Sunday, December 21, 2014

My First Sick Christmas

So I’m strolling through Instagram last night, and come across a very young woman who is disabled with ME/CFS. She’s popular, a couple thousand people follow her, and quite open about her struggles with this illness. She got sick after catching a “flu” virus. A year later she isn’t better. I stopped trolling for likes on my juicing post, and immediately started sobbing from the depths of my soul. I know her plight so well I want to scream into the loudest microphone in the world! CFS is what first got me sick. Fibromyalgia wasn’t my initial diagnosis. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was. And just typing the words makes me wail like a wounded baby. Because if I knew then, nine years ago in my twenties, what I know now, a battered and broken warrior in my late thirties, OH MY GOD, what could I have done to salvage my lost life?????!!!!!! Is there anything I could have done to make the last nine years not happen? Is there anything I could tell this girl, who is so upset to be looking at her first Christmas tree after a year of being sick? Anything I could do to aid her plight or lessen her burden or make it last less than a lifetime?

No, there isn’t. Because I don’t know much more now, than I did then, about this disease. Christmas 2006 was my first disabled holiday. I was still living in San Francisco. My family came to visit. I knew I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t even hold a knife to chop, I was buried in so much fatigue and pain. And I don’t mean tired or overworked or exhausted. I’m talking, “if I have to stand here for twelve more seconds I will cease to exist, that’s how weak I am,” kind of fatigued. So I ordered takeout and set the table. Except I couldn’t do that. I mean I could, if my husband picked up the food, and after each piece of silverware I placed, I rested for twenty minutes. But when my family actually arrived, all that ‘setting the table’ business left me without enough strength to even open a bottle of wine. Literally. How do you explain that? How do you get them to believe you, to understand how serious it is, to recognize the world is threatening to swallow you whole, from simply being unable to exert the energy required to set the table and open a bottle of wine?

Clearly I don’t know how. I’m a failed experiment. My personal relationships are in shambles. Literally every single person I know is either completely disappointed in me, or has given up entirely. My family is still waiting around for me to contribute to a 'reciprocal relationship'. The fact that I keep trying, unsuccessfully, only makes life harder for all of us. Of the few friendships I have left, one of them recently asked me what I needed to be happy in life. How could I do anything but laugh, and bitterly inform her happiness is such a frivolous luxury it’s no longer even in my lexicon? Who the hell, in this industrialized nation chock full of first-world problems, wants to be friends with that? Is this seriously who I’ve become? So angry and alienated from society I can’t relate to someone I've known for twenty years on any meaningful level? Why do I even engage in these conversations at all? In fact, why do I keep going at all? 

And as quick as my descent into utter madness starts, I make it stop. Because if there’s anything I know by now, it’s how to survive the ugly condition of despair. How to distract myself with reason, numb myself with distraction, or reason my way into numbness. I've gotta get a grip, or my perceived reality will smack me down faster than any one aspect of my actual reality ever could. And Lord knows I've worked far too hard, been given too many second chances at this thing called life, and haven't even remotely completed what I was put on this earth to do, to let that happen.

Thanks for joining,
Leah
*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! In 10th place, thanks so much for the support!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #healthblog #sickchristmas #chronicillness #chronicpain #cfs #me #cfsme #mecfs               

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Exercise Conundrum

For years my doctors told me to exercise. In that "get up off your lazy ass and move already" kind of way. After a while it got silly. Here I was too sick to work, and I was just supposed to breeze through step class like some bored housewife with too much time on her hands? Seeing as I was in too much pain to carry the laundry down three flights of stairs, I ignored such frivolous advice. The pounds packed on, I gained even more weight from going on medications to treat the pain, and then the pain got so bad Vicodin became my breakfast of necessity. I was back to work, but barely, and every other aspect of my life was descending into total chaos. And still, my doctors told me to exercise.

It was blatantly insulting. Clearly they weren't of the same mindset as I, and didn't believe the fire racing through my muscles was real. They didn't get how much it hurt to do something as innocuous as blow dry my hair. They didn't get it, how miserable I felt in the aftermath of so many insomnia-wracked nights, and how many days they took me to recover. Days I was struggling to meet my obligations of work, home and family, and failing miserably. They didn't get any of it. They just told me to exercise and not be so unhappy. Like it was a switch I could turn on and off at the will of my whim! I recognize now that a person who hasn't experienced Fibromyalgia pain doesn't understand how acute, crushing, and all-encompassing it truly is. But back then all I could do was pray my doctors might try and help me a little bit, if I took their absurd advice and at least tried to exercise.

Today I walk a mile and a half five days a week, do 360 stomach crunches four days a week, bench press 45 lbs., squat 40 lbs., and have started wearing ankle weights to add an extra challenge to my yoga practice. I've gone from a size 18 to a 6. At this point in the game I'd rather give up Dos Equis forever, than renounce my triumph over exercise. It took me more years, flares, setbacks and determination to get here than I ever imagined possible. But I am not in pain anymore, as a lifestyle. Sure I have flares that hurt like hell, overdo it trying to be Superwoman, tweak ligaments while working out and can predict the rain with the distinctive stabbing pain it sends through my tender points. My life is not pain-free, but it's not pain-filled, either. I've achieved a far greater physical recovery than I ever expected. I don't know if any other patient would have the same result. After all, we may not even have the same disease, seeing as Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion. But I do know I somehow found the gusto to stick with it after every self-induced flare would land me in bed for a week. One day I looked back and those weeks had become days, days turned into hours, and my life was kinda mine again.

Thanks for joining,
Leah
*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! In 9th place, thanks so much for the support!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #fibromyalgiablog #fibroexercise #fibrofitness #fibromyaligaexercise #healthlineblogcontest #healthblog          

Friday, December 12, 2014

Est, Baby

My brain is a jumbled, churning whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Fifty urgent tasks ticker-tape through my mind at a frenzied pace. I've got so many different interests pulling on me, it feels like my limbs are being racked on a Medieval torture device. To compound my frustration, all this turmoil only leaves me utterly spent, exhausted, collapsed. I feel like I'm being sucked down, stuck to the earth, unable to get up off the floor. Sick or not, I've gotta get a grip! If I can't catch the whirling ball of my own reality before it crashes to smithereens, nobody will!

So I turned on the Werner Erhard documentary Transformation, about his infamous est seminars from the '70's and '80's. Last year his hard-core philosophy of personal-responsibility, wrapped up in a bunch of insults aimed toward the stupidity of humanity, helped me reign in my out-of-control life. Somewhere between now and then I regressed back to my old patterns of anger, bitterness and avoidance. Indulging those feelings is a mighty short road to total self-destruction. I've worked too hard, and come too far, to let a weak mind simmer away my progress into oblivion! 

Did watching the documentary transform me? No. Anyone with chronic illness knows life is too complicated to make a "decision" and get instant change. But Mr. Erhard's dogma helped. He reminded me so much more is in my control than I believe. The notion that ones reality is perceived by their emotions choked me up a bit. Man have I fallen back into that trap! His unrelenting belief that a person's life is their own responsibility, and theirs alone, was like salve to my aching soul. I realized that's precisely where I've gone wrong. Somewhere in the last five months I lost sight of the importance of owning my life, 100%, and not expecting anything from anyone. Things got so hard I was unable to be there for myself. I stopped standing on my own two feet and became a gaping hole of need. In fact, I've fallen on my ass and am being sucked down into the quicksand of my own creation!

