See you later, January!

Oh no, I missed posting yesterday! Due to the combination of starting a new, more potent beta-blocker and the weather outside being frightful (freezing rainstorm, anyone?), this was my brain yesterday:

brainfreeze

My brain still kind of feels like that today, too.

In fact, I think my brain has been in a state of “brainfreeze” since January began, because, coincidentally, it is the last-ish day of January and I have no idea where the whole month went.

Weren’t we just singing Auld Lang Syne like, 5 minutes ago? What kind of a sinkhole did January fall into because I think that someone should investigate?

There are some months during the year that seem to last forever.

For instance, April. I don’t know why, but April seems like it goes on and on and on.

But January?

Blink and you miss it!

Don’t get me started on February…

I meant to send Christmas cards in December. I didn’t get around to it, so I planned to send “Happy New Year” cards in January.

I have yet to send said New Year’s cards…

When does the year stop being new? Can I get away with Happy New Year cards in like, March? Or will the new-car smell of 2015 have worn off by then?

The point is, 2015 is 1/12 complete.

My goal is to be more en pointe for the next 11/12s of it, but no guarantees.

In the meantime, perhaps some hot chocolate will thaw out my brain enough to work on some projects today…

…or maybe I will simply snuggle on the couch with Suki until it thaws outside too. 🙂

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The Time Capsule

As I’ve mentioned before, I really love Christmas. I know it’s a month-post holiday season, but I am only just now pulling out the new toy that Santa left for me. I was very good last year.

The toy in question is a VHS/DVD recorder. It allows you to transfer VHS material onto DVD. Why am I so excited for this piece of potentially soon-to-be outdated technology?

Home Movies.

When I was growing up, my parents had one of the original home video recorders- I still remember it, as it was like a tank of machinery that had to be held on one’s shoulder so that you could look through the viewfinder to make a VHS recording.

Kind of like this:

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Think about that for a minute, all you sweet little kiddos out there who aren’t that much younger than me, yet have only ever had to lift up your smart phone and switch to “Video” mode in order to capture your adventures. I’m quite sure everyone who used these things enough ended up with a case of over-developed right bicep syndrome. It was quite the task.

ANYWAY.

In addition to the treasure trove that is our collection of every Christmas/Birthday/Halloween/Preschool Pageant between 1988 and 1996, I also had my own video camera (a much later, less heavy-yet still substantial- model) which collected its own set of memories from 2001-2005. I am incredibly eager to put them all on DVD so as to bring these gems with me into the future.

Let me tell you, I have nearly fainted from laughter at my early-year antics. I was quite the ham.

Yet…

In the same way that it is odd to hear yourself played back from someone’s voicemail, it is pretty weird to watch a previous version of yourself on screen.

It is even stranger to watch yourself if you currently have a chronic illness while the you on screen does not.*

It’s a little trippy.

*I think of my official “Got Sick” date as December 2002/January 2003. That was when I started fainting all the time and began the parade of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It may have started sooner, it may have been inside me my whole life and just got switched “on” at that time, there is no way to know. The “Got Sick” date is only a reference point of when my symptoms became (incredibly, overwhelmingly) visible.

The videos I have been watching while trying to work out some sort of organizational system for their transfer to DVD have all been “Before” videos.

It doesn’t phase me to watch the early ones- I was a loud, bouncing ball of energy who talked too fast and danced around a lot (and did I mention, I was loud?). It was so long ago that I really don’t remember, plus they are terribly silly (Sample line from Christmas 1993, when I am 4: (My sister just opened the dress I got her) “Isn’t it beautiful, Samie? I just knew you would love it, so I got it for you so that you would love it!”).

It gets…harder? Weirder? More confusing-er?… to watch the videos from 2001/2002. Mostly these consist of videos made at sleep over and/or birthday parties with my friends in which we sing an incredible amount of karaoke with my karaoke machine.

An INCREDIBLE amount of karaoke.

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Sure, it’s fun to watch and see how different, yet strangely the same, we all are.

But some part of me can’t help but watch for something else…

Am I pale? Not abnormally so, not yet.

Do I get tired more quickly than my friends? No, if making our own version of the Tae-Bo workout tapes at 2 in the morning is any indication.

Is there anything, any tiny little thing, that points to how my whole life is going to change in just a few short months after my January-born friend’s surprise party that we threw in April?

