Beyond Survival

It seems like I haven’t posted in forever, so I had to take a moment to step back, relax for a moment and share with you.

Life has been chaotic, to say the least, and I’ll spare you the details. As I’ve mentioned before it is a truly difficult time in my life, based on circumstances not related directly to my mental health issues or my physical health, but all end up woven together somehow no matter what in the end. At any rate, I’m surviving.

Since I last told you all I was job searching, I don’t think I mentioned that I did, in fact, obtain additional employment! The way things worked out is nothing short of miraculous really, and I have to say that I largely have this blog to thank for it, as well as some major blessings from above, the universe, and all goodness in the world. God is good. Even when things seem bleakest, life is filled with presents (sometimes small) that keep it all going in a somewhat melodious way. Life isn’t a love song right now, but there is still music. And wow, I’m thankful for that! Both metaphorically and literally. At some of the hardest times in my life (dealing with depression) I have been unable to enjoy music, one of my absolute most favorite pleasures.

I’m a testament to you all, really, that good things do happen and life living with fibromyalgia and mental health issues can still be alright. I didn’t say easy, but alright. I’m not going to say that everything is peachy and living a beautiful life is what it’s all about at the moment, but it is very much at the heart of who I am, always. I’m demanding more of myself, my body, and my mind than I have had to for a very long time, but I am also treating my body better than I have in a very long time. I’m making it. I’m not sulking, (not too much anyway) and I’m not giving up.

There are still some very tough transitions ahead. There are some difficult choices I have to make in the near future. I am not looking at the finish line any time soon, but I feel like I’m going to get there, that I’m going to somehow make it to a time of more peace, to a new kind of living that is healthier and happier than I have known for a long time. I don’t know what it all will look like, but I believe that I will get there.

(Perhaps it’s a good thing I haven’t blogged on the days when I haven’t felt like I was going to make it, because there have been many!)

If my post seems redundant of things I’ve said before, that’s okay, because I have to keep reminding myself of the good, the good that’s now and the good to come. If I put it down in writing, then, you know, it’s really there. Plus, you need the reminder too, right?

Sharing My Mindful Moment

A drop of water frozen by flash
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It’s Day 17 of WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge and the prompt for today is to write a mindful moment, to live it and share it without making it all pretty, focused and edited. So, I’m going to share this moment with you, mindfully and forgive me it is nonsensical!

Curling toes into the soft cotton sheets. I’m in my writer’s pose, laptop on my lap, propped up on my thighs, I feel the burden of its weight and it’s warmth. My back and upper body sinking and supported by pillows, I am not comfy, but at ease. Most of my weight is lifted by pillows. It feels good under my arms and neck and head. I don’t have to use extra effort to hold those parts at attention.

Late afternoon sunlight is streaming through the blinds. It isn’t bright, but light and soft. The neutral tones in my bedroom seem in perfect harmony with the light today. I see some bright green blades of grass through the window where the blinds are slightly lifted. It makes me smile and I feel the corners of my mouth turn up. My eyes feel twinkly now and a little bit of peace fills my heart.

Sounds of children and the Wii being played are my background. Familiar sounds and pleasant as I know they are having fun. The dog is barking outside and I am slightly agitated. Such a shrill noise in comparison to the birds and other sounds of the outdoors. I think to myself, “she is happy barking at the birds and squirrels” and that helps ease my tension.

I am thinking about the pain in my back and the fear that it will persist. I can feel its presence even though it is not excruciating at the moment. I feel sad as I sit in that thought.

The refrigerator door just opened and closed. One of my children must have ventured for a drink, a capri sun most likely. I can imagine the cold drink satiating their thirst. And they chat, about the game they are playing and I love to hear my children talk nicely to one another.

I have become a little antsy, legs and feet are no longer relaxed but ready for me to get up and step away for a moment. It’s time to take a break from the computer.

I hope that was a good effort at being mindful! Typing each thing thought that I took notice of felt a bit of a distraction, but at the same time it helped to get in tune with what is going on around me and what I am feeling. There is a definite peace about paying attention to that very moment and the senses. When I am most distraught or even just down, it helps me to be more mindful of “the little things”.

It’s a Lurker, That Depression

As someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of depression (and some pretty big downs at times) for many years, there is so often this sense that depression is lurking. When life is going smooth, I can’t help but wonder if it will all come crashing down. When life is stressful, but I am coping well, there is a part of me that wonders, will a bout with depression come next?

This is where I am in this moment… wondering…is depression lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportune time to grab me and pull me down?

Life is full of challenges now, some new, some scary, some exciting… it is a time of stress, change and growth. That said, I am functioning well and feeling confident. I know I am not a completely passive entity in the process of a depression relapse (and neither are you!). I have tools in my toolbox. I have knowledge of warning signs if I start to sink. I also have medication that keeps me and my brain chemistry in check. But yet, when you have experienced the dark depths of depression, I think it only normal to fear its return.

I sometimes wonder, will I always fear depression? Will depression haunt me my whole life? Or could I possibly be at a point where I will never have to experience that kind of pain again?

With my history, it’s only realistic to think that safe-guarding myself from depression will be a lifelong intention. For more than half of my life I have dealt with the beast. While my absolute lowest point was about 5 years ago now, it is not something that has vanished or been completely removed. I think that can and does happen for people, but it’s not the case with me, not the case with chronic cases of major or severe depression. The silver lining is, remission is always possible and can be very long-term. In fact, it is possible that I will never venture down the darkest roads again, even though I will likely contend with its predecessors along the way.

Is the fear of depression taking space in your life? Do you let it limit you?