Est. It is. It is what it is. What is, is. The past, which swirls together to create the present, isn't changeable. But the future, right now, is. Each moment is the future, and that is where the fork in the road emerges. Where I can go from victim to victor, angry to actualizer, stagnant to mobile, stuck to progressive. I can clear my mind, pick what's most important to move forward, and sink my hungry teeth into the juicy flesh of personal responsibility.           

Thanks for joining,
Leah

*Please vote once a day in Healthline's Top Health Blogs Contest! Currently in 10th place, thanks so much for the votes!

#fibromyalgia #fibro #fibromyalgiablog #wernererhard #transformation #est #pickyourselfup #moveforward #personalresponsibility #healthlineblogcontest #healthblog          

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vote For Me, Please!

When I opened my email this morning I almost fell off the sofa. This little blog right here has been nominated by Healthline.com for 2014's Best Health Blog Contest! I've been honored to be named a Top Fibromyalgia Blog by Healthline in the past, but this is bigger. This pits me against ALL health blogs, covering every topic under the rainbow, and there's an actual winner determined by votes. Imagine my surprise when a quick scroll through the competition didn't notice any other Fibro blogs on the list. What a massive opportunity to spread some much-needed awareness! 

I'm so glad I started my little Instagram selfie experiment a month and a half ago. Something told me the need for shameless self-promotion was on the horizon, so I better get comfortable with it. Well here it is! Somehow my exorbitantly-dramatic, perpetually-victimized, emotional basket-case, up-and-down like a zipper, I will prevail at-all-costs depiction of life with this illness caught somebody's attention. I suppose attention was my goal all along. But it's been so long since I started this whole thing, and I've dealt with so much adversity because of it, I forgot. Now visions of a Fibro blog placing in the top three has me lit up like a Christmas tree with excitement. Imagine if a lot of people who don't know much about the fastest growing chronic pain disorder around learned a thing or two about living with this disease... 

So please, friends and readers who've kept me going over the last four years, vote for me. It's how they determine the winner. Please spread the link around social media, bribe your little sister, start a Facebook account for your infant...do whatever you feel up to doing, to bring some much-needed awareness OUTSIDE our community. 

RULES
-Follow this link: 2014's Best Health Blog Contest
-Don't nominate Chronicles Of Fibromyalgia, we've already been nominated. Just scroll down a little until you see the blue VOTE button. 
-Each Facebook or Twitter account can vote once every 24 hours. The contest runs through January 15th.
-Do it again tomorrow!

From the bottom of my heart I thank you,
Leah    

Monday, December 8, 2014

Searching For A Doc

Seeing as it's almost the end of the year, and I have to get a physical before the calendar flips to 2015 to keep my health insurance discount, I had to break down and find a new doctor. This is one of the most traumatic and difficult topics of my life. One I would prefer to avoid indefinitely, if only I could write my own prescriptions and order my own lab work. With such a ridiculous medical history under my belt, I've pretty much seen it all. Over a decade of near-death encounters and chronic illness has shown me the supreme fallibility of how the practice of medicine is applied to the patient in need. I've been denied care, laughed at, accused of being a junkie, dismissed, called a liar, treated like a hysterical female not worthy of human respect, told my conditions and symptoms aren't real but psychologically manifested, and informed I was the one who needed to figure out how to get myself better. And those are just the ones that stick out in my head. Needless to say, I'm a faithless woman thoroughly and completely medically traumatized beyond repair.

Oh yes, I could easily never see another doctor for as long as I live, and be quite happy about it! Many moons ago I gave up on a doctor actually fixing me. Seeing as I was too sick to live my life, I still went to each appointment with a glimmer of hope in my heart, though. A glimmer which would quickly morph into a flaming ember of rage as my expectation took a flying leap out the window. It took a long time for me to accept the illness which devastated my life wasn't, by and large, accepted by the medical community as real. Enduring such a contradiction as the fabric of my reality made me a very bitter, angry and hostile individual. Which has done wonders to improve my tenuous physician-patient relationships. Not.

Low expectations lead to low disappointment, right? At this point I'm looking for a competent doctor who believes Fibromyalgia exists, will manage my medications, blood tests and vitals, and has hospital privileges if my body or brain tries to die again. So today, with only a few weeks left to accomplish the insurmountable, me and the internet started my search. It only took a couple of hours to find a prominent and well respected MD linked to both UCLA and Cedars-Sinai, who is taking new patients, treats Fibro, and accepts my insurance. Seriously? I was ready to spend a few days working myself into a hysterical mess of unfairness and outrage before piling into a heap of failure. I mean, it's not like I've been practicing award-winning procrastination and avoidance techniques over a few measly hours of work. Do I dare get my hopes in a tizzy again, that maybe this doctor will do something besides recognize my low thyroid and genetic triglyceride malfunction? It's a scary notion. One I will try not to get too hyped up on as I spend the next few days compiling my medical records and gathering my treatment strategy.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Tale I Tell

Where do I go, when I feel like this? When I'm on the verge of total crisis, like my life's about to spin out of orbit? When a meltdown of such epic proportions is on the horizon, I'm certain to never return? My book. For the last three horrible, awful years, I've poured all my angst into my book. It provided a fabulous distraction from a life I didn't want to be living. Whenever my reality became too sorrowful or burdensome to bear, I'd escape into a delicious fantasy-land of my imagination. It was easy to focus all my energy on making my characters lives so much worse. Or better. Or sweeter, more vindicated, less pathetic, and at the very least, infinitely more interesting than my lowly existence.
  
I don't think I'd be alive today if I hadn't started writing my book. It started out as the byproduct of this blog. I knew I wanted to shout Fibromyalgia awareness from the rooftops, but I didn't know how to get on the rooftops, let alone get anyone to listen once I was there. What I did know how to do was write. So I set out to demonstrate the devastation this miserable disease can have on a life by dropping it into a fictionalized tale. 

While I was busy constructing this world of absurdly behaved people doing absurdly ridiculous things, my life has undergone a complete metamorphosis. Changing my expectations and behavior got me to a really good place. One where I started to believe in my future again, and wanted to actively participate in improving my quality of life. Except now my grasp is slipping. I suppose it's fitting, that I descend into another round of Fibro hell as I prepare to write the conclusion of my story. I just pray once my latest battle with this disease is done with me, I'm not left holding nothing at all.  

Thanks for joining,
Leah            

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Meditated

I'm on the verge of cracking up, again. My constant and pervasive anger over pretty much everything is threatening to swallow my life whole, again. The burden of my reality has become too much to bear. Again. Realizing it's only been one year and three months since I sat in the exact same trough does nothing to focus my racing thoughts. In fact, it only grows my panic. Where on earth did I find the power to change my thinking and get my health to a stable place? My memory tells me juicing made me feel a lot better, and accepting reality for reality's sake reigned in my consuming frustration. I'm still juicing, desperate to regain a semblance of an immune system after my absurdly destructive move to California, but I've completely lost my grip on accepting my life.

When my eyes flipped open this morning negative thoughts swirled around my brain. But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't face one more angry walk with the dogs. Another day full of frustrated glances at the rapidly diminishing hours left to complete all my responsibilities. And I absolutely, positively could not hand over another 24 hours to mentally bash the long list of people who perpetually piss me off. 

