Monday, October 29, 2018

A Decision to Make

I'm officially reentering society. I've joined two writer's groups and have read my material aloud and received critical feedback from both. I'm attending a conference on Saturday. I'm making commitments and able to see them through, for quite a few weeks now. Somehow, finally, miraculously, I've found myself in a position to start living again.

Yet as I dip my toes back into the living waters of life, I'm scared. I'm scared of who I've become. I'm scared to let people know who I am. I'm scared to tell people about what I've been through. I don't want their judgment, and I don't want their sympathy. And I certainly don't want to have to explain and try to make people understand... 

But I don't really know what I want. Perhaps to pretend the whole mess never happened? To never let anyone see anything past skin-deep? To be taken at face value, like somehow my life could become as superficial as it looks from the outside perspective, if only I don't address my truth?

If only. So I have to decide. Who am I going to present myself to the world as? This was a big issue last time I got healthy enough to work. I learned that when it comes to me and other people, I look too healthy to say I'm sick. Trying to exist in that dichotomy felt like a really big burden was placed on top of an already insurmountable struggle. They would look at me like I was nuts and treat me like I clearly didn't understand what true hardship was. So now I find myself electing to stay silent.

The result: people think I'm a happily kept housewife who grew bored so she decided to write a novel. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I find myself doing zilch to change perceptions. It's too hard to try and convince the world that what I'm dealing with is real. Ironically, that's the entire reason I wrote the book in the first place. And why I continue to write this blog. So yeah, I have a decision to make; how much of myself do I keep to the vest, and how much do I let be known.

Thanks for joining,

Friday, October 19, 2018

If You're Not First, You're Last

I'm stupid competitive. The need to succeed and be the best is deeply ingrained in me. So deep, I have a terrible time accepting when I'm not. Perhaps this is part of the reason this illness is so difficult for me to live with. I know plenty of patients who, by year thirteen, have accepted their limitations and gone on to create meaningful existences where they are reasonably happy. They have filled their lives with loving, supportive people and respect themselves despite the struggles living with chronic illness puts them through. As much as I wish I was one of them, I most decidedly am not.

I seem to exist in one of two states. Either I'm beating this beast into submission, or I'm writhing around on the ground throwing a tantrum because I'm not winning, fibro is. There's no middle ground with me. It's almost like every time I relapse, just like when I got sick in the first place, I take it beyond personally. A shining example of how bad I'm failing. I can spend years twirling in the question vortex of "How could I let this happen?" Which is a really pointless question to ask myself after the fact, when my focus should be on loving myself so I can stand back up as quickly as possible.

No, instead I spend years adulating my anger at what is. Furthermore, it's only when I've stabilized enough to climb about halfway up that I can stop my foolishness. Luckily, for the first time since 2015, I'm here. Stabilized. Starting to live life again. About half as sick half as much as the time as I was those first two years. Finally. For a while there, I didn't know if I'd ever reach this place again. I'd done it before so knew it was possible, but couldn't stop bathing in my fury long enough to have faith.

But this is nothing if not a slow climb. As much as I'd give anything for life to be as simple as a decision for me, it's not. I'm starting to exercise again with a modicum of regularity and it's no longer sending me into major flares, but of course it's not nearly as frequent as I'd like. I'm getting out more and starting to be able to keep commitments again. But it feels small and pathetic considering what I've done in the past and what I aim to do in the future. There's still a tremendous gap between the me I am and the me I need to be.

Yet being able to do a little has calmed me down a lot. While I constantly have to remind myself that there are many other roles to play in life other than winner or loser, I find I'm generally getting a grip. A productive day followed by a down day isn't the worst thing anymore. After all, it's worlds away from being too sick to turn off the TV and get up off the sofa for months on end.

Thanks for joining,

Saturday, October 13, 2018


My vote-by-mail materials arrived the other day for November's election. I know these mid-terms are a huge big deal here in America, but I have beef with voting more than once in any given year. It seems like a frivolous waste of time and money to me, not to mention it kills both civilian enthusiasm and voter turn out. Sigh. Yes, this will be like the third or fourth time in 2018 I've cast a ballot. Is it any wonder I leave it to the last minute? I'm usually up until three o'clock in the morning the night before desperately researching who to vote for, and then I have to actually show up at the polling place to drop off my absentee ballot in person--knowing full well my vote probably won't get counted. Still, it's one of the most important civic duties I've been given as a citizen, so to the best of my ability, I persist.

Last election, on June 5th, I sat at The Cheesecake Factory during happy hour pouring over my vote-by-mail materials. There were so many crazy people running for all sorts of things, I could barely get past the candidate statements. And who on earth am I supposed to want on the school board when I don't even have kids... The more whiskey sours I consumed, the funnier the whole thing became. Especially the guy running for mayor who went off for three paragraphs about how we're being poisoned by the drinking water. Like, this is LA. Who here doesn't drink bottled? 

So I would throw out names as various waiters walked past, asking which they thought sounded better for a particular office. Then we would laugh as they offered silly logic to back up their uninformed suggestions. But I couldn't very well transfer such ignorance onto an actual ballot, so eventually I decided I'd voted for the most important positions to the best of my ability and called it a day. Let me tell you: turning in that ballot, in person, to the polling place after happy hour, well it made me feel like a college kid all over again. Like I was sneaking in a term paper after a very important deadline was due following a really big party...

