A bad day, made awesome!

A few weeks ago, I had a horrible day. I mean a truly awful day. Not because I was in pain, but because I had a full blown, five alarm panic attack, which is not something I deal with very often. I’ve had them before, but they’re usually few and far between. This one blew all the rest of them completely out of the water.

Have I ever mentioned that I am absolutely terrified of car accidents? I can’t even watch crash scenes on TV, I cringe and hide my eyes every time. Seeing them in real life is incredibly stressful for me, and usually results in a serious pain spike, sometimes even an all out flare up.

You may be wondering why I’m so freaked out by car accidents, so let me explain…

My first major (and worst) accident happened when I was 17. Those of you who have been following my ramblings may remember me talking about it once or twice in other posts. This is the accident that supposedly triggered my Fibromyalgia. I don’t remember much of the accident itself; all I can recall is that I was going around a bend in the road, I took the turn too wide causing my front driver’s side tire to slip off the edge of the road. I over compensated and my last actual memory of the incident is me saying “Oh shit!”.

When I came to, several minutes later, I was in a field on the opposite side of the road from where my tire slipped, facing the road. I was later told that I had somehow managed to flip the car end over end no less than three times. In the process, I hit my head hard enough to black out and managed to break a vertebrae off the back of my neck. (Incidentally, if you’re going to break your neck, that is the “best” way to do it).

When I regained consciousness, I remember seeing myself in the vanity mirror, and seeing blood all over my face, which caused me to black out again. The second time I came to, I couldn’t tell how badly the car was damaged, but there was definitely smoke rising from the engine compartment. A good samaritan was trying to get me out of the car, but I was too afraid to move because of the excruciating pain in my neck/back. I told him that unless he could see flames, I wasn’t going to move. Let me just say that that was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make: get out of the car and risk being paralyzed/killed from moving a broken neck or dying in a car fire.

My little brother, who was also in the car, thankfully made it out completely unscathed, for which I am eternally grateful. The officer that arrived at the scene told my parents that neither of us should have made it out of that crash alive. He was actually so stunned that he decided not to charge me with any violations.

That is just one reason why I am petrified of car accidents. Since that accident, I have totaled two additional cars and narrowly avoided totaling a third.

The second accident occurred during a down pour and was caused by another driver’s stupidity (someone decided to make a left in front of me, and due to the slick road, I was unable to stop in time). I have no explanation for the third accident, all I can say is that it occurred right around the time that I had a bad reaction to a new combination of meds to treat the fibro; in case you’re curious, this particular combination of drugs literally caused me to start hearing voices in my head. Not cool.

A few years went by before I had my next accident, which was due to heavy traffic and more driver stupidity. I am happy to say my car survived, although she spent over a month in a repair shop.

Needless to say, I have some issues when it comes to cars. I have never actually been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), but it’s probably a safe bet to say that I do suffer from it. (Actually, while writing this post, I decided to a bit of research into PTSD, and I’m seriously thinking I should talk to my doctor about it.)

I digress, back to my “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” (thanks to Judith Viorst for that phrase!).

Two Tuesdays ago, I had to run some errands. It started raining almost as soon as I left the house and continued to rain all day. On my way out, I think I must have passed at least two car accidents on the side of the highway and narrowly missed being in a third myself. Not a good start to the day. I made it through my errands and then, on my way home things got worse.

It was pouring rain and in typical Virginia fashion, everyone suddenly forgot how to drive. I was about 20 minutes from home, but it took me over an hour to get there. During that hour or so, I passed by one wreck involving an SUV with a flaming car stuck in it’s backseat followed by the remains of a second accident that left one car crunched accordion style, facing oncoming traffic.

My chest had tightened up and breathing had become much harder since I passed the flaming car, twenty minutes of stressful driving had not done me any favors. As I came up on the second accident, with it’s fire trucks and ambulances, my brain shut down. I literally have no idea how I made it home from there, it’s almost as thought I blacked out, without actually losing consciousness, (that’s a scary thought).

