Life: Twists, Turns, and Trainwrecks

Defeated Life has been a complete toss of a train wreck and roller coaster over the past few years. Many life changes have happened at once, many of which I had no control over. I have moved six times in three years, got divorced, had some pretty horrible dating experiences, lost two jobs as a result of downsizing (which also resulted in a piling amount of debt), changed careers, and I’ve been dealing with illnesses and fibromyalgia flare-ups for the first time in many years. On top of emotional aches and pains, the physical pain has taken its toll on me both mentally and physically. Taking two stress tests revealed a score of 594, with over 300 being on the high end. As you can imagine, I’ve become extremely depressed and hopeless.

I’ve done little writing the way I used to, except for some poetry here and there. I’ve stopped doing many of the things I used to enjoy, either out of boredom or time restraints or lack of funds. Or sometimes just loss of interest altogether. I feel as if I’ve lost in the game of life. Many times I think what is the point of this?

Last night I came to the conclusion that sometimes the game of life isn’t made to win; often, it is made to be defeated, no matter what you do to try to make things better. How did I come to this conclusion? By playing a video game that I know is always intended for the game to win. Only by luck or by chance can it be beat. And in life, sometimes luck and chance is the only thing we have by our side; others are just made to sit and suffer along the sidelines, only wishing we can make our dreams come true.

For weeks, I tried to get through not just one but two different (but similar games) without any luck. I grew frustrated and bored, because no matter what I did, the end result was always the same. No matter how I carefully made my next move, I was beat. In fact, no matter what I did to “get ahead” in the actual game, without even knowing it, I was somehow setting up the game itself for an even bigger win. Why does this keep happening to me? I thought. To make matters worse, the game would remind me that I had failed to succeed in beating it. No shit. What a negative way to announce something to someone that’s already fighting depression, I thought. This game sucks, I kept repeating to myself. But I knew I had to keep playing.

Failure. Defeat. That is exactly how I’ve been feeling about life.

For. Three. Fucking. Years. Straight.

Three years of feeling this way is a really awful way to live. I have talked to some of my friends about everything, but I’m sure they’re tired of hearing it, so I have mostly stopped and keep to myself. Talking to a professional seems to be a waste of time, since I want to talk to someone at a certain moment, not wait for an appointment weeks later when I may already be doing something that makes me feel better for free. I don’t think I need to be medicated, like a lot of people who jump to conclusions might suggest. I just wish for things to happen in my benefit for once, to make my life easier and more enjoyable… to feel better, to wake up in the morning and actually feel like getting out of bed to seize the day. But that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

I find it difficult to get excited about anything at all anymore until it actually happens, even if it’s a simple meeting with friends. There are just certain things in life I’d always dreamed of and it just doesn’t happen, no matter how hard I work or the many directions I take. Just when I get my hopes up about anything, they get dashed right back down… as if I’m put into my place by the universe saying, who do you think you are? You’re not going anywhere. You’re no one special.

I watch others’ dreams come true without even trying, which often pisses me off and makes me realize the game of life is all about luck and chance. I suppose I will just have to accept I’m not one of those people. I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way. I know many people in worse circumstances. But right now I’m just living in my own head and dealing with my own misery and pain, the only way I know how to live anymore.

Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatique Syndrome – Eating Habits – Part 3

In my first blog on this topic, I discussed how I had been diagnosed with these strange illnesses and how massage helped many of the problems. In my second blog entry, I discussed the food allergies I discovered and took control of.

Now I will discuss more about my eating habits. I grew up eating and loving Chef Boy Ardee and Spaghettio’s. In fact, I would have eaten it every day if I was allowed to – or anything with tomato sauce for that matter. Vegetables were nothing I would touch, unless it was a tomato or maybe a cucumber. Even as an adult, my eating habits didn’t change much until about a year or so ago when I was sick of feeling sick five or six out of seven days a week. So I began educating myself.

First, I started by finding out what may be the cause of aches, pains, and general feelings of discomfort. I began visiting health food stores and talking with others just like me who made some suggestions. One of them happened to mention the link between the pH in the body and the growth of disease. It reminded me of taking those little litmus test papers in school science class, but I was now beginning to understand what that was all about.

