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… 🙂

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!

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The Yoga Verdict

About a month ago, in “The Plan, update #4”, I made a big deal about wanting to change my workout routine and giving yoga a try. I’m rather ashamed to admit it, but after publishing that post, I kind of ignored it. Ok, I seriously ignored it. The DVD arrived, I popped it in the player and bored myself to tears in about 5 minutes. So, I turned it off and didn’t give it a second glance until today. I could take the easy way out, say that the DVD was just too boring for me to suffer through and that it was a waste of money, but that’s not true. Yes, I was bored by the slow pace of the exercises, but that’s because at the time, I was looking for something more vigorous. I moved onto Jillian Michaels’ Thirty Day Shred and found it infinitely more satisfying.

The problem is, being in the middle of a nasty fibro flare makes Jillian considerably more difficult. I’m still trying to stick to my routine, but I’m finding it harder and harder to recover. When I woke up this morning, I was so stiff I could barely move. I started having flashbacks to The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and the scarecrow meet the tin man… If I had thought that spraying myself with WD-40 would have helped, I’d have done it in a heartbeat. Which brings me back to the previously discarded yoga DVD.

One of the most important things that I have learned since starting my get healthy plan is that once I get moving, I feel better. My mood improves and the pain doesn’t seem as a bad. The hard part, of course, is getting myself to move in the first place. Let’s be serious here, when we’re in pain, the last thing we want to do is move. Unless of course that movement results in a comfy pillow and some chocolate. Thankfully, I have a new carrot dangling in front of my face: a little bit of movement = guaranteed relief. With that in mind, I finished my morning cup of tea (green tea!) and faced Ms. Barbara Benagh once again.

I started out with her 20 minute Sun Salutations routine, and let me say right now, this time it was not boring. The slow, gentle pace was exactly what my muscles needed. By the end of the routine, I was feeling energized and <gasp!> limber. It actually took effort not to start squealing like a four-year old who’s just been let loose in Candyland. No, I’m not exaggerating. 🙂 As a matter of fact, I felt so awesome that I decided to try a second twenty minute routine, Strength & Balance. Both routines challenged my strength, flexibility and endurance, but gently. I didn’t feel rushed and throughout the routines, the instructor offers helpful (non patronizing!) advice on how to modify the poses if you need to.

At this point, I feel positively amazing. Part of that is because I’m just proud of myself for doing it and even more proud that I was able to follow both routines the whole way through, something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few months ago. The cherry on top is that I physically feel better; my muscles are limber again and while they are still a bit sore, it’s at a much more manageable level.

Of course, as with any new exercise, the real test is still to come: how will I feel tomorrow and will I be able to get the same results consistently? I certainly hope so, but I’ll keep updating as I go along.

The Plan in Action, Update

Item number 7 on my list of things to do today was to report back on how my day went, so here I am! I’m feeling much better than I was this morning; my pain levels are a considerably more manageable 4-5 at the moment and I’m still in a great mood. I am, however, utterly exhausted. I didn’t get a chance to take a nap, so I’ve decided to go to bed early instead.

As for the rest of my list, I have to admit that I didn’t stick to it very well. Obviously, I completed number one this morning and I did get to relax with a cup of tea and my book. After that, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead of lounging outside, I spent a good chunk of my morning following the stock market. My dad is trying to teach me a thing or two about day trading, so I figured the least I could do was put some effort into it. 🙂 No, it’s not the most exciting, (or relaxing), thing to do, but I did learn some new things and hopefully, someday I’ll be able to make some money doing it.

I did make it to item number four, I spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting with my mom and dad in law. It’s the first time since I started this project of mine that I’ve actually sat down and talked to them for more than a few minutes. Sadly, they were among the group of people who I previously pushed away from myself, today’s visit was my first step towards truly letting them be involved in my life.

You know what? It was awesome and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect since I’ve never really spent much time with them when my husband wasn’t around. I know, that probably seems odd, but I really did spend entirely too much energy keeping people away from me.

Regardless, it was a great afternoon, for the first time ever, I opened up and actually talked to them. I told them about my plan to heal myself and invited them to follow my blog. I cried my eyes out while my second mom held my hand as I explained how truly miserable I had been and how ashamed I was of my behavior.

