Saturday, June 6, 2015

Never. Give. Up.

Note:  Because so many others have shared their stories and inspired me, I feel it is only right that I share the following in the hope it will help someone who may be feeling they want to give up.

I have spent the last six or so years in pain, from extreme to bearable, but uncomfortable.  The diagnosis was arthritis through back and neck, right hip needs replacing, left is getting there, and "you probably have fibromyalgia." The pain often makes me physically ill.

My favorite activities, before what led up to this diagnosis, were ice climbing, bouldering, hiking, rock climbing, dancing, and in-line skating. I figured I'd just keep moving and it would pass.

Didn't happen.

For someone who always just pushed through-- when I had appendicitis (no one could figure out what it was until my appendix had burst), I put my toddler son on my back and hiked hills-- this was a shocking place to be.  I couldn't push through this.  Things got really, really bad and for over a year I seriously considered suicide a number of times.  I thank God for Virginia in the Las Cruces SSD office who helped me eventually get Social Security Disability.  She kept encouraging me to not give up, even when I was turned down the first time.  At that point I felt I had nothing to give my children. I was in bed more often than not and when I was up I was often in tears and crying out in pain and frustration. I hated feeling my two boys had to take care of me, go to the store with and sometimes for me.  Had to help me put my shoes on.  It was horrifying to consider what might happen if I could no longer drive or get out of bed by myself.

I so appreciate my two teens and how they have dealt with this.  There have been times I would not have been able to live on my own if not for my sons, and I  thank them so much for their patience and care through these very challenging years.

Over these last years I have gone to school and graduated, working part time.  My health kept deteriorating until, in January, nine months after graduating, I realized I couldn't even keep my very part time job with a wonderful, understanding boss.  I was in too much pain and too sick.  It was frightening.

Several months later, at the beginning of May, I made a decision.  Life like this was not worth living. Either I got better, or I'd kill myself trying.  I love exercise and when I could do anything in the past six years, I would do it.  The trouble was the result was days in bed, 800 mg ibuprofen at a time, and hydrocodone when it became screaming unbearable.  And feeling really, really awful, terrified to have more pain.

That was the hardest part and it may be yours, too.  The fear of more pain, especially when you are already in pain, is one of the hardest things to meet.  What finally did it for me was realizing how long I'd been living like this and how much I hated it.  I figured if I was going to feel this awful then I was at least going to have some fun and good experiences in the midst of it.

I will say that timing is everything.  I know there have been times I couldn't have done this.  My body just never gave me a break.  When it did it was very much like labor-- when you have a break between contractions, rest; you need the energy for the next one.

But at the beginning of May, as I was getting rid of stuff I didn't need, I saw a hula hoop that I had purchased years ago-- it sparkled and I wanted to at least be able to do it once before I gave it away.  But-- nope.  I couldn't.  So frustrated
that I couldn't do something so simple, I went on line and read that children's hula hoops were not easy or even possible for some adults.  I got instructions and made myself four adult sized ones.  Two are weighted with about two pounds of water.

And I began.  I am not going to tell you it was easy-- it wasn't.  One thing about limping and being in pain is that your body is totally whacked out.  My hip was weak and hurt horribly.  Just the feel of the weight of the hoop on my body hurt at first.  But sheer grit and determination-- I just kept picking it up, shifting positions, and trying again.  I had a nice bruise, but soon-- very soon, I could keep it up.

I looked on YouTube at others who had lost weight and had fun hooping and got more inspired. At this point I was thirty pounds over what I felt was a comfortable weight for me.  I couldn't even bear to take photos of myself to show a beginning point.  I felt fat and ugly and incapable of much.

But those people who had the courage to show before and after shots, who shared their journeys, inspired me so much.

Within a few weeks I'd lost and inch and a half off my waist and 5 pounds.  And I FELT better.  I signed up for and logged everything.  Everything.  I made sure that I put myself as sedentary so that any extra exercise or work that I did was extra, not included, so that I could log it (or not, and secretly know that I had done even more,)

Eating 1200 calories has not been a problem.  After a month, I am still often under in protein and over in sugar, but I just keep looking for more ways to add protein and reduce sugar and don't worry about it.  In fact, I saw that a cheat day was recommended by many who lost, so I tried it a week ago and found myself having to force myself to do so.  THAT felt good!

