Worldview: The Rambling Road: An advent

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, mostly because I came to resent the fact it seemed like I only came to these pages to complain. Recently, however, something very positive has happened to me, and after debating when and how to share it, I decided to share it with everyone all at once.

About six weeks ago, I started taking an antidepressant after consulting with my healthcare provider about some things I had going on, including rampant insomnia and some ways of thinking that lead nowhere good. For those of you who know me well enough, you may realize how important and difficult a decision this was for me.

I wish I had pushed this issue decades ago.

In the past six weeks, for what seems like the first time in my life, my head is clear of so much of the noise that has plagued me most of my life. I have slept full nights for the first time in years. The change is beyond remarkable for me, and has contributed to a host of realizations about myself and my behavior that were, for me, clouded until now.

Granted, I am just at the beginning of a process, and we’ve already had to make adjustments to my medication to accommodate symptoms and side effects, but the fact is I can see where I need to be going and how to get there for the first time in a really long time.

I’m telling everyone this for two reasons. First, because, especially as a male, it can be hard to admit something is wrong and to ask for help. Second, because it’s important for all of us to remember that the brain is an organ just like the liver or the pancreas, and if you’re willing to take medication to help them work better, why not consider doing so for your brain too if you need it?

The bottom line is that I did ask for that help and got it, and for the first time in a really long time, I am optimistic about being able to improve. I can’t say for certain where this will head, but I know it will head somewhere. Stay tuned for more as time passes.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: A wheeze on the wind, or the sound of a fat boy running

So, it turns out that, after years of trying to ignore it into going away, the simple fact is the best way for me to jump start the process by which I’m not going to be perpetually fat, tired, and sick is by running.

Yeah, I know, running…

To be fair, I used to run. For a few years in my 20s, I ran 2-3 miles nearly everyday. Then I stopped. That in itself is a long story, but one that likely helped set the stage for where I am now. Now, 20ish years later, I’m going back to the thing I once did, I guess.

One day, perhaps even soon, I hope to document the research that led me to that conclusion so that, at the very least, it’s out on the internet for anyone else searching for answers to judge for themselves, but for the moment let’s suffice it to say that running engages the specific biological pathways that help reduce fat around the liver, which fat is likely one of the main culprits of my complaints.

In several important ways, this running is going to be, lacking a better way of describing it, medicinal running, and the best way to describe this phenomenon is to do so by what it’s not going to be. Unless something in my own psychology changes, this running isn’t going to be about 5ks or marathons, not about PRs or ever increasing distances, and not about proving myself in any other way but one.

Along with a controlled diet and plenty of walking to complement the running, this effort will be about weight loss. It’s a ham-handed standard, I know, but the fact is that at my current weight–295lbs and counting, for those keeping track at home–it’s the single most effective way for me to measure whether what I am doing is achieving my primary goal.

I appreciate every piece of advice I’ve already received about this undertaking, and I always want to hear more of it, but please understand that I hear and evaluate any of it through the filter of what I already know I am trying to do. It may be that something you say helps me advance that cause, and I want to hear it, but please don’t be disappointed if I decide it doesn’t fit with what I am trying to do. It’s not that I haven’t listened. It’s that I am very focused on what I am trying to do.

To that end, I also plan to post a weekly update documenting my progress so that interested parties can keep track and so that I can have a log of what I’ve been doing for my own use. If you are keeping track and don’t see that update, please ask. I need the accountability.

For now, this is what it is: a fat boy running for his life. Literally. Stay tuned to see how it works out.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Walking away

Don’t worry: I’m not quitting.

No, instead, this blog is about a realization. It’s one I’ve stated here before, yet at least for me, I’ve realized it in a new way.

As far as my physical health is concerned, walking is going to be what saves me.

Once upon a time, I was a walker, a rambler in the truest sense of the word. Starting in junior high, I started walking to school any day I could, a journey of several miles. Once high school was upon me, I walked except when the weather was the worst for four years despite the distance.

