Setbacks

Dear diary,

Yesterday really sucked…

If I kept a journal, that’s probably what I’d write.  Yesterday did suck and today isn’t shaping up to be much better 😖

Two weeks ago my battle to stay off insulin finally ended with me throwing in the towel.  Despite my best efforts there was simply no more that I could do and my doctor agreed.  It was a blow.  It has taken me the better part of three years to wrap my head around my initial diagnosis and then actually do something about it.

So that was two weeks ago.

Up until yesterday I was actually doing pretty good.  I’m only on a single dose, slow-release formula for insulin and it has cut down on the number of pills I have to take.  My blood sugar levels are slowly coming into normal range and adding the insulin to my daily routine has barely effected it.  I was actually feeling like I was making good progress.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I had an appointment with a specialist that was totally unrelated to my diabetes.  Last October I injured my ankle and developed achilles tendinopathy.  (I wrote about that here)  In the course of talking things over with my physio, he suggested I should speak to my doctor about the other aches and pains I was feeling.  I kind of blew him off thinking that I was an over-weight, forty-five year old woman, aches and pains were expected.

But when the pain didn’t seem to be getting any better, despite losing weight and increasing my physical fitness, I spoke to my doctor and he sent me for some tests with came back with a whole lot of ambiguity.  So he referred me to a specialist.

It took eight weeks to get in to see the specialist–a rheumatologist–and then I had to wait an hour to see him because he was running behind schedule.  Needless to say my anxiety was spiking by the time he finally called my name.

I had contemplated walking out and telling the receptionist not to worry about my appointment.  I believed I would walk into his room and he would tell me that it was all in my head and nothing was wrong with me.  I expected him to say, you are an over-weight, forty-five year old woman, aches and pains are to be expected.”

He didn’t say that.

I may have waited for an hour to see him, but he spent an hour with me going over all my patient history and then examining me.  The questions were hard, like “how long have you felt this pain?”  My unspoken response didn’t seem appropriate (Um…forever?) so I made an educated guess.  To be honest, it does feel like I’ve been in pain forever and it’s really hard to nail down when I started noticing it.  With every question he asked I began to feel like I was disappointing him somehow.  I felt that my answers were incorrect.  I wanted to just say, “look, don’t worry about it.  It’s probably just all in my head.  I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Instead, I answered his questions meekly, feeling smaller and smaller by the minute.  I was ready for him to tell me that it was nothing and I was just training too much or I needed to lose more weight or I was just getting old.

“You have arthritis.  There are more than one hundred different types of arthritis and it is often difficult to determine a specific type, but with the symptoms you have described it has narrowed it down to a very specific arthritis and that is psoriatic arthritis.  There is no cure…”

The rest of his little speech seemed to morph into a blur (not unlike the teacher on the Charlie Brown cartoons.)  He asked me if I had any questions.  I wanted to ask, “Why?  Why me?  Why now?  I already have Type II Diabetes, I don’t want another incurable, life-long illness to deal with.  I’ve barely come to terms with the first one!”

I didn’t say that.

I wanted to cry.  I still want to cry.

Arthritis is one of those words that people banter around whenever they feel a little stiff or their joints pop and crack.  Not unlike the word ‘flu.’  Arthritis is a disease society associates with older people.  But as I’ve researched this disease I now have a better understanding of it.  As my specialist said, “age has nothing to do with it.”

PsA (Psoriatic Arthritis) is an autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, in this case the joints and skin. The faulty immune response causes inflammation that triggers joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The inflammation can affect the entire body and may lead to permanent joint and tissue damage if it is not treated early and aggressively.

https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis/what-is-psoriatic-arthritis.php

I have added three new drugs to my life.  The need to lose weight is even more urgent now.

I sat on the lounge last night and talked to my husband about what this means for us.  I don’t want to become a burden on him.  I know our wedding vows spoke about ‘in sickness and in health’ but never did it occur to me that there might come a day when he would have to care physically for me.

I also know I am jumping the gun.  I know that with medication and management I can reduce the impact this diagnosis has on my life.

But it took me three years to deal with my first diagnosis!  I can’t afford another three years to get my head around this one!

The only thing keeping me together at this point is my absolute angel of a husband.  He said to me this morning, “You are still the same person who woke up yesterday.  Nothing has changed.”

And he’s right.  I am still the same person.  Knowing the why doesn’t change who I am.  It doesn’t make my symptoms worse and it doesn’t mean my life is over.  Knowing the why gives me a chance to fight it.  Knowing what’s wrong gives me the opportunity to do something about it.

