May 24, 2013

I'm back!

A lot has happened since I last posted, but the most important thing is that I am back at school!

When my leave of absence ended last fall, I was sure that the PhD was over for me, but things worked out better than I could have imagined.

I met with a professor who had an interest in critical theory and thought that she might be a good fit as an advisor. She wasn't sure she wanted to take on a new student, but she agreed to think about it. She asked me to write a theoretical paper for her, and it got my writing muscles flexing again.

Fast forward to today and I have a committee - yes a whole committee - established for my candidacy examination process. I can't believe that I am finally moving forward with my studies.

Of course, none of this would be possible if it weren't for my health cooperating. The past few months have been an incredible ride. After six weeks of feeling like dog crap, I had a weekend of fever...two days of 102.4 degrees. When the fever broke I suddenly felt well again. It was the strangest thing.

Now I am working on an app called "Couch to 5K" with the hopes of getting me back to running like I used to. It's been a slow process, but I am making strides. I truly feel like I am back.

Aug 23, 2012

Warm Yoga

I have officially lost my mind. I have joined a 'hot yoga' studio for three months!

Before I got sick, I used to be a regular at yoga classes. Once, about a year and a half ago, I had a private yoga lesson in my home to see if I was anywhere near ready to go to a class. It was embarrassing!

But last week, something inside of me 'clicked'. I've been feeling so much better for the past six months, and I've been very careful not to push too hard...it was time to give it a try again.

Let me tell you about hot yoga. It feels like exercising in a sauna.

I went into the room a few minutes ahead of time to put my mat down and get comfortable. Lying on the mat, I started to feel perspiration pooling around my lower back. The class hadn't even started yet!

The poses weren't especially challenging, certainly within my range if I modified them slightly, but the heat. Wow.

I longed for air conditioning...I silently cursed myself for trying this hellish endeavor.

And then it was over, and a funny thing happened: I got home and noticed that I felt great. I was so energized that I went for a 5 km walk. (so much for taking it slow)

Since then I've been back twice, and I'm planning to make this an every-other-day routine.

The heat still gets to me, but it's not so bad as the first time.

More than anything, I'm loving the feeling of building strength in my body. I love that my body is capable of holding strong poses. I love feeling my heart rate climb.

I'm looking forward to this three-month adventure!





Aug 20, 2012

Leaving the PhD behind...

As September rolls quickly towards us, I have been thinking a lot about my return to school (following a year LOA)...and I think I've decided that it's in my best interest to let it go.

I've spent four years of my life working on the PhD, and I'm halfway finished. But as much as I try to ready myself to write the comprehensive exams, I just can't find my passion for this anymore.

The fact is that I'm feeling the best now that I've felt in years. I'm loving my work and I don't need a PhD to do what I'm already doing...finishing it would mostly be an exercise in vanity.

I'm also worried that the stress of the comps might upset the delicate balance of health that I have fought so hard to achieve.

I used to feel that life without a PhD would be missing something...but I don't feel that way anymore. I'm actually happy with myself and my new-found health.

I have given myself two weeks to decide. But right now it feels like it is slipping away, more easily than I ever thought possible.





Mar 4, 2012

New York City

According to my Body Bugg, I've walked 30,000 steps in the past two days. Wow. I must be feeling better.

Feb 24, 2012

My annual physical - the good and the bad

Here is a summary, as I remember it, of what my doctor told me:
  • noticed that my ferritin level is still very low (up to 28!), advises I increase supplements and repeat labs in 2 months. [note: I've been on supplements now for 5 years]
  • believes I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and that I need to learn to pace myself,  live with my limitations and treat the symptoms.
  • was very resistant to my questions about the genetic test for MTHFR, telling me a story about a patient she did not authorize a genetic test for who went to the US and paid for the test...apparently she felt this was irresponsible; whereas I think if you have the money, why not?
  • Told me that MCH means "red blood cell height"....height? (I am envisioning a long, tall blood cell at this point). But not to worry, because lots of people are over the reference range for this test. Thanks to my blogger friends, I knew that one.
  • Suggested that an ANA of 1:640 was not uncommon (despite my research showing that a titer of 1:80 is found in less than 5% of the population, 1:120 in less than 3%...)
  • Has trouble believing that a TSH below 5 could make much of a difference clinically (but agreed to continue treating anyway, thankfully)
  • Thinks that giving me access to my lab records may be harmful to me, presumably because I will research the results online and come up with new theories. (but agreed to continue sharing them, with a longer turn around time).
  • Did not seem to fully accept that their office sent outdated lab results to the endocrinologist (after declining to send me my most recent copy records in preparation for the appointment), leading to the specialist choosing a potentially inappropriate course of treatment.
  • Is concerned about me continuing to seek explanations for my fatigue and bringing ideas and research to her for discussion. (I think she feels I won't value her opinion).
BH attended the appointment with me and shared his reflections when we left, saying, "I don't think either one of you is listening to, or understanding the other."

Here's how it looks to me: I feel like she is telling me that I have to give up hope of finding an explanation...if given the Chronic Fatigue diagnosis, I'm afraid I'll get put in that box and forgotten - never getting back to work or to school. 

BH says he doesn't see it that way, he thinks she is trying to manage my expectations.

I know that there may not be an answer, but if I'm not the one looking for it, who will?

In the end, I think we got to a fair understanding, I just wish that I could communicate more effectively with her from the start.

Feb 21, 2012

Penelope 1 - Depression 0

What does it feel like to fight depression?


It was an agonizing effort to push my body forward, despite having no neurons supporting my decision to move.


During the very worst of the dark, ugly feeling,  I forced myself out for a walk. The sun was too bright, the air was too cold. My legs felt like leaden. My heart was pounding.


But then a funny thing happened...about 40 minutes into my walk, I stopped noticing how crappy I was feeling and started noticing the trees, the ice on the walkway, the river...it was like the world outside my head suddenly started to materialize. I started feeling alive again.


In fact, I felt so good that I came home and did another two miles on the treadmill, logging in at over 10,000 steps!


And that is how I fought depression and won this round.

Feb 17, 2012

It's back.

Depression. I'm pretty sure it has come back.

Today's feeling of tiredness isn't the usual, more physical feeling of fatigue that I'm used to. This time it is a sense of deep apathy...like getting up sounds nice, but staying in bed is just easier.

I've been trying to go for a walk now for the past four hours. I haven't even made it to my shoes yet. The heaviness feels unbearable.

We've had some stressful issues to deal with lately, and when I think about them, my eyes tear up and I feel overwhelmed.

Where did this come from?! I was doing SO well. I was back on the treadmill, even running for up to 15 minutes. This time last week I was thinking I might be able to get back to school again soon. 

Is it even remotely possible that the T3 has triggered this? I know it seems unlikely, but that's the only change I've made recently.

Now I just want to lie down in a dark room and close my eyes. 

I hate, hate, hate depression.