Category Archives: Health

Alone or Lonely? Exploring My State of Mind

I go hiking every year on Veteran’s Day. It’s a good way to be alone, think about sacrifices made by vets and experience nature. This year I had a lot on my mind. I’ve been in a dark place and have had a hard time getting out of it.

I have been struggling with loneliness. When I mentioned this to someone they said, “Oh, you don’t like being alone?” No. It isn’t that. I hiked alone on Monday and enjoyed it. I reveled in the quietness. I had the trail mostly to myself (I saw a ranger and 2 other women). I had moments where it was completely silent. And it was marvelous.

As I was walking on the trail, I was reflecting on this dark period. Why am I lonely? And why is it so overwhelming right now? Why can’t I get myself to the gym? Why I can’t I workout? Why can’t I find any happiness in my photos? It’s a lot. I know. I didn’t come away with any answers.

I used to have a large group of friends. I used to be invited to parties. Dinners. Events. They were all friends from when I taught and performed a style of dance and I wasn’t ever lonely. I ended up having to leave the group and of course all my friends slowly disappeared. I won’t go into details but it was painful. I stopped dancing altogether and realized my whole social life dropped away.

Since then… I have made a few friends. However, I’m closest to people who live states away from me. I reach out to others, closer, with no response. I realize that perhaps I’m not an enjoyable person. I try to be but maybe I am not seeing something. I have put out requests for hiking and get no takers. And so I go alone.

I know there’s tons of advice on curing loneliness. I’ve read it. I have a degree in social work. I know all the stuff. I know how to pull myself out of this depressions – usually. Hiking helps. Photography helps. But I really miss having a connection with someone special. The shared experiences. The jokes. That person who will meet you for coffee. I don’t even mean a romantic relationship. Someone I know who will be there for me.

I am not sure how long this darkness will last. I’m supposed to tell people and reach out but I don’t want to. I’m tired of reaching. I’m tired of initiating. I will force myself back to the gym. When I’m depressed I eat. And, well, that’s no good and adds to my depression and self-flagellation.

So no, I don’t mind being alone. I rather enjoy it most of the time. However, I do wish I had a choice. I wish the only option wasn’t always being alone.

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RIP Anthony Bourdain

How a celebrity death affects me is based on what they’ve meant to me. I remember hearing about Prince dying. That one hit me right in the gut. All that musical genius just gone in an instant.  The day Michael Jackson died…. I couldn’t hold it together. Regardless of the rumors and issues, he was an important part of my life growing up. My parents didn’t allow me (or want me) to watch MTV growing up. However, the release of the Thriller video was scheduled viewing. It was shocking when Robin Williams committed suicide. We all assumed he was happy because he made us happy. To this day, I can’t watch him in something and not get some tears in my eyes.

Friday morning I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw the notification of Anthony Bourdain having died. I paused. Took a breath. I clicked on the article to see if it was legit and saw it was suicide. And then burst into tears. Him? He introduced all of us to new worlds, cultures and food. He went where people wouldn’t. He talked to those who are normally invisible. Although he talked often about his demons… alcohol, drug use, etc. we obviously believed him to be happy. He was so in love with his daughter and she brought him such joy. And yet, he was so sad, distraught, [insert your own word here] that the only relief he could imagine was death.

In Bourdain’s shows, “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” his goal was to (in his words) “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice”. Staying true to his words, he traveled to Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Haiti, Libya, and more. He showed people that you don’t have to be so scared to visit these places. That the people are beautiful and welcoming and special. I have an Iranian friend who was thrilled with the episode and I felt so proud for her. I guess all of us who write our blogs about the places we travel are inspired to do this very thing. We want others to see where we’ve been and to know the beauty in it.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Bourdain since Friday. Sure, at times I focused on my son’s soccer tournament. I edited some photos. But my thoughts always returned to him.  Perhaps it is because 2017 was a hard year for me. I was at the place where I thought death would be the better option. Not only for me, but for others so they wouldn’t have to deal with me. I didn’t feel loved. Appreciated. Wanted. And I grew not to care. I used nature as a way to heal and that helped. Thankfully.  I still have pain that I deal with daily. It’s there, nagging me, even as I try to look past it. I think I keep it there as an obstacle to work through. I don’t know if I ever will because the source of the pain is unmoving. Unable to change.  So I continue on in my life.