Choosing to Run

It’s May and the date for my race is coming faster than I ever anticipated.

I’ve never been a runner.  I’ve always been quite proud of the fact that I don’t run and have often spouted the words, “If I’m running then you better too because something is chasing me.”

But now I’m choosing to run.

Why?

To prove to myself that I can.

To combat the disease that is trying to control me.

To challenge myself and the mindset that I have.

I could do all these things by choosing something other than running.  I don’t enjoy running.  I don’t get a ‘runner’s high.’  I’m not even losing weight despite watching my diet and running consistently.

But still I run.

There is something powerful about doing something even when your mind and your body tell you you can’t do it.  Every time I pull on my running shoes I have to battle the voices in my head that tell me I’m too fat, too old, too infirm.  I have to combat the voices that tell me people are laughing at me.  I have to battle against the shame I feel when a faster, slimmer, fitter person runs past me.

But still I run.

I could choose to give up.  I haven’t committed to anything.  I haven’t spent money or booked my spot.  I could simply just decide not to go ahead with it.  I have enough excuses.  I’m too old.  I’m too unfit.  I’m sick.

But I choose to run.

I choose to prove to myself that if I can do it, even if it hurts, even if I’m embarrassed, even if I’m slow.

It’s not about crossing the finish line first, but it is about crossing the finish line.  It is about sticking it out and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  It is about putting one foot in front of the other and completing this journey even if it is just to prove I can.

So, I’m choosing to run…even when I don’t want to.

running

Training Day

Today was day one.  I have a goal.  I want to run a 10k…fun run?  I don’t know how fun it will be, but that is my goal.

I’m not a runner.  In fact up until this point, if you saw me running then you better run too because something is obviously chasing me.  Me and running?  Yeah, we’re barely on a first name basis.

But all that changes from today forward.  It is March 20 and I am embarking on a training schedule that will have me in tip top and running fit for August when the Sunshine Coast Marathon comes around again.  Last year both my sons ran the full marathon – 42km – and then a couple of months later ran the Blackall 50k trail run.  I know there is no way I could even attempt that, but I think I can do 10k…maybe.

Why? I hear you asking.  Honestly, I don’t think I have a good answer for that.  My sons inspire me so much and while I was watching them and others put their bodies to the test I thought to myself that I should at least give it a go, even if it was just once.

I let my physical appearance stop me from doing a lot of things because I am afraid of being ridiculed, but I was watching other women my age and older who were not super-thin or super-fit run the 5k and 10k and I told myself that I could do it too.  I do 5k on the treadmill four times a week, why couldn’t I do it in a fun run?

So that was in August last year and since then I’ve had some health issues but in the back of my mind that goal has still been prompting me.  My health issues have not yet been resolved but I’m sick of being in limbo.  I want to do this and if I give myself enough time to train then there is no reason for me not to.

My goal for this year has been to be kind to myself and to speak positive things over my life.  Forcing myself to run may not seem like I’m being kind to myself, but I am.  I am telling myself that I can do this.  I am telling myself that I am capable.  I am telling myself that I am stronger than I think I am.

I tried to do a video of my first training day…I missed a couple of bits where I thought I was recording but I wasn’t – oops – but here is what I put together…warts and all 😊 which I will post on my Facebook Page…

Thank God I’m Fabulous Facebook Page

 

 

It’s All About Perspective

I used to be an eternal optimist.

I believed in the happy ending.

But travelling the journey of grief, depression and anxiety has changed me.  I wouldn’t say that I am a pessimist.  I wouldn’t even try to convince you that I was a realist.

I’ve decided that I’m a ‘worst-case-scenario-ist.’  Trust me, it’s a thing.

‘How is this different from being a pessimist?’ I hear you asking.

Let’s take the glass is half full/empty analogy.  An optimist says that the glass is half full.  Yay!  The pessimist says the glass is half empty.  Boo.  Me?  I see the glass as half full but what I also see is the harbinger of doom that is, if the glass is only half full then the bottle must be empty.

All joking aside, the things we experience in our lives leave indelible marks on us and they can change the way we see things.

I’ve recently be dealing with a government agency and a large corporation that I work with and instead of going into those dealings with a positive perspective – that this is just a small administration issue that we can sort out quickly and easily – I’ve had been running worst case scenarios through my brain on constant rotation.  Almost to the point where I am tempted to just throw up my hands and walk away because I just can’t see it working out in my favour.

