The Path Traveled

As the end of the year draws near, I like many others, start to reflect over the events of the past year. The good, the bad, the ugly. This year, has superseded most years and brought me a lot of firsts.

At the beginning of 2015, I looked down a path that I could not see completely as it wound into the darkness of woods and ferns and birds.

It was with lots of thinking and over thinking, and planning and grasping at intuition that was being drowned out by sound and confusion that I made my way slowly (and in some cases — not cautiously) down the dirt road.

I packed up my little apartment and handed it off to a moving company. Then followed them a few days later in a fully packed SUV with my runt calico of 19 years (20 now). She spent the better part of 3 days bundled into a soft blanket in a small dog crate as I made my first of two solo roads trip to my new chosen home half way across the country.

phaelen_roadtripIt was the first time since I entered the Air Force that I chose to move into the unknown: no friends, no family, no certainty in which to fall back on. I chose to explore this path with no safety net using only my intuition for guidance.

My friends and family that I left back on the east coast were both perplexed and admiring of my current path. While they could not understand my decision to move half way across the country, I think they were a little jealous of my freedom and courage to do so.

This path I have chosen has been easy and difficult. There were times I was not sure I chose the correct road. I was alone, lost, hurting, and unsure of my inner thoughts. I refused to cave and I learned how to quiet my anxiety and move outside my comfort zone.

While I don’t think I’m in a sunny glen quite yet, I am positive that the trees are thinning out and letting the sun in.

I have found a great doctor who listened to me and I am finally getting healthier, stronger — I was almost convinced I would never be healthy again. Through my own due diligence to cure my thyroid disease, I have found a community of people with the same issues. Hypothyroid Mom was just the tip of the tree in moving me in the right direction. I started following one thin trail after another; it lead me to change my eating habits (giving up sugar — fructose specifically — has been a life changer for me). I Quit Sugar has literally made me better, confident, and full of energy.

As my body started to feel better and stronger, I conquered other issues. I have grown and settled back into the person I lost years ago as my thyroid played havoc with my body, mind, and spirit.

I am calmer and more focused at work. I have started to excel at my job again and it has lead to a more leadership role. I have found patience to teach people my job and the best practices.

I am putting focus on what I truly love — writing. Writing posts, writing short shorts (my friends call them poems — but that’s a debate for another time), writing short stories, writing just for the sake of seeing my thoughts on paper (or in this case — on the web). Some people even read them — who knew?

I have met a few people, who seem to have the same common interest I do. Coffee, biking, playing games on Friday night, or just in general — hanging out. They are turning out to be a great group of friends and the road is a little less scary, and a little less lonely.

With each mile I travel, I feel stronger. I can hear my inner voice a little clearer and while I still don’t know where this path will lead, I know that I chose the right one for me.

Every now and then, I can hear the clear sounds of a meadow ahead. Birds in the trees and water rippling in the stream. I am starting to enjoy the walk amoungst the trees instead of fearing the darkness between the tall redwoods.

I am enjoying this path and looking forward to the next fork in the road.

Ooooo look there’s a small trail over there — that’s 2016. That looks to be a really great path….


Patience in Purgatory

I’ve been a fairly healthy person most of my life. I am passionate about a few select things. I am stubborn. I like to go fast. These are facts, not conjecture not excuses, just basic facts about me.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease. It hit me pretty hard as the reality of my health over the preceding years came into focus. I lost traction for a while, but biking helped me deal with it. I’ve loved biking since the first time I saw Greg LeMond racing in the Tour de France. For a short while, I dreamed of being the first woman to race in the Tour.

Purgatory rock bed

Purgatory rock bed

Recent issues have come up and it was with great irritation that I dropped my bike off at Pedal Power (awesome locally owned bike store in San Marcos). Two days before that I was told by my doctor to stop biking. Ok, not permanently, but for a short while — what ever short while means.  We agreed to a week. I should mentioned it lasted a day.

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

It is not something I am OK with at this point in my life. I have struggled over the last couple of years with structure and consistency.  It is frustrating because my body is not responding as I expect it to. It is irritating because after a few months of consistent biking I am finally seeing improvement. Now, I am force to bring it to a screeching halt.

As I was venting to a personal trainer friend of mine earlier in the day, she asked me if it was worth it.  Was it worth riding through the pain to maintain my routine with the small possibility that it might impact me riding at all in the future?

I have to admit the logic in it all. It makes logical sense to stop, to let the back and hip heal. But hypothyroidism doesn’t care if I stop for a minute, a day, a week, or a month. It will slow down exponentially fast. What little ground I have gained with weight loss, stamina, persistence will slip away.

My first response is ride through the pain.

Let’s face it, I’m not a pro biker, I never have been despite my teenage dreams and I never will be. I don’t have what it takes mentally or physically to be a pro athlete. Biking through the pain will help me stay stable, mentally focused, and internally feel better, but in the long run it will not contribute to my overall health. While the back and hip are not part of the autoimmune disease, the pain is impacting my ability to concentrate at work, sleep at night, and be calm and relaxed.

