Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.

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Arm Balances and Inversions

While this break I was hoping to get back into my daily yoga routine, I am sad to say it didn’t happen. Between work, the cold, and feeling perpetually drained and exhausted I often lacked the motivation. When I did have the motivation the frustration of my stiffness and the aches caused by my Rheumatoid Arthritis didn’t exactly make it a wholly relaxing experience. While my medication has worked for the most part, thank goodness, I still get some stiffness in my wrist. I seriously took for granted how many poses require using your hands and wrists in supporting your body weight.

I have always been afraid of inversions. Something about falling, landing the wrong way and smashing my mind, losing my ability to think the way I do. Now, I’m not sure if I will ever be able to do them. While it is important to keep moving my wrists and hands, to keep up range of motion and strength as best I can. You can’t keep pushing, you’ll cause damage. And needless to say the cold hasn’t exactly helped much. Maybe with a stronger core and some more upper body strength it will come. But I cannot help but cringe of placing all my body weight on my hands.

I am trying not to get frustrated or angry. Trying to stay optimistic. I have been meditating regularly. I finally got myself a zafu and some Mala beads and for 5-10 minutes I sit and try to quite and focus myself. I have been successful with that, but I struggle with consistency. I’ve been working a lot this break. I didn’t have the opportunity to work hardly at all this past semester because of conflicting schedules. I will be this coming semester, hopefully getting at least triple the hours I had last semester. I dream of a day when college students in this country don’t have to work while they study. I dream of a day when I can do inversions. Well, at least arm balances.

cow-in-scale-pose

But I am Barely 20…

So some of you may recall I had a weird time with my left foot in Costa Rica. It would swell, on the rare occasion it would hurt but in the end I didn’t do a whole lot about it.

A side by Side Comparison

A side by Side Comparison

It was bad, probably worse than I thought.

It was bad, probably worse than I thought.

But the swelling went away, only to return when I wore certain shoes or walked too much. Of course my mom and I were slightly concerned, but obviously not enough that we felt I should take the plunge and go to the hospital. So my mom set me up for an appointment when I got home. Of course the receptionists and nurses tweaked out and demanded to see me immediately which didn’t exactly put my mind at ease but hey, I had made it that long right?

So my appointment, literally two days after I got home involved not only a slew of blood work, but also an X-ray to see if it was a stress fracture and a sonogram of the leg to make sure I didn’t have a clot. I was panicky. I was hoping it was just a stress fracture and life would be fine. But it wasn’t going to be that easy. I anxiously awaited to see what my test results would be. The results were for the most part negative. Except for on the Arthritis Panel. There was one little anomaly. The speckled pattern, which is supposed to be between 0 and 49 came up as 250. My hand had started swelling and my fingers were sore and inflamed so with heavy heart I went to see the Rheumatologist especially since a family history was in there too.

I was the youngest person in the waiting rooms. It was…strange. The wait was terrible but the doctor informative. We talked about what was going on and possible options and he ordered some more tests. Of course these tests came up just like the last ones (no Lyme, but at least i didn’t have Lupus).

So here I am 20 and 2 months old and I have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, with Psoriatic Arthritis in my future because it has a very strong genetic inheritance and my symptoms only really appear on the left side of my body. R.A. is an autoimmune disorder. This means that for whatever reason my body has decided to attack its own tissue causing pain, swelling, and in general discomfort.

So here I am. Barely 20 years old and already arthritic (literally, I am becoming a grandma). Fortunately the pain isn’t too bad and usually some aspirin or ibuprofen helps. Long term treatment would be daily medication and I am seriously considering it so that hopefully I am able to curb the disease and prevent long term damage and degradation to my joints, especially because of my hand.  Thats what worries me the most. But we seem to have caught it early and thats good.

I was bitter for a while. Angry at the universe and unhappy. It means I am going to have to be on medication probably for the rest of my life. It will make travel more difficult, especially long term. I feel like some of my dreams and aspirations are now going to be a bit more difficult (Yes hello I need a two year supply of this so I can go do the Peace corps in some remote Mongolian village, OR I’m living in another country indefinitely can you help me with that?). But I know that I shouldn’t let it stop me from pursuing my dream and living life to the fullest. Its just another reason to make sure I take care of myself, physically and emotionally. And get enough sleep at night. RA has a tendency to make you tired, fatigued, and exhausted. Because your body attacking your body is pretty hard work.