Along the way, I developed an affection for trail hiking that carried me into my mid 20s. Then, a lot of life happened–the details don’t matter so much–and I kind of quit. It wasn’t a sudden thing, just over time, I walked less and less and hiked less and less, until I wasn’t doing it at all.

Since I got sick a year ago, on the days I’ve been able to walk, I’ve felt better, but walking every day has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. My new realization is that I’ve failed to deal with those reasons, and that is what is keeping me from walking.

I’ve decided to change that. First up is dealing with one of the colder Ohio winters in recent memory. It turns out that, since I got sick, I can’t stay warm like I used to. Cold weather takes it out of me, so walking in the cold is a struggle. That’s also an excuse. We have the technology for that, and it’s time I started using it.

So, next week, I have an extreme sports designed balaclava, cold weather over-mitts, and wind-pants arriving. They should do the trick most days when the temperature is below freezing an help eliminate one more excuse.

Next up will be rain gear. And, before you know it, I’ll be rambling along again like days of old.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Nothing to report

It’s been quiet here because there’s really nothing to report. I’ve arrived at a kind of weird plateau. In some ways, I’ve improved dramatically over the past few months, but the fatigue and achiness still dog me. Hopefully, as the weather improves and I can get outside more, that will improve as well.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: When no news is bad news

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that’s mostly because there really hasn’t been anything new to post. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for the doctor’s appointment I had this morning in the hopes it would answer some questions about the lingering effects I’m experiencing.

No such luck.

It turns out that, all things considered, my test results came back great. My blood serum numbers are fine. My triglycerides and lipids are improving. My cholesterol is better than it’s been in years. My thyroid numbers are a-okay.

That seems like good news, and it is, but it doesn’t explain why I’m suffering such significant fatigue that I can’t even walk to the end of my driveway and back without being done for the rest of the day.

Frankly, I think doctor’s tend to ignore the fatigue complaint because everybody has it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real and not affecting someone’s quality of life. I’m not complaining about my specific medical care so much as I am identifying something I think is endemic to modern medicine.

So, as things stand, I’m improving but also not. It’s all well and good for my numbers to have improved, but the fact is that, until I’m not so easily fatigued, I’m not better. How that improvement might come about remains to be seen.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Are we awake?

Unfortunately, sometimes we’re awake when we don’t want to be. Insomnia has many and various causes, but for some people the problem is both chronic and enduring.

I’ve struggled with sleep as long as I can remember. For whatever reason, I’m more awake late at night and I tend to hit my stride just about the time everyone else is ready for bed. Being a night owl makes living what most people call a normal life difficult at best.

But the problem is that it’s not just staying up late. My body seems to have an awake switch that, once its turned on, no matter how tired I might otherwise be, I’m awake. There is no real rhyme or reason to that switch. It can stay on for one day, wake me up in the middle of the night, or in my worst circumstances, keep me awake for weeks.

I’ve learned to cope with that kind of insomnia for the most part, but I’ve discovered that it makes recovering from an illness a challenge I did not anticipate facing. Now, in addition to the challenge of being awake at appropriate times, I have to make sure that I am not so fatigued I cause myself further harm.

That said, it is a problem that can be managed. I have to be careful with when and how much caffeine I consume, and I’m discovering that how much, when, and what kind of calories I consume can contribute as well. As with most things, this is a learning experience, and as I learn, I will continue to share what I know with you.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Discontentedness

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a discontented person. As far back as I can remember, I never recall a time where I was satisfied with anything I’ve done, known, or been involved in. That discontent is what has driven me to pursue education, experiences, and even entire careers.

Knowing that, it then surprises me that my otherwise discontent never seemed to apply to my physical state. For most of my adult life, I’ve accepted weight gain and the creeping malaise of health that goes along with it for what it seemed to me to be: an inevitable sign of aging and poor luck. I’ve even gone so far as to argue against fitness in some absurd justification of being less than what I could be.

