Hints and Clues

My energy is lower than ever. I wake up, and all I want to do is go back to bed. Sometimes I do – but when Dave leaves for work I make sure I’m up. It’s my personal sleep limit. I already know that I’d stay in bed all day if I don’t make the effort to get up. It now takes two full litres of fluid before my dizziness reduces to a point where I can walk in a mostly straight line. Until then, my blood pressure stays firmly under 90/60 and I feel like I have the coordination of a toddler. I have a constant inner burn throughout my abdomen, which turns into a pressurised heat in the lower right hip, often radiating through the joint and ass cheek and down to my right knee. From laying down, I have to sit up for a moment, and standing up is done very carefully. Moving too quickly, or looking around while walking, is extremely disorienting. Speaking is another adventure, where I’ll have a thing to say but I can’t seem to make the words I want to come out form properly, if at all. It’s frustrating, sometimes, trying to stammer something out while others try to help me with those words I’m struggling with. A great conversation suddenly turns into a distracting game of charades. I’ll be in a familiar place I know well, but not really know where I am. I stared at my underpants the other day for nearly 5 minutes trying to figure out which way was the front. And when I did, I still put them on the wrong way. (I just no longer do anything until I have my fluids. I’m really useless and dumb until I get that done….). And there are some places, especially in public with background noise, that I actually can’t hear what a person in front of me is saying. I seem to be having a struggle separating conversations, which never used to be a problem, and combined with the ringing in my ears I have a hard time really hearing what someone is trying to say – or I just hear wrong altogether.

A short while ago, what used to be “WHAT the ACTUAL hell am I doing?!” at all my little moments has become just a normal day. And we laugh about it. There are worse things to happen, right? That’s what I keep reminding myself. And so do others.

Which, if you really want to think about it, is actually quite invalidating. I know not to say that to others, because I know those twinges of frustration I feel when they say it to me. But I know they are coming from a place of kindness and concern, and just want to help. I understand that, sometimes, there are just no words that can help and those words which are offered are often awkward ways to say that they just don’t know what to say. I get that, and I’m grateful for them.

Sometimes, they may even feel I’m making it all up. And that’s really ok, too. What they think doesn’t really matter since they can’t really know what’s going on.

I don’t think about it further than letting that thought float away into a thankful smile.

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Last weekend I struggled with intense abdominal pain, and I kept saying to myself, “if it doesn’t get better tomorrow, I’m going to emerg.” Finally, when it got worse on Monday, I realized how dumb I was being by waiting and went in.

When there are already so many health issues going on, suffering through intense abdominal pain like I have in the past is not ideal. I’ve really learned to step outside of myself in order to properly make decisions like that. If someone were to come to me with the complaints I have now and ask me what they should do, I’d have suggested going straight to emerg. Well – that’s my answer, then. Why is it so hard for me to do that for myself without arguing?

Funny (not funny) enough, I know the answer to that.

I remember when I was a teenager, and I had what I now believe to be extreme eczema on my fingertips. It hurt so much, and trying to participate in any sports or even holding a pen was painful and would cause my fingers to bleed. I remember begging my dad to bring me to the doctor, because it wasn’t going away. We tried everything – lotions, antibacterial creams, antifungal ointments – anything over the counter. It wasn’t going away. He finally did, but he came into the appointment with me and insisted to the doctor that it was sandpaper I was using in shop class, and I was being a “putz” and not using gloves. He made sure the doctor knew that it wasn’t his idea to be “wasting the doctor’s time” but that he was only doing it so I would stop asking. I was so embarrassed. I remember it so clearly, and how much I hurt (both emotionally and physically), and how much I didn’t want to ever ask to see a doctor again, no matter what it was. The doctor gave me a steroid cream and my fingers cleared up after about a month, but I rarely asked for help because of situations just like that which were, in a way, worse than the complaint I had. Comments such as “suck it up” and “it’s not that bad” were common, and I started to simply ignore pain in general so that I would avoid seeming like a “wuss” to my old man. I wanted to live up to his expectations.

things-not-to-say

When I moved to Edmonton, I had a couple of different doctors that dismissed any complaints I’d mention during yearly physicals, so I didn’t bring them up again. Many of those complaints are now links to a much bigger issue. It makes me wonder if previous physicians had paid attention, if this could have been resolved faster?

But, there’s no point in continuing that thought. There’s no changing it now, just moving forward.

