All posts by Summer Bloyer

About Summer Bloyer

I'm a twenty-one year old English Teaching student and book enthusiast. I suffer from a largely undiagnosed chronic illness that includes fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and undiagnosed neuroimmune symptoms. I am determined to find a fulfilling life in spite of my trials, and to treat my symptoms using a healthy lifestyle and a strong mind.

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Birthday Blues

Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. It was a hard day. Around a year ago, this time of year, my symptoms were starting to worsen. I was enrolling for school, but nervous about how much I was going to be able to handle. I had just finished my summer job, and was tired from my schedule, even though I was only working afternoons. I kept telling myself “this is temporary…it’s a fibromyalgia flare…it will go away and school will be just like it was last year.”

August 2014
August 2014

My symptoms kept getting worse, and the life I’d known before started to deteriorate. I could study for an exam all days, and be too weak the morning of the test to go to class. I kept making plans with friends and canceling because I didn’t have enough energy. I started spending more of my time seeing doctors and resting. I told myself “I’ll just take some time to figure out what’s wrong…by next year at this time, I’ll be recovering.” Of course, I had no idea if I’d actually be recovering, but it was comforting to think there would be an end to the symptoms and lack of control.

It’s been getting closer and closer to the “deadline” I set last August, and my symptoms have been getting worse. I feel like I have so few abilities, and I’m hitting a lot of dead ends in my medical tests. This week, pain and weakness were especially bad, and that sent me into a downward emotional spiral. It’s not fair that I couldn’t make plans for my birthday like a “normal” 22-year-old, it’s not fair that I can’t go back to school, it’s not fair that I’m always in pain and none of my doctors have any answers.

None of it is fair, and it’s not going to be fair. I can’t bargain with the illness, and I can’t decide that if I will things to change, they will actually change. I have limited choices, and I have to accept that for now. Happiness is mostly an internal state. I don’t think it goes entirely unmediated by external factors, but I think we’ll always wish for better circumstances no matter what our current situations are. So I decided to let myself be angry, and have a birthday in pain. I allowed the situation to be as it was. I still appreciated small things, and I grieved for the things I couldn’t have. I wasn’t able to have a big gathering, or go out with friends. I settled for a movie with my boyfriend, and even that was pretty exhausting for me. I still ended the day happier than I’d started it, and I think that’s a big step in healing.

Lesson learned: false deadlines for undesirable situations don’t help. They give us false hope, and good social defenses, but eventually, the scaffolding will start to fall, and we’ll have to reexamine everything we’d once considered comforting and true. Being honest and practical about pain or trauma is the only way to get through it. So, from now on, I’ll be honest with myself, and appreciate as much of my situation as I’m able. I’ll keep looking for answers, but I’ll stop feeding myself false comfort and motivation. I will be ambitious for healing with no pretense.

On a different note, my gastroenterologist has decided to start some new stomach medication, and my feeding tube is set to be moved the first week of September. I had some abnormal thyroid tests, so I started thyroid medication today. Finally, I have a referral to see a neurologist to explore some of my neuropathic pain symptoms, and get an MRI. Hopefully some of these new therapies will lead to new avenues for healing. Thank you, again, to those of you who provided the funding for my new tests and therapies. My research will keep me moving forward, and I plan to keep trying new strategies until I find more comfort in my mind and body.

Birthday Cake Image Source

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How I Get Through a Bad Day (or Week)

Ciao Bellas/Bellos,
I have been having a rough week… a really rough week. For the past couple months, I have made some lifestyle, diet, and therapeutic changes that have seemed to help significantly. I went from being mostly sedentary to being able to travel to Salt Lake multiple times weekly, visit with friends, spend time outside, etc. Friday, I met a friend at City Creek Outdoor Mall on Friday to say goodbye before she leaves for med school (congrats, Nikki!). We did pretty normal twenty-year-old-girl-at-the-mall things: walked around, looked at shoes, talked about nothing. Without thinking twice, I grabbed a tea sample from Teavana. Whoops– silly Summer, you can’t consume things without knowing EVERY ingredient beforehand. There was pineapple in my “raspberry lime” tea sample, pineapple being one of the many sensitivities I’ve acquired in the past two years (before age nineteen, I had no food allergies). Not only did I have a bad reaction to the pineapple that lasted three full days, but I also had an immune crash from the allergic reaction, causing a symptom flare I’m still recovering from.

