There was a time, not so long ago, that I wasn’t taking any prescription drugs. It was fantastic. But then 2018 came crashing onto the scene and now I am picking up one refill or another at the pharmacy just about every week. I’ve been on five different medications at one point or another since January and I’m still searching for the right one(s). In my post about my health last week I mentioned that I’ve been taking 1 mg of Requip, a Parkinson’s and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) treatment, to calm my legs at night so that I can fall asleep. While I believe that it has been somewhat effective, meaning I can go to sleep without leg spasms now, I am still not feeling 100% like myself again. Not only do I still have twitchy legs sometimes during the day, but I’m so tired all the time. And some days I just can’t get out of bed at all. I can sleep all day, and it doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making. I just wake up in the afternoon/evening and feel depressed that I’ve lost yet another day to my poor health. And the kicker is that I never feel rested no matter how much I sleep. For example, the other day I opened my eyes and the clock on my nightstand said 5:30 PM! I managed to drag myself out of bed, get dressed and go to my boot camp class at 8 PM, and then went back to sleep at 11:30 PM. I was only awake for 6 hours that day and I was still tired when I got up to go to work the next morning! It’s beyond ridiculous. I can’t afford for this to continue, both monetarily (I need to work to support myself!) and mentally (I am at the end of my rope!). Fortunately I had my long-awaited appointment with the neurologist yesterday afternoon. I explained all of my symptoms to him, showed him copies of my blood work from December and my sleep study in May, and told him what pharmaceuticals I have tried so far. After laying it all out on the table the doctor was a bit baffled by the whole picture. It was frustrating, but understandable. All of the other medical professionals I have seen so far have been baffled too. My symptoms don’t all fit into one nice, easy, predefined diagnosis. Of course it isn’t that simple! Some things point to RLS, but others suggest Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), while a few could be signs of a more serious affliction. So while I don’t have any definitive answers, the neurologist did write me a prescription for another drug to try in combination with the Requip. So I will be adding Gabapentin to my nightly pill dosage to see if it makes a difference. On top of that, I have instructions to double the dose in one week if the initial amount doesn’t seem to be working at all. I also have another appointment in September to report back on the results, and perhaps conduct some further tests. (The doctor seemed concerned that I could visually see my muscles contract during the leg spasms, so he might order some electrical stimulation tests to see what’s going on in there.) I’m still encouraged by this progress, even if it is small. Finding the right combination of medications is the key to relief and the neurologist told me that it might take a while. After two and a half years of dealing with this issue I will try to be patient as we zero in on a solution!
You want to know why women don’t come forward more often when they are being abused? First of all, they might not realize are in an abusive relationship. I didn’t until after I left my marriage. I knew that my ex-husband didn’t treat me very well, but I didn’t see the whole terrible picture until I removed myself from the situation. Take a look at the above photo from December 2011. My ex-husband and I were given a huge container full of glass bulb Christmas ornaments from his grandmother when she moved to Texas. Unfortunately every year we lost two or three of them when they fell off the tree and shattered on our hardwood floor. Real Christmas trees don’t always have the strongest branches! It was never anyone’s fault if the ornaments fell, but this picture depicts what the aftermath usually looked like. (Minus the finger-pointing, generally. That was specifically for the photo.) This picture was amusing at the time, but looking back it feels like a perfect and unsettling illustration of our marriage. Me cleaning up some mess, whether or not I actually caused it, while also taking the blame for the situation.
