight without crying, the pain was so extreme. When I remember the fear and uncertainty and confusion, as to how these were the problems my life had become about at the age of 34, or what the future would look like, I rejoice. I rejoice because I can. Just like I know I can walk into the next overwhelming step to reclaim my life, and be successful. Not the life I had before, but the one I need right now.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Forgot My Own Rules

Well I have definitely found my drug of choice, writing fiction. Like a true addict, I can spend days absorbed in the world of my creation, completely ignoring this thing called reality. While I'm making great progress on my book, everything else in my life is suffering. But this seems to be the way it goes. If I'm productive and stick to a schedule, like going to bed on time and keeping the house clean a little bit each day, there isn't any time to write. If I write, I get all cracked-out, and don't care about the laundry piling up around my feet, or fact that there is nothing in the house to eat. When I do break out of sheer necessity, I complain. As I'm cooking, I'm loudly proclaiming how much I hate cooking. Putting off my 2 hour juicing marathon until 10:30 at night is a great way to ensure I don't go to bed until at least 3am. And please, for the love of all things holy, don't even mention paying the bills!

All I wanted, for the last few years, is to be able to count on myself. Set a schedule and stick to a routine. Actually keep my affairs in order, not meltdown every time something catastrophic happens due to neglect. It's exceptionally hard to do this, though, when one feels like they are getting the flu every other day, and are in constant, writhing pain. The mental anguish of Fibromyalgia, and what it did to my life, was often worse than the physical symptoms. But my stars have finally aligned. All my weird, healthy eating quirks, and refusal to indulge my negativity, has paid off. So what do I do? Stop doing nearly every darn thing necessary to keep my life in order and moving forward. Except for writing my book. 

Sigh. Balance, discipline and accountability, where are you? My sense of motivation likes beginnings. The start of every week is an opportunity to do better. I certainly wouldn't expect my horrid habits to change on a Wednesday, now would I? Being less than a month away from a new year is like winning the lottery for my motivation. Oh, all the wonderful ways I can change my life! If I just set a routine, and actually stick to it, that is. So I'm pondering...planning...trying to pay attention to my pitfalls, and hopefully avoid stepping into them. Recognizing the power to change everything lies with me, and me alone. Each person I blame for thwarting my progress, or flare that reminds me what a living hell living with Fibromyalgia is, it's all part of the puzzle of life to fit together. My puzzle. My opportunity. My responsibility. But before I start on all that, I just need to add one more thing to chapter 12...

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ridin' The Razors Edge

As far as weeks go, last week was overwhelmingly stressful. This Monday I woke up feeling like a crackhead who hadn't slept. Being the extreme creature of habit I am, this means I buried my nose in writing my book all day, and ignored the totality of my responsibilities. It's just so much easier to bypass reality if I'm not actively thinking about it! By the time I checked off every excuse in the book it was 2AM, and I still had to do the dishes, pack my husbands lunch, take the dogs out, brush my teeth and straighten up the house. I also hadn't showered, juiced in 3 days, or done yoga for 5. Sigh. Where did all my progress go?

I finally drag my sorry self off the sofa to do the dishes, but I'm feeling so terrible at this point I couldn't even stand up. Like "had to sit on the floor so I didn't pass out" can't stand up. As I sat on the kitchen floor feeling like the walls of sickness were closing back in on me, panic kicked in. An overwhelming need to not go backwards in life consumed me. Whatever resolve my stress-induced lazy behavior excused away, I re-discovered. With a start I suddenly realized discipline, formerly the bane of my existence, had become my saving grace!

After downing a bunch of vitamins and immune-boosters, and sleeping for 9 solid hours, I woke up this morning with the fire of panic hot under my bottom. It wasn't until I walked the dogs, did yoga and juiced that I took a breath, and realized I felt much better today. Phew! Crisis diverted. But it didn't take long for me to realize how little room for error my new-found health brings along with it. Just a few hits of stress, coupled with a lapse in either my desire or ability to adhere to the stringent regiment, and I'm down for the count. Logically, it seems horribly unrealistic and like I am destined for failure. After all, I'm hardly the girl known for her strict adherence to anything. Then I recalled the point in time when I was so fatigued I had to lay down for an hour between taking a shower and putting lotion on my body. Leaving the house was a pipe dream. Let alone cooking, cleaning, walking my dog, or standing in the kitchen for two hours to juice copious amounts of vegetables into a rather small amount of juice. Somehow I got from there to...the girl who went to Las Vegas for a family reunion last month. The reminder was all I needed to keep going.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Grateful For Today

I just found out a girl I went to high-school with passed away from a horrendous battle with leukemia. She wasn't someone I reconnected with in recent years, so I had absolutely no idea what her life turned out like. To say I am taking this news hard is an understatement. All I can picture when I think of her is the wild, boy-crazy party girl we all were, back in the day. When things were simple, the blemishes of life's trials not visible to the naked eye, nothing but a future to sail off into. Did anyone get what we thought we would? I know my friend sure didn't. And while I've spent the better part of nine years sick, almost died a couple of times, and devoted far too much energy to stewing in epic amounts of bitterness and anger at the unfairness of it all, finding out my friend lost her life put my experience in blaring perspective.

It could have been any of us, how were we to know? This journey called life, it's no joke. No guarantees, nothing promised. As much as the human animal is capable of screwing up their own life, nobody is immune to randomly inflicted hardship. Some get it much worse than others, without any explanation or reason or culpability of their own. When I was a little girl my dad used to tell me all the time how unfair life was. I suppose he was trying to prepare me, although even his father's all-knowing wisdom didn't have any idea what was in store for the future. 

Learning about my friend's painful and untimely death shook me deep inside. I stewed and shook my fist at the sky as I paced and asked questions there are no answers to. Why her? Why not me? Why almost me, but I got another chance? Why didn't she? Trying to find peace in this situation is difficult. Pinpointing the fork in the road, when everything started to go so terribly off course, is darn near impossible. Funny memories, usually blurred by the effects of too much beer, keep popping into my head. I remember her smile, her laugh, the way she lit up a room. To think that light has been extinguished is heartbreaking. From the swirls of sorrow whirling around my deep reflection, I am finding gratitude for simple things I'd long ago forgotten to be grateful for. While I may not run a Fortune 500 company or live in a mansion, through the eyes of so many, I have so much. It's time my eyes saw it too.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Through The Gauntlet

No form of acceptance, positive thinking, self pep-talks or mind over matter triumphs all problems. For as much as those things are critical to surviving the ups and downs of any person's life, so is recognizing when the breaking point is about to snap. Sometimes life is just hard, a situation difficult, reality bites or everything so screwed up it's impossible to keep going. That can be the hardest what is is to accept of all. About a year after I got sick I recklessly flew past that breaking point on roller skates like a bat out of hell. Eight years later I now realize I simply didn't know what else to do. I only related to the world in one way, and that way was broken. Instead of believing I could find another way, I broke too. Finding compassion for that girl who had so much loss, devastation, heartache and grief ahead of her is hard. I really wanna reach back in time and smack her silly. I want to scream at the top of my lungs to get it together, take the horrible illness nobody knew what to do with seriously and believe my body when it gave out, not blame my mind for not being strong enough. And I want to take her into my arms and let her cry on my shoulder, and pat her head with the soothing promise that everything won't be perfect, but I will survive. 

