A few years ago, after my son was born, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This doesn't really mean anything, so don't go Googling it. All it means is that I had persistent, non-localized body pain and overwhelming fatigue with no discernible cause. When I was diagnosed my doctor at the time mumbled something about hydrotherapy and then offered me a scrip for Oxycontin. You read that right. We don't know what's wrong with you, but you're obviously in pain so, howzabout some hillbilly heroin, friend? Will that satisfy you? He also offered corticosteroids. I'd been on long-term, high-dose steroids a few years before, though, and actually wondered if that might be part of my problem.
I declined the Oxy and the steroids, determined to find some self-directed method for healing my body. I tried many things over the years and though I was able to pinpoint some changes that helped, for the most part I just lived with it. I was tired all the time and sometimes the pain was overwhelming. I researched every theory on fibromyalgia and tried a bunch of different supplements and exercise programs and removing this or that from my diet, or eating this or that. Sometimes I pushed through the fatigue; most of the time I just felt sorry for myself. Nothing made me feel significantly different.
Even working out strenuously on a regular basis, I couldn't seem to increase my stamina. Riding a bike five miles a day hurt just as much on the 365th day as it did on the first. I'd always been drawn to yoga, and while I was practicing I felt amazing. But after a session the pain would steal into my body, first into my knees and shoulders, and then throughout my joints and muscles, and it would be days before I could practice again, which was a sad and shameful thing for me.
I accepted the diagnostic label, then rejected it, then ignored it, and nothing changed along the way.
After my last post, I received a lovely message on Facebook. Karen Hipwell said, "Chandelle, give yourself permission to slow down. Love who you are right now. Take time for you, whether it be making homemade tortillas, or a walk alone for 10 minutes in that beautiful meadow of yours."
I don't usually struggle to find time for myself. My kids are in school each day and if I want to write or read or walk or sit or sing or cook or have tea with friends, I can do it. I am blessed this way. But it has been difficult lately. There is just so much happening, it's hard to take a breath. So I took this advice to heart. I wondered what I could do to ground myself each day, to fill up those reserves that are long past exhausted. And the first thing that came into my mind was yoga.
I was nervous. It's been a long time since I did a sunbird pose. And back in the day, as I said, it could take me days to recover from even an easy series. But I felt inspired to try, so I did. I did one night of a Heart-Mind sequence. It was a major challenge to my tight hamstrings and weak arms. But I felt like a new person when I was done.
The next day, I awoke with the sun and scanned my body for pain, for tightness, and especially for exhaustion. There was none.
So I did the sequence again that night.
And the next night.
I'll do it tonight, too.
Something has changed for me in the past year. I feel more comfortable in my body than I ever have. Don't mistake this for feeling comfortable in my body -- I'm not there yet. But there is a difference. I still feel tired sometimes, but I can pinpoint the cause when it happens. Usually I can trace the exhaustion to consuming sugar or gluten, or having coffee in the afternoon. And this is perhaps the biggest change of all: my recovery time. I can wake up with energy, take an uphill hike with my kids, squat for hours wrapping wood with chicken wire, and cap it all off with a yoga series, and yes, I will feel it the next day, but I won't be crippled by it. I will be able to get up, do some stretches, and go about my day.
I can't tell you how different I feel, when I really think about it.
So what has changed? Well, I take vitamin D3 now. I know that I have a gluten intolerance. I don't consume vegetable oil anymore. And I eat a lot more protein, and better-quality protein, and fat, too. My diet is less inflammatory overall. But it's not only diet. I don't live in a cold, dry environment anymore. I have wonderful friends, and a vocation. I love where I live. I have a self-directed spiritual path. I have some confidence as a parent, and I genuinely love being with my children at every opportunity. I love my work. I love my partner. I don't see my body as a regrettable enemy. I've found resolution for past traumas. I'm healing into every corner of my life.
Whatever I had before -- call it fibromyalgia if you like, but I'm just going to consider it the way I somatized the deficiencies of my life: living in an unfortunate environment, lacking community, hating my body, struggling as a parent, frustrated in my work, resentful of my religion, and without resources for healing from trauma. Whatever I had before, it's dissipating. I've learned some lessons from it. Maybe I don't need it anymore.
Life is beautiful. It still kicks my ass most every day, but it's so fucking beautiful. How can I feel anything but grateful?
I plan to make this tart for Thanksgiving. It contains no gluten, no highly processed gluten-free flours, and very little sugar, but with the right apples the flavor is outrageously good. A few friends will be joining us for Thanksgiving and this will be the first year ever that I'll be cooking a turkey, even though I'm not sure how I'm going to cram a turkey in my tiny oven. I'm also not sure how I'm going to cram everyone into our tiny cabin, but we'll be gettin' friendly with each other, for sure, with our glasses of home-fermented hard cider, and plates piled with our local bounty.
I hesitantly invited my son's teacher to join us, not wanting her to feel obligated to attend just because of our association. She immediately said yes and followed up by saying, "That is exactly what I needed to hear today."
We should all get exactly what we need, sometimes.
Simplest Apple Tart
2 c. almond flour
2 T. pastured butter, softened
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. sweet-tart apples, sliced
2 T. apple cider or lemon juice
1 t. cornstarch
2 T. unrefined brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 T. pastured butter, cut up into small pieces
Arrange the apple slices in a pretty pattern inside the crust. Combine the apple cider or lemon juice with the cornstarch in a small cup; drizzle this over the apples. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small cup; sprinkle this over the apples. Dot the top of the apples with the butter.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the apples are cooked through. Cook for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.