Monthly Archives: October 2012

Takin’ Care of Business

English: Emergency room after the treatement o...

English: Emergency room Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish I could predict things before they happen. Well, perhaps not. But it would sure be nice to know in advance when I’m going to get sick. I know that when I listen to my body I can notice those signs that precede a major illness, but some of the smaller, more complicated problems that can be caused by my CF are harder for me to predict, and I can sometimes confuse them with normal CF symptoms I feel every day.

Anyway, I started this entry last night, so I’ll be writing you another for today later on.

But here’s the crux of yesterday for me: I had some pretty serious pain in my flank and in my lower abdomen again and when I called my doctor he was concerned and once again directed me to go to an ER asap. So I did, not having a clue what they were going to be able to do.

It’s tough for me when I am in the hospital and I am experiencing real pain to not give in when offered narcotics and if they aren’t offered, it can sometimes be really hard for me to not ask for them. Despite the fact that I know where that leads, part of my brain always tries to rationalize it: “Hey, it’s ok,” it says, “you’re sick, in the hospital, the doctors are monitoring all your medications, they know your history, they won’t give you anything too strong and they won’t send you home with anything so it’s not like you’ll have to go through withdrawal again, you’ll just be more comfortable here, right now, in the hospital, and then they’ll figure out the problem, treat it, and you can go home and the pain will be less and you can handle it.”

But all that boils down to is that the part of my brain that still wants to numb out the rest of the world wants to take drugs now, for immediate relief, and not worry about potential consequences in the future, and in fact, not even think about consequences as a possibility. My logical brain knows that consequences are inevitable for me if I even take one dose, even if it is supervised and in the hospital. And yeah, there are exceptions. If I got into a car wreck or broke my arm or had any other obvious, serious, pain causing injury that can be objectively observed, then yeah, they can give me narcotics. I’d probably need to stay an extra week in the hospital so they could supervise me tapering off of the drugs, but obviously if I have a real injury or illness that they know causes pain, the rules change. But barring that, I need to always remember that I can handle pain. I just have to commit to not letting myself go down that path again despite how much something might hurt.

It is tough though, because I feel sometimes that when I get sick I might as well have a couple doses of pain medication while in the hospital. Because it won’t be long enough to cause dependence, it would be supervised by medical professionals, and it would make being in the hospital so much easier.

But on the flip-side, even a dose or two of those medicines get my head spinning, and I always want more. Even if I tell myself and tell the doctor I only want one dose, I inevitably ask for more, and inevitably try and convince the doctor to give me something to go home with.

So I know that I really can’t do that. I made that mistake back in August, allowing myself a single dose while in the hospital, and it sure did make me want more.

Here’s where I tie in the title: my health is just one more aspect of my life where I just need to take care of business. Sometimes that means going to the ER. Sometimes it means just staying home and resting instead of going out. Sometimes it means doing an extra nebulizer treatment during the day, or changing my exercise routine based on what my body is telling me.

But the point is, I have to take care of business when it comes to my health. It really is not negotiable. There have been a couple days where I’ve let things slide, and there have been a couple days when I really didn’t feel well but I forced myself to do things anyway, which is fine, but there’s a fine line between working through something difficult and not taking care of myself.

I just have to keep in mind that I will suffer the consequences should I be lax on my meds or forget to take my digestive enzymes, or just stay up too late and get up too early. I am coming to learn that almost everything I do has an effect on my body, and it is all I can do to make sense of those many influences (both major, obvious ones and smaller, less noticeable ones) and try to respond accordingly.

What my body tells me right now is that I probably need to eat and take a quick nap before finishing my work.

I can tell my body and my brain are tired, and that is usually the perfect time for me to take a break.

Thanks for reading,

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Blame It on the Changes

(yes I stole the title from a song. points to anyone who writes the artist and album in the comment section)

I’m not sure why, but the last few days have gone by like a blur. Now (having missed a couple days of posts, despite my recommitment) it is Saturday, just before Halloween and the end of the month. I am busy most of the day today, working and then this evening going to a ceremony for some men and women who have worked toward today for a long time and who will be graduating from the LifeChange program at the Union Gospel Mission, where my dad works.

