Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Working on myself.

At some point last October I got rather sick of being sick.

I mean, I was used to feeling shitty pretty much all of the time.  Going to sleep was like running a marathon in my mind - angst wouldn't let it shut off.  I woke up tired and bedraggled, feeling like I'd not slept at all, and I was unable to sleep more than three and a half hours at a time without waking up.  I hardly had the brain power most days to do anything other than basic household chores, tending to my child, and going to work for my 12 hour shifts in the emergency room.

For years I'd complained to my doctor about being tired.  He'd diagnosed me with fibromyalgia (a diagnosis I'd never quite been sure of) years earlier.  My body hurt all of the time.  All.  There was never a day where I was pain free.  Never is a serious word, but I do really mean never.  There were better days than others, but most days it hurt to just be alive.  Any exertion made it worse.  Lots worse.  Roller skating, cycling, walking, working my shifts, sex, even rough and tumble tickling with my daughter made me pay the next day.  Always and forever I lived in pain.  No one could see the pain I was in.  It wasn't like I had a broken leg.  I had some sort of invisible illness attacking my body every day and there was little to do but grin and bear it and gripe to my family about how miserable it was.

My guts were sick too, only I was in so much musculoskeletal pain I couldn't really focus on how unhappy my digestive tract was.  Until a few months ago, when literally every day I was eating tums and zantac and still feeling bloated and gassy and downright miserable.  I attacked and cured an overgrowth of candida, but I still felt sick a lot more than I should have.

I started exercising on the direction of a dear friend who's also a dietician.  Slowly but surely I worked my way up to more than 10 miles a week at one point.  My heart was pumping good.  I had endurance, but my body was so tired and in so much pain that I literally had to fight to get the strength to go each time to walk with her.  Plus, she's wonderful at encouragement and harassment, because her job depends on motivating her clientele so they'll get results.

For me, no results came.  My doctor changed up my anti-depressant thinking that was the culprit.  No change in my weight.  Finally three months later he ordered a bunch (5 vials worth) of blood tests.

Turns out, my immune system was working a bit overtime (high white blood cell count).  I knew this because I frequently had low grade fevers - a side effect I attributed to my work in the emergency room where everyone is exposed to all sorts of illness.  Normal people with healthy immune systems build up a giant resistance after working in germ laden places.  But frequently I'd get sick, so much so that my coworkers made (nice) jokes about my crappy immune system.

Nevertheless, I came to work.  I never once have called out due to illness or feeling like crap.  Probably because I was so stinking used to it.  Feeling bad was normal.

Back to the blood tests.  My thyroid peroxidase antibody was elevated quite a bit.  This is a diagnostic tool for Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or when your own immune system attacks your thyroid.

I'd been feeling tired and had been unable to lose the "baby" weight from the pregnancy and birth of my daughter - 10 years earlier.  No matter what I tried I didn't lose any substantial amount of weight.  I constantly felt bad about myself, and my body image (which had always been a-ok) tanked.  Before pregnancy the heaviest I'd been was 140 pounds.  I was not skinny, but I was a very healthy weight.  I'd always suspected something might have happened to my thyroid, but each time I had blood tests the thyroid numbers came back low, but still within "normal" range.  Frustrating to say the least.

The doctor's office called in a low dose of levothyroxine to my pharmacy and I began taking it about a month ago.  Immediately after figuring out the thyroid issue, I began researching it.  I read message boards and forums and question and answer sites galore, and over and over I kept seeing people talk about GLUTEN intolerance and how it goes right along with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

I researched the symptoms of gluten intolerance/Celiac's disease and found nearly a virtual description of how I'd been feeling for so long.  Unbelievable.

I stopped eating gluten that day.  Now, nearly two weeks out, the pain in my body has almost subsided entirely!  I have no more bloating!  When I eat my stomach and intestines do not rumble for hours on end and remind me that I shouldn't have eaten whatever it was I ate.  I am a carb-a-holic.  I may always be, but I'm no longer eating any carbs that contain wheat or gluten.

Now I'm reading the book by a cardiologist, Dr. Davis, called Wheat Belly.  He's definitely preaching in this book, but not only do I see his logic but I agree wholeheartedly.