Over the last month I have been able to increase my activity.  In the beginning my hip was a hindrance when I tried to hoop to the left (right hip.)  I couldn't even keep it up because of the stiffness of the joint.  A month later, I feel strength in that hip (even tho it may go in and out at times.)  I can circle in both directions and my hip feels looser and stronger.  My core feels SO much stronger.  And my side view looks so much more like me-- that is huge to me.  Lower ab flab was horrifying...  To see none, at times, is inspiring and makes me work harder!

I also noticed that my height diminishes by an inch some days.  Spine lengthening exercises have been helpful and also have eased some of the pain.

I have horrible days still.  But I also have had some good ones.  I have hiked (with poles) and the last time I went out I didn't have to take ibuprofen-- during or after-- and I was much surer going over rocks.  THAT is WONDERFUL!  It helped me feel so much more myself.

And today I did a snowplow (yoga) and touched my toes to the floor-- something I have not been able to do in years and which used to be so easy for me!

I know there are bound to be rough days (yesterday was one), but I have decided on every day that I can, I am exercising the heck out of myself.  I don't care what happens tomorrow because of it (and I have found that more recently the repercussions have been far less or none!)  I am going to enjoy every day that I can.

So, in closing, here are some tips that have helped me:

1.  The stronger my core, I have found, the less I fear the pain.  Some days are better than others, but that feeling of core strength has made a huge difference in my pain tolerance and fear of pain.

2.  Logging food and exercise-- and logging on my own sheets the weather, how much sleep I got, energy levels, etc. has helped a great deal.  If I am having a good day, the drive to push the calories expended becomes a personal challenge. If I have a bad day, I can see that the week overall has been good and I don't feel so rotten about not being able to do anything.

3.  Don't weigh-- measure!  I am weighing, I admit.  But seeing the scale just keep sitting there has discouraged me...  Feeling my pants falling off makes me feel GREAT!  Seeing the inches go is terrific!   DO WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP GOING.  Period.

4.  Make music that inspires you and "wear it."  I bought an MP3 player and downloaded a bunch of tunes that make me move, and then I wear it everywhere.  If I'm in the store, I put only one headphone in, but I wear it.  It makes me move.

5.  Do whatever you can whenever you can.  Do heel raises while you do dishes, do isometric core work while brushing your teeth,  wiggle and dance when you are sitting down (fidgeting burns a lot of calories.)   If you are flat on your back-- and I have been A LOT-- stretch, do core strengthening, tighten and relax each of your muscles in turn.  And meditate.  Don't let the times you CAN'T keep you from the times that you CAN.

6.  Keep your spirits up by meditating and watching others' inspiring stories.  Keeping your spirits up is one of the hardest things when you have pain.  For me, nature videos, bird songs, the sound of waves or thunderstorms, using my arms (sometimes the only thing that doesn't hurt) to do dancer moves like flamenco artists, and watching someone else's journey help me immensely.

7.  Make your surroundings as conducive to working out as you can.  For me, it meant pushing everything in my living room to the sides so that I could pick up the hoop and work when I had any energy at all.  If I had to push the couch out of the way, I might have lost the energy to do any more. I leave my weights, exercise instructions, and exercise ball out and easily available.  It is my house, and my focus is my health.  If you come over-- YOU can push the couch back and move my hoops!

8.  All of my focus is on my health.  All of it.  If I think anything might distract or discourage me, I don't do it.  Because pain saps so much of my energy, whatever energy I DO have goes to me (my kids are the exception-- thank goodness they are very self-sufficient at this point.)  I recognized that if I was to have any future at all, I have to focus on ME-- right now.  Intensely.

9.  Wait out the really bad days.  Just lie down and stop punishing yourself for having to.  Focus on your health and stop thinking about how it used to be so much better or easier.  It was.  It isn't now. Just wait it out.  Tell your body-- "Do what you need to, but as soon as I can I am going to hoop, dance, hike, whatever."  And know that it will happen.  Sometimes you can feel that moment when you are not feeling great, but you think you can still do something --- do it.  Don't wait to feel 100%, because for some of us, that doesn't happen. I find by exercising when I feel I MIGHT be able to usually helps me feel better, and when I find that I can, that makes me feel even better!  When I can't, I just try to remind myself-- a little later you can.  Just wait.

10.  Don't give up.  Do. not. give. up.

Do what you can--- when you can.  And never give up.

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