January 1st, 2014

This day last year, I said 2012 was the worst year of my life. I also stated emphatically that 2013 would look very different. And it did. But not in a good way. In 2012, I was still working for 5 months of the year. I got to spend 11 days with my soul sister, E., when she visited from Dublin. I was able to run errands, go to the dog park, talk on the phone, and see friends for 9 months of 2012. Unfortunately, that all went away. Now, I can safely say 2013 was the worst year of my life.

The details are too difficult and depressing to describe or dwell on, but neither will I paint a silver lining around this dark life. It has been unspeakably difficult, what didn’t kill me did not make me stronger, and I’m not grateful for the lessons I have learned since being sick. I am a sadder, scared-er, weaker, lonelier person and I’d give anything to go back to the ignorance and energy of healthier days.

However, I am much more aware of things I used to take for granted and I am more thankful than I’ve ever been: For every bird, tree, and arc of sunshine. For every single dollar that I saved before the abrupt halt of income. For every time a snort of laughter escapes me; every day that my legs hold me; and every book, film, song that distracts me. For every time someone vents to me about their life or asks for my opinion or feels they can use my muscle-wasted shoulder to cry on. For every time someone braves the thin ice of chronic illness to ask what life is like for us or see how I am feeling or offer to help, knowing full well they risk breaking through to the deep despair beneath.

Most of all, I am thankful for my family. My father, mother, brothers, sister, in-laws, friends, husband and dogs. (Oh, husband and dogs! I am alive today because of you! And I fight for tomorrow because of you.) Each day that they are healthy brings me solace and I experience stark, unfettered joy at every festive Facebook photo of holiday parties, restaurant dinners and energy-filled activities. So, keep singing, fishing, working, exercising and traveling, everyone! And I will live vicariously… Just, please, promise me that you do it with an eyes-wide-open acknowledgement of how short and fragile our journey is on this earth.

Here is my 2013 wrap up:

January: Was sorely disappointed at the Chronic Fatigue Clinic; saw first private doctor, tried cranio-sacral therapy.
February: Not much except stool and saliva tests.
March: Was sorely disappointed at second rheumatologist visit; saw second sleep doctor; had the 4 best days between September, 2012 and now; Zyrtec trial.
April: Got teeth cleaned; started seeing wonderful physical therapist; started the awful process of getting an oral appliance for sleep apnea which still hasn’t happened, almost 9 months later; Seriphos trial; started Chinese herbs.
May: New nephew R. was born; saw dermatologist; phophatidylserine trial; Nasonex trial; tried Tizanidine; turned 40; dear friend E.S. died far too young.
June: My mother and D. visited; saw cardiologist; tried valarian; started Unisom; Gabapentin trial; added rice back to my diet.
July: My father visited; stopped weekly therapy; stopped phone calls for the most part; stopped Chinese herbs.
August: Stopped eating soy, citrus; added lentils, garbanzo beans; tried Trazodone; stopped all vitamins and supplements; J. and Z. gave me a scooter: my ticket to some freedom.
September: My mother and brother, T. visited; abdominal pain started; husband’s family visited; celebrated 15th anniversary.
October: Brother A. visited; saw ENT doctor; saw “environmental” doctor; saw neurologist; had bad reaction to Unisom; tried Xanax; Zetonna trial; had hellish 2-week repercussions to autonomic testing.
November: Tried low-histamine diet for 5 weeks; methylation pathway, mycotoxin and adrenal tests; started vitamins again and Metagenics shakes; tried iv fluids and caused anaphylactoid reaction; another zyrtec trial; saw allergist; steps per day decreased below 700 and haven’t come back up.
December: New nephew G. was born; Christmas with sister; saw ophthalmologist; started juicing; tried Ativan.

Like last year, there were births, deaths, doctors, drugs, symptoms, setbacks and disappointments. And, like last year, what I see when I look at this is how lucky I am to have family that would travel across the city, country or ocean to visit me in my home and offer love and support, without judgement.

Happy new year to you all. 2014, please look different than 2013 ~ only in a good way.

Hubby sweeping in the new year, a family tradition. :)

Hubby sweeping in the new year, a family tradition. 🙂

Remember the little moments,

like this,

that were good.

Cheers.

~James Gandolfini in The Sopranos R.I.P.

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all the logic and language and loss

I was hoping to start feeling better again before I wrote anything, but this downturn is lasting longer than I thought it would. It’s not horrific. I’m not confined to the bed or couch, but, I’m not walking in the garden or doing my stretches ~ my two forms of activity. I’m basically just shuffling around the house, very Tin Man. Easter was the beginning of the slump, with symptoms aggravated by a teeth cleaning last week. I had been putting it off for a few months, thinking it was not a smart expenditure of energy, but, when I was having my good week, I made an appointment.