I know that I'm now on a straight path to wellness, and quite honestly, I have felt very much "led" to each of my discoveries since that night in October when I prayed for help.  I asked God to please help me end my physical suffering, with tears in my eyes, and told Him that I honestly didn't know how much longer I could keep going as I had been for so long.

I now take a handful of vitamins and prescription drugs that are helping big time.  But ending the hyper inflammatory immune response to gluten might have been the single best thing that's happened to me since my child was born.

Moral of the story? Never be afraid to challenge your doctor, trust your instincts about your body, and use your own mind and brain to find the solution.  And of course, when you're searching for answers, never forget to pray for guidance.  Trust that the Universe has your back, and your best interest, at heart.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Laughing at life's poofy moments.

I know I haven't written in a while, but I've kind of been in a type of conserve-energy-and-just-keep-swimming auto pilot for most of the last year.  Sure, there have been bursts of energy here and there.  I started a coalition to help parolees.  I tried to write 50,000 words in a month.  I started exercising regularly (again).  I even found enough fortitude to make it through the holidays.  And mostly, I've written in that doggoned "Happiness Project" journal almost every day.  Even when all I can say is that I worked a twelve hour shift, I tried to write it down.  Not everything is happy.  Even when you stare at the glass for an hour trying to decide whether or not it's actually half full or half empty.  I'm just glad I have a glass to fill.

Sometimes life does indeed beat us up, drag us along, tear us down, and scramble our brains like a southern fried egg on a scorching pavement.  Is there any use in trying to find the "happy" during your life's rough and tumble days?

Is there?

I would argue that there is, even if you can't do it everyday.  Sometimes when the going is so tough it makes your head spin is when you have to stop, stop, stop and find something to laugh about.  Perhaps my 6 years in an ER and my ultra weirdo dark snappy sense of humor affords me a certain talent in finding the humor even in the craziest situations, but laughter HELPS.  Laughter seems to hoist up just the right amount of emotional wall in tough times that really does help you schelp on through to another day.  Start looking at your life in a 360 degree sorta way.  Some of the shit you do is funny, trust me.  Lots of the shit other people do is often ridiculously funny.  Sometimes their shit is so funny that your shit is small in comparison.  And that my friends, means your life ain't so bad.

Just as important as laughter is the lesson.  What is the lesson?  There are situations in your life that sometimes literally only last a few real moments...others last for days, weeks, months, even years...until they are -POOF- just not there anymore.  Sound silly?  But that poof moment is the one where you're like oh wow, or holy crap, or I'll be damned...and then suddenly you figure something out, some life changing well-now-I-know kind of thing.  So one day when your friend, or sibling, or grown up kid decides he or she is gonna try that which you've already POOFED your way through, you can say with one hundred thousand percent certainty...oh no, oh hell no you're not and let me tell you why!  Every hard thing in life has a lesson for you.  If you think about it, you know it's true.  So what are the difficulties in your life trying to tell you?  What is it that you still need to work on to get better to be happier?

Still, we get stuck.  At least I know I do.  Some days I ask myself, "Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?"  "Is this all I have to offer?"  "Is there some other greener pasture I could have more fun in?"  Or lately, my favorite..."did I do the right things educationally? Should I have just majored in Journalism & Creative Writing like I wanted to when I first went to college?"  "Would I be happier now if I had?"

Argh!  I've been driving myself crazy with this stuff.  There is one thing I do know for sure though.  There were lessons I learned along the specific path I took.  I don't believe those lessons were lost on me and I believe they were important for me.  Therefore I'm okay for having taken the path I did.  What I've done, especially my mistakes, is truly okay.

I'm still here.

Big question is what to do next.  Something, anything, or nothing?  When is the right time to shake things up and let the particles fly around and then settle back down again?  I know I've been holding on too tightly to safety and security and walking the worn path lately, but it does feel like the winds of change might soon be blowing my way.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Conspiracy.

I've been fascinated with the JFK assassination for most if not all of my adult life.  I probably should have posted something here on my blog in remembrance of this man and his legacy on November 22nd exactly, but I was much too busy being sick with a fever curled up in the chair watching television special after special focusing on the assassination, the conspiracy, the events of the day, and how it all looked and felt that day in Dallas, Texas.  I was kind of annoyed that most of what is shown and published now seems to agree with Lee Harvey Oswald being a lone gunman.  Only one show that I saw, out of several, seemed to advocate for a massive cover-up.  Could it be that fifty years of frustration with not having a real answer or any true belief that our government then or now has fully cooperated with the investigation - maybe the collective we has simply given up ever finding a different answer so we accept the one shoved down the throats of all who would line up and accept that it was a lone gunman who shot a magic bullet?

