Giving Thanks: One year Ago

Disclaimer: This not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a professional physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

One year ago, I was really a mess.  I had just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after my general practitioner had exhausted all the tests to see if there was any other explanation for the ongoing, roving pain, extreme exhaustion, and mud-thick, brain fog that had taken my ability to function anywhere close to my normal.

I have been reading through my blogs, taking the time to really relish in where I am now.  I am now off of Cymbalta and many of the frantic supplements I started right away and have slowly worked on weaning to find out if indeed an improvement came from them.  I feel that I’m honing my personal daily protocols that work for me.  


In the past few months, I am seeing more of my “normal” show up again for longer and longer periods.  Most days, I’m waking in the morning with the ability to get up right away, clear-headed, and excited about the day.  I’ve been able to make plans more and more with fewer and fewer times of having to through in the cancel-towel. I have returned to the classroom (planned ahead substitute teaching) that has energized me rather than depleted. I have been able to write, thinking through a complicated plot for a fantasy novel I’ve been wanting to write for years.  I’m able to play with my granddaughter and have fun with my family.  I am reclaiming my sense of humor, gratitude, and joy more and more.  These things were not in me last year at this time.


I’ve connected with a wonderful group of women
who get outdoors together a couple of times a month.


To get here, I have done constant work on figuring out what it was I needed to get back to me.  First, thanks to my school district allowing me to use all my saved up sick-days from 26 years of teaching, I went onto long-term leave from 12/7/18 until I retired in June 2019. While this was actually really devastating for me personally and professionally, it was what I needed.  With the gift of time, I was able to work on taking care of myself.  While I will explain where I’m at right now with my daily protocols, I will let you go to my blog No Stone Left Unturned to see most of what I’ve tried during this past year.

Loved getting back into the classroom
even though high school math isn’t my forte.


One thing, though, I have also learned, is that this is a journey I had to do.  There is/was no one who could give me exactly what would work for me just as I can’t give you what will work for you.  Thus, thorough research, reliable sources of information, and then the trial and error method seem to me to be the only way to find out what is needed for each individual. Unfortunately, there is no one cure, or it seems even one cause or type of Fibromyalgia.

Raked leaves for a few hours last week; however,
I may have been pushing it too far.
 It felt great doing it, but I was pretty down and out the following two days.


What seems to be working for me and am currently implementing/using:

Supplements

Prescription Medicine:
  • Estradiol 0.1MG vaginal cream (2x per week) I’m officially in menopause.
  • Vyvanse 30mg (1X per morning) I was diagnosed with moderate/high ADD 5/2017 and have been taking this ever since. I do go without some days but I do find my thinking to be more scattered.
  • Fluticasone 50MCG/ACT nasal spray 2 puffs per morning (I have a few of the mention MCAD issues listed in the article linked above; this is one of them. Constant nose gunk w/small nostrils=hard time breathing through my nose.
Over-the-Counter:
  • Prelief (for bladder pain) I haven’t taken this much, but I do have it on hand.
  • Bayer Back and Body (2 pills every six hours as needed). I really have cut back on this. Several days none at all with the most at two times per day (like the two days after leaf raking).
  • ZzzQuill (1 pill at night as needed) I really don’t take this much. Now and then, if I really want to attempt a solid night’s sleep I will (1-2 times a month). However, it doesn’t always work. Two tends to make me groggy in the morning. I still am having the on and off again ability or lack thereof for sleeping.
  • Mary’s The Remedy 1:1 (300mg CBD/300mg THC) .25 ml via dropper at bedtime. (I’ve taken this when I’m not doing as well. So far, 5 times total. It does seem to help lift my sadness that I get when I’m foggy and tired and possibly helps lessen pain but not majorly. I do feel a bit “odd” but I can function decently. I am taking the lowest dose recommended thus far.) As explained in my blog, Down The Rabbit Hole: Could Medical Marijuana Help? I have obtained a medical marijuana card. However, after trying edibles and the oil, it’s not a favorite go-to remedy.
Self-Help Apps:
  • Pathways-This is a neuroplasticity program that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meditation, and education to help lessen or even eliminate pain.  I’ve been using it for about a month.  It’s got some good stuff.  You can try it free, enough to figure out what it is.  After that, it costs.  I did go for the year subscription of $69.00.  I’ll write closer to the end of that time what I think of the results.
  • Daylio– This is an easy mood tracker diary.  I’m finding it helps me to be more grateful and positive because I can literally see a graph of my ups and downs and really, I’m having way more ups than downs.  This time last year, I was so down.  However, I wonder if I had this then if I wouldn’t blanket that first few months as complete bed rest and depression because I would see I had some better moments.
  • Gaia Yoga routines of all types, focuses, levels, and durations.  Also, guided meditations and other health and spiritual documentaries, films, series, articles.
  • Calm- I’ve tried this and see it’s benefits; however, I get the same from Pathways and Gaia.
  • The Tapping Solution: In the link provided is a video that can show you specifically what tapping is.  The short version is that you literally tap gently on certain areas (mostly on your face), as you speak on what your area of concern is. The app is a guided meditation that helps you work through the issue your focusing on all the while using deep, slow breathing.  I use this as a form of “active” meditation, working on a specific area of need.  I don’t really know how to explain how/why it works, but it does help me (mostly with the anxiety and brain fog).
Daily Actions: Yoga, myofascial release with ball and roller, meditation, and 30 minutes of cardio, resting as needed, mostly vegan meals