Desperate to step out of this destructive cycle, I pulled up some guided meditation on Spotify and listened. Then I took my walk, which wasn't angry, did yoga without getting mad about how late in the day it already was, and haven't devoted a single minute to scathingly lecture everyone and their mother on the ridiculousness of their overwhelming expectations. No, the sickness in my soul isn't cured, but my day has been amazingly peaceful.

Thanks for joining,
Leah         

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Who Believes

In the beginning I just wanted to be believed. I searched high and low for someone to acknowledge I was as sick as I actually was. But nobody knew what to do with me, the girl with some mysterious illness that came and went with the fickleness of the wind. As time passed my life spiraled out of my grasp. Normal activities I took for granted quickly became impossible to accomplish. My social life took the first hit. When the ability to make it to work every day wasn't present, Friday night happy hour became far less relevant. But along with this shift in my activity level went the precious friendships I held so dear. The souls who made those few meaningless hours at a bar the brightest spot in my stressful day. Looking back on this time in my life makes me realize I sat on the sidelines and waved goodbye to the life I once believed would always be mine. 

After a while I needed to be believed. I couldn't cook, do laundry, clean my house, walk my dog or go to work. It didn't take long for my spiral out of control to graduate to a world-class cyclone. As my climb up the corporate ladder morphed into a horrible backslide, I thought the world was reaching its end. Medicine offered no answers as to what was wrong with me, but something so seriously was. The few relationships I had left eroded into a toxic sludge of confusion and misunderstanding. Looking back on this time in my life reveals a woman breaking under the weight of the crucible, the point of no return, the death of my former existence.     

Now I couldn't care less who believes what about me. After nine years with a chronic, invisible, unprovable illness, it's a luxury I can't afford. Any hope for compassion or a pardon from the expectations of normalcy smack me around with such regularity I've given up the expectation. My life is small, my feelings hostile, my anger profound. But sitting deep inside this churning dissatisfaction is a perfect knowledge. I'm a survivor! I will rebuild! I am fashioning a life I never could have conceived of, back when I was a woman who wanted to be believed, who thought sick only happened to the dead or the healed, who had no idea how strong she actually was.

Thanks for joining,
Leah    

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Unpuzzled Flare

After nine years with this illness I'm well aware of what it does to me. It never became clearer than after I got "healthy." Exercise and nutrition got me to a really good place. I was no longer in pain every day, could sleep at night, and didn't feel like I was constantly on the verge of getting a terrible flu. Miraculously, once I didn't feel so awful all the time, living didn't seem like such a bad prospect after all. It took an exceptional amount of work to get there, and even more to stay, but my life started to stabilize. That's when I truly began to understand what Fibromyalgia does to my body.

The symptoms of a flare began to stand out with blaring consistency. Suddenly all those random, strange problems I whined and complained about to doctor after doctor when I first got sick happened in a predictable cycle. At every point before there were so many things wrong with me at any given time I couldn't tell east from west, down from up or white from black. I was just sick. But now I recognized nerve pain in my face, usually accompanied by a boil, and an inability to take a full breath, were the beginning of a flare. Within a few days I would hurt really bad all over, couldn't sleep, and spent my awake hours feeling like I got smacked into by a cement truck. By far the most consuming was what happened to my mood. Raging anxiety, certainty over my own imminent demise, panic over what getting sick at 28 did to my ability to support myself, the selfish behavior of other people, my unhappiness with my sub-par existence, it all became so much bigger than anything else in the whole wide world. I would cry as I rocked my broken body on the floor, wondering why God had forsaken me so, and why I had the misfortune of surviving all my near-death encounters. Life was never bleaker.

Once it would lift I'd run back to my mighty creator with penance and apology for daring to mentally squander my blessings. I would flog myself for my weakness and vow to ignore the evil forces threatening to take over my brain next time it happened. So why, after a year of clearly seeing the flare cycle for what it is, did I indulge it this morning? I knew when I couldn't breath last night a flare was on its way. Going back to work has been hard on my illness/life balance, but I knew it would be a big adjustment. My right mind knows I've done harder for longer, and will ultimately survive. But it's like no matter how much I prepare myself, engage my rational thought, practice mind over matter or simply try to ignore my negative perceptions, they're always so much bigger than me. They pierce my reality, invade my conscious, and leave me an obliterated puddle to sop up off the floor. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah   

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's An Instagram World

A couple of my husband's young, hip co-workers informed him of a crucial shift in the "coolness" of social media. Basically, Facebook is dead and Instagram is where it's at. I filed this information in the way back recesses of my brain, and went about my life. The love/hate relationship I hold with Facebook hardly inspired me to invest my time and energy in a whole new facet of internet networking. Then I got bored one night a few weeks back, and decided I wanted to be young, hip and cool. So I started an Instagram account. After a few days of trolling through random pictures and catchy slogans I got it. For a girl who can hardly stand Facebook, and is utterly done with being bitched out for every innocuous comment I had the audacity to post, Instagram is an inherently more positive and rewarding experience. Within a matter of days I was hooked.

I decided not to use this new forum as a way to promote Fibromyalgia awareness or keep up with friends and family, although those are components I'm enjoying. Instead I decided to use Instagram as a tool to discover myself. Or rediscover myself. Or find myself. Or do something with me, exactly what I'm still not sure. The last time I was this preoccupied with myself I was in my late twenties and hadn't gotten sick yet. Then life started bitch-slapping me with epic problems, and everything quickly became about pure survival. I don't know the future but so far, I've survived! But my life's a shattered mess I'm working tirelessly to put back together again. After four years of smearing my failures and heartache all over Facebook, I'm ready to turn over a new leaf. Enter leahtylerthewriter on Instagram. 

Tapping into the younger generation's narcissistic, self-obsessed mindset is kicking me out of my comfort zone. Painfully. Initially I wondered if my life was even interesting enough to bother photographing and posting. Realizing it probably wasn't, and then doing it anyway, has been good for me. It's forcing me to see the beauty in my daily routine. Forcing me to challenge my perception of myself as a reclusive shut in with no life. And it's forcing me to grow. Exponentially. I'm sharing my journey in a totally different way. I'm focused on health, not sickness. It's about what I can do, not what I can't. What I do have, not what I don't. For the first time my Fibro friends and real world relationships are all collected under one account. I've even gotten comfortable with taking a selfie every day and posting it, although it still feels attention-seeking and weird. 

But I know if I want to get my book published and educate the masses about what it's like to live with this wretched illness, I have to get comfortable with self-promotion, as shameless as it may seem right now. I have to get to know myself again, and become comfortable in my own skin. And I need to understand how what I put out there is perceived. So far I've learned I need to cut about four inches off my stringy, raggedy hair I should wash more than once a week, and may or may not have a lazy eye. But in good light my wrinkles don't look as bad, either. So I'm sharing my life. All my conspiracy-theory health-nut practices. How much joy Yorkie and Porkie bring to my days. How sarcasm and being positive are the only way I survive. And I'm trying to answer the question everyone keeps asking me. What exactly did I do to get so much better?