Almost immediately upon entering the house, I lost it. I barely made it to the bathroom before losing my lunch, breakfast and probably part of the previous night’s dinner as well. I ended up in a crumpled, tear streaked, hyperventilating heap on the bathroom floor. Not a pretty picture, as I’m sure you can imagine. I eventually managed to drag my sorry butt into bed, where I spent another good 30 minutes bawling my eyes out. It wasn’t until I ran out of tissues that my rational brain finally decided to wake up and force me to look at what I was doing.

Yes, I it had been a horrible day, but what good was it doing me to sit there and dwell on it? None. I’m not saying that it’s not ok to cry or even have a mini meltdown when you need to. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s good to cry. Cry your heart out if you need to, you’ll feel better for it, just don’t sit there and continue to upset yourself once the tears have run their course.

It took some serious will power, but I made myself get up, get dressed and go for a walk. Once I got outside, I made a decision: if my body wanted to throw a fit, I was going to give it something worth freaking out over, so I ran.

My “walk” turned into an impromptu 8k trial, which I am proud to say went amazingly well. I not only achieved my best time ever for the total 8k, (54:29), I even beat my best mile time, (10:29). I managed to take a totally rotten day and make it awesome, simply by refusing to give in to the pity party my mind was trying to throw.

For the record, I am not recommending that anyone else go out and try to just run 5 miles. This is something that I have been working up to and training for! Go out, enjoy some fresh air and just get yourself moving. You will be amazed by the impact that a little bit of physical activity can have on your mood. ūüôā

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Alone

Maybe it’s just me, but nothing creates a feeling of total isolation quite like pain. It’s 5:38am and I’m not writing this now because I woke up early. I actually haven’t been to sleep yet, thanks to the sharp, surging pains currently taking over the left side of my body.

I decided to move out to the couch since I can’t seem to get comfortable in bed and it didn’t seem fair to ruin anyone else’s night sleep just because my own body won’t cooperate. So, here I am, trapped on my own little private island of misery. The meds aren’t helping, (big surprise there), and to be perfectly honest, the only option I have at this point is to try to ride out the storm by writing it out.

I wager that I’m not the only fibro-fighter out there who experiences this lovely facet of the disease. Despite the overwhelming feeling that I’m imprisoned in solitary confinement, I take comfort in knowing that I’m truly not as alone as I feel right now.

It sounds trite and even a little cliche, but I can’t put enough emphasis on how important it is to remember that no matter how horrible we feel or how terribly bleak things seem, we are not alone. There’s an entire community of fibro-fighters out there, we just have to do what we can to support each other.

By simply clicking the “Follow” button on someone’s blog, or the “Like” button their page, you can let others know that they are being heard. It’s truly amazing how much that one little action can convey. Every time I get the notification that I’ve got a new follower, it reminds me that I am not suffering alone. There are others out there who can relate to my struggle and who can share in my triumphs, no matter how small they may be.

Since I’m awake anyway, I’m going to follow my own advice and send my love to some of my fellow fighters. I hope the rest of you had a better night than I did!

Keep fighting!

Happy New Year!

I can’t even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be able to say “Happy New Year” and actually mean it. That’s not to say that I wasn’t happy last New Year, but it’s not the same kind of feeling. Last New Year, I was surface happy; the kind of bliss that comes from pretending your problems don’t exist. This year, however, it’s more of an all-encompassing kind of bliss. 2013 was, for me at any rate, a total train wreck; especially the first half of the year. I did manage to pull myself together there near the end and I am able to start 2014 with a clear mind and a light heart.

I’m not saying that all of my problems have been magically solved, (I wish!), but instead of ignoring them, I have faced them head on and found that they’re not nearly as bad as I had originally believed. It’s like those monsters you used to see in the dark as a child; once you turned the light on, you could see that instead of a snarling, child-eater, it was simply a jumble of toys/clothes and that all you had to do to defeat the “monster” was clean up your room. Not a pleasant task, but certainly much less hazardous than having to actually fight off a creature with sharp fangs and tentacles!