Then, I’m going to a Halloween party that has a Victorian Era Circus theme. So in my head I’m mentally trying to throw together something I can wear that will at least come close.

Either way, I’m already exhausted and it’s only noon. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel a bit uncomfortable in my skin today, and have sort of felt like that the last three days.

I can feel my brain trying to figure out these feelings analytically – trying to tie them to a medication side effect, or a symptom of something or anything that I could have a reasonable chance of dealing with in a logical way – but the problem with that approach is that not only am I not coming up with anything, I’m not addressing the other possible options.

Usually when I feel uncomfortable, disinterested, and frankly, bored almost no matter what I do, there is some underlying physical or emotional pain underneath. I can’t always pinpoint it, but I can at least do what I can to try and feel better – making sure I take care of myself both physically and emotionally.

I think I’m just tired of the constant change, to be honest. I feel like every time I get close to having a routine again, something else shifts and I end up not standing on solid ground anymore.

I go through these periods of slow and sometimes lonely days punctuated by intense, rapid, activity every three days or so as something else changes or I have a new article to write or whatever.

But honestly, there are times (like now) where I feel slightly crazy. Like the only way to clear my head would be to hop in my car and just drive in one direction until I run out of gas or something.

So I guess part of me just wants to run away from it all. Part of me wants to just re-start my life in another body in another city, in another world.

But the reality is that any escape for me is always only temporary. And when I do try and just escape whatever it is that is bothering me, it rarely works, and when it does, it usually has the added effect of me also blocking out all the good things about my life. It’s like a shield. I escape into some other world, mentally or physically, and I put up a shield, but it covers me so well that I can’t see around it, and so I have no idea what will come flying at me as soon as I come back to reality.

It isn’t a good solution. Escape so rarely is the best solution.

So what do I do, knowing that?

I guess right now I just have to keep trying experience the emotions I feel without retreating from them. Allowing them to be a part of me, without allowing them to overwhelm me. Just perceiving my feelings without judging them as good or bad, right or wrong.

It’s really a tough thing to do. And I admit, if I had this down, then you wouldn’t be seeing gaps between my posts.

But I hope that if I practice for long enough, I will be able to manage my emotional state more capably.

Hope you have all had a good week, and that you enjoy what is, sort-of, a holiday weekend.

Peace to you,

-Nathan

What to Do With Anger

I had a bit of an odd day today and I am absolutely exhausted from my martial arts class so I’ll keep this short. I’ve talked a bit in the past about one of the foundational concepts that underlies my study of martial arts: state management. In other words, being aware of both your physical and mental/emotional well being at any given point in time, and preferably as much as possible. Because if you are aware of your state, then you can make sure that you are practicing a state you actually want to practice.

My instructor said “whatever state you’re in right now…that’s the one you’re practicing”. And I believe he’s absolutely right.

But today, despite my understanding of all of this, I still was blindsided by an emotional state that I couldn’t seem to manage.

In short, I got angry.

There were a lot of reasons for that, and I won’t bore you with a list, but suffice it to say it had been a long morning, and then I got into what should have been a simple “hi, how’s it going” conversation with my mother, but because of my state and the fact that I was not aware of (aka not paying attention to) it, that conversation turned into an argument which turned into whatever comes between an argument and a shouting match. No raised voices, just lots of biting comments and a lot of swearing from my end (I really only seem to use cuss words when I’m arguing or angry or, more rarely, when trying to make a point).

The point is, I got angry.

And sure, there was a lot going on. And sure, I had a thousand justifiable reasons to be angry.

The issue was the spiral- because I have a hard time with anger. I feel wrong when I get mad. And when the anger persists despite the fact that I am logically aware that I have nothing to be angry about, it makes me even angrier. So then I get pissed off at myself for being pissed off. You see where that leads.

