How I am (part deux)
...I stopped taking the pills and never went back to her.
The hormone pills have been out of my system for five months, but the weight gain continues unfettered.
I returned to my PCP a couple of weeks ago to complain (for what feels like the umpteenth time) about my fatigue and especially my weight gain. She was kind, but said it is not from water retention (as I had suspected) and that my bloodwork is normal, apart from something being off with my red corpuscles. She suggested that perhaps I was eating more than I thought now that I have a live-in boyfriend and that I should exercise more. I told her this wasn’t the problem.
She ordered more blood work, but I left so furious and discouraged that I barely slept for two days.
The day after that office visit, I was determined to do as she said—to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into every day. After work, I walked for 30 minutes on a level surface at a moderate pace. It was very painful. I got through it by digging deep into my athlete-self and my stoic Yankee self, to plod along, no matter how tired, no matter how painful. I longed for relief and when I finally arrived home, I went straight up to my yoga room to stretch, in the hope of relieving some of the pain. I made it through a couple of standing stretches, but then, collapsed to the floor and blacked out.
The next day I resolved that on my next visit, I would use this as a specific example, so that when I say, “I can’t exercise more,” or “I am deeply fatigued,” or “I can’t recover from exercise,” or “I have no energy,” she will understand what I mean.
I am an athlete. A debilitated, overweight athlete who can't exercise, but an athlete nonetheless.
Believe it or not, I have a relatively high threshold for pain. While training for the San Francisco marathon eight years ago, I tore something in my right knee on the tenth mile of a 12-mile training run, but I finished that run. I couldn’t walk the next day, but I finished—and had surgery instead of running the marathon.
When my ACL was torn completely off my femur last summer and my bone was bruised so severely that I was in pain 24x7 for 15 months while it healed, I refused the morphine and the prescription pain killers they offered me. I remained a good sport the day of the injury—howling in the first moments and crying—but also cracking jokes, making decisions, and staying calm.
That ability to function while under pressure and in pain is part of my athlete self and it comes in handy in a crisis, but I now believe that it has prevented friends, family, and most importantly doctors, from grasping exactly how serious the problem is--because I don't let it show.
I realize now that I must find a way to set aside my determination to slog through it, get past my belief that somehow I am just being weak, being a victim, and find the words to communicate to my PCP that something is really wrong. Even though I do my job faithfully for 40 hours every week and I am as active as I can possibly be given my limitations, we can't ignore that I’m not okay. The fact that I have the stamina to get through a 30-minute walk of pain through terrible fatigue comes not from a healthy body, but from the sick grit that makes athletes play through injuries and exhaustion.
But this is not a game—it is not 40 minutes on a court or on a soccer field. This is my life. It’s not a race or a training run. And it’s not just about today—it’s about all these days, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them when I have been too weak to move, when I have functioned only because I can dig down and find another gear that makes it possible to buy the groceries, do the laundry, weed the garden, sweep the floor, and file my stories.
I tell this here and now as much to myself as to anyone else. I need to get my story straight so that I can communicate with the physicians or practitioners who might have an answer for me. And I tell it to you now, so that if you are my friend, you will understand what has been going on.
This is why I couldn’t go to Anna’s wedding. It’s why I can’t go to Tom’s wedding in October. It’s why I couldn’t go to the trade show in San Francisco earlier this month. It’s why it takes me a long time to get things done sometimes and why I’ve had to cut back on my duties as a class officer, and limit the other volunteer work I care about. It’s why my office is a mess. It’s why we haven’t moved. It’s why I haven't done a good job these last five years of keeping in touch. It’s why I’ve gotten so very large.
While I was home in Maine last month, I saw my grandfather. In front of everyone, the first thing he said to me was, “You’ve put on a lot of pounds.” Then he squeezed the fat on my arms between his fingers and pinched it. Hard. “You need to exercise,” he said.
I doubt he’ll ever see this blog post. But for everyone who’s ever thought I should be in better shape or making different choices in my life, here it is: I’m tired. I’ve been very, very sick and very, very tired for a long, long time. It drove me into bankruptcy. It nearly cost me my life. And trust me when I say, I’ve worked very, very hard to get well--and I'm still not there.
