Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

It’s like I flew to the Caribbean over night. I just sat in the sun for an hour, wearing only a tank top and shorts. I had to come inside in case I was in jeopardy of getting a sunburn. Sunburn?! A few days ago, it was snowing! And it is only meant to get hotter through the weekend. It definitely lifts my spirits. Although, you know how odd it is when you have a cold during the summer? That’s how I feel. I took my bad turn for the worse at the end of last summer, so it feels all wrong to be sick in the heat. Intense spring sun is meant to energize and bring a low hum of excitement and vibrancy. Instead, my head is full of cotton balls, my body is swollen, throat is scratchy and my muscles are extremely stiff. But, it’s warm out… focus on the positive!


And, speaking of positive moments, I thought I should let you all know that I felt good yesterday. Yesiree, I said GOOD. I drove myself to an appointment that was only about ten minutes from my house. I stopped at a store and got lunch from the deli (this is the first time I have walked into any building but a clinic or hospital in months). I walked around the garden with my dogs. I stayed awake until 11pm and actually felt okay after 6pm ~ able to watch a movie, able to laugh.

There always has to be an unfortunately and, unfortunately, my night was quite tortured. I stopped wearing the cpap about a week ago as an experiment. My allergies flared up and I was too stuffy and inflamed in my sinuses to use the nasal masks (the alternative is a full-face mask, but mine is extremely bulky and wakes me up as I thrash around). My brain during sleep fascinates me. I would love to see an fMRI of the whole night. I would love to do a sleep study in my own bed and really see what happens from minute to minute. My brain is on fire. It is infected by unease. In the brief moments of waking ~ like surfacing periodically from quicksand ~ before the incubus’s long fingers push me down into unconsciousness again, I feel somehow crazed, like the mental version of wild-eyed. I am tensed against the cold or curled on the edge of the mattress, trying to avoid the heat. I am clawing my way out of nightmares that are always about running from whatever is trying to kill me or desperately needing a rescue, with no hope of help.


If I had to objectively interpret what is going on beyond the obvious fear/loss of control dreaming, I would say perhaps I do need a prescription remedy to calm whatever chemicals are misfiring or maybe I am low on some neurotransmitters and, just like I take thyroid hormones everyday, I should be taking something to regulate brain chemicals… But that’s just it: they’re BRAIN chemicals. That’s scary. And it’s such a crap shoot. What Rx to choose?

So, I am at peace with my current stubborn obstinacy to sleep meds and maybe, if I ever take that step, I will wish that I had done it sooner, but I refuse to regret my choices.

As if to reinforce my thoughts, when I called the closest hearing aid store to inquire about custom-fitted earplugs, the lady that answered the phone told me she had taken half an Ambien and wound up in an ambulance to the ER, with doctors thinking she had had a stroke.

Anyway, I don’t know what the no-cpap experiment shows. I feel like I’m sleeping a little better and I think my Zeo graphs show slightly better sleep cycles, but I feel worse when I wake up and during the day. More tired and stiff and groggy and beaten up. Maybe it’s just allergies. My husband is watching tv with tissues shoved up his nose, so I know it’s definitely in the air.



My friend asked why she hadn’t heard from Elizabeth in a while, so I thought I’d give a quick update. The good news is, my sleep continues to improve. It is a goddamn miracle. I cannot tell you how poor my sleep has been my whole life and this last year was like someone was intentionally torturing me. I was in bed more than ever, but sleeping less than ever. Unfortunately, I was awake in bed alone, for those of you that might think “in bed but not sleeping” is some euphemism for sex. As you may remember, I have posted sleep graphs from my Zeo that show nights with either huge chucks of “awake” through the night or I wake up over and over again, interrupting the regular, beautiful sleep cycle. The sleep study said my brain woke up 49 times an hour. Maybe, if I got hooked up to all those sensors again, I would still have waking brain activity of which I’m not aware, but I doubt it would be bad. For weeks after my last post about sleep, I was getting about 7 1/2 to 7 3/4 hours a night. The last 5 nights I have slept between 8 and 9 hours each night. But the best part is, the last few nights I have only woken up a few times ~ 2 or 3. My god, that’s bliss. Imagine turning off the light and, 9 1/2 hours later, you’ve had 9 hours sleep. WhawhAAT? This was last night:


I still don’t know what changed besides drinking tart cherry juice, so, although it has a high sugar content, I will continue to drink it each night with dinner. My real theory, though, is that my sleep is a product of the same thing that has caused me not to write a blog in a while: a quieter mind. When my brain won’t turn off, I want to write everything I think and I never feel peaceful enough to drift into slumber. So, maybe it’s my daily meditation or maybe I’m just tired of the fight, but this is life now and I think I’ve found a tiny bit of quiet. No doctor is going to make a miraculous discovery and this will not be a quick process. I have to rest. Full stop.

