Remember to notice the good times.

I would like to mention some good times so nobody thinks the sadness sticks around all the time. Today, I managed to briefly meet friends and go to a very long doctor appointment and still had energy for the dog park. It was sunny and warm and there weren’t very many people there. Once again, I found myself smiling while walking –maybe even strutting— and listening to my music. There’s something liberating about walking in a tank top with the sun shining, a breeze blowing and not being at all cold. At least it’s liberating for someone who spends their life in close contact with either a hot water bottle, hot tub, electric blanket or electric vest (which is made for motorcycle riders, but is wondrous for freezing freaks like I). Speaking of, there was this one day years ago when my husband and I were riding our motorbikes on a hot day through the mountains. I took off my leather jacket and, for the first and only time in my life, I dared to drive fast on the country highway wearing only a tank top (and leather pants and a helmet, duh), with the wind racing over me and the sun beating down on me… My god, I will never forget that feeling. Oddly, today, smiling and strutting slowly in the park, it felt a little bit like that day on the motorbike: a lot slower and safer, but still the freedom, peace, and sun in a tank top.

I thought, “the sun feels like it is physically penetrating my neck and taking away the pain”, so I went with it: I imagined that it truly could. I concentrated on that warmth and willed it to fix me. I pretended it was a known procedure with proven results and I let the sun rays massage my muscle rotten spots (they feel like they must look like rotten spots on an apple) and decided that tomorrow I was going to start winning. I am exhausted, I have a crushing headache as per-usual, and I’m currently going through a fever phase, but, I swear, this illness won’t win. I won’t feel terrible tomorrow and it doesn’t get to make me depressed. I’ll be sad when I feel like crap, I’ll still undoubtedly have a roller coaster of emotions and my commitment will falter, but, I got this. The sun gave it to me.

I am grateful for the sun.
Little darling, it’s going to be a long cold lonely winter.

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LDN Day 26… Kind of want to quit.

I don’t know what to do. It’s almost been a month on low-dose naltrexone. I don’t feel good. I don’t even feel better. I think it might be making me depressed, but it’s hard to tell because just the sheer length of this illness with no answers is enough to make anyone depressed. I have a headache EVERY SINGLE DAY. I wince when the dogs bark, when there’s a loud tv show, when my husband is putting dishes away… everything hurts my head. But that isn’t really out of the norm ~ just more than usual. Is the LDN causing the sleep disorder, depression and headache? How do I know? I kind of want to quit taking the birth control pill (the idea fills me with terror) and the LDN. Then… what? Go down the benzodiazepine and opiate rabbit hole? That scares me more than anything.

I’ve had 6 crappy hours sleep each of the last 3 nights. My muscles hurt so badly. My temperature is a roller coaster ~ 97.2 to 99.7 degrees and back again within an hour. I think I’ll get my thyroid levels checked today just in case, although, they are always fine. I’m meeting my old bosses today and I have no idea what I’m going to say. I guess I just want to know if I’d ever be welcome back in a different position if I kicked this… What if I can never work again? My god, I can barely think about it. Maybe what I should be doing is planning a new career that allows me to work from home. I can work when I can work. Laura Hillenbrand did it. Maybe I should just start writing a book and hope it makes money. Ha.

LDN Day 22…God is music.

I knew I should have posted something last night while I was feeling good… Yes, I dared to say good. I was dizzy and my neck hurt and my nose and eyes were driving me nuts blah blah blah, but, there was this moment at the dog park where I caught myself almost skipping, looking at the sunlight and glimpses of blue sky coming through the trees, humming along to music on my headphones, and SMILING. I felt normal. I felt joy. I felt hope. I thought, for the thousandth time, Maybe things have shifted. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of my affliction. Maybe I’ll be able to get up tomorrow and write, “I’m getting better, I slept well, I have hope for a future and career. Hooray for LDN and supplements and…life!”

Well, I’m not feeling so great this morning, of course. I actually had night sweats last night for the first time in weeks. After 10 hours in bed, my Zeo tells me I got exactly 6 hours sleep. I woke up with a bad headache, my muscles hurt, I’m really grumpy and I am the farthest thing from refreshed, but I have this leftover glow from yesterday. It’s like waking up with a really bad hangover, but knowing that you spent the night drinking with a wonderful guy and can’t wait to do it again.

I pray that this upward trajectory continues. I have to stop therapy because of money concerns and my insurance on massage therapy has run out. The low-dose naltrexone is $60/month (not covered by insurance, of course) and I want to be able to afford it for a while longer. I still haven’t finished the laundry I vowed to complete days ago ~ that will happen today ~ but I tidied the house and made oat bars yesterday (details on my next diet post), so those small things make me feel accomplished.

My husband went to a wedding yesterday without me. It wound up being a huge reunion of his late father’s family. I would have loved to have gone and met everyone. I feel like a ghost, like a figment of his imagination. I spent so many years pouring myself into work and now, when I have the time to pour myself into friends and family, I’m physically unable to participate. Cruel joke. Dear Friends and Family: I am participating from afar. I look at every picture, I read every email, I look at all Facebook posts, I cherish every piece of mail. If I don’t reply enough or call enough or show up enough, please know that YOU are the most important thing to me. You all keep me going, keep me hopeful, keep me grateful and compassionate, and allow me to meditate on what is truly important.

