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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