Unfortunately, the sleep has not helped my waking symptoms. I’ve actually been feeling worse this past week than I have since December 26th. My pain, achiness and stiffness has increased and my energy has declined. After having virtually no headache for about a week, it came back a few days ago. Wow, does that make a difference in my mood. I can still feel pretty upbeat and functional with all the other symptoms, but the headache decimates me, renders me silent and grimacing. “Decimate” technically means only destroying a tenth of something, right? What would be, say, half of something? Headaches quintimate me? Or septimate me? Would that be destroying 70% of me? Much better.

My Mom told me something that has kept me going lately. In one of the hundreds of articles I sent her, she read that if you are without pain for even one day, there is hope that you can be permanently pain-free. I do not hold out hope for pain-free, but that little gem of information has made me think that there could come a time when there are more pain-free days than crippled-and-crying days.

I’ll leave you all with good news. My period came and went and I didn’t have to take a single painkiller. It wasn’t painless by any means, but it was tolerable. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the new diet, maybe it’s all the supplements. Also, I am seeing a new doctor this week. The universe sort of conspired to introduce me to him, so I’m heeding the hint and trying one. more. specialist. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gratitude: For painless days that allow me to laugh and for good nights’ sleep.

irish proverb

Celebrate Average Eight

I don’t get to stay up late even though it’s new year’s eve. One bad night is like poking holes in a dam: For each disruption in the night, for each minute of sleep lost, the dam that holds the symptoms at bay springs a leak. If I can’t plug the holes quicker than they form, the whole barrier might crumble and fall… And the tsunami will come crashing down. So, I’m in bed, pretending I’m in New York and it’s already past midnight.

I’m ending this year on a relative high. These are the hours of sleep I’ve had in the last week:


For those of you that know me, you probably realise that this has never happened in my life. 8 hours of sleep is unheard of. 9 hours is unthinkable. Perhaps as a child I slept well, but I don’t think so. Since I can remember, I’ve been trying to replenish my appalling sleep deficit… Years upon years upon years… Everything wakes me: my husband snoring, the dog scratching, the heater moaning, footsteps, a crack of light, a car door slamming, the bathroom fan. And, once awake, I’m screwed. My brain is on high-speed from the first second: replaying conversations, making to-do lists, thinking about who I’ve neglected and what chores need doing, rewriting tv shows, writing blog posts, remembering everything I’ll just forget again once I get up.

I’ve worn my Zeo head band for years. When I was working 50 to 60 hours a week, I averaged 6 hours- or just under- of sleep over the course of about a year. When I was working in the corporate office, I managed to get my average up to almost 7 hours a night. Today, after this last month, it is 8. Eight! Lucky 8! I want to celebrate my eight! But I won’t. I’ll go to sleep and the rest of you can let off a bunch of fireworks and get drunk and kiss each other – all in honour of my sleep accomplishment this week. Oh, and 2013, too. Bring it on. Good riddance, 2012. May we all stay healthy or become healthier in the new year. That’s my only resolution: I resolve to kick M.E.’s ass. I am not gonna be that little Dutch boy with my finger in the dam no more!

Happy New Year, World!

An Update on my day-to-day…

Here is an update for those of you that have tried to contact me. I’m okay. Not great, but okay. After the Worst Headache, I had an up-swing for two weeks, feeling like I had more energy, less pain, more mobility and JOY. Today is day 14 of the subsequent down-swing. I have been struggling. I’m in constant pain, which gets worse in the evening. I have a headache and sore throat every day, my neck and my lower back are stiff, inflamed, screaming. There are jolts up and down my spine. My hands ache, my jaw is tender and I don’t even recognise my eyes anymore. Sunken and puffy, swollen, red, dry and circled with purple. I’ve had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, I’ve only been able to do my stretches every other day, I’ve only been able to do 2 to 6 laps of the house, I’ve been walking somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 steps each day. I haven’t been sleeping very well and my deep sleep keeps dwindling (according to the Zeo). However, I’m still walking, I’m still talking, I’m still sitting at a computer, I’m still bathing myself and making my way around the house. I’m still breathing. Focus on the positive!