When a person’s complaints are dismissed by others – especially their health care team – it sometimes makes that person push through symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored because they’re not taken seriously enough, and they start to wonder if it’s all in their own head. I’m definitely guilty of that, but this time I can’t ignore it. Nor will I – this idea of minimizing the way a person feels is a nefarious social habit that I would love to never see again. When someone says, “Ow, that hurts” I’d love to never hear the words “Suck it up” again. So what if you have a worse pain that you don’t complain about – pain is subjective, and people feel different things in different ways. That won’t make the pain go away for anyone.

Just because one person is having less struggle than another person does not mean that person isn’t in pain, and the pain that person feels does not deserve to be minimized just because someone else thinks they have it worse.

Seriously, that shit needs to stop. Pain sucks, no matter how much, what kind or who is experiencing it, and no one “deserves” to be in any kind of pain, no matter how stupid the action they take that causes it.

Anyways. Moving on.

While there are definitely some GI issues going on, they also found a cyst or mass on my ovary, as well. I wasn’t entirely surprised, really – I’ve been feeling a lump near my hip anyways, but I guess I had just thought or hoped it was something else. I was diagnosed with minor endometriosis in 2009, my mother had extreme endometriosis before her hysterectomy, there’s a history of ovarian cysts in my family – I guess it’s to be expected that I’d have some troubles with my internal lady bits.

There’s absolutely a reason (or, maybe, many reasons) that my body is rebelling against me. I have ideas and thoughts and suspicions, but there’s no way to know for sure, really, until we get closer to finding out what’s going on. I’m not just sitting idly waiting for a cure to come. I’ve been reading studies and books and publications, and finding out different angles that might be helpful in reducing symptoms. I’ve reduced my eating habits to bare basics to try to find a correlation between the reactions of different foods (and I’m starting to see some patterns, but nothing definitive yet since I am still struggling with my sugar intake… it’s my bane. And the husband doesn’t help with his cookies and danishes he brings home regularly. Curse you, tasty cookies…..)

It’s a lot of experimenting, a lot of patience and a lot of standing my ground in those occasional moments I do feel dismissed. Fortunately, there have been limited dismissals. I feel my family doctor may have not taken me seriously, at first, but he is now after an hour long appointment one day where he realized how far back many of the symptoms go. He has been my attending physician for only a year or so, so we’re playing some catch up. The only other time was the neurologist I saw in ER for a brain CT who tried to tell me I was “more depressed”. I suspect psychology is a little far from the field he specializes in, and I understand that it’s hard to really know how a person is feeling. I understand how he came to that conclusion, but it did not make it less frustrating at the time. Depression is something I feel confident saying I have not experienced for a number of years. It’s in my medical history, to be sure, but is not currently a part of my life.  I didn’t argue, however, since I wasn’t there to see him specifically – I was there on my own doctor’s order in order to get a CT scan faster than they could schedule one for.

Some people may think this is backwards progress, or that news isn’t good or that things aren’t happening.

Some people would (and do) look at the situation I’m in as frustrating and hopeless.

But I’m not that kind of some people. I’m that kind of somebody that sees every hint and clue as a direction to take, or a crumb to follow. So many things have been ruled out – and we have an actual direction to work towards, now. I see an internist soon, I am having an abdominal CT soon, and we’ll move on from there to see what comes.

Being a doctor isn’t easy, and diagnosing even less so. Many of the people I’ve spoken with believe there’s an easy test for everything and it shouldn’t take so long to find out what’s wrong – but the reality is that science hasn’t caught up to those needs. We don’t have the funky body scans like they do in Star Trek, yet. The best way to diagnose something is first to diagnose what that thing IS NOT. This takes time, patience, and sometimes allowing things to get worse in order to find those breadcrumbs to follow to figure out where to start fixing the problem. I understand the frustration of doctors running circles around that thing you know is going on – because sometimes they don’t want you to be right. They don’t want to admit that you know more than they do. But you DO know more. You’ve lived with your body. You know it better than they ever will in the way that you know how it feels, and you know when something is not right. You don’t need to know anatomy and physiology in order to tell someone that something isn’t right (although it certainly helps in order to express how you feel, or to understand why there’s an issue, and possibly how to fix that). Physicians are supposed to help you. Doctors are people too, however, and ego often gets in the way of progress.  There are good ones out there. They exist. They’re not all equal, and sometimes you have to find one that fits. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t minimize what you’re feeling.

 

Take care of YOU.79fec95aff23e22ca6379a6ad4bc602a

 

Blessed be.

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One tiny step forward, maybe?