These are just some of the things I've done to try to get well:
- psychiatric care
- several forms of yoga
- physical therapy
- massage and other body work
- the Perricone diet
- the Eat Right for your Type diet
- a vegan diet
- a vegetarian diet
- a diet incorporating meat
- a semi-vegetarian (lacto-ovo-pesce) diet
- the reduction and removal of caffeine
- three different hormone treatments
- herbal colon cleansing
- energy work
- Bach Flower remedies
- tissue salts
- vitamin and mineral supplements
- visits to the doctor
- lab tests
- a new bed
- new apartments
- new relationships
- new bedtime routines
- attention to fluid intake
- epsom salt baths
Currently, I don’t take any prescription medication, apart from things that come up as needed.
I take Tylenol, ibuprofen, or naproxen, as needed for pain and inflammation.
I take Methionine-200 (amino acid) twice daily and evening Primrose oil 1000 mg as prescribed by Dr. Lasneski, an alternative practitioner who is very expensive, but has a unique method that gets results.
I also take:
Copper (2 mg/day)
Iron (68 mg/day)
Vitamin C—1,500 mg
Niacin 35 mg
Folic Acid 825 mcg
B12 85 mcg
Calcium 1050 mg
Magnesium 460 mg
Chromium 130 mcg
Sodium 70 mg
Potassium 205 mg
Glucosamine 500 mg
Chondroitin 400 mg
Alpha Lipoic Acid 1mg
Vitamin A 10,000 IU
Vitamin D3 400 IU
Vitamin E 400 IU
Thiamine 25 mg
Biotin 60 mcg
Pantothenic acid 25 mg
Iodine 150 mcg
Selenium 70 mcg
Proprietary blend 480 mg (Bromelain, pancreatin (4x), choline biatrate, borage oil extract powder, chastree berry extract poswer, amylase, citrus biflavonoids, chamomile poder, inositol, papain, rose hips powder, rutin.
Bach Flower remedies: Rescue remedy as needed (usually daily), Clematis, Water Violet, Honeysuckle.
September commitments: This month I am removing cola from my diet to see if I receive any beneficial effect. Starting 9/13, I am beginning my day with an ayurvedic tonic that promotes weight loss: 1-2 cups hot water, 1tsp honey, squeeze of lemon juice. I drink this first thing upon waking. I also take another ayurvedic tea that includes ginger and promotes weight loss by flushing ama. I also take a weekly anusara yoga class with my teacher (one hour). I do daily meditation in the evening. And I am being gentle with myself: not pushing through fatigue, but rather going with the flow. Attempting to listen to my body and my energy force so that I can exert only that which I have to give on any given day. And I persist in getting results. And drink plenty of spring water, often with lemon. Weekly psychosynthesis. Monthly body work with my chronic pain specialist. And prayer.
At my last visit with my PCP, the metabolic panel she ran again showed mostly normal results. And when she had finished explaining them, I burst into tears. “I’m just so tired…” I said. I don’t want to be sick. I’m glad the tests say I’m okay—but I want to know what’s causing this, so I can get better!
She suggested that I should get some therapy and that for many women, childhood abuse is linked to their adult pain symptoms. “I know it’s kind of bullshitty…” she said.
It’s crazymaking to sit in that room and try to be taken seriously, to be understood. I’ve told her I wasn’t abused as I child…I’m not sure it gets through. (Every year when I come in for my annual exam, she says, "Now, you were sexually abused, right?"Sigh...No. I tell her. Again. I never had to endure that.)
And then I start to wonder, does what I went through as a kid count as abuse? Is my physical pain now the result of emotional and physical trauma? How unfair is that?
I assured my PCP that I was doing consistent and good work in the therapy department, through yoga, psychosynthesis, and body work that incorporates a psycho-spiritual release and healing element. She cares about me, but I’m still not sure she gets it. I’ve got that part covered. I need her to rule out—or locate—a cause from a medical standpoint.
She ordered more bloodwork in two months. Referred me to a rheumatologist and an endocrinologist and ordered an ultrasound. And she wants me to keep her in the loop. She also thinks a sleep study might be a good idea.
It’ll be two months before I can see the rheumatologist and four before the endocrinologist can fit me in. (Our health care system is so broken...and I have health insurance!)
In the meantime, what can I do? Continue my healing paths with yoga, psychosynthesis, and body work. Keep trying to sleep right, eat right, and exercise when I can. And I will continue my meditation practice, I think. And continue, perhaps, the ayurvedic path.
There are millions and millions of people suffering with these symptoms…we are exhausted. We are overweight. Many of us are depressed and anxious. And yet we are tasked with all this work of getting answers…because there's no clear path to wellness.
What on earth is going on?