Transitioning from fairly functional to completely bedridden and miserable was so disheartening. I was used to being able to get up in the mornings again, and now I was stuck with head-to-toe pain, a pounding head, weak, tingly muscles, and an energy deficit I recognized far too well. I lay there feeling sorry for myself for hours, wishing I could do all the things I couldn’t do, trying to get up and running out of energy within minutes, biting my nails, staring at the wall, waiting for the pain to go away so I could be happy again. I thought about what I could do to change the situation, how to be mentally stronger, how to beat the symptoms. Then, I realized, there was nothing to overcome– no battle to win, nothing to “get through.” There is no way “correctly” handle a really bad day. When you get in a “funk,” the best you can do is nurture yourself, and make the time as valuable and rewarding as possible. Stop trying to control things you have no control over, and stop looking for the reason you might be at fault for the situation. Just be– ride the waves with patience and compassion for yourself.

I did manage to brainstorm a few things that seem to help me more than grouchily staring at the ceiling:

Change your scenery: I get stuck thinking about the parts of my situation I can’t change, and I forget there are still things I can change. Open a window, go for a walk. Get off your laptop. Take a trip to your favorite coffee shop. When my pain is bad and I’m restless, I’ll even walk in circles around the house. It’s amazing how a change of scene can change your attitude and outlook. Take a look at this post to read more about how this helps me.

Make a moment yours:

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Zentangle
Zentangle

“Today is just not my day.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. Too often, we have the false idea that bad things happen to us, and we just have to bare them. Stop waiting for good things to find you, and decide to make a good moment in your bad day. Set some time aside, take a few deep breaths, and do something you like that you know you’re good at. For me, those things are usually reading, writing, or zentangling (see image above). Whatever you choose, let yourself really enjoy the time, and know that there are good things to enjoy, even in a bad day. That way, you haven’t “wasted” the day, or spent the time feeling hopeless and incapable. If you’re able to “make a moment yours,” you realized that you still have power and resources, and you used them to pull yourself out of a rut. That thought, alone, is something to feel good about.

Do not catastrophize the situation: When one thing goes wrong, we tend to think everything is going wrong. We spend our days creating protective barriers around sensitive parts of our psyches, and when a “bad day” punctures that barrier, all those sensitive subjects become suddenly vulnerable. Stop, view the situation for what it is, instead of what your fear and anxiety causes you to assume. Don’t let a bad day dig up more pain than it has too. Even though you had a tough time at work, you still have the same abilities you had yesterday, you still have loved ones to go home to, etc. One thing falling apart does not ensure that everything else will, too. In fact, it’s likely the bad situation itself isn’t as hopeless as it seems when you’re in it.

Chocolate, duh:

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In all honesty, I think treats are an important part of self-care. You don’t want to become reliant on food as an emotional habit, but a special snack, or your favorite cup of coffee or tea can really help you calm down and reset a stressed-out body and brain.

Hug a kitty:
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Because Aaaawwww.

That’s all for now, my dears. Now, onward and off to better days!

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Friday Favorites #2

Ello Loves! Welcome to Friday Favorites #2. Here are some things I want to share with you this week.

Lemon Balm as a Natural Soother

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Modern western society is so eager to jump at antianxiety medications or brain-altering drugs, like Valium, to take the edge off after stressful days and make busy lifestyles easier to handle. There are so many side effects that come with those pharmaceuticals that they are much more dangerous than they are helpful. Once you alter the serotonin and dopamine levels in your body, you can upset your circadian rhythms, which will lead to irregular sleep, digestive problems, chronic inflammation, and can even increase the severity of anxiety attacks. Natural soothers can’t always meet all your needs if you have high levels of anxiety, but you still want to lessen your reliance on seratonin reuptake inhibitors and other seratonin/dopamine altering drugs as much as possible. Lemon balm is an herbal remedy that has been extremely effective for me for its calming, anti-anxiety properties. I take it in the evenings as either a tincture or a tea, and it works wonders. You can combine it with chamomile for an even stronger relaxing effect.

