“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend." - Sarah Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Parable of the CBEST

OK, I don't know if it's really a parable, per se -- a symbol, a microcosm maybe -- shoot, that's one of the things I hate about CFS, not being able to find the right word! Nuts!

So, as an update, I received my CBEST results yesterday. The CBEST has three parts, reading, math, and writing. Each section is worth up to 80 points, with a passing score of 41 per section. Overall, I had no problem passing. I took the test sections in the following order: reading, math, then writing. My scores were as follows: 76 in reading, 69 in math, and 53 in writing. Now you can see CFS at work! I started off strong and slowly faded as the testing wore on. I had two writing prompts; my writing was getting pretty inane by the second one! I was happy to just get the thing finished. So, the moral of the story? Even though your performance wanes, you can still get it done and be successful! (That does make it a parable, then, doesn't it? Or is that a fable?)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do the Right Thing!

OK, this is not a political post, or a moral post, or a religious post -- although I obviously have a political, moral, and religious opinion about California's Proposition 8. This is a CFS post!

Today, I walked precincts in support of Prop 8. Now, I can't tell you how concerned I was going into this! I know what happens to me when I overdo it, and this would certainly mean overdoing it! I've been busy all week getting ready for back to school. I've been up late every night with "Olympics Fever" (damn you, Michael Phelps!). I was out late last night with Kyara at a production of Les Miserables (it was a school assignment). It required me to get up early (OK, early for me -- 7:20 am).

But, this is something I strongly believe in. Not because I'm a redneck gay basher, but because I'm an advocate for the family. Study after study shows that children growing up in a traditional two parent family have the best chances for success, and that they make the most contributions to society. Although many families fall short of this ideal -- divorced parents, unmarried parents, widowed parents, and homosexual couples -- I still feel that the government has a stake and obligation in promoting traditional marriage. I honor and applaud every parent in every circumstance who does their best to raise happy, productive, healthy children. But, I'll do what I can to keep traditional marriage the ideal.

And today I walked precincts! We started at 8:30 am, and I walked until 10:00 am. People of all opinions were friendly and polite. It was surprisingly easy to do. Now comes the CFS part -- because of the ease, I found myself thinking I should take on a second route. There was that guilt in the back of my mind that I wasn't doing enough. I was tempted ... and I respected my personal boundaries! I said no to the second route! I compensated by taking home a calling list instead. Now, I'm home, and I feel the fatigue starting to set in. But if I take it easy today, I don't think I'll crash. If I had taken a second route, I would have crashed for sure.

Look at me! I'm doing something I want to do ... something that is important to me ... and I'm fitting it within my physical limitations! I would say this is definitely a milestone, and I'm feeling very proud!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mourning Me

I know that one of the worst things you can do when you have CFS is to compare yourself with others. Sometimes it's hard not to. I see my good friend, the mother of a big family, and she has the energy to do it all -- she's up an hour before her kids are, they read scriptures together, they say family prayers, her house is reasonably clean (did I say she has a big family?), she's thoughtful and always available to serve others, she opens her home to her kids' friends. It's easy to feel slight when I compare myself to her. I think, "Well, if I had the energy, I would be great, too!"

But, there's someone else I compare myself to that is even harder on me. That's when I compare myself to the old me. And to think I used to be so hard on myself! Right before CFS came crashing down on me, I was nearing Superwoman status. I loved my church calling -- I was the Primary President, in charge of the children's ministry and overseeing an organization of 60 kids. I loved all the aspects of the calling, and I did it well. I enjoyed the compliments and support I received from people who appreciated what I was doing for their kids. It was a great source of pride.

With my kids getting a little older, I was venturing out of the house and doing a little more for myself. I was making a little money for myself as a consultant with Home Interiors. I was getting quite good at my demonstrations and parties. After so many years of being immersed in children, it was so refreshing to be out among adults again.

I was dabbling in interests of my own. I was joining some of the small interest groups my church has to offer. I was going to a book club and a gardening club. I participated in cooking demonstrations. I tried a scrapbooking club (it only lasted one time, though).

My house was reasonably clean. I took pride that it was sometimes cluttered, but never dirty. It was never further than an hour of intense labor away from looking good and inviting again. I could entertain people, although I only did it once or twice. I even threw a gigantic surprise party for my husband's 40th birthday.

Speaking of birthday's, I was there for my kids. I could throw together fabulous birthday parties -- nothing extravagant, but certainly creative and fun. I was available when they needed to talk. I helped them with school work. I was always coming up with programs for discipline and cleaning and leisure time, and I stuck to them. I read bedtime stories to my boys.

