Today’s blog post was supposed to be either about a “care package” which I didn’t quite understand, OR writing in detail about “a memory.”
I have only about ten minutes to write so…. ummm…. a memory. I’m going to write about something that happened today, which triggered a memory for me.
Today in my work as a physical therapist I worked with a woman I’ve been seeing since July. She has a bunch of medical problems which led to her not being able to walk for over a year. When I started with her in July I asked her her goal and she said “to walk again.” She wasn’t really even able to get out of bed without a lot of help. Well, we worked at it. And worked and worked and worked. And there were a ton of setbacks. For a long time it was a major thing to be able to stand for 5 seconds (and I was counting fast). But TODAY – TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! she walked with a walker for about 40 steps across her kitchen. We were both elated. And it felt like meeting someone at the end of a 26.2 mile marathon. It reminded me of why I do this work.
My dad was one of those people who, after a spinal cord injury, seemed to not ever be able to walk again. But that was all he wanted. He worked his ASS off, at the age of 81. He was the best physical therapy patient on the planet. I was across the country from him so I never really worked with him in that capacity. But after working like a MULE for months and months and months, he miraculously and amazingly was able to walk with a walker for up to about a hundred feet. It meant so much to him. And to me.
These things humble me and remind me to be grateful. They also show me how determined people can be to do what seems impossible, and which maybe hardly anyone believes can be done.
(I took that picture in my patient’s kitchen today. Another huge accomplishment was that I was able to step away to take it and she could stand there without anybody holding on to her. In physical therapy language we call that “standby assist.” SUCH A BIG DEAL!)
So that made my day. And brought back a memory that meant a lot.
I wonder how you think I’ve been treating you lately. I admit it isn’t the same intense, hot love that we had back in 2009 when all I thought about was you, all I dreamed about was you. I know, I was kind of borderline obsessed with you, but that was only because I’d neglected you for like, decades, and you gave me that big scare that made me think you were leaving me forever.
I admit that the last year has been kind of bumpy. I know that I sort of was giving lip service to the fact that I cared about you, but that sometimes my actions spoke otherwise. That was not so great of me.
I really want you to stick around. For a long, long time. I think I’ve been trying to figure out all the different things that I need in order to keep you around. I used to think that you would only love me if I exercised all the time and was really strict about what I ate. But then I realize that you are more attached to me than I ever realized and that if I didn’t take care of all of the parts of me, then you would suffer too.
I’m realizing so many more things about our relationship lately – that you need to sleep and rest. That you actually LIKE it if I take time to write. I used to think you were jealous of my writing and that I couldn’t spend time with my writing and have you too. I didn’t really get that you guys are like BFFs. Wow.
I used to think that you only liked doing a few things and I think maybe our relationship got into a little rut and I started feeling bored. I didn’t realize that you liked doing so many of the same things that I do.
Did you know that I’ve been writing about you for 8 days in a row? (how’s that for attention? are you feeling it??) And I’m going to be doing it for the WHOLE month of November. I know! You must be in shock.
Guess what? Some of my favorite people are also writing about their health, too. Isn’t that cool?
Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge that I was not the best friend I could’ve been. I was trying, but you know how you can be trying and still be sort of “off.” My intentions were good but hey, this is a really long term relationship and sometimes we just make mistakes. I think I can say that I learned from them.
Let me ask you. What did you think of that triathlon training last year? I know it was pretty badass. YOU were a badass and you did things I really never believed were possible. But I also think I was beating up on you a bit too. I don’t know. Maybe it was my mind beating up on both of us. I still have to mull that one over.
This next year, let’s do some more running. Like a couple of half marathons. You want to go to Disneyland again? Let’s dress up for the Tinker Bell Half. I promise it won’t be anything dumb, just something fun and comfortable. Definitely a tutu and maybe some wings? Or just sparkles.
Then I’m going to take you on a half marathon tour of OUR TOWN – yeah, the Oakland Half Marathon! We’re going to see so many of our friends. I’m super excited about this one.
I’m reallly excited to train, with like a REAL running coach, and a team, this time. I know how dumb it was to try to drag you out for half marathons in the past (remember Las Vegas? Yeah I don’t want to either) when I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing. But you should be pleased to know I’ve joined Team in Training again and we’re going to do it RIGHT! With lots of cowbell and support. And of course you know this means you’ll be wearing a lot of purple in the months to come. Heh.