Not only had they already forgiven me, they understood why things had been the way they were and all this time had just been giving me space to do what I needed to do. Seriously, I could not ask for a better family than the one I have; I have four fabulous parents who, whether I was aware of it or not, have been behind me every step of the way and continue to support my efforts as I work towards putting my life back together.

Since I know they’re all reading this, I just want to say: thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I spent the entire afternoon and part of the early evening with my in laws, which is why I didn’t get around to that nap. After such an emotional, (but profoundly amazing), afternoon, I was too wiped out to take the walk I had planned either. Seriously, it’s just about bed time.

Even though my day started out utterly miserable, and didn’t go exactly as planned, I’m going to call this experiment a total success. I was able to get past the pain and fatigue without hiding in bed all day. I may have been short several spoons, but I was able to carry on with my plan to bring the people I love back into my life.

Today, I won.

THE Plan, Update #1

It’s time for an update on THE plan!

Let me start by saying that I am thus far, totally thrilled with the results! If I seem like I’m bouncing off the walls, its because I am. 😀
It’s been about four weeks since I started this little experiment of mine and I truly couldn’t be happier. I’ve lost 10 pounds so far, as well as, (drum roll please!), one jeans size!! Holy crap, Batman!

I’ve successfully managed to exercise at least four times a week, even with my previously injured knee, although that has been something of a struggle for me. Overall, my mood has been much better, but I still have at least one or two days a week where I feel totally overwhelmed and/or depressed. It takes a major amount of effort, but so far, I have been able to stop myself from giving into those moods, most of the time. Quite honestly, while the weight loss is amazing, it’s knowledge that I don’t have to feel miserable that’s really making the difference for me.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say many more times in the future, but if the only variable in this situation that I can change is me, by God, I’m going to change it. I WILL NOT allow myself to become surrounded by hopelessness and misery ever again.

So, now that I’ve gotten my little affirmation out-of-the-way, here are some of the things I’ve noticed since I started this experiment.

My pain levels have dramatically decreased. I’ve had fewer instances of debilitating pain. I’m still in pain, but rather than being at 9-10, it’s been a more manageable 6-7. I have actually had at least one, if not two days over the last few weeks that have been completely pain-free. It’s kind of strange, I’m going through my day, doing whatever it is I’m doing, and I suddenly stop, because I have that feeling like I’ve forgotten something major. Anyone who’s ever suffered from fibro fog knows that feeling; it usually means you’ve forgotten to feed the cat, to pay the electric bill or worst case scenario, you forgot to put pants on before going out to get the mail. After a few confused moments of trying to figure it out, I realized that I wasn’t in pain. I’m so used to the “background noise” of my own pain that it actually startled me when it wasn’t there. It was like someone handed me a whole box of brand new spoons, (If you haven’t read The Spoon Theory, you totally should)!

Unfortunately, as with everything in life, there is a bit of a downside. While my pain levels have decreased, for some reason, the fibro fog has gotten worse. My best guess is that because I’m being more physically active and draining what little energy I usually have, my brain is being forced to conserve energy and is making cut backs. I’m forgetting even more words than usual, losing my train of thought in mid sentence, and stuttering and stumbling over words when I speak. My attention span has also gotten shorter (it’s taken me two days to write this post). It’s really very annoying.
I’m used to having these things happen on a regular basis, much like I’m used to dealing with a certain level of pain at all times, but the increased frequency is just downright embarrassing. Especially when in the space of a 5 minute conversation, I have to say “you know, that thing that does the…” 10 different times.

Overall though, I couldn’t be happier. If the fog issues continue to be a problem, I might see if a medication adjustment might help. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, I hate changing my meds around; I hate having to get used to new side effects. For now, though, I’m going to focus on the amazing results that I’ve achieved, and put the worrying aside for another day.

Until next time!

THE Plan, pt II

Just in case anyone was wondering, there’s more to my plan than just thinking happy thoughts. I don’t have any fairy dust, but that’s ok, I’m not leaving for Never Never Land just yet. Part II of my plan basically entails getting healthy. I can’t cure the fibromyalgia, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that losing some weight might help. Convincing your body to go for a walk or do some sit ups when you’re in excruciating pain is no easy feat, but I’m just stubborn enough to try. I’m also working on improving what I’m eating, so even if I can’t exercise every day, I can still make some progress.