I continue to use the CPAP, but I’m still having difficulty. The nose pillows-with-tape-over-my-mouth routine allows me to move around in my sleep and rest my head on its side, but I wake constantly from the air inflating my cheeks or traveling around my gums. It is the weirdest thing. I will wake up because there is a worm of air crawling its way along the outside of my bottom teeth. It will journey along my gum line in the front of my mouth and find a tiny outlet between my lips to whistle its way out. Or, I will awaken with one cheek suddenly puffed out, ballooned with air. Or, my whole mouth will inflate so I look like a chipmunk ~ with a mask plugging my nose and tape over my mouth, I expect my ears and eyes to bulge out like those squeezy rubber dolls we played with as kids.

Also, the tape is wreaking havoc on the skin around my mouth and the inside of my nose is raw and sore. None of that happens with the full face mask, but I can’t turn on my side without it moving, air escaping and me waking. Unbelievably,  the former situation is the lesser of two evils. Far fewer mask parts to wash, too. The washing of the CPAP parts is a huge ordeal for someone with ME. It is not an easy chore and almost negates the better sleep I am meant to be getting. The dental device that my father recommended costs $600 – $800, which I would spend if I could be guaranteed it would work. For right now, I just don’t have the energy to tackle a new appointment with a new dentist to get a new device.

The last few nights I have awakened in the throes of the full-body flex that I have talked about before. It’s as if there is an arc of electricity going through my body: back arched, toes curled, arms and legs rigid, hands in fists. I have thrown my neck out this way before. I now wonder if a muscle relaxant taken before bed is the answer for this. I’ve taken 1mg of melatonin a few nights this last week and I think it might help a little (or maybe it’s the placebo effect), but not enough. I should have taken my GP up on the offer for Ambien or Traxodone or Flexeril, but I’m such a scaredy-cat. It has to stop, though. I don’t think I’ll improve without pharmaceutical intervention. I’ve been taking tylenol with codeine every day the last few weeks and it’s not very effective at the low doses I like to take ~ plus, it gives me a kind of hangover. On Monday, I start Cymbalta. Duh duh duuuhhhhh….. Please don’t let me chicken out. I need to try something. My doctor said to expect to feel crappy for the first few weeks. But, in theory, it should help with the chronic pain, sleep and anxiety.

I continue my no-dairy-no-gluten-no-eggs-no-most-grains diet. I enjoyed starchy veg and popcorn over the last week, but, starting today, I am removing them from my diet again. I might be removing rice and/or oats, too. I am going to talk to the Good Doctor about that on Monday. After a lecture from my husband about what systemic yeast overgrowth might look/feel like, I am also going to try a little more diligently to cut down on sugar in all forms ~ fruit juice, dried fruit, Theo chocolate bars, agave syrup in my granola, cane sugar in my almond milk etc.

I sit here looking out the window at my husband in the garden, pruning our plum tree. He is tireless. Even when he has no work, he never stops working. He rakes leaves and mows the lawn and scoops poop. He shuttles me to and from appointments, does the shopping, cooks dinner. He washes dishes, hoovers, puts on sheets. In the past few years, he has rewired the house, replumbed the house, put in under-floor heating, cleaned out the rat shit and reinsulated the attic, built a second bathroom, expanded the first, built a shed for a new water heater and installed it himself. He landscaped our whole garden with an expertise that knew what it would look like in years to come ~ if he planted certain shrubs, trees and flowers in certain places at certain times of the year, given time, it would be a masterpiece. He built and tends the vegetable garden, he repaired our chimney and built me a porch with a little heater so I could get some daylight in the winter. He deals with his own physical problems and health issues and never complains. My brother called him a saint. My mother called him a hero. I call him a life saver. Without a shadaw of a doubt, I wouldn’t still be here without him. Gratitude is too small of a word.

An update for everyone…

I am still feeling stronger than I was a month and a half ago, but still so much worse than two and a half months ago. My energy level is holding steady. I’m able to walk 2,000 – 3,000 steps and have about 12 usable hours each day. I’m able to do house chores, work on the computer, watch TV and read. I’ve walked seven laps of our house the last two days and been able to play a little bit with the dogs. The last time I got hit by stronger pain and fatigue was when I cooked a meal that had me standing in the kitchen for an hour, chopping veg etc. That took its toll.