The answer is no, which feels like a good thing and bad thing at the same time.

Good, because there was nothing we could have done.

Bad, because there was nothing we could have done.

The “After” videos cement this whole trippy experience. By New Year’s Eve 2002, I am so pale, I’m nearly translucent. I try really hard to keep up with the karaoke marathon, but I have to sit, and unsuccessfully try to get my friends to slow down and do so too. I’m visibly sweaty, wearing a tank top and thin sweatpants, while everyone else is in flannel. The “After”-ness is pretty apparent.

Whereas I once brought my video camera everywhere with me, I stopped filming altogether after that date until my sister’s senior orchestra concerts 3 years later.

For a moment, it makes me sad, as I am sure any Chronic feels sad when they think about their own “Before” and “After.” I know what comes next: the years of not really knowing what my illnesses were, of not having the words to explain myself and therefore having a really rough time in high school. My illnesses weren’t properly recognized and treated until 2009 and after (I graduated high school in 2007), so there is a long time of <yuck> in there.

Then, on the other hand, having this amazing time capsule of video memories of my past life makes me think that I can change where I put the line. Previously, my “After” has always been measured as an “After… I got sick.” However, I can move that around for any number of reasons- “After… we moved,” “After… elementary school,” “After…I cut all of my hair off.” Whatever!

I don’t need to keep measuring my life as a whole by where my illnesses came in.

And really, I have a smart phone now. It has a very easy-to-use video camera feature. Perhaps I’ll have a karaoke party, and start measuring everything pre-2015 as “Before.”

“Before…I realized I could be a person first, a Chronic second.”

Maybe I’ll point to this moment, right now, and say everything that came next was “After…I got over myself.”

Either way, I’m glad to have my tapes, my soon-to-be DVD’s. It’s nice to know where I’ve come from, but now I’m more excited about where I’m going.

 

Do you have your own video library, Chronic friends? Is it weird to see, hear, or think of yourself before the onset of your illness? Do you feel like a different person now? I’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or over on my Facebook page!

Dear 26

Dear 26,

Hey! How’s it going? I hope that you are doing well and are as excited as I am to greet you in just a few short weeks. It’s the 22nd of January, which means that I am under the wire of a one-month countdown to my birthday-that’s you!

I bet you are under a lot of pressure. You never used to be a milestone birthday. You laughed at 18, 21, 30, 40, 50 and so on, and mused to 27 how you were so relieved to be just an ordinary year.

Then, out of nowhere, the US government decided to make you important. I don’t know you yet, so I can’t be sure if this was a welcome change for you. At first, 24 had the job of being the cut-off for dependency of a minor child. 24 took the heat, and it was a perfect set up to roll right into 25 and a quarter life crisis.

But now? Now arrested-development minors like me and a whole host of others, who for one reason or another continued to be on their parents’ insurance plans, are looking at you with dread and begrudgery. (Is begrudgery a word? It should be because I begrudge you, 26.) You used to get by with an ice cream cake and some Hallmark cards of acknowledgement, but now you leave us scrambling to try and figure out the spiderweb of confusion that is finding new insurance coverage so that we don’t get stuck with fines and a year of financial/medical vulnerability (um, yuck).

It’s a bummer deal you’ve been handed, 26, but please don’t despair. I’ve been anticipating you, so I’m ready.

I have had 9,728 doctors’ appointments in the last week alone! I’ve done everything from getting odd moles removed to cavities filled to begging my doctors to write 99 refills on my prescriptions just in case I have to find a new medical team.

Luckily, after much mind boggling research that turned out to be completely unnecessary, I found that my current insurance plan has a special “Young adult” plan that allows me to keep my same network, which means the Avengers will not have to Disassemble! It will, however, cause my deductible to reset in just a few short weeks, so please excuse me a moment, I have to go stockpile as many pairs of compression stockings (in an assortment of colors!) as I can, as my current deductible has already been met.

I’m not going to lie, when I first found out about your new-found significance, 26, I balked. My brain doesn’t work well with anticipation of change. But I gave myself enough time to figure you out, and I think we’re going to be ok! I know you’re glad to hear it!

We can be friends now, 26. Now that I’ve figured this stuff out, we can spend the next 4 weeks bidding a fond farewell to 25. I bet I even have time to sneak in a quarter life crisis, as I’m sure I haven’t had a proper one just yet! I mean really, I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a crazy amazing job that allows me to travel the world in first class, and if I am to believe Facebook (who doesn’t believe Facebook?) EVERYONE ELSE HAS THESE THINGS.

