68 weeks sick.
45 weeks gluten-free.
40 weeks unemployed.
26 weeks on autoimmune diet + supplements.
23 weeks housebound.
This is my update.
For those of you just joining us, six months ago, my doctor put me on a anti-inflammatory diet that is supposedly good for autoimmune conditions.
These are the rules:
- No gluten (that is, no pasta, no muffins, no pizza)
- No grains (that is, no gluten-free bread or baked products, no rice, no popcorn, no tortillas)
- No dairy (that is, no yogurt, no ice cream, no cheese)
- No legumes (that is, no peanut butter, no hummus, no beans)
- No nightshades (that is, no red pasta sauce, no mashed spuds, no hot sauce)
- No sugar (yeah, right)
- Only lean meats and fish
I have been horrifically strict (as in, I won’t eat soup with corn starch in it or the soy yogurts made with rice starch). However, I have allowed myself oats (must have granola for breakfast) and, although I’ll stay away from, say, foie gras, I am eating beef. A lot. Sugar, also, is difficult. I’ve cut down drastically, but I still eat dark chocolate every day and sweeten my granola with honey.
I feel no different from this diet. Besides the fact that I have no joy in food anymore. In my other life, I would have had fun researching recipes and learning to cook with new and interesting ingredients, but I don’t have the energy. I couldn’t stand in the kitchen long enough to cook a meal. So we rely on a lot of salads, stews, roast chicken with veg etc. And I eat more nuts than anyone on the planet and buckets of fruit. Ick.
The other day my husband had a long chat with one of his old friends. Afterwards, he said, “I caught him up on how you are doing.” I scoffed: “So, you told him nothing’s changed?” He said, “Well, no… you’re worse.”
It took me back a bit… Yes, of course I am worse. I can’t do half what I could last summer ~ no dog park, no grocery shopping, no lunches with friends. I am only driving myself to places that are very close, I never have more than one phone conversation a day, I can’t walk as well as I could six months ago ~ my body has degenerated from so little movement. I’m in MUCH more pain ~ my spine, hips and muscles. The fibromyalgia-type pain only started in earnest after I left my job. I look worse. The lack of sun and fresh air have taken a toll on me. My sleep problems and emotional turmoil have aged me.
BUT, although I’m worse, I’m better, too. My sickly, shaky, evil nightly sweats are gone (except for the odd night) and that completely changes my life. I will never be able to adequately put into words what those malarial nights were like. Sleeping with the enemy. Also, my “nightly flu” has gotten better ~ the sudden increase in chills, aches, sore throat at around 6pm. There were so many evenings I would say, Okay, this time I’m really coming down with something. I still have those symptoms, but they are muted. The headaches eased up. Did you watch Mind The Abyss? After watching it, my husband said, “When the headaches came on…the man’s head held in his hands… that’s what struck me the most.” The severity of my headaches and the accompanying noise and light sensitivity altered my life more than perhaps any other symptom. The constant chills are gone… The ice in my bones, shallow breathing, tense muscles, uncontrollable shivers… This time last year, I COULD. NOT. GET. WARM. I rarely progress to the point of “bricked” anymore: where I hit a wall and I am grey, ashen, can’t move, can’t speak, weeping in a ball on the couch. My sleep is still a major concern ~ constant waking and endless adjusting from pain ~ but I get 8+ hours a night and that is a huge step forward. And, finally, my outlook is better. Don’t get me wrong, I mourn A LOT and feel alone and desperately sad (mostly when my symptoms increase), but, I laugh now and there is a semblance of acceptance. There was a point in time when I couldn’t smile. I tried, but they just weren’t there. It wasn’t depression, it was from pain. Pain sucks smiles away. And I had the knowledge that below the pain was the flu and below that was exhaustion and fear and a life I wouldn’t recognise.
I’m trying to forget about 70% of what I know about ME/CFS and follow my heart. So, yesterday, I threw the ball for the dogs and scooped the poop in the yard. Afterwards, I had a much harder time moving, but I thought, “Maybe it’s not a CRASH. Maybe it’s just because your muscles aren’t used to it. Maybe you’ll be okay. Tomorrow is a new beginning.” You never know what someone is going to say that will stick in your brain and help you through the days. My friend Z. suggested I think of new beginnings. Obviously this makes sense in the grand scheme of this new alien life. It’ll never be what it was and I have to eventually look at it as a new beginning and stop fighting it… But, I’m not quite there yet. I’m not ready to embrace this mortal coil as a new, permanent realty. However, every day can hold hope as a new beginning. Every hour. It’s kept me going through a bad week. After this bath, maybe I’ll feel better, maybe a new beginning. After this meditation, a new beginning. This moment, a new beginning.
Today I am grateful for all that is better and new hope for the future.