I can't do any of those things, though, because she is me, and I wouldn't be me if I hadn't gone through everything she went through. So as I sit here at another crossroads in my life, one where the way I have survived and related to the world is breaking once again, one would think I could draw from the mistakes of the past to keep me strong. Make better choices this time around. And for heavens sake not be so damn indulgent of every fleeting ping of panic, desperation or fear. One would think. 

Tonight I cried like a baby. I decided the sky was falling, world coming to an end and Armageddon descending upon us. After about fifteen minutes of freaking my dogs out I got a grip. I realized something has to change, and that something, once again, has to be me. This is one situation I can't solve by thinking about it tomorrow or focusing on what's good. I most certainly don't know all the answers, or how to dig myself out of the hole life finds me cowering in at this exact moment. But I do know chances are at the end of the day, if the past is any indication, I will be okay.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Evolution Of The Stay-cation

My husband gets a fair amount of vacation time. Not as much as schoolteachers, say, but four weeks is far more than most in corporate America are blessed with. Sadly this year we haven't had a penny to spare for travel, so save for a few whirlwind road-trips to L.A. to see my family, we've "stay-cationed," not vacationed. It's been a telling experience, to say the least. The first week he took off in January sucked. We both got a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad flu and spent nine whole days hacking up a lung and watching Law & Order re-runs. Yeah, it sucked. 

The second week he took in April was dedicated to getting our taxes done. That one was pretty bad, too. See, I was supposed to have done something throughout the year to keep our paperwork organized, not wait until early April to start on twelve months of record keeping. Realistically, my basic level of functioning at that time was so low I was barely getting the bills paid and dogs fed on a regular basis. Anything tax or accounting related was as high on my priority list as climbing Mt. Everest. Not very. My husband got a little pissed at how disorganized I was, and how much work his vacation actually turned out to be. So that's how the second week of vacation went. The third week he took in September was a bit better. Of course at this point he was so overwrought, exhausted, short-fused and disillusioned, the dear man pretty much just slept. Which he needed. 

But at this point we are both getting a little irritated. Okay, fine, irately pissed off is more accurate. There's nothing like down time to stimulate a little reflection on life. When did we become so broken? When did life go so wrong? How do we get out of this eternal deficit circumstances keep sucking us into? The questions whirled around and around, but there weren't any answers to be had. Luckily by now I'd discovered both juicing and my favorite new mantra, What Is Is. And thank God I had, because somehow, someway, I found the strength to stop asking those questions, quit dwelling on what I don't have, how wrong everything went and bad everything sucks. The ability to accept and move forward, shedding all expectations of fairness, entitlement, and absolute understanding, became mine. This past week was his final week of vacation for the year. There was still some of life's junk to clear up, but we laughed a lot, too. We had fun hanging out, being silly, taking the dogs to the park, cooking together. Just being. Which is all I ever wanted to do in the first place. It just took us eleven months to get here.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stupid Habits

One would think I entirely discarded my resolve, to stop reacting to every little problem with epic magnitude. They might even say I forgot each inch of progress I've made over the last few months. It's what I would say, were I able to observe my behavior objectively, and free of the entanglement of the first-person experience. Because no matter what cliche phrases, to pep myself out of misery, my lips mumbled, none of it mattered more than the despair radiating from my heart. The certain knowledge in my head promised me my mere existence was nothing more than a giant mistake and responsible for not only my own misery, but the heartache and opportunity lost of everyone else I know, too. Imagine the size of that ego!

After flipping out on myself, getting into a big fight with my husband, feeling so guilty about the whole thing I wailed and cried with the fervor of La Llarona, and ultimately realizing all this drama was completely self-indulgent and pointless, but still finding myself unable to stop, here I sit. Sheesh. What a wild road I didn't need to go down! Of course now I am faced with the daunting task of getting back on the wagon. All those theatrics are behind me and can't be changed. My three-day tantrum is now in the past, and I must accept it as truth and move forward. I made abundant choices in the moment to backslide. Taking responsibility for my actions as exactly that, a conscious choice, no matter how gripped with fervor I was in the moment, is mandatory. Because if I am ever to relinquish the servitude of living sick I must believe, with every beat of my heart, I am not a victim. 

The surprising result of all this bellyaching isn't very surprising at all. Everything I was all freaked out about turned out the same way it would have, had I ignored the impulses of such destructive and well-indulged behavior, and enjoyed the goodness present in the last three days. Had I squashed the stirring to pitch a fit, I wouldn't be pulling myself out of a deficit, because I never would have slid down the rabbit hole in the first place! Basically the only thing my hysterics achieved were to make things worse. So the next time a flood of fear or anger or anxiety or despair smacks me repetitively, because undoubtedly it will, I hope I can remember three simple rules. 1. No matter what is going wrong in my life, or how I react to it, time still passes, and I have to live out that time. I may not be able to change what is happening to me, but I choose my reaction. That reaction determines if it sucks, or if it is pleasant. 2. Given past performance, the chances I will survive my current tribulation is 100%. 3. So why on earth would I want to make an already hard life any harder than it already is?

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Rebel Inside

Right as I feel like I am beginning to get a handle on my life, a distracting old friend decides to come visit. She doesn't show her pesky face nearly as much as she used to, but no sooner do I start to feel the peace of progress moving my life forward, before I am staring my inner rebel square in the eye. A restlessness stirs within me. The need to not be "perfect" becomes overwhelmingly compelling. It isn't long before the compulsion to break rules, especially those of my own design, consumes me. 

I've been really good for a while now, mindful of my bad habits and the havoc they wreak. Quite frankly I am basking in the afterglow of a fundamental shift in the way I look at the world. I feel freedom in ways I haven't felt in years, if ever. My ability to accept my given circumstances, and seek ways to change what doesn't work by changing me, not my unchangeable circumstances, is revolutionizing the quality of my life. Until tonight.