Thanks for joining,
Leah       

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Attitude Of Gratitude

A month has passed since I decided to re-vamp my dedication to my health in an effort to boost my immune system. I know this because I'm out of my anti-viral. The pharmacy contacted my doctor in Arizona for a refill, but my MD hasn't responded. Of course I should follow up with an email or call, but I'm not quite sure I want to stay on it. Plus I avoid doctors like the plague and don't want her to know I've moved until I find a new one. I've been better, not perfect, about juicing, and am taking more L-Lysine and immune boosters. I keep waiting for the wonderfully managed Fibro I had in Arizona to find me, but even doing all the aforementioned, it hasn't. Of course it took months to get there in Arizona, and I had no idea I would wind up in such a great place. In this case hindsight is only making me impatient, uptight, and altogether bitchy.

Sometime around 6 AM, three hours after I went to sleep, the switch flipped on inside my head. Oh yea, THIS is why I took the anti-viral! When I finally rolled out of bed around 10 I was grouchy and sore. Taking a walk in the unseasonable 87 degrees should've made me happy. Instead it reminded me I will most likely sit in my house all day like a hermit, and do very little to move my life forward. This reminded me all my problems from Arizona came with me to California, which is a depressing notion. I bargained my way out of contacting my doctor by deciding to double up on my immune boosters. But when I went to go add another bottle to my vitamin order shopping cart, it was backordered and unavailable. Seriously? This is a really big deal! The VICTIM siren started whirling hysterically around my brain. 

Am I forever destined to be live all my days at the mercy of this incurable illness? Why are so many wrenches constantly thrown in my path? I found another online source for EpiCor, at a better price. So I started comparing the rest of my vitamins and supplements. Then I got all mad, because this is a daylong project and I was supposed to be doing yoga, and hadn't had my coffee yet and was out of 1/2 and 1/2, and was hungry and wanted to eat, and remember I woke up grouchy, and... 

Why can't I just be happy? Even with my current tizzy of mindless whining, things have been a lot harder for a lot longer. No, everything isn't perfect, but with my constant need to reclaim as much of my life as possible, it never will be! That's the problem with being me. So I got up, realized how lucky I was to only have to walk half a block to get cream, marveled over how wonderful the sun felt warming my skin, and thanked God all these wrenches give me a chance to do better.

Thanks for joining,
Leah      

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Punch From My Past

Last week kicked my ass. It didn't just kick my ass, it drug it through the mucky sludge of some of my worst PTSD triggers. If getting the flu weren't awful enough, I also started back to work after a four year hiatus. So while I'm lying on the sofa writhing with feverish aches, my inner adult is screaming at me to get myself together. The last thing I wanted was to go back to work on the same note I left. SICK. Like all my other ailments, this flu didn't give a rats woo-ha about my obligations or expectations. It invaded my body to do a job and damn it, it was gonna accomplish that task. My health-nut self knows sending my husband out for fresh vegeatable juice instead of Theraflu is the only reason my misery didn't linger more than a few days. 

By the time Tuesday rolled around I was able to eat, stand without passing out and even leave the house for a little while. I still felt like crap but really, what's new? Except I felt like I was re-living the scariest experience of my life. Four years ago I ignored a raging, splitting headache that had been cracking my skull open for a few days. I mean really, what's new? Like a good girl I got up to go to work and for the 75 millionth time, ignored the way I felt in order to fulfill my obligations. Then another lightening bolt struck my head. It hurt so bad all I could do was scream and claw my face off. Somehow I was able to call my friend to take me to the ER. Two feverish days of medical tests later, the Dean of Neurology confirmed I'd had two strokes. Shortly after I quit my job. 

So last week I sat here stressing and freaking out. Once again I was ignoring the way I felt in order to go to work. How had four years of fantastic progress deposited me back in this awful predicament? I know I could use a couple more months of recoup after that hellacious move, but as a retail gal I can't afford to miss Christmas. So just in case I forgot how awful my past was, how far I've come, or what a true gift being able to return to my job is, I got smacked into a PTSD meltdown of despair, fear and uncertainty. Luckily, after nine years of this crap survival is deeply ingrained inside my every action. Not only did I make it through work, I enjoyed myself immensely. And it only took me another week to feel human again.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Flu, Please!

Last night I laid here sicker than sick. So sick all I could do was moan in agony as every single nerve fiber in my body ached. Throbbed. Shot with jolts of an electrical firestorm. The other signs of flu were present, too. I couldn't stand up for more than a minute without passing out. Eating food seemed like the most disguising thing in the entire world, after existing, that is. I was nauseous and bloated and even vomited a little, but not profusely. These symptoms hit me so hard and fast I couldn't tell if I had the good old-fashioned flu, or was it just Fibromyalgia being mean? Or was I dying? I mean I sure felt like it, and every time I turn on the television the news tells me Ebola is on its way to a friendly neighborhood market near me... 

My dear medically traumatized husband, who has been to hell and back with my many maladies, wanted to take me to the ER. I barely had the strength to protest, but informed him if I wasn't already dying of Ebola, a trip to the ER would surely reverse that prognosis. Not only did he think the woman gasping and grunting in agony was going to expel her dying breath, the New York Giants lost too, so he really had nothing going for him last night. Then he got sick. Did we actually have food poisoning? About the only thing I could rule out at this point was Fibromyalgia, because he doesn't have it. 

So we're a sorry lot over here. Having to take the dogs out to pee, and sit on the sidewalk because I was too weak to stand up while they did their business, made me especially compassionate to single parents. How on earth does a person take care of a child by themselves when they are this sick? Since I'm actually sitting up, and can focus both my blurry vision and thoughts enough to write this blog, I guess I can rule out Ebola. I mean I'm not getting sicker, so that's gotta be a good sign, right?

Thanks for joining,
Leah          

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reassessing Immunity

Four months after a cataclysmic relocation my life is finally stabilizing. Unfortunately, my immune system is still stuck. When I was dodging calamity like hail-balls I understood it, even if I got tantrum-angry over my rekindled suffering for the better part of a few months. But despite my dedicated efforts to maintain the progress I made in managing my Fibro in Phoenix, something's different. A friend with Fibro reminded me this is just how the disease works. Sometimes it takes over. Miss Make My Own Reality over here balked at my friend's perspective, then pondered her experienced words. 

After bucking against her wisdom I remembered why Werner Erhard's est philosophy helped me so much last year. Accepting reality for sanity's sake began my soaring ascent into the most wonderfully managed Fibromyalgia I've experienced in nine years. When I was stuck in the mire these last few months I kept putting a time limit on how long I would allow it to take to get my health back. My dear husband reminded me the only reason I got there at all was because I stopped expecting my chronic illness to behave, and started walking towards the general concept of health, not illness abatement.   

So I'm walking again. Since the root of my Fibromyalgia is a tumultuous tango between an evasive virus and suppressed immune system, I've upped my immune boosters, lysine, and gone back on anti-viral medication. In Arizona I used to buy bagged baby kale from Costco. In California Costco sells a kale, chard and spinach blend. But it's mostly spinach. So I've started juicing with big stalks of flowery kale from the regular grocery. I've also started juicing fresh every other day, not the lazy every three day cycle I'd fallen into. If positive thinking, determination and lots of pep talks factor in, these important changes are working already. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fear Of Engagement

Last weekend I ran into a former coworker at the mall. She relocated from San Francisco to the L.A. area and is working for our previous employer again. It was so wonderful to see a friendly face from my past! Memories of a time when I had a paycheck, friends, and somewhere to be haunted me for the next few days. I realized a large part of me missed my life as a department store makeup girl. I didn't miss working weekends and holidays, standing on my feet for eight hours, or dealing with an often difficult general public. But I do miss having a professional identity and a way to make friends. After not getting a paycheck, of course. 