Finally, a routine is starting to come together. It’s not a strict regimen by any means, but it seems to be working. I feel like I’m getting things done that have been sorely neglected. Studying and reading is so much harder than ever, because the words feel like they’re just floating loosely in my head instead of finding something to grab onto to stay there. But it’s happening, a little at a time. I’m mostly sticking with the food restrictions I’ve implemented (mostly – cookies may get in the way occasionally), as well as staying in and listening very closely to my body. If I need to stop, I stop. If I feel like I can get something done, I do it. If something is causing symptoms, I avoid it. I’m trying to avoid napping during the day, but I’m letting myself go to bed when I need to, and wake up when I wake up.  There’s definitely an increase in the amount I’ve been sleeping, but I’m also having better sleep.

Everyday is something new and different, and I think I’m starting to see the trends. Excess sugar seems to make my head go numb and the ringing in my ears gets worse. Possibly yogurt, but that might be the sugar content. Meat seems to generally slow my digestion way down, and if feels like there’s a rock in my system. Chicken doesn’t have nearly the same effect, though. I don’t feel functional until I finish my first bottle of water with mineral supplement, where the brain fog and dizziness seem to get a bit better. If it’s just water the dizziness and brain fog are still extra thick. Some scents cause more dizziness and flushing, especially the Cascade dishwasher samples I got in the mail, and the Hask shampoo I haven’t used in a awhile seemed to trigger it a bit, as well. The sun still causes more dizziness and blacking out almost immediately. So on, so forth. There’s definitely a lot of investigating underway!

I do believe, however, that overall, there’s a tiny, small improvement. I feel a little more functional, and like my head isn’t quite as thick. My stomach isn’t in debilitating pain anymore, as much as “just” constant general heat and discomfort. My energy is about the same, but I’m learning to manage it more efficiently by making lists and creating reminders. My blood pressure seems to be rising back towards the low 90’s more often, instead of low 80’s (I can’t even describe how much salt I eat in a day, plus 5+ litres of different liquids…). I’m working on things around the house, reading books I’ve put off for too long, watching movies, making slow progress on my  clinical aromatherapy and generally learning to function. The people around me are helping me to cope and help fill in the blanks when I lose my words. I’m not out often, but when I do it’s extremely taxing. Keeping the occasional outing short and easy gets me out of the house as much as I need to right now. The sun seems to be the biggest trigger, and even being in the shade outside seems to trigger symptoms. Sadly, I’m missing my favorite part of the year, and missing being outside and foraging for herbs and medicinals to restock my stores. That’s what mail orders are good for, though, even though I love using wildcrafted so much more. Summer will be back next year, and who knows – maybe I can finally have an appreciation for winter that I’ve never been able to have before. Maybe it’s just time for that change.

It’s still too soon to say if these are real improvements, or if I’m just reaching for straws. But I’ll take it anyways.

Healthy habits are starting to come back, with most of my daily self care routine. I’m almost ready to start a light yoga practice again, and some light martial arts basics. I think the mantras are some of the most valuable lessons I took away from my teacher training in this little adventure. If I’m feeling the slightest unsure, unstable or miserable, that is how I’ve found my calm and ground again, and always end up smiling by the time I’m done. I’m sure my neighbours know how they go by now. I’m hoping that even a small regular practice will be enough to keep my body from deteriorating more. I’ve lost quite a bit of muscle mass already from inactivity, which I’m sure hasn’t helped everything, but that can be fixed again. I’ve tried going for short walks, but I find the dizziness and facial flushing to get worse every time. I really don’t know what to think about that. I keep it minimal.

I’m just going to keep up with the new changes, and keep journaling everything until I see the internist I’m being referred to, and hope that appointment comes soon. There’s a lot of conflict on the various treatments for the things that might be going on, and I don’t want to make anything worse by thinking it’s one thing that it’s maybe not. Hello Lupus, good day Mastocytosis, how do you do Lyme – whatever you are, I will find the way to evict your unwelcome presence from my life. Or, at least, set up a barrier to keep you from taking over. Without having a direction, though, it’s hard to know what to do. So, I’m going to do what I do best – and just keep doing! With a smile, to boot.

If I’m gonna feel drunk all of the time, I may as well be a happy drunk instead of a miserable one!

(Did I mention that I started experimenting with my marijuana prescription yesterday? It’s certainly upped the level of interesting in this whole thing. I think yesterday was one of my most productive days! There’s certainly a learning curve going on over here, and I really couldn’t tell you which way it goes…. but as long as there’s something to learn, there’s something to work towards.)

 

Hari Om.

Ready…. set…. waaait for it…..

 

There’s nothing like being ready to start the race and never hear the gun go off.

I had figured that once my yoga teacher training was over, I’d be good to get things done and ready to finish my studio to start teaching in my basement.

It’s definitely a bummer that hasn’t started, and isn’t even a priority at this point.

