Monday, November 30, 2015

Day 30: 10 Out of 30 Ain't Bad

Thirty days ago I flew into a fit of rebellion against the direction my life was headed. I decided to try and take back some control over my circumstances by blogging every day for thirty days. Desperate to figure out what the hell had happened and how to correct it, I figured pouring my heart and soul into my blog would allow me the clarity to fix what was becoming very broken. Me. Challenging myself to such a high expectation seems funny to me now, considering I know very well life isn't "just a decision" and habits aren't "made in twenty-one days" like everyone seems to think. But, alas, I tried, and managed to blog ten times over the course of the month. Considering I usually post about four times a month, I'm pleased with the result of my efforts. Even if my competitive nature has me determined to blog at least eleven times during the month of December. 

Thirty days showed me a lot. While it didn't even remotely fix what is broken, I am now aware of my reality in a way I was too busy to acknowledge before. And busy is my exact problem. Trying to balance managing my health with working part-time and completing my novel had me running around like a chicken without a head. My life has become frantic and hectic again, which doesn't allow me the time to tend to what is dying inside me-- my soul. Over the course of this past month I discovered forward progress isn't only achieved by hard work, but requires profound internal reflection in order to move me in the right direction. Otherwise, I'm moving, but it's in a pointless circle at a breakneck speed-- i.e. a chicken without a head.

Thirty days from now I will be sitting in a different reality. I will have different regrets than I do today. I will have thirty more days of experience in surviving this tricky devil we call life. I will be thirty days wiser, more battered, less successful, and more accomplished. I pray I can spend this next thirty days being kinder to me. Demanding so much from myself is exhaustive and really got me away from the primary purpose of my existence-- to celebrate the miracle that is this life.

Thanks for joining,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Day 20: I Keep Waiting

Every morning I wake up hoping and praying I feel better. It isn't happening. What is happening, however, is my mental strength is being unduly tested. Severely. Each day my grasp on health and stability slips further from my reach. I keep telling myself this will pass, the darkness will lift, the flare will subside, and I will NOT lose all my hard-fought progress to this illness again. 

Not reacting to such a temporary state of being is the greatest gift I can give myself, right? For every time I let my life swirl into the gutter of chaos, it's only that much more work to get back up again. And I always get up again. So if I just don't slide so far down in the first place, this never-ending flare is entirely manageable, right? Except ten years isn't temporary. While I've been on an upswing (albeit a very hard climb) these last few years, the last ten years have been utterly life destroying. And I'm so unbelievably damaged, that is what's making it so hard to get through this flare with a modicum of hope.

So I have a choice. I can keep reacting. I can keep being pissed off because I hurt so bad or am getting confused so easily. I can continue to feel imprisoned in my life because of my illness. I can continue to hate the world because nobody can help me get better, or even remotely understands how sick I am. I can continue to collect injustices and live in fear. Each day can be a deeper descent into the madness of sick. But I've seen the bottom of where this road leads, and it's an unbearably awful place.

So I can, once again, stop the ride and accept my reality. Soften my approach and allow love into my heart. Start looking at a half-full cup through rose-tinted glasses, damn it! I know this is expecting the extraordinary, when I'm such a naturally grouchy and feisty individual, but it's the only way I know how to refuse to let sick be all I am. By counting one blessing at a time, one choice not to react at a time, one push to positive at a time, maybe it won't make waiting for that elusive tomorrow so hard. 

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Day 14: The Power of Breath

Today I did yoga. It hurt like hell. However, my flare finally subsided enough to allow me the energy to exercise, so I figured I'd get back on the horse. Of course, doing pigeon pose immediately reminded me of how far I've come on my exercise journey. Getting my hands to clasp over my head, with one knee bent straight before me and the other leg straight back behind me, is one of the hardest poses I've been able to achieve since I began exercising four years ago. I spent at least a year just getting myself to sit up straight, and it took another year to lift my hands off the mat. The day my crooked arms flung up above the shoulders, I swelled with the sweet joy of pride, before collapsing in a heap of anguish on the floor. Still to this day, nothing rips through the agony buried deep in my back muscles like pigeon pose. 

Exercising has allowed me to get to know my body intimately. As I've lost weight and developed my muscles, thus working through much of the pain imprisoning me, the true sources of my suffering have revealed themselves. They've also become a lot less horrible. Just one of my examples: When I was my sickest, I couldn't really grip with my right hand. This meant I couldn't cook or write. It really sucked and greatly impacted my ability to function as an independent adult. Years of slowly building up my strength with exercise, while trying to be somewhat respectful of my limitations, has restored my ability to use my right hand. It's also shown me the pain actually comes from the osteoarthritis in my neck, which was also the root source of my two-week headache a few weeks back. That flare up, ironically, was due in part to being so weak I couldn't exercise, which makes my muscles seize up like a vice. The interconnectedness of it all, and how easily fatigue and pain tip my illness-life balance in disastrous directions, is so preposterous it's enough to make a person go insane!

