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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