Friday, June 3, 2016

Hello 2:30, My Old Friend

Tuesday morning I had a full on anxiety/panic attack. I've experienced something similar on a smaller scale before but there was a reason. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember understanding why it was happening. Tuesday was different. Now, let me be clear, I have (had*) a lot going on. I have (had*) a lot of responsibilities that were coming to a head Tuesday morning, but it wasn't very different than usual for me. I always have a lot plates spinning at one time and that's how I have lived my whole life.

I remember "my previous life" as an insurance adjuster (yes, that was what I did before I met Prince Charming). I always had an overload of claims going at one time. I worked for a company that believed adjusters should not specialize so I might have a house fire and a school bus accident come in on the same day. What happens when you do a good job at something? You get to do more of it! I'm not tooting my own horn, but I didn't do a good job, I did an exceptional job. I won our district's "Adjuster of the Year" twice, Subrogation Adjuster of the Year, and the State Adjuster of the Year. I did an exceptional job. We had three adjusters in our office and a vehicle appraiser. One of the adjusters was NOT doing his job. He was fired and the majority of his workload was given to me because I was the senior adjuster in the office. I went from about 40 claims on hand to over 100 overnight. I handled them. Well.

I guess there was some fall out from doing my job very well. I failed at marriage. But I think I had a lot of help with that. It takes two to tango. But, to be clear, I sucked as a wife. But, about 2 weeks after he left we had a MAJOR hail storm in my county. It was the largest single county catastrophe in Arkansas ever. In my county. Two weeks after my husband left me. I was a single mother with a HUGE mortgage to pay (alone, because he sucked as a human) and I watched the news that night in horror as hail stones the size of softballs were hitting houses and cars all over my county. I remember the scene so vividly. I had brought home all my files that night, to get caught up. I was behind a little bit (because my husband had left) and, in true Dana fashion after my mom duties were done I put my head down and got my work duties caught up. And then the storm hit.

I was supposed to take my kids on a vacation to Florida the next week. Well, it was supposed to be a family vacation...and it was going to stay a family vacation, just a smaller family. That was cancelled. I went from being caught up to completely drowning in claims overnight. I got help (A LOT of help), but I handled what I had to handle. Fairly well. At least I came out of it on the other side of the storm.

Last fall, right before all the "health weirdness" started, I took on a huge responsibility. I was nervous about it, but excited at the same time. (It doesn't matter what that responsibility was; I'm keeping it general so this can apply to anyone reading...) This was on top of my already heavy load, but I felt like I could handle it. And I think I could have...before my brain was attacked by my immune system.

Since last fall I have had to give up and let go of several races I was planning to do: an "easy" 50K, a particularly tough 50K, a 50 miler, and my very favorite 25K and weekend after next I'll have to give up a 2.4 mile swim in the river. I've had to give up some opportunities to coach some amazing athletes. I've had to give up giving some swim lessons. I've had to hire someone to clean my house. (Okay, that one I'm not sad about!) I've had to sleep A LOT more than usual. But that doesn't get to be at night, like a normal person. I sleep like a newborn. In chunks throughout the day and night and sometimes very fitfully.

2:30. WIDE awake. 10am, I need a nap.

Now, I get that insomnia is a pretty common thing. There are things you can do to help sleep better. And, your brain works better when you get good sleep. And just not sleeping can cause a lot of health weirdness. Trust me, I have gone down that road a little ways. This is not the cause, this is a symptom. Solving the sleep issue doesn't solve the brain issue. It's the other way around. Surprisingly when I took my steroid treatment I slept like a baby (until I got off the steroids). That's because the steroids put a quietus on the antibody attack and (I think) calmed the inflammation in my brain, allowing it to work better. (Your brain controls your sleep pattern...)

My brain simply isn't working like it used it should.

And, because all stress goes in the same bucket, after I ran the 10K that my body was not ready for on Monday I had a full stress bucket Tuesday morning when all of my usual responsibilities came pouring in. I had an overflow.

Imagine a juggler. She can juggle a lot of things REALLY WELL. And then she breaks her hand. She can still juggle with one hand. She's done that as part of her act for years. But she can't juggle as many things, and can't do it for as long as she could juggle with both hands. She needs more frequent breaks to rest the good hand. Yup...that's a pretty good analogy of where I'm at right now/

I am part of a Face Book page for people with all forms of Autoimmune Encephalopathy. The admins post a lot of current research and helpful information. Sometimes they post it in the form of memes. Tuesday as I was in the midst trying to process what was going on with me they posted "A letter from your brain" (click to enlarge).

I don't know if what I'm experiencing is from the attack of antibodies, or if it's lingering effects of a previous attack. I'm hoping the trip to Mayo will help sort all that out. And, more than that, I'm hoping they will have answers on how to get me back to juggling chainsaws and flaming swords with both hands!!!

* So why did I say I "had" a lot going on and I "had" a lot of responsibilities?? Well the thing that I put on my plate last fall has been removed!! That's a big relief.

For my local friends, I'm not directing Pesky Piranha anymore this year. It's been returned to it's previous director. I was getting the job done, but at a great cost and not as smoothly as I would have liked. Dwayne offered to step in, but he's never directed a race and there would have still been a great amount of the weight falling on me. It's ever so slightly sad, just like not being able to participate in the races I had registered for. But unlike the races I was going to participate in, this involved so much more than just me.

Thanks for dropping by and sticking around.

By the way, if you have ever wanted to learn to juggle, I found a great site with several videos right here:  And, let me say, when you google images of "juggling two balls with one hand" you will not like what you find.... :D

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Paying the Tariff for Cotton Row

What happens when you have a bill you don't have the funds to pay for? Well, I guess there are choices. You don't pay the bill until you have the funds, or you borrow the money (loan of some kind or you pay on credit).