Thanks for looking out for me on my journey into adulthood, 26. I’m kind of glad that it’s you and not 24 I am talking to right now, because even in these 2 short years I have grown so much as a person, and I think that I am much better equipped to handle all the things you mean now- both governmentally (get off your parents insurance already!) and metaphysically (this is the last year you count as being “mid-20s!” Next year you switch over to the dark side of “late-20s!”).

See you in February!

Love,

Nic ❤

The Book List

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Oh books, how I love you so.

There’s nothing quite like a bookstore.

I love everything about them- the smell, the coziness, the potential of stories as yet untold. I cannot go in one and simply “look around.” I can’t even go with a list to get one thing. I come out with a stack. It just happens.

I am a book purist. It gives me a headache to read on anything electronic. Do I like the idea of gathering up my collection and holding it all in my hand in one easy device? Sure, for about a second, until I freak out about what would happen if I lost it. Having a kindle would just be stressful.

No, I’ll take a heavy tome or two (or really, 20) any day.

I haven’t been reading as much as I would like to lately. I’ve been giving my attention to other endeavors, but boy do I miss my stories. A blogging friend of mine has been putting up her reading lists and I think that is a great idea! I’m going to start keeping a list, which I will put to the left under “About” and “What’s POTS” so that I can keep up with myself and you can keep up with me! I’ll be sure to write about the best ones as “Go out and Read this!” posts.

I used to be a little nutty about book lists. When I was in 3rd grade (4th?) I decided that over the summer, I wanted to read every book in the children’s section of my local library. I started at the top of the first shelf, and made my way to the bottom of it before the summer ended. I got myself a little card file with tiny dividers, and wrote the title, author, and a short summary of every book I read on index cards. It was quite intense for an 8-year-old, but kids will be kids, right? My dividers were kind of pointless though- having decided on the system of going shelf by shelf, and limiting myself to summer vacation to do so, I only managed to read through authors with last names starting with “A.” The school year started, and I never did make it back for B through Z.

I like having projects, goals, and other “let’s make a plan” courses of action. Currently, I’m trying to reread the books I have in my bookshelf at home, with the side task of deciding which ones to donate, as pretty soon I will have to sleep on a lumpy pile of books as they are inching ever closer to my bed.

I’ve got to throw some new material in there to mix it up, and right now I’m half way through Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Let me just say, this book is breaking my heart. First off because the writing is so detailed and well thought out, and second because the content is so mystifying. If you know nothing of this book, go look it up now (it was made into a movie this past holiday season), because it is really a masterpiece.

Another reading goal of mine is to conquer the Harvard Book List. The Top 100 is the Harvard library’s idea of the best books ever. I’ve read quite a few on the list already, but most deserve a second look. There are very few people who actually absorbed For Whom The Bell Tolls while in high school English, and I can’t say I was one of them. You can find this list here: http://www.harvard.com/shelves/top100/

Reading isn’t always easy for Chronics, as problems with eyesight, concentration, and headaches make the task a chore at best, and painful at worst.

Enter the audiobook.

I never thought I would like audiobooks because I am a more visual person, but I have changed my tune. Some of them are really fun if you find ones with good readers- try to get the author reading their own work if you can. A close second is if professional actors are the readers. My favorite is Jeremy Irons reading James and the Giant Peach (by Roald Dahl), a book I happen to dislike greatly. But I like it when Jeremy Irons reads it! Seriously, Jeremy Irons could read the dictionary and make it absorbing.

I would love to know what you are reading, Chronic friends! Drop me a comment to let me know if you have any suggestions!

*Nic Note: Booklist 2015 is up! Look to your left, you can find it under “About” and above “What’s POTS?” 

What Progress *Really* Looks Like

I realized the other day that I keep making references to my run/walking and the Couch to 5k Program, but I haven’t necessarily talked about it and the progress I’m making in much detail.

I’m a teensy bit afraid that maybe I’ve led you to believe that I go out and run marathons on weekends now (I don’t) or that because I’m at a healthy(er) place in my POTSie journey right now that somehow negates how bad my health was before (It doesn’t).

Let’s take a moment and clear up all the assumptions I’m assuming you’re making about me, shall we?