Instead, I’ve taken another 20 steps backwards. I’m not going to teach until I catch up those final hours I missed and get insurance in place. And I’m not going to catch those up until I feel like my brain isn’t going to melt. Unfortunately, my brain is still melting, so moving forward with those plans isn’t in my stars right at this very moment.

I seem to have some kind of illness or disorder or something malicious and not very nice, which has transformed in a medical perspective from central sensitization disorder to fibromyalgia to Lupus to carcinoid syndrome back to Lupus again. I personally think there is a big possibility of mastocytosis or Lyme disease. But it all boils down to one simple fact:

We don’t know know what’s happening.

I wasn’t going to make this whole affair public, but after reading other journals that have helped me describe and define certain aspects of what I’m feeling, I changed my mind. I decided that if someone comes across these pages who experience something similar, maybe there’s some clue that might help them, once this is all said and done. Or, at the very least, let them know that they’re not alone. In looking for clues and hints as to what’s going on, it was warming to know that what I’m going through has been a journey taken by many others. Warming, but also frustrating – no one should have to feel like this and be told that there’s nothing wrong with them, ever. Thankfully, I haven’t had that said straight out by any of the medical professionals I’ve seen. I seem to have finally found a family doctor who is willing to help build a good team, without pushing unnecessary medications on me. Currently, he’s referring me to an internist. Other specialists he could send me to will typically only focus on the system they specialize in, and disregard the other symptoms that are likely connected. This is how misdiagnoses happen so often, and he seems keen on actually pointing me in the right direction. No medications have been prescribed beyond the pills for vertigo (which didn’t work) – but how can anything be offered, when we don’t know what’s happening and there’s no lab work that indicates a problem? My blood pressure shows normal in the office, but I brought in the monitor we have at home to show him that what’s seen in the office is far from what is seen at home. A BP reading of 94/66 may seem ideal to some people, which is what it came up at the office today, but 78/57 is not, which is what it dropped to now (this is the second time it’s dropped below 80….)

We thought about trying to transfer Dave’s high BP to me, but we figured that might turn into a new episode of Dexter. Some shows should remain finished, so we thought better of that idea.

Anyways, I’m sure it’ll have an end point, at some point. I may as well share my journey while I’m on it, so others can find some solace knowing that they’re not as crazy as others may have them feel. It’s been a few months already since my symptoms began to flare up, and they’ve slowly getting worse since then. Lab results, however, show nothing is wrong.

tumblr_n4zmb9ah9Y1ts8vs8o1_640My energy levels are tanked, as are my activity levels. My digestive processes are completely fubared. My ears are constantly ringing. My face flushes red and hot “randomly” – this is actually triggered by certain things, which we’re just starting to figure out, I think. My blood pressure – which has always bordered on low – is slowly dipping lower every day. I’m dizzy all of the time, in a way that makes me feel like I’m going to pass out. Standing up is not my friend. Being outside with a cool breeze, not even in the sun but under a roof with light simply around me, results in the feeling that I’ve been running a marathon in direct heat all day. Direct sunlight for any amount of time makes me instantly dizzy, overheated and flushed, and I have to remove myself from the sun right away. My brain becomes word soup, in that there’s a word in there that I know but am just not able to fish up, which results in stammering for words, or using the wrong words. And I know it, but can’t think of the right one. I hurt all of the time in the regular sore joints I’ve had for years, but now it’s starting to get worse again because my activity levels are so low. Trying to boost those activity levels results in a demand for a 3 hour nap now – and there’s no fighting it. Sometimes I need a nap anyways, regardless if I just woke up or not. I get hit by exhaustion so bad that I fall asleep talking to people or while busy working on something. When I’m not exhausted, I’m fatigued no matter how much sleep I’ve had. Sleep is sporadic – sometimes 4 hours, sometimes 10. I am forgetting simple tasks, have gotten lost in familiar places a couple of times now, and short term memory is like that of a fish. It’s like wading waste deep in jello shots and being drunk ALL of the time, without the fun.

I might laugh at this more, one day. I do laugh at myself now, too, mind you, but it’s also very frustrating. This isn’t me. Having to ask Dave to drive me to my appointments or to remember things for me is definitely a change of pace and routine. He’s been so good, and so supportive, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner to help me through this. And yes – I’m taking the help where it’s offered, for once. Because I know that I can’t carry myself entirely right now. (I’m happy when I have the energy and coordination to shower, lately, and remember to feed the animals….. nevermind everything else! Those little wins are big enough goals.)

And this, dear reader, is why all the things are on hold right now. Business, schooling, life – I’m learning how to function with dysfunction until I can get back to normal again. Anything business related is on hold, and any outings are pretty much non-existent, because it’s just not worth it to go out. It’s exhausting. And it’s ok – because I’m taking care of myself and figuring things out, little step at a time.