More about Lemon Balm: Benefits of Lemon Balm

My Water Bottle from motivationalbottle.com

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You’ve heard it before– you’re dehydrated and don’t realize it. CBS reports that 75 percent of Americans are in a state of chronic dehydration. You should be drinking at least two to three liters of water a day (if you suffer from health problems, probably three). This bottle filled up three times is about three litres. It has measurements printed on the side to help you keep track of how much water you’re drinking throughout the day. Plus, it’s cute!

Heartbeet Kitchen Blog

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Amanda at Heartbeet Kitchen has been diagnosed with SIBO and Leaky Gut symptoms, similar to mine, and she uses healthy food as medicine to help guide her healing. Her blog has awesome recipes for food sensitivities, as well as healthy eaters in general. She has followed the AIP, which is a diet I’ve used to help mitigate my digestive symptoms. Her recipes incorporate a lot of nutrition without sacrificing taste. Check out Heartbeet Kitchen, even if you don’t have food sensitivities. Amanda offers a lot of lifestyle and nutritional wisdom, and her photography is gorgeous!

Zoya Nail Polish
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Ladies, have you ever stopped to consider how many freaky chemicals you’re putting into your bodies with your beauty routines? Nail polish, alone, contains 5 major toxins, and that’s only a small fraction of the cosmetics you’re coming in contact with. Toluene, linked to anemia, formaldehyde, a respiratory irritant and known carcinogen, DBP, which has been shown to cause multiple birth defects, formaldehyde resin, a skin allergen, and camphor, causing headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Zoya nail polish is free of all five of these toxic substances, plus it’s vegan, animal-cruelty-free, and offers awesome colors to keep your nails just as fancy as the gross poisonous ones. The teal color I’m wearing is “Dillon” and the Burgundy hiding under my finger is “Tiegen.”

Roasted Spaghetti Squash
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I have been loving squash lately. My meals have to be nutrient-dense because my body is depleted and my stomach can’t handle very much volume. Replacing any grain side with squash is a way to exchange mostly empty calories with nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese. It’s great served as a pasta substitute with bolognese sauce, or on its own topped with olive oil or butter. You can also do spaghetti squash “hash” for breakfast. If you want to supercharge meals with nutrients and lower your empty-calorie carb consumption, any of these meal/snack ideas are great options.

I hope your Friday is better than Tiger Lily Applesauce's. She just CAN'T EVEN today.
I hope your Friday is better than Tiger Lily Applesauce’s. She just CAN’T EVEN today.

One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often

Bird in the Bottom of the Cage– Relating to Healthy Friends When you’re Chronically Ill

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”
― Helen Keller

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A new friend of mine recently told me about how he cares for his pet birds. He said he has to weight the birds frequently to tell whether or not they’ve been ill. I asked why their behavior wouldn’t change before they lost weight, to which he responded “They’re social animals. We’re all social animals. It’s to their benefit to get up on the perch and dance and chirp for us, because they know their quality of life depends on our attention. So they get up on the perch and act healthy until they end up tired and thin, lying on the bottom of the cage.”

My friend told me this story because he thought it related to me and my illness. In chronic illness, social functioning becomes confusing. We’re embarrassed about our limitations, we feel left out a lot of the time. We want to be understood, but we don’t know how.

From an evolutionary perspective, we’re socially attractive based on physical qualities that would benefit a group or “pack,” and many of those qualities, like strength and stamina, are lost when we become sick. We can’t keep up physically, we don’t have as much energy as most people would, and we aren’t always the most witty or dazzling conversationalists. However, we don’t completely lose our abilities to be mentally engaging and uplifting people. Most of the inadequacy is based on our deep-seated biological perspectives of ourselves. Even excluding illness, it’s the same problem with any supposed “inadequacy:” depression, high or low weight, learning diasbility, etc.

This causes us to hide behind a “sick curtain.” We go out with friends only when we feel prepared to hide our inadequacy. We don’t ask for compassion or understanding for fear of rejection. We avoid social interaction altogether because we’re afraid of being seen as weak or undesirable. Eventually, we are the sick and lonely birds at the bottom of the cage.