This is what POTSie Progress actually looks like:

I officially started the NHS (National Health Service-U.K.) Couch to 5k program on October 13, 2014. I heard about the program from my dysautonomia-pal E. who is a wonderful resource of exercising awesomeness. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

I didn’t just pop on a treadmill though.

I’ve been keeping a record of my exercising habits since last January, on a very fantastic Marvel Superheroes calendar I got at the craft store (which reminds me, I need to get a new one for 2015!).

I started (at the end of February- January was rough for me) with a recumbent bike and then a rowing machine, with a spattering of youtube videos thrown in for good measure. (Check out Fitness Blender’s channel for good ones.)

The week before I started, I walked a mile on the treadmill every day to get used to it and find my balance (treadmills can be tricky for balance, at least I think so).

I don’t know if treadmill speeds are universal, but the first mile I walked, I did a speed of 2.5 miles per hour. It took me 24 minutes and 10 seconds to complete.

The following Monday, my first couch to 5K day (Cto5k from here…) my helpful podcast guide Laura instructed me to walk a 5 minute warm up walk (speed of 2.5 mph) then alternate between 60 seconds of running (speed of 3.2 mph) with 90 seconds of walking (again, 2.5mph) and end with another 5 minute cool down walk (2.5 mph). The podcast ran for 31 minutes, and my total distance traveled was 1.43 miles (approximately 2.3 kilometers).

I followed the instructions to do this 3 times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) before moving on.

The following week, Podcast Laura told me to alternate 90 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking between my 5 minute walk-bookends. Feeling uber pleased with myself, I upped my speed to 2.7 mph walking and 3.3 mph running. Still good, 3 times a week.

Week 3 brought the challenge of a new pattern: walk 5 minutes as usual; follow the pattern: run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes twice; 5 minute walk. Again, I increased my speeds to walk 2.8mph, run 3.4mph. In the 27 minutes of the podcast, I went 1.345 miles (2.16 kilometers).

My notes on the Friday of that Week 3 simply say “Did whole tape, but very hard, should do week 2 again next week.”

10 minutes into Monday’s workout, my right knee swelled, and I was down for the count.

The next 2 weeks, I sporadically used the rower, the bike, and the treadmill while icing my knee and keeping it elevated at rest. I saw the rheumatologist, who didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary, thank goodness.

On November 24, I decided to start over. This time, I would do each “week” in the podcast twice, so I would be super ready to move on when the time came. Two weeks of Week 1, two weeks of Week 2, then it was time for Week 3 again.

One workout in, and my knee swelled up again.

Ew.

Plus, then it was Christmas.

And then it was New Year’s.

Suddenly it’s January.

This past Monday, the 12th of January, I started again.

Back to Week 1 I go. I plan to do two weeks of each pattern again, but make up my own pattern for Week 3 wherein I run for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, to see if that helps me get past whatever wall that has kept me from progressing.

Monday was a good day, and in 31 minutes, I covered a distance of 1.728 miles. Wednesday was the same. As I have been upping my speed as I go along, I am now walking at 3.2 mph and running at 3.8 mph.

To review, I am now walking at the speed I was running the very first time I did this.

I’m telling you all of this because it very well illustrates The Way of the POTSie.

If I were to look at this whole thing- the past 14 weeks- the way that 90% of the population does, I would not see any progress. The Cto5K program is designed to take 9 weeks. Logic would say that I failed, because 14 weeks later I am still not past Week 3. It would be easy for anyone to say I didn’t do it “right” or that I didn’t make any progress or point out that I had to restart the whole thing 3 times, like that was a bad thing.

What a POTSie sees is this:

~I restarted the program 3 times. That means that even though it was hard, I didn’t give up. The way I did it the first time didn’t work for me, so I tried again a different way. The second time didn’t work for me either, so I have a plan to make changes the third time.

~The first time I did Week 1, I walked at a speed of 2.6, ran at a speed of 3.2, and totaled a distance of 1.43 miles. The third time I did Week 2, I walked at a speed of 3.2, ran at a speed of 3.8, and totaled a distance of 1.728 miles. The podcast didn’t change. I did.

~My first mile took 24 minutes to complete. My mile yesterday? 17 minutes and 50 seconds. That’s a 6 minute difference, friends.

BAM!

Progress.

Sometimes it helps to sit down and spell it all out.

Sometimes that’s the only way you can see your own progress.