Everything was my fault. Everything was my problem to fix. Eventually my entire life consisted of keeping my ex-husband happy. Attempting to foresee and mitigate potential issues and smoothing over ones I couldn’t prevent. I spent all of my time catering to his needs, trying to keep him from being upset with me, but it was never enough. I was always judged and found wanting. It was exhausting and soul-crushing. So why didn’t I leave earlier? Especially after he cheated on me less than three years after we got married? Because I wasn’t strong enough at the time. My self-worth had taken such a beating during our time together that I didn’t think I was worthy of better treatment. I had been groomed into such a state of submission that I couldn’t contemplate breaking free, even when he violated the vows we made on our wedding day. Honestly, I should have ended it long before I actually did. I have so many stories I could tell to back that statement up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband, but I tolerated lines being crossed that should never be crossed in a relationship. It took me a long time to come to my senses, gather my strength, and save myself from my abusive marriage. It was such a difficult road to walk, but I have not regretted it for one moment. So if you’re a woman reading this, I truly hope that you do not allow your partners to take advantage of you that way I did. Do not accept poor treatment, especially from someone who claims to love you more than anyone else. You are absolutely worthy of love and respect!
P.S. I know that my blog readership is almost nonexistent, and I’m OK with that. I’ve always maintained this website (in all of its forms) for myself and not for anyone else. But I want to make sure that if any woman does happen upon this post that she reads something that empowers her to make her life better!
Another troubling topic that has been in the news lately is abuse. Specifically, the allegations that were recently made against Chris Hardwick. (Briefly I want to say that I’ve been a big fan of the Nerdist/ID10T podcast, plus a lot of his other work, so the stories I read made me immensely sad. But objectively I still stand with the accuser because charismatic people can be abusers too.) The #metoo movement that spread like wildfire last fall brought light to widespread sexual harassment and assault that is usually hushed up before it becomes public. It was eye-opening for a lot of people, but for most women this was information that we already knew. Just about every female has experienced harassment or abuse of some kind in her lifetime. It was a relief to finally talk openly about such a taboo topic and bring heightened awareness where usually we are told to keep quiet. I’ve written about this before, but reading the allegations against Chris Hardwick last week brought back bad memories of my marriage.
“I believed that, to borrow an analogy from a friend, if I kept digging I would find water. And sometimes I did. Just enough to sustain me. And when you’re dying of thirst, that water is the best water you’ll ever drink. When you’re alienated from your friends, there’s no one to tell you that there’s a drinking fountain 20 feet away. And when your self-worth reaches such depths after years of being treated like you’re worthless, you might find you think you deserve that sort of treatment, and no one else will love you.”
Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession by Chloe Dykstra
When I read this excerpt from the article about Chris Hardwick it sounded so familiar that I went back and reviewed my post about emotional abuse from a few years ago. Isn’t this almost the same thing I wrote nearly four years ago?
“Even if you can dismiss 99% of his subtle insults, that last 1% slowly builds up, day after day, until you’re completely crushed under the weight of the chides, tsks, and sighs. Until one day you wake up and discover that you believe him. You’re not worthy of his love. You’re not worthy of having a partner who doesn’t expect you to walk one step behind him.”
9/23/14 webpage post
Emotional abuse is real, and it is often invisible outside of the relationship. You never know what someone might be going through, and the scars last long after the abuse is over. I have more to say on this subject, but this post is already getting really long. I will follow-up later this week.
I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to review the results of my sleep study last month. My GP read through the report and said, “Basically you’re running a marathon every night!” This is not a surprise to me considering how much trouble I’ve had with my legs over the last couple of years, but it was a relief to have data to prove that my problems are real and not imagined. I had an astonishing 550 leg movements during the night I spent at the sleep center, and I was awakened 8 times during the night because of limb movements. Also, only 6.4% of the night was REM sleep, which is way too little. No wonder I’m tired all the time! I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m simply lazy which is why I am always drowsy and rarely have the energy or motivation to do anything. Now I know that’s absolutely not true. Even with Ambien helping me fall asleep quickly at night, lack of restful sleep is still causing problems in every area of my life. I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs! Unfortunately I have to work my way up to the maximum dose so it’s going to take me over a week to get to a level that might be effective. We’ll see how that goes. I also got a referral to a neurologist so if this particular pharmaceutical doesn’t work for me I will discuss other options with him at a future appointment.