If we were honest with ourselves, we could remedy the situation long before it became so dire. The owner doesn’t stop loving or caring about the bird when it becomes ill, and he doesn’t find it tedious to occasionally lend some extra attention. Similarly, a sick person doesn’t become entirely repugnant when they become ill. It’s only certain parts of our beings that change, and those changes don’t prevent us from being good friends and having meaningful interactions. Furthermore, if you’re ill, you have just as much of a right to be related to as you have an expectation to find ways to relate. You deserve support and understanding, and you are just as worthy of a social life as those who are healthy.

One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often
One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often

If we keep hiding our supposed inadequacy for fear of rejection, we become completely isolated, which is counterproductive to our original goal of social belonging. We have limited physical abilities, but we don’t have limited love, and we may need friendship, now, more than ever. So say something. Pave the way for yourself. You will be slower, sadder, unable to do the same things as everyone else, but you won’t be alone. The alternative is to live like the bird in the bottom of the cage, performing for the outside until you’re exhausted and alone.

Friday Favorites #1

Happy Friday, lovelies! Those of you reading today are about to be treated to my first Friday Favorites page! These are some things I’ve been loving lately, and wanted to share the love with my readers.

Ginger and Turmeric as Natural Painkillers
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I’ve had chronic pain for years, and my first instinct was to take NSAIDs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen(Tylenol). NSAIDs actually exacerbate inflammation in the body by blocking the production of prostoglandins, which speed the rate of healing. Inflammation is a good thing, it’s what facilitates healing and lowers damage to the body. When you don’t let inflammation run its course and heal your body, you increase damage over time, thereby increasing long-term inflammation and preventing recovery. Turmeric and ginger are both herbs proven effective in reducing pain and long-term inflammation. Circumin, found in turmeric, is also a powerful antioxidant that helps your body detox and fight free radicals that prevent cell function. I take this brand of ginger and this brand of circumin (from turmeric) daily to help reduce pain and lower the oxidative stress in my body.

More about NSAIDS: NSAIDs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This Blog: Chronic Teenage Tears

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Nancy, author of Chronic Teenage Tears, suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Gastroparesis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain & more. Her illness limits her physical abilities, but certainly not her strength of mind. She uses her blog to spread awareness about her conditions and reach out to others who struggle with the social and emotional consequences of illness. She’s incredibly insightful and her blog has a lot to say to those who struggle with disability, as well as fully-functional readers.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five

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I’m sure you’ve had this book recommended to you before, but I’m going to do it again. You all know I love to read, and this is a new favorite. There is some incredible social commentary in this book, and a lot of wake-up calls relating to war and our limited perceptions of it. Even beyond that, there are a lot of very honest portrayals of humanity, including those of religion, time, relationships, etc. The narrative is very readable, but the framing is unlike I’ve seen in any other novel, and the way it all comes together sent chills down my spine.

Bacon-wrapped Apples

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…because bacon. Prepare apples by slicing bacon into thirds, then wrapping. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake on middle rack for 23-25 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes to let bacon crisp. Uncured bacon is best, but I used Costco bacon this time, and it was magical. You’ll thank me later.

The Yoga Collective

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This is an online collection of yoga classes from certified instructors. I purchased a Groupon for a year membership from, and could not be any happier with it. Every yoga class I’ve done is well-paced and well-explained. Since I can’t make it to my yoga studio anymore, I’ve been exercising less and less, and this was a great solution! They offer a free trial for one month, and after that it’s $12/month for a subscription. That’s very reasonable for the quality of classes. There’s something special about the studio experience and community of yogis that at-home yoga can’t replace, but these Yoga Collective classes are the best I’ve found for home practice.

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Namaste!…and a cat

Treatment and Tests, Continued

I’ve got some exciting brainstorming to do with you all today. As many of you generous readers know, I’ve recently acquired some funds to help with my recovery. I’ve been looking into lots of research about treatment that might help and tests that might bring be closer to diagnosis. I’m going to outline treatment I’m doing now, as well as diagnostic tools I’m planning for the next few months.