So I spent almost my entire afternoon trying to cool off. I exercised, did laundry, went grocery shopping…I did what I could to salvage things despite the fact that I honestly wanted to put my fist through a wall.

And since my martial arts class is all about safety and security, if I had still been in that state of mind when 6:30 rolled around, I would have stayed home, for the safety of my classmates and for my own safety. Because if you walk into a martial arts class pissed off, chances are your aggression is going to rub off on others and you may end up hurting yourself or someone else.

But fortunately the grocery shopping got me distracted, and then by the time I’d put all the groceries away and mentally planned a few meals for myself for the next few days, it was time for me to go to class, and I was ready. The anger had finally dissipated.

The only thing I understand about this is that I have to re-focus my attention, because when I focus on my anger, just like anything else, it expands.

But at the same time, I don’t want to avoid being angry. Telling myself that being angry is somehow “wrong” just perpetuates that anger spiral and turns the anger inward toward myself. What I want is to be able to be angry and just notice it and say, “ok, so I’m angry. So what? So I’m angry.” Notice the state, manage it if I can, and if not, be able to just be ok with being who I am, where I am, feeling what I’m feeling.

If I could do that, I think I’d probably have this “life” thing down.

It’s a process, and I’m working on it.

Thanks for reading, and peace to you,

-Nathan

Starting Things Off With a…Fail

I use the term “fail” here in the internet meme/youtube video sense. As in kids trying to backflip off the roof onto a mattress and literally almost breaking their necks. Little kids tripping and falling flat on their faces. That sort of Fail.

I made a promise to myself, and to all of you yesterday that I’d start getting back to my normal routine. Instead, slept over at a friend’s house last night (something I had decided I wasn’t going to do), got up this morning feeling like shit (begging your pardon for the language), and proceeded to drive home in the pouring rain around 8:00am. Really, I’d been up since about 5am since that’s when my body wants me to do my breathing treatments, but I stayed in bed hoping for just a little more sleep.

I got home, immediately did my nebulizers, took my morning meds, and just got back into bed. I didn’t wake up again till around 11:30, and even then, I was still tired and cranky.

I get nervous when after two weeks of absence from work I write an article, submit it on time, and then don’t get any feedback on it. My brain starts to worry that my editor thinks the article is garbage and just doesn’t know how to tell me. Logically, I know that because she basically works 2.5 jobs (an internship during the day, then the company I work for in the evenings where she is basically doing the job of one and a half people) she’s probably just been too busy to get to it and will send edits my way when she can.

But still, that “oh fuck, I screwed something up” alarm goes off in my head, and it has been all I can do to quiet that and still get a few things done today.

So let’s go through the checklist to see why I’m calling today (at only ten till 4pm) a full on Fail:

Diet: Ok, check. Good there. Except that’s because I’ve hardly eaten anything today… So no. Fail.

Exercise: I walked back and forth to my car several times. I carried laundry up and down the stairs. I did do my Tai-Chi, but was interrupted and stopped halfway through. So yeah. Perhaps not major fail, but still. Fail.

Meds: Didn’t even do my breathing treatments last night because I was out. Plus I missed a dose of my antibiotics. Plus I took some of my anxiety meds when I probably didn’t need them. Fail.

Blog: Ok, well I’m writing this. So I guess this is the one area I can say Success!

Meditation: If you count napping in a chair for 20 minutes, then I can check this one off. Otherwise…Fail.

I’ve felt a little off today. And by “off” I mean I felt like shit. And by “felt like shit” I mean I wish I could just throw in the towel and bag this whole damn routine and eat whatever I want and do what I want: the equivalent of a three year old throwing a temper tantrum when his mom won’t let him have Kraft Mac & Cheese for the fifth night in a row.

I’ve had a sucky attitude. And I still do. The saving grace of all this is that I can laugh about it. Yeah, so I had an off day. I’ve had a bunch of ‘em the last couple weeks. That doesn’t make it ok for me to give up. Because despite the fact that today has sucked, the entire weekend, from Friday on, has actually been pretty great. And actually, Thursday was great too.

