“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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adrenaline Junkie

I think I thrive on stress. Not the normal background soundtrack to my life kind of stress, but the in the moment kind of stress. Like when I speak in front of a large group of people, or I race to complete a deadline, or I handle a crisis fairly well. It's almost like I feel high for an hour or two after!

And then I crash. Muscle fatigue, extreme exhaustion, brain fog, headaches -- you're all familiar with it.

I think I've been cycling in and out of it for weeks now. I wake up in the morning, and I'm hit with the worries of the day, sending a rush of adrenaline through me that won't let me doze anymore. I scurry around getting the kids off to school, and then when it quiets, I rest. The rest brings on a crash, and I can barely get out of it! Yesterday, I actually had to sit down in the shower (I'm usually higher functioning than that). I called my husband and started crying before he even said hello. Not good.

Then it's time to pick up the kids and shuttle them to various activities, and I'm living on adrenaline again. We get home in the evening, and I have to ask one of my teens to put chicken nuggets in the oven for me. I try to interact and help the kids get their homework done or get ready for the next day, but all I can manage is a little half-hearted nagging. By the time bed comes, I collapse.

It is finally dawning on me that perhaps adrenal fatigue is a part of my CFS! (Duh.) Does anyone have a way of breaking out of the stress cycle? Is there a way to "talk yourself down" from an adrenaline high? I'm interested in opinions and ideas!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making Connections

Today I've had my own "Aha" moment.

I woke up feeling surprisingly well. I looked in the mirror, and I didn't see a zombie looking back at me. I was feeling restless during my first rest this morning. I felt ... better!

What made all the difference in the world? My oldest son (15 yo) had been on vacation with another family for 3 weeks, and he just got home yesterday.

Being a busy mom of five other kids, I didn't even notice how much I was worrying about him! He didn't have phone service or internet access most of the trip. He was able to text his sister a couple of times, and when he did, he sounded homesick. This was supposed to be a great adventure vacation -- crossing the US, visiting the Mall of America, Mount Rushmore, LDS church history sites, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone Park, and more. There was mountain biking and hiking and camping and river rafting. It was the chance of a lifetime! He had a great time, but missing us all put a damper on the trip. And the whole time, I worried.

So, he got home yesterday, while I was working at the store. He spent the entire afternoon with his father, getting our truck fixed. They had a fun time entertaining an 81 year old homeless man while they waited for the truck. Then, he took off with his sister and their best friend and did "stuff" for awhile. After work, my husband took me out to dinner, like he always does, and then my son joined us!

He was so cute! He ran through the restaurant, jumped up onto the bench in the booth, and gave me a huge hug! He kept us laughing as he shared all his stories from the last few weeks. It was a wonderful dinner, and I was so happy to have him home. He took off with his friends after dinner, but came into our room before bed and chatted some more until after midnight.

His favorite sarcastic remark before his vacation was "I hate this family!" He has sworn to NEVER say it again, lol!

My next big stress is sending my oldest daughter off to college on Sunday. I hope I'm not a wreck like I was with my son. I don't think I will be. She is ready, I know. She is such a smart girl, and she has a super fun personality. She is absolutely darling, so I'm sure there will be plenty of boys to show her some interest. I know she'll excel in her classes, because she has the skills to do so. I feel like this is going to be such an amazing growing experience for her.

I've spent so many years making room in our family and in my heart for each new baby. I wonder what I'll do now that I'm beginning to send them off? I wonder how our family will deal with shrinking, not expanding. Anyone have any good stress remedies?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rebel, Rebel

I know I'm dating myself here, but this was a really popular T-shirt back when I was a teen. I am relating to this little mouse today.

I had seen so much progress, I grew cocky. I was so busy planning my recovery and the many wonderful things I was going to slowly introduce back into my life that I didn't notice the creeping crash. My body warned me, it certainly did. I knew that I couldn't continue to cheat CFS like I was and get away with it. I had been lulled into a sense of security because I had rebounded so well following a few other periods of high activity. I thought I would be fine if I just took it easy again for awhile.

So, after a serious CFS beat down and tears of defeat in my husband's arms, I am humbled. I am done rebelling. I'm giving in. I am not going to fixate on the external factors that I can't change -- the responsibilities and stresses that are the nature of my life. Instead, I am going to focus on what I can change. I'm adding another rest period into my day, and I'm going to be more consistent with my yoga. I'll work on stress-reducing techniques. I'll remember how to say "no."

It never gets easy admitting that you are ill.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Be, or Not To Be ...

I'm mad. Really, freaking mad. I know it is not uncommon for people with CFS to feel anger. I know it is one of the stages of grief, and we have, indeed suffered such a great loss. But I thought I was passed that. I didn't expect it to sneak up on me again.

My husband and I were planning on taking the kids to see "Up" at our local theater this weekend. Today, he calls and tells me that we need to go tonight, because it looks like it will no longer be playing by this weekend.

