Emotional

English: Jump! Deutsch: Spring!

English: Jump! Deutsch: Spring! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you have to move on.  Not because the person or situation has been resolved.  Not because you have been heard or because your feelings and concerns have been violated.  Sometimes you have to move on simply because it is the best thing for your health.  This decision must be made when emotional stress manifests itself physically.

Today, as I sat stewing about a situation at work I realized that my RA symptoms had gone from background noise to loud and intrusive.  It seemed the more I agonized over the problem the more physical pain I found myself in.  I have always known that stress was a trigger for me, but today really hammered the lesson home.  I went from slightly stiff to having joint pain that made me catch my breath when I made certain movements.  It was in that moment that I had to make the decision if being vindicated about a work altercation was worth hours or perhaps days of pain due to prolonged flare brought on by stress.

So I had to let the situation rest.  Not because I wasn’t right, or I felt that my grievance was unfounded.  I instead chose to preserve my life outside of the work environment.  I want health and a full life.  And for right now, this means that some skirmishes will be conceded so that I may win the war and achieve my goal of a healthy life!

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Residual Self-Image

poster for The Matrix

poster for The Matrix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was thinking about the movie the Matrix the other day.  You know the part where Neo is being shown exactly what the Matrix is?  When he suddenly finds himself in the training program appearing exactly as the person he was before he was freed.  His hair is back, the holes in his body are gone, and even his clothes change to reflect who he was-not who he actually is in the present.  His residual self-image- not who he is but who he remembers being.

I think everyone on a certain level has a residual self-image.  Maybe it is a happier you, a slimmer you, a healthier you, a younger you. Or perhaps it is someone who had an energy level or a motivation level that you can only dream about.  No matter what the image of ourselves that we hold dear to our heart-the one we can’t let go- it affects the standards that we hold our true self up to daily.

What I should be able to accomplish on my to-do list and what I am actually able to accomplish are two different things.  I have begun to wonder if I ever had the capability to be that productive or has the reality of who I was become warped over the years. How badly have I distorted what I should be able to accomplish in a 24 hour period?  Is it fantasy or my residual self-mage makes me more discontent with my present state?

My body certainly doesn’t resemble my residual self-image.  In my mind and in my dreams I am still that fit woman with the 25 in waistline and the toned body.  The girl who spent 1 ½ hours to 2 hours 4 times a week working out.  The girl who couldn’t imagine wearing double digit size clothes and was once told she was too tiny now says a silent prayer to see a size 10 and thinks of the joy it would bring her.  The woman I picture in my mind and the woman I see in the mirror seemed to cause my brain to overload.  It is hard to process that the woman I see in the mirror is what has become to the woman I hold near and dear to my heart.

Some days I feel that the remembrance of who I was only serves to make me more discontent in the present.  Other days my residual self is an inspiration of who I may be again-one day.  Other days I am fairly sure that I will land somewhere in the middle.  After all, even without RA I am no longer in my 20’s. That girl is gone for good.  But what I hope, what I pray, is for the new self that I am slowly building to be better than who I used to be. I will be wiser, emotionally stronger, more loving, and more supportive to those around me.  I want health more than the perfect body.  I want depth.  I want a new better  me more than I want to return to who I used to be.

Ready

Are you ready?

Those three words seem to be on my mind a lot lately. I was having my annual discussion with a group of friends about where we vow to be in bikini shape for summer. This is the same conversation we have had every January for the past three years. We start out enthusiastic for the first few weeks of the New Year only to see our commitment to a healthy lifestyle wane in the weeks leading up to summer. We find reasons why ice cream with lunch is ok 2 or 3 times a week. We begin sharing new restaurant choices rather than swapping workout stories. By June we find ourselves in the same place we were the year before. Unhappy with the extra weight and self -conscious about the more revealing clothes during the summer, we always vow that next year will be different.
Yesterday I realized that I had changed. Even if I didn’t have the support of my friends I was ready to stop making excuses about my weight and lack of physical fitness. I understood that I was finally ready to get serious and do what I know that I need to do to get this weight off once and for all. Not because I want to wear a bikini this summer (even though I do) but because I am tired of being unhealthy.

I had this resolution in the back of my mind when I went to my appointment with my rheumatologist. I was honest with him in letting him know that although I wasn’t doing bad I wasn’t doing as well as I had been doing in the past. He asked me was I ready to increase my dose of MTX to 25mg? And I said yes. Part of me being healthy is taking care of my disease. I had been dreading this increase in medication as some sort of failure on my part. But sitting in his office today I had better clarity. I had to make a choice for health-which means getting this disease under control before I end up in a prolonged and painful flare. I will now be injecting .5 ml of MTX two times a week. This is the best choice for my health.

So today I can say with conviction that I am finally ready to make the changes in my diet, work out plan, and drug regimen that are needed to keep me healthy. I am no longer waiting for a support system to get on board with my plans. After all- I have the most to lose if I do not support and nurture my health. Who knows, maybe my decision to move on ahead of them will inspire them to catch up.

Being Silly

English: A pill box with various medications i...

English: A pill box with various medications in it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am finally going of vacation!  It’s not a huge deal, but a friend I are spending the weekend shopping and eating great food.  Nothing overly fancy but it’s a nice excuse to get out of the area and do something fun.  I’m not too worried about navigating the big bad city for shopping.  I’m not even worried about my feet and knees taking the punishment of going from store to store in search of a great pair of shoes.  The thing that has given me pause is probably the silliest and most vain thing possible.  I am kind of embarrassed at taking my meds with me on the trip.