We danced a lively little tango this evening, my inner rebel and me. I didn't wanna cook dinner, like really didn't want to, by the time I got home from class after 9pm. Hunger overrode my whim, however, and the salmon was delicious. But I absolutely didn't want to do the dishes, pack my husband's lunch, pack his bag for the gym, or straighten up the dirty clothes in the bedroom that hadn't made it into the hamper yet. Telling myself he doesn't want to get up at 4am every morning and work 12 hours a day gave me the motivation I needed to get it done, though. However, at this point, the rebel inside dug her heels into the ground and demanded I give her some attention. So here I sit at 3:30 in the morning, actually tired, but unable to stop Miss Rebel's wakeful hold on my need to break a rule! Laughing at myself, because after a lifetime of wild behavior, staying up until the sun comes up is hardly cause for an eyebrow raise. Then I look over, and my dog is staring at me with impatience, trying to get me to go to bed. It's pretty sad when even the dog knows what I should be doing right now. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Learning To Walk Again

Summer is finally over and I am starting to walk my dogs again. Except they forgot how to walk, at least with manners. Has it really been that long, since I wasn't so absorbed with myself and my own problems, that such regression was able to occur? Porkie exuberantly gallops as she yanks against the leash like a bucking bronco. Yorkie thinks we can stop for 30 second intervals every 50 steps so he can sniff and pee, and still keep our target heart rate in the cardio range. It's not their fault, though. The only one I have to blame is myself. If blaming did any good. Reality doesn't change if I blame, though, so I've kinda stopped doing it. I can go all Opus Dei on myself, like the albino in The Da Vinci Code, and it still won't change the fact that when I walk my dogs tomorrow Porkie will gallop against the leash and Yorkie will lag behind.

It's been two and a half months since I declared myself utterly unable to keep living life like I was. I quieted everything down and decided to focus on improving things before they totally blew apart. Wow has it been a lot of work. My life was a chaotic mess, all of my attention focused on how terrible I felt all the time, and exacerbated by massive stress flares whenever something went wrong. Usually something which could have been prevented, had I only been on top of things. Which I wasn't, because I was obsessed with feeling awful. So two and a half months ago I started slowly attacking the tangled ball of yarn which had become my life. Because of a shift in both my mindset and nutrition I wasn't knocked on my fanny three days, or even two weeks, later. This means I didn't go off running to lick the wounds of sickness all by myself in the corner while everything got messy all over again. Not to say it's been a perfect journey down a smooth road, or I haven't had profound moments of regression, but last Friday I completed the last duty which had fallen to my dereliction. 

The absolute last thing I thought I would be doing at the age of thirty-seven is learning how to wake up to an alarm, go to bed before the sun comes up, keep a house clean or count on myself to be organized enough to not be late everywhere I go. The other side of the coin reminds me there was a time when I didn't think I would be able to do any of those, ever again. I feel like a woman climbing up a cliff of ice, with only those sharp picks to aid me in the ascent of a lifetime. The more I focus on progress, not pain, the higher I can throw my arm in the sky, embed the metal anchor in the frozen sheet before me, and pull myself up out of the abyss.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Bad Food Begets Bad Food

Ahhhh Halloween. I suppose I could just say Snickers, Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger, Hershey's, Kit Kat, or Twix to convey the same meaning. It's all the same poor quality, trans-fat laden crap bursting with refined sugar and negative nutritional value. Did that stop me from eating my way through far more than my fair share? Noooooo. But as I gobbled up all this chocolate I started feeling really bad. It's been a while since I had more than a few squares of not-very-sweet dark chocolate at a time. In fact, since I started juicing a few months back, my diet has improved exponentially. I don't think I realized it until I sat feeling like a sausage about to burst from its casing as I continued to shove chocolate down my throat. I mean I couldn't stop. It was pathetic, the more I ate the more I wanted and the worse I felt, so the more I wanted so the more I ate! 

As intense food cravings consumed me I realized something else was going on here. Something that explained the horrible relationship I've had with food for most of my life. It would be remiss to not state that I am currently a health conspiracy theorist through and through. I blame the modern American lifestyle for a significant amount of the health problems plaguing our society. Nobody cooks their own food anymore. Who on earth has the time? Its all microwaved from a frozen box and full of genetically modified fake chemicals. Once I stripped all that crap away from my diet my health improved a lot. No, it didn't cure Fibromyalgia, but along with a gazillion other lifestyle improvements, helped lessen the symptoms to enough of a degree that I kept at it. Sitting in my post-Halloween chocolate coma made me realize what a endless trap the American supermarket truly is.

See eating all those refined carbs and fake sugars may feel like food on the tongue, but the body has no idea what to do with these foreign substances. They aren't natural, and haven't been around long enough for the human body to adapt to them. So what happens when I eat a Snickers bar or three? Well I've certainly consumed enough fat and calories to satiate a gorilla, but my body doesn't register as having eaten anything, because it doesn't recognize what I just ate as food. My stomach does the best it can to digest the toxic dumb I just swallowed, but it doesn't send a message to my brain that I have received either nutrition or satiation. No, all it does is tell my brain it needs food! So I eat more chocolate, but my stomach never tells my brain to stop wanting more because my stomach doesn't believe I have given it what it needs. And I haven't. What a trap! Last night I realized my only way out of this ridiculous spiral was to discipline myself against those chocolate longings and eat something real. And amazingly enough, after a dinner consisting of lentils and quinoa, my stomach finally told my brain to stop insisting I am hungry and I threw out the rest of the Halloween candy. Ahhh, blessed gift of nutritional satiation.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Is Just Freakin' Is

It's amazing how such a redundant statement can be both so true, and so difficult to accept. What Is Is. However, it happens to be the only thing keeping me from spinning out of orbit like The Sun just released its gravitational pull on Earth. To live in a subjective state of reality is impossible for me. There is simply no way to reconcile the hurt, pain, unfairness, opportunity lost, destruction, devastation and misery the last eight years have caused me and those I love. Not unless I want to spend the rest of my life in the reconciliation phase. Which I don't, because it's a sucky place to be, stuck in the unrelenting and painful quagmires of my past. 

I spent years building "freak out" neural pathways in my brain. For a long time after the strokes it felt like that's all there was. It's still my default, knee-jerk reaction to upset, stress or pain. Retraining those pathways to respond positively to challenging situations is hard work. I feel like I have to pick myself up off the floor every few days when those runaway "freak out" ones take over. Once that happens the only way to get back on track is to indulge objective reality. Which brings me back to What Is Is.