If you use the measuring stick of the 90% (really, a made up percentage-but it sounds about right so let’s go with it…), you might find yourself lacking. You will probably get discouraged. It will totally bum you out that your progress is not obvious and neon-bright like “everyone else’s.”

When it comes down to it though, when you measure yourself the only way that matters- the you You are today versus the you You were yesterday- there is so much progress there.

Right now, I am measuring my progress on the treadmill; I’m measure my capacity to exercise in this way.

Another measure of my own progress is “What was I measuring this time last year?”

In January 2014, my goal was to get dressed in real clothes every day. Not clean(er) PJ’s, not sweatpants, but actual, Sigourney Weaver-approved (running joke, see: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/07/30/that-time-i-let-sigourney-weaver-tell-me-what-to-do/ ), honest to goodness clothes. I measured things like “I washed my hair today when I didn’t yesterday” and “I wore shoes for 6 hours instead of slippers.”

Yep, that was what I was doing, really and truly.

It’s weird to think about now, because even just one year ago feels so far away.

A lot can happen in a year.

I encourage you to keep track of your own progress, Chronics.

What is your challenge, your hurdle, the thing you are working on or towards?

Measure yourself against yourself. It’s the only comparison that matters.

I would love to hear from you, Chronic friends! Leave a comment below and be sure to LIKE my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell

I can and I will!

I love me some Golden Globes.

I’m not going to lie, I love, love, love award show season. I am one of those people who can watch the 2 hour pre-show, plus the whole thing straight-through.

Guiliana Rancic over at the E! network and I work together to analyze the celebrity fashion choices (not just the ladies- how could anyone not notice Alan Cumming in that 3-piece flesh colored suit? Well I guess you may have missed him since he blended into every wall in the Beverly Hilton…) and I am a champion guesser at who will win the big awards (Eddie Redmayne? Called it!).

On a related note, I’m a big fan of pageants.

I know, I know, big surprise.

ANYWAY.

So I am fan-girling out, watching the awards, and they finally arrive at a “big” category (all the awards are big, but the ones for acting are the ones most people pay attention to): Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

Bryan Cranston and Kerry Washington (such an interesting dress!) presented, and the award went to Gina Rodriguez for her title role in Jane the Virgin on the CW.

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Jane the Virgin is a really cute show, and those of you out there who love campy fun TV as much as this girl should really check it out. The premise is pretty out there- in fact, a lot of it is pretty out there- but what’s an Americanized telenovella without some twists and turns? Jane is a twenty-something-year-old virgin who has been saving herself for marriage. During a routine gynecological exam, her doctor accidentally inseminates her with the only sperm sample of a cancer-survivor…who happens to be Jane’s really hot, really married, boss. Campy fun ensues, as I said before.

Gina Rodriguez plays Jane, and she is so endearing and genuine in a role that could have been way too much for a less skilled actress. She never overplays the part, and is really just wonderful. I was so glad that she won!

The best part about Gina winning?

Her acceptance speech.

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Second only to the great fashion and the (hopefully) funny opening monologue by the host(s), acceptance speeches are the best part of award shows. Don’t be a snooze and thank people that you are going to send roses to tomorrow. Take that 30 seconds and run with it people! That’s what I like to see.

Gina did do the requisite effusive thanking, but at the very end of her speech, she added something so wonderful, that it has been the talk of the Internet ever since.

She said:

Thanks to my mom and dad for telling me to dream and to never stop dreaming.

My father used to tell me to say to myself every morning, “Today is going to be a great day. I can and I will.” Well dad, today is a great day. I can and I did!

Cue the fountain of tears.

Gina cried too.

I just love this. I love parents who are involved. I love people (parents & other relatives, friends, really great school teachers) who fill others up with love and hope and send them out into the world all filled up with goodness. It’s the best.

I also love this because what a great thing to say! Especially as Chronics, how many days do we wake up and think about all the things that we can’t do, don’t think we’re able to do, wish we could do? A lot, I know. What if everyone said to themselves, every morning, Today is going to be a great day, I can and I will?

Personally, I am waiting for the inspirational posters to go on sale. I want one for my ceiling, so when I wake up it’s the first thing I see. I want one for my bathroom mirror, so I can look myself in the eye and say it out loud. I want one for the back of my front door so I can say it one more time before walking out into the great big world.