Until I am able to get some restorative sleep I am trying to honor my body’s need for more down time, but it has been difficult. I’m already a homebody so it’s not that I mind staying home more, but lacking the energy to complete my day-to-day chores means that things can start to pile up. My sink fills up with dirty dishes because I don’t always wash them in a timely manner. Cooking takes a lot of effort so I don’t always have healthy, homemade lunches to take to work. And I avoid going out shopping so I don’t always have nutritious food or other essentials in the house when I need them. It’s frustrating. Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to. Just because I’m too tired to go to the movies or clean my house right now doesn’t mean I’ll always feel this way. I know this is a temporary state and I that I am strong enough to get through it. Life isn’t always easy, but I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. Let’s hope my new prescription is just what I need.
Last Friday I did a sleep study at a clinic. My doctor ordered the sleep study after I told her about my extreme daytime exhaustion, even after sleeping 8-9 hours at night. And that was with the help of prescription sleeping pills that I got in January when I was feeling so wretched. The pills were an absolute lifesaver because they helped me fall asleep easily, but I was still inexplicably tired the next morning. Also, there was another, much harder to describe symptom that I had to take to three doctors before I felt like I was getting any recognition at all. Basically, for more than two years I’ve been experiencing muscle spasms that start as soon as I get drowsy and cause involuntary movements in my legs. Naturally the periodic twitching and jolting (about every 10 seconds) made getting to sleep nearly impossible, probably prevented me from getting much restful sleep, and made me want to crawl out of my skin. But even after describing this sensation to the best of my ability, all of the doctors I saw seemed to be at a loss. They offered little insight into my symptoms or thoughts regarding a diagnosis or treatment. I was slowly going crazy. One doctor did mention the possibility of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), something in the family Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), but presenting differently and more severely. Unfortunately after some routine blood work this doctor sent me a letter (yes, a physical letter – not an email or even a phone call in this day and age) to tell me that all of my levels were normal and I should be fine. Thanks for nothing. Fortunately the next doctor I saw referred me to the sleep study clinic (for my exhaustion, not my crazy legs, but I wasn’t going to complain) where I was hopeful that answers might be more forthcoming.
So last Friday, in a very crude hostel-like room, my body was loaded up with sensors and I was told to go to sleep so that the necessary data about my slumber, or lack of it, could be compiled. I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable than I was lying on my back (not my preferred sleeping position) on the barely adequate mattress in that facility. I had wires coming off my scalp, my face, my chest, and my legs. The woman I spoke with when I made the appointment painted a much rosier picture of the sleep study than what I experienced upon arrival. I wanted to be a good patient, but even taking my usual Ambien wasn’t enough to overcome the anxiety of being in a strange place and needing to sleep on command for the purpose of science. The insomnia was strong that night. But for better or for worse, staying awake longer than usual gave my legs an opportunity to perform their little dance and provide proof to my doctor that some part of my body isn’t functioning as it should. At first I was nervous that my symptoms wouldn’t present themselves while I was at the clinic, but that fear turned out to be unfounded. That was the only bright spot of the night. I was miserable for more than an hour after lights out due to the leg spasms and even the sleep technician came in to check on me because I was moving around so much – and not all of those movements were intentional. I finally did fall asleep after much tossing and turning, but it was only for a few hours before the technician was knocking on my door at 5:45 AM to get me ready to leave. Hopefully that short amount of sleep was enough to help my doctor draw some conclusions regarding a plan of action. Heck, even the technician told me that he observed that I have a pretty serious case of PLMD. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I’m going back to my doctor with some new information. I have an appointment to see her early next month to review the sleep study results, but I am almost certain that my next stop will be a neurologist’s office. In fact I’m so certain that I might try to make an appointment even before going back to my GP. Here’s hoping that it won’t be too much longer before I find a solution!
P.S. I did a quick search of my webpage to see if I’ve written about this topic before, but it seems that I haven’t. I find that hard to believe since I’ve been suffering with this medical condition for over two years now. We all have our inward and outward struggles, but we don’t always share them with the world. I’m going to try and be more transparent with from now on.