In the four years since I've worked I've become a recluse. For a long time after my two strokes my brain was fried. Darn near every public encounter left me either confused or in tears. I took a couple classes at the community college. That really helped pull me out of my shell. Engaging with the world, working on a deadline and cultivating relationships forced me to move forward in life. Going back to the gym even exercised my public encounter muscles. But I'm still a recluse, and have to admit I've developed a bit of social awkwardness. So when I got my friend's text, asking if I would ever consider returning to my former profession, I didn't know what to say. Lord knows I need the money. But, like everything else in my life, it all comes back to my health. I've got this outrageously high-maintenance lifestyle in place to manage my Fibro. It takes up a significant amount of my time and without it I get sick again.

So I talked to my friend and inquired about freelance makeup artistry. Then I hung up and freaked out. What am I thinking? I can't do retail! I'm not trying to go back to living on narcotics and tears of pain! I'm a writer now! Albeit unpaid, but I have to finish my book before I can sell it. Am I only considering this opportunity because it's familiar and won't challenge my fear of the unknown? Or do I need to shut my ego up and realize this is this a great way to make ends meet while pursuing my passion? But I haven't even looked into writing employment. Why would I just go backward without trying to move forward first? And the questions keep coming. The doubt and fear and uncertainty scare the dickens out of me. In an all together different way I'm facing a familiar cliff, and just don't know if I should jump.

Thanks for joining,
Leah  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Cost

On Friday I skipped the gym for absolutely no reason whatsoever, other than I didn't feel like going. It's the first time I've done that since I started working out six months ago. Naturally, I proceeded to flog myself over my own lack of discipline. Within an hour I became convinced I was going to gain all the weight back I worked so hard to lose. When Shingles pain started throbbing in my face a few hours later, I realized I was actually in a pretty bad flare. That made me remember I've been in a horrible suppressed immune system flare for months now. In fact, I've pretty much been rolling from one flare to another with a mere couple days in between. My weakened state easily overexerts when I'm exercising, and I've taken to injuring some random tendon or ligament or another every time I workout. No wonder I didn't want to go to the gym!

Moving to California knocked the management of my Fibro back to pre-juicing days. A place in time where I couldn't count on myself for jack squat, avoided the nitty gritty of life because I just couldn't cope with reality, and most certainly didn't wake up even close to the same person every morning. I was one sick girl who was rapidly losing the will to keep fighting. This marvelous refresher in Fibro 101 reminded me how hard this illness is to live with, and how difficult it's been to get my life back. The experience helped me find some much-needed compassion my recent flourish of anger forgot was so necessary for survival.

I'm a driven, determined woman on a quest to live a quality life, accomplish my dreams and make a difference. I also happen to share my body with a virus that damaged my central nervous system, hijacked my immune system and generally obliterated my entire life. While said virus won't kill me, it ain't goin' anywhere. We've had to learn to live together, Fibro and I, seeing as we share the same host. While we haven't made peace, per se, I've found a way to keep going by becoming as healthy as I possibly can. But the truth of the matter is sometimes those efforts cost a really painful price.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Desperately Seeking Motivation

Hindsight is so golden. I'm sitting here desperately trying to regain the quality of life I worked so hard to achieve in Arizona. It's not working. I'm back to falling asleep after 2 AM and getting up at 11, keep injuring myself at the gym, and am so damn bitchy I'd do anything to get away from me! My discipline is sorely lacking and anger is back to defining the way I spend my days. Sigh. I've already danced this tango, and almost didn't survive it once! It was so much work, but I actually got to a place of ownership in my life, and felt like I had a modicum of control over my circumstances. And then I had to go and move back to California.

Despite the raging heatwave scorching the Southland, and my broken air conditioner, I don't regret the choice to relocate. I just don't know why everything had to go so seriously wrong for months on end. When I start recanting the litany of ills we've endured; movers not showing up, car accidents, broken appliances, flooded dining rooms, a sick dog, termites...and the list goes on and on...people tend to laugh at the absurdity. I wish I was laughing. Any one of those complications are stressful and time consuming. But everything strung together in a consecutive string knocked this Fibro patient over here on her ass. 

I don't know how long it's going to take me to regain my lost ground. When I wake up in the morning I'm mad. Then I remember I used to get up happy and full of purpose, which makes me feel desperate and abandoned. The only good thing is I'm reaching the end of my victim-complaining rope. Endlessly kvetching about my reality is getting old. I want to move forward! I want to contribute to the world's health and well-being, not gnash my teeth and pull my hair because life turned out a lot harder than I ever in a million years imagined possible. I want to succeed and accomplish and inspire our collective consciousness. I want to have a positive impact on my broken, hurting patient population. I want to help the world to understand what living with Fibromyalgia is like, and help Fibromyalgia patients survive the way this horrible illness can wreck a life. I want to do all this and so much more! Maybe simply writing it down, and making myself accountable, can be the first step?

Thanks for joining,
Leah  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nothing To Give

My interpersonal relationships have been struggling tremendously since I moved back to my hometown. For two and a half months I've been vacillating between fulfilling expectations and stewing in resentment. The more expectations I meet, the more demands seem to come my way. I knew full well I couldn't keep going at that pace, but didn't know how to relieve myself of the normal, everyday, healthy-human burden of reciprocal relationships. Ahhhh, this is why I don't have friends. I'm not capable of reciprocal relationships! I barely have enough to take care of myself and my husband. Being there for other people isn't even in my lexicon. 

I suppose I should sit everyone down and deliver a dissertation on how my life is different than theirs. Explain that while they are merrily pursuing that inalienable American right called The Pursuit of Happiness, I'm barely hanging on to mere survival. It seems more like seeking approval, though. Laying out my trials and tribulations, listening to bad advice that only makes the advice-giver feel better, inviting judgment of my lifestyle, or strategies on how I can change my circumstances. None of which take into consideration I am a chronic illness patient. And really, Miss Jaded & Bitter over here doesn't expect it to make any difference, so why put myself through the torture?

I'm defeated and broken. Spent and exhausted. Weary to the bone. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. And even more sick and tired of pretending life is okay, when it so profoundly isn't. I can't do it anymore. For whatever reason my journey in life is a tremendous exercise in struggle. So much trauma for so long has severely limited my ability to engage in the experience of living. My life can still be good. I can still achieve success and experience joy just like everyone else. But unlike everyone else I can't do it towing five other people behind me. This lone wolf simply won't survive a pack.

Thanks for joining,
Leah    

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Was Looking For Health

August 2014

I got sick in 2005, when I was in the best shape of my life. The previous Thanksgiving I suffered from a near-fatal pancreas attack. My inner party-girl took a backseat as I started exercising and learning about nutrition. It was a short-lived effort. Over the course of the next six years medications, inactivity, pain, fatigue, panic and anguish took a terrible tole on my physical appearance. But it was nothing compared to what I felt like on the inside. Now I know the inner workings of health are written all over a person's exterior. But back then I was quickly descending into a prison I couldn't escape, the endless nightmare of constant and pervasive sickness. My doctors called it Viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I called it sheer, unadulterated hell.