Weekly Actions: Gentle chiropractic therapy with massage therapy; journaling/writing for reflection, getting connected with others

As needed: After Guest Teaching for a full day last Thursday, a 3-mile hike with friends on Friday, and raking for a few hours on Saturday, I found that I was really worn out, brain fog, and higher pain on Sunday and Monday. So, as my body demanded, I rested. This does get me down, but I’m working on being grateful even during that time. Grateful for the days that preceded the low point. And grateful for the time and support from my family and friends when I need to lay low for a while. Come Tuesday, I was back at a full day. (I subbed in the HS math class and had a blast and then came home and worked several hours on writing my novel.)

Taking care of myself takes planning, money, effort, time, and willpower (all of which can slip now and then causing negative consequences). However, I’m beginning to have more energy, clarity, pain-free time that I can now participate in the things that bring me joy. I am so full of gratitude for this life of mine. I’m so grateful for this nervous-system that has worked on overdrive for so long trying to protect me. I’m so grateful for this body that lets me know what it needs (even to the point of causing me cravings for spinach, grapefruit, peanuts, etc.). I’m so grateful for my loved ones who give me the extra I need to let me this is all worth it.

I wish you a joyous, gratitude-filled THANKSGIVING. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

I love to hear about your journey, your protocols, your process. Also, what are you grateful for?

I agree with Melody Beattie:



Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  However, as you know,
my new normal means that some times I have to listen to my body and am
not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.


It’s Harder Alone; We Need Community to Thrive

Belonging to a community has been a driving part of my entire life.  As a child, I went to nearly every summer church program (partially because my mom couldn’t afford daycare) because I just loved that week of being a part of a special group: knowing the special song’s words and hand motions, sharing in stories, munching on little sugar cookies and red punch around a small table with this temporary community. Working as a camp counselor, not only did I find a temporary community to live with, but I met my best friend and my future husband. In college, I connected to a small group of friends (most I still have today) and sought out others from my classes that shared similar goals. I studied to become a teacher; my schools had been major sources of community for me growing up and I longed to continue to be a part of it. When my husband and I chose the home we’d live in for our retirement years, I fell in love with a new development that was built on a former site of a summer camp, creating a built-in community of people to connect with.

Emma Seppälä Ph.D. explains in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY “Connect to Thrive”, 2012  “Social connection strengthens our immune system…, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.” On an emotional level, “People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.” 

People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.”  Too many of us pull in and away when we aren’t feeling well.  Seppälä goes on to explain that a study conducted in 2006 showed that social connectedness is rapidly declining in the lives of those living in the United States. The report states that in 1985 Americans had on average three people they felt connected to on a deep level and in 2004 that number dropped to only one, with 25% of respondents saying they have no one to confide in.


Nearly, one year ago to the day, I was yanked from my school community, after 32 years, very unceremoniously.  That’s the way I felt when I went onto long-term leave and then into retirement last June; my whole life as an educator just ended.  It was really difficult knowing I wouldn’t be an integral part of my teaching community anymore.  (I still am having dreams a few times a month where I go into school, knowing I no longer work there, trying to give my input on the things I know are going on, then realizing that my ideas aren’t needed any longer.) 

Not only did I abruptly stop being a part of my teaching community, but I also began to really pull away from everyone.  Mostly, because I felt so horrible, I just didn’t have anything to give to my family and friends.  A new trend began, me canceling plans to go out, to getting together, to calling, to responding, even to posting and responding on Facebook. And within my solitude, I felt invisible and increasingly sad.  