So today I focused on breathing in and out as I moved my body. What I was or wasn't able to do, well, I couldn't focus on that and my breath at the same time. What I have done in the past, or think I should be capable of doing today, those weren't concerns I could hold on to, either. So I let it all go. I focused on now. Today. Moving forward. My blessings and gifts. Not how much ground I've lost, where I should be, where I'm not, or how to get back on track. I moved my body to the best of my ability and just breathed.

Thanks for joining,

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day 12: Attitude Adjustment

I've finally admitted something has to change, which is a really big step. Over the last four months, as my health has spiraled out of my control, I have spent a lot of time blaming myself for my challenges. If I were only stronger and more disciplined, or ate cleaner and exercised more, or could just stiffen my trembling upper lip and not take everything so personally, or could stand on my head while gargling... Needless to say, the games I've been playing with me have gotten me exactly where they always have-- sick and failing miserably.

Except I'm not choosing to view this as a failure. This is a grand learning experience I had to try. I had to know if I could slip back into a fraction of my former life without crumbling. Sadly, I can't, but that's not something anybody could have discovered for me. It's something I had to figure out for myself. While today I'm not terribly pleased with the outcome, once I've figured out a way to extract myself from the madness and catch my wits, I'm pretty certain the purpose in all this upheaval will become astoundingly clear.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 8: Blessed Balance

I follow a lot of inspirational people on Instagram. Tons of workout chicks-- for motivation and ideas, a handful of adorable dogs, some awesome travel profiles, and lots of juicing/clean eaters. A slew of memes grace my cell-phone screen with challenging, encouraging, or just plain thought-provoking directives to get over myself and do better. Usually they work. Life is, after all, a decision, right?

Sometimes, but not today. I've been home from work sick for two days, and this time can't blame it on a flu or "healthy person" sickness. Nope. This is good ol' fashioned fibro, and it's ripping my body apart. I haven't had a flare of this magnitude in a long while and it's terrifying me. More so because of the past than my inability to tolerate monumental levels of pain and weakness. No, I'm so worried because this is how the downward spiral starts. And it ends with me puddled in a mass on the floor with no job, no ability to exercise or juice to beat my illness back into submission, and no mental capability to proceed because I've been destroyed so many times that rebuilding is never a guarantee. Yup, I've been here too many times to not know what's coming next.

So as I'm strolling through my Instagram feed, and some rock-hard fit-chick's meme tells me that only exercising on the days I feel good won't net me fitness-model results, I wanna fling my phone across the room. I want to scream at these people that for their privileged asses, life is a decision to put the doughnut down and get up off the couch and pump iron. But for the chronically ill, it isn't. No, we MUST pay attention to the days we don't feel good, least we push ourselves into a flare that doesn't end for the next five years. We must respect the balance that life has thrust upon us-- not a balance we asked for, can easily find, or enjoy limiting ourselves to. But a balance that allows us to survive still the same.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 6: Rise into the Fall

Last night when I came home from work I desperately needed to blog and juice. Considering I was far more woman-on-the-verge than capable of being productive, I elected to drink a few beers and watch TV. Turns out allowing myself to let my hair down was the best thing I could have done for me, but I didn't have much of a choice. There reaches a point where living in the immediacy of my misery is so unbearable I just can't do it anymore, and I was there. It wasn't all that surprising seeing as I've worked far more than normal this week, and my health is reeling from the consequences. 

It's taken me a long while to recognize the time healthy people spend cultivating friendships, cleaning their house, traveling, or pursuing hobbies, I spend being sick. It is my down-time, free-time, and me-time all rolled up into one. The rest of my life is either spent working or managing my health. Before I went back to work I had a bit of a grasp on a few of life's details, but in eight short months seem to have slipped right back into survival mode. Perhaps what's most frustrating is there simply is no way to communicate this reality to the outside world. They usually don't care, and even if they do, can't do anything about it. It makes endlessly bitching about how horrible it is to be sick so unbelievably pointless.   

So what to do? Living in this paradoxical state, where I pretend like everything's fine when it clearly isn't, leaves me raw, emotional and oversensitive. I'm weepy, weak, and oh so bitter. It's taking everything I have to remember what's now won't always be. That growth is painful, but I'm learning a lot about myself in the process of rediscovering how to fit into life. Rising from the ashes is scary and overwhelming, but it doesn't mean I'm going to give up. Not only am I learning what I can and cannot do, I'm becoming more and more certain of who I refuse to become.   