My current goal is to lose 45 pounds. No, I’m not sharing any other numbers 🙂 and it’s not polite to ask a lady how much she weighs! I’m already 5 pounds closer, after about three weeks of calorie counting and walking. With the support of my best friend, I’m going to participate in a 5k this coming October. Ideally, I’d like to jog the whole thing, but as long as I cross the finish line in less than an hour, I’ll be thrilled. I’ve already started a beginner’s training program and up until my knee decided to give out last week, I was pretty happy with the results.

I’ve had to put the 5k training on hold for a bit, to give my knee time to heal. I’ve discovered that working out on an elliptical machine is considerably easier on my joints than walking on solid ground. I’m going to try alternating the two for a while to see how that goes. Hopefully, in another week or two I’ll be able to pick the training program back up.

Unlocked

Be warned, I’m about to do something that I’ve never done before, and it may come across as a bit awkward. I hope you can bear with me on this one.

This post is dedicated to all of the family and friends that I have locked out of my life over the years. I wasted a lot of energy trying to keep people away from me because I didn’t want to admit I was “disabled”. I was humiliated by the fact that I couldn’t always do the things that others take for granted. I have had days where the pain was so bad that I physically couldn’t get out of bed, days when walking the dog was a daunting task, and days when I couldn’t think clearly enough to load the dishwasher. I wanted to pretend that everything was fine, that I was perfectly normal, that I stopped working by choice, rather than inability. In order to keep up those appearances, I distanced myself from nearly everyone. I am able to admit this now not because my abilities have changed, but because I am starting to accept that for me, these issues are a fact of life.

I have pushed some people so far away from myself that “no more hiding” isn’t enough. In order begin making amends, I am not only inviting you, I would like to welcome you back into my life. I want to introduce you to the “real” me, not just the shadow person I allowed you to see. In my isolation, I found creativity and a strength that I didn’t even know I had; I want to share these things with all of you.

I understand that for some of you, it’s too late. I pushed too hard for too long and that you have given up on me entirely. For those that remain, I hope you can forgive me for allowing myself to become such an isolated hermit. I know this is not going to be an easy road to travel, but I do not ever want to that person again. Starting now, I am opening the doors and throwing away the key.

THE Plan

“You can’t change anything about the disease, so I don’t understand how you plan to change how the fibro makes you feel.”

I swear, if I hear that statement or any similar sentiment one more time, I’m going to unleash the full fury of my red-headed temper.

No. I cannot change the fibromyalgia. I can however, change MY reaction to it. Think of it this way: you’re wearing brand new shoes and you step in a lovely pile of doggy doo. How do you react? You have a choice: you can rant and rave, you can cry or you can laugh. Whether you realize it or not, you choose how you react. It just happens so quickly that most of us don’t even recognize that it was a choice.

I am choosing to laugh.

When the pain starts, rather than get depressed and angry (aka turn into a gumpy porcupine), I am choosing to think happy thoughts and redirect those unpleasant emotions. Yes, there will be days when I’m in so much pain I literally can’t get out of bed. I can’t change that, but I don’t have to lay there and feel sorry for myself either. I can call a friend, I can watch The Lion King (it’s my default “feel better” movie, don’t laugh!), I can even lay there and sing random songs at the top of my lungs if that’s what it takes to perk me up. Even better, maybe I can pull up my laptop and share my feelings here.

I realize that this is a slightly strange sounding plan, but for right now, it’s THE plan. I’ve tried more medications than I care to think about, they either don’t work for me or make me so addle brained that I can’t even manage to feed myself without destroying something (true story!).  At this point, my pain management doctors literally can’t even come up with any new drugs for me to try- I’ve gone through all of them. I’ve done physical therapy, all that did was irritate me and make me even more depressed. I’ve also tried going to a chiropractor, various herbal supplements, stress management therapy, relaxation training… You name it, and over the last 12 years, I’ve tried it, (with the exception of acupuncture- the thought of it alone is enough to make me queasy).

I won’t deny that I’ve spent the last few years allowing myself to be a miserable wretch- that much is undeniable. The thing is, at the time, I didn’t understand that I was choosing to be that way. It’s taken a lot of heart ache and emotional trauma to pry my eyes open to that fact. It took me hitting rock bottom to see that I was responsible for my own suffering- it’s not an easy thing to realize. It’s so much easier to blame outside forces. That little shift in perception has made all the difference for me. I can see, now, with startling clarity how my every action fed into the negativity surrounding me.