So the day after ignoring doctors order not to ride, I forced myself to drop off my bike so I would not ride for a few days. It needed a few tweaks anyway.

Now the hard part comes. What do I do with the time I used to spend biking? What can I do to keep my metabolism up without doing more damage to the back and hip?

I was headed toward a marina to dwell on my sedentary state which had just been thrust upon me, when as I crossed over a bridge I notice a trail with some people and dogs running about. I made a u-turn and found myself at Purgatory Creek Park. Luckily my hiking shoes were in the back seat and I found my answer.

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Walking — I could take an nice easy thirty minute stroll through the park.

It is a nice little park with hard packed trails for walking or riding a mountain bike. I could do thirty minutes at an extraordinarily slow pace (which might kill me because I’m rabbit like not turtle like) so that I would not stress the back and hip on the small boulder like rocks, but hopefully trick my metabolism into thinking I was being very active. I could do this. Thirty minutes.

An hour and a half and 2 caches later (geocaching is fun — check it out), I was headed back home.

I would like to say I don’t hurt, but that would be a lie. I managed to walk 5 miles at a turtle’s pace, but entertained myself with the beautiful sunset views mom would have loved, and the hunt of caches. I day dreamed a little and came up with a couple great ideas for posts — this being one of them.

Overall, I feel mentally and emotionally better and my body doesn’t hurt as much as if I biked. So time will tell if I need to become a couch potato or if turtle is the way to go.

People actually eat these

People actually eat these

Beautiful Reminder

I was asked tonight as we took a short hop from Austin to Dallas if I was ready to get off the plane. I calmly glanced at the woman in the row behind me and replied that I was ok, after all I flew every week. That thought was apparently repulsive to her. She shifted uneasily from foot to foot waiting impatiently to get out of “the small tube”.

As I made a rare appearance in first class an hour later, cause every frequent flyer on the planet out ranks me, I was enthralled by the planes that sat waiting to take off at the end of the long strand of green lights that my pilot followed.

Three huge sleek white tubes sat patiently waiting their turn to chase the yellow lights that guide them skyward. It was the beauty of blue lights framing the steady yellows and greens as the engines throttled, it was the mysterious flashing white lights that seemed to float in mid-air up into the darkness that caught my attention.

It was this thrill of color, of sound, of flight, of beauty the woman on the first flight did not see.

As I watched the few planes in front of us roar to life, it struck me that only a hundred years or so ago, people laughed at the notion of flying like birds, seeing the earth through clouds, city lights, sun rays blinking off the snow covered mountains.

For me it is a weekly occurrence. It is the frequency of my travel that this beauty of sound, color, and imagination become lost in the drudgery of work.

Tonight, I was handed a wonderful gift from a woman that wanted nothing more than to rush off and be on her way. She made me pause for a moment to enjoy the beauty of flight, to remind me of the magnificence of lifting weightlessly off the ground, the symmetry of it all. I am grateful that I have a job that allows me to travel to enjoy all aspects of flying.

I am grateful to the unknown woman who reminded me of the beauty of flying.

Little Things in Life

I wonder if anyone can be happy all the time. Lately, I wonder if people can be happy most of the time. I think I may have lost that somewhere along the way.

I am happy — for this brief spit of time.

It’s not the big things, work or relationships. Today it was all about the small things.

Leaving work a little early: traffic was almost non-existent, even around the crowded LAX airport.

Checking into a nice hotel: front desk upgraded me to the concierge floor with access to the lounge.

West Side room: over looks the runway to the airport where I could watch planes landing and taking off.

A beautiful pink and gray sunset: my mother would have loved it, she never missed a sunset.

The lights on the runways come to life as the sun hides behind the gray fluffy clouds.

Planes large and small drop into view sporadically mere moments before touching down. Smoke billows behind the plane as rubber meets tarmac and air brakes are applied.

On the other side of the field, white lights guide the metallic colorful planes toward me. One then two start the queue. Slowly joined by more and then they turn facing away. The pilot throttles forward, the engines come to life and mere seconds later the plane roars down the runway before it separates itself from earth.

As I watch the dark field changes. Red lights, green lights, white lights twinkle on the ground. I find that for one perfect peaceful moment I am happy.

It is the little things from checking in, to watching planes in my own space, to a memory of sunset sent from mom that make me happy.

It is a rare thing I feel lately and one I would love to welcome back into my life on a more permanent long term basis. I enjoy the little things that bring me peace and a smile to my face.

I know tomorrow will bring me a few more moments of happiness because I will get to sleep in slightly before heading to the airport I now watch and board a plane which will return me to my home.

I will be greeted by a calico who will curl up in my lap as I sit on the couch to read. If the weather turns nice I will even find time to fly along a road in the country on my bike.

Yes, it is the little things that make me happy.


Hypothyrodism: Glandzilla Attacks from Inner Space

It’s not often that I read a book, a magazine article, or a post and immediately stop everything I’m doing to write about it. Truth be told, I can’t often focus long enough to finish anything I’m reading. Last night on my feed a random you may be interested box showed up: Hypothyroidism Ruined My Relationship. I clicked on it, but didn’t have the energy to read past the title.