Finally, I am grateful for music. This year, whenever I have found myself lost in some good feeling, inevitably, I have my headphones on…

As the great Kurt Vonnegut said:

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.

LDN Day 14… What if I never get better?

Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever get better. If I believed that 100%, I don’t think I could keep going, but sometimes — maybe 3 or 4 times each week — I am hit by the thought that this illness might actually never go away. It hits me like a freight train. What if I can never do the things I want to do again? And my desires are pretty simple. I want to be able to sit and have dinner with my father, husband, sister and her boyfriend and not feel sick. I want to be able to engage in a conversation with my family (or to laugh — imagine!) for longer than an hour without feeling like death. I want my body to not get so chilled to the bone that I can barely form sentences — when everyone else is in tshirts. I want to be able to hug people and sit near people without being afraid that they are going to get me sick(er). Is that too much to ask? Is it too much to hope that I will one day be well enough to engage in those simple pleasures? It’s not like I want to climb mountains or deep sea dive or walk the Wall of China. I just want to be able to enjoy time with those I love.

Today I took it easy all day, stored my energy up so I could visit with my Dad this evening. I sat in the sun, letting it bake me, hoping it could scorch my very bones, heat my body up enough to keep my core smoldering into the evening… I meditated, felt pretty good…. Within half an hour of visiting with my family, the chill came on, then the headache, sore throat, nose started running, chest got tight… My nightly flu. I think I lasted two hours and then abruptly left. Thank god for my husband, I wouldn’t have been able to drive. I took a hot Epsom salt bath and I feel better, more stable, but I have to go straight to bed now. And I’m sad. It makes me so sad. All the people in my immediate family — Mother, Father, Brothers, Sister — are healthy. There may be things I don’t know, but, nothing major. My Dad is going to be 70 next month — he looks great. My Mom is going to be 68 in a few months — she is more physically active than I am. I had recurrent pneumonias as an infant and asthma as a toddler and an undiagnosed thyroid problem as an adult. Is that what set me up for this nonsense? Or is it my Type A, perfectionist, workaholic, control-freak personality, coupled with a high-stress, long-houred job, coupled with the fact that I never exercised, didn’t eat too well and never slept?

Genetic predisposition + unfortunate lifestyle + poor career choice + a brain that never shuts off = Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Lucky me.

It’s been two weeks — why isn’t the low-dose naltrexone my miracle drug?

Almost forgot: Gratitude.
I am grateful for my amazing, brilliant, witty, intelligent, savvy, caring, supportive FAMILY. Lucky me (no sarcasm this time).

The evils of CFS/ME

One of these days I’ll write a post about the background of my sickness and the evils of CFS/ME. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be normal again. Beyond the obvious symptoms of this disease, there are some comparatively minor, but majorly disheartening issues that come along with it. Noise sensitivity, light sensitivity, LIFE sensitivity. I don’t want to be in crowds or in loud places or around a bunch of kids or in hospitals. The toll these places and stimuli take on my body is different — but just as severe — as physical exercise. Here are some recent examples:

My aforementioned trip to the dog park yesterday. I was weepy, breathless, irritated. Dogs barking and jumping on me caused me to wince and flinch. I avoided eye contact with everyone lest they try to make small talk or ask what kind of dog I have (a very tall Rhodesian ridgeback – he gets a lot of attention).

My husband and I went to see a movie. We sat in the middle, as usual, but the screen was too big for me to focus on, so we moved further back. Ten minutes later, we had to leave because the volume left me in extraordinary pain. Afterwards, I burst into tears. I felt rattled, shaken, headachy, fuzzy. I felt like I’d been in a war zone for ten minutes.

I went to a baseball game when my best friend was visiting from out of town. The noise was torture. The crowd, overwhelming. The heat, when sitting in the sun, made me feel faint. The chill of the shade made me feel sick. I meditated with my eyes closed to give myself strength, then basically went straight home to bed.

Today, I went to the grocery store. This place is huge. Bananas are half a world away from the strawberries. I went in with a list, worked as quickly as possible, but, it was crowded — families everywhere, carts colliding — I gave up eventually, went back to the car and let me husband check out. I thought I would pass out or puke or both.

There have been so many instances like this. It’s not anxiety or phobia or fear causing it, but, of course, now there is anxiety wondering how a situation will affect me. And wondering whether I will ever be normal again. Whether I will ever again have a high threshold for bright lights, loud noises, multiple conversations or big crowds. I want to be able to go to a concert or the cinema. I want to be able to watch fireworks or go to a party. I want to be able to go to a mall or a grocery store or an airport. I caught a sensitivity virus. Sensitivity to noise, lights, sound, heat, cold, foods, drugs, alcohol, chemicals, animals, touch… I don’t want to be a hermit or antisocial. I don’t want to live in peace and quiet! … I’m forced to.

If, one day, you see my screaming and dancing in a mosh pit at some extremely loud rock concert, just know it is a good thing: I am jumping for joy.