Well, body, we’ve been through a lot. I want to let you know I appreciate you. I’m going to be taking better care of you. I know you’re feeling kind of tight and that you’ve got some aches and pains. I’m going to get that taken care of. Maybe some PT. Maybe some Pilates. I’m not going to ignore you when you’re crying. I love you!
That’s it for now. I like writing to you. Now the question is – are you going to write me back?
Today for #NHBPM – people are writing: 1) Redesign a doctor’s office or hospital room OR 2) Be mindful. Write about staying centered.
“Mindful” is one of my favorite words in this whole “being healthy” process. It’s the opposite of “mindless” which is what got me into this mess in the first place. I especially love talking about being mindful when I am talking with Weight Watchers members. It’s the thing that really pulled me back when I had joined and left WW so many times. I had a favorite leader, Stan, who talked a LOT about being mindful. I sat there kind of incredulous. I couldn’t believe he was using that word!
But Weight Watchers has come a long way since I first joined in 1997. It’s not just about counting points and toting up activity. Now, being Mindful is one of the key components of the program. Just last week we focused on just spending five minutes per day thinking about our health and the choices we are making. We sat there for five minutes contemplating various questions and I timed it in the meeting. I was so happy that this was our topic. And even better, this blog challenge has kept me thinking about my health for more than five minutes every day.
It’s when things get so busy and we go “on automatic” that it gets slippery and difficult. It’s good to develop healthy habits so that the “automatic” we fall back on is as good as possible. But that doesn’t always happen.
I truly believe that 99.9% of our health has to do with our minds – how we think about things, how we respond – to stress, to fear and worry.
Which reminds me. I started attending meditation classes when I was first diagnosed with diabetes – because I was in a PANIC state, and I knew I would need to calm down the stress in my mind. I didn’t keep it up for very long, even though I loved it. I am remembering that now and I would really like to make a plan to return.
On the to do list. Thanks NHBPM for a full week of blogging every day – this definitely wouldn’t have happened without you!
And since I’d already been thinking about it – my two cents on the doctor’s waiting room. I spent a long time in one last week and although I love my doctor, her waiting room leaves a bit to be desired.
comfy chairs, please. Chaise lounges would be lovely! Especially for the family members who are waiting and don’t even go in to see the doctor.
Lots and lots of fish. They are known to be calming.
Classical music. Most doctor’s rooms I have been to are dead silent. Which somehow adds to the tension.
Soft, even dim lighting, except for reading lamps (ha!)
A cooler of ice water with some cucumber and mint, like they have at spas. And a hot thermos of tea! Nice!
A separate little post-appointment cove or nook for people to absorb new information or diagnoses/prognoses. A place that is soundproof with a nice box of Kleenex and a stuffed animal to hug. This would actually be my number one recommendation. How many times have we heard difficult or shocking news and then have had to stagger out to our car? How nice it would be to have a safe, comfortable place to just take in what we’ve heard, and maybe a friendly face to ask how we’re doing. That would be so much nicer, wouldn’t it?
Write about a time you had to take the high road
The only news I care about today is the election, but I’m too anxious to write a news style post, so I’m going to choose the “high road” post. But in order to do that I wanted to be really sure what that meant. I Googled it and found:
You may have faced moments when you want nothing more than to react loudly when somebody pushes your buttons. Taking the high road will keep the peace. It’s the best way to handle conflict and maintain your own moral high ground.
I’ve had my buttons pushed a number of times regarding my diabetes. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I realized that there are deep seated prejudices regarding especially Type 2 diabetes. When I began to participate in message boards and other diabetes communities, I read several posts from people (who either had Type 1 or had children with Type 1 – actually more parents of T1s) who were scornful and/or disgusted by any resources going to people with Type 2 diabetes. I quickly came to realize that many people view Type 2 diabetes as the kind that “fat people get” or people who just eat like pigs and bring it on themselves.
I felt that way myself.
I felt embarrassed and ashamed to have done such harm to my body and felt like I was unworthy of any sort of kindness or attention. Indeed, the same week that I was diagnosed, I attended a solo performance by a woman who had had Type 1 diabetes since childhood. She depicted an alarming/hilarious scene in which she is woken up to have her blood tested by an anxious mother several times a night. Sitting in the audience, I was thinking, oh wow, there’s my people!
And then she said, “I have Type 1 diabetes! Not the kind that people who eat tons of cheeseburgers get.”
I wanted to crawl underneath my theater seat and die. She was talking about ME, of course. I furtively looked from side to side to see if anyone was going to throw me out of the theater. Of course nobody had a clue what was happening with me.