I actually have been kind of doing this lately. When I go to get on my treadmill to do my couch to 5K program, I tend to get an icky sinking feeling, like this is not going to be good. My mind starts in on the “Is this really a good idea?” and “Do you really want to do this?” thoughts. But I do it. 3 times a week, I do it. And I say to myself the whole time “I can do this, I can do this,” as I do the warm-up walk. When I get to the run part and pick up my pace, I change “I can do this” to “I am doing this,” because, well I am. It makes tiny fireworks go off in my brain.

I love award shows. I love Gina Rodriguez. I love that she took a moment to share how she fills herself up with goodness so that others can follow her lead and learn how to also.

So altogether now…

Today is going to be a great day!

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Back to the Derm I go!

A long, long time ago, way back in June, I saw my friendly neighborhood dermatologist for an epic face rash that turned out to be something called Polymorphous Light Eruption. (see “What’s POTS?” in sidebar and https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/06/18/dont-you-want-to-buy-me-dinner-first/)

While I was there, the Friendly Derm (as we shall call him) suggested very strongly that I come in for a full skin evaluation, as my skin and family history match pretty much everything listed on the “Warning Signs of <SkinAwfullness>” poster in his office. I promised I would come back just as soon as the current awfulness had cleared up. As it was taking over my face, I was just a little bit more concerned about that than anything else at the time.

Weeks turned into months, and my PMLE came and went, then came and went again, and again…(see October’s https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/10/21/that-time-i-polymorphous-light-erupted-at-the-clinique-counter/)

I just never seemed to remember to make an appointment to go back.

Full disclosure: I know I have weirdo moles. My whole family has weirdo moles. For some reason, Italians are just lucky that way.

The only way to make sure those weirdo moles aren’t anything more than harmless constellations (I happen to have the Little Dipper on my back- seriously. I feel like that makes me special somehow…) is to have them cut off.

By one’s Friendly Neighborhood Dermatologist, of course.

So, knowing that I have more than one mole that is pushing its luck, and, knowing how these tiny (#NotSoTiny) bits of discolored flesh are to be removed, I have not jumped at the chance to go back and visit the Friendly Derm, no matter how friendly he may be.

But really, it’s time to be a grown-up about it. Skin cancer is one of the deadliest cancers out there, and yet, it’s one of the easiest to protect yourself from. Sunscreen! Hats! Minimal direct sunlight exposure! Skin checks!

Only you can prevent forest fires, you know?

2015 is my personal Year of the Grown-Up. I happen to be turning 26 in a few weeks (44 days…not that I’m counting), which is the absolute, official, “Come on dear, move out of the basement already”, deadline for being a DEPENDENT, at least according to the United States government. It used to be 24, but then something happened with ObamaCare and a bunch of legislation that I am pretty sure I slept through, and I ended up with an extra 2 years on my mom’s insurance plan-YAY! I’m pretty sure she still got to claim me as a dependent on her taxes, so it was win-win for everyone.

Until nowwwww…

(More on all this to come in later posts)

ANYWAY.

Along with this metaphorical release from “dependency,” I’m also going ahead and doing my best to make it a more literal reality as well. It’s a tricky place to be in as a Chronic, as there are some forms of dependency that allow me to, you know, get places (Thanks for the ride, Mom!) as I’m not medically allowed to drive just yet (6 months incident free from loss of consciousness- almost there!). There are other things as well that I am gently trying to ease away from, and like I said, trying to be less dependent all around. Some things are still necessary, but others are not. Again, more on this to come in future posts.

Back to my story…

A very grown-up, independent thing to do?

Make sure you don’t die of preventable skin cancer!

Yesterday found me sitting again on a cold doctor’s office table, and yes, I got a few bits of myself sliced off.

Ew.

I will spare you the details beyond that.

Now I get to wait a month for the biopsy results and then go back, at which point I am hoping for a high five and a sticker- congratulations at not having melanoma.

In the meantime, happily, I got some very pretty Band-Aids in my Christmas stocking (apparently Santa knew this was coming?) and I now have 3 cupcakes stuck to my abdomen, back, and upper neck. I think they make quite the fashion statement.

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#BattleScar

 

I’m not one to chide others (who am I kidding, I’m a chider), but really, there are lots of Friendly Derms out there. Go see one. It was not as bad as I thought- the whole process took about 30 minutes altogether- and now I know that I have done something to keep myself well (always a great selling point!).

