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,

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  

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.

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.


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,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Sky Is Falling

Not only that, but the world is ending, my existence is purposeless, everything is awful and there is no point in trying to make anything better, because it's always going to get horrible again in the end. It's pretty amazing, how quickly I can go from the top of my game to a blithering puddle of wasted humanity. In a sick way, it would be easier if I had a mental illness to credit said breakdown with. Because for the last 12 hours I've indulged more tears, 'woe is me', and desperation than a person should in a year, or at least a month. That big leap of stupid faith I blogged about a few weeks back is taking a wrecking ball to my life. My conscious mind knows my choice to indulge my fear got me here. The self-loathing and damage inside me won't let me stop.

I tell myself life will work out, because it has up to this point, so why would it stop now. I remind myself what I am facing is a walk down 5th Avenue compared to what I've already prevailed over. None of it snaps me out of the pit of despair, though. Because the bottom line is; THIS is the result of my releasing positivity. If I exist outside the realm of looking on the bright side, I slide straight into the depths of hell. And once I'm here, it takes so much fucking work to get back to where I was, I lose days of my life in the process! Which starts the viscous cycle all over again. The one where I believe the sky is falling, world ending, my existence purposeless...  

Could I possibly be more fragile? Am I ever going to heal enough to get out of my own way and accomplish life? If a positive, albeit scary, leap of faith forward in life does this to me, what on earth would happen if something bad actually happened? Perish the thought. I've got to find a way to get back on the 'anything is possible' train. The one where what I've endured serves to make me strong, not weak. The one where hard work and positive intention net wonderful results. A world that far exceeds the one I live in today, but is the one I plan on inhabiting tomorrow.

Thanks for joining,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Inspired With Ego

Today I wrote a ridiculously long blog about all the health quirks I employ to feel a whole hell of a lot better than I used to. It got so long and preachy I had to take a step back. But the experience did serve to remind me why I started The Fibromyalgia Crusade in the first place. Hallelujah! I've been in mortal agony over here about my abandoned love-child, and am overjoyed to rediscover her purpose!

Before I had two strokes my Fibro was pretty well managed. After being horribly disabled for a few years, I was working part-time and taking a Spanish class. When I got an A I realized my brain wasn't some fogged out, defunct old organ. It was actually capable of learning new material! I began looking into graduate school, and  I felt like my life might have a future. After I had two strokes I was high on high-dose steroids, to treat the Vasculitis that caused the strokes. I felt fabulous. Although I had to quit my job, drop Spanish 2, regularly spun into roid-rages of epic proportions, and lost my social life entirely, I felt fabulous. I spread the word about this blog for the first time in September 2010. Eventually my mission became to let the world know Fibromyalgia didn't have to ruin a persons life. After all, I was able to fight back once, and win. The Fibromyalgia Crusade was the vehicle through which I planned on delivering this message.

Except...once I got off that drug, my reality got really, really bad. For a really long time. The kind of bad where if one were a cat, most of those nine lives would've been gobbled up. By the grace of God go I. Somehow I've managed to fight back twice, and win. So here I go again. Over the next week or so I'll publish some details on what I've done to get my life back. Remembering my original intention was to let Fibromyalgia patients know Fibromyalgia didn't have to level a person forever, makes me feel outrageously egocentric. It's amazing how hard it is to face ones pompousness, without the shelter of pharmaceuticals to delude the picture! But when I got this illness nobody told me about hope. Nobody stood on top of a mountain of their own success, and told me I had so much more power than I realized. They told me to learn to live with it, accept it, take pills that made me feel worse. A few went so far as to tell me to figure it out on my own. So I did. Today I know so much more than I ever have before, and I know there is no one answer to the complex puzzle of Fibromyalgia. But for anyone who's interested, stay tuned. I'll break down what I did.