Suicide is drastically on the rise. What do we do about it? I don’t know. I have no answers. I certainly didn’t reach out for help when I could have used it. I turned inward and looked to the trails. Perhaps that is a way of reaching out but no one really knew. And unless they’ve read this blog, they still don’t.  I know that Bourdain felt like there was no other option. All of us who admired him wish he could have gotten help. In the end, we will take what he taught us and carry on with it in life.

It feels too easy to say, “Reach out if you need help” especially considering what I just wrote. But if reaching out means spending time on a trail, in the woods, with a friend, or a family member – do it. It doesn’t always mean you have to spill your inner-most thoughts. And, if you get the opportunity, look up some episodes of “No Reservations” or “Parts Unknown”.  They are incredible series and may change how you think of certain places.  RIP Anthony Bourdain: Thank you for your work.

 

A Year with Asthma

I was thinking yesterday, as I struggled to run, about how I had a goal to run a trail race next Saturday, March 11th. I won’t make that goal and it feels pretty crappy. Since completing my Spartan Beast back in October I have been struggling with workouts. I made it through my Trifecta but apparently I did not rest enough after that race. I ran a 5K the following Saturday and since that race I have felt bad. Whether it is extreme exhaustion, feeling depressed, having breathing issues, being sick with every single bug going around or just feeling awful for apparently no reason (blood test said no reason).

Last year I self-diagnosed myself with Exercise-Induced Asthma. I think I had been suffering from it for about two years but didn’t know it. Three years ago I found out I have Epstein-Barr and feel pretty awful when that flares up. Before self-diagnosing myself, the doctor said I should get a sleep test so I did and it was normal. Then the doctor said it could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (still a possibility) but in the end, it was asthma. A year ago things were bad. I was having attacks often and hard workouts became disastrous for sleeping. I couldn’t even catch my breath.  Just after I received my inhaler I ran a 5K trail race. Having asthma was new to me I forgot my inhaler at home.  The race started and within just a few minutes I was having issues breathing.  In the midst of attempting to breathe I missed the 5K turn and ended up running (walking) the 10K which crying for much of it because I felt so bad.

That same trail race is next week. I ran last night and struggled and decided I couldn’t register for it. Granted, I was very sick last week and hadn’t ran but it shouldn’t have been that bad. Running up any incline was very difficult. I walked for a bit and just felt dejected.

This morning I headed over to Amelia Boone’s website (professional OCR competitor). I like to read her blog and had missed her last entry from December. She wrote in length about recovering from her injury, the sadness that came with it, and wondering about her future. Now, I am in no way a professional athlete. I am not even any good for my age. But I, too, wonder what the future of working out and racing looks like for me. I am signed up for the Washington DC Sprint – that is in September. I convinced a friend to do it so I needed to hold up my end of the bargain. It is a short race and I am sure I’ll be okay for it. I hope.

I am seeing an Asthma specialist tomorrow. My wish is that she can provide me with some hope. Anything. Something. I want to get back to heavier workouts or at least be able to run continuously for more than a mile. I want to go through my day without struggling to breathe. I want to lose this stupid weight I have put on without my HIIT workouts. I’m 45. I need all the help I can get. The time between November and now has been a big blur. I can’t really pinpoint a time when I felt healthy for more than 3-4 days at a time. I find it difficult to explain to people as they can’t “see” anything wrong with me. I go to the gym and lift weights. I’ve lost a lot of strength and can no longer do a pull-up. I’m working to get all of that back.

Thankfully, through all of this, I have still been able to hike. Hiking has been one of the few things to keep me sane. There are moments when I need an extra hit of my inhaler or have to take extra breaks when climbing elevation but generally I am ok. I am dreading the spring, though, with all the pollen. I know that will cause issues unless the doctor provides me with a wonder drug. I also worry about the future of the air quality. I am anticipating summer being bad. And if the cuts to the EPA go through air quality could generally get worse over the next couple of years as pollution is no longer a concern to this administration.

I just want to feel like there is some hope. I want to feel like I can wake up someday, take a breath, and then not thinking about trying to breathe for the rest of the day. I promise I’m not whining. I just want some relief.