Plus, if you happen to have anything surgically removed (local anesthetic, teeny tiny scraper/scalpel thingy, there is NO NEED to watch-really, don’t do it) you may feel the need to reward yourself, as I did yesterday.

3 biopsies=3 treats, wouldn’t you say?

So not only did I spring for the chocolate chip (gluten-free) muffins at the store, I also got the Sunflower butter cups (like nut-less Reese’s), and the gluten-free ice cream sandwiches (to be eaten in strict moderation as dairy is a fair-weather friend). I do not condone eating one’s feelings, however, how many times do you get weirdo moles lopped off? Hopefully just once and a while, so once and a while sugar rushes are in order!

 

I hope that you take some time to look into getting a skin evaluation, Chronic readers! Those at highest risk include the pale skinned (I’m looking at you, POTSies!), those with fair hair, those with freckles, those with weakened immune systems (Chronics of all kinds), those who spend a lot of time in the sun (we might be good on this one…) and those with a family history of irregular moles or skin cancers. Take care of yourselves!

See http://www.skincancer.org for more skin-loving information.

Alternative Workouts: Snow Edition!

Exciting News, Chronic Readers!

It’s SNOWING!

Ok, you may not be as excited as I am. I do think snow is pretty awesome. I mean, really, frozen water falling from the sky into fluffy white piles of icicle wondrousness? It’s my favorite!

At least until I realize that I can’t really leave the house due to unplowed roads and nutty drivers, and I had about a zillion errands I needed to run today…

Oh well, not important!

Because it’s Snowing!

One of the best things about snow is all the creative work-out opportunities it presents (snowball fights, building snowmen, making snow angels-which is really just doing jumping jacks while lying down). I was getting a little bored with my run/walk to nowhere on the treadmill, so I was totally jazzed to get outside this morning and shovel.

Yep, I shoveled!

To all of my readers who live North of the Mason-Dixon line and who shovel more often than not during the winter months, please don’t think me crazy. I haven’t been able to shovel since I was 12, so you can bet I am dancing a happy dance; at least, I plan to once I defrost enough to feel my feet again.

When I looked out the window, it seemed like the snow was tapering off. It was light and fluffy when I took the dog out a few minutes before. I figured now was a good time to get this show on the road, that way it would be easier to do a second time later, should we need to venture out.

It took like, 5 whole minutes to get my gear on- boots, gloves, scarf, hat, giant puffy jacket that is long enough to cover my bum. Then I had to actually find the shovel, as it had been relegated to the back of the rake/shovel pile as it’s been nearly 11 months since we needed it last. A big swig of Gatorade, and I was ready to go!

The funny thing about snow is that it is strangely de-sensory. De-sensory isn’t a word, I know, but I can’t think of the actual word I want to use… What I mean is that it muffles out all sound, so the street is eerily quiet. It blankets over everything; suddenly all you see is white. So, standing there, in a quiet, all-white chasm, it felt like I had completely forgotten where the driveway was- I spent the first few minutes shoveling out a bit of grass, which was really just mud.

At least it created a reference point from which to work from.

I tried to approach the task in a systematic way, first shoveling straight down the edges of the driveway (so I could find it!) and then working my way across.

You know what?

It was hard.

Snow does not mess around, let me tell you.

That <stuff> is heavy.

All I kept thinking was that I had not adequately fortified myself for this task. My morning bowl of oatmeal was not the breakfast of champions I thought it to be. “Clearly, when this is over,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to make a massive stack of chocolate chip pancakes and drink a liter of hot cocoa in order to make up for it.”

I finally made it to the end of the driveway, and leaned on the shovel, ready to revel in my defeat of the snowstorm, when I looked back at where I had just been.

It was completely covered!

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#FRUSTRATING

 

The snow was not in any way slowing down; in fact, it was snowing harder than ever. I had a good quarter of an inch growing on my shoulder like moss on a stone.

But, but, but… How will anyone know of my accomplishment if it disappears as soon as I’m done?

Thank goodness I have a blog, so I can tell everyone about it.

My sister got home a few minutes later, after a failed attempt to get to work, and I’m sure she appreciated not stepping into inches of frozen powder in her good work shoes.

I was paid in high-fives for my efforts.

This is a picture of her car tire, which easily glided into our clear-ish driveway after a painful journey through unplowed roads:

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There is TOTALLY less snow on the driveway than there was before, I promise.