But that was the beginning of seeing the bias that is out there. The conventional wisdom is that Type 1 diabetics are innocent, and that they have done nothing to “bring it on” themselves. And that Type 2s are to blame for their (our) conditions.
Since those early days I have learned that behavior and lifestyle are only partial factors in Type 2 diabetes. There are some elements of truth in that perception. But a lot of it is based in genetic predisposition, something that none of us can control. There are people who are very inactive and who eat fabulously unhealthy diets, who will never ever get Type 2 diabetes. And there are normal-or-underweight people who run marathons who might.
It’s been hard for me to not feel defensive and attacked when people make “type 2” remarks. And they do it all the time. Sometimes I feel like attacking back. Because honestly, I feel like I am doing the best I damn can.
But then I have to take a deep breath and take the highest road I can find.
Bottom line is, it’s good for ALL of us to make healthier food choices and to be active in our lives. Right?
This is Post #6 (WOW!) of National Health Blog Post Month.
Writing Prompts: Health Activist Soapbox.
OR Write a #ListOf3 Things that you’re thankful for / excited about / or inspired by
I really thought I was going to write about my three things today, and maybe I will as a post script. As late as yesterday, I thought I had nothing (or not much) to get on a soapbox about, but now I realize I do.
Last week, I was struggling with a bout of (pre-)shingles. I felt as if my bra strap was filled with burning thumb tacks. It was hugely uncomfortable, especially when I was driving. Which I do a lot. Any little bump in the road sent an electric shot of hot pain through the right side of my upper back. It was killer, and I was terrifying and depressed that it was only going to get worse. My back was going to break out into oozing pustules of painful, itchy yuck.
I had heard vaguely of shingles before, but I thought that they were something only suffered by Old People. I didn’t get the vaccine.
But a couple of weeks ago, I started feeling this… weird discomfort. It was limited to a very specific part of my body, as we learned in PT school, a determatomal patch. When I went to my trainer I mentioned this pain. I said, it’s not a muscle kind of pain. It’s my skin—or rather, UNDER my skin.
This is exactly what shingles is. It’s a dormant chicken pox virus that hangs out, sneakily, for decades, and then sometimes fifty or sixty years after the first outbreak, it wakes up! And attacks with a renewed and very painful life. Childhood chicken box tends to be itchy, but adult chicken pox hurts like hell.
This went on for about a week and steadily got worse. But nothing to be seen on the surface at all. After a week I went to see my doctor. She said it sure sounded like shingles. And that the only way of knowing was to take antiviral medication. If it got better, then it was probably shingles. And if it got worse, then we would have ruled shingles out and we could go on to figuring out other things.
For the first two days on the antiviral meds, the shingles pain seemed to get worse. I was getting depressed and frantic. But then it stayed the same. And then, slowly, it began getting better. And better. And now it feels pretty much normal.
I never got the rash. I WAS SPARED!
So what is my soapbox about today? It’s about… dealing with stuff EARLY. This happened with my diabetes when it was still in the Pre- stage. And I swear that this is one of the reasons it is still in good control. My endocrinologist echoes this. She says that if you catch diabetes before it has gotten to a severe state, then it will progress at a much slower rate than otherwise.
This just happened again with the Pre-Shingles.
I can’t tell you how many times people say, “I’ll just wait and see what happens.” Ie., I will see how bad it can REALLY get. Before getting it checked out. But the problem with that, is that if you wait until something gets REALLY BAD, then the damage is already done. You’re already going to be badly messed up.
I really feel like I dodged a huge, nasty, terrible bullet with this one. I’m staying with my aunt and uncle in laws this week. Their sister-in-law had shingles. It was horrible and painful and spread to her eye and blinded her. Seriously. BLIND in one eye. I am so very grateful I caught mine in time.
The second thing I am on my soapbox about it, take your medicine. Medicine is not inherently evil. A lot of people I know are all, “I don’t like to take medicine.” Who does? Sometimes medicine has terrible side effects. I myself admit that I did not take the Lyrica samples that my doctor gave me for nerve pain. Partly because I was holding out for it to get REALLY BAD (which it thankfully never did) and partly because I read that a side effect is: weight gain. Hahaha. Which I knew I did not want. So sometimes we have to choose.
In this case, though, I am very very grateful that I took this ginormous blue horse pill three times a day. I feel like it spared me an awful situation. I’m taking them until the bottle is empty.
So that’s what my (unexpected) soap box is about today:
Get it checked out in the very early stages, whatever it is.
Take your medicine.