I took care of myself. I planned menus and cooked healthy meals. Not everyday, of course, but often. I exercised regularly. I looked good! I was in great shape for a mother of six at my age ... and I was moving towards being in great shape, period. I felt good.

Little by little, I saw all of that stripped away from me. It was crushing when I reached rock bottom. At the bottom of the crash, I was nothing more than a zombie. Getting up before noon was my most major accomplishment. I forced myself to do the bare minimum, but I couldn't do anything else. My house became a disaster. I spent hours on the computer, oblivious to anything around me. I no longer spent time with my kids or my husband. We moved to easy, prepared meals. I stopped exercising. I couldn't get out of the house at night, so gone were the Home Interiors parties and my book club. I was released from my calling, and although I cried, I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I stopped going to my gardening club, because I couldn't keep up with even minor gardening tasks. My family was hurt and bewildered, trying to be supportive, but I felt their unintentional, never-spoken accusations. Still, I couldn't do anything about it. I know it sounds like depression, but it was not! I've been there before, I know what it feels like. It was just that I was too tired to do anything.

It hurts to remember the old me. It also hurts to remember the rock bottom me. I'm in the process of creating the new me, but it isn't easy. It still feels like I'm trying to run through quick sand. My greatest accomplishments are the tiniest victories ... but still, at least I'm starting to have victories.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

One of the thoughts that keeps coming back to me is, "I've been going through this for two years now -- I should be better at this!" But I'm not. Well, maybe just a little better at this, but I still flounder. Every day, I have to choose what is most important to get done. Kids needs, family time, housework, help with the business, time for my marriage, time for me -- I get to choose one, and the rest is left waiting in line. I still haven't learned how to prioritize and plan. I wake up and see what is most clamoring for my attention. Yesterday, I got the kids registered for school. Today, there's a problem with licensing at the business. On the one hand, I'm proud that I got the major things done at the end of the day. It's a great big accomplishment, something that I can point to and say, "See! I did something! I did that!" On the other hand, swept in the corner, piling up, are all the little things I know I should do, but I never have the energy to get to. We're out of toilet paper. The laundry is piling up. Paperwork is all over the house. My kitchen floor needs mopping. There's no food in the fridge. The list grows and grows and mocks me and drains the satisfaction from my life.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Paying The Price

I knew I would be pushing it Saturday... but it was worth it, right? I know I've reached my limit when I'm so tired I feel like I have to puke and I can't keep from crying. I remember one 4th of July when Kyara was about three years old. We had spent all day at the beach and then stayed for fireworks. When it was all over, we had to gather all our belongings -- towels, blankets, chairs, toys -- and make the trek back to our parked car. Poor Kyara was so exhausted, but our arms were full, so she had to walk! Of course, she cried the whole way there. My mom, a wonderful woman but not fond of crying as a grandmother, tried to get her to stop by telling her not to be a crybaby. I was so mad! I told her, "She's just a little girl, and she's exhausted past her limits! She's not a crybaby, she's doing just fine!"

Well, I'm not a little girl, but I sure feel like one! I am definitely exhausted beyond my limits, but I'm not doing just fine! And today is our last day to go to the beach this summer, so there's no rest today. Tomorrow, Kyara is scheduled to take her driver's license test in Riverside, so there's no rest tomorrow. I also have back to school looming and our new business to help with. I panic when I don't see any rest on the horizon. I'm going to have to go into survival mode for a little while, which no one likes, but I don't see a way around it. Take care of what absolutely has to be done, and float like a zombie around the house the rest of the time. Bed at 9:00 pm, no matter what Michael Phelps happens to be doing later than that. Withstand the whining, the demands, the eye-rolling, the accusations that I'm not doing enough. Forgive myself daily... hourly... minute by minute.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

After a fitful night's sleep, the alarm woke me up at 6:15 am. I got up, showered, and headed out the door by 7 am. I hit the freeway towards Riverside and arrived at the high school a little before 8 am. There, I spent the next four hours taking the CBEST, the test you have to pass if you want to teach in California.

What was I thinking? OK, I knew what I was thinking when I signed up to take the test. I thought, Gavin is going to be in 1st grade this year. That means, for the first time in 17 years, I will not have any kids home with me all day long. I've thought this would be a good time to go back to work and help boost mine and Rom's retirement. A full-time job commitment doesn't seem like a good idea to me right now, but I thought substitute teaching would be doable. I could accept jobs on my own terms and be able to pitch in to help with the family income. So, I signed up for the CBEST.

Now, I also know what I was thinking last night. What, am I crazy? What if I have a complete brain malfunction? What if I fade half way through and can't finish the test? I didn't even study for this -- what, do I think I'm still 18 years old with English and Algebra just under my belt? What if they ask me to find the area of a triangle? Or the mean/median/mode of a group of numbers? What if they ask me to use laid/lay/lain properly in a sentence? What if I get a huge migraine during the test and can't find my way home and end up driving around in circles for hours on the freeway?

