Monday, May 9, 2016

I'm Not Wonder Woman--And That's Okay

Once upon a time I was Wonder Woman. I was one of those people who could do 8 million things at once and still find time to read a book. I went to school and pulled straight A’s, I had two part time jobs, I had three very active kids that I ran all over the state and sometimes even to other states for soccer games, I kept my house clean--well except for laundry because really, even Wonder Woman knows laundry is a never ending battle--made dinner, scrubbed my toilets every Saturday, blogged regularly, and still had time to write 1500-2000 words a day.

Life was good.

And then one day it wasn’t.

I’d dealt with different forms of chronic aches and pains for years and just figured it was part of life. I felt like I had a fairly high pain threshold so I just downed a few Excedrin with a Dr. Pepper if I needed relief and went on my way. Around January 2014 the pain started to get worse and I found myself tired no matter what I did. Concentrating on one task, let alone my usual twenty at a time, became excruciating. A job that should have taken 10 minutes would span on for hours, I stopped reading anything that I didn’t absolutely have to for work because I’d find myself having to reread things five to six times to even remember what I’d just read, and writing? Forget about it. I couldn’t come up with 10 words a day let alone 2000.

I’d graduated in December of 2012 and was now working full time. I was also still doing a part time editing job, along with kids, husband, house, and all the other jobs a mom has. Throughout Spring and Summer 2014 I kept telling myself that I just needed a vacation. I was certain if I could make it to August when my mom, sister, and I were taking my son and my nephew to Germany, everything would be fine.

Germany was great. I got to sleep in, didn’t have to do anything but eat, shop, explore, and spend time with family. It was completely stress free and wonderful. I still was a little tired and had my bottle of ibuprofen on hand at all times, but I really thought that if I could just relax for a little longer everything would go back to normal.

Two days before I was set to come home (because of work I had to come home a week before everyone else) we went to Berlin. I woke up excited, but with a weird pain in my chest. I popped a couple of pain pills and went on my way. As the day went on, as much as I was enjoying the city, the pain got worse and worse, spreading down my arm, and making it even hard to breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. So of course I did the stupidest thing possible (I was no longer Wonder Woman anymore so I didn’t have to be smart), I didn’t tell anyone how much pain I was in or my rather alarming symptoms, and just went on with the next two days until they dropped me off at the airport and I gave my little boy a huge hug goodbye.

Then I went to the terminal and silently cried--in pain, but also in fear because something was seriously wrong and I was alone in a foreign country and what would happen if it really was a heart attack and we were over the Atlantic and I would never see anyone again and…          

I survived Munich, Reykjavik, and Denver Airports and was still alive when I finally made it home. But I was glad I’d planned one recovery day before I was due back at work. The morning after I got home I went to the doctor. After a few tests he determined that I was not having a heart attack, but was having a severe case of costochondritis--inflammation of the rib cage. I just needed rest, ibuprofen, and time.

Two weeks later when it still felt like someone was probing my chest with a knife blade, and when the fatigue returned with vengeance I was back in the doctor’s office. After several more tests I got the news: Fibromyalgia. The good news the doctor said was that overall I was fairly healthy and should live a long time. The bad news was that I would be in chronic pain and fatigue for the rest of my life.

And so I went through the next year struggling to get out of bed each morning, collapsing when I got home from work, not being able to focus on pretty much anything, and gaining almost 40 pounds because all I could do all day was sit at my desk and make it home to collapse on the couch.

By this time I just knew pain and fatigue were part of my life, and I really had no choice but to deal with it. But around August of 2015, something strange began to happen. I would get up to go to the bathroom during the workday and it felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was walking down the hall, but my head felt as if it was watching me walk and not really there with me. Also I could never stand up without getting extremely dizzy--even to the point of blacking out a few times.

It turns out I had a completely unrelated health problem--extremely low blood pressure (which my mom has so I probably should have been more aware of it, but I was no longer smart, remember?) My fibro was also getting worse, which meant I needed to stop using Dr. Pepper as my wake up fix because sugar was becoming a no no. It also meant no artificial sweeteners--so diet soda was out of the question (which was fine by me because, gross!). My doctor actually recommended a cup of coffee every morning, but absolutely no caffeine after 2pm.

I tried it for a few days--but I am not a coffee lover. I had to gag the stuff down which made me not want to do it, so I went back to my Dr. Pepper fixes just trying to have them not too late at night. I did this because let’s face it, changing your diet is hard, and it wasn’t like I had a deadly disease, so I mean who cared if I had a low quality of life? It was better that than giving up Dr. Pepper and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, right?

I made it through the holiday season with good days and bad. I would quit soda for a week and then need just one, which would completely addict me again. In January I actually quit for a whole month, but allowing myself one for my birthday threw me back into the caffeine mood. Soda was my drug of choice. I always joked, I could give up bread no problem, but Dr. Pepper--no way.

And then I got a new pain.

Turned out I had arthritis in my hip. So that was super fun. Again, not deadly, but my quality of life was just spiraling down down down. I couldn’t go out back and play soccer with the kids. I hated myself in any and all pictures. I could barely muster up the strength to go to my much needed GNO/Writing Group once a week. I just wanted to sleep.

It was then that my friend sent me a TED presentation on achieving your goals. It was exactly what I needed to watch. For some reason, that was the spark that made me want to change. I’d read enough to know that fibro could be managed (a lot better than I was managing it, even if I tried to tell myself that at least I was able to get out of bed most days--Sundays became my actual day of rest, sleeping pretty much all day to recover from the week.

It was time to start reaching my goals. To get my life back. I decided of all the lifestyle plans I could choose, Primal made the most sense to me. So, a little over two weeks ago I took the plunge and cut all processed foods, soda, added sugars, and grains from my diet. I eat healthy fats, lean meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. In two weeks I lost 10 pounds and 9 inches. That has been an added bonus. But the real benefit has been that I have gone from a full dose of pain meds daily, to only have ibuprofen once in the last two weeks. (Because once the fibro pain stopped, I realized that I had tennis (mouse) elbow.) But even that is survivable.

Point is, I’m loving the way I’m feeling, and I want to keep it up. So I am going to blog again--sometimes about my fibro journey, sometimes about editing/writing, and sometimes about my accomplishments, because after a year and a half of feeling like I had no life, I have one back--and I want to keep it. The doctor said I would live a long time--I plan to do it in comfort. I'm not Wonder Woman anymore, and that is okay. I just plan on being a pain free me for as long as I possibly can.