Monday, April 11, 2016

Chronic pain, fitness & triathlons

I have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, a mysterious "floating virus" (whatever that means!), scoliosis among other things. Docs tell me 60% of my energy goes toward dealing with health issues. I gain weight easily, I don't gain muscle & I can get sick if I spend too much time standing, sitting or walking around (weird..) No one quite knows what's going on even after 10 plus years. I've come to accept that no one is going to truly know. 

But that doesn't define the whole me. I'm also a triathlon coach, personal trainer, yoga instructor, triathlete, marathon runner. 
You're looking at a VERY happy me
coming out of my 1st ocean swim triathlon

By the way, no I don't have health issues because I do these sports. I do these sports to STAY as healthy & strong as possible to fight illness. 

Yes, sometimes I ask why me. Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I can't sleep because of pain. Some days I pray that this will all go away, even for a day so I can feel what it's like to be "normal." But my reality right now is this. Yours might be too.

If I could choose I would take optimal health in a heart beat of course. But I've come to realize blessings can come out of pain. 

Let me explain. Because I have pain I have empathy for others in pain. Because I have fatigue I understand how it feels when just getting out of bed is enough for the day. Because I swim bike & run while I have these issues I understand the frustrations others have when they feel like they'll never be able to become a runner, or the bike doesn't seem like a friend. Or when they want to quit because they're not seeing results they think they should be seeing. I get it! I've been there, which means I'm further along my journey & I can say "Stay hopeful because you're going to be ok!" 
This is me at my first marathon, something I never thought would happen.
Don't set limits!

If you're reading this & suffering, you are going to be ok! Here's a few things I've learned along the way that I'd like to share with you.

  • No matter where you're at now you can always have better health. Forget comparing yourself to others or to what you think you should or could've been. Strive for a little bit better health, whether that's regular doctor visits, massages, eating better, exercising etc etc (or all of those). 
  • Learn to love your body. After all, it's trying SO hard for you. Your body is not fighting against you even when it feels like it is. Your body is fighting for you so give it a break, love it as it is & take this time to take exceptional care of it.
  • Along those same lines, learn what your body needs. Exercise regularly. Keep it gentle at first until Dr's ok it (I spent several months doing close to nothing then eased back into light exercise then slowly went back to swim bike run). Sleep as much as you need PLEASE, learn to say no, learn your body's cues & heed them, eat as healthy as possible, drink lots of water, be around positive friends that don't make you feel bad about being sick (yeah it happens & it sucks big time).
  • Find doctors that are positive & encouraging. Don't settle for meanies, negative nellies or docs that act like you're crazy (yeah that happens too & it super sucks)! Do. Not. Settle.
  • Never give up on your health. That may mean redefining a few things you thought your life would be like - but that's ok!
  • But don't set limits. Just be smart about things & give yourself time. I didn't go from a diagnosis to running marathons. I spent a lot of time sleeping & gaining a very long drawn out process of building myself up. Then for me, I simply say I'll do this until my body says no. You may not be interested in triathlon or marathons & that's fine. But find something active that you love, that gives you energy back & brings you a little further toward better health. 
  • Don't lose joy. Pray. Praise. Worship & be grateful for what you have. Stop thinking about what you don't have. Celebrate God's involvement in your life & know He has good things planned for you.
  • Never ever ever give up on yourself. It's going to be ok! (did I mention that already?)  -- Emily Collins