This morning as I’m floating through my open tabs (which I usually have a lot of as that is the only way I can remember what to read later), I decided with a cup of coffee, it was time to skim what I thought would be a fluff piece about Hypothyroidism.

It was a difficult read once I got past the opening paragraph. I fought back tears — a lot. I fought to concentrate on the post to the end. It took a refill of coffee, a break to give my cat eye drops, add a load to the washing machine, and starting the dishwasher, but I made it through to the end. This may not seem like a lot to you, but for me it is a HUGE accomplishment.

Since I have been diagnosed with this condition, no one has understood me, to include me. When I do talk about it (which is not often) the listener will give pat answers like,”Yeah my mom has it,” “My best friend has it.” A wall comes up and we press on to other topics. Isolating me in a “woe-is-me” cocoon once again. No one wants to talk about it and so this stays bottled up inside.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I have been struggling for years, but doctors kept treating the symptoms. Gain weight, try the low carb diet, not working? How about the vegan diet. Oh, you have headaches, try lowering your stress. Can’t focus? That must be because your B level is low. Can’t remember? That’s just low vitamin D in your system (I was biking 5 to 6 times a week (outside in summer) at the time) — low D?

Finally, in April of 2012 everything hit a wall. It was brought about through a very scary (to me anyway) incident when I was told by Tanya to tell Kara something. I remember talking to Tanya, I remember saying I will tell Kara. I remember hanging up the phone.  I remember dialing Kara’s number. I remember saying HI and then nothing. I could not remember what it was I was supposed to tell her. It had been less than 5 minutes between ending one call and starting the other. But the memory of that last piece of information was gone — and to this day I still don’t remember what it is that I was supposed to tell Kara.

I know some will say, “That happens to all of us from time to time.” For me, it was a wake up call. It was something that should not have occurred in a 5 minute span, but it was also the last straw in a string of things that had been occurring over the last year with increasing frequency.

I was angry at nothing. I don’t mean a little angry, I mean, off the wall full blown want to punch somebody angry because the coffee took to long to brew that morning.  I couldn’t remember conversations that took place on the same day. I was obsessive about work — working almost 24/7 because I couldn’t sleep and I was fearful with forgetting to do a task. I felt like I was going to explode from the inside out. I hurt so much I just wanted to end everything. I just wanted someone to tell me I was OK. I wanted someone to listen and HEAR me.

No one was listening. They couldn’t relate and the pain got worse because I was alone and trapped and confused and angry and hurting.

I don’t care much for doctors, but not because I don’t like them, I just am not that unhealthy. Mom raised us to push through the pain and not waste a doctor’s time with meaningless things like a sprained ankle.

My irrational mood swings and weight gain were very similar to what I experienced at puberty. So, I thought — incorrectly — maybe I was in early menopause. There was no other logical explanation.

On May 5, 2012, two days after my PA ran some tests, the results were back. My thyroid was non-existent, to the extent that I might as well not have had one at all. The range of a “normal” thyroid is debated by doctors to this day and unless, as in my case, it is so off the chart high or low, your doctor is liable to say it’s low or high, but in normal range. If you get that answer get more tests or find a doctor who will listen to you.

I have always had low, but normal thyroid readings, which means I should have been on thyroid medication years before I was. It wasn’t until my thyroid numbers were off the chart low —  that I was finally able to take steps in the right direction.

I love my PA, she was wonderful in treating the cause and not the individual symptoms. She listened to me and ran the correct tests (a complete metabolic panel) and put me on medication that acts like my thyroid in an attempt to get my body, mind, and emotions back to what they should be.

I saw results within 2 days of starting thyroid medication. I became less obsessive, I became calmer, I even think I laughed a couple times. It was not an immediate fix, but I was so extreme in my emotions, that I noticed a difference in my body.

It’s been 3 years since that diagnosis, and I don’t know if it is a disease or a condition or whatever label you want to give it, but I am better than I used to be. I recognize the symptoms when they occur and get into the doctors office as quickly as I can so we can adjust dosage. This is not uncommon and will be a life long thing, but when I become depressed and angry and obsessive, it’s time to look it again.

The problem is the last couple of times my levels were great, yet some of the more erratic symptoms are coming back and it frustrates me.

After reading Robyn Guidon’s post, I have more questions, and maybe more tests, for my new doctor to run, to see why I am not back to my complete self. I am moving in the right direction and while I feel better than before the medication, it is still a work in progress.

So for all my friends and family who cannot relate to me today, for my distance in the past, for my lack of trying to explain or keep carrying on about “my condition”, take a few moments (I know you won’t need as many breaks as I did), to read the post by Robyn Guidon. It is well written and explains, better than I ever have, the way I felt and still do and still struggle with.

              Hypothyroid Mom:

The Two Big Problems with “Typical” Thyroid Hormone Treatment – Part 1

                  Hypothyroid Mom:

    The Two Big Problems with “Typical” Thyroid Hormone Treatment – Part 2