March 2011

In 2011 I was 34 years-old, and could hardly hobble down a flight of stairs. I was in so much pain gravity felt like it was crushing my organs. I struggled around with limbs so heavy, it felt like they were injected with lead. My muscles crackled with snaking whips of ripping pain. My mental state was as broken as my body. I simply didn't want to live. It was too hard, hurt too bad. And there was no helping me, the double stroke-survivor who cowered under the shield of her Fibromyalgia diagnosis. Modern medicine had no answers for me. I couldn't function in society, engage in activity or relate to the world in any way. The only thing I could do was be sick. 

From this broken and dejected low I rebuilt my health one painstaking step at a time. There isn't any one plan I followed, or guru I assigned blanket trust. Just one woman, determined not to keep getting so sick I almost died, set out to make sense of the health sham perpetuated by the modern American lifestyle. I unlearned everything I knew about exercise and nutrition. I relearned how to live in healthy harmony with my body. My relationship with food evolved from one of dependence and indulgence to something that helps manage my illness. Exercise used to not only cause me horrible pain, it would make me sick. Now it's my favorite immune booster and narcotic in one. It was a very hard road getting here. But today I feel so much better it's like crushed-by-gravity girl is floating on the fluffy cloud of a wonderful dream. People keep telling me I've lost a lot of weight. Undoubtedly, I have. But that was never the focus. I went on a quest looking for heath. On that path I reclaimed my life.

Thanks for joining,
Leah    

Monday, August 25, 2014

If I Choose

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”  ~Jose N. Harris
I heard Samuel L. Jackson's wife once answered a question about the secret to the success of her forty year marriage with "amnesia." Apparently she got a lot of flack for her frankness. Personally, I think she's brilliant. So right on the money I had to tell my husband of thirteen years. We laughed, and wholeheartedly agreed with Mrs. Jackson. Of course other elements must be present for a long-term relationship to sustain, such as love, compatibility, respect and a desire to be there. But sometimes you just gotta forget the past. It won't ever change, and is so flippin' awful if the past must remain the present, a person can't endure. That is where this Monday finds me.     

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. It has to be. The utter futility of spending one more moment embroiled in the bitter past consumes me with such fervor I just can't do it anymore. I'm so sick of crying the same tired anthems! The same struggles over the same issues involving the same people and everyone's tried-and-true same behavior dysfunctions, most pointedly mine. Well stop the world, I want to get off. Every moment of the past thirty-eight years has brought me to right now. A state of complete rejection of what is. Not for acceptances sake, but for future sake. I can't take what is into tomorrow. Hell, I can't even take it into this afternoon! I must be free from the past that burdens itself upon me.

Every darn action I subconsciously take comes from a broken and battered soul. My reactions, capabilities, coping skills, efforts and intentions are all tinged by the hurt from the past. Every breath I take floods lungs reeking of fear and trepidation with the stale air of a present that won't ever change. But it can change, in this moment, if I choose. I can be free from the woman who came before me, the one who allowed anger and unfairness to rule the roost. If I choose. I can allow the snakeskin of contention to shed itself from my slithery underbelly. I can respond to life with gratitude and compassion. I can allow revolution to rage inside me, a lotus to bloom where my clenched heart used to reside. I've been blessed with many gifts in this life, some the result of intense hardship. What I do next is what I choose.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 18, 2014

Divorcing Expectation

This Monday finds me where most Mondays find me...exhausted, worn out, spent, sick, overwhelmed and all together disgruntled. Fortunately, I've hit my max. I'm so sick of being in this state of perpetual victim-hood. It's like life is just something that continues to happen to me, turning me into nothing more than a ping-pong ball bouncing from reaction to reaction. All the mental coaching in the world isn't flipping the switch this time. Purpose, positivity, resolution, all very lost concepts my sick soul can't seem to grasp. And then I realized that is precisely why. My soul is sick. This goes so far beyond my physical ailments. This is me at my essence, at my core. I'm lost.

Somewhere along the way I started seeking approval again. In my world, that's the quickest slide down the rabbit hole. For I don't know one single person, save for my husband who has been by my side watching the entire thing unfold, who approves of my life. After exposing myself, during one of my weakest lows in recent history, to the endless expectations, opinions, judgments and criticisms of how I should be living differently, I'm a woman about ready to pull her hair out. Yank out my fingernails with pliers. Anything to distract myself from the bevy of disapproval I've opened myself up to, and for some sick reason, taken as truth.

I'm an island into myself. My happiness and success is my responsibility. Nobody else is going to fix my life, tell me it's okay, guide me down the path of least resistance. It's all on me, which can be a very overwhelming and isolating feeling, if that's how one decides to perceive it. The anger over such a harsh reality put me in one hell of a tailspin for a long, long time. But in the midst of all this tumultuous living I forgot I wasn't alone. I forgot my faith in God offers me the unconditional love and support of a mother, father, best friend and supreme confidant, all in one. I forgot I don't have to bear the burden of my trials alone. It's still my job, to find a way to live successfully given all my limitations, but I have not been abandoned. I am never alone. 

I must reframe my own expectations, while at the same time releasing the need for approval from others. I will never live up to what the world collectively wants from me. Many people spend their entire lives trying, running against time, racing to satiate the opposing interests in their life. It's certainly how I lived before I got sick, and still after all these years the default behavior I revert to when times are toughest. But I just can't do it anymore. Simply trying makes me a very sick woman. It's just the way it is. So with a lightness in my spirit I didn't have when I sat down to pen this revelation, I'm divorcing the controlling, passive-aggressive, harsh and unrelenting presumption others place on me. If everyone else wants to spend their life in that cesspool of disappointment, go for it. But as for me, I'm done. It's a beautiful day out, and I've got a life to try and figure out how to live. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah      

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dust Settles

Thank the good Lord in heaven, I'm finally coming down off my reign of crazy. Even if the nasty septic tank of circumstances I find myself sitting in makes me want to run right back into insanity's open arms just for a distraction. The biggest lesson I can glean from all of this mayhem is that I can't do mayhem! Unfortunately, most people don't get to decide when, where and what to be stressed about in life. It's kind of something that just happens, a biological reaction to too much uncertainty or too heavy of a demand. Who are those people that walk through life's storms with a smile of assurance radiating from deep within their soul? How did they get that way? Can I ever be like that, or am I destined to be the reactionary, defensive, self-destructive spirit I've always been? Inquiring minds want to know!

I'm learning so much about myself it's not even funny. While I've experienced one giant, rolling flare after another, I've also never been so healthy. Since I got sick, that is. Over the last year I've made an intense investment in myself and my health. I now know all that time exercising and juicing, gulping apple cider vinegar and cooking all my own unprocessed food without chemicals, along with a bevy of other neurotic health-nut habits, are why I'm still standing today. See, so many things went wrong over the last two months, in years past any one of them would've done me in and sent me to bed for a week. Life is nothing if not a double-edged sword, however, because not being sequestered in a dark room with no human contact allowed Miss Type A to keep pushing herself. And push to the brink I did.