In the mean time….

Everything scented in the house has been boxed up and moved to a friend’s. Soap, essential oils, cleaners, shampoos, you name it. Instead, everything here has been replaced with unscented and hypoallergenic. I’ve also dropped down to a very basic meal plan. Same food, all of the time. Not that I’m allergic to it all – I just don’t know if I am or not, and I’m desperate to find a way to feel better again. We’re pulling out all the possibilities until I can find a baseline again, and then work my way up from there. Everything is focusing on simplifying everything, reducing stress, minimizing work, lowering expectations and just figuring out things day at a time.

The referral for the internist is underway. I have a second opinion underway via Best Doctors. I have a routine I’m still struggling to find from my Ayurvedic practitioner. Perhaps something/someone will come back with a new lead or results. And if not? I’ll try a naturopath, maybe. Or a witch doctor. Voodoo priest? Someone must know how to help. The truth is out there.

 

*Cue Unsolved mysteries theme.*

 

 

White Sock Dilemma

When I reopened my Facebook account, I unfollowed all friends and personal accounts, and would just pop in now and again to see what people would be up to. There are often things I don’t want to see, and this was a way to stay connected to people while minimizing the posts that I wanted to avoid. The posts typicially come from a place of well meaning and have good intentions, but sometimes the politics, opinions and anger behind them are overwhelming. The difference in opinions, the arguments and the atypical aggressive behavior of people I love sometimes make me not want to associate with them. In order to keep that relationship, I needed to separate myself from their Facebook persona, which is often so very different than the person themselves. It’s in this way that I’ve been able to be active on Facebook again.

I disagree with so many people about so many things, which is great! This means that we are people with differences and opinions and can have some really great conversations. I find that having face to face dialect to be the most productive way to have open minded discussions about them. I enjoy it, actually, and it seldom gets heated, and it’s seldom disrespectful from either parties. Without all communication fundamentals of eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice, communication often falls wayside and so much is lost in translation. It’s so easy for us to apply our own tone and meaning to words that aren’t ours, and the meaning behind the words alone can change from a simple question to a complex mindgame. I don’t want to play games. I want to know people as they are, and not how I have to guess them to be because I’m not sure what they were truly trying to say despite the words that are presented. I could make up the tone in my head and be convinced that that’s how it played out. Or, perhaps, I could clarify how they meant their message so that I could better understand how to respond.

Changing habits and perspectives can be hard, but why? It’s only in the mind that we have our mind made up. When there are no matching pairs of white socks available, yet several single, unmatching white socks, what is it that makes it so difficult not to simply wear those mismatched socks? Where did we learn that we must have matching socks on each foot? And why did we learn that? What, exactly, is the purpose of of having matching socks? Is it really so important that the thought of wearing mismatched socks becomes stressful rather than being grateful for warm toes?

Perspective is where many things can either keep us in our box or help us to fly. One day, we’re so set in our ways that we are unable to function when our habits and routines are disrupted. But with just a minor shift, we can realize that some of our perspectives, ideals and opinions aren’t always what they seem to be, nor as important as we maybe thought.

With this little shift, we can make such a big difference. We can listen better. Communicate better. Understand better. Be better.

Do you wear socks to keep your feet warm, or for another reason?

Isn’t it time to step out of the box and take a better look around at what’s really important?

Day at a Time

Things have been pretty quiet over here, and I’ve had a few people pop in to ask what’s up. I’m ready to share.

It’s been an intense year, with so many things on the go! Renovations are underway to work on the basement studio, adding insulation to heat it up in the winter and replacing the flooring. Our fence is being extended for easier access to the back door for entry to said studio when it’s ready, every window in the house is getting replaced, and we’re so excited for the much needed upgrades. The windows are currently being manufactured and will be installed before winter comes. I finished my yoga teacher training earlier this month, which took up much of my time as well. I had to request an extension for the clinical aromatherapy course, which is due to be completed soon.

Unfortunately, some things have come up and absolutely everything has had to be put on hold (except for the windows – which is not someone we’re doing, and the fence, which my husband is taking on). This is also the reason that I missed some hours in my yoga training which I have to make up before I’m officially a yoga teacher. My body has decided to do it’s own thing to force me to do a slow-down. I’ve taken the firm, hard hint as a necessity, and am focusing on figuring out what I hope isn’t a new normal. These things have forced a shut down not only in business, but most of my regular lifestyle, too. The symptoms are concerning and painful, and therefore exhausting, but I seem to have a really good team of caring professionals who are helping in any way they can to pinpoint the issues so that we can move forward in fixing (or, at least, reducing) them. There are a few things we’re looking into, but no real answers yet.