To explain some of my weakness and lightheadedness, my doctors have hypothesized that I have symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It’s a disorder of the autonomic nervous system where the heart rate and blood pressure become volatile upon standing. I can get a blood test for POTS, which would lead to a diagnosis of dysautonomia, and line me up for this treatment, which has gotten incredible results. It’s proven to help with any disorders of the autonomic nervous system, which would include Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, as well as POTS.

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For now, I take Ashwaghanda to help with energy (especially in the morning). I also take alternating hot and cold showers (it sounds miserable, but helps with circulation). I also do a lot of walks and yoga throughout the day to help with heart rate and other POTS symptoms (these are NOT the only self-treatments I do, just the ones most directly related to POTS symptoms)

In my last post, I mentioned a hydrogen breath test for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and a food sensitivity test. Since I am so malnourished, these will be huge recovery tools for me. Chronic illness results in a lot of oxidative stress, which almost always leads to some kind of digestive distress. In my case, it’s been theorized that I have a bad case of Leaky Gut Syndrome, in which the lining of the gut becomes damaged, leading to food particles in the blood stream. Food particles outside of the digestive tract are recognized as intruders by white blood cells, and autoimmune symptoms follow. That means, at any time, I can develop allergies to foods (especially the “big eight” allergens) based on the state of my gut and the digestibility of the food. This food sensitivity test, based on IgG and IgA antibodies involved in leaky gut reactions, instead of the traditional IgE allergies.

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IgG and IgA food sensitivities are actually very common. If you suffer from any health problems, I would suggest looking into the BioTek testing to help rule out food sensitivities and minimize stress from those immune responses. In addition to those tests, I will use funding to get my feeding tube accurately placed in my digestive tract, and continue feeding tube treatments.

In order to help minimize bad SIBO bacteria and deal with leaky gut symptoms, I am currently following a strict diet, somewhat like the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol– basically a lot of veggies, fruits, and lean meats. I still eat eggs and some nightshade vegetables/starches (potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers) but cannot tolerate seeds of any kind (including berries, zucchini, etc.). The idea behind the diet is similar to the original Paleo diet, but it also aims to minimize digestive stress by eliminating foods that exacerbate gut irritation and/or may increase autoimmune symtpoms.

It’s also been suggested that I look into Mitochondrial Disease, as well as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. If any of you have more knowledge about any of those diseases that may help, please share! I’d love to hear any ideas you have about any of the tests and treatments I’ve outlined.

Crowd Funding, Support, and a Lot of “Thank Yous”

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Two weeks ago, I was in a very rough place, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I felt so stuck– stuck financially, stuck physically, stuck in depression, literally stuck on my couch all the time. I was doing everything in my power to keep myself healthy and following all the advice of my doctors– STILL, I had so much pain all the time, I had no energy and no self-esteem. I didn’t have the money to progress with the medical tests recommended by new doctors, and I didn’t have the money to continue supporting the treatments I’ve already started. There were resources for healing just out of reach, but they would never be accessible to me. I keep opening the doors to new treatments, and they keep slamming shut before I’ve made it across the threshold. I spend resources on new tests that come back negative, and I’ve tried countless treatments that haven’t helped.

I blog bearing good news today. Under a week ago, I posted the story of my struggles with chronic illness on gofundme.com. In five days, I made over twice my original goal of $2,000 (some donated separately from gofundme). I am so, incredibly grateful to all the wonderful souls who offered their support and helped by donating, offering kind words, or sharing My campaign page. The amount of compassion I received was beyond amazing. Not only do I now have the resources to pursue adequate diagnosis and treatment, but I also have a huge community of supportive and understanding friends and family that I’d been taking for granted in my battle. We are rarely as alone as we think we are when we are faced with such trying situations.

Another thing my crowd fund helped with is social image, a constant struggle for the chronically ill. I’ve been sick for four years, and selectively hid my illness from friends and family because of my pride, as well as my fear of rejection. I am disabled, I can’t relate to people the way I used to, and I didn’t know how to explain it or whether I should hide it. Posting my story online and getting such a positive response was so uplifting. I no longer feel desperate or embarrassed about my lack of abilities. I no longer feel stuck. I am empowered, I am supported, and I am strong. Thank you, again, to everyone who participated in my gofundme campaign. I hope you recognize yourselves as the heroes you are.