Now it's time to center, regroup, claim my balance. If I think about everything I have to do to get my life back to a functional level, I freak out. It's too much! So I only think about the one or two things I can realistically accomplish that day, and promise myself the rest will be waiting for me tomorrow. Surprise, surprise, the rest always is. Perhaps my biggest hurdle right now is the all-consuming negativity my mind seems intent on stewing in. So I'm going back to basics, the same way I pulled myself from the edge of destruction last year. Enter good ol' fashioned avoidance! Let's just say I'm washing the dishes, and I start to get mad at the man who cut me off and made me miss my exit earlier that day. Within a matter of minutes I could be sobbing in a puddle on the floor, and cursing the woman who almost ran me over in the crosswalk, along with the dishwasher repairman who made my kitchen sink spring a leak and flood my dining room. And we haven't even gotten to the people I actually know yet! The only way to not give my life away to the unsavory actions of others is to acknowledge my anger is, if not irrational, totally over-inflated. Then ignore it, and move on to something that either makes me happy or demands so much concentration it's all I can do. Because really, at the end of the day, is an aggressive driver or sloppy repairman worth the cost of me?

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Lost My Laundry Card

The second I noticed it missing my blood surged with panic. I began feverishly roving my eyes around the apartment. As I searched through the melee of my halfway-unpacked home, the instinct of survival known as flight or flight took over. My heartbeat thundered in my ears. Each purposeful step of my foot splashed puddles of trepidation in my wake. "Where is my laundry card?" I cried in a panic. While retracing my steps back to the laundry room, my mind raced with thoughts of the consequences of my negligence. I had $5 on that card, and it’ll take another $5 to replace the card itself. Why don’t I just take a $10 bill and throw it out the window, or set it on fire for my own amusement? How could I be so careless? Do you know how many things can go wrong when a person’s not paying attention? I can’t afford to be so frivolous!

And then I got a grip. I took five deep breaths and forced myself to stop anxiously looking everywhere the eye could see. After about five more minutes of ignoring my better judgment I decided to listen to myself. As my inner crack-head calmed down, the pensive frown on my face relaxed, knot in my stomach untied and heartbeat slowed to normal. I’d given up on my hunt, and was instead far more concerned with the absurdly fragile state of my parasympathetic nervous system. Why on earth did I get so bent out of shape over a lost laundry card? For crying out loud, it’ll either turn up, or it won’t. What good does freaking out actually accomplish, besides making me sick and mentally unstable? My anger at life’s unfairness flared when I realized the move from hell, followed by more calamity than most people see in ten years, left me so reactionary and damaged that misplacing my laundry card was enough to torpedo me into panic-survival mode.

This is the brittle state I’m left in to go rebuild my life. Ironically, in the five times I’ve moved since I got sick nine years ago, this one physically affected me the least. But with far more to do than time to do it, a very time-consuming regiment of diet and exercise to keep my symptoms at bay, and more unforeseeable problems springing to emergency status every other day or so, I’m spent. Beat down. Woman on the verge. Which is why it’s a wonderful thing my perpetually peeled-back eye unearthed the almighty missing laundry card a few short hours later. There it was, lying in the bathtub like it belonged there or something. Wow. Isn't it such a great thing I listened to my better judgment and decided to skip the worry?

Thanks for joining,
Leah           

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Girl Lost

I don't know how to pick up the pieces of my life and start over. All I know is I'm crying every day. Feeling hopeless, lost, and so much anger I can't even see straight. There's so much to do I don't know where to start. We're out of toothpaste, for crying out loud, but have I gone to the store to get more? I'm over halfway done writing a book I can't fathom finishing because my head is such a jumble of chaos. Exercising, juicing, pacing, releasing stress and embracing the positive, those all seem like relics from another lifetime, another person's life. I worked so hard to create an existence for myself in Arizona I could be successful at. Now I live in a place where it's too expensive for me to not work, I have a bevy of rekindled personal relationships to disappoint, and everything I try to do makes me feel like a colossal failure.

Boy, I really need to go watch that Transformation documentary on Werner Erhard that changed my life last summer. Clearly I've lost my grip on the mere concept of acceptance and moving forward in life, not looking back and trading the precious present to stew in the cesspool of a hurtful past. This is what happens when I get stuck on the reactive living train. Suddenly life becomes about what happens to me, not about what I make happen. Then it's a real quick slide into the mire of perpetual victimhood. It's pathetic. It's also my default, the mindset I lived with for so many years. Because honestly, when a person gets sick, life becomes about survival and reacting to what happens. It's the most out of control I ever felt in my entire life, and I absolutely hated it. Hate it.

Is there enough strength buried deep inside me to rebuild my destroyed psyche? All I feel is so much yuck, gobbling up my health, my stability, my future, any hope of having a life. But I want my future! I want the future I planned. The one where I get my book published, change the face of Fibromyalgia awareness in this country, and actually do something to improve the world I live in. Right now I feel so far away from that woman, the one who thought she could impact change, that it's like I never even knew her at all.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm Back!

Finally, after over a month without internet, I'm sitting on my couch, on my own wifi, connected to the online world. This past month brought more chaos and calamity than I figured would find me for the rest of my life. But the bottom line is today finds me at zero. All the mental and emotional progress I gained over the last year, all that hard work I did to stabilize my existence, all that acceptance I swallowed to come to terms with my reality, well, it's crumbling down around me like the walls of Jericho. 

I'll find my footing. Perhaps there's still a bigger bottom to hit. Not much would surprise me at this point in the game. But simply moving one state over won't do me in. It may challenge me in new ways, shape me into a design I didn't know I wanted to resemble, cuckold me in the head a few more times, but certainly won't spell my demise. In fact, as I sit waiting for the refrigerator repairman to show up for the dozenth time, I'm beginning to think the grand lesson in this colossal, never-ending headache is to learn how to smile in the eye of the storm. I mean, after sitting in the direct path of pelting hail with no shelter in sight, dontcha just gotta start laughing at some point? Even if it's just to mask the rage-induced psychosis.   

Thanks for joining,
Leah   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Demise

Los Angeles is beating the proverbial crap out of me. I’ve only been here two weeks, but so many darn things keep going wrong I’m sliding right back into survival mode. The one where at any given moment I’m prepared for an anvil to drop from the sky onto my head, semi-truck to careen into me from nowhere, and something as random as two strokes to strike my brain. It’s exhausting, living in a constant state of disaster preparedness. If things don’t start turning around quickly I’m not sure the town I’m from will allow me to continue. Over the years I wondered why I grew-up to be such a cynical, surly, hotheaded broad. Well I’m not wondering anymore! Simply surviving the insane drivers and aggressive, self-absorbed people I encounter at every turn is enough to make a girl want to crawl on her hands and knees back to the sweltering desert I just deserted. Or at the very least revert to my previous state of being known as ‘total bitch’.

I’m damaged goods. There aren’t enough pep-talks inside me to keep going like this. I’ve barely healed from the previous nine years of sickness and random tragedy. I finally got to a place where I could walk around like everything’s fine and dandy, even though it isn’t. I liked pretend land! Because for so many years I was in so much physical pain there was no pretending anything, there was just wanting to die. A bold-faced game of ‘blend into the land of the healthy’ seemed like such progress for me… Now it seems to be my undoing. Of course I’m taking on more than I can handle. It isn’t really an option. I knew when we decided to move I was foregoing safe and comfortable for a life I actually wanted to live. It’s doubtful I would ever have enough insulation around me to not feel the bumps and bruises such a rough transition delivers.

Harsh reality tells me life doesn’t give a shit if I’m sick. Mr. Werner Erhard’s est school of hard knocks tells me simply by being alive I’m entering into a consensual agreement to accept whatever the hell may happen in the future, along with the responsibility to fix whatever it does to my life. And too much experience living tells me things can still get a hell of a lot harder than they are right now. But the bitterness is taking over. I got sick and it ruined my life. Does that mean I'm relegated to wither away living the life that happens to me, not the life I make happen? Am I ever going to rise from perpetual victim-hood and soar among the clouds of my dreams? I didn't ask for this life and I didn't do anything to cause it. Yet still, the charge to fix it is mine, and mine alone.