Even Lee Oswald said he was a patsy...in the mere 48 hours he had to say anything at all, before he could really tell us what he knew.  

It was also a conspiracy that I didn't finish my 50 thousand words for National Novel Writing Month.  This flu/fever/cold illness has nearly spanned two weeks and sapped the life out of me.  I found myself writing some really dark stuff that made me want to run and hide from it, and I had to take a two day break to go pick up my mother's cremains from the City of Jacksonville Florida - and give them a check for every penny of the money that her lousy insurance company mailed to me.  Of course she lied on the policy questionnaire, however after reviewing the questions I wonder who would actually qualify for one of their policies?  And why did it take seven months to simply return her premium payments?

One thing that I think I've discovered though in this month of November is that I still want to take some creative writing classes, and I may have finally found a way to do that, online via a real university, and without paying them all of my earnings for one year.  The UCLA Extension Writer's program seems to be legit, cool, and offers a certificate program - total cost $6,700!  I can probably figure out a way to pay for that all on my own and work at a pretty reasonable pace to finish some writing courses that might actually teach me how to write the novel that lives inside my head.  

Maybe I'll be a famous writer before I die, or before the dark ass characters in my head pay someone to assassinate me too.  Hopefully someone will bury me in a tricked out coffin with an escape hatch.  Just don't cremate me!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Excuse me for November.

I'm busy bustin' out a 50,000 word novel.  Or at least I'm trying.  Where's my caffeine?

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's time to give back. Introducing the non-profit.

The C.H.R.I.S. Coalition
“Communities Helping Reintroduce Inmates to Society”

After my mother died in April of a prescription drug overdose, I felt the urge to start a non-profit organization to educate and provide resources to those trying to get help. In the midst of severe emotional pain however, it’s hard to be creative, or to find the drive to figure out all the details as well as the big picture ideas involved in starting a true, game-changing, community enhancing program. Also, I had a lot of things to deal with in cleaning out my mother’s apartment, the final disposition of her body and her estate. Conversations with the funeral home and even checking my own mailbox (where her mail was forwarded) became a chore.

Fast forward to August.

Lying in my bed one night while everyone else was asleep, I decided to surf Netflix for something to occupy my time. I ran across the new Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” Within a week I’d watched all 13 episodes, told everyone I knew about the show, and had bought the memoir by Piper Kerman that started the whole thing.

It’s hard to watch the show without having sympathy for people who have to live in prison. I’ve always been able to find deep empathy for people who are walking a hard road in life, and I am probably one of the most non-judgmental people you’ll ever meet, so I spent hours that week and the next worrying about and ruminating on the plight of people in prison. Especially those non-violent offenders whose crimes all go back to a drug addiction. Maybe they stole to support their habit? Maybe they never had anyone to care enough for them to teach them how to act as a responsible member of society who contributes in a meaningful and positive way.

Then I remembered “Chris.”

I’d heard at a funeral a few years back that a childhood friend of mine was “locked up.” A quick search on the department of corrections website confirmed his incarceration and there staring back at me was his mug shot – a stark contrast to the adorable, fun-loving, helpful kid I knew more than 20 years ago. It was staring into the seemingly hurt gaze on that computer screen that threw the urge for action into the pit of my stomach. You know what I’m talking about…the “knowing” feeling that you have when your life is about to change or take on some new meaning, at least for the foreseeable future.

So I scrawled down his inmate id number and the prison address and wrote him a letter right then, that night.

Five days later I finally got the courage to put it in the mailbox and raise the flag.