I’ve learned many things lately, and one of the biggest ones is not only to forgive myself – but also realize that there are so many things that don’t need an apology for. One thing that came up quite often in peer evaluations during our practicums (and even with the Ayurvedic practitioner that I saw last weekend) is that I need to be more gentle with myself, and “put the stick away”. Beating myself up isn’t going to help anything, and only make things worse.

And I absolutely agree!! I tell the same to other people all the time. Be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok when you react. The best thing you can do is move forward and always work on being better. So on. So forth.

Why, then, do I seem to have so much trouble taking my own advice?

I started feeling sick a few months ago. It was minor, and I didn’t really think much of it. I’ve always reacted poorly in the sun in the spring, but this time was different. It seemed to be a bigger reaction, more intense, and didn’t fade with the rash like it usually does after the first exposures in the spring. And it got worse, until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Other things came up that weren’t normal. As someone who pushes through things and waits it out, it’s not something I could do anymore. I finally admitted that there was something very wrong – and I admitted that admitting that scared me.

This is vulnerability at its best. Some people would argue that it would be a bad thing, but sometimes vulnerability has a special magic in helping you learn more about yourself than ever.

I had already felt that I had been vulnerable in the yoga teacher training course prior to feeling unwell, but this was a whole new level that I didn’t know what to do with. Nervously, I let myself stop everything. I asked permission from my teachers. I slowed down, since I was shutting down anyways. I uneasily let it happen as it needed to happen. I went to class. I participated as much as I could. I stopped when I needed to. I stopped driving after realizing how drunk I felt all the time (and that hasn’t changed to this day). Day at a time has turned to moment by moment.

What I finally realized during the yoga retreat was that I didn’t need permission from my teachers. I needed permission from myself. It was, apparently, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do – to give myself permission to be vulnerable. There’s a difference between being vulnerable, and actually allowing myself to be. There’s been some pretty hard things I’ve had to do. Who knew this would be one of them. (I sure didn’t.)

And so, there are no apologies to anyone, except to myself. An apology is defined as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” or “a very poor or inadequate example of something”.

This is a situation beyond my control, and not one I feel I should be apologizing to anyone for. This hasn’t been a choice. This isn’t what I’d consider relaxing. And it certainly isn’t fun. I haven’t caused an offence. It’s not a failure. I don’t believe it’s a poor or inadequate example of anything. In fact, I think it may be a great example of taking control where I need to and where I can, as well as making an example by putting myself as a priority for once.  It’s just a part of the journey. I encourage (and CHALLENGE) anyone to put themselves before any other endeavour. If I were anyone else, I’d be damned proud of that person for taking the steps needed to take care of themselves in a similar situation. And, with that thinking, I finally realized how proud I am of myself for doing exactly the thing I encourage others to do.

I’m forgiving myself, finally, for not allowing myself the same liberties, joy and celebrations that I’ve encouraged others to partake in. I’ve stopped apologizing to my amazing, understanding husband for things I’m not guilty for. I’m so thankful for him and his ongoing support, and of the other people who have helped and supported me along the way. I have my frustrated days, and I’ll have more. And that’s ok. But for the most part, I’ve found that just taking things slowly and step at a time is best. I have plans and ideas and things to work towards, sure, but by not having a current agenda, deadlines or expectations, I’m able to really focus on what’s happening right now. It’s needed.

And, for maybe the first time, I’ve feel like I’ve really allowed myself to focus on just me and my health. I’ve focused on this before, but I don’t think I ever actually gave myself permission to do it, and had a lingering guilt for it.

Not this time. This time, I give myself permission to find my health again.

Hari Om.

48 hours in a day

Some big news was brought to my attention last week, which I’m super excited for (but I can’t share yet – sorry!). There was one problem with it, though.

With this news comes work and dedication, which concerned me because I’m already strapped for time as a full time student in one course, part time in three others, as well as an entrepreneur for my day job and housewife, to boot, while trying to work on studio renovations and personal health, fitness and other affairs that take priority.

I’m already running on empty. How am I supposed to fit it all in??

I love my business and I hate ignoring it and putting it aside…. But at the same time, I started it so that I can have that flexibility and freedom if I needed it. The courses I am taking are to add value to the services I’m offering, and the renovations for improving accessibility to those services. These are all coming together nicely, but I’m finding that deadlines are approaching far too quickly than I can keep up with. My files are in disarray, my workspace needs some TLC, I still have product packaging to redesign and website updates to perform, nevermind the research paper to start and case studies that are nearing completion, but all have to be typed up.  Oh, and then there are exams to study for.

