Thursday, November 19, 2009

Digging out of a Hole

[I wrote the stuff below a couple of weeks ago. Even though things are sort of getting moving again in the BFFC, I still think there are some good things in there so decided to post anyway. More current update soon.]

After my previous anxious musings about Chronic Fatigue Immunodeficiency Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, I was hoping I’d have something cheerful to post. However, other than dragging myself off the Big Poofy Chair yesterday afternoon for a 20 minute amble around the neighborhood, there hasn’t been much going on to inspire anyone. I’ve been tired, fuzzy-headed, stiff and a little achy, unable to muster any enthusiasm for movement. Last week featured a number of meetings and a visit to my folks that led to me driving to the office, so I didn’t even have my commute exercise to keep me going.

I need a plan. I feel my Big Fat Fitness Comeback is going into reverse, and I need to put the brakes on that momentum and then turn it around. I need to find a way to energize myself without injuring myself, and do something physical where I can see quick results and feel better.

I think I need yoga.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with yoga. Over the years I have taken some classes and, thanks to some outstanding instructors, really enjoyed almost all my experiences. Christa Rypins, in particular, was patient, humorous, challenging, and very Zen without being all Zennier-than-thou about it. (One of the things that irks me about yoga is the hippy-dippy over-earnestness of some practitioners.) I especially enjoy the way I feel after the yoga is done: all long and loose, balanced and relaxed. And exhausted, generally. I think the breathing and meditative aspects of yoga are incredibly good for you, and the stretching and strengthening is fantastic for injury prevention in other sports, including the cubicle-computer ultrathons in which so many of us overindulge.

So why don’t I do yoga all the time? Excellent question. It’s always been one of the things I planned for myself when I got to be a certain age. I believe that regular yoga practice is probably the best possible way to help your body fend off the aging process. I think there are three main reasons why I’m not a yogini:

  1. It feels static. Even though much yoga is a fantastic workout, you do the whole thing in two square meters worth of space and your only views are of other people’s butts or your own knees or feet. One of the things that I love about exercise is the sensation of movement through space. Even swimming laps feels more interesting to me than holding yoga poses.
  2. It requires emptying the mind. My mind likes being busy. Probably too much so. Even though I recognize that I really benefit from the focus on nothing but the breath and the sensations of the poses, it doesn’t attract me.
  3. I kind of suck at it. I know this hasn’t kept me from being a triathlete in the past, but when there are already other factors at work, the sucking just kind of piles on. I’m not naturally flexible, and my body shape makes a lot of poses difficult or impossible. There are ways around all that, modifications and so on, but yoga brings you up close and personal with your own fat in ways that can be physically and mentally uncomfortable.
However, it’s time for me to suck it up and do some downward dogs. The downward dogs and I need to get reacquainted. Watch this space.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Faint Fatigueiness?

When I came down with Boo-Boo Kitty Syndrome on August 16, 2007, I had no vocabulary to describe it. The headache wasn’t technically a migraine, since it was my companion every waking minute, but sometimes it felt migraine-y, aggravated by overhead lights, headlights or neon that also made my vision swim. I’d have sharp pain in the lymph node areas of my neck, but the nodes weren’t swollen. My throat would be sore, but not red. I had a constant sensation, somewhere between tingling and burning, in various parts of my body. Sometimes I had constipation, sometimes diarrhea, cramping, gas, and bloating; sometimes a delightful mélange of abdominal woes.. My body ached like I had the flu, yet it was a little different from the flu. I felt feverish without a measurable fever. My muscles twitched and cramped for no reason, in no discernable pattern. My brain was fuzzy, and my project management skills felt impaired. I was lightheaded but not dizzy like vertigo dizzy, though I suffered from serious head rushes after standing up. And of course there was the

I could and did fall asleep pretty much anywhere, any time. I was lucky to be able to keep my job, though there was a period where my boss wondered if I needed to go on leave or work part time. I couldn’t afford to lose my health insurance or much income, so I dedicated myself to sticking it out at the office for a full day, four days a week (I already worked at home one day) even though sometimes I fell asleep in my chair or had to crawl under my desk for half an hour because sitting up made me so tired I hurt all over. When I got home, I’d flop into the Big Poofy Chair and, more often than not, fall asleep for two hours. I’d recover enough to watch TV until it was time to go to sleep for another nine and a half or ten hours. Sometimes on my way to work I’d have to pull over in Fremont or Hayward and nap for 20 minutes. Exercise, even easy walking, made things worse, so eventually I stopped altogether. Even walking 100 feet sometimes made my legs burn like they used to during the last 500 meters of a race. Now that I feel pretty much better pretty much all the time, I can’t believe I got through that ordeal without cracking up completely or losing my job. I’m not exaggerating my symptoms. In fact, I realize as I write this that just listing the symptoms doesn’t do justice to the miserable synergy of having them all at once.

Not having a diagnosis made it all much worse. I saw four doctors at Kaiser and one outside doc; but as I became more and more convinced that it was one of the many flavors of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Chronic Fatigue-Immune Deficiency Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, it became clear to me that having a diagnosis wasn’t going to help me in any way except to help me validate my horrid experience.

Now there’s a new study that claims to have found a particular retrovirus in the blood of 85% of CFIDS/ME patients tested. While there are still some methodological questions about the study, and it’s still not clear whether the X-somethingy retrovirus is a cause or effect, it’s encouraging to know that researchers are working on the issue. Even though the CDC recently published its own study claiming that CFIDS/ME sufferers tend to have a history of childhood sexual abuse (um, no) and an “inability to deal with stress” (hard to say), at least some medical folks are looking for a non-psychiatric explanation for the all-around awfulness.

In the midst of all this news, I have noticed a few disturbing trends. I’m sleeping longer lately, the last few weeks or so. Wednesday night I slept for ten hours and could probably have slept some more, though I hadn’t been particularly sleep deprived. I’ve had a few sporadic days of brain fuzz and dizziness - I have a bit of it right now. On weekends I’ve really had to push myself to get out and move around; I haven’t had the urge to exercise that I had even a month ago. In homage to Stephen Colbert, I coined the term “fatigueiness” to describe how I feel when the old symptoms flare up. It’s not the good, honest fatigue of three hours on a bike, or even a session mowing the lawn and sweeping the patio, or even working a couple of 12-hour days on a project. It’s fatigueiness, and I’m not happy to feel any trace of it. I don’t know why it’s cropping up now. My CPAP machine is controlling my sleep apnea just fine, my medications are unchanged, and I haven’t been under undue stress lately.

Michelle, who is my mentor in all things CFIDS/ME, reminds me that there isn’t necessarily a reason, or not one that we can easily discern. Her relapses don’t follow a logical pattern. I don’t think my couple of months of regular, not super strenuous exercise can be causing my faint fatigueiness, but I’m not sure. I’m not going to back off yet, anyway.