What really got me thinking about the way my mind seems to head for the worst-case scenario was the other day when I was having a massage.  I had my phone on silent (as you do when you go for a massage) unfortunately it was also on vibrate.  So, there I was on my way to a lovely, deep relaxation and my phone started to vibrate.  I am not a person who receives a lot of phone calls so I was immediately trying to figure out who would be trying to call me.  My husband knew I had a massage appointment, so he wouldn’t call me.  My children were at work so they wouldn’t call me.  Then I remembered.  I had had some medical tests the day before – Monday.  I had made an appointment to see my doctor on Friday to get the results.  My brain somehow decided that the phone call must be from the doctors office and the doctor was calling me because they had received my results and they couldn’t wait until Friday to see me.  My mind tried to tell me that they had discovered some life threatening disease and that I was going to die.  So, instead of relaxing and enjoying my massage, I was busily trying to organise my funeral and what I would tell my kids.  I was trying to work out how to tell my husband and even deciding whether I would tell him or not.  My son is getting married in a couple of weeks and the last thing I wanted was to bring the mood down by my diagnosis.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking I’m a little crazy.  Let me tell you that when I got up from my massage, I was feeling a little crazy.  I couldn’t believe the things I was thinking about.  I couldn’t believe that one missed phone call had started off a whole chain of events that had me thinking I was going to die.

The first thing I did when I got up off the table was check my phone and guess what…it wasn’t the doctor.  It was a telemarketer.  A. Telemarketer.  I had wasted my entire massage worrying about dying when it was just a telemarketer trying to sell me something I don’t want or need.

I had let those indelible marks on my life hijack my brain.  After that incident I have been taking a bit of a closer look at what my first response is to any given situation and I’m always reaching for the worst-case-scenario.  I have to actually stop and talk myself off the ledge.

It’s easy to reach for the worst-case-scenario.  It’s easy to let your mind walk down that well-trodden path, but you always end up at the same place.  If you want things in your life to change, then you have to change your thinking.

An Open Letter to my Family & Friends

To my dear family and friends (and anyone who loves someone with depression and/or anxiety),

I know that sometimes you don’t understand.

I know that sometimes my behaviour comes across as selfish or snobbish or as if I just don’t care.

I want to assure you that it is none of those things.

Anxiety and depression has stolen a lot of things from me and I know that it is asking a lot to plead with you not to let me lose you too, especially if you feel that I have hurt you.

I want you to know that I am trying.

I want you to know that I am getting better.

I want you to know that even if I don’t answer your phone calls or don’t text you back, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear from you.

I want you to know that if I don’t come to your party or go out for coffee with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t want you in my life.

I want you to know that if I don’t initiate contact with you, it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten about you.

Sometimes being around other people is hard – too hard.

Sometimes I feel like I am a burden.

Sometimes I feel like you don’t want or need me in your life.

All of the time I feel like I’ve let you down somehow.

All of the time I question the things I say and do.

All of the time I wish I could be different, better.

I wish I could be the person you need me to be.

I’m sorry that it is so hard to love me.

I’m sorry if my behaviour has hurt you.

I’m sorry.

I love you, even if sometimes I can’t show it.

All Ends Well

There is a quote that I love…

It will all work out in the end.  If it hasn’t worked out, then it’s not the end

I don’t know who said/wrote that, but it has always stuck with me.

Is it strange to be thinking about endings when it is only the beginning of the year?  Probably, but you see I’ve been dealing with some pretty big stuff over the last couple of weeks and I’ve had to keep reminding myself of this quote.  It’s the only way I can get through it all without collapsing in a heap.

As a romance writer, I am all about the HEA – Happy Ever After.  It’s why I love the genre.  No matter what happens you are guaranteed that everything will work out.  The girl will get the guy and the job and the million dollars and they will ride off into the sunset with their story wrapped up in a neat and tidy little bow.  That may be over-simplifying it, but you get the gist.  Some people even disparage the genre because of it’s dogged determination to stick with the HEA.  For me?  It’s the reason I read it.  I need to know that everything will work out in the end.

I was listening to a song today called ‘All Ends Well’ by Alter Bridge (who are a heavy metal/alternative metal/hard rock band).  It’s a great song with some incredible lyrics.

I know that not everything always works out in the end, but I have to keep believing that it will.  When we lose hope in a better future, we lose the reason to get up in the morning.

I heard another quote:

Stop expecting it to be easy

Now you might think that this quote contradicts my belief in a happy ever after, but I don’t agree.  If you go through life expecting things to be easy, you will be constantly disappointed and disillusioned – your happy ending will seem impossible.

Knowing that you will face adversity doesn’t mean that you are not still hoping for a victory. When you stop expecting life to be easy, the pressure to have everything just fall in your lap eases and you are better equipped to deal with adversity when it comes.