Feel free to ask questions, I don’t mind trying to explain, just please keep the disbelief and negativity to yourself 🙂

As of this moment, my new plan is being severely tested- I’ve been in non-stop, 8/9 out of 10 level pain for about 5 days now. To be quite honest, the pain is starting to wear me down. I haven’t sprouted quills yet, but my temper is bubbling very close to the surface. It’s getting harder and harder to not simply break down and cry. I had hoped that when I had a flare up like this I might be able to go for a walk or do some other kind of exercise, but since the pain is centered in my knee and it doesn’t want to support any weight, the best I can currently manage is a Quasimodo like hobble. I’ll come up with something though, I’m not ready to give up yet! I plan to get back on track with my daily walks tomorrow; even if I can only manage a few minutes, it’s better than being cooped up in the house.

No more hiding

My name is Christina and I have fibromyalgia.

Up until very recently, that is how I identified myself; in my own head anyway, I didn’t actually go around introducing myself to people like that. My point is that after I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2001, I slowly but surely stopped thinking of myself as anything other than a sick person. My disease became what defined me as a person and it took control of my life. I got caught in a seemingly endless cycle of pain, insomnia, confusion and depression, and I couldn’t see any way out of it. My family did their best to be supportive, but I got so sick of being asked: “How are you feeling?” and “Are you in pain?”, that eventually I started to withdraw from everyone around me.

Fibromyalgia is a particularly insidious condition: it leaves you inexplicably exhausted and often in so much pain that it’s difficult to think clearly, yet, there is nothing physically wrong with you. You go from specialist to specialist explaining how much pain you’re in and suffering through test after test only to be told that they can’t find anything. Eventually, the doctors begin to suggest that maybe it’s all in your head and you start to believe it. Even after I was finally given the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, the lack of any tangible evidence of the illness continued to plague me. I was angry at my body for betraying me, for making me feel excruciating pain for no apparent reason. I was humiliated whenever someone would ask me why I was limping or holding my arm strangely and the only answer I could give was that it was because of this invisible disease.

I did what I could to hide my pain, unfortunately, the only way I could really hide it was by keeping people away from me. Before I even knew what happened, I had turned into a grouchy, miserable, hermit. I created my very own “pit of despair” (if you haven’t ever seen The Princess Bride, I highly recommend it!), and there I sat, huddling in my own misery. In 2008, I was forced to stop working altogether because I just couldn’t handle the stress. I applied for disability and spent years fighting for it before it was finally awarded to me in 2012.

Meanwhile, my life fell apart, my relationships disintegrated and suddenly, I was alone. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that even after all of this, it took me several more months to realize that I was the cause of all my problems, not the Fibromyalgia. My epiphany came one night when I was sitting in the empty house wallowing in self-pity; I had been half heartedly contemplating suicide when I had a sudden vision of myself lying on the bathroom floor, covered in blood. It was in that moment that I realized I needed help. That one terrifying vision kick started my survival instincts and provided me with enough adrenaline fueled clarity to allow me to see the truth: the only thing keeping me from being happy was me.

I made the decision right there and then to get help, to finally go and speak to a therapist about how to deal with my illness. That first decision to seek help kept me going for the next few days until my appointment with my pain management specialist where I told my doctor the truth: I was depressed and in desperate need of someone to talk to. I had known that I was depressed for a long time, but like my pain, I was trying to hide it; when I finally admitted it out loud, I felt as if a long-lost part of myself fell back into place. I found the strength to step back and look at the mess I had made of my life and then I found the resolve to change it.

Which brings me (finally!), to the reason I’m writing this blog in the first place. I know that I am not the only person out there who suffers from this despicable disease, and I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one to ever get lost in it. I want to share my story not just because I don’t want to be alone with it anymore, but also because I hope that maybe it can help someone else. I’m not a therapist or an expert of any kind, I’m just a woman who has decided that enough is enough. I refuse to let Fibromyalgia rule my life anymore. I can’t change the disease, I can’t make it go away, but I have come to realize that I can change the way I react to it. So, I’m going to start by putting my story out there, my first change is to stop hiding.

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