In the next month, I plan to use funding for a hydrogen breath test for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth from Commonweath Laboratories. This is a disorder where bacteria migrate from the large intestine to the small intestine, causing intense abdominal pain, as well as food sensitivities. I also plan to get food sensitivity testing done by US BioTek Labs, Inc. I’ll post more details about these tests and my progress with diagnosis in the next few days. Please keep reading for updates on my recovery!

New Treatment for Lyme and the Benefits of Change

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It’s been awhile since I last blogged. I was gaining a more positive attitude and I felt empowered by the blog, and some work I’d started doing online. Then, I started to get sicker. A month, or so, ago, I saw a doctor in Seattle who treats Lyme and lyme-like illness. He sees a lot of Lyme similarities in my symptoms, so I decided to work with him in doing an antibiotic-herb combination treatment for Lyme and Fibromyalgia symptoms.

There are good things and bad things about new treatments. Sometimes they have good outcomes, but there are almost always side effects. Antibiotics, especially, are very rough on the body. They completely change the environment in the gut, or intestines, which can result in serious immune and digestive symptoms. Read these articles for more info:

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20110824/antibiotic-overuse-may-harm-bodys-good-bacteria?page=2

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01743360

I was already having fatigue and digestive problems, and now I’m having more/different ones from these meds. It feels like every time I get comfortable enough to make it through a “good” day or two, I get more symptoms. I have to remind myself that getting out of my comfort zone is part of healing, and I have to remember that things won’t change unless I’m open to the change. Even then, there are very few redeeming qualities about my situation, and it’s hard to “remind myself” anything positive when I spend my time in pain, angry, and unable to do the things I want to do.

On top of the new treatment for Lyme and Fibromyalgia, I’m finally moving home so that my mom can help me while I’m in recovery. This is something that’s really heavy on my heart. I loved where I was headed: the house, the school, the independence. Having to leave Salt Lake is a final proclamation of “I’m sick, and I can’t do what I want with my life.”

I don’t believe there’s a reason for everything. I don’t think there’s some ultimate purpose for my suffering, and I don’t know why I have to endure this. I don’t think people who have cancer and ALS were chosen to suffer for some unwritten greater good. I don’t know why the world stopped me then I was happy and productive. However, I do believe that people can create “greater purpose.” I also believe that people who make it through trials come out better and stronger on the other end.
Healing takes time, endurance, knowledge, and patience. I know that a miracle cure isn’t going to come out of the sky and save me. From what I’ve experienced, people who keep their feet in the door, open to new knowledge and willing to sacrifice, are the ones that find what they’re looking for.

Self-care and Actualization

Do not curse the darkness. Light a candle.
-Ancient Proverb

Things are not going my way, as of late. I have to move home, temporarily- that’s the part I have to remember, temporarily. I withdrew from classes less than a year ago. Six months ago, I was living on my own, planning to go back to school in the spring, planning to go back to my summer job. Now, I’m too sick to get up a lot of mornings. My illness is too unpredictable to have a schedule, to have a “life” like most people have lives.

Temporarily, I am resting, withdrawing from the life I was living before. I am bigger than my circumstances, and stronger than my illness. I am in an undesirable situation, but I am strong enough to get out of it. I will not wait, I will not sulk. I will make small goals, and do everything I need to do to rise above this situation. I spoke before about “climbing small mountains.” Now, it’s more important than ever. People with chronic fatigue find ways to function in the world that make them feel happy and fill, and I know I can do the same. In order to find peace with an illness (or any other personal handicap) you have to reach high levels of understanding and achievement in two areas: self-care, and actualization.

Image Source: 21st Century Tech
Image Source: 21st Century Tech

Self-care involves gaining awareness yourself, your body, and acting based on your needs. We live busy, tense, rushed lives, and forget to honor our bodies and the work they do for us. If you don’t have adequate knowledge of your body and its needs, you aren’t harnessing all of it’s skills, nor are you giving it the resources it needs to fulfill tasks. You’re running a car on oil that needs changing, tires with no tread, and old brake pads. The car will still run, but not as well as it should. You aren’t respecting the machine, and eventually, it will have a bigger problem that needs immediate attention. Our bodies do a lot of work for us, and they need to be acknowledged and tended to. On top of that, our society tells us to hate the amazing vessels that give us the abilities to function. We are always too skinny, too fat, not tan enough, too much arm flab, not enough abs. Screw that noise. You can walk, run, travel to Africa, laugh, breathe- your body gives you all those abilities and you insist that it isn’t good enough because it doesn’t look like Adriana Lima’s? Check yourself.