2018 has been teaching me a humbling lesson. We’re nearly two weeks in and I’m still not healthy. I’ve only been able to work two days so far (one of those being my birthday, but more on that in another post), and those were tough. I’ve only exercised once (I went to a boot camp class on my birthday) and that turned out to be a terrible idea because I experienced a relapse of my lingering illness the next morning. I’ve barely gone out my front door since New Year’s, and I haven’t had enough energy to do much of anything around the house either, so I’m slowly losing my mind. Suffice to say, things aren’t going well for me at the moment. If I think about everyone who’s out there living their lives to the fullest right now it makes me angry, jealous, and sad. And then there’s Facebook and Instagram showing me multitudes of pictures of smiling faces and all of their exciting experiences. It’s gut-wrenching for me. Especially seeing photos from my friends who successfully completed the Dopey Challenge last week. That was supposed to be me. I planned for it, I worked for it, and I deserved to cross the finish line with everyone else. But I’m starting to realize that I can’t live in the past anymore. I can’t compare my journey with anyone else’s. My best-laid plans didn’t come to fruition this time and I have to accept that. This wasn’t a failure, but an unavoidable obstacle that I had to navigate. The only thing I can do now is move forward. It certainly won’t be easy, but I think that once I’m healthy (whenever that is) and back to my normal routine that I can start preparing for the rest of the year. I cannot wait for that to happen.
Right now I’m sitting in a hotel room in Carlsbad. Back in October I registered for the Carlsbad Half Marathon without considering that a flu virus could knock me down so hard that I wouldn’t be in any shape to run 13.1 miles on January 14th. So last week I called the race company to ask whether it would be possible for me to switch to the 5K instead due to my extremely poor health. Luckily that wasn’t a problem at all. So tomorrow morning I’ll be attempting to complete a measly 3.1 miles and finally, finally start my 2018 running journey. Hopefully that journey will culminate in training for neat year’s Dopey Challenge (January 10-13, 2019), but I have a long road to navigate before I get there. This first step is infuriatingly small, but I have to start somewhere. I wish I wasn’t so incredibly out of shape, but there’s really no other possible outcome after three weeks of near inactivity. These next few weeks are going to be painful. So many miles, so many races, and so many more obstacles waiting for me, I’m sure. Let’s hope I’m up for it.
My progression through the stages of grief has been uneven, and also potentially nonlinear. I didn’t spend a lot of time in denial (first stage), but I think I more than made up for it with the intensity of my anger (second stage). Knowing myself, I’m probably going to be incensed about this unfortunate turn of events until I get my next shot at the Dopey Challenge, hopefully next January. But as of today I find myself buried in the fourth stage of grief – depression. I seemed to have skipped bargaining (third stage), but I’ll get back to that later. Even though the last time I updated my webpage I said I was going to try to go back to work, that actually hasn’t happened yet. On Wednesday night I made all of the necessary preparations to go to work, but then I woke up on Thursday morning with a severe sore throat and painful congestion. It was so agonizing that I reached for the prescription ibuprofen that I got from the urgent care doctor on New Year’s Day. The lymph node of the left side of my throat was swollen too so my body was obviously still fighting off some sort of virus. After a couple of days of these new and terrible developments I considered another visit to urgent care, but since I didn’t have a fever or other worrying symptoms I figured it wouldn’t be helpful. I already know that I had the flu and my body is more than likely just struggling to fight off the remaining strains. Luckily I felt marginally better when I woke up this morning so I think I’m finally on the road to recovery. I still slept all afternoon on my couch, though. I’m certainly not 100% well yet.