Thanks for joining,

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Purpose Of Primping

I tried to keep up appearances when I got sick, I really did. When I was first taken out of work for a month with disabling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, I spent what precious little energy I had putting on makeup every day. It was a silly priority, considering my right arm was nearly paralyzed, and I was too sick to even leave the house. But the makeup artist was so deeply ingrained in me, it seemed vitally important to not look as bad as I felt. And of course I didn't want to fall out of tune with my own high standards, and the pulse of the world around me. That was how I thought things worked, eight years ago. Today I can only smile at the naive little girl propping up her right elbow with her left arm to sweep that second coat of mascara on. If only she knew what was to come!

Things kept getting harder, I got sicker, developed new diseases, ballooned up from medications and inactivity, and completely and totally let myself go. Seeing as I was a hair's breadth away from losing my mind, the last thing I cared about was how I looked. Eventually I became the woman who was lucky if she brushed her hair and teeth each day. The clothes I threw on to take the dogs out when I first woke up were the clothes my husband saw me in when he came home from work that evening. Manicures, pedicures, waxing, puffing and fluffing, all part of that past life I no longer lived. The life where I had choices and opportunities and the most important thing I couldn't find, health.

Can I blame my progress in this area on juicing, too? Once my symptoms began stabilizing I started to be able to count on myself a little bit. Life wasn't a day-to-day free-fall of circumstance and knee-jerk reactions. One day I realized staring at my dirty, sweatpants-clad self in the mirror was depressing. Then it dawned on me a woman in such an unkempt state wasn't preparing to live her life. So I put my computer down and got my ass in the shower. I straightened my hair and put on some makeup. Then I sat back down on the couch, because something as simple getting myself fixed-up used all my energy for the morning. But I kept at it, health permitting, and grew to realize when I didn't take a bit of my time to make myself presentable, I felt worse. While it still felt frivolous to invest in the effort, I sure liked looking in the mirror a lot more. Today I can see caring about my appearance for what it is; a way to boost my confidence, prepare to engage with the world, and remember how far I've come.

Thanks for joining,

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Compassion vs. Sympathy

Last fall I changed my life in two major ways. I started juicing vegetables and taking responsibility for the totality of my existence. Since then I've undergone a tremendous metamorphosis. The nutrition fed my body in a way that allowed my Fibro symptoms to settle down. Realizing nobody else was going to fix my exceptionally screwed-up life, nor were they going to live it with me, fueled a responsibility to the quality of that life I was previously too ill to absorb. Slowly the two shifts came together, and I've been able to move forward in ways I was too sick and stuck to accomplish for the last decade. The result is a freedom I never thought I would have again. Yes, I still have Fibro, but my symptoms are so managed I don't live every single moment of every single day caught in its evil, joy-robbing, life-destroying clutches. Thank God.

My journey with chronic illness took me places I never thought I would go. Places I never even knew existed. Places so dark and fraught with panic, anguish and ugliness I didn't think I would survive. The result is a compassion for the suffering in the world I can no longer take for granted. I certainly don't think my life is the hardest life a person ever lived, but I've suffered a plenty, and observe the suffering of others with the clarity and compassion of a kindred soul. Even if that suffering is frivolous, by my standards, I still get it and compassionately respect the journey we each must traverse to prevail. 

Conversely, my sympathy for the suffering of others is practically nil. A person has to have a pretty screwed up existence to garner my sympathy. As sanctimonious as it is to admit, I hold the depth of a person's tragedy up to mine, and only if I deem it worse, do I lend my sympathy. It's a dangerous slippery-slope to subscribe to, but for now, it's were I'm at. Working so incredibly hard just to wake up each day and not be too sick to function jaded me. I no longer feel bad that my life isn't the worse-case scenario. I don't feel responsible for anyone else's tragedy or unhappiness. And ultimately there came a day when I stopped feeling bad that I'm getting my life back. In fact, it's dawning on me right now, that my sympathy became so hard to win when I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

Thanks for joining,