Yet, now that I have been laid low by illness, my discontentedness has come into full effect. I am not satisfied with anything. I want to fix it and fix it the best way possible. The issue now is that I’m not quite in a position to act. Ironic, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, I believe my discontentedness will be the thing that drives me forward. As hard as it is proving to be, I will not be satisfied until I master this thing.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Invisible disease

For better or worse, it appears I’ve joined the ranks of those suffering from invisible diseases. Invisible does not imply non-existent as so many people imagine; rather, it states that it is a disease that does not manifest itself with outward visible signs others can identify.

“But you look fine,” is one of the worst things you can say to someone fighting the diseases no one can see, because, while that person may look fine, they’re often exhausted, in pain, and dealing with physiological effects hidden from your view.

Being told you don’t look sick makes trying to weather being sick that much harder. What’s worse is that far too many people take their view that no outward signs means no inward disease as an excuse to harangue and ridicule, making life even worse for the one who is sick. This has not happened to me, but I know far too many people for whom that is true.

For me, the greatest manifestation of my invisible illness is fatigue. I simply don’t have any stamina, which means that I have a limited reserve for things like getting out of bed and staying upright throughout the day, let alone exercising or doing the work that I need to. But, I don’t look sick, and that’s frustrating even for me.

I can assure you, however, that I would not be enduring regular visits to doctors complete with blood draws, taking piles of medications, and inflicting daily pricks and injections if I was not sick. Unfortunately, what’s wrong is inside me, and nobody’s quite sure what that is yet.

I’m not saying any of this to get sympathy for myself, but to help anyone who knows other people complaining of invisible illnesses see that they’re telling the truth. They are sick. They are in pain. They are exhausted. They are struggling.

Have compassion. They need it.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Time calculus

There was a time when I was that person who claimed I didn’t have time to exercise. To me then, exercise was a waste because the other things I was doing with my life seemed far more important. In fact, I was that person not all that long ago. But today, as I was walking, I came to a sudden epiphany that my view was myopic in a specific sort of way.

The fact is, for the year and a half before I ended up in the hospital, my health was deteriorating whether I was willing to admit it or not. I lost some or all of many days to illness and fatigue to the point I was no longer able to do the things I needed and wanted to be doing.

If we imagine that state resulting in a loss of four hours of productivity a day as an average, I lost something along the lines of 2,190 hours of useful time due to bad health. And that was before I ended up in the hospital.

In that hospital, I lost six full days, an additional 144 hours, and since I have been home, my productivity has been minimal to the tune of a couple of hours a day, meaning for the last 30, I’ve easily lost 240 more hours beyond that.

In total, since the true beginnings of this current episode, I’ve easily lost as many as 2,574 hours of productive time, and that’s probably a conservative estimate.

In contrast, since I have returned to walking again, I’ve spent about an hour each day. If I were to simply stick to that amount of time, it would take me more than seven years to “waste” the time I’ve already wasted walking.

And, as anyone exercising knows, fitness is not a waste. Rather, since I have returned to walking, I am getting stronger, my head is clearer, I am less fatigued, and I am more certain of my recovery than I have yet been.

So, even when I reach my eventual goal of two hours of exercise a day, I will really be gaining hours more of productive time rescued from what once had been the time waste of my poor health.

I get the logical explanation isn’t for everyone, but the nature of this realization makes me even more eager to continue. I will improve because of what I am doing, and that can never be a waste.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Thirty days

I realized last night, as I finished my first vial of Lantus, that it’s been a month since I got out of the hospital. I’ll admit, it seems a lot longer, and I will also admit that I am frustrated to report that, even a month later, I am still recovering from those events.

That I am epically impatient is both well known and an understatement, but the fact is I can’t help but wonder if some of the things I’m experiencing now are in some way permanent or caused by some yet to be diagnosed condition. It’s always bad to borrow trouble, and I’m told I need to be patient, but I can’t help but think about the negatives.

That said, today it will be 60 degrees outside, which means a walk or even two. That’s not a bad way to celebrate a month out, even if it is with misgivings.

DLH

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