This time last year, I felt sure that my world was ending and that my life was going to be utterly ruined. While it’s true my world as I knew it did in fact, end, my life is far from ruined. I found the main source of the negativity in my life, which as it turns out, was myself, and I then I found the strength to make the changes I needed to make. Once that ball was rolling, I was able to cut out the people in my life who were fueling my negative outlook. My friends list may be a bit shorter, but at least I can say that it only contains people who love and respect me for being exactly who I am.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you make your 2014 a great one!

Please excuse me for a moment…

cat-fukken-win-5990-1I sincerely apologize to anyone who might be offended by the language used in this picture, I only used it because it was absolutely necessary… ūüôā

Why am I posting this particular picture? Two reasons: #1: this picture makes me laugh out loud every time I see it; #2: it is an exact representation of how I feel right now.

Not only did I manage to jog a full 1.5 miles (in one go, no stopping!), I FINALLY achieved my goal of a 12 minute mile. I came in at 11 minutes, 53 seconds, to be exact. So, yeah, I’m feeling pretty awesome. When the little voice came through my headphones to tell me what my mile time was, I actually (half) shouted “hell yeah!”. Yes, I was in the middle of a park, and I should probably also apologize to the elderly couple who I startled with my little victory cry; I am terribly sorry for scaring you half to death, I just got a bit carried away.

In other news, I have decided to try my hand (or maybe I should I say “feet”?), at an 8k race. In just over four months, I will be participating in the 8k portion of¬† the 2014 Shamrock Marathon. I haven’t decided on a plan of attack just yet, but ultimately, I would like to finish it in 45 minutes or less. That would put my pace at about 9 minutes/mile… Don’t worry, I’m already questioning my sanity, so no need to call the men in white coats just yet.

Right now, my biggest concern is whether or not to join a gym. Why? It’s too darn cold. I know, it’s only November and it’s not even “cold” yet, but without my protective layer of blubber, 50 degrees is just too cold. I barely even broke a sweat after jogging 1.5 miles and once I cooled down from the workout, it literally took me hours to warm back up. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll get a very good workout if I’m dressed like Randy from “A Christmas Story”, so I’m thinking maybe joining a gym for the winter months is the way to go.

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My only concern is that running on a treadmill is going to bore me to tears. How on Earth am I supposed to entertain myself if I’m trapped in one spot? Trust me, trying to watch a movie or TV while running is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. I DO NOT have the attention span for that kind of multi-tasking. I enjoy jogging outside because even if I take the same path every time, there’s always something new to look at. It also gives me the perfect opportunity to spy on my neighbors and come up with bizarre stories to go along with my observations.

For example, the other day, I noticed that two of my neighbors were home extremely early. It seemed awfully suspicious that they pulled into their respective driveways (right across from each other) at the exact same time… Sure, it could have been pure coincidence, but what if they planned to come home early that day to perfect their zombie apocalypse plans? Perhaps they belong to a secret cult of cat worshippers and had to get ready for some kind of gathering? This is exactly¬†the kind of thing that keeps exercising interesting!

Unfortunately, since the cold always has a negative effect on the fibro, I’ll probably end up spending the winter on a treadmill. Maybe I’ll take a few tours and choose a gym based on its people watching potential!

“Free”

Free WM

This piece is one of my personal favorites, in part because of how soothing it was to create. “Free” is unusual in that it was actually created over several days, not in one sitting like the majority of my work. The background of the piece was painted in watercolors, once it dried, the rest of the design was done in soft pastels and charcoal. Another unusual thing about this work is that the design wasn’t planned ahead of time. Normally, I doodle something in my sketch book and then decide to make it into a finished piece. With “Free”, I just set my pencil to the paper and went with it. The flowing curves of the design itself and the careful blending of the colors just set my mind at ease. I’m not normally the type to get hung up on the creation of a piece, but this particular drawing put me into an almost meditative state. I titled it “Free” partly because of the way I felt during its creation and partly because the finished design looks as though it is floating freely in a warm summer breeze.

As always, you can view more of my work at: http://rojita369.deviantart.com/gallery/

Race Day!