Freedom from the past is possible! Freedom from the present is possible! It is not a popular way to live and frequently challenges the fundamental basis of a person's relationship with others. But then again, disabled with crippling pain when one looks perfectly healthy isn't necessarily popular, either. By accepting the past as unchangeable, and the present as what it is, I have found I am able to focus on something I can improve and make better, the future! Any other attempt to calm my anxiety or dissuade my frustration is futile. It's too much of a mess back there to make sense of it. But I have blessings today that can grow into great and wonderful things tomorrow, if that is where I choose to focus my mind. 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013


It's happening again. That feeling of victimized rage I spent the last few years stewing in. I feel it rising up inside me as I try and navigate my way through the outside world. Meet the minimum requirements of a successful existence. Manage my illness on top of it all. Me oh my, learning how to live life again is a much greater challenge than I anticipated. Despite my unrelenting insistence that today be a much better day than yesterday, it's not. I lost my cool on the way to another doctor appointment. This time it was at the mercy of my car's navigation system. It got me to the freeway exit okay, but failed to guide me to my destination. All I could see was one spot on one road, me, and everything else blanked out. No next went the wrong way...keep going this way. None. I cancelled and re-started it, whereupon it informed me I was too close to my destination to show it. Racing through mega-office complex after another did nothing. At this point I SATTOMLOL. Screamed At The Top Of My Lungs Out Loud.

Clearly something much bigger is stressing me out than being late to a few doctor appointments. But this much bigger only gets better if I do. If I don't give in to these fits of frustration. If I divert my attention from aggravation and only tend to the positive, doable and gentle. Otherwise everything falls apart. See this need to change my life, my outlook, my reactions, it's precipitated by the need to keep my life intact. Every time I go off course it's only a matter of moments before a massive reminder smacks me across the face. Change is mandatory.

I need to force this change. I need it to happen right, and I need it to happen right now. There is no time for a learning curve, gradual progress, one step forward and two steps back. How did my life get to such a breaking point? Become so fragile the thin little bonds of positivity I coax from sheer air are all that hold it together? For so many years all I did was slump deeper into the rabbit hole of pain, sickness and despair. It was a hard and ugly descent. Why is it so surprising climbing out of it is nearly as difficult? Many years of debilitating and life-threatening health problems have already cost me so dearly. Taken nearly everything away from me. Forced me to live a life my wildest imagination couldn't fathom. Now I find myself living in a fundamental state of existence. For it I don't, well, let's just say there is absolutely no way in hell I am going to let anything take the precious few I have left.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

I'm Late, I'm Late!

So there I am, driving on down the road on my way to a doctor appointment, late and flipping out. Getting stuck behind two cars driving right next to each other, both going exactly 40 mph in a 45 zone, pissed me off. Hitting fourteen consecutive red lights convinced me of a conspiracy theory between the Arizona Traffic Commission and the owners of all gas stations. By the time I was circling the parking lot of my doctors office like a vulture looking for a parking space, already 15 minutes late to my appointment, I was crying. Yes I got mad at slow drivers and full parking garages and the grinding frustration of a trail of red lights, but mostly I was mad at me. 

That ugly thing called 'the truth' was inescapable. See I woke up with plenty of time but laid in bed playing solitaire and looking at the Groupon app for at hour. At least. After deciding both suck I was finally ready to face the day. I took my pups on a lovely walk, grateful for a beautiful day after the 24 hour triple-digit heat of summer sequestered us indoors for the last five months. However, when I got home I had an hour to eat and get ready. Yoga got shoved on the shelf of procrastination. At this point I started getting mad at me for wasting an hour of my morning frivolously. Even if the time to do something about it had already come and gone. So I flew out the door with enough time to get there, provided my 20 mile journey went perfectly, which it didn't. Lucky for me the receptionist was kind and I still got to see the doctor. 

What a pathetic problem to have in life. That's what I tell myself. Get it together, figure it out and stop whining about your lack of motivation and organization are frequently muttered too. Yet that inescapable feeling churns my insides, mocks my efforts and blooms abundant self-doubt. It's the darn clock I feel like I am racing against. Watching it fly far ahead of me as I scrape my shins on slick pavement, trying with all my might to keep up and accomplish everything I am supposed to. For the last few months I have narrowed my focus, ramped up my productivity and really resumed some of the standards I employed before I got sick. While things have improved around here it's just not enough. Today's frustration was a manifestation of that unmet expectation. Apparently I forgot the fundamental questions that inspired any progress in the first place. Is what I am upset about something I can change right now? If not, do I want to make a choice to spend time, which will pass anyway, indulging my emotions in a negative spiral or do I choose to focus on what is good?

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Viva Las Vegas

This last weekend I did something I have not done in many years, attended my annual family reunion in Las Vegas. I really can't even remember the last one I went to. Perhaps over the past eight years of chronic illness I maybe mustered up enough strength once. Maybe. The only real memory of Vegas I have is the last trip I went on with my husband a good four or five years ago. It was so bright, loud and smokey I couldn't deal and vowed not to return until I wasn't so sick. To describe Las Vegas as a sensory, neurological experience from hell for a person with Fibromyalgia is a supreme understatement. 

For some reason I felt up to going this year so I packed my bags, kissed hubby goodbye, and flew off to sin city for a little family togetherness. What met me there was so unbelievably surprising I still can't believe it happened. I felt great. Not okay, good or fine, but really great. Yes I was at the total mercy of everyone else's schedule and horribly short on sleep. No I had no down time, but that was more because I didn't want down time. There was too much awesome stuff going on! I didn't feel sick, like I was dragging behind everyone else or forcing them to make concessions to accommodate me. No, I felt  more like a teenager stuck on vacation with her parents who wanted nothing more than to party till the sun came up but wasn't allowed to. Ummm, excuse me, when the hell did this happen?

My mouth is still agape with shock as I sit here three days later stupefied. Logic tells me I deserve to feel good. That every yoga session and AM jog got me here. That my anti-high fructose corn syrup, aspartame-phobic, preservative-avoiding self earned this. That my heartfelt belief that I had to do this myself, for if I waited for doctors and drugs to get me better I would still be in bed, was correct. However, Fibromyalgia is hardly logical. I've been trying to fit the square peg of logic and reason into the round hole of Fibromyalgia for years now and it never worked. In fact, this illness specifically defies any expectation of normalcy to such a grand degree it's what sent me running to the funny farm oh so many moons ago. Never fear, the flare hit yesterday. When a bra I didn't notice I had on the day before started cutting into my skin like a knife I knew my run had ended. But I'll be damned if on my way back home I didn't feel like the woman who put a quarter in the slots and was lucky enough to win a car.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Health, Attitude & Productivity

I'm on a constant mission to improve my life. With great joy I gleefully report that it's working. By focusing on three main principles as the guiding force of my behavior I have improved my health, attitude and productivity. Getting those three tenets to align at the same time is nothing short of a miracle. For so many years they seemed to exist like magnets, each repelling the others into a far off, unknown land. If I felt okay I was in a bad mood, or did too much and just gave my lilacs away to a flare from overexertion. Some days I was happy, but it was only a matter of time before some egregious event took place, like dropping a new quart of yogurt on the floor or pouring my coffee in the dog's food bowl. Then happy would vanish in a cloud of victimized anger, made all the worse because I knew what set me off was simply not that big of a deal. But for the most part I pretty much just felt like crap all the time, which made being productive and happy extremely hard to achieve. 