Well, I have to admit taking the test wasn't as easy as it used to be. I did have some strange brain functions. Once, I was numbering some items in order largest to smallest. For some reason, I wrote an 8 instead of a 3 next to one of them. This really threw me off when I went to record my answer, and I had to renumber everything. Then, I thought, "Oh, I see -- it's just like when I say 'refrigerator' when I mean 'dishwasher.'" I wonder how many more of those I did that I didn't catch?

So, now I'm paying the price -- I'm more exhausted than I've been in months. I've given up on accomplishing anything more today. I'm just counting the minutes until I can go to bed. But, you know what? I think I did OK. And, I think it's worth it. Sometimes, you know you're going to pay for it later, but you just have to go for it. I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hurry, hurry, hurry!

Today was a good day, and they don't come by very often or last very long, so I have to revel in it while I can! I started by getting up at 9:30 am. A respectable time to get up, I think. I made my bed, did my yoga, showered. I threw in a load of laundry (kind of -- it was just a comforter). I read my scriptures and said my prayers. I switched out the laundry and threw in another load (kind of -- another comforter). I checked my e-mail and played a crossword online. I joined Rom at work around noon and helped him move beds around. I came home and switched out the laundry and threw in another load one more time (kind of -- two blankets this time). I played on the computer in the afternoon, and I did a little running around in the evening. Now, at 9:30 pm, I'm starting to feel ready to get to bed, but I'm not even really twitching yet! Imagine, a full 12-hour day! Amazing! I hope I didn't overdo it at the store. I'm going to get to bed and hope for the best tomorrow!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Someone once said that calling this illness (disease? condition? ailment?) chronic fatigue is like calling Parkinson's "chronic shakiness syndrome." Really, the name is embarrassing. People just don't get it. When they hear that moniker, they think, "Ok, well then just go take a nap!" Ah, if it were only that easy!

So, I'm here to chronicle life with chronic fatigue. And, since I haven't told anyone about my blog yet, I can be pretty honest and get away with it.

What is CFS?
CFS is the elephant graveyard for all diseases that the doctor can't quite put his finger on -- the ethereal, undiagnosable, strange diseases that in the past were labeled non-existent. So, now instead of "You're crazy," we have CFS.

What does CFS look like?
Fat - I weigh more than I did after my 6th child.
Flabby - I've lost muscle. Like Schwarzenegger without a shirt. (Have you seen him lately?)
Old - I've aged 10 years in the last two.
Lazy - My house is a disaster.
Flighty - I am so forgetful! I even get disoriented driving to the store sometimes.
Flaky - Ok, sometimes I just can't do that, even if I promised or I really, really should.
Turret's - When people see my signature twitching, they tense up, expecting me to start swearing a blue streak.
Beaten up - The permanent dark circles under my eyes make me look like I married a wife beater.
Beaten down - I slouch, even worse than when I was 15.

What does CFS feel like?
Think Christmas morning, 6 am, after staying up "playing Santa" until 3 am. That's on a good day. Then, it gets progressively worse, day after day, until "the crash." All functionality flies out the window until I am able to recuperate back to just feeling deathly tired. Mornings are the worst. Opening my eyes feels like peeling off band-aids. You know that feeling you have after a good night's rest, when the baby has slept through the night, and no one climbed into bed with you, and you wake up all by yourself without the help of the alarm, and you feel so good and refreshed? I haven't felt that in two years. Add to that regular headaches (minor to moderate) and a debilitating migraine every month or two. Also throw in some daily aches and pains and little annoying illnesses like sore throats, sniffles, a cold, and the flu.

What does CFS sound like?

"Um, we think it may be perimenopause... hormones... too much/little progesterone/estrogen/testosterone (what?!)... hypo/hyperthyroidism... anemia... nutritional deficiency... migraines (ok, yes, but only as a symptom, not as a diagnosis)... depression... inactive/overactive adrenal glands... MS... seizures (Ok, you know it's bad when you're disappointed it's not a brain tumor -- at least they could cut the stupid thing out and I could GET BETTER!!!)... blepharospasm... hypoglycemia... sleep apnea..."

What helps?
Yoga. Arbonne. Lowering expectations. Knowing my limits. Pacing myself. Priesthood blessings from my husband. Being aware of how much I'm still contributing.

What doesn't?
Trying to play catch up. Comparing myself to "superwomen," including who I used to be. Over-committing. Setting my expectations too high. Praying to make this go away. Trying to make everyone happy. Yo-yo dieting... BUT I STILL DO IT!