Giving up because of one bad day is the equivalent of throwing the out the baby with the bathwater. In other words, ridiculous. I mean, come on. What parent would be stupid enough to throw out their baby, and besides, bathwater goes down the drain, we no longer bathe in basins filled with kettles of hot water and then throw the water out into the gutter afterward. Sorry for the rant on this defunct colloquialism. Especially after I just used it.

To all my readers, let this be a lesson to us all: it’s ok sometimes to effing fail. It’s not ok to give up.

Peace to you and yours,

-Nathan

Where I’m At, Now

I could give you all a lot of garbage reasons for why it has been (and this is ridiculous) I don’t know how long since I’ve posted. Some of those reasons might even sound rational. Hospital this, infection that, moving in, moving out, busy with work, blah, blah fucking blah.

The truth is that after finally moving into a new place, I realized quickly that it wasn’t working for me. Not enough space, nowhere to truly cook for myself, and a generally unhygienic atmosphere. I felt more unhealthy there than I have since the beginning of my wellness quest, and I have had to look at WHY I have felt that way.

Here’s what happened – I let my routine lapse. I tried to create a new one at my new place and failed. But I took just a little too long to ask for help. I left myself open (so to speak) to illness, and sure enough, illness came.

I’m not saying that I can always control my disease. Cystic Fibrosis isn’t always logical and I can’t always control when and how I do or don’t get sick. But one thing I know for sure – the chances of me getting sick are significantly increased when I don’t follow my routine: meds, exercise, diet, meditation, and writing. All of those things have helped me on a daily basis work toward optimal wellness, and I was all too quick to “modify” or “alter” or even to completely eliminate some of those elements because I was feeling well and doing well.

So it is time for a re-frame. I could kick myself while I’m down. Or I can remind myself how far I have come and how well I have done, and get myself back into gear.

So here’s where I’m at, now: I’ve moved back in with my parents till I can find a place of my own that supports my wellness goals. I am restarting my one-post-a-day rule for myself, here on The Wellness Quest. I am recommitting to stick to a plant-based, vegan diet. No “cheating”. And I am recommitting to exercising daily, including my Tai-Chi practice, cardio, and strength-building exercises. Finally, I am re-establishing my daily meditation practice, at least ten minutes a day.

Those were the things that got me here. They are the things that will continue to move me ahead. I have confidence that I can create the routine I know I need while allowing myself some new freedom at the same time.

We all have to learn to adapt. The realization for me was that I was not adapting, I was regressing. So it isn’t back to the drawing board. It’s back on the horse. (sorry for the mixed metaphors. But this isn’t a literary blog, so who gives a damn, right?)

Thank you all for staying with me. And I thank you all for your encouragement and support even when I disappeared from the blog-o-sphere for some unconscionable time period I haven’t even wanted to quantify.

Peace to you, as you move through your day. May you find your freedom within the routine, and beauty, within the mundane.

-Nathan

No Excuses

Ok so no excuses. I have been majorly lax the last week about posting on my blog. I feel guilty about it because I had time to post but kept putting it off until I ended up NOT having time. And yeah, this last week was a bit crazy for me because I was sick and still trying to keep up with things, but it looks like all of that is resolved and rather than getting into it, I think I’m going to stick to a couple things that have been rolling around in my mind lately.

First of all, I need a system. One of the things that worked so well for me when I lived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house was that I had a really set, established routine from which I hardly ever deviated. However, with my newfound freedom and independence coupled with living on my own for the first time in a long while, I have found that some of that routine has deteriorated.

Besides that, I have made several commitments and either double-booked myself or ended up just completely forgetting about them. Either way, I’ve made my own life more difficult by not having a system set up to track the commitments I have each day, and by not having set space blocked off for things like writing my blog, working on my pieces for FeelGoodNow, doing my meds, exercising, etc.

Fortunately, I’ve still be keeping up with a majority of these things really well despite the fact that I’ve been doing it haphazardly.