Adding this one extra thing I need to do is actually not possible without dropping something else… or at least stretching the day into a 48 hour cycle. So business updates, resources and products are about to become scarce again in order give me time to get these projects done – hopefully on time. They all have deadlines for June, which is when I hope can find some semblance of routine and easy momentum again.

I love my business, which is why I’m always looking to improve it.

As for the other news…

That comes later. 😊

Break the Cycle

We all live by certain patterns in our lives, many of which have been learned from childhood. Some of these patterns are normal day-to-day life and have no positive or negative effect – they just are how we go about our day. Other patterns, though, can be detrimental to our state of health and happiness, and we find ourselves stuck in a self-fulfilling cycle of repetition.

That cycle will keep repeating, if we let it. The only way off of that train is to break the cycle, or pattern.

But isn’t that easier said than done.

We’ll take an example of my own that I have to break time and time again. Before I actually started to break the habit, though, I was stuck in a downward spiral where the habits and patterns were getting worse and causing more problems each time I went around.

In most cycles there are five stages we go through before repeating the pattern again, and we’re going to use my own weight loss sabotage for an example.

Stage 1: Denial of the problem, or placing blame elsewhere, with no intention to change.

When someone is living in a cycle, they may deny that there’s any behavior that needs to change at all. They aren’t aware that there’s an issue.

I  knew I was a bit on the bigger side, but didn’t think it was a problem. My cholesterol levels and bloodwork all came back normal, so I figured I was just fine. I also had troubles with my knee after breaking it, and had been wanting a consult with a specialist in order to get help. I had nothing but problems with doctors not believing there was an issue beyond my weight, however, and I had many, many terrible confrontations with physicians who refused to help me. I didn’t want to visit another doctor – my anxiety for visiting a physician over rode any concern for my weight. So I decided to just be happy where I was.

Other examples that I’ve heard from others include:

  “I don’t cook, so I can’t eat healthier.”

                “I’m too stressed to think about this now.”

                “I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable.”

                “I travel too much and don’t have time to cook.”

If you really consider the options above, they are easily passed over without taking responsibility for action – my own example included. All I had to do was look at the BMI chart to know something was wrong – and I did, but decided that doctors were on glue. I was well over the obese range, but figured it wasn’t a big deal. To be fair, I still consider the BMI chart a bit “out there”, because people can’t really all be lumped into the same category. However, there’s a difference between a little overweight, and morbidly obese…. and I was in the morbidly obese range on that dreaded chart. I didn’t have just a few pounds to lose – I had roughly 110 pounds to get to a healthy weight for the type of build I have.

And the signs that it was affecting my health were all there. I was short of breath, I hurt everywhere, all of the time. I didn’t fit into any of my plus sized clothes. I was self conscious, I felt terrible and I was exhausted all of the time. I stressed when it came time to going out and doing anything because I couldn’t find anything that I thought made me looked good enough – even new clothes. Despite the signs, though, I wasn’t ready to accept there was an issue.

And what about the other excuses that are presented above?

                Every single one can be argued. It depends on your desire for change, the reasons for that change, and your willingness to look at options and act on them. Without wanting to break out of that cycle – you won’t. Without being aware of that cycle, you won’t even know to want to break out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you’re ok with it. But if you’re NOT ok with remaining in the same habits and routine – then perhaps that’s something to carefully consider and figure out the reasons why you stay in it.

Stage 2: Aware of the problem without action.

And then something makes you wake up to the behavior in question. You start seeing things that you may not like. You become aware of it – but don’t do anything about it except watch.

Over time I realized that there was a real problem with my weight. I realized that my husband couldn’t really wrap my hands around me comfortably, and I was horribly aware of hands on the folds on my back whenever anyone put their hands on my back or gave me a hug. I didn’t want to be hugged anymore (and I’m a hugger!!). I was uncomfortable. I hated photos of myself. I couldn’t fit into new pants I had bought not that long ago. And I started looking at what is considered a “normal” weight range – and even the highest range of the “overweight” category was 60 pounds less than what I weighed at the time. That’s not so much weight, right? But it was, on my short 5’2” frame.
And the more aware of it I became, the more stressed it made me, and the more comfort food I turned to – making the situation even worse.

Step 3: Making the resolution to change.

For many people, New Year’s is the time for resolutions. For those keen on making changes in their lives to find a way to be happier, however, they become resolved in that moment to make a change.

