Ending 2021 on a Good Note . . . (Sort of)

2021 has undoubtedly been a rough year, mostly thanks to COVID. But, at the same time, it has been one of the best years for my recovery.

In the last twelve months, I have gone from being completely bedridden to walking on my own again. I’ve started walking outside (though not more than a few steps). I’ve been able to lift things, like pitchers full of water and plates filled with food, which had previously felt as heavy as the weights I used to lift when I was a fitness instructor.

With my health improving, I’ve been able to do these and so many other things that have dramatically improved my quality of life. I take showers now in an actual bathtub, not the inflatable one I used for years. And I can make it to the bathroom again, instead of navigating the tricky and often treacherous task of relieving one’s self in bed.

I can wear heavier clothing—hoodies and sweatpants—instead of freezing my buns off in shorts and a t-shirt (or no clothes at all). I can talk a lot more too, my voice seeming to get stronger and louder by the day. I can also write with a pen. In years past, I wasn’t even able to write my name. Now I’m filling entire pages, crafting drafts of my writing before I type on my phone.

It has been wonderful to experience a year full of such improvements, such progress, after making little or none for a very long time. I’m also happy that I was able to maintain this blog for another year. I’ve been posting here consistently since 2016, and it feels good to have kept it going another year.

I won’t lie: It was challenging at times. The improvements in my health often made it difficult to sit and write. Using my newfound strength for walking and doing my daily tasks left little energy to write. But I’m glad I made it work this last year. I will continue to write on this blog as long as I can find the energy and motivation to do so.

And now, my final words of 2021: I began writing this post lying in bed during day three of a power outage following a snowstorm in the Sierras. The fresh powder was lovely for the first day until the power and running water shut off. I enjoy winter weather—the clouds and rain and even snow—but extreme weather like this is a reminder of how quickly life can become exceedingly difficult for me. Trying to walk in the snow (or even indoors with extra layers of clothing on) feels like swimming in quicksand, my body becomes weaker the more I move, and my muscles and joints ache with the frigid temperatures.

This experience in the final days of 2021 has made me remember that, while I have had a remarkable year regaining some of my health, I am still recovering, still relying on the help and generosity of my family, still fighting to get back to where I was before I got sick. Sometimes it takes a snowstorm and being without power or running water to realize that, while I may be able to do a lot of things on a normal day, I can’t do those same things in freezing temperatures and three feet of snow, just like I can’t do them in triple-digit temperatures and wildfire smoke during the summer.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being sick is that the conditions have to be just right in order to thrive, and even then it’s an uphill battle. But that doesn’t mean it won’t (or can’t) happen. So here’s to finding the right conditions to thrive, to feeling better and stronger, and to another year of improvements.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. Thank you for reading! You can also listen to a recording of this post.

2. Please consider supporting me and my blog by donating here.

3. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

All The Little Victories

My right leg is extended out in front of me as I sit on the edge of my bed and slip a black Santa Cruz sock on my foot. I groan, pulling the sock up my calf, my back tightening and my hamstring burning with each tug of the cotton fabric.

I take a breath, several actually, before I repeat the maneuver on my left foot. Then I sit there, my body tired, my feet comfy, my face smiling.

This is the first time in years that I’ve put socks on by myself and actually kept them on. Before this moment, it was too painful, took too much energy for my ailing body. The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze, as they say. But now it is. Now putting on socks is sort of enjoyable. And while it still hurts, it doesn’t send my body crashing.

There have been lots of little victories like this during my recovery, lots of triumphs doing ordinary, mundane things that many people take for granted, my former healthy self included.

The other day I used a toilet for the first time since 2015. That’s probably more info than you wanted to know, but it was kind of a big deal. A big little victory, if you will.

I’ve also started wearing hoodies and long sleeve shirts again. I couldn’t for the longest time because the weight of the sleeves exhausted my arms, leaving them tired and throbbing—unable to do essential tasks like brush my teeth.

It feels a little silly to get excited about wearing socks and hoodies, and using a toilet again, but I’d rather get excited about these things than take them for granted. I just hope that these little victories continue. I’ve grown fond of them. Sometimes I fear that I’ll run out of such renewed experiences. They’re sort of addictive. There’s no experience quite like the first—the first time you ride a bike or drive a car, the first time you kiss someone or take a sip of alcohol when your parents aren’t looking.

But these little victories of mine are even better because I’m not learning how to do them for the first time. I already know how to do these things. I know how great they are. All I have to do is enjoy them.

This is all to say that while my illness is an ongoing, chronic thing, I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made. It’s weird how sometimes the victories seem like huge accomplishments—when I walked for the first time in five years—and other times they seem small. But regardless of how they seem, they all add up to something that I’m proud of.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. As you may know, I’ve been looking for a new place to live, a healthier place free of wild fire smoke. So far everything I’ve seen is more expensive than I can afford, so if you would like to help take off some of the financial burden, please consider contributing here. Thank you!

2. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating.

October Slide Part 2

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about the October Slide. At the time I didn’t know much about it and was sort of educating myself as much as I was trying to start a discussion and raise awareness. Not much has changed since then. I still wonder about this weird phenomenon where people with chronic illnesses get sicker during the month of October.

I know October is almost over, so this post may be a bit late, but generally the October Slide isn’t just limited to a single month. Many people who experience it do so through most of the fall, into winter, and the following year. In fact, some people with ME/CFS get worse in November and call it the November Factor.

The good news, at least for me, is that I haven’t been feeling that much worse this October. I’m definitely doing better than past Octobers, but I will admit that earlier this month I did notice it becoming harder for me to speak and walk. For the most part this was a small blip and I haven’t taken much of a dive, but it did make me wonder: Is this the October Slide? Is it once again coming for me?

It didn’t help that I noticed some of my friends and loved ones with chronic illnesses going through their own version of the October Slide, wondering the same thing. And then there’s the fact that, even though I wrote that blog post four years ago, a surprising number of people still read it. Every October my blog gets an influx of referrals from people searching October Slide.

So, this is all to say that I don’t have any answers. In fact, most of the year—maybe even 11 months of it—I tend to forget all about the October Slide. But then, either because of the page views on my blog or someone mentioning it on social media, it pops back into my mind.

Through such channels I have found others writing about and discussing the October Slide. While it’s good that people are still talking about it, someone (a doctor) should really do a study on it. I know a lot of chronic illness patients would like to see the data and get some answers.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.