Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blizzards And Belief

After filling up near the AZ/CA border, I dropped by Dairy Queen to pick up one of my favorite dessert treats: a Butterfinger Blizzard. I then phoned my brother and inquired, "So how's the blizzard in Michigan treating you?"

He was snowed in at his place in Detroit, facing the woes of the worst blizzard to hit the Motor City in 40 years, while I was reveling in the warm weather of southwest North America. Cruelly, I shared with him that I was thoroughly enjoying a DQ blizzard in 70 degree temperatures.

The day prior, while on the phone with my parents, I had inquired if they were joining any of their friends to view the Super Bowl. My dad informed me they were snowed in and that church had been canceled that morning. They wouldn't be going anywhere, and would attempt to get reception on the 12" scree television in the guest room. (For the record, my parents have never had cable TV, nor a reliable internet connection, for that matter.)

On my final leg "home" from Phoenix, I thanked Jesus I wasn't in Michigan. And I did again the following week, when my mom informed me that the high for the day would be 8 degrees, and that Dad recently got his car stuck in the drive back to our home. Mom told me they had to call and pay for a tow truck to help get him out.

While my parents faced 8 degree weather, I faced the sun, laying out in 80 degree weather at the north end of Newport Beach. As I absorbed a large dose of Vitamin D, I read several chapters of a book my friend Lisa had told me about several summers ago, as we sat in a hot tub and talked about life, the disappearance of my latest man, and her engagement to her now-husband. That conversation took place in Grand Rapid, Michigan, in summer, when Michigan is wonderful.

But the segment I stumbled upon in that book that afternoon stated, "January in Grand Rapids is almost beyond description. It makes me think that maybe we heard wrong when God said hell is hot, because I think hell might be very, very, mind-numbingly, scream-when-you-open-the-door-cold, like January in Grand Rapids. Hot is tropical. Hot is flip-flops and the smell of coconuts, but cold is much more reminiscent of eternal punishment in my estimation. Like Grand Rapids in January." Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequest.

The author's words once again confirmed for me that I had made the right decision to spend the winter season not in Michigan.

And then I went for a jog, barefoot, along the beach, and as I did I began to believe.

I began to believe that I was going to get my health back.

And somewhere between lifeguard tower 74 and tower 36, a woman sitting in her bikini hollers out to me, "You're awesome! And you're beautiful!"
Typically I wouldn't have heard such a shout out, but the batteries had died on my running radio that morning, so there was no music to drown out the sound of the waves crashing, the seagulls squawking, and this woman's words coming at me.

As I glanced back to see who said it, by how she was sitting beside a man, I sensed she wasn't a lesbian. I mumbled a thank you (that she probably couldn't hear), and kept going, thinking, perhaps someday, I'll reach awesome health status again. And that maybe, someday, I'll meet another man, who calls me beautiful by name, like the man in Colorado did.

This week I posted on facebook the following: came to CA to process my #CFS chronic illness only to discover a treatment center in the OC that thinks they can help... but could use HELP! w/medical bills. contribute 20 to 100 and i'll send you one of my books as a thank you. (* each month i'm gift about 4 to 6 "good" health days... yesterday was one of them... i was also gifted a free lift ticket - hurrah!)

Next week I start treatment in Newport Beach. And so we'll see if my body responds positively to it...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The "Practice" of Smiling

At the end of "Week 3" (i.e. the end of January), I drove east to Arizona to celebrate Super Bowl weekend. Friday evening I ventured downtown with a couple of friends to absorb the pre-game energy reverberating throughout the host city. Although my head hurt (as it often does these days), I found myself smiling like I used to on occasion in New York City, when there was no real reason to smile, but rather you just feel alive, and the smile comes naturally. (And then some man thinks you're smiling at him, and you have to clarify, no, not you buddy, I'm just smiling at life.)
My Qigong instructor recently encouraged us to implement smiling as a practice. She explained to us that she has been on retreats where everyone is instructed to maintain a smile on their face for the duration of the retreat, even if they're not feeling particularly happy. She said by the end of the retreat, everyone felt loved (by the friendly smiles they received) and they felt happy, and wanted to continue to smiling just because, because the practice had become habit over just a few short days.

She encouraged us to smile more to help spread happiness in the world.