Bonus blogette (second prompt):
I’m thankful for my doctor and my medicine.
I’m excited to be re-joining Team in Training, this time with the Run Team (my first time ever!) starting next weekend. I will be training to do the Oakland Half Marathon with my team in March, but also for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January.
I’m inspired by Juniorette, my daughter, who just ran a sub-2 hour half marathon at the US Half Marathon in San Francisco yesterday. I’m so proud of her! She is a rock star. We’re going to be doing the Tinkerbell Half together and all I can say is she is going to be waiting a LONG time at the finish line for her mama.
Writing Prompts: Disclosure post. How did you decide what to share? What do/don’t you share? OR Write about what’s in your bag / purse / backpack every day
I don’t think anyone is really interested in the contents of my bag or purse, so I’m skipping that one.
Disclosure. Ahh. Well, in the interest of full disclosure I’m going to disclose that I don’t disclose everything. I’ll be honest. Sometimes when I am making poor choices regarding my health, I don’t write about it. Instead I just won’t say anything, often until after I’ve “recovered” myself and then I might write about it retrospectively.
It’s hard to write about things we don’t feel good about, especially when we are in the midst of doing them. It’s so much easier to write about crossing the finish lane of a race, than writing “I’m lying on the couch watching multiple episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix.” It’s easier to blog about a great healthy recipe than “I just snarfed down half a jar of peanut butter.” Right?
There was a period of time when I was taking pictures of, and then blogging, every single thing I ate. This went on for a few months. I have to say, it was probably one of the healthiest periods of my life. Because I was committed to one hundred percent full disclosure. I didn’t eat mass quantities of peanut butter or chocolate because I knew that if I did, I was going to have to broadcast it visually throughout the internet. So it gave me pause, and made me really fully consider all of my choices. It made me think, Do I want to share this bite/plate/meal with the world? And if I didn’t feel good about that, I didn’t eat it.
Looking back on it, maybe I need to take up that practice again. It was a good one, and I learned a lot from it. Because it’s in periods of “hiding” that I tend to do things I don’t feel good about.
I have had even more intense negative feelings about Pilates as I’ve had about yoga. I think both of those things make me feel really inadequate. I feel like I am bad at them, because I am super inflexible, and getting more so as the years go on.
Which is probably why I need them.
I took a couple of Pilates classes a few years ago and ended up in tears. I hated every single minute of those classes. EVERY. They were uncomfortable and made me feel just like a big huge failure. I swore to never go back. Plus, the word “Pilates” sounds like the word “Pilate” to me, which is all about betrayal, right?
But recently, I’ve been having more hip and back pain due to super tight, and I mean SUPER TIGHT muscles. I can’t sit upright with my legs extended. I can’t touch my legs below my knees, let alone my toes. I know that I need professional help when it comes to increasing my flexibility. It’s one of those catch-22 types of things. I am inflexible because I don’t do things like yoga, but I don’t do things like yoga because I am inflexible.
Recently I have been thinking about finding a one-on-one Pilates teacher and working on those machine things. I think I have this notion that I need to get stretched out, like on a medieval stretching machine (drawn and quartered?) and I need HELP to do so. This recent yoga challenge was a real eye opener. Part of me wanted to run for the hills and swear (once again) that I would never EVER do such a thing again, but then part of me knows how much I need it. If I keep going like this I’m going to be shaped like a chair for the rest of my life.
So. Gulp. That’s my new goal for… umm… sometime before the end of 2012. I will investigate and find a private Pilates instructor, someone who can help me, maybe, one day touch my toes.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. ~Henry David Thoreau
Day 2 – Friday, Nov. 2 Write about the weirdest thing about your health OR Find a quote and use it as inspiration
I’m not so sure what is weird about my health, so I’m going with prompt #2.
Today I woke up in this little cottage in the North Carolina woods. It’s my third flying trip in three weeks, and I was a total grump about getting on that plane. It really stressed me out to leave my work, my complete mess of a house, and numerous obligations to come on this family trip. Back when we planned it, it sounded like a good idea – to visit Mr. McBody’s aunt and uncle (whom I adore) at their home near Asheville, North Carolina.
And as it turns out, it was a VERY good idea. It has already been way worth the stress of wrenching myself out of my life yet once again. Because the last two trips were “busy” trips – one for a conference and to visit friends, and the second to visit Juniorette up at her college. They were bustling and busy and stimulating and GREAT, but also kind of exhausting before, during and after.