Expecting to face adversity stops you feeling like a failure when it inevitably lands on your doorstep.  It also means that your hope of a happy ending doesn’t perish.  When you expect things to always be easy, when they are not easy it will seem like your happy ending is lost.

It sounds a bit like reverse-psychology but it is a matter of holding two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time – simple!

Yes, there will be hard times and they will hurt like hell, but all ends well.

 

What if it’s not what you think?

Happy New Year!

I know the title of this post is a bit ambiguous, but let me explain…

I’m injured 😢  I didn’t ‘do’ anything in particular, it was a build up of ignoring little signs that everything was not right with my body until my body finally said – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Consequently, I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist.  He’s a really nice young man who’s probably the same age as my eldest son (so about 24-25) and he’s been great with helping me get back on my feet – quite literally.

Curiously, though, he said something to me the other day that struck me as odd and got me thinking about this whole topic.  You see, I am a middle-aged woman who is carrying more weight than she should and pushes her body a little bit more than she should considering her age and weight.  Age, not taking care of myself and just general life has put a strain on my body and I suffer from aches and pains.  Aches and pains that I have come to except as normal.  When I mentioned my various aches and pains to my physiotherapist he looked at me quite earnestly and said, “Why?”

Of course my response was, “Why what?”

To which he responded, “Why are you in pain?”

“Because I am old,” was my immediate response.  A response that he didn’t agree with.  You see, this young man couldn’t understand why I would simply accept the pain I was in as if it were normal.  To him, pain has to have a reason.  Pain is your body telling you something isn’t right.  Pain is a symptom of something else.

Me, being me, had a bit of a revelation from this conversation.  Here I was thinking that the amount of pain I deal with on a daily basis is just me getting old.  It’s normal.  Everyone puts up with pain.  Everyone aches.  But according to my physio, that is not necessarily the case.

To take this example further, I began to wonder what else in my life I took to be normal that wasn’t.  What else was I ‘putting up with’ because I just thought that is how life is supposed to be?  Which had me questioning a whole lot of stuff in my life and had me asking the question, “what if it isn’t meant to be this way?”

It’s a new year and I had made my mind up that this year I was going to do some major renovations on my internal thinking.  Even before I had this conversation with my physio, I was thinking about the woman inside.  I was thinking about the way I treat her, the things I tell her and the thoughts that I allow to torment her.

I had committed myself to renewing my thinking and treating myself with more respect.  I want to be confident.  I want to be secure in the knowledge of who I am as a person.  I want to like myself.  I can’t do any of these things without changing the way I speak about myself to myself.

One of the hardest things I have believing is my own value.  My psychologist has posed this question to me a few times – “What if you just stopped doubting yourself and started believing in yourself?”  And do you know what my answer is?  “What if I do that and it turns out that it’s not true?  What if I start believing in myself and then discover that there was nothing there worth believing in?”  To which she says, “What if there is?”

My ‘normal’ is thinking that I have little value.  It doesn’t matter how I came to have this core belief, the real problem is that I continue to perpetuate it.  The things I tell myself, the way I rehash conversations in my mind, the way I walk away from a situation and tell myself that I handled it all wrong.  It’s true that we are all our harshest critics, but what if we were just a little kinder to ourselves?  What if those things we tell ourselves aren’t true?

Which brings me back to the conversation with my physio.  Thinking of myself as having little value was normal to me.  It’s something I have lived with and believed for most of my life – correction – for all of my life that I can remember.  But what if what I have thought all along is not correct?  What if I am putting up with pain that I don’t need to?

We are not born into the world believing that we are of no value.  This is a learned behaviour and it manifests in different ways, but ultimately it is wrong thinking.  Just as my physio questions me as to why I am accepting pain as the ‘norm,’ I am questioning why I just accept such a poor view of myself.

A friend of mine chooses a word at the beginning of each year that she is going to apply to her life.  I decided that I needed to do that this year, except that I chose two:

Eunoia – this is the shortest word in the English language that contains all five vowel sounds (just a bit of trivia for you) and it means ‘a well mind’ and ‘beautiful thinking.’

Querencia – this is a Spanish word and it means a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home, the place where you are your most authentic self.

These two words capture exactly what I want for myself this year.  I want my thoughts to be beautiful and I want to find my authentic self.  And that means questioning those things that I have always just accepted as ‘normal.’  It is about taking control of my thoughts and emotions and turning them to something beautiful and honouring.  It is about respecting myself and valuing myself.

What is it that you are just accepting as normal that may not be what you think?