I refuse to let my diagnosis limit me any longer. I have spent a lot of time holding back out of fear of my “weaknesses”. But in actuality, all the while I have been building muscle to help me fight back when I need to. Now, that lurking suspicion, that depression may creep back in, is a real and valid concern, but it is not one that I will let rule my life. I will allow it to give way to caution, but no longer impede my progress.

Are you at a point where you need to confront the fear of lurking depression? Does the fear of it itself keep you from achieving or experiencing all that you want?

It’s in the Details, Healthy Eating and Fibromyalgia

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...
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A couple of posts ago I told you that I was making changes in my diet and that I am feeling much improved… it’s true and I am still at it. I thought you might per chance be interested in some more details. If you’re not, well then… you know, you don’t have to read! =)

First of all, back in the beginning to middle of March, I began to be much more conscious of my food choices. I started noticing how much pasta and things that have not so much nutritional value were in my diet. I wanted to make different choices but I really wasn’t exactly sure how or what to do. I felt overwhelmed by the idea of cutting out bread completely or cutting anything out completely, but I knew that I would have to on some level to really get a sense of what makes my body feel better.

Around the third week of March I began to eat nothing but 100% whole wheat when I eat bread/grains. If it is pasta or bread related, I only have it if it is 100% whole wheat. I also eat oatmeal, quinoa and Kashi Go Lean cereal (in moderation and by following the package measurements for one serving). I added more vegetables and fruits to my diet. I just did it. I made the change. When I eat meat, I eat very lean and small (normal sized, the size we are supposed to have, about 4 oz). I use egg whites for making scrambled eggs, it’s not the same, but it does the trick with a little salt, pepper and on a piece of plain 100% whole wheat toast. You know, I’m just doing all of those things that we hear about over and over again.

I’m drinking LOTS of water. If it isn’t water or tea, I don’t drink it. I don’t eat sugary foods, at all, right now. I don’t use butter or margarine. I use olive oil sparingly and I measure it and keep track of how much I’m using when I do use it. I use the MyFitnessPal app to keep track of my calories, not as a stringent rule, but to keep me within guidelines and to keep me in a general state of awareness. These are all things I have been wanting to do for so long, but for some reason I just couldn’t make the switch. And now… I’m doing it. (I have to tell you that a lot of the inspiration for making these changes came from Sue Ingebretson and her book FibroWhyalgia.)

I tell you what I am doing just to share, not as a suggestion that it is what you should do or what is healthiest for you, but just because I can’t believe that I really am in so much less pain. I always knew that it would probably help a great deal, but wow… it really is making a difference for me.

I used to take a large amount of ibuprofen and naproxen sodium daily. I rarely have to take it these days. A typical day prior to this diet change would come to a close in pain, if it didn’t start out that way already. My legs would be aching (quite often really painful), headaches very common, feet tired and sore. Now, I feel about the same at the end of the day as I did at the middle or beginning of the day, just more tired. I am still battling fatigue, but not at the same level I was before. It’s only been a month since I really put change in place … but I recognized the difference in my pain level about two weeks ago.

A major bonus as well as a desired effect is weight loss. I have a goal and I am working towards it. My goal is to be a healthy weight, not skinny or perfect, just what is healthy for me, what feels good and what is going to be beneficial to my health in the long run. I have already lost 10 pounds. I can’t really tell too much, but the scale keeps saying that it’s so… and I am happy about that!

A big part of me sharing this here on my blog is because I feel it’s important to acknowledge that I have a fear of failure, especially once I make it known. I want you all to see the change in me, too, as I become healthier and put my efforts towards a healthier lifestyle. I want to lead by example. Honestly, I am tired of watching other people do it, it’s my turn! But most important, if it might inspire you to put a little bit more awareness into your food choices, then that really makes me happy, because no matter what, our bodies need us to take responsibility for what we put in them.

By the way, I am dealing with muscle spasms in my back this week. So, I don’t want to imply that all of my troubles and fibromyalgia challenges have magically disappeared, but I do believe that I am in a much better place than I was 4 weeks ago. I also feel empowered by taking my health into my own hands in this way, even if it only takes me so far… it is much closer to where I want to be!

 

*Please do not take any of the above as medical advice, this is what is working now, for me. I am not an expert on diet, nutrition or weight loss, and I do not claim to be one. *

Alone in a Different Way

I find myself approaching life in a more solitary kind of way these days. My focus is certainly on more than myself, my kids are at the heart of everything I do, as I am also watching out for my health and well-being. But rather than being metaphorically alone… I am alone (at least without adult accompaniment), a lot more often than I used to be.

It’s been at least a month now that I have slept in my own bed with an empty space by my side. At least, that is how I go to sleep, often I awake with a certain 5-year-old snuggled up beside me. It is a strange feeling when I turn out the light at night and hear silence.

Being alone can be an experience of isolation, loneliness and heartbreak and it can also be a time of reflection, adjustment and relaxation. Finding myself alone in this new way is sometimes scary and sometimes not. Being alone is not always a foreshadowing of sadness, but it can be for many, in a variety of circumstances.

I so look forward to visits from a friend that lives near by, even if it is just a few minutes or a shared cup of tea. It has become such a big reassurance to me that I am not alone in this world. And, of course, the reminder that I am never truly alone in life, that comfort that my faith gives me, is incredibly important, too. I find great consolation in the online communities in which I participate. A short message, a tweet, or a comment can really bring such a big sense of relief from isolation.

Where do you find respite from loneliness? Do you find yourself facing “alone in a different way” these days? Is it because of illness or some other circumstance? What helps you cope?

*This is my entry for WEGO Health HAWMC Day 13. Please feel free to join me in this writing challenge! Most of my posts have been published on my WEGO Health blog, but I am occasionally writing some of the posts here.