Hello, 2015!

New year, new me!

Just kidding. Honestly, I hate that phrase and all it’s implications of self loathing. Yes, we’ve just entered 2015 and it is a brand new year, brimming with brand new possibilities, etc., etc., etc., but I am so tired of hearing people say the same exact thing over and over again.

We all get so excited at the thought of totally new, unblemished calendar; we set all sorts of goals and make thrilling new plans… Can you even imagine how awesome life would be if we could get as excited about the start of a new day? Sure, our goals would have to be smaller, but if we could start each new day with the same enthusiasm that we have for a new year, we could all take over our own little worlds.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t set long term goals, those are definitely good things to have, I’m just suggesting that you break them down into smaller pieces. Instead of eating an entire triple decker cake in one go, (making yourself sick and getting totally burned out on cake in the process), why not slow down and take a bite a day? You’ll enjoy it considerably more in the long run and every day you can savor the anticipation of taking that bite.

So, this year, the only resolution I am making is: to remember that every single day is a brand new chance to take a step towards where I want to be. It doesn’t matter whether that place is a smaller jeans size, a faster mile or bigger bank account, as long as I get out of bed every morning with the knowledge that today is my chance to get closer.

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Time to get moving (again)!

It’s been a while since my last post, so this is me trying to get back in the swing of things. The hardest part has been just sitting down to write. The longer I put it off, the harder it became to find the words, so here goes!

To be honest, the main reason I have been quiet lately is that I really didn’t have anything positive to say. I’ve spent a lot of the last month packing and then moving into a new place, and not as much time as I should have on my personal needs. I’m still trying to stay active, but I’m not as active as I had been, not by a long shot. Even on the days I do manage to make it outside for a walk, it’s a struggle to hit my 10k step goal. The heat has a lot to do with this, but it’s not the only reason. In all seriousness, the heat is just the excuse I use to cover up the real reason I’m less active: I’m just too tired.

As much as I hate to admit it, the fatigue is kicking my butt. I just don’t have the energy to maintain that level of activity. I know that if I can get moving again, my energy levels will start to come back up, but I’ve fallen off of my own wagon and I’m struggling to get back on it. To anyone who hasn’t dealt with a chronic condition, it sounds like I’m making excuses for being lazy. I suppose that in a way, I am, but the important thing to remember is that I have not given up.

Yes, I feel like I’m back at square one, but this time, at least I know not only what I have to do, but also that it works. This isn’t something new to me. I know that if I can push through the initial pain and exhaustion things WILL get better.

I’m not entirely sure what caused me to stumble and then fall, but I’m pretty sure it started with a flare up. I recently gave in and had another round of trigger point injections in my upper back, this time with Botox. The fact that I felt it was necessary to even have the injections was a huge blow. I had been doing so well on my own and then WHAM! Out of nowhere I get hit with a flare up so bad that I actually went to my doctor and *requested* trigger point injections.

For me, trigger point injections have always been an absolute last resort, mostly because I hate them. They’re incredibly painful and they always take me out of commission for a few days, but every now and then, I reach a point where the pain is worth it to break the flare cycle. This was one of those times. Ironically, I had just finished typing up a blog post celebrating a full year injection free… No, you didn’t miss a post, I never published it because I got distracted, (and more than a little depressed), by the flare up and subsequent injections.

I mentioned earlier that my doctor added Botox to the trigger point injections, this was completely new to me. The idea is that the Botox basically freezes the muscles around the trigger point, keeping the knots from reforming for a few months. After doing my own research, I decided to give it a go. Was it worth it? I’m not sure yet. I do know that once the anesthetic wore off, these injections were much more painful than normal ones. My back was stiff and sore for over a week afterward. The flare up did break, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Botox has actually helped.

So, that’s the last month or two in a nutshell. Now that we’re all caught up, I am excited to say that I’ve got some new motivation to get moving again. Yesterday, I registered for the “Inaugural Harbor Lights 5k”, which will take place at the end of November.

If I want to beat my previous 5k time of 00:38:58, (which I totally do), I’ve got to get to work. Right now, my (comfortable) mile time hovers around 15 minutes, if I go full tilt, I can drop it to around 13 minutes. My goal for November is 10 minutes… Looks like it’s time to dig out my Couch to 5k app again!

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For a friend

If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that to live is to fight. Each of us has their own private battle to fight and most of us silently carry on that fight every single day. The primary reason that I started writing this blog was to break that silence. I needed to get out of my own head; I honestly didn’t care if anyone else ever read my story, I just needed to get it out there.

I quickly discovered that my words were not just reaching other people, but were actually helping them as well. Through comments and e-mails, I have learned that I am not alone in my struggle and that by breaking my silence, I have inspired others to seek help or make changes in their own lives. Sometimes, simply knowing that you’re not alone in your fight makes it easier to bear.

On that note, there are a few more walls that I would like to begin breaking down. My hope is that sharing this part of my journey will help others see their own paths more clearly.