But in Phoenix, the smile just came, and then I found myself dancing in the streets, when no one was dancing near me. But there was music - fun dance music - coming from somewhere. Thankfully, Saturday night, I joined a "real" dance party, where others danced the night away with me. Again, I smiled big, and felt grateful that I had made the trek out to AZ just to be goofy with a couple of my old high school friends and the crew from their neighborhood.

And on Super Bowl Sunday, I didn't wake up with a headache.
Migraine headaches tend to make you smile less than the average person. The past 10 days, I've faced a headache EVERY single day, and my migraine medication didn't help. (But thankfully I've had friends that did, help with the smiling, that is...) Today it feels like I won the Lotto; the day is nearly over, and no headache, of any sorts. :)

But on my way home from Phoenix, Monday afternoon, another headache set in, reminding me I had my fun, and now it was time to pay up. At least the gas was cheap. Only $1.90 in AZ, about 2/3 the cost of what it is in California. So before I crossed the border, I stopped to fuel up.

And as I did, I noticed a Dairy Queen - open for business, in the middle of winter.

You have to understand, I have a thing for DQ Butterfinger Blizzards. And you need to understand, the closest Dairy Queen to me in Michigan closes at the end of October and doesn't reopen until the weather warms up above 50, which sometimes takes until the end of April.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to see a Dairy Queen open for business.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mitochondrial Dysfuntion

In December a good guy friend of mine in NYC reprimanded me rather than celebrated with me after I finally secured my malaria prescription. "Katrina, you do NOT have malaria!"

I acknowledged I might not have active malaria in my system, but it was likely the malaria I had been infected with in Uganda triggered Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in my body.

My friend then wanted to know the science behind the illness, "Well, what causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?"

I told him, "They don't know."

"Sure they don't," he replied with sarcasm and skepticism. He then went off on some rant about a change in diet. Our conversation escalated into an argument. My first big one ever, I think, with a non family member. (I was actually proud of myself for how I engaged in the conflict.) He insisted, if only I ate the right food, I would get my health back. His insistence implied that it was my fault that I was still sick, and that it was within my control to heal my body. I shared with him that I didn't want to pursue special diets (i.e. paleo, gluten free, etc.) for fear it might trigger an eating disorder. And it went downhill from there, as he insisted that by me stating that, I already had an eating disorder.

A few days later "the guy from down the shore" told me over facebook chat that he has a neighbor with CFS who has been chasing after special diets for the past 15 years. His neighbor has tried everything under the sun and no food regiment, liver cleanse, or dietary supplement combination has restored his health. My therapist also assured me I don't have an eating disorder; instead, she told me I had good self-awareness to know what might make me susceptible to one. (That same night I shared my most recent NYC shenanigans, and had my therapist laughing so hard that I considered she should be paying me for my fabulous story telling.)

I mention all of this, because during week 2 out in California, I continued my investigative research and found some answers. Hurrah! I finally know the core cause of what it plaguing me.

After spending the past two years ruling out Anemia, Thyroid Issues, Adrenal Fatigue, Lyme Disease, Gluten Allergy, other potential Africa ailments (Schistosomias, Strongyloides, Filarias) and Pyschosomatic Illness (like PTSD and depression) ALL of which can cause various forms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome...

Thanks to Dr. Sarah Myhill's presentation I FINALLY know the science behind MY health issues. I have mitochondrial dysfunction, which is a cells' inability to convert enough energy for the body to function properly. Think of it this way: most people get about 100 "energy credits" a day. However, individuals with mitochondrial dysfunction only get 10 to 20 per day, and when you spend more than what you have, your body crashes with debilitating fatigue and migraine headaches. Unfortunately it takes 25 to 50 energy credits per day to work a full time job, so...  that makes life a bit tricky...

Another CFS expert explains it like this: It's like your body blowing a fuse. When you do more than your body can handle, your fuse blows. Even if you "reset" the fuse, you'll keep blowing it when you push your body beyond its limits. The trick to living with mitochondrial dysfunction is to figure out a pacing for your body so you don't keep blowing your fuse.

That said, I think I need to start that company I've been dreaming of, so I can delegate out most responsibilities, and work 10 to 15 hours a week...  Ha! If only it was that easy. I know it's possible, but certainly are also a ton of obstacles between here and there.