Well enough of that. In other news I am no longer leaving the job I was going to leave I got a raise. God, I am such a sucker. So here is to having three jobs. The dogs are doing good and T. graduates from high school in a week. What? I have orientation Sunday and Monday, and I BOUGHT MYSELF A STAR TREK TRAVEL MUG!!!! Am I a total dweeb? YES. Right now I am reading Anne Frank’s Diary and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Up next is still to be determined. Though I now have enough money to pay off my late library fees, so who knows what is next.I have a new found love of Brazil Nuts. I am getting back into the swing of yoga and slowly easing myself back into meditation. I truly forgot how good it feels, and how uplifting it is on the spirit. And down dog does wonders to my hands once I get over the initial discomfort. wellbeing

Ever forward, ever upwards. Some day I will get enough sleep.

Give me Fried Chicken and Chocolate Cake

Even though I am not taking as many classes, I’m not working, and don’t have to worry about all of my time commitments that I have at home, I feel like I have significantly less time. I don’t know what it is but I have been slacking not only in blogging but writing in my journal, and taking and posting pictures. Aiiee!

Well this past week was a bit rough. I had an encounter with sun poisoning on my back, but my two awesome roommates nursed me through the brunt of the pain and I don’t know if you knew this, but Plantains feel absolutely amazing on sunburned back. My back is much better now, and I have a swim shirt now to protect me from the strong sun at the beach.

We had our first exam for Spanish and while I didn’t do as good as I would have liked I am doing quite well, and learning a lot. I am glad that I ended moving down to basic one. I feel a lot more comfortable and I am actually learning a lot more that I thought I would taking basic one again.

Our trip to Puerto Viejo (El Carribe) this past weekend was pleasant. I really liked the food there. I really enjoyed the food. I liked the coconut and tiny kick in the rice and beans and don’t even get me started on the shrimp and rice I had. It was AMAZING. The town had a very different feel than Tamarindo and I liked the more laid back feel but I wasn’t a fan of the fact that there was a large cockroach in someones bed. And the ants. If I had to pick a bug that grosses me out that I’m just 100% done, it is ants. Spiders come close too. Really all bugs honestly.

I went to yoga class last night, and man I have missed my intense yoga sessions. I do yoga at home but its usually not as intense, rapid, and sweat inducing as my home practice. I’ve needed that here and I think it is an excellent addition to dance class. I missed my om-ing with other people, and having a teacher to point out tiny things to focus on, like keeping the inside of my palms on the mat and remembering to fully spread my fingers and toes.

I have been feeling a bit homesick, it really comes and goes. I just really miss my family and my dogs and American food. I really was missing American food. But today, was an excellent food day and I feel a lot better, at least about the food situation. I had an awesome pancake with maple syrup for breakfast. Then for lunch, vegetables, rice, and fresh amazing fried chicken. I have never had such amazing fried chicken in my life. And of course Mora Juice, aka blackberry juice aka the best stuff you will ever consume ever. Then at the cafe at school I had cake. Chocolate cake. With Carmel for frosting. I was so happy and it really was what I needed. When everything seems to be going wrong and I just feel done with everything, a slice of chocolate cake makes the world of a difference.

Para Mi Tia Ginny:

Yo no quirero frijioles, pero hay mucha frijoles. Para Desayuno, Almuerzo, y Cena. Yo Bebeo cafe en la manana con leche y cinco azucar. A mi me gusta mucho. Encantanto juego de mora y marmelada de mora. Es muy rica y delicioso. Yo hablo un poco espanol pero yo aprendo un poco cada dia. Yo pienso en espanol con un poco palabras.

Classes

So I am all registered for my classes now! I will be taking four Spanish language modules (Beginner 2, Intermediate 1 and 2, and Advanced 1) in addition to a contemporary Latin American history course. E. and Aunt G. keep telling me all about Costa Rica and I can’t wait! E. has been telling me about the yoga and I really hope they still have it. It would be nice to get back into a more regular routine with it and with some class structure to it too.