You guys have read about my goals for my first 5k for months now, and I am thrilled to announce that Sunday afternoon, I crossed the finish line over a minute under my goal time!

race results2

You may remember that back in June, I had managed to do the full 5k in just under 50 minutes, and set a new goal of 40 minutes for the actual race. As of¬†October 20,¬†I completed 5k in 38 minutes and 58 seconds! I wasn’t able to jog the whole thing, but I hadn’t expected to; my main goal was¬†simply to¬†cross the finish line with the best time I possibly could. Considering that about six months ago,¬†I was literally a couch potato and could barely walk a 20 minute¬†mile without feeling miserable, completing this challenge is an amazing feeling.

It wasn’t easy, especially with the road blocks put in my way by my own body. The fibro didn’t want me to do this and to be honest, there were many times that I doubted myself. I know that to a lot of people a 5k seems like a small thing, it is after all, only about 3 miles, and I imagine that most people in fair health could do it if they wanted to. Those of us with fibromyalgia know that even if we’re in otherwise perfect health (which we’re usually not), physical activity of any sort is an iffy venture, at best. We can never really gauge how we are going to feel on any given day, so setting up an actual training routine is nearly impossible. It took me six months to get myself ready for this race.

The first few weeks of training were incredibly difficult; I don’t think I can adequately describe what it was like to someone who doesn’t have a chronic pain condition. My body did not want to cooperate, it was perfectly happy to sit on the couch and do nothing. Not only did I have to fight against my own self doubt, I had to fight my body’s insistence that I was hurting myself. Getting past the “payback pain” was an arduous process, but I will tell you now, I would do it all over again. The results are worth it. It took about 6 weeks, but I did finally reach a point where I began to feel better after a workout, rather than worse.

The thing you have to keep in mind is that: I do not work out because I feel better, I work out to make myself feel better. I don’t¬†just¬†exercise on the days that I feel good;¬†even on my worst days, I will force myself to go do something, even if it’s just a short walk around the neighborhood, because I now know that afterwards, I will feel better. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important that realization was to me. Those days where all you want to do is curl up with a bowl of ice cream and cry are the days that where you need to find a way to be active, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I promise you that you will feel better. Your mental state will improve almost immediately¬†because now you can be proud of yourself for not giving up, and eventually your body will realize that the activity actually does feel better than doing nothing.

Alright, enough of the “get active” propaganda :).

I would like to say how very, extremely proud I am of my best friend, Heather. Like me, she has been struggling to get and stay active. She has been a constant source of support and motivation for me, I can only hope that I have managed to do the same. I will tell you right now, that without her to kick me in the behind every now and then, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did in the race. She has been there for me from the get go and has stuck by me even when I was whining about not wanting to do anything. She’s also had a rough time over the last 6-8 months, but she still managed to be there with me at the starting line and even with a bum ankle, she crossed the finish line well under our original goal of 1 hour. We’re already looking forward to our next race. ūüôā

Another person that I’d like to mention is another very dear friend of mine, Aaron. Even though he had absolutely no reason to get up and go out to the race this last weekend, he was there to cheer both Heather and I on, and was even nice enough to hold on to our stuff for us. I can’t even tell you guys how much it meant to me to have two of my very favorite people there to support me on a day that a year ago I would’ve said would never happen. Even before the fibro, I would have never thought that I’d voluntarily participate in a race; after the fibro, I would have said it would be impossible for me to do at all. I’m so very glad that I was able to prove myself wrong.

After race

Struggling

Have you ever used a visualization to help you get through something difficult?

For instance, over the last few months, when I’ve found myself struggling with training for the 5k, I’ve been visualizing myself crossing the finish line as a way to motivate myself to keep going. When I felt like I simply couldn’t jog another step, that image of myself crossing the finish line with my loved ones there waiting for me kept me going. It’s helped me get myself out of the house and even helped me get out of bed some mornings. I’ve found this simple tactic to be amazingly helpful and have even been using other visualizations to help me with other goals.