The night before Thanksgiving last year, I was invited to a breathwork workshop at a yoga studio in a town near 20 minutes away from my home.  I felt like @#$%, but the task was to get there and then lay down, bolstered by support pillows and wrapped in blankets like a cacoon.  I didn’t have it in me to drive, so my husband drove and visited with our daughter who lives in that town.  

Joan, the owner of Branch Out Yoga in Fremont, MI,
 intentionally creates a place for community. 

Upon walking in the yoga studio, the sweet smells from the essential oil mixture and the brewing tea greeted me, calming me.  Inside the entry, I was welcomed by several smiling, chattering people scattered throughout the India-infused, boho space.  I felt like I was walking into someone’s home. 

Breath Work Session with Panacea Breath led by Candence and Ross Zigenthaler.

At the end of the three-hour session, I felt more energetic and positive than I had in a while.  I vowed to start coming to this place and be a part of this community. Even though it took me a while to get consistent in attending, I began to feel the support and positive energy from the people through this place. The owner of the studio purposefully sets up a place that would keep people there after class to share in community through talk and tea. 


Slowly, my husband and I are making new connections in communities that we are interested in being a part of now that we are retired.  We’ve met other couples interested in getting out-of-doors: hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, etc. Also, as the development that we live in has more homeowners living here, we are beginning to get to know them through organized activities that generally involve food. Recently, I’ve connected with a few other writers who have shared some nuts and bolts of the process of writing, helping me to feel like writing is something not only do I want to do but am able to do.

Through my blogging, I’ve become connected to others in the Fibromyalgia and chronic mental and physical illness communities.  I find that communication through online forums is very important for me.  At times, I’m learning something new; other times, I contribute something to a discussion that helps someone else.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve even gotten some much-appreciated kudos from others in the community for my writing, which really helped to get me back at the keyboard.

When we are in pain or not feeling well, often our first reaction is to pull away from all our communities. I know it takes great energy that you just don’t have.  However, as I have learned both from my therapy and from my experiences, the more I pull away the darker I get.  The more I push in, doing only what I can at that time, the better I begin to feel.  The light from others is contagious.  

So, at this time of the holidays, when things can get really overwhelming, I suggest that we connect with those communities that build us up.  And that we keep this going throughout the year. 

How can I connect with a community when I’m not feeling well?

  • On line communities in areas of your interest or experiences can be really good.  (For me, I work to only participate in ones that are uplifting.  I want to share the real, but I don’t want to dwell in negatives all the time which a few groups I joined and then dropped did.) For me: The Mighty (mental wellness group), FIBRO CONNECT on Facebook, North Country Trail Community on Facebook, and Twitter (following only those I want in my community: teachers, librarians, authors, and those with chronic pain).  
  • Pen-pal or phone-pal arrangement can reconnect to those you can’t see regularly.  For me writing back and forth (generally online) with a friend is really fulfilling.  Recently, I connected back with my friend by setting up a weekly call date (being she works at home we generally connect in the morning for about an hour).  I can’t say how wonderful that sharing time is. Talking using video (whatever tool you chose to use) brings you loving faces along with your conversation.
  • Ask around about smaller groups in your area that do things you are interested in.  I’ve found wonderful groups of people who love to get outside, paint, play the ukelele, eat vegan, etc. (Many share rides, etc. if you aren’t up to or able to drive.)
  • Stick close to your closest family and friends.  They totally get it if you’re not feeling well.  My family has always done impromptu get-togethers where we either meet at a restaurant or go to someone’s home with each of us bringing something to eat. Very low-key and low-stress.
  • Go to businesses that create community: yoga studios, some gyms (especially if you go to the same classes at the same times), even some restaurants (early breakfast groups), and some shops (art studio, knitting & quilting stores, bookstores, etc.) that allow you to hang out and learn from one another. 
  • Volunteer (this can be done on a regular or more flexible schedule which I like) for places that build community: hiking trail care groups, homes for senior citizens, schools, libraries,  etc.  

My wish for you (and for me) as we are beginning this time of winter hibernation is that we stay connected.  Through our communities, we are revived, strengthened, honed, and loved.

What are ways you connect?  What are your obstacles?  What are the benefits you get by being connected with others?

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  However, as you know,
my new normal means that some times I have to listen to my body and am
not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.