Juicing has helped my health immensely. I no longer feel like I am on the verge of a severe flu three to five days a week. Not feeling so horrible has helped my productivity, which makes me feel like I am actually living life and not shoved into a pathetic holding pattern of failed expectations. Being realistic, not pushing myself too hard and remembering what is truly important are all critical components to ramping up my activity level, though. I could IV-drip kale juice directly into my veins and still not be able to function if I push myself too hard. 

Perhaps the biggest change has come from revolutionizing my thinking. I'm still stuck on what is is, and constantly remind myself to stop playing the silly games of false truths the institutions of our society define themselves by. It's helped my ego settle down a lot. I don't feel embarrassed by my reality, past actions or mistakes. They already happened and can't be changed. This freedom allows me to really challenge my emotions and only become engaged in things I can do something about. Specifically this means I don't spend time marching around all angry and bent out of shape about the past or things I can't change. The internal bargain is kind of a funny process. If I feel myself indulging negative thoughts my stern inner-Mother Superior steps in and asks me if I want to spend the rest of my day stressed and freaking out. Then she asks if my husband or dogs deserve my stress. Finally she asks me what on earth I can do about it. When the answers are undoubtedly no, no and nothing I find it's possible to redirect my brain to positive things that improve my life. The path I am walking down is still the same one. But I am stumbling a little less, my footing is a bit firmer, and my head held a hell of a lot higher.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Framing Expectations

For a long time I didn't believe I was entitled to happiness. Life was too hard, confusing, unfair, devastating and simply tragic. While I was too sick to work or care for myself at the fresh age of twenty-nine, life was going on all around me. I became estranged from my friends and family because their reality, normal life, was nowhere on my radar. The ambitions and dreams I was taught to aspire for, work toward and achieve became nothing more than a sick joke I was utterly incapable of accomplishing. There wasn't a place in the world I fit in as the components of my former existence hurled away from me like dark matter expanding the compactness of space. 

So I changed EVERYTHING about my life, and here I sit feeling old and worn out from the endless toil at the weary age of thirty-seven. People remind me how young I am but I don't feel young. I feel wise, trampled, bitch-slapped and raw, but not young. The friends I grew up with all have kids and mortgages. I have canine babies and live in a one bedroom apartment because that's what I can keep clean. I used to get promotions and paid time and a half to work overtime. Now I am learning how to derive true pride from being a housewife and caring for my family. Not much of the girl who lived in this body before survived, and for this I am outrageously grateful. 

The fat pill of acceptance was hard to choke down. It sat stuck in my throat for a long time, tainting my life with a sour, bitter flavor. I couldn't re-frame my expectations for success for the life of me, and spent years beating myself up for not being who I was supposed to be. Progress is funny, you don't usually see it until it's already happened. A fundamental shift in my thinking has finally taken shape. I realize how much potential my life's journey has prepared me for. Happiness is not only something I deserve, it is something I can achieve. Things didn't suddenly get easy. The same insurmountable challenges before me haven't changed. But the way I think, what I expect and what I believe...has.  

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm Not Puking And I Can Walk I mine as well go to class. Yes, I actually said that to my husband when he called to see how I was feeling yesterday. And even though I started laughing at the absurdity of my statement I couldn't have possibly been more serious. Fall semester has started and I am thrilled to be back in school. Except for every Wednesday when I have class I've been a mess. Either going on two hours of sleep or in a major flare or plagued by some horrible female problem or another. Getting back into the swing of things is always hard, I guess I just forgot what a challenge it truly is. This semester is scary, too. I am turning in pages of my ready-for-the-rejection-letter manuscript for both peer and instructor review. But unlike my fear of sharks and spiders this is one anxiety I must conquer, or give up my dream of actually making money at this writing thing and go back to pimping lipstick for the almighty buck.

Spanish showed me my brain still worked. A year before I had the strokes I decided to take my first Spanish class ever to see if I could. After so many years of sickness and fogginess and far too many meds I didn't think I could learn, retain and regurgitate new information. Boy was I wrong! Not only did I devote myself to succeeding by getting up at 7am every Tuesday and Thursday to study, but I actually got an A. It was a phenomenal self-esteem boost and gave me a little proof that I could believe in myself again. By the end of the semester I was well on my way to committing to a masters program in English. Before any of that actually happened, though, I had those two strokes and everything I knew flipped upside down. Don't they say if you want to make God laugh make a plan? Well I had the audacity to try and in true fashion, God giggled.

As I was washing the dishes last night I felt a certainty come over me that I forgot I used to own. In the most blatant term I'll call it faith. A more complicated explanation is the feeling that I endured what I endured in order to become who I am supposed to become. Heavens to Betsy is this the tiny kernel of acceptance starting to blossom inside me? Might I make peace with my tribulations and actually do something useful with the rest of my life? With all my heart and soul I hope so. The best way I know how is to keep challenging myself, continue to declutter my psyche and just keep on believin'.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Don't Juice An Onion!

After watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead I stumbled upon another documentary about food, nutrition and human health called Food Matters. Oh it was right up my conspiracy theorist alley. The information was nothing new to me, especially concerning aspartame and margarine, but I gained a lot of inspiration to take my nutritional medicine, ie. the food I eat, to the next level. So the next day I went out and bought that juicer. Then I went onto the Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead website and printed up Joe Cross' juicing recipes. I purchased the majority of the produce at Costco, but there is a list of fruits and veggies that are especially sensitive to pesticide corruption, so I had to head to Sprouts for the things Costco didn't carry in the organic version. It was at Sprouts I realized how expensive organic apples are, and a few other items I couldn't afford the pesticide free version of. Never the less I went home undeterred and ready to cure what ails me with my new juicer.

In retrospect I never intended to stop eating food all together, just infuse my regular diet with oodles of accessible vitamins, so can't really say why I thought following the recipes was so critical. But follow them I did, until I got to one that called for an onion. Now as I shoved the onion down the chute it made me cry. When I took my first sip I thought I was going to hurl. For a girl who can barely stand raw onions it was a stupid thing to do. Why my brain didn't link the association before I did it is beyond me. Somehow I got that terrible juice down the hatch, determined to not waste any of my precious organic produce, and decided to throw Mr. Not Going To Die's recipes out with the bathwater. I could do better on my own. 