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Actualization involves knowledge of your personal character, as well as the steps that must be taken in order to keep progressing and achieving. You have to know what you need as an individual, and how you want to act within a society. People need to feel accomplished, worthy, and productive. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every idea of “accomplishment” is logical or correct. We’re confronted with a lot of ideas of success that aren’t for everyone. For example, volunteering for charity may be more rewarding to one person than being the CEO of a company. Again, it’s all related to self-awareness. Know what you need and where you fit in. If you don’t know yet, climb small mountains along the way.

These elements may seem contradictory, when they’re really not. You don’t have to deny yourself care or comfort in order to be productive and successful. In fact, you have to do one to do the other. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the resources to reach actualization goals. If you don’t keep achieving actualization goals, you won’t feel like you deserve self-care (the goal is to know you always deserve self-care, but most people need reminders).

I am here, in this world, just as I deserve to be. I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve happiness, and I will keep moving and progressing until I make a difference in this world.

Lifestyle Changes to Boost Your Brain and Body

Happy Easter, Everyone! In accordance with the new blog direction that I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to share some lifestyle changes I’ve discovered that help me cope with my disability.

Yoga: Yoga is a huge game-changer for me. When practiced on a regular basis, it helps my muscle pain ridiculous amounts- more so than any medication, and more than any other exercise (although exercise alone is extremely important in recovery). It also helps maintain mental clarity, and boosts focus and self confidence. Yoga is all about respecting and honoring yourself, even in sickness. You can tailor routines to fit your needs, and you can always use a supporting block or a modified pose when you’re having too much pain or weakness. Routines are designed to help the body strip off the pollutants and burdens of life, and reach a state of elevated health, strength, and relaxation. It’s all about celebrating the life inside you, and bringing you to a heightened level of respect and knowledge of yourself and your body.

I am so zen...
I am so zen…

Zentangling: Zentangling is a type of meditative drawing that’s really helpful in eliminating the brain fog and stress that tend to accompany chronic illness. It’s sort of like yoga on paper. It involves drawing with repetitive motions that result in visually pleasing abstract “tiles” of art. It’s a good way to kill time in a waiting room, and it’s also really effective for stress relief. Another bonus: you feel accomplished once you’ve finished each piece. Anything that helps you feel productive and skilled when your resources are down is a good thing for the chronically ill.

Lizardtangle

Reading: I loved to read even before I got sick, but now it’s a vital part of my self-care. Before, I was going to class, seeing friends, getting constant sources of new information right in my face all the time. Now, I have to dig for those types of stimuli, but books are a way to keep my curiosity moving and my mind sharp. They are also a good distraction for when symptoms get bad, and they don’t take much physical energy.

Fault in our Stars

Diet: Listening to your body is the most important component to any healthy diet. You’ve heard it before. Unfortunately, “listening to your body” gets a little more tricky when you’re sick, and it also involves more restriction than someone with a healthy body might have to endure. Avoiding the standard “junk foods,” e.g., anything with cheese powder, MSG, or hydrogenated fats will help you feel better no matter what your health base is. Additionally, I’ve found that I do better with less carbs (not a fad low-carb diet) since I’ve been sick. I’ve also developed allergies to dairy, almonds, and certain fruits. If you have symptoms of chronic illness, it might benefit you to have food sensitivity testing. Overall, though, you’ll hear a ton of information about which foods are “evil” and “the perfect human diet” and there really is no such thing. Food in our culture involved too much guilt and too many fads; the most important thing is eating what makes you feel good, and when you feel hungry. If you’re craving red meat, your body probably needs the iron. If you want sugar, have some fresh fruit, but don’t deny yourself the occasional ice cream or brownie (even if it needs to be coconut milk- based or gluten free).