I worked yesterday. Also, my 7 year old son came into bed with us in the middle of the night last night because he was feeling sick and couldn't get to sleep. It took three hours of scratching his back, smoothing his forehead, chatting a little, and snuggling before he finally fell asleep. Today is supposed to be the day that I stay home, take it easy and recuperate.

Do I go with my family, or let them go without me?

So, I guess the question isn't really "To be, or not to be" (no need for suicide hotlines at this point, but thanks for the thought!), it is "To be, or not to be ... what?" What do I choose to be?

Are you like me? Do you have this intuition that tells you exactly what you need to do to recover? I've put all the pieces in place -- proper sleep, proper nutrition, supplementation, rest periods. Pacing. I know that the only thing left for me to do is to always keep within my energy boundaries. No more boom-bust. No more push-crash. No more two steps forward, one (or two or three) steps back. I just need to always stay within my energy boundaries.

What do I choose to be? An invalid, or a wife and mother and business owner? Do I really have a choice? I don't think so. I am a wife, a mother, and a business owner. So, becoming healthy again isn't really an option.

And I'm mad.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Exercise Experiment #1 Results

I put my theory to the test this weekend. Since my sister was in town, I took my kids swimming at my mom's house Saturday. The water was the perfect temperature! It felt good floating around a bit, but it wasn't quite enough. I decided to try just a couple of laps. I slowly crossed the pool and back -- leisurely, nothing too strenuous at all. I rested for awhile and made sure my heart rate was back to normal. I crossed the pool again; rested; then again two more times, resting in between. My body felt so good! My muscles loved the feeling of stretching and working just a little bit. It was wonderful. I came home and slept like a baby.

The next day, Sunday, my husband took all the kids to his sister's house and left me all to myself. That would be a treat on any day! But right after my excursion to my mom's it was wonderful to be able to completely relax and rest and do absolutely nothing. I felt pretty good through the afternoon, and then wham! Classic post-exertional malaise! Even after all that resting, I was exhausted. I knew it had to be because of the swimming the day before, because I obviously had done nothing to tire me all day.

In one sense, it was really good -- I've never been able to see much of a correlation between my activities and post-exertional malaise before, because I'm always busy and I often overdo things. I can never see a cause and effect relationship. This time it was crystal clear.

The bad news, of course, is that I have to be careful with any forms of exercise. (You already knew that, didn't you? I'm just a little hard-headed, I suppose.) I crave exercise, and I feel like I need to find a way to fit it into my CFS life. I'm going to keep searching for activities I can do without making things worse. I know that yoga is well-tolerated, so I'll work that back into my day again. My next experiment will be to see if I can tolerate tiny doses of aerobic activity broken up throughout the day -- maybe two minutes here, two minutes there -- until I can work up to 10 minutes a day total. (Dream big!)

I'll let you know how that goes!

Monday, August 3, 2009


I am afraid to clean house.

There is actually a rational explanation behind my irrational fear of housework. During the first year of CFS, when the doctors couldn't tell me what was wrong or what to do to fix it, I did what we typically do -- I pushed myself to try to keep up with my "normal" life. As a result, I was in a constant, 24/7 zombie mode. The fatigue and brain fog were so severe that I couldn't maintain a decent conversation with anyone. I spent hours on the computer, my only respite. My family thought I was addicted. They would come in and interrupt me, trying to interact. They would say something to me, and I'd have to stop, look them in the eye, and still ask them to repeat themselves three or four times before what they were saying made any kind of sense to me. I would still be on the computer when my husband came home from work at 9 pm. I would be desperate to get some sleep, but I was so tired, I couldn't even find the energy to get up and walk upstairs to bed. It was bad. It was ugly. My family suffered.

Then I discovered I had CFS! And pacing! And I started to live within my "energy envelope". Sort of. I'm still working on that. But, anyway, the brain fog began to clear for moments at a time. I could actually talk to my children. And parent them again. It was difficult, because they had become quite feral and did not take kindly to the retaming process. Nonetheless, I found the strength and energy to stick with it, and we are becoming a normal family again. I actually played a board game with my children the other day. It was amazing.

So, my great fear is that if I start doing housework again, I will no longer have energy left for my family! I need to keep an energy reserve for those unexpected moments that require me to parent. I don't want to be unavailable to them again because I was wiping the kitchen counters, or scrubbing the toilets, or sweeping my front porch.

Still. I want to be able to bless my family by creating a more peaceful, inviting home for them ... and me. I'm in the middle of reevaluating how I spend my time. I am coming to realize that too much time on the computer is as harmful as overdoing it physically. I need to start "switching" activities, and maybe I can add a few minutes -- 5 to 10 at a time, maybe -- of housework to my day.

I am going to face my fears and start FlyLady( this month. I discovered FlyLady when I was pregnant with my youngest son. Her program helped me dig out of disarray after months of morning sickness that left me unable to do anything. I realize things are different this time, so I'll have to modify it and keep it within my abilities. But I think I can do this.

AND keep my cleaning lady. ;)