Learning how to infuse juicing into my life took some trial and error. I'll admit it is a time consuming pain in the ass. However, I feel a difference already. My flares are noticeably shorter, less frequent, less severe or something heading in the right direction. I am not as hungry and it really helps with my afternoon blurry vision and fluish symptoms, too. But it quickly became clear spending two hours a day juicing was going to lose its allure, and fast. So I now juice 2 days at a time and that seems to work much better. Yes I know I lose some of the nutrition but am still getting a lot more than I would from Ocean Spray. My husband has even jumped on the bandwagon and is enjoying fresh juice twice a day along with me. What works is a glass of fruit in the morning and glass of veggie in the evening. A shot of Worcester and Tabasco don't hurt the veggies, either. While I may not be getting the nutritional profile necessary to replace solid food I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I ate an apple, orange, nectarine, lime, 1/4 a pineapple, two cups of raw spinach, a fat stick of fresh ginger and handful of assorted berries for breakfast. Nor a cucumber, lemon, stalk of celery, four carrots, three tomatoes, a handful of both parsley and cilantro and two cups of kale for dinner. Or at least 50% of the nutrition contained therein. 

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Monday, September 23, 2013

The Walls Stand Tall

A month ago today I bottomed out. The negative, angry and depressive spiral I spent my days pinging around in for the last few years finally sucked me under. I didn't know how to carry on, snap out of it or fix the problems plaguing my body and soul. No matter what I did, how much pep I put into my self-pep talks or new angles I tried to approach my current situation with I couldn't overcome my burden. Whenever there was a small mile-marker of progress it was only a matter of days before a huge backslide shoved me so far past my starting point any good I achieved was wiped out like a sandcastle in a hurricane. The tireless, endless, fruitless journey that had become my life was simply too much for me to endure any more.

Yet there were still good things in my life. Wonderful, glorious blessings I was not only taking for granted but completely squandering, too. I realized how much worse I would be without my assets and decided to narrow my world, isolate myself from the responsibilities that were sucking me under and figure out how to get over my drama and move forward. My emotional ups and downs, aka raging mood swings, were destroying my family one prickly flare at a time. It was time to take my life back and not only was I ready, I simply didn't see any other option. Even the endless rabbit hole of despair has a cold, ugly bottom. 

It's surprising all this happened only a month ago, and yet I can hardly believe it's been a month already. None of my problems are gone, per se, but I am not living at their mercy in quite the same way, either. The biggest difference is the vice-grip of anger propelling me around like a crazy lady relaxed. Quieting the chatter of external demands and expectations was perhaps the most critical step. After a few weeks I was able to suss out my problems vs. the problems other people were either contributing to mine or expecting me to shoulder with them. A wonderful freedom came from allowing them to worry about their issues and my concerns to only concern mine. I didn't expect them to fix my life or approve of my efforts to do so! I also had the energy and strength to actually tend to mine. Every backslide has been met with a stern reprimand that said behavior netted me an unsuccessful reality and the future still has yet to be written. In other words get over my emotions and back on the train track of progress, for the only thing I can change hasn't happened yet. It's working. Slowly. Not a magic wand, quick fix or sweeping revelation. Just a lot more hope in my heart that getting my life back can be done.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pain And Progress

Well I am doing exactly what I promised myself I wouldn't do. Walking around the house wailing and freaking out like the walls are coming in on me. I am supposed to tell myself such a frivolous display of emotion is useless, counter-productive even. Then shove the unpleasantries from my mind and focus on the positive, accept my reality and only expect from myself what is reasonable. Fat chance my mind over matter is gonna work today, though, because I hit my wall. After two weeks of a very sick dog, multiple vet appointments, rounds of antibiotics, blood tests, antihistamines, more blood tests, x-rays, different antibiotics and spending the GDP of a third world country we have a diagnosis, Valley Fever. While the name may sound innocuous it's actually a horrible fungal infection contracted from inhaling spores in the dust that causes pulmonary pneumonia and lameness in furry canine babies. In extreme cases it is fatal, frequently chronic and life long, and all together awful. The treatment takes a minimum of six months and thousands of dollars. And I wonder why I am freaking out?  

My husband looked at me with such pain in his eyes and asked why we couldn't just have a little bit of time between each crisis. Instead we roll from one to the next with the regularity of waves crashing to shore. Then he proceeded to freak out because sickness in those he loves pushes his PTSD button in the worst way. I told him we won't ever have time between episodes of mayhem. Just keep expecting them because there will never be a pause, break or reprieve. This is life for us, it just is. We can buckle, or we can enter permanent survival mode, keep going and do the best we can. Sigh. I suppose that's what bitter sounds like.

My logical mind is screaming in the background that we will all survive. More complicated, challenged and burdened, but my family will remain intact. What matters will still be. The conflict resides in getting my deeply ingrained patterns of reactive behavior to believe it. Not trashing my present because of perceived hardship or tragedy in my future. Amplifying the voice of reason loud enough so it takes over in times of stress. Which according to my future prediction is going to last the rest of my life. So in the spirit of progress I am putting down my tantrum. I am accepting the challenge in front of me and for once in my life instead of being mean to her, I am going to be nice to me.  

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dramatic Road To Nowhere

I literally told my husband last night, with the belief beating strong in my heart, that I could get a grip on my life and be successful. Not only are my expectations for success changing, but my determination to simply not engage in negativity seemed to be improving my attitude exponentially. So as I skipped merrily down the road of possibility and improvement of course I tried to change my behavior. The behavior that I blame the majority of my problems on. In my mind I romantically built up what a wonderful day today would be because of this shift of action. I would wake up when the sun was still positioned for morning, not noon, and engage in outrageously productive activities. My attitude would be calm and positive and I would be one step closer to living the life I want, not the one I have.  

Well my attempt to go to sleep a half hour earlier than I usually do resulted in the same frustrating outcome it always does. I couldn't freakin' fall asleep. I laid there feeling punished for trying to be good, which is far more frustrating than being punished for being bad. The sofa beckoned but wasn't any kinder to my extremely irritated 3 AM self. Of course once I finally drifted off to sleep my sick dog barked to go out. I convinced myself it was a dream and ignored him. Then my other dog woke me up an hour later tattle-tailing on her big brother. So which dog do I thank for stepping in crap and tracking it all over the carpet at 4:50 in the morning?

The familiar tantrum started to build inside. I felt like a victim, totally at the mercy of whatever the world wanted to fling at me. My romantic notions for a day of peaceful productivity laughed hollowly as it evaporated into thin air right before my very eyes. And then I said STOP. What is is, right? So I didn't sleep last night, hardly something to knock the earth off its axis. The internal battle waged fiercely inside. Future me screamed, "Don't react! Don't make this a bigger issue than it is! Accept reality without flinging drama all over the room!" Past me all but told future me to go to hell. But at this moment future me is winning. I calmed down and let go of my lofty expectations for today. And I reminded myself that the power is truly mine because the one thing I actually do have control over is how I react.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

I'm A Profound Disappointment

Personal responsibility is a son of a bitch. I didn't realize how skewed the entire concept was in my mind until I spent this past weekend reflecting on my feelings and separating them from the feelings of other people. There was a significant amount of crossover, meaning I had adopted many criticisms toward myself that weren't truly mine. Perhaps they were suggested, implied, or explicitly stated by others, it didn't matter. I accepted them as truth. I took responsibility for them. I held myself up to those expectations and when I fell short, beat myself into a proverbial pulp. My third grade teacher who spent a significant amount of time instructing us on the difference between fact and opinion would have been sad to see the lesson hadn't stuck with me.