Three days after that I realized I’d invested in my old friend emotionally when the sight of the mail truck sent me into hopes that I might actually receive a real, handwritten letter from a guy whom I wondered if he even remembered me! Within a few days more I had my letter. “Chris” was delighted to hear from me, and said he very rarely got mail at all. He also said he was getting out the following month. When he was able to call me on a contraband cell phone floating around the prison shortly after midnight one night, my rapid fire questions about how he was going to arrange all the details of assimilating back into society (i.e. where to live, finding a job, getting back his driver’s license, buying a vehicle, even down to what he’d eat and how he’d clothe himself) he said he’d been working on this planning for the last year. He wanted a job first so he could earn enough money to get his license, then a car, then a place to stay. He told me unequivocally that ten years ago when he lost his mother that he’d lost himself in the process and gotten into things and people that were bad for him. He’d done things he regretted and he knew he had to make some amends. He assured me that he felt changed, wanted to better himself and his life, and never wanted to be locked up again, let alone commit a crime.

When they open the prison doors and let him go, he’ll have all of $35 to his name – the $10 he had to pay when he went in and $25 the state gives a person upon parole. He’ll have a parole officer checking on him periodically to make sure he’s not in trouble, but I can find no other resources readily available for someone who committed a crime, did his or her time, and is now ready and willing and wanting to make a fresh start.

Viola. This was the missing link in my earlier thoughts about a non-profit. “Chris” had a drug problem, which led him to steal in a non-violent way. Millions of people incarcerated today never tried to hurt anyone, but were simply trying to support their own habit. My own mother was never incarcerated, but she did struggle with a drug addiction (illegal and prescription drugs) for nearly 40 years.

Now I can completely envision my non-profit organization designed to provide support and reintegration skills for parolees during their first 3-6 months on the “outside.” Many people fail to think about or realize that if we do not properly equip a person to succeed then we can pretty much expect them to fail. The other thing to remember is not to judge a person before first trying to understand how they got to this point. Most of the time, once you’ve heard their story, the actual crimes they committed don’t become less of a crime, but they do become less relevant in the “big picture” of that person’s life. I’m not talking about big violent crimes here. I’m talking about stealing metal or shoplifting or selling drugs to support a habit. These are all things our society can do without, but how do we expect newly released offenders to become good law abiding citizens when our society gives them virtually no support upon being set free?

I am starting small right now. I want to raise some funds to help “Chris” upon his release, even though he’s not asked for a dime. These are all new concepts for me, but there is a clear and definite need in the here and now. To start, I’ll manage the funds myself and gladly will report back to all who donate on “Chris’s” progress and how the funds are used (in the near future I’ll set up this organization as an official non-profit). If he truly wants to change, and I believe wholeheartedly that he does, then I’d like to be a witness that this can be done. There is a need to fill right here in our community and in our state. As I’ve begun talking to more and more people about my ideas for this non-profit and about simply helping “Chris” I find that most folks know someone who has been in trouble with the law, arrested, locked up, and forgotten about by the penal system. Living conditions in prison are bad. Getting out drives their hopes high, only to feel the most likely fall when there’s no place to go, no job, no car, no health insurance, no food, and no money.

If you have ideas, please share them.
If you have money, please donate a little.
If you have a story, please tell me all about it.
Together we can make a difference.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fear...life's wrecking ball.

I think I've listened to Miley Cyrus' new song Wrecking Ball about fifty times.  No seriously.  It's playing as I type this.  Other than what the radio station plays of hers, I've never been a fan.  But this song speaks to me in a way that no song has in a long time.  Yes there are several songs that remind me of times in my life, make me think of a person or a space in time or a moment that was missed or even fully lived.

But this song has taken me to a point of tears.  Big ones streaming down my face.

This song reminds me of fear.  Yes, fear.  That very deep doubt that permeates every single thing in our lives, causing infinite doubt that we'll never be enough, that we're not right, that we're guilty, that we can't rise above or even stand tall enough to see through the window.

I have lived with that fear for the sum total of my life.  Abandonment and endless critique bestowed upon me this nearly insurmountable gift.  Death, tragedy, and sadness have released me from it.

There are places we come to in life that literally force us to stop and evaluate, regardless of how much we'd love to avoid it, or deny, deny, deny that there's a problem.  The other thing about that soul eating fear is that the very essence of it says we cannot stop to question ourselves or our actions because that makes us even more vulnerable - our bellies are already too soft to even allow a hand on them to soothe us.  The sudden pierce of realization that even though we've tried so hard, have given our every effort to be simply the best, perfect at all and everything, that by god yes we are human and we have screwed up massive amounts of tiny moments in our lives.  That we've made bad decisions.  That we've cheated and lied and hurt others by our own actions, no matter how deeply we regret those things now.