This trip? It almost brings tears to my eyes to realize how perfect it is, and how much I needed it. I am, as is no secret, a very very social person. I love meeting up with people at all of my beloved COMMUNITIES. I thrive on community – at Fitbloggin, at Weight Watchers, my adoption peeps, my writer buddies. But what might not be as well known is that I absolutely thrive and need solitude. I NEED IT.
Right now I am sitting at this little table in this little writers’ cottage (normally inhabited by Uncle McBody). It is a freaking DREAM. I am happy. I am beside myself with happy! Outside it is fall and the leaves are trembling in all of my favorite autumn colors. I can hear critters shuffling through them outside my window. Mr. McBody, up in the main house, is engaged in endless conversation with Uncle (which they both love) and my mother is utterly content with Auntie – watching the birds come to the bird feeder, patting the sweet cat, and dealing with the antics of the mischievous dog.
And I am here in the cottage, alone. Exactly where I want to be, doing what I most love to do.
This morning, I took a beautiful 4.1 mile run through the autumn countryside. It was crisp and cool and gorgeous. I was so happy.
We shared a lovely, healthy lunch. A veggie salad followed by two squares of dark chocolate. I like how these people live! (can I mention again how much I love them)
And now… quiet. Ahhh. I can actually think. And rest. And write. And I know that days/weeks like this are as crucial to my health as good food or exercise. I need to re-charge. I need to have no sound but the ticking clock on the little yellow stove.
Back in the day, I used to go to writing retreats a lot more. I was lucky enough to be granted fellowships at colonies like MacDowell, Blue Mountain and Hedgebrook. My longest time away was eight weeks, and man… it was heaven. My mom came to stand-in and help with my children, and everyone thrived. (that’s a whole OTHER topic that I won’t go into right now, how some people villainized me for “abandoning” my children to the care of (gasp!) their FATHER and GRANDMOTHER – but you know? they’re wonderfully functional young adults now, no scars to be had from THAT anyway, thankyouverymuch) Ironically, it’s been tougher to get away now that I have a job and a mother who is harder to leave than my children were.
Be that as it may. Even being here less than 24 hours has brought home to me the absolute necessity of finding and making time like this. It’s as important as sleep, or air.
Do you like or need to be alone? How do you find time for it?
Why do I write about my health? Why do I blog about health? The two questions are interchangeable, because I think if I did not blog about my health, I wouldn’t be writing about it. The blogging, ie the public conversation, is a necessary element.
I started this blog on the day that I first doubted my health. When I felt that my health had betrayed me, or that I had betrayed it. I was alone and afraid. I knew from other trials in my life that writing was a way to find my way through frightening territory.
I don’t know who or what I would be if I could not write. I first began writing imaginary stories, illustrated ones, about girls with cats and men with hats, when I was about six. When I was ten, I started keeping my first diary, the bona fide kind with a miniscule key and gold edged pages. I wrote in Harriet-the-Spy type composition books and then thick black Chinese notebooks with fine lines and thin paper. I have never not written, ever since I learned what writing was.
On the day that I learned that I probably had diabetes, I did not think it would be good for the blog. I was terrified and ashamed. I desperately wanted to talk about what had happened, but I did not want anyone I knew to know what I was grappling with. I could not bear the thought of looking anyone in the face and telling them that I had probably eaten and slogged my way into ill health.
As I always do when I am feeling desperate or anxious, I turned to writing. Why not just write in a secret journal and keep it under my bed? Why not use my already conversational blog? Because I wanted to talk to people, but I wanted to do it from behind the dim curtain of a confessional. I wanted to discuss my predicament, but while wearing a paper bag on my head.
And so I began this blog. A blog in which I could express my fears and worries, and a vehicle for finding other people who had traveled this same path. I needed companions, but not the same companions I had known my whole life. I needed: though I didn’t know it even existed at the time – the healthy blogosphere.
I have met other people with diabetes. Other people who almost have diabetes. People who have lost weight or can’t lose weight or lost weight and then gained it. People who are struggling to get off the couch or who are training to finish an Ironman triathlon, or their first 5k race. I have read the words of people who have made me cry and throw virtual embraces into the air, hoping they will land on a real human.
My blog is no longer secret or anonymous. I have met other bloggers, and my nonblogging friends have come here to see how I am doing, or to express their own thoughts and feelings about their health. It is a place where I can be seen.
This blog gave me my health. It gave me a place to say, “My health is not so hot,” and to say, I feel better than I ever have. It gives me a place to be honest, and vulnerable, and discouraged and hurt and victorious. It’s not just about my health – it IS my health.