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the effects exercise and weight loss have had on my battle with fibromyalgia. This blog was never meant to be about the weight loss itself, but about how losing the weight helped my condition. I have no intentions of changing that, however, a recent conversation with a very dear friend has made it obvious to me that I have left out some details that are important to my story.

I have been overweight my entire life. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was constantly teased and ridiculed about my weight. I hid my self consciousness behind a wall of books, which did nothing to help the problem. When I was diagnosed with poly cystic ovarian syndrome, at the age of 16, my doctor told me it was due to my being overweight and that it was possible I might be in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. In the course of an afternoon, my weight went from a minor inconvenience to a major issue.

My parents did everything they could to help me. My mother somehow managed to show her concern about my weight without ever once making me feel embarrassed about it, (which is a truly amazing feat when dealing with a teenager). We went to nutrition counseling, the whole family went to the gym together, we started riding bikes together… Nothing helped.

I ended up going to an endocrinologist who prescribed a variety of prescriptions to help control my insulin levels, but he seemed more concerned that I would develop “abnormal facial hair” than anything else. I guess his choices in drugs helped, as I never did develop the mustache he always asked about.

My weight stayed basically the same until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What my rheumatologist failed to mention when he began prescribing medication to treat the fibro was that nearly every drug they used at the time had a side effect of weight gain. I gained about 60 pounds over the course of a year, putting me more than 100 pounds over what is considered a “healthy” weight for my frame. Suddenly my endocrinologist started using words like “morbidly obese” and prescribing actual weight loss drugs.

The weight loss drugs had very little impact on my weight. I was at a loss. I tried Weight Watchers, diet supplements, going to the gym and various other diet plans, all to no avail. To be honest, I just sort of gave up. By making changes in my eating habits, I was able to beat the insulin resistance and eventually my endocrinologist actually said “unless you’re interested in weight loss surgery, there’s nothing else I can do for you”.

I left the doctor’s office that day feeling angry and completely hopeless. I was already battling fibromyalgia and I felt like I was doing everything I could to lose weight. Looking back on it now, I can see that while I was trying to lose the weight, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was trying to lose weight because everyone was telling me I needed to, not because it was what I wanted. I’m not saying that I wanted to be fat, I didn’t, but I wasn’t ready to put forth the amount of effort required to do anything about it.

Skip ahead about a year or so, to 2007. I finally found a combination of medicines to help me manage the symptoms without putting on extra pounds. In fact, the new meds actually helped me drop around 35 pounds, but only because they literally killed my appetite. In truth, it got to the point that I had to be reminded to eat. There were several occasions where I nearly fainted from not eating, simply because I was never hungry. It took some time, but I did eventually get things ironed out so that I could manage my symptoms without inadvertently starving myself.

Through sheer luck, I managed to keep my weight stable over the next few years, even after the fibro forced me to stop working altogether. In early 2012, my husband and I decided we’d had enough of being overweight and went on a joint diet. If I’m completely honest, I only started the diet in an effort to support him; I had already resigned myself to being overweight and firmly believed that there was nothing I could do about it.

We changed our eating habits by monitoring portion sizes, choosing healthy alternatives to junk food and counting our calorie intake. We tried to become more active, but that was where I fell off the wagon. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was also battling depression, which kept me from being the partner I should have been. Over the next 4 months or so, I lost a grand total of 15 pounds; not bad, considering I was in full blown slug mode. At this point, I hit one of those plateaus dreaded by all dieters, and I just didn’t have the energy to cross it. Thankfully, due to our diet changes, I was able to keep the weight off.

Fast forward to my very first blog post in May 2013: I finally found the drive I needed to pull myself out of slug mode.

I truly wish I could explain how it happened. All I can say is that something in my head shifted and suddenly I just knew that I could become a better me. I woke up one morning and simply decided that I was going to change things. I decided to lose weight in order to feel better, not because someone else told me I needed to or because I wanted to look good in a swim suit.

For me, that was the key. I needed to consciously decide that it was what *I* wanted. Once I did that, the determination, the will, to make it happen was just there. I didn’t have to struggle to get started, I just did it. Yes, some days are harder than others and some days I have to fight to keep going, but I know in my heart that I’m doing it for me, and that is what gives me the strength to carry on.

For those of you out there who are struggling to lose weight, take a second to think about why you’re doing it. Are you doing it to please someone else or is it what YOU want? The mind is a powerful thing, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you decide to do it.

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I hate clowns.

You would think that after dealing with something for nearly 13 years, you would be completely familiar with it. For instance, Fibromyalgia has been a part of my life for, you guessed it, nearly 13 years. Yet, just today, I discovered a new, or at least new to me, symptom: Raynaud’s Phenomenon. I have never been a fan of the cold, in my world, cold = pain. However, today, things got so much worse.