 

You’re welcome.

But really, shoveling is quite a workout! It apparently burns 223 calories for every half hour you plow.

I was right- the oatmeal wasn’t enough.

I’m off to make those pancakes now.

Goodness knows I’ve earned them!

 

Do you like snow days, Chronic reader? Who does the shoveling at your house?

New Year New You! Sort of…

Ah, another New Year.

Sigh.

Isn’t it lovely?

So fresh and so new?

Mmmm, yes I think I’ll just take a minute to let it sink in.

That was nice.

I don’t know about you, Chronic Readers, but I was bombarded today by a whole lot of resolutions- people’s personal resolutions on their Facebook pages; articles about the most important resolutions to make all over the Internet and the newspaper; plus talking heads on TV telling me that the way to really start the new year right is with a juice cleanse.

It’s all kind of polluting that New-Year-fresh-smell with just a bit of a stink- the stink of “should.”

We all should start exercising.

We all should stop eating sugar (don’t even think about it either!).

We all should update our wardrobes.

We all should earn more and save more (with the exception of that new wardrobe, of course!).

We all should, should, shouldy-should, should.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to knock resolutions. Sometimes they can be really helpful to plot the direction for one’s year. All of the above suggestions are of varying degrees of importance.

I just think maybe we’re going about it a bit wrong.

The way the resolution cycle goes now is something like this:

Goal of epic proportions made –> unreasonable limits placed on oneself –> said limits are only manageable for a short period of time –> period of time limits being manageable feels unbearable –> resentment –> frustration –> Some form of giving up.

This last bit tends to happen right around mid-to-late January. But don’t fret, because February brings Valentine’s Day, and by that time, no one cares about resolutions any more.

See what I mean?

It’s not the best system.

I am absolutely guilty of it. Every year, I start a new journal, and on January 1, I used to write a whole list of all the things I was going to change about myself and my life. Of course, it was all quite grandiose, and so it never worked out the way I planned. Even if I didn’t have chronic illness annoyingly throwing me off my game as much as it does, the lists I created would have been unattainable.

Yet, it feels so good to write those lists!

Isn’t it odd? That strangely comforting and determined feeling that comes with making a list of resolutions?

Personally, I feel like it’s an expression of control. As in, “My life has gotten completely out of my control, and so I hereby wrangle it with a list!”

Not just any list, mind you, but a list of RESOLUTION.

It doesn’t last though, this excitement and dedication. At least not usually.

That’s kind of depressing, reading back.

Sorry.

Totes magotes, not my intention.

The point is, my resolution this year is to free myself from resolutions. I resolve to not give in to the impulse to create unrealistic expectations for myself. I resolve instead to live firmly in reality and to make it as pleasant a place to inhabit as possible.

This is really important when you have a Chronic Illness.

For example, becoming an exercise maven has been on my New Year’s Resolution wish list for, well, a bazillion years. I am quite certain that is not an exaggeration.

Each year I told myself, “This is the year that I will run a marathon!” and so I inevitably set myself up for failure and disappointment. Not necessarily because of the basic fact that I didn’t run a marathon, but rather because, with that thought in mind, I tended to overwork myself, burn out quickly, and then crumple into self-pity and doubt all before I even remembered to start writing the correct year on my journal entries. I didn’t think, “Oh I should figure out how to walk for a bit of distance before I run full out.” Which is a really important thing to think because it is incredibly unsafe to overestimate your ability and find yourself ripping the emergency shut off cord as you go tumbling backwards off the treadmill. #TrueStory

Spoiler Alert: Change, real change, change that separates the you that you were from the you that you will be, takes time. It takes baby steps. It takes year-long commitment. 

Which is really quite irksome if you ask me, but it’s true.

Know what else is kind of irksome? Growing up a bit and realizing pretty basic stuff like this and then kicking yourself for not internalizing it sooner. #NowYouTellMe

So Chronic Readers, my New Year’s wish for you is that you are patient and kind to yourselves. Make resolutions, yes, but make sure they are resolutions that work for you, and not against you. It can be hard to tell the difference some times.

As for me, if anything, I am resolute in my desire to love more this year. I’m starting with my dog, who I took on not one but two walks today- she has since collapsed in a puddle of exhaustion and, I’m sure, surprise. I’m off to join her.

 

Happy New Year!