The Walt Disney World Marathon is taking place tomorrow morning and there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to be there running with all of the other participants, including several friends. I haven’t run since December 26th and I know that I’ll basically be starting from square one with my fitness once I’m able to lace up my sneakers again. I’m not looking forward to that one bit. But in the depths of my despair today I’ll admit that I did a little research to see if I could determine when the Disney World marathon weekend will be held in 2019 so that can make some preliminary plans for that trip. Maybe this is the bargaining stage of grief intermingling with the depression? Actually, since bargaining is supposed to come before depression, maybe it’s more like acceptance (fifth and last stage), which would mean that I’m on the road to emotional recovery as well as physical. One can only hope. My body has been an absolute wreck since before Christmas, and I’ve been in a foul mood since I cancelled my Orlando vacation on Monday. So my favorite holiday was less than perfect, and the entirety of 2018 so far has been a disaster. Fantastic. In order to avoid making this year any worse than it already is I’ve been successfully maintaining my social media blackout for the past four days. I’ve spent the last week sick at home, staring at one screen or another almost the whole time, but actively avoiding the websites I most frequently visit. I’ve still been using Facebook Messenger on my phone to keep in touch with a few friends, and I sometimes check Twitter out of sheer boredom, but Facebook and Instagram are strictly off-limits for the time being. And it’s been refreshing. I definitely need to limit social media in my daily internet diet going forward. Maybe I’ll even make it one of my 2018 resolutions. But that will have to wait until I feel better, which will hopefully be very soon.
As of this morning I found myself solidly entrenched in the second stage of grief – anger. I thought I was upset yesterday due to the cancellation of the vacation I’ve been planning for a year, but it turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. I spent most of today completely enraged. Not only am I mad that this stupid flu caused me to miss the Dopey Challenge and my birthday vacation at Disney World, but I woke up to texts from my dad that it was snowing in Tallahassee. A once in a lifetime experience in North Florida. I feel like am missing EVERYTHING this week. I’ve been sick at home for the last five days and it feels like the world is rubbing salt in my open wound. What else can I be jealous/resentful/bitter about? Like people who are successfully working on their New Year’s fitness resolutions while I don’t have enough energy to leave my house for more than an hour at a time. And folks thriving on their new healthy diets while I’m eating leftover pizza because nothing else is palatable right now. I’ve reached my limit. So before even getting out of bed this morning I instituted a social media blackout until at least Monday. Maybe longer. There’s no use letting myself get even more bothered by my friends’ pictures from Disney World or playing in the snow in Tallahassee. I can’t be with them enjoying those experiences and there’s no use being reminded of that fact every time I’m online. The only option that isn’t detrimental to my already bruised mental state is logging off and focusing on myself for a while. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m healthy enough to resume my normal routine. I look forward to that. I’ll probably go back to work tomorrow so that will keep me from despondently moping around the house all day. Life is pretty gloomy right now, but I know it will get better. It just can’t happen soon enough for me.
Today was marginally better than yesterday. (Let’s ignore the fact that I was supposed to be on a plan to Orlando this morning. If I dwell on that too long I’ll get really annoyed.) First of all, I successfully picked up the Tamiflu at Walgreens this morning. The downside? Apparently my prescription drug insurance doesn’t have a contract with Walgreens so the medication cost me over $100. And that was for the generic version! Ridiculous. The only reason I had to fill the prescription there is because no CVS in the area has Tamiflu in stock. Apparently it’s been a rough flu season already. So I reluctant paid the exorbitant price because Walgreens had somehow cornered the market on flu drugs and my insurance is woefully inadequate. Also, I was feeling very light headed standing at the pharmacy counter so simply giving them my credit card was the fastest way for me to get back to my car where I could sit down. So not only did I lose a lot of money cancelling my Disney World vacation due to this stupid illness, but it also cost me an arm and a leg for drugs to combat it! Even though I’m recovering, this whole situation seems to be getting worse every day.