For me, I did just that. I hurt so bad that I’d cry getting out of bed in the morning. I felt terrible, had no energy, and simply had enough. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I decided to make the change, and started looking into the best ways for me to do that.
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Step 4: Making the change

This is where people jump into a new habit or behavior and become hyper aware of it, focused on making the new habit “stick”. They may set reminders, or make appointments, or leave sticky notes. They take the steps needed to make that change that they’ve resolved to.

I decided to start light. I started trying to eat healthier. For exercise, I began with yoga asanas every day. They were enough, and I hurt just from a short 10 minute practice. But I did it, and when I felt I could add a little more, I started using the Wii Fit a little bit each day when I felt able. And then I started to walk around the block. Yes, just one block. It hurt every damned day, and I was taking handfuls of OTC meds to get through it, but I did it. I started looking into diets, nutrition and options for weight loss, but I didn’t just jump on any bandwagon. I researched it carefully before making any big decisions or changes.

Step 5: Maintaining new habits

This step is one of promise and hope. The one where people have been living their change in behavior or habits and are able to sustain their new way of living.

With the new determination, also came new levels of pain. I was struggling. I was hesitant to visit another GP, so I visited Natural Health Services and was able to get a prescription for medical marijuana, which helped me push past pain. I struggled with dosing at first, but I was able to find a happy balance to keep moving forward. While it helped with the pain, however, my knee was collapsing to the side, and I was concerned about damaging it further. This was one of the issues that had held me back for so long, so in order to keep moving forward I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting the integrity of the joint at further risk of injury.

In my resolve to get help, I made an appointment to see a doctor in order to get a referral to a specialist. The appointment went terribly. I felt judged, dehumanized and unsupported. I was demoralized. And this is the step I’d normally get to.

Step 6: Relapse

Things happen, and life gets in the way. Something derails that track that people are on with their new habits, and they fall out of their new routine and back into old behaviors. Sometimes there’s no real reason for it, and other times external factors come into play to influence it.

This is where I’d repeat my cycle. This is the defining moment in my own cycle that I’d normally start over again, and decide that I was fine with how I was and go back to where I was comfortable so I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety, the dehumanizing treatment or the ridicule.

Back to Step 1?

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Or…..

 

Break Free!

Does your pattern repeat, or do you break free from it and continue your new life?

This time I didn’t fall back into old patterns. This time I pushed forward, because I wanted to feel better. I was definitely not feeling hopeful, but I pushed through my dismay. I bought a weight scale. I knew I had lost some weight at this point, but I made a goal to lose another 90 pounds, which would put me on the high end of the “normal” range on the BMI chart. Soon after that dreaded appointment, I received a post card in the mail for a new clinic in Leduc, and decided to give them a try. My anxiety was so high that she asked me how I was doing and I started to cry. Funny, how anxiety works. She was compassionate and could see that I was sincerely struggling. She commended my use of marijuana and sent the referral for the specialist before I even left the clinic. I had been trying to get this referral for 2 years without success, and suddenly I had renewed hope. She also send me with a prescription for a psychologist, should I choose to use it (also on my request, because I was not feeling very capable at the time). I left in higher spirits than I had in a long time. I continued with the new routine, slowly building up on it.

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60 lbs down in this photo – wearing the exact same outfit in both.

It’s been nearly two years since my resolution to change. It’s been about one year since that appointment with a physician that took me seriously enough to help me move forward. It did take awhile to build those new habits and routines, but I’m doing it. I’ve solidly lost 65 pounds and am still working on my progress. I’m still partaking in physiotherapy to increase strength to keep my knee from collapsing, which it no longer does. I frequent the  gym daily, have taken up martial arts training, can outrun most people I know now, am underway with yoga teacher training, and rarely even need to use the marijuana for pain relief. I don’t use it recreationally, so it goes untouched for longer periods of time. It used to be taken every morning and evening – but now I use it maybe once a week. Sometimes once every two weeks.

When something else came up last summer that threatened my new routine, I called in the psychology card – I was NOT going back to that place again. I was NOT starting my old habits again. As difficult as it was for me to make that phone call, it was an important phone call to make, and one that I don’t regret to this day. The therapist I found fits me well, and he has given me valuable tools to keep out of the cycle I have gone back to way too many times.

If it hadn’t been for that one physician to treat me like a person, I’m not sure I could have come this far. I still attend that same clinic, although with a different doctor because she moved to a different location. He is just as compassionate, though, and I no longer experience anxiety walking into that clinic. Sometimes you just have to find the right care team.

 

Cycles CAN be broken. New habits CAN be maintained. Change CAN happen.

 

You don’t fail until you give up.

 

Sometimes it’s a lot of work, but if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

 

Find your big enough reason why.

 

You’ve got this.

 

With love.