My pain level has also been steady since the Worst Headache. My muscles ache, my joints are stiff, my neck is always in pain, my head always hurts to some degree, but, in the last two weeks, I have not been immobilised, I’ve not been reduced to tears of helplessness. However, I do keep resorting to Solpadeine (acetaminophen/codeine). Not a lot ~ a quarter to a half of a dose to take the edge off ~ but, I’m aware that the longer chronic pain goes untreated by long-term pharmaceutical therapy (ie: drugs that change brain chemistry, like antidepressants or anticonvulsants), the harder it is to get on top of the problem. So, I have to stop the Solpadeine and start experimenting with long-term solutions.

My sleep is still poor. “Unhygienic”, as the doctors like to say. Sleep hygiene is very important! I have switched to the “nasal pillows” with the CPAP. It’s the mask that shoots straight up your nostrils as opposed to covering your nose or covering your nose AND mouth. It has a much lower profile, fewer parts, more minimal headgear, so it makes sleeping on my side much, much easier. But, if/when you open your mouth, a hollowing wind pours out. The air going up your nose comes straight out your mouth rather than going down your throat. You can feel your uvula flapping and it makes you kind of choke. I keep waiting for a colony of bats to fly out of my mouth… or a high-speed freight train. It’s like Charlize Theron sucking the soul out of those girls in that awful Huntsmen film… Or, even better, the dude in The Green Mile sucking the bad stuff out of me!! Anyway, with the nasal pillows, I have been taping my mouth closed with athletic tape. Yes, it’s true. It worked wonderfully for the first few hours, but, what you don’t know is, when you put tape over your mouth and go to sleep, you DROOL. A lot. Or maybe it’s the humidified water coming through the nose and condensing at the lips… Either way, it wakes you up and, when you pull the tape off, on top of hurting your delicate facial skin, you dribble and your mouth is all wet. Gross. They have chinstraps to keep your mouth closed, but, honestly, I can’t take one more strap around my head. Someone suggested I wear swimming goggles to stop my eyes from being dry and burny in the morning, so imagine this: Zeo headband, mouth guard, swimming goggles, CPAP mask, chinstrap, and tape over my mouth… Really?

Physically, my eyes are swollen and bloodshot (I think it is actually the pressurised air drying my eyes from behind ~ from inside ~ because there is no leak on my mask blowing up into my eyes), inside my nose is raw, ears are plugged and my throat is sore. All from the CPAP. Other than that, I’m having IBS issues again. I think it is because of the iron supplement and also because I have been adding back foods I haven’t had in months. Which brings me to my diet…

I am in the middle of a very long elimination diet. It’s been ten weeks since I eliminated all legumes, grains (except oats), dairy, starchy veg, fatty meat (kinda), eggs and tomatoes. And I’ve been gluten-free for seven months. So far, I have “challenged” myself with dairy, eggs, rice, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. I think rice, tomatoes and sweet potatoes are okay, but I am going to continue to eliminate dairy and eggs. After eating dairy, I became extremely exhausted ~ that indescribable inability to move or speak… So, I am going to re-challenge dairy and eggs down the road. Corn is next to be added in (oh dear lord, I can’t wait for popcorn) and then beans…

I’m back to acupuncture and using the light box, but still haven’t started Lyrica and I’m still waiting on supplements (besides iron and vitamin D and B). After talking to Z, my best friend here in Seattle, my goal is to be able to celebrate a teeny, tiny Thanksgiving. We spend every year at Z and her husband’s house and now they have a new baby. I was going to tell them that I’m not doing holidays this year, but she said, “What if we brought the mountain to Mohammad? We could come to your house and only stay as long as you’re up for it. Maybe an hour, maybe the whole afternoon and early evening…” I’m scared because I know I will want to put a bunch of effort into it ~ cook, clean the house, interact, talk, laugh, play games etc. ~ but, if I can hold myself back and relax and just think of it as a visit as opposed to THANKSGIVING, I should be okay. It made me want to cry that she would want to keep the holiday spark aglow and cart the whole family to our house. Good friends stick by you, even in housebound sickness.

I became sick exactly one year ago this week. I left work exactly six months ago last Friday. I will never stop trying to get better, I will never stop looking for my next career, I will never be okay or content with this new life, but I think maybe I’ve reached acceptance. And, for that, I am grateful. Emotionally, I’m calm. I have a lot of fear, but I’m not depressed, anxious or despairing. This is it. One day at a time.