The longer I pondered this jumbled point of view the more the two concepts started to separate. I realized, for the most part, I am not disappointed in myself. I am severely disenchanted my life became about illness and survival instead of a career and babies, but that's not something I chose. In fact, I think I'm doing pretty darn good, all things considered. So why have I spent the last few years feeling like such a loser I can barely get out of bed? Because I allowed the expectations of other people to become mine! Each snide comment or subtle put down sent me into an epic tailspin. I was already falling so short of my own hopes and dreams I suppose I just added every passing mumble of judgment to the great heap on my back until I finally buckled under the weight of my endlessly horrendous shortcomings.

There is freedom in knowledge and awareness, and truth. I am becoming comfortable with being a disappointment to other people. It's their opinion and they are the only ones who can change it, not me. Personal experience has shown me the harder I try the shorter I fall. The more I accept unsavory opinions about myself as fact the weaker I become. Oddly enough the more respect I show others, by allowing them to take full responsibility for their opinions and expectations, the stronger I become. The anger pinging around inside me lessens. Hope blossoms and I become enraptured in the purpose of my life. No longer will I define myself as others see me. I have a life to live, an illness to manage and wonderful things to contribute to the world. I've experienced too much suffering to continue in this destructive cycle of blame and defeat. So with a lightness in my soul I haven't known in ages I can only say I am happy to not be a disappointment to me, the only opinion I can actually change.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

What Is Is, What Isn't Isn't

My late night documentary viewing has introduced me to some interesting people. From Ayn Rand to Che Guevara to Roman Polanski, there is no shortage of odd, extreme or passionate people intent on leaving their mark on the world. Last night I was introduced to a man named Werner Erhard and his famed "est Training" from the '70's and '80's. Of course I'd heard of it, growing up in hippie-flower child Los Angeles, but I didn't really know anything about it. While he lacked formal training in psychology, theology and philosophy, Erhard never the less bundled his own version of how the world worked and set out to sell it in a 60-hour seminar intent on leaving the participants "transformed." He helped a lot of people, pissed off more than his fair share, fed starving people via The Hunger Project and fled the country when his checkered past came back to haunt him. Yeah, I think he fits into the interesting category.

I struggled to grasp the essence of this "est" movement as he stood in the middle of a hotel banquet room yelling at a woman about how she wanted to be an orphan. See she was an orphan, grew up in an orphanage, and introduced herself that way. It seemed a mean and callous response. Life hurts and we all develop a way to survive it based on our own hurt. The past is the past and our experiences are our experiences. Which was precisely Erhard's point. After he said "what is is and what isn't isn't" a dozen times it finally clicked. The woman's perception of herself as an orphan defined her well into adulthood. She was clearly no longer a little girl sitting in a room wondering why nobody loved her. Except she was. It may have been a woman's body talking, but that hurt and who she became to survive her circumstances was still defining her life. The choice was hers, did she want to continue to be an orphan the rest of her life or did she want to be a human being and go do something worthwhile with the rest of her life?

The allure was clear. Don't we all want to view our lives objectively and free of emotion? What is is. Getting mad or living reactively doesn't make it untrue or change anything. Don't we all want to walk away from the painful past and live in the truth and freedom of our own creation? What isn't isn't. So stop trying to make it be what is. I can certainly identify with being stuck in the past. Identifying myself by what I have endured, survived, been battered around by. And I am certainly looking for a way out of the mire currently sucking up my days and nights. So est has given me some food for thought. I know it's never as simple as making a decision and willing it into existence. Change is hard and takes a lot of work and determination. Simply setting down my past and walking into a great unknown future isn't realistic. Is it?

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Distraction Of Blame

With a flood of consciousness I became aware of a fundamental flaw in my thinking. As much as I blame my illness for my problems, I don't. Because I place far larger emphasis on my behavior than I ever do my diseases. Yes, I may give up in a huddled heap of despair with my angry fist shaking high in the air at Fibromyalgia. But that is only after I have emotionally beat myself to smithereens for allowing it to happen in the first place. For not being stronger, more disciplined, succumbing to pain and exhaustion. Being unable to rise above the aches and fatigue that envelope me. Natural stress on a life force is what inspires survival of an organism in the first place. Shouldn't I, a being with intelligence and a soul, be able to find a way to survive most anything that can happen on this planet? By using my intelligence and soul to override the worst of circumstances? This is the expectation I set forth. 

And this is the expectation that has contributed to a significant amount of my heartache and anger. Somewhere lies the middle ground which represents reality. I do live a life of diminished capacity. However, many choices along the way shape the quality of this life. By choosing to place the majority of the burden of my quality of life on my behavior, not medical conditions, I've done two things. First, made myself nuts with how short I fall of these expectations. Second, and this is the big one, completely avoided accepting that this is just my reality.

Of course few things in life are ever so simple. Somewhere in the middle of all this lies the simple fact that if I hadn't fought back with everything I had I wouldn't be standing today. The difference that comes from regular exercise, good sleep, a healthy diet and respecting my limits is astounding. The work it took to get me here is all the more so. But somewhere along the way I stopped fighting the illness and started fighting against myself until it got so bad I couldn't keep going. No matter what I did it all seemed to backfire. I can only conclude it is because this illness is real, really hard to endure and not going away just because I've dotted every i and crossed every t.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Me Against Me

Well the onslaught of symptoms I was trying exhaustively to avoid settled around me with a thud last night. I started to get a little snappy but forced myself to release the anger starting to sweep me up. Then I tried to go to bed but couldn't fall asleep. Which made me really mad, because when my sleep gets screwy everything else does too. But I calmed down enough to realize getting frustrated was only keeping me awake. After flip-flopping from the sofa to bed a half-dozen times I dozed off into a pain-filled, fitful half-sleep on the sofa around 4am. My husband moved me to the bed when he woke up for work a couple hours later. I tossed and turned and finally gave up around 10, when I woke up crying and shaking my fist at the sky. Everything hurt and I didn't want to face the day. 