I really need to not leave this election until the last minute. I need to stop procrastinating and start researching. I need to do my part to help my country out of the partisan divide we're deeply enmeshed in. Because somewhere along the way, we citizens of the United States of America have forgotten how to act like adults. How to compromise. How to work together for the common good. Hell, we can't even agree on what the common good is anymore. Nor can we agree on what constitutes a citizen. It's sad, living in an America I most certainly did not grow up in. I honestly don't know if there's a way out for us, or if we'll eventually erupt into another civil war. But the one thing I can do to speak my voice, promote my values, and hopefully influence positive change, is to vote.

Thanks for joining,

Friday, October 5, 2018

Impossible to Be Good

I really did a number on myself when I went on that extreme diet last year. In hindsight I can see how it combined a significant number of what I consider to be unhealthy practices: restricting entire food groups, sweeping overnight changes that aren't attainable for a lifetime, a plan so consuming I was constantly at its mercy--either because I couldn't eat something, I had to eat something, or I was forced to spend hours preparing food so I could eat something. 

Yup, I was that desperate to feel better and nothing else was working. So I set my sights on nutrition. Cleaning up my diet helped me immensely in the past, and this was a new approach claiming to treat the root cause of my illness. Yet the deeper I got into this eating plan, the less functional of a human being I became. Toward the end I was usually in one of two states. Either I was hungry and weak but not allowed to eat because something I drank needed to digest first. Or I was avoiding the whole thing and eating junk because I couldn't possibly face yet one more bowl of salad. 

It's impossible to know if my pseudo-commitment to veganism did anything for me. I've certainly been off it long enough and haven't experienced a backslide. But maybe it healed something inside of me and I never would have arrived here without it? It'll go down as one of life's little mysteries... The one thing I do know, however, is my present burn-out on all things healthy has me eating like crap. Like I've been to Taco Bell more times than I can count after not having eaten such blatant fast food for at least half-a-decade. Because In-n-Out is obviously not fast food.

So here's the result of my year-long obsession with consuming fruits and vegetables: food has lost its attraction for me. Eating is now a chore. I wish it was something I only had to do when somebody  else was paying for a nice meal at a great restaurant. Otherwise, I'm astoundingly sick and tired of thinking about food. When hunger pains strike, I get irritated. It seems like a waste of time to have to stop what I'm doing, prepare food, eat it, and clean it up. Honestly, I'd rather balance my checkbook. So I'm eating bad, not looking all that great, and can barely muster up the resolve to take my vitamins and juice my vegetables anymore. I'd rather go get a falafel. Or a burrito. Anything I don't have to cook and is a breeze to clean up.

Thanks for joining,

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Social Media Stalemate

I'm struggling with social media in a major way. I haven't posted on instagram in a month. I never really got my twitter off the ground. And I basically go on facebook once a year around my birthday because for some reason, people still care enough to wish me a happy one. I haven't even been on my facebook page to promote my blog since I started writing again last month. And let's be honest, while not quite social media, I ignored this blog itself for years. It kind of hung around in the background of my life, this thing I was supposed to care about, knew I needed, and took a stab at every once in a while, but couldn't bring myself to utilize regularly.

About the blog, I kinda figured out my hangup. I didn't like my truth. It was ugly living it; the last thing I wanted to do was own it. Publicly. My life was a hot mess. It was easier to melt in on myself than volunteer my way into a position of vulnerability by spewing my crap all over the internet. After all, in the past my words had been used against me. Occasionally I would catch up with an old friend and they'd inform me they still read my blog. I'd look at them in horror and ask why before telling them to stop. These people didn't even have an illness. Why would they want to read my incessant ranting about mine?

I guess the isolation and loneliness became too much to take. Eventually I decided to own my truth, in all its pathetic ugliness, and just start writing again. Like I did in the beginning: to me, for me. With no agenda or design on self-promotion. No pictures to create context or blurbs posted on facebook to draw in hits. I haven't even told my family. No, I just started writing what's inside. Slowly but surely, everything that's been stewing is starting to come out. It's an intense process, my attempt to trust again. To get to know myself and be honest about who I am. To confess my flaws and deficiencies to anyone with a WiFi connection. But the improvements I've experienced over the course of the past month are undeniable, so perhaps there's something to this whole "own your truth" business after all.

But the rest of it, the tweeting and liking and following and tagging, oh goodness it all seems so pointless. I know I'm supposed to want to engage with the world as it happens around me, on these specific platforms. All the kids are doing it. Why should I be allowed to not care that a person I went to high school with, and haven't seen since, went to Greece for six weeks? At the very least, failing to congratulate my aunt on her granddaughter's engagement makes me a pretty apathetic person. And don't even get me started on the political and social meltdown my country is enmeshed in. I should be shouting my two cents from the rooftops. Yet I sit silent, strangely absent, unpolarized by the actions of others because I'm so frustrated by the lack of my own.

Perhaps one day I'll find my enthusiasm or confidence or desire to reconnect with people. To share my experiences or what makes me happy or what pisses me off. But right now I feel like a stranger to myself. I hibernated like a bear for three years. I was hurt and recoiled into a tight little ball of protection and lost a significant amount of myself in the process. I guess I won't find a purpose in my social media, again, until I get to know who I am. Again.

Thanks for joining,