Balancing the acidity vs alkalinity in my body took on a whole new meaning of eating properly. I started to take notice of how my body felt when I craved and ate too much pasta. Without knowing how to fully describe it, I would say heavy, like a wet rag, and slightly achy – whatever it was wasn’t normal. I had no idea that pasta is considered acidic. Also, my love of tomatoes hasn’t died… add those to the pasta and what do you get? More acid in the body. My beloved morning coffee = more acid. So you get the picture. I was a walking body of acid. One conversation started to change that, however.

Having no idea what foods or drinks I had been consuming were acidic in nature, someone had informed me of taking an all-natural drink powder made with all organic green vegetables. Apparently, the powder is supposed to balance the acidity in the body and make it more alkaline. It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it when I discovered that this powder worked. The name of what I take is called Green Superfood, and it’s made by a company called Amazing Grass, runs for about $28 in the health food store for a 30-serving supply. One tiny scoop mixed with water looks pretty gross but the flavor really isn’t bad. I drink that if I tend to be consuming too much acidic food or drink and have noticed a huge difference in the aches.

Beating Fibromyalgia and CFS, Allergy Tests – Part 2

Sometime around 2002 someone finally convinced me to get tested for allergies. Thankfully, I had insurance so the visits and tests were covered. I discovered through an allergist that I was allergic to grass, ragweed, pine, and milk. The pine allergy would definitely explain much of the misery I felt in 1997-1999 because I lived in northern Florida in the middle of a pine forest! As I had stated in my last blog, this is when the joint popping and cracking issues began.

Basically, I could do nothing about the environmental pollens because they surrounded me. I was given various allergy medications, such as Claritin D, which helped relieve stuffiness and post nasal drip, but did not fix my issues with the aches. Being sensitive to medications, I noticed I started feeling “loopy” (although some people might agree that is just my natural state, lol) after taking it. I felt as if I had the flu about 5 days out of each week. I was completely and totally miserable and hopeless. Exercise seemed to do nothing to help with any of the symptoms either, however, I also noticed a huge correlation between the allergies, the amount of sunlight I received, and the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.

Being a Florida girl, I grew up on the beach and the times when I did not get enough sunlight I noticed a difference in the way I felt. There were certain times when I would go for days without going out into the sun for at least 20 minutes, and I noticed if I did not go out at least every other day, by the third day I started feeling ill again. Anytime it rained, which is inevitable in a hurricane-fixated state, I could feel a huge amount of pressure in my joints.

I was eating better than before, but still not that well. Cutting milk out of my diet helped with phlegm and digestion issues, but I had a habit of eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfast or donuts because it was easy to make and I had a 45-minute drive to work every day. My diet consisted of that of the average working American, and we all know what that means.

Eventually, I decided to move to a more tropical area that wasn’t laden with trees and grass, which was a huge help on the environmental allergies. It really did make a difference, and I also started chiropractic care. The combination helped, but I was unaware that I had developed more food allergies over the years. In 2007, I had another series of tests and found out I was still allergic to all of the prior tested things, in addition to cedar and (of all things!) corn! (See blog about corn allergy here.) Corn was just about in everything in my diet, which meant having to completely change the way I was eating. That meant no more fast food, and it also meant that most things packaged in a box, can, or bag were also off the list. Even the things I thought were healthful contained corn ingredients of some form or another. I started feeling relief as soon as I cut those things out of my diet, and I could tell immediately when I ate or drank something that had a corn ingredient in it.

Unfortunately, I had to move away from the tropical area and back to the grass and trees. At least I knew what made me feel yucky and I am still learning to control it.

About two years after the corn allergy was discovered, I started to feel as if I were eating something else that wasn’t being nice to my system. I went back to an allergist and discovered through more tests that I now had an egg allergy. I had been eating eggs for breakfast almost daily! It was disappointing, to say the least, but cutting eggs out of my diet really has made a difference with the digestive issues and muscle aches I’d been having. Substitutions for eggs were a challenge as well.

Since all of these food allergy discoveries, I would say that it piqued a newfound interest in learning how to eat right. In my next blog, I will discuss in what ways I am educating myself on proper eating habits.

Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Part I

Shortly after my twenty-first birthday, I started noticing that I wasn’t feeling well most of the time. After visiting the doctor and coming back with normal blood work results, I was relieved that nothing “bad” showed up, but at the same time I was also disappointed that there was no explanation for my symptoms. The doctor I was seeing at the time diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disorder that I hadn’t ever heard until then and knew nothing about. At the time, there was no internet access or much written information on the topic, but I did manage to find others that had the same problem. The more I learned about this incurable, debilitating disease, the more convinced I was that the doctor was wrong in his diagnosis. Since there was no exact way to test for this ailment, I convinced myself I didn’t have it. In my mind, I told myself there is no way in hell I’m going to give my life to this horrific disease.

Some time during some earlier college years I visited the doctor that had known me since I was born. (His office visits were only $30!) I kept having throat problems with swelling and chronic bronchitis. He shot me up with some sort of steroid, and I found immediate relief with the swelling issues. He suggested that I probably had allergies and suggested that I quit smoking (yes, I used to have that nasty habit!). At the time I had no health insurance so I wasn’t able to get the necessary testing done, but I did quit smoking for good. Shortly afterwards, I moved away to attend a university; in the meantime, my old doctor retired.

Fast forward about five years later. I was a full-time college student and single mom, and I regularly worked out at either the school’s gym or at home. One day at home I was lifting light weights with my arms. As I lifted one arm, I heard a snap that sounded much like my shoulder came out of its socket. It hurt but not bad enough to see a doctor, so I figured I’d just pulled a muscle. But the unexplained snapping and popping continued with each and every joint in my body, along with flu-like muscle aches and hasn’t stopped since 1997. Several doctor’s visits over a few years without any results, I finally had somewhat of an answer three years later.

Another highly controversial syndrome among the field of medicine, fibromyalgia was my next diagnosis. The only problem that I found was that even though the known “pressure points” of fibromyalgia were supposed to be painful to touch on the person, for me it brought relief. Again, I was not sure that I was properly diagnosed, but it was something that I could work with as far as the treatment went. By then, the internet was becoming popular and it was easy for me to find information on the topic.

Massage was a huge relief for the muscle aches. I’d been seeing an excellent but pricey massage therapist who later told me she took insurance. When I learned she accepted my insurance and to find out more about it, I immediately contacted my insurance company and was told that massage is covered if written by a physician as a prescription. I was thrilled! I immediately went to my doctor (who had been trying to put me on pills that I refused to take) and told him of the great news about massage therapy with my insurance company. But he refused to write the prescription! He wanted to shoot me up with cortisone shots and give me more prescriptions. He told me that massage is only a temporary relief, that it may last only about a week and was a waste of time. I was furious with him because we obviously did not see eye to eye when it came to holistic healing vs meds that harm the body (not to mention that they are also a temporary relief and not a cure-all). So I marched out of his office and found a new doctor that believed in massage therapy.

That was just the beginning of beating fibromyalgia.

Today I still have the same muscle aches and joint popping and cracking without any explanation for it whatsoever. I have found ways that relieve these issues, however, and I have noticed what makes them worse. I am also convinced that all of these symptoms are related to allergies and stress.

Backtrack to around my twenty-first birthday. Stress was an understatement of how to describe my life at the time. I was a new mom, going through a divorce, and working full time. My body was still adjusting to the birth of my daughter and my diet consisted of mostly microwavable foods – many with starches and sugars that I now know contributed to many of the health-related problems I was facing. To top it off, I was a smoker.

$2400/mo for Rent in Hawaii + Bad Neighbor = Insanity

I’ve been putting off blogging a lot, because I’ve been sick since we arrived in Hawaii. The fibromyalgia that I finally had under control is back in full force. I believe part of the reason I’ve been sick is due to the noise pollution we’ve been dealing with, thanks to our neighbor.

First, let me fill you in on trying to rent a place in Hawaii. It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to return phone calls or accept pets, so when we found this place we thought we got lucky. We weren’t expecting to spend $2400/mo on a place, but that’s the going rent here if you don’t want to live in a dump or a 2×4’ room. The house is located within a homeowner’s association, which has typical rules. One is that dog’s can’t bark for more than 10 minutes at a time. So we were really surprised that our neighbor has gotten away with this racket. (*I have to note here that homes are extremely close together – as close as 8 feet apart.)