We had a huge snowstorm here last night, which left something like a foot of snow outside. Even with my aversion to the cold, I can’t resist that kind of potential for fun, so I got bundled up, (literally, two or three of everything), and went out. Within about 5 minutes, the tips of my fingers started to tingle. I wondered about it, but ignored it, figuring my body would eventually adapt. Finally, after about 20 or so minutes outside, I couldn’t take it anymore. By the time I got inside, the pain in my fingers was so bad I had tears in my eyes; on a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 12. Thinking I had somehow managed to get some sort of mild frost bite, I de-gloved and noticed that my finger tips were white, with a hint of blue at the base of my nails. Ok, no need to freak out… Let’s just try to get warmed up. I ran cool water over my fingers. It felt HOT. Like, scalding, except that when it hit my palms, I could tell that it was, in fact nearly ice-cold. It took a while, but I was eventually able to (SLOWLY) turn up the temperature of the water enough to get my finger tips back to something resembling normal.

That was nearly three and a half hours ago, and my finger tips are still pale and tingly. Not quite numb, but definitely tingly. *Side Note: I know that Google is not necessarily the best place to go looking for answers, but #1, I am, for all intents and purposes, (except serious emergencies), snowed in and #2, I have previously come across several articles on Raynaud’s Phenomenon and it’s relationship to Fibromyalgia.* So, I did some research online and found that not only is Raynaud’s very common in people with Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and other related diseases, it can be “unmasked” as a symptom by weight loss… Suddenly the pieces fit.

I’ve been “whining” for months that my weight loss has made my cold tolerance even lower than it was to begin with. During that time, I have noticed my fingers, toes and lips turning blue after being out in cooler weather, (basically anything below 60 degrees). I blamed it on the weight loss and continued on my merry little way. Upon closer inspection, it would seem that my inability to tolerate the cold was quite possibly part of Raynaud’s Phenomenon peeking through the veil of other symptoms. My weight loss, which is at a total of 80 pounds since 2006, has simply moved the curtain aside and allowed Raynaud’s to poke it’s ugly little head out.

Seriously, why is that every time I feel like I’ve got a handle on things, something else has to pop up? I know that things could be so much worse and I know that there are many, many other people out there who have been dealt an even more wretched hand than mine. I just find the whole thing so disheartening sometimes. It’s really hard to stay positive and upbeat when you feel like there are evil clowns waiting to jump out at you at every turn.

Ok. I am done whining about it. In all reality, this doesn’t change anything. The only thing that has changed is that I now know the name of another symptom. As appealing as hiding in a dark, (warm!), corner might sound, it’s not going to happen. I am going to focus instead on all of the wonderful, amazing and totally awesome things I have in my life, like: love, friendship, shoes and chinchillas.

“Just keep swimming”.  

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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!

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!

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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. 🙂

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!).

The Plan, update #6

It’s taken four months and 316 miles (yes, I have walked 316 miles over the last four months!!), but I have officially reached the halfway point of my weight loss goal! A full 25 pounds, gone! YAY!!!

As part of my celebration, I decided to do a google search for things that weigh 25 pounds, so I could get a visual of what I am no longer carting around:

  • an average 2 yr old
  • a 25 lb barbell plate
  • 25 one lb  full butter boxes
  • a small dog
  • 10 ft metal chain
  • 5 bags sugar
  • 25 foot balls
  • a 19 inch flat screen T.V.
  • 3 one gallon jugs of water

I have to say, the image of carrying these things around with me is pretty strange… no wonder I’m always so tired!

It’s important to remember, however, that the weight loss is just a fabulous side effect of what I’m actually trying to accomplish. My original goal with all this dieting and exercise was to fight my fibro with fire. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and after 12 years of just living with the disease, I decided to fight back. I decided to take my life back from this invisible menace and I DID. I stopped sitting around feeling sorry for myself, waiting for some miracle cure and started taking care of myself.

It was not easy. My biggest obstacle was myself, I had to fight not only against my own feelings of doubt and depression, but also against my own body. When my body was screaming at me to stop, I had to quite literally force myself to keep moving. It took a long time for me to get past the initial pain of making myself exercise, but I didn’t give up.

I’ll be honest, I was in a very dark place when I discovered the strength to fight this; I didn’t just wake up one happy morning and decide to do it. It wasn’t until I found myself considering suicide that I realized things had to change, that I had to change things. In truth, I am thankful for the events that led me to that dark place, because without them, I would still be wallowing in the misery that I had allowed the fibro to create.

I am not saying that I am cured. The fibromyalgia is something that I will have to battle every day for the rest of my life, I have accepted that, but I know now that it IS possible for me to live a fairly normal life. I know now that my struggles with this disease have made me a stronger person and I have discovered how to put that strength to good use. Yes, the fibro puts limitations on my life, but I have learned that there are ways to work around those limits.

Some days are harder than others, but in the end, I know that fighting through those days is what makes days like today so awesome. 🙂

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Have hope

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Brave

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