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day 4: Housewife Fantasies

On Sunday I felt pretty good. The flare cycle kicked in on Monday, which begins with a heavy dose of "everything is awful." I don't feel great, per se, but seem to exist in a billowing cloud of negativity more than being physically afflicted. Also, pretty consistently on day one, I seem to be filled with an unquenchable desire to quit my job. I mean, it is making me sick. Not in a life-shattering way, but in that "six-months ago I was a lot healthier" kind of way. It's also slowing down the progress of finishing my book, usurping my creativity, and making me fraternize with a sector of society I'd much rather prefer to ignore. Usually at the end of day one I start romanticizing the failed experiment that was me as a housewife, until I talk up the whole experience enough that it starts to sound like a pretty sweet option again.

Never mind the small details that I need to work in order to pay my bills, or have improved in different ways in leaps and bounds since returning to retail, or was horribly isolated and lonely before commencing said employment. Nope, on day one I start fantasizing about how if I didn't have to go pimp lipstick for a buck, I'd go to the gym every single day. I'd start going to yoga class instead of doing my DVD at home, and meet all sorts of friends I somehow missed when I didn't work before. Then I'd stop at the grocery store on my way home and bargain shop, something my husband isn't terribly gifted at. And my house would be spotlessly clean, and dogs would be perfectly groomed at all times, and I'd blog not just once, but twice a day...

By day two, when I really just want to bury my head in the sand and ignore both my illness and my life, I get a grip on my unrealistic ambition to replace Donna Reed. I recognize that even if given the opportunity, I'd still suck at housewivery and have more clothes in the hamper than motivation to wash them. And ultimately, at the end of the day, I'd still be sick. So I might as well keep my connection to the outside world and suffer a little less stress on bill day.

Thanks for joining,

Monday, November 2, 2015

Day 3: Breaking the Cycle

My little girl has quite a checkered past. I don't know what happened to her, seeing as she's a dog and can't talk, but she's damaged. She has lots of weird behavior and a significant amount of fear. We've come to love her for all her quirks, and kind of know what to expect by now. After all, who understands the damaged better than the also-damaged? But some of her mannerisms are just plain odd. She goes into these trances where she checks out, and sits there staring at the wall refusing acknowledge anything until something snaps her out of it-- usually me putting on her leash and making her get off the sofa.  

It hit me just now how much like her I am. My husband wanted to finish discussing something I couldn't shut up about a couple of hours ago while I was at work. But a lot can change in a few hours. By the time I closed up the store, got home, and was heating up my dinner, I wasn't in a space to continue the rather intense conversation we had earlier in the evening. We discussed it anyway, which was frustrating and unsatisfying for both of us. He couldn't get more than a one syllable answer from me, and I couldn't string a sentence together to save my life.

Instead of being remarkably aware of my dysfunctions, be it a fibro fog/flare, stroke brain, hormones, or some other excuse for my mental vacation, I struggled through the exchange until he was pissed off and I was in tears. Then I stormed off to the bedroom in an overwhelmed fit, until I simmered down enough to realize what happened. How I wish I could have recognized it when it was happening! Now I have to go back into the living room and apologize, and have the stupid conversation all over again, which I'm still not sure I'm ready to discuss. So maybe instead of repeating the whole vicious cycle, I'll go in there and tell him I'm sorry. I'll tell him I love him and how much I appreciate his patience with me. Then I'll ask if we can finish our conversation tomorrow because I'm really spaced out tonight, and would rather just enjoy being together before we have to go to bed. That sounds much better. So much better than sitting in my bedroom by myself staring at the wall.

Thanks for joining,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Day 2: The Sun Will Come Out

Yesterday was hard. One of those days that make me wonder how I've survived so long with this illness. And if all my physical and psychological and emotional turmoil weren't enough, knowing I'd just promised to blog every day for the next thirty days about did me in. Writing yesterday's blog was incredibly hard. I've become accustomed to burying my head in the sand and avoiding reality when I get like that, certainly not talking about it or paying attention to how I feel. How I feel is totally irrelevant when I'm such a hot mess I don't even want to be around myself anymore. Really, who on earth wants to read about a melodramatic sick-chick feeling sorry for herself? But what a total flake, to just bitch out on the first day of my self-imposed challenge! So write that blog I did.  

It was hard, but I've frequently found forcing myself to do something I know is good for me has benefits. Today was no exception. Even though I didn't sleep all that great and had a stiff-neck headache all day, I felt freer in my spirit. I was more clear headed than I'd been in a long while. My problems were still the same, but I wasn't as burdened by their existence. Even being at work wasn't nearly as trying on my sanity. Perhaps writing that blog, when I was in the depths of the really ugly, forced me to turn my sights away from my past and position them on my future? Who knows. All I know is today was indeed a better day than yesterday, and that's all I could have hoped for.

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