There is, however a downside. The 5k I’ve been training for is next weekend and just yesterday, that image that I’ve had running through my head for the last 5 months got ripped apart. I’m still going to cross the finish line, but someone very important to me will not be there to see it, and not because they’re unable to.¬†I know that in the grand scheme of things this truly isn’t a big deal, but it’s just one more dream that’s been flushed down the toilet. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even want to do the 5k anymore. I’ve been holding on to my little vision for so long that I don’t even know how to continue without it. It doesn’t help that I’m absolutely exhausted; the fatigue issues I wrote about last week seem to have gotten worse.

Nothing that I have tried has helped. I’ve adjusted my sleep schedule, tried taking my night-time meds earlier, changed my diet, adjusted the vitamins I take, cut back on my workouts… I’m at a loss. Not only do I not have the energy to run this thing, I feel like my motivation is gone as well. The pain was a cake walk compared to this. I can work around pain, but how do you work around being completely exhausted all the time? It takes energy to work, to fight, and I’m running seriously low at this point. Caffeine/energy drinks don’t work, naps are no help at all and what little sleep I do manage to¬†get is ineffective.

I’m really not trying to have a pity party, I just feel so lost right now and I figure writing about it is better than hiding in bed. I’ve tried talking about it, but unless someone has actually dealt with this kind of problem before, they just can’t understand. I’m¬†sick of people telling me to “go take a nap” or to “drink some coffee”, so I just stopped talking about it altogether.

I usually try to end my posts on a positive note, but I’m having a hard time finding one right now. The best I can say is that despite my current feelings, I will be doing the 5k next Sunday, even if I have to walk the entire thing. I won’t let one person screw up all of my hard work and I’m betting that my bestie will kick my butt if I try to back out, (I love you, Heather! I really do!).

Impossible things

I slept terribly last night. Once I finally fell asleep, (some time after 3 am), I had bizarre dreams and kept waking up to change positions. Bleh.

I’ve had a nagging headache for the last three days. Not a migraine, thankfully, but not the kind of headache I can just ignore either. It feels like there are evil little gnomes running metal rakes down the inside of my skull. I’ve tried just about everything in my arsenal, but nothing has helped. When I woke up this morning, the headache was there to greet me, and I immediately knew that I was missing more than a few spoons. (I’m not crazy, read The Spoon Theory and it will all make sense.)

As I lay there staring at my ceiling, looking for any excuse to delay getting out of bed,¬†a scene from Alice in Wonderland, (the Tim Burton movie version), popped into my head. It was the beginning of the battle scene at the end of the movie, where Alice tells the Mad Hatter “Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. That got me to thinking, if Alice can summon up the courage to fight the Jabberwocky by believing in impossible things, maybe I could use the same trick to face the day…

Here’s what I came up with:

1.) Cookies for breakfast can be good for you.

2.) I can jog for a solid half mile without dying.

3.) I just donated all of my size 12 jeans because they were too big.

4.) Funny cat pictures can make anything better.

5.) Happiness is a choice.

6.) Even with this headache, I can get up and have a good day.

By the time I got to number 6, I was feeling much better. If you had handed me this list even six months ago, I’d have marked everything off as completely¬†impossible.¬†Simply knowing that they are all not just possible,¬†but now¬†part of my reality gives me more than enough strength to make sure today is a good one. The headache is still with me, but I’m not going to let it ruin my entire day, just writing this post is proof that I can still be productive. Am I going to go out and get groceries or clean the whole house? No, I’m not; however, ¬†I’m not going to lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself either. ūüôā

Fibro flare up

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The pain started this past Tuesday and has been ramping up all week. It feels as though my muscles are wrapped around brittle glass instead of the bones that should be there. It’s a sharp, grinding, burning pain, that seems to just appear out of nowhere. It started in my left foot, which is an unusual place for my fibro to hit. Normally, the pain is in my hands/arms and back, sometimes it hits my legs, but never my feet. I initially thought maybe I’d injured my foot exercising, but by Thursday, I was feeling the exact same pain in my hands as well.