The healing comes when you drag yourself up far enough to feel the sunlight on your face.  That sun and it's warmth tells you that you're still here on Earth.  That you're human and very, very imperfect, and that any other human who ever expected you to be perfect was imperfect as well.  If anyone made you feel that way, then there's a moment they screwed up too.  And hurt you in the process.

But look at you.  Look at me.  You survived and so did I.

Fear will drag you into a dark place so desperate that you will simply find yourself waiting for your godforsaken life to be over.  You'll get to the end sooner and you'll regret not taking chances more, not being who you really were supposed to be in this life, and not being your true, genuine, authentic self.

Do not let fear stand in your way.  And never cover it with substances that alter your consciousness.

You are lovable.  You can love.  You can be a good mother, a good father, a good friend, sister, brother, cousin, lover, wife, husband and every other possible thing you can think of or try to do.  Your limits are set only by you.

Break down your own walls.  Don't let anyone wreck you or your life.
There is always time to change direction.  There is always time to give yourself another chance at love, happiness, enough money, a satisfying career, or the elusive book you want to write.

There is always time to give yourself another chance at the life you want for yourself, whatever that may be.

Don't make the mistake of waiting for someone else to come along and give you the chance.  No one can do that for you.  You must believe in yourself enough to let go of the fear and take your life's bull by the horns.  Pull yourself up by your own efforts and your own faith in yourself.

I thank all that is good in this universe for finally allowing me to think this way, to realize that my life, as crazy and imperfect as it has been...despite all my failures and disappointments...has been right on track from the beginning.  I am good enough just the way I am, because of who I am and all that I know to be.

Guess what?  So. Are. You.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

In remembrance of my mother.

Some might see the space and wonder,
Where is the love?
I see the space and know its there,
Because of the love.

There are things in life we cannot have,
No matter how much we long for them.
In my case, it was you.
It was always you.

There's no strangeness of feeling like being a motherless child.
Where is it that I belong? Who will stand for me today?
A fall, a bruise, a scrape, a tear.  Once in a blue moon -
A broken heart too.

You were somewhere not where I could see.
But that never stopped the longing, nor promises unkept.
Heart's desires can't be contained so easily.
When I sleep I dream. Where are you?

Now I know. You are in that heavenly ethereal place
of love, and peace, and acceptance, and learning.
No more debauchery for you. Nothing to alter your
consciousness but the work your soul must do.

Were you ready to take that leap?

I was not. Could you feel the quickness of my heart?

There's a small unprotected space in me that knows now
that despite the mental toughness, it was you that I wanted all along.

Not necessarily the straight A's or perfect hair or perfect curves
Or eye lined baby blues to bat away a mans attention.
I didn't need anything to complete me but you.
There was always something missing, and I've been chasing it
for thirty eight years.

Turns out it was just you.
You I tried so hard to run from when you finally came around.
What I wanted was gone. Could not be had.

But then again could we?
What if you had actually tried?
Could you have given up all you thought you had
for a minutes more time with me?
Could you have stopped and wondered just a bit more often,
"What is she doing today?"

Did you care?

In your way I know that you cared as much as you could.
And I have accepted my fate as the best laid plans for my life.
There were others who gave me rivers of love.  Rivers.

I didn't know that I was worth any of it though, until you were gone.
There was some destiny in your leaving the first time,
and some magic in your leaving the last time.
When you crossed over to that land-of-endless-mild-and-honey-everything-
is-better-here-place, something happened to me too.

I grew up hard and fast and strong with my teeth gritted and eyes dry
because  you left me.
Now that you're gone again I realize that I'm enough.
Just as I am.
You took that black cloud of self doubt with you.
I can only hope you tore it up and threw it away.
We don't need it anymore.
Let there be some light now.
Light - in knowing everything happens for a reason.
Even the things we believe will wear us to bits
and tear us to shreds.

I am here today - my own woman - no longer in the shadow of your leaving.
No more fear of being  unloved.

I am stronger because you left.  No more empty holes.
I forgive you your lack of presence and love.
I know we will meet again.  I will show you the strength of my heart.

Perhaps there will be a day up there when you get bored
doing whatever it is that souls do in the afterlife.

I'll be here.  When I sleep, I dream.
Come for a visit then, and I'll see you in my dreams.