On a positive note, I managed to gather enough energy to go to the grocery store tonight. My refrigerator was relatively bare because I was planning to be on vacation starting today, and I’ve been too sick to go anywhere before now, so I’ve been living off Domino’s pizza delivery for the last two days. Not that I’ve had much of an appetite, but I’m still sick of eating food with no nutritional value. So this evening I filled up my shopping cart with mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce department of the grocery store was pretty picked over, probably from all of the folks who are trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. I had to really search for a bag of broccoli florets (my preferred green vegetable for weekday lunches), and I couldn’t find the steam-in-bag green beans that I was looking for (so that I’ll have some much-needed green vegetable variety). Otherwise I had a very successful shopping trip. Even though I’m planning to stay home from work again tomorrow, I’m going to try and do a little cooking and food prep. I might only be able to scramble some eggs for breakfast and chop up some vegetables for future salads, but that will be a major improvement over most everything I’ve eaten since I got back from Florida last week. In order to establish more permanent healthy eating habits (and, let’s face it, lose some weight too) I want to adopt a new meal plan as soon as I am completely over this flu. I’ll detail that in a future post. But for now I’m going to continue focusing on healing. I can’t wait to feel like myself again.
Happy New Year! First of all, I have a lot of explaining to do regarding why I didn’t blog at all during the month of December, but that will have to wait for another day. There are a multitude of reasons/excuses that I didn’t write a single word since the end of November. In the simplest sense, life has been complicated, which made the end of 2017 less than satisfactory. But now 2018 is here, and with a new year comes a chance for a fresh start. And how did this one begin? With the flu. I could regale you with the entire sequence of New Year’s Eve events that led to my really awful January 1st, but that is not my intended goal for this post. In short, I had what I thought was a bad head cold which quickly morphed into the flu yesterday afternoon. It was miserable. What I want to share on the first day of 2018 is the aftermath of this very untimely illness. By the time I was attempting to go to sleep last night (long before midnight as I was too sick to care about ringing in the new year with any fanfare) I realized that my trip to Orlando on January 2nd was in serious jeopardy. Then when I woke up this morning, after a very fitful and feverish night, I put on some clean clothes (i.e., not the pajamas I had been wearing for over 24 hours) and drove to urgent care to consult with a doctor. I didn’t think had a fever anymore, probably thanks to the Aleve I took at 4 AM to combat a wicked headache, but I still felt horrible. When I arrived at urgent care at 8 AM to discover that it was closed I nearly cried. No where on their website or on their voicemail message did they indicate that the office was closed for the holidays. Don’t they think that’s information that should be readily available for desperate patients such as myself? I was extremely frustrated and I figured I wasn’t going to be able to see a medical professional at all today. Instead I headed to CVS to buy a thermometer because I thought I might still have a fever. In spite of it being 50 deg outside I was sweating like crazy. To my surprise, the pharmacist told me that their Minute Clinic was going to be open at 10 AM so I would be able to see a doctor today after all. About two hours later I walked out of the Minute Clinic with a prescription for Tamiflu. Then came my attempts to fill it. Once again, I’ll refrain from going into extreme detail, but the bottom line is that I drove to three different pharmacies and was unable to get my prescribed medication at any of them. I will have to try again tomorrow. So that brings us to the worst part of January 1st. While standing in line at the third pharmacy I felt so weak that I thought I was going to pass out. That’s when I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to participate in the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World this weekend. When I got home and wearily crawled back into bed I made all of the necessary phone calls and mouse clicks (no pun intended, Mickey) to cancel my trip. This was the very outcome I was trying to avoid, but I knew that even if my health improves significantly over the next few days that I still wouldn’t be in any shape to run 48.6 miles between Thursday and Sunday. Heck, I can barely run a marathon on my best days! It would be an understatement to say that I’m disappointed that I won’t be on a plane to Orlando in the morning, but I know staying home was the right choice. I worked so hard to prepare for the race challenge so admitting that I was defeated by a simple virus is making me crazy. I guarantee that over the next week I will feel many moments of anger, sadness, and generally regret. I am going to second guess my decision a million times. It’s going to be awful. Even so, I had to put my health first. As I was reminded by one of my running buddies, there will be other races. It’s hard to see that right now, but she is absolutely right. Not everything in life is going to work out according to plan and you have to figure out how to make the best of unfortunate circumstances. If possible I will attempt the Dopey Challenge next year, but for now I am going to focus on healing and recuperating. I will live to run another day!