I slept miserably last night. As soon as I laid down, the pain shrieked up my back and then down my arms; it’s very hard to sleep when your body is shrieking at you. Once I did fall asleep, the nightmares started, so the little bit of sleep I got was nowhere near restful. <SIGH>. Needless to say, I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I’m proud to announce that I managed it anyway.

It’s really hard to stay positive when you’re wrapped in layers of pain, but I’m trying. To be honest, as wonderful as it was to have a break from the misery, it just makes it seem so much worse now. It’s like being dropped into a tub of ice water after laying out in the hot sun all day; it’s a shock to the system.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up. As soon as I get this posted, I’m going¬†outside for my walk. I may have to shorten it a bit for today, but I refuse to sit on my butt¬†until this flare up goes¬†away. It will go away, I just don’t know how long it will take. On the upside, the flare up will help me add some things to “How to Fight Fibro”. See? Positive thoughts, hard at work.

Ok, slight change of topic here, but I want to make a point about positive thinking. What people don’t seem to understand is that thinking positively doesn’t make the pain go away. It just makes the pain more bearable. For me, the hardest part about fibro pain is that utterly pointless. Pain is supposed to be an indicator that something is wrong, it’s supposed to be fixable! By giving my pain a reason to exist, (for example: if I’m hurting, I’ll be more likely to write about things that help make it better), I’m making it easier for me to deal with, which helps to keep me from falling even further into mental misery.

Now, it’s back to the fight, wish me luck!

Breaking the silence

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I’ve been silent for too long. Somehow, amidst all the changes I’ve been making in my life, I managed to slide back into my old habit of silence. I’ve never been very good at talking to people; I hate letting others see my emotions, the messy ones, at least. I’m ok with sharing happiness and laughter, but when it comes to pain and tears,¬†I’d much rather deal with them on my own.¬†The problem with this is that I tend to get stuck in an endless loop of misery. The fibro provides its own¬†seemingly endless cycle of¬†misery, I don’t need to add to it by being depressed.

I imagine that just about anyone with a chronic illness/condition knows how easy it is to slip into a self-imposed solitary confinement. It’s so very easy to forget that you’re not alone, especially when being social takes so much effort. I’ve never been a social butterfly, even before the fibro came into my life, it took a lot of energy for me to be around people, especially people I don’t know very well. Having fibromyalgia makes it so much harder, being sociable, even with those closest to me takes up ¬†a lot of spoons. Add in a few negative emotions and it’s just a downward spiral.

So… here I am, attempting to ward off any impending depression by breaking my silence. Despite the fact that I have family and friends who love me and who would do just about anything for me, I feel alone. It’s not that I’m in pain, in fact, my pain is the lowest it’s been in years. It’s not altogether gone, but having spent the last few years living with a daily pain level of 7/10 or higher, my current average of 3/10 is practically paradise. I should be ecstatic. Yet, here I am, feeling overwhelmed and bordering on depressed.

I’ll be honest, I don’t want to discuss most of the reasons that I’m feeling this way. I’m just not ready to put everything on display, I may never be. Talking about my experiences with fibro and life in general is one thing, but for now, everything else will remain behind the curtain. The important thing is that I do know (mostly), why I feel the way I do right now, and I really am trying to fix what I can and come to terms with what I can’t fix.

Why bother posting about it all if I’m not going to explain it? Because I can still write about how I’m feeling, even if I don’t want to explain why I’m feeling it. I know, it’s kind of like showing someone a mystery box and saying “do¬†not open!”, which for some, is just about the meanest thing I could do. Being an overly curious person myself, I know how annoying that is, and I do apologize.

On the upside, writing this has made me feel a little bit better, and I’m reminded of why I started writing this blog in the first place. Holding all of¬†these crappy feelings in is part of the reason my life got out of control to begin with; if I had just been brave enough to talk to someone, I probably¬†wouldn’t have ended up in that dark place where I was contemplating suicide. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I will NEVER go back to that place ever again.

Positive thinking may not cure the fibro, but it will keep me alive :). In the words my favorite cartoon fish: “Just keep swimming”.

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