Thanks for joining,
Leah             

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lone Wolf In A Pack

Last week my husband and I put everything we owned into storage pods and left Arizona for good. The experience has been all the crazier because until we sign the lease on our new apartment tomorrow, we've been homeless. Not on the street homeless, but staying with family homeless. Prior to this upheaval I knew I was a reclusive, withdrawn, anti-social brat with little ability or desire to marinade my days away in the company of others. But even I didn't know how much I've come to rely on the ordered bubble of my solitary universe. It's hard, being around people all the time. I'm exhausted, stressed-out, freaked-out, wigged-out and overworked. Not to mention achy, fluish, and riddled with boils. However, despite so much insanity, I'm somehow holding it together. Most of the time.

Moving back to my hometown is intensely challenging my illness-life balance. While I'm thrilled friends and family are vying for a chance to catch up, I'm incredibly overwhelmed with obligation. Which makes me want to bury my head in the sand and run away at the same time. Or at the very least, revert to my former habit of not answering my phone or checking my messages. On the flip side, the voracity of my reluctance to engage socially makes me feel like an ungrateful child content to squander the affection of others. My brain tells me to get over myself and stop viewing people through duty-tinted glasses. I guarantee if the situation were reversed, and nobody from my youth gave a rats woo-ha about my return, I would feel a lot worse.

The extent of the grand challenge ahead of me is becoming clear. My Los Angeles relations have never really known me sick. Listening to someone bitch on the phone about how bad they feel is a far cry from a once-dependable person turning into a complete flake. I try to remind myself of how much better my health actually is, considering where it's been. Sadly that only flusters my inner type-A into reverting to the people-pleaser of my past. Then of course I try to rise to the occasion, and crash and burn into a puddle of my own frustration. Consciously I know there is no going back to my previous life-model. It simply won't allow me the focus, peace or solitude to maintain my health and accomplish my life. But until I get some order back in my universe, until my days are mine again, and I begin to de-stress from this wild ride life is taking me on, this lone wolf is having a very hard time settling into the pack.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And Still I Rise

I moved to Arizona in 2008 a broken, battered shell of a woman. Although I was only 32 years-old, life was hardly done walloping the beat-down of a lifetime into the very essence of my humanity. Returning to work part-time meant I wasn't technically disabled, anymore. Leaving the cold of San Francisco took my daily pain level from a constant and pervasive Amethyst to a moody Mulberry. Relocating from practically the most expensive city in the country ensured everything wasn't going to be so damn hard anymore. Didn't it? Is this the part where I clutch my side and roll on the floor laughing?

With the good came bad, as is life. Phoenix was warm and affordable, and I was in less pain. But then all these other problems rose to the surface. Being sick for four years had sure done a number on my interpersonal relationships! I was on so many medications I felt like a Stepford Wife. The financial chaos my husband and I were sitting in was nothing short of its own tragedy. Slowly but surely we forged ahead, oblivious that the worst was still yet to come.

Like Lyrica served a purpose for a short time in my recovery, Phoenix was what we needed when we moved here. My feelings are so mixed about this place, though, because the worst time of my life also happened here. The most painful, mortifying and horribly ugly phase I never though I would have to endure, happened here. So did healing and a freedom from pain I didn't imagine could ever be mine. It's on the back of this double-headed coin that this phoenix rises from the ashes of ruin, and bodes farewell to the desert state. The woman returning home to Los Angeles in a couple weeks is so much stronger than the girl who left for San Francisco twelve years-ago, with stars shining bright in her hopeful eyes. I'm so much wiser, compassionate, and determined to prevail. I'm also meaner, crazier, and certain that whatever life dishes out, I'll continue to rise.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Still I Rise

...Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 

Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
Weakened by my soulful cries. 



Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard 
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines 
Diggin' in my own back yard. 



You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 

But still, like air, I'll rise...    

~Maya Angelou  
1928-2014    

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Finding My Health Part I: The Dirt On The Juice

I'm a bona fide health-nut conspiracy-theorist. Getting sick with something science doesn't understand, and medicine hardly believes in, forced me to look past my medical doctor and his prescription pad. It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad journey I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But what I can say is once I stopped looking for a way to get "better" from Fibro, and instead focused on being a healthy human, everything started falling into place.

Juicing literally saved my life. I was so sick with immune-suppressed viral symptoms I was quickly losing my patience for this world. Then I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, which inspired me to give juicing a whirl. So I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought myself a Breville juicer, then loaded up on fresh produce. My flu-ish symptoms responded to a fat dose of vegetable juice almost immediately. In fact, every night when I would drink it, I would feel noticeably better. It wasn't hard to keep at it with such instant results, especially when I would skip and feel like I smacked into the back of a semi-truck at 90 miles an hour.

The other benefits were astounding. My brain quieted down and I started to be able to fall asleep at night! Sleeping and not having the flu every day did wonders for my quality of life. I was able to institute a bit of order and routine, and actually began to count on myself for the first time in many years. Life suddenly seemed like it was worth living again. Then people kept telling me I was losing weight. I'd been exercising for a few years and slowly dropping pounds. Apparently once I started juicing it just fell off. But the biggest shock came when I had my monthly cycle. For years I would pop Vicodin and lay around in agony, feeling like knives were stabbing my gut from the inside out. That first month I didn't hurt nearly as bad. I took Advil and it...actually worked! I proceeded to go about my day and haven't taken a narcotic since. That was nine months ago.

I never stopped eating food, but drinking juice twice a day substantially cut down my hunger, so I don't eat as much as I used to. In and of itself, juicing is a time consuming pain in the ass. Although the inconvenience of shoving produce through a shredder doesn't hold a candle to Fibro. Nevertheless, I juice for three days at a time. While the juice looses nutrition the longer it sits, I still reap wonderful benefits and find it's a commitment I can actually stick to. It doesn't work if you don't drink it!

My breakfast juice is fruit based, which tastes better than the veggie, but many will shy away from because of sugar. I believe in the nutrition of nature and the important synergy of a balanced diet, which includes the fruit group.

Breakfast
Apple
Orange
Pear
Nectarine
Pineapple
Cantaloupe
Lime
Ginger
Spinach (lots and lots o' spinach, you can't taste it)

My dinner juice is hard-core veggie juice. Instead of trying to mask the green with fruit, I celebrate the earthiness with a splash of Tabasco and Worcestershire. I also add a generous amount of Apple Cider Vinegar (with the Mother). Believe it or not, I now crave the greenish-orange sludge people laugh at me for gulping with glee. It's like taking a bath from the inside out.

Dinner
Carrot
Celery
Cucumber
Tomato
Lemon
Kale
Parsley
Cilantro

While juicing hasn't "cured" my Fibromyalgia, it's doing a wonderful job of allowing my body to correct something severely wrong inside me. In conjunction with a million other random health quirks, I don't live at the mercy of pain and sickness every day. My results weren't achieved by a single effort, or in a rapid fashion. Instead, a life dedicated to seeking wellness, and a willingness to expand my definition of healthy, continuously guide my way.

Thanks for joining,
Leah