For the first few days after we moved in, things seemed quiet. Our neighbor supposedly has a “hobby” of fixing up old cars. We didn’t realize until we saw multiple vehicles in and out of the place that this “hobby” has become a 5 to 7 day-a-week ordeal, starting around 7am and ending at dinnertime. It has gone on for months, even after our first complaint (remember when I said no one is in a hurry here?). Grinding, sanding, cutting metal, and whatever else auto body people do is all we hear all day. I have been unable to study, read, write, or listen to Coursera videos for the courses I am taking. When my husband was home sick from work and could not hear the television, that is when he knew I wasn’t making things up or exaggerating. When I sent my friends this video, I think they finally understood why I was about to lose my mind.

We’ve seen this neighbor in confrontations, so we did not want to go directly to him with our complaint. Besides, I didn’t think it would help us if we said something to him and then went to someone in charge – he’d know for sure who turned him in. So I told our property manager what was going on, and when I showed her the video, she couldn’t believe it. I’m sure it was obvious who reported him, because we are the new people on the block. The HOA sent him a letter threatening to fine him, but the noise continues.

The worst day was when I awoke to paint fumes in the house. Not only are they incredibly toxic to us, but to the environment. (No wonder there are hardly any birds around!) The paint fumes have gotten better, but the sanding dust is in our house, and we did not realize that until we did a deep cleaning. I realized then that all of that dust (we keep our windows open) was gathering on my pillow. I’d noticed that every time I washed the sheets I could breathe better, but within a day or so, I had issues again. The sanding dust is caked against my walls and window ledges to the point that it has stained the paint. The only hope we have is for this guy to stop being so inconsiderate, or we’re going to have to move.

Fibromyalgia Strikes Again – a Pattern of Stressful Events

I’ve been under a considerable amount of stress this summer. Nothing bad, just a lot of life changes that are extremely stressful to the body. I’ve done my best to eat well and try to keep my mind stable, but it’s nearly impossible when major things have to be dealt with for weeks on end without rest. Now that rest has happened, so has fibromyalgia. I hadn’t recalled the last time I felt this way until I went back to my blog entries and saw it was about a year ago. But this time is even worse and has been going on for more than a few weeks, especially the last week when the fibro “fog” has moved in.

Trying to understand this condition is baffling, but there is a pattern I have noticed. Whenever I have a major stressful event (good or bad, stress is still stress) and finally rest, my body decides to have a mind of its own. It seems that everything is “normal” during the time of stress, but when it’s time to rest, that’s when the symptoms come out. I believe there are other triggers, such as chemicals, that provoke these symptoms. I was recently in a home for a period of time that had automatic spray air fresheners. These types go off on a motion sensor, which means you can be sprayed right in the face – which is what eventually happened. The first day the sprays didn’t bother me, but by the third day my throat and eyes were irritated, and I noticed a loss of smell and taste. Then I began to hate the odors, even got nauseated by them. Since consumers aren’t told exactly what is in these sprays, I can only imagine I’ve been inhaling something poisonous the last few weeks that has left me in this situation.

It’s extremely frustrating to not be able to enjoy vacations or time off because the body isn’t cooperating. Right  now I feel like my blood is on fire. My joints and muscles ache. I’ve been drinking plenty of water, but I’m not in a situation to where I can juice my fruits or veggies, so cleansing has been on my wish list. I’m not running a fever, but I feel like I am. I feel like I’m coming down with something, but with fibromyalgia it can be difficult to tell one way or the other. The thing with fibro is that it lasts for days with the same flu-like symptoms, whereas a cold or flu would come, show its ugly face and leave. I don’t remember feeling this badly in a very long time.

 

Feeling the Aches of Fibromyalgia

It’s days like today that remind me that I have fibromyalgia. It seems that sometimes it flares up out of nowhere. Today is cloudy, damp outside. This is the type of weather that makes my body ache. My muscles ache deep within. I’m unable to sleep it off, thanks to the cat pouncing on me in bed. But I’m feeling the ache again, feeling like a wet rag.