I looked online beforehand, but I couldn’t find any firsthand accounts of the ramifications of teeth cleanings on people with ME. Unfortunately, I can’t really give an accurate account because I compounded the effects by ~ I know, I’m an idiot ~ driving myself downtown to the appointment and chatting way too much to the hygienist because I wanted to fill her in on my situation (I’ve been going to the same dental clinic for over a decade).

I thought the drive would be straightforward and I didn’t want to ask my husband to take the day off work. Big mistake. Again. The problems started while I was walking from the elevators to the dental office. My heart rate was over 120 bpm and I had to stop walking repeatedly. This was a short hallway and I felt ridiculous stopping every two steps to wait for my heart to calm down. I wasn’t nervous about the appointment, so I think it was because I was carrying my purse… That’s my theory. The cleaning itself was fine. I asked her to be very gentle and skip the floss. The worst part was coming back upright after being tipped fully head-down in the chair for so long. But I recovered quickly from the momentary vertigo and went home.

That night I was curled in a ball on the kitchen floor, crying, feeling like I was dying, dogs swarming around me, wondering what was wrong. I told my husband, “Never let me drive downtown again, no matter how strong I say I’m feeling.” I tried to figure out the reason: Was it because I drove too far again? Or because my heart was running full steam? Or because I talked too much? Or the after-effects of the position I was in ~ akin to a tilt-table test? Or the actual cleaning ~ the release of bacteria, the micro-abrasions? I’m always trying to tease apart cause and effect, but there are too many confounding variables and logic doesn’t lend itself to this disease. Logically, with more rest and more sleep, with a better diet and fewer toxins, with less stress and more mindful awareness, I should be feeling better than I ever have. But my temperance is obviously outweighed by the marauding lifestyle of my viral invaders and the intemperate rage of my immune system.

Happily, my hygienist said she thought it would be fine to push my next cleaning out a year since I am taking such good care of my teeth. There is nothing like a chronic illness to get you to floss every day and never go without your mouth guard ~ I don’t want any preventable problems complicating my current situation.

I didn’t feel as bad the next day, but then my period came. This is now my fourth almost-painless period since coming off the pill in December and, believe you me, I am rejoicing every minute of fearless, crampless menstruation. I spent SO many years dreading the monthly… planning my life around it… so, this positive change in my body does not go unnoticed. However, the ME/CFS symptoms definitely flare up each month ~ the usual uterine pain has just walked around to my lower back. And my coccyx: the absolute southern-most point of my spine is killing me. That baffles me.

Since getting my period, I have had a headache. I haven’t had a headache in so long ~ especially one that goes to sleep with me and is still there when I wake. I’m not happy with this bedfellow ~ I was hoping, since the husband and dogs have been relegated to different beds, I would only be sleeping with the dust mites that could survive my weekly washing ~ so, again, I’m trying to analyse the cause: Is the headache from my period? The new Seriphos supplement? The new licorice tea? Pollen allergies? Neck tension? Bad sleep? But, all other symptoms have increased, too: I’ve had more of the usual inflamed, painful, stiff muscles. The hot/cold issues. Feeling like I’m coming down with something… sore throat … you all know the deal. And I had two nights of slight night sweats. This struck the fear of god into me. Besides the muscle issues and heavy dragging exhaustion, these are symptoms that had left me. Yesterday, I started begging aloud: Please don’t let it come back, PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE...

For a few months I have been watching the texture of my skin change. It’s bumpy ~ different than anything I’ve experienced in 40 years. I was convinced it was my extremely high-fat diet, so I ignored it. Who cares? I have bigger fish to fry. But it’s getting steadily more alarming and during these last few weeks of hormonal fluctuations, it has bloomed into an acne-braille mash-up that, when coupled with the lack of muscle tone, weight gain, sleep-deprived eyes, thin hair showing a year’s worth of grown out roots (with so much grey!), has me recoiling from mirrors. I told my doctor that I felt like that scene in The Exorcist where the skin on the girl’s stomach spells out “help me“. It was like the needle slid across the record… The Good Doctor and her trainee internist looked at me with heads cocked and eyebrows furrowed and I could hear the clock’s second hand ticking around… “Oh, nevermind,” I said. “I just mean my body is trying to tell me something.” My point was, there has to be a logical explanation. My body is pushing  from the inside out into every pore and I should be able to read its message. I should, after all these years, know its language.

So creepy... So sorry.

So creepy… So sorry.

A few happy notes to help get that image out of your head: our Cherry Blossom tree is in full bloom, raining salubrious pink petals all over the garden. My sleep is ever so slightly better. I’m starting Chinese herbs next week and will probably add back legumes to my diet after that. I managed to organise all of our finances for tax time. My husband’s sleep apnea is nothing to worry about. A bird just hopped by my window with a tuft of what was obviously my dog’s golden hair held in its beak and I’m thrilled to think, after how much he has terrorised them, that his fur will do a little community service in a nest somewhere. My friend Z. and her beautiful baby girl came to visit yesterday. My family is healthy. And Game of Thrones has started.

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