2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

When excuses aren’t excuses

A more bitter part of me wants to demand that, before anyone gives anyone with a chronic or enduring illness advice about what they should be doing, they should have to live through my past couple of weeks before giving it.

Now, before anyone panics, it’s just been a tough couple of weeks. I’ve been caught in what I call an “autoimmune loop,” first triggered by allergies, then flowing into everything from debilitating insomnia to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Good times…

I will grant, that having endured that, I’m particularly sensitive when people start throwing around, “Well, all you have to do is…” advice. I admit it. It pisses me off. After spending two weeks feeling like you’re a combination of drunk, high, coming down with the flu, and hopped up on way too much caffeine, that kind of advice hits wrong.

But I’m also listening, and in the course of listening, I have my own advice. I understand those of you trying to help people like me mean well. You sincerely want me to feel better. You believe you have answers, and the fact is that you do.

You’re also not listening.

Almost every conversation I’ve ever had with someone who believes they know how to fix me revolves around a single premise: everything I have to say about why their advice is a struggle is an excuse. I’m here to tell you, no, it’s not.

Yes, I can be doing more than I am. Yes, sometimes, I have to push through the terrible consequences of my current state of health in order to make it better than it is. That is true.

It is also true that, when my blood sugar crashes while I’m walking around the grocery store, so I have to cling to my cart like a lifeboat, and thank God my wife is with me to drive me home because I might not have made it otherwise, and I’m still shakey more than 24 hours later, it’s not an excuse. This stuff really happens. It really does limit what I am able to do. I have to keep in mind that every expenditure of effort I make comes with a cost I have to pay, sometimes for days. That’s not an excuse. It’s reality.

All I am asking you well meaning people to do is to understand that. Modify your expectations by the reality of the health I have right now. Not the theory of how healthy I could be. Not with a guilt trip about how I’m unhealthy because I did it to myself. With the fact that, right at this moment, what I’m experiencing is what is.

Help me with my reality. That will actually help.

DLH

And now, an update

So, it turns out that I haven’t updated here for a while, but it turns out that’s a good thing.

Over especially the past month, my health has remarkably improved in a lot of respects. I am able to be more active than I’ve been in months, I have more stamina, and I am able to maintain my activity over days instead of hours.

Granted, I still get stung with bouts of fatigue, and I’ve managed to gain back all the weight I lost, but those things are currently manageable.

My current view is that, as long as I keep focused on improvement and don’t settle for a steady state, the improvement will continue. For the first time in a while, I believe it may be possible to undo most of what led to this being necessary and maybe even improve on it some.

Let’s hope so.

DLH

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

Finally feeling human again

It’s become something of a broken record, I know, but as if trying to recover from a major illness isn’t enough, I managed to pick up a nasty upper respiratory virus last week that laid me low for the week. Today, I can finally say I am back to feeling at least as healthy as I was before the virus, so it’s time to get back to the grind. More will follow.

DLH

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

Talking about the weather

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days. It’s been a bad few as it turns out.

The primary culprit is the weather. The things going on with me seem to be sensitive to weather and allergen changes, and the up-and-down-again quality of the last week seems to aggravate almost everything.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, the weather will moderate a bit and this will be less of a complaint.

DLH

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