I know that sounds completely shallow and it is.  My medications allow me to function somewhat normally. I tend to downplay and discomfort that may be noticed by others and on those occasions when I cannot hide my disease I lock myself inside my apartment until I can.  Very few people who know me think of me as having anything more than a limp from time to time.  Yes, they may mention a RA drug commercial they see from time to time but I make an effort to let very few people into the private battle that I fight on the daily basis.

But spending time with my friend on vacation means that this shroud that I have placed around my daily fight with an autoimmune disease will be ripped away.  I will take my MTX injection early and not split the dosage.  So instead of bringing a syringe and bottle of chemo with me I will take the full dosage earlier in the week.  But I still have to take my daily plaquenil along with the folic acid and Vitamin D.  They will be in their normal Sunday-Saturday pill box.  I will also be taking a new bottle of A.dvil.  I have my rheumatologist’s permission to take an insane amount of the stuff to control pain and swelling which is a probability during this shopping excursion.  There is a possibility that my swollen hands and toes will be on display.  There is a chance that I will not be able to hide my chronic illness.  My friend knows that I have RA-but she may really know after this trip.  And for some reason this leaves me feeling exposed.  Silly I know, but true.

For now I will focus on shopping which I love.  I will eat great food-which I love.  And I will enjoy this girls weekend with a friend of over 15 years.  And I will hope and pray that the one thing I leave at home on this vacation is my chronic illness!

Sleep

English: A body pillow.

English: A body pillow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing that can really derail your journey to health is a lack of sleep. Adequate rest not only affects your attitude and cognitive abilities, but it can also make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.  Studies have shown that those with chronic insomnia have higher rates of diabetes and have a harder time maintaining a normal body weight.  Sleepless nights also impact our immune system and our body’s ability to heal itself.  Lack of sleep can be a serious roadblock for anyone on a journey to health.

Unfortunately I possess 3 out of 4 risk factors for chronic insomnia.  Shift work? Check.  Being a woman? Check.  Chronic pain? Check. The only risk factor I don’t have is a medical diagnosis such as sleep apnea that would interfere with my sleep pattern.

One of the worst parts of insomnia is the long night that stretches endlessly while my exhausted body and active mind are at war with each other. On the one hand my body is demanding sleep –on the other hand my mind is too active and alert to allow the body’s wish to be fulfilled.  That is why the book Restful Insomnia by Sondra Kornblatt caught my attention.

While this book goes over the basic insomniac rules-sleep schedule even on the weekends, turning off your tv and cellphone, ect the author believes that those with insomnia can achieve a restful state even if they do not actually get more than a few hours of sleep.  The author says that the focus of bedtime should be comfort and relaxation.  She believes that whether we sleep or not a restful state can be achieved.  She goes one step further in asserting that once we get used to achieving a wakeful rest at night we will find that we have fewer and fewer bouts of insomnia.  A relaxed mind and body should ultimately lead to the sleep an insomniac so desperately craves.

While the book doesn’t pretend that there is an easy cure for insomnia it does offer hope.  Even without sleep you can face the morning less exhausted than normal.  I will be some of her techniques a shot for the next month.  As she suggests I will be making sure that I prepared for a night of sleeplessness by having “nest” of comforts that will aid in my relaxation.  I will use deep breathing and body awareness to turn off my mind in hopes of resting.  According to Korblatt one you are able to achieve wakeful rest sleep is not far behind. And sleep is my ultimate goal.  I don’t mind putting in the work if this method increases the number of nights that I wake up in the morning feeling rested. If anyone is interested in my progress I will be glad to write a follow-up post with how well this experiment worked.

I know that one of the biggest roadblocks on my journey to health is lack of sleep.  Whether it is the fact that I work 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shifts on the routine basis, or the fact that rolling over on a tender joint wakes me in the early morning hours and prevents me from going back into a deep sleep, I am routinely sleep deprived.  And like any other step on my journey to health conquering insomnia requires a lifestyle change, bumps in the road, and ultimately victory!

Power

Sugar sugar

Sugar sugar (Photo credit: dhammza)

I think that sometimes the thing that hinders a journey to health the most is the fact that we often feel powerless to the outside forces in our lives.  I know I often fail to recognize that although I cannot orchestrate the events of my life my sense power does not come from controlling events.  The power comes from my ability to make healthy choices and decisions despite the situations that can life force upon me.

This realization came to me while standing in the middle of Walgreens.  I was aimlessly roaming the isles with a bottle of water with a sense of dread.  I had this nagging craving for sugar-it didn’t matter that I wasn’t hungry.  It didn’t even matter that I didn’t particularly want any candy to eat.  Prednisone always makes me crave sugar.  The thing is I am not a sugar person normally.  My snack of choice is salty-give me potato chips, peanuts, popcorn any day over a candy bar.  But my brain on prednisone craves sugar.

As a walked the candy isle with a sense of foreboding I felt completely powerless.  Here I was, someone searching for health, about to gorge on hundreds of calories from a nutrient poor food. And this wasn’t the first time.  In the two weeks I’ve been on prednisone I have put on 5 lbs due to poor eating.  And I was about to continue the pattern.  As I reached for some nameless candy bar something stopped me. I realized that I didn’t have to indulge in this self-destructive behavior just because some drug was telling me I had to.  It was at that moment that I realized that I was the boss of what was put mouth not some drug that my disease periodically brings into my life.

The resulting feeling of success and control was definitely greater that the ever present sugar craving I seem to have on this medication.  I cannot control the curve balls that RA throws at me.  I cannot control when or if I have a flare.  I cannot control my need to ingest medications that are counterproductive to my goal of clean, nutrient dense foods.  What I CAN control is the fork to mouth action.  I can take comfort in my ability to decide and override these cravings.  Will I always win?  No.  But from now on I’m not going down without a fight!