Almost Walking

Almost Walking

It’s been a rough year. I think we can all agree on that, so I thought I’d share some good news—my health has been improving lately. The other day I got out of bed and stood up three times in the span of a few hours, the most I’ve done in the last six years.

I’ve been measuring how much body weight I put on my legs using a bathroom scale. I step on the scale, and because it’s the first time I’ve been well enough to do so in years, I’m not entirely sure how much I weigh. But I am sure how much weight I can put on my legs. At first I could only put ten or twenty pounds on the scale. Now I can push off of my bed and put what I believe is all of my body weight on it. The fact that I’m able to put any weight on it is progress for me, but using all of my body weight is something I haven’t done since I became bedridden in 2015.

It has been quite a journey since then. For a long time I was too sick to speak or eat; I couldn’t even sit-up in bed or look at my phone. Now I’m eating and speaking, and hopefully soon I’ll try to walk.

It blows my mind that I’m so close to walking again. When I stand up and put my feet on the floor, the cold surface tingling my toes, it’s exciting (and exhausting) to know that all I have to do is take a step and I’ll be walking. But taking the first step is always the hardest, and before I do, I need to make sure my legs are strong enough and my balance is steady.

The tricky part about this phase of my recovery is that I can’t afford to fall. Normally I’d be willing to take the risk, and potentially fall on my face, but in the midst of a deadly pandemic, I just can’t risk getting the coronavirus because I need someone (or multiple people) to help me get up.

So I’m being very careful, going slow and safe, but I’m also staying consistent with my rehab. I’m not going to use COVID as an excuse to not make progress. I am still working hard to get better every day. I’m doing light stretches and exercises with my feet and legs before I stand up multiple times a day.

It feels good to make this kind of progress, reminding me of what it used to feel like to work out with heavy dumbbells, back when I measured my progress by how many pounds I could take off the scale. Now I’m measuring my progress by how much weight I can put on it.

BEFORE YOU GO… 

1. Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, please follow my blog.

2. For those who haven’t heard, my memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE, is going to be published next month.

You can read sample chapters, leave an early review on Goodreads (those really help!), and preorder it through Amazon and other online retailers, in both print and ebook. The audiobook is FINISHED! We’re just waiting for Audible and other retailers to approve it. I will keep you posted on that. For now, here is a sample of the audiobook:

You can also support the book by donating to help pay for the audiobook and publicist, expenses that will have to come out of my own pocket.

Here’s a list of places to order the book (by country):

US: Amazon, Apple, Target, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, BooksAMillion, Book Depository (ships worldwide for free!), Indiebound, BookShop. Canada: Amazon, Kobo, Chapters/Indigo UK: Amazon Australia: Booktopia Mexico: Amazon Germany: Amazon Norway/Sweden: Book Depository, Adlibris

A Little Energy DOESN’T Go a Long Way

A Little Energy DOESN’T Go a Long Way

If there’s one thing that I’ve struggled with the most while I’ve been sick, it’s finding a balance between doing things I enjoy and doing things that don’t make me sicker. It’s especially hard when almost everything I do either steals my energy, fills my muscles with pain, or makes me feel like I’m going to puke and pass out. But I’d rather live this way, trying to find enjoyment in the few things I can still do, than living too cautiously and missing out on everything.

Trying to find this balance is by no means a new struggle for me. Over the last decade my life has been consumed by it as I’ve constantly had to gauge my ever-changing abilities. In the process, my stubbornness has propelled me to do things, often stupidly, that are bad for my health, though good for my soul. And I’m not talking about downing shots of whiskey or smoking packs of cigarettes. I’m talking about seemingly innocuous acts that a healthy person wouldn’t think twice about, but because I’m sick, are things that invariably prove detrimental to my health.

One such instance happened several years ago when I was still well enough to live on my own. I was, for the most part, self-sufficient, renting a little studio in Santa Cruz. I could make my own food, do my laundry, and even ride my bike around the neighborhood.

One day I rode my bike to the grocery store, and on the way home with bags of heavy groceries attached to the bike, I saw a bunch of succulent plants discarded across the sidewalk. As silly as it sounds, this was one of the moments when I had to choose between doing what I enjoyed and doing what was best for my health. My body was already hurting from riding to the store and walking up and down the aisles, but I wanted to stop and pick up the succulents so I could propagate them in my own little garden at home. I was too sick for extra curricular activities though. My body already hated me. So, wisely, I pedaled home without stopping to gather the plants.

Back at my studio, I unpacked the groceries and collapsed on to my bed. My entire body hurt–my lungs burned, my muscles throbbed, and, of course, my mind yearned to do more. So, unwisely, I got back on my bike, rode down the street, picked up the succulents, and brought them home. By then my body had entered into what I sardonically call “fuck it mode,” when I feel so sick and my body hurts so much that I know I’m going to pay a hefty price for it later, so I just say “fuck it” and carry on because the damage has already been done.

After entering fuck it mode, I rode back to my studio, a jumble of succulents draped over my handle bars. Then I hobbled to my garden and stuck the plants in the ground, and finally, I swear, collapsed on my bed.

It’s hard to say what kind of long term damage that little excursion did to my body. But I can say for certain that it wasn’t the only time I pushed my body in such a way. Both before and after I got sick, I often did too much when I should have been resting. When I was healthy, I’d do an extra hour of cardio at midnight after a three hour workout. When I was sick, I’d go for a hike after I had struggled to walk to the bathroom only a day before. It wasn’t that I never listened to my body, I did, I listened to it all the time, I just never listened when it told me to rest.