I used to use the google calendar, but then I started using Microsoft Outlook for my emails and so that calendar fell by the wayside. Now, my Outlook keeps freezing up and not working so I’ve switched back to gmail  online, which means I might as well revive that old google calendar which (I believe) is still synched with my iPhone.

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a system. It’s the underlying problem that I often say to myself, “oh, I’ll remember to do that”. I may even jot down a note. But then I see the note or remember that thing I was going to do and just tell myself, well, I’m busy right now, I can put that off till later. And then later becomes much later. And soon enough weeks have gone by and I haven’t gotten back to someone or I’ve fallen behind in my work or, as was the case this last week, I neglect one of the critical parts of my wellness quest – this blog.

There’s no one watching over my shoulder anymore to make sure I’m doing what I need to do. It all comes down to commitment. How committed am I to this quest for optimal wellness? What sort of system can I come up with or create that will work for me and support me in maintaining the goals I have already achieved?

I have something in the works, and you’ll see more about this tomorrow, most likely, as I am still working it out in my head.

But what it comes down to, as usual for me, is balance. I need to balance the amount of time I spend on any one activity with other activities of different types so that I have all the resources in my day to promote and improve my physical, mental and spiritual health – my total wellness – in a holistic way.

Thank you all for being patient with me, and thank you for the concerned comments and emails I received from all my regular readers.

This blog is about me being honest with you and with myself. I could use the fact that I was ill and had to see the doctor several times last week as an excuse and you guys would totally buy it. But that just isn’t the way it works. I totally had time and I definitely had the material to post. I just often wasn’t near my computer, or just put it off until late at night when I had no energy and said to myself “I’ll do it tomorrow morning” and then forgot or just decided I had better things to do.

But I was reminded today by a chance occurrence how important it is for me to make and keep my commitments. Not just for the other people involved, but for me. Because the more often I meet deadlines on time, get things done when I say I will, and am true to my word, the more I trust myself, and the more others will trust me and the more they will be able to feel that they can rely on me.

It has been a long time, I think, since anyone close to me has felt able to really rely on me to do what I say I am going to do. But that is changing.

But I have to continue to take active steps in order to make it happen in this new environment.

Thank you all for reading,

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Sometimes It Really IS “Mind Over Matter”

Me warm-up sparring with Will before my test

So I just returned from a great Karate class. Despite the fact that I haven’t slept much in the last few days, my throat was hurting, I have been coughing quite a bit more than I had been, and my head was pounding before I left, I wanted to go to class anyway. I just love the mixture of mental focus and physical exertion. I’m a little sad that I didn’t find martial arts till this late in life (after watching some of the 14 year old black belts trounce some of the guys my age) because it seems to be so useful for me in allowing me to remember that what I focus on expands.

Tonight I was able to actively practice what is called “state management”. I was aware of my physical and mental state and was able to use my mental focus to overcome the fact that I was working with limited resources physically. And by the time class had ended, I felt better than I had before, as usual.

It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk in feeling like I need a nap and leave feeling relaxed and happy. I guess the exercise = endorphin release actually works when your brain is actually producing the endorphins to release!

Anyway, I’m just going to say that I’m proud of myself for working through the physical difficulty and starting to learn some of the material for my next rank.

And yeah, there were a few times where I needed to just step outside for some air. Knowing that that was ok, and

Me, Throwing a Rear Hand Straight Punch. This is the hardest technique for me, but the photographer made me look like a pro.

recognizing when those times crop up is part of actively managing my state. It is that old concept of listening to my body and trying to follow its instructions. It knows what I need better than I do.

That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself. It took effort just to drive to class tonight. But again, once I bring my mental focus to bear, I can get through it, even if it is hard, even if it hurts. The point is for it to hurt just enough for me to improve but not enough to actually be injurious. That’s one of the other reasons I love this class. Everyone in it are so committed to keeping each other safe while still pushing each other to the next level. We all have to step out of our comfort zones sometimes or else we don’t learn.

And that’s all for me for tonight.

Hope you enjoy the pictures of me testing for my first belt!

Peace to you,

-Nathan