Of course when I took the dogs out I got all mad at my employers who squeezed me out of a job back in San Francisco six years ago. The ridiculous, unprovoked source of my discord was so outlandish and far reaching even I realized how absurd it was. But I've kind of existed like that all day. Getting frustrated over how I feel, talking myself out of exercising, telling myself I won't feel any better if I don't do yoga, not doing it and getting mad at myself for being lazy. Then compassionate me will pop her head in every so often and tell me to quit being so hard on myself. One week, or maybe it's three I am actually going on, of missed exercise won't kill me. However, I have more excuses than anyone I know to not get my life together! And then mad me takes over and yells at pathetic, sorry compassionate me. Because the heart of the matter is that if I waited to feel good to pursue my life I would never get out of bed.

Okay, this is it, the tip of the iceberg of the quagmire I exist in. Playing these silly mind games in my head instead of accomplishing my life. I tried the approach of just ignoring my symptoms and charging full speed ahead a few months back. After all, the river boat of life waits for no one. The end result was a resurgence of how bad Fibro used to feel, all those years ago when my life was nothing more than a blur from one inflamed flare to the next with no break in between. So now I am trying this. Writing out my feelings, analyzing my experiences and trying to figure out what on earth I can do to break this cycle.  

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's A Small World

When everything came crashing down around me last week I deployed my usual method of survival, isolation mode. I've used it many times over the past few years to clear my mind, find my strength and begin to knit together a plan to move forward. Not knowing quite how to get myself back on track I resurrected my old standby save for two specific outlets, engaging with my husband and writing this blog. My husband is my primary commitment in life and seeing as we live together, entirely unavoidable. But the last thing I expected was to find solace in writing a blog I felt somewhat estranged from and pretty uninspired by. Like most things in my life it had become one more obligation I felt I was failing at. Maybe quieting my mind from external stimulation reminded me why I started it in the first place, to figure out my life. Either way, that's what I'm using it for now.

My streamlined communication with the world at large feels like something I can manage. My hope is by stripping all the chaos of my life away and slowly adding things back I can begin to respect my own limits and decipher what sources of stress are sending me running for the nut house. See, I am hell bent with determination to survive my next flare without losing my mind in despair and desperation. Since Fibro is never late to the party my opportunity to try this came last night. I felt the familiar symptoms stir with a deep feeling of trepidation. "It's too soon!" I cried out in vain, but Fibro only laughed at me. As pain and pressure pinged around my body I took a deep breath and grabbed my life vest for yet one more wild ride down the rip tide. 

So far so good. The devil hasn't taken over my mood, which is marvelous progress all on its own. Instead of forcing myself to go running this morning, something that caused me undue misery last week, I decided to go gentle on myself and clean the bathtub. It was a good choice, considering that alone nearly did me in. But I didn't get upset about my lack of motivation or how bad I felt. No, I used the down time to work on my book and accepted that these are the ebbs and flows of my life. Seeing as I haven't had contact with the outside world I didn't have bottled up hurt or frustration to obsess over, and that is perhaps the biggest win of all. I'm not sitting here stewing in a cesspool of negativity! It seems I am on to something here. With patience and determination I will continue down this road. Where it leads or where it ends, well, that is still to be told.

Thanks for joining,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Give Me The Juice!

Last night I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It is about a CEO from Australia who starts juicing as a way to regain health and get off the steroids an auto-immune condition forced him to live on. He filmed the documentary as he traveled around the USA, sharing his journey and inspiring people who suffer from poor health to join the juicing revolution. His results were nothing short of incredible and it really got my mind going.

I hit a pill wall a few weeks back. After seeking treatment at a specialty Fibro clinic in 2006 I began heavy duty supplementation. It is one of the key contributors to getting the virus that made me so sick under wraps. After boosting my immune system with a complicated supplementation regiment that required an Excel spreadsheet to keep straight I started to feel much better. Over the years what I take has changed. Some stuff really makes a difference, other stuff does not. But one day not too long ago I looked at my weekly allotment dolled out into an AM/PM case and wanted to throw it against the wall. The thought of taking one more pill sent me into a spas attack. So I intently researched nutritional information and switched to a powder whole-food multi that allows me to cut out a number of supplements.

To say I hate it is a gross exaggeration. However, it didn't take long for me to realize, capsule or no capsule, it is the whole concept of taking vitamins I have an aversion to. I was still taking pill supplements, just not as many, and started thinking about other things I should be taking, too. After all, this is certainly not the most "managed" my Fibro has been. Then I watched the documentary last night and realized I could probably get off most of the supplements if I got my nutrients from, I don't know, the food they exist in? 

So I am thinking about it. Not sure if the investment in the juicer and commitment of time and labor is where I want to spend my efforts right now. But I am gagging on these pills that are a huge deflector shield standing between me and God-awful horrible unmanaged Fibromyalgia pain and Shingles-like viral flares. Plenty of cleanses and diet reinventions have helped me reduce the amount of chemicals and toxins in my body. Over the years they have even helped me reduce medications. Is it time for another one? All I know is something has to change because what I am doing now isn't doing the trick. So thanks Joe Cross, for sharing your success and showing so many changing your life can be done. Maybe, just maybe, I will be joining you in the juicing revolution. 

Thanks for joining,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back In The Saddle

Well I got back on the horse. What else am I going to do? Take a long walk off a short pier or go play in traffic? So here I sit ready to try again. Raw, insecure and uncertain, but here I am. As I sort through the disillusionment in my mind I realize many of the sanity-saving tools I employed along the way got dropped in the dust a while back. I fell into my old behavior patterns. I allowed negativity and demands to infiltrate my sense of responsibility to myself. It's a big job, to regain my lost ground. I can do it, though. Not all at once, perfectly or on the first try, but it can be done. Of course this requires a significant amount of isolation and reflection. Accepting some will grumble over the selfish action of me taking care of me. Realizing that is not my problem. In fact, expecting myself to get a handle on my issues and then resume a level of interdependent living is exactly why I wound up back here in the first place. 

I have finally accepted I cannot go back. Life is not ever going to be how it was before I got sick. If "resuming" is my ultimate goal I will only wind up here again and again and again. And each time I crumple into a quivering heap of defeat I have that much less to move forward with. The clarity such acute pain and distress gifted me with showed me something big. It is time to let go. I don't have the luxury of hanging on to the dysfunctional of life. This is a clear cut case of it or me, and I choose me.

The biggest gift I can give myself is to simply stop engaging. Realizing I spend a significant part of every day in a mental battle with anyone who made the last insensitive remark or snide put down was a blinding experience. The anger and negativity would stew inside of me until all I could do was react to it. Day in and day out my existence slowly became one big fat reaction to every little thing that rubbed me the wrong way. Now I know I have to let these experiences go. More importantly, I have to stop indulging my anger and negativity. And last but never least, I must turn my sights to the positive, the blessings, the goodness that lies in abundance all around me. Fill myself up with the belief that I have survived all I have in order to do something purposeful with my life. And then simplify my brain enough to go do it.

Thanks for joining,