Less than a year after my misadventure with the succulents, I became so sick that I couldn’t speak or eat or even sit up. And now, while I’m doing a bit better, I still find myself faced with similar dilemmas about how to use my extremely limited energy.

Though lately I’ve had enough strength and energy to do more than just survive, which is sort of a miracle considering how sick I’ve been. My health has improved enough that I don’t exactly know what to do with myself. For the longest time, all of my energy went to laborious tasks like brushing my teeth and bathing. Now I can do those things and not need to crawl into a fetal position and recover afterward. So I’ve taken up some new (and old) hobbies like playing Animal Crossing, watching movies, and even strumming on my ukulele.

I used to play around on the ukulele and the guitar, but as I got sicker, I became too weak and the exertion of playing left my body hurting for days. I remember wondering why my hands and forearms hurt so much, then I connected the dots and realized that every time I’d have a practice session, it would leave me in pain.

So, for now, I’m going slow, sometimes just plucking the strings for literally a few seconds before putting the ukulele away. And while it brings me joy to be able to do this again, the possibility that I’m doing too much is always lingering in the back of my mind. I constantly worry that I’ve pushed myself too far doing something that doesn’t really matter outside of my own stubbornness–the need to find enjoyment in limited possibilities, the urge to do what’s best for my body, not my soul. But maybe that’s a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. Maybe it’s all part of finding the right balance.

BEFORE YOU GO… 

1. Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, please follow my blog.

2. GOOD NEWS: My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE, is now available for preorder on Amazon (US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.), B&N, and Book Depository. If you’ve already ordered it or plan to, the book will be published in January and all copies will be delivered then. We’re currently working on a new cover for the book (that’s why there’s no thumbnail on the listing yet). I will be unveiling the cover soon and I’m also working on the audiobook, which I’m excited about. I’ll have some big announcements in the coming weeks and months leading up to the release of the book. So stayed tuned!

All Work and No Quarantine

All Work and No Quarantine

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve noticed some people with the illness trying to continue working as though there’s not a viral death sentence canvassing the globe. If you’ve paid attention to the news lately, you’ve probably seen Chris Cuomo trying to continue his TV show while battling COVID-19 or UK prime minister Boris Johnson trying to run his government even while in the ICU.

As stupid as it sounds, it’s hard for me to fault people like this, people who try to go about their jobs and daily lives, unfazed by the reality of a deadly virus. It’s hard for me to fault them because, once upon a time, I did the same thing.

When I first got sick in 2010, I was diagnosed with mononucleosis and thought I could push through it. I thought I’d feel like shit for a few weeks but I could suck it up and carry on with my daily life, fulfilling my obligations while waiting until the virus passed. But I couldn’t. As time went on, I found that I couldn’t keep up with my normal routine. I certainly tried though. I taught group fitness classes (my job at the time) and attempted to finish my last semester of college. It didn’t go well.

At the peak of my stubbornness, I stayed in bed for two days straight, gathering my strength to teach one of my fitness classes. I was trying to maintain my appearance as a healthy fitness instructor, but I was failing, and in the process I was making myself sicker. The lengths I went to for a little bit of normalcy were not worth the consequences.

My condition got worse and soon I realized that I couldn’t live my normal life as long as I was sick. I couldn’t push my symptoms aside until the virus passed because, at the pace I was going, the healing process would only be stunted and my body would never fully recover.

Sure enough, a decade later, my body still hasn’t fully healed. Did working while I was sick make my illness worse? Probably. It definitely didn’t help. Now I’m mostly bedridden, I can’t walk, and I struggle to speak audibly.

But even with a lethal pandemic plaguing the world, I can’t say that I’ve completely learned my lesson. Thankfully I don’t have pressing obligations like Boris Johnson, Chris Cuomo, or even a regular citizen trying to stay afloat in a downed economy. I’m too sick to have much in terms of obligations, and perhaps that’s why it’s easy for me to sit here and tell people not to work during this pandemic. Though there is a difference between working while you’re sick and working while trying to avoid getting sick.

It goes without saying that if you have the coronavirus, you should quarantine yourself and not work for your sake and the sake of everyone you could potentially give it to.

It’s a bit more complicated, of course, for the vast majority of people, those who don’t have the virus but do need an income. I know what that’s like too, having to work and go to school in order to stay afloat with a mysterious virus swirling around. My virus wasn’t killing tens of thousands of people, but the weight of it combined with my obligations and stubbornness felt like having sand bags constantly strapped to my chest. I pushed myself too far, which seemed like a bad idea back then (and still does), but I didn’t know how to stop myself from working. I didn’t listen to my better judgment because I was in survival mode, and sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes to survive.

This is all to say that, whether you have the virus or you’re just trying to avoid getting it, it’s not a good idea to work. I understand the dilemma. It’s not an easy decision, but as I’ve learned the hard way, if you make the wrong choice and try to push through it, you’re body may override you. Then you’re screwed. So make the right choice and don’t push yourself too much. Whatever that means for you.

BEFORE YOU GO… 

1. Thanks for reading!

2. Some GOOD NEWS: My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE, is now available for preorder on Amazon (Canada, Australia, etc.), B&N, and Booktopia. If you’ve already ordered it or plan to, the book will be published January 2021 and all copies will be delivered then. We’re currently working on a new cover for the book (that’s why there’s no thumbnail on the listing yet). I will be unveiling the cover before its published and I’m also working on the audiobook, which I’m excited about. I’ll have some big announcements in the weeks and months leading up to the release of the book. Stayed tuned!