There is scene in the movie Ya Ya Sisterhood where Willetta tells Vivi something to the effect that at some point "everybody's bill comes due".

When you don't have the currency to pay a bill, and you borrow to pay for it, you not only have to pay the original amount, but there is always some kind of interest attached.

Running Cotton Row Monday was super fun. I loved it. I had a great time (experience, not finish time). AND...I didn't have the "funds" to "pay" for it. I cashed a check at a race and ended up with an overdrafted account.

Usually that analogy would have to do with training. When you don't train for something you either end up with a poor result, a long recovery time afterward or an injury. I wasn't trained but my body was able to withstand the distance enough that I wasn't injured. But I have taken a pretty big hit neurologically.

Here's the thing. I preach all the time about how ALL STRESS GOES IN THE SAME BUCKET. But I'm a hypocrite. I try to segment my life into neat piles and stacks. I had convinced myself that I could handle a 10K because I could handle it physically. I mean I considered it might not be the best thing given my condition...but only long enough to stick my head back in the sand and ignore (what is probably) the truth. That (possible) truth is that I should not have put that stress on my brain.

The big problem here is that I don't want any of this to be true. I don't want to see it. I don't want to acknowledge it. There are so many good analogies I can use here, but I'll stick with the finance one.

When a person has a bill they don't have the money for and the borrow to pay it, they go into debt. If they just ignore that debt, the debt grows. It doesn't go away just because they want it to. Sure, that person can file bankruptcy, but there are consequences that will follow that person for years after that decision to abandon the debt. And, there are even more far reaching consequences because that debt didn't get paid so someone didn't collect. Your debt doesn't just impact you.

The decision for me to run Cotton Row wasn't a BAD one because I've learned another lesson. (I don't completely know what that lesson is just yet because it's like a puzzle that I'm putting together and I don't have all the pieces in place yet.) Or, to keep the same analogy going I don't have all my debits and credits outlined in a good solid budget just yet.

Going on a trip isn't a bad idea. But when you go on a trip that you haven't saved for, and you haven't figured out how you will pay for it, you might have a GREAT time when you are gone, but you have to come home sometime.

I wish I had a more well thought out post to give you here, but my account is overdrawn and my brain simply isn't working like it should....please stick around until I've had time to make some deposits into my account. :D

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cotton Row Number 7-Cashing the Check's ironic that this is "lucky number 7".

Pre Race (written Sunday afternoon)

I just published my last post about the things I've learned the last six times I've run Cotton Row. Let me just say, working though the last six years has helped me a great deal. I've been torn about what to do tomorrow. There are always choices to be made, but the decision to run this race wasn't an easy one.

Not only have I been "sick" with brain disease (I think I say it to solidify it in my mind that it's a real thing), but there's another aspect of the decision as well. I don't want to gloss over my physical state of being. I have NOT trained for this race. I haven't run enough to say I'm physically ready to run a 10K. I have been terribly weak and any effort has been taking a lot out of me. That said, I like to think running a 10K won't be impossible.

I did STRONGLY consider surprising Dwayne and being HIS biggest fan tomorrow. I would tell him
Doesn't everyone love more cowbell?!
I'm running but have my cowbell and some posters in the car. When he went to the front of the pack to start the race, I would run to the car and then go find him on the course they way he did with me the first 5 years. It might throw him off a little bit at first because he wouldn't know what was going on, but I think he'd be fine and it might help him have a great race. But this is NOT an A race for him. I would be giving up a race that I really enjoy to support him on what amounts to a training run.

I have tried to weigh the cost of this race with the value of running it. The problem is I don't quite know what the cost will be. But, again, I can back off and walk any time I need to, and if it becomes too much I can pull out pretty much anywhere on the course. I'm never too far from friends who can rescue me. :D

I'm very excited to see that tomorrow will bring.



After I wrote the above, Face Book reminded me of a couple of previous blog posts I had written. I "opened them in a new link" to read later but didn't read them right away so they were still waiting for me this morning when I sat down to do some work.

I'll come back to those posts tomorrow, but for now let me tell you about the race.

Dwayne and I woke up early, I took a shower (thank you to Katie for giving me this pre-race ritual). I was very calm and relaxed overall. Since I had made up my mind the day before to run it, not race it and not back out of it, it was just a matter of moving forward one step at a time.

We parked in our usual spot and then headed over to the VBC. I chatted with some friends, went to the bathroom a couple of times, listened to the pre-race stuff, saluted to Taps, sang as much of the third verse of America the Beautiful as I knew (well...I hummed it anyway), and the gun went off!!

Since I lined up pretty far back, it took a bit of walking before I was able to start jogging. About 1/4 mile in I started second guessing my decision. I quickly shut that nag down and just started thanking God for the opportunity to be out there running with so many people (there were 1862 finishers!). At about the 1 mile mark, maybe a little before that I got behind a friend whose call sign is "Tank". He had the perfect double time cadence and let me tell you, there's nothing more hypnotic than running behind (a) Tank with perfect cadence. I could have probably stayed there all day but he kept looking back, probably to see who the dead weight was he was having to pull! I decided that I wasn't really "running my own race" while being mesmerized by his metronomic feet so I moved over at the first aid station to fill up my water bottle.

As I was running up the little hill after the cemetery and before the left turn onto Owens, I saw a runner in front of me who was looking down. It's not a steep hill, but it's a rise for sure so we were both breathing heavy. I couldn't help I ran alongside of her I said "you'll get more air if you keep your head up". As I looked over I saw it was a good friend of mine. I'm going to call her H3. (I'll explain in a little bit.) I laughed and said "Hey it's YOU!!! I'm glad it's you because I was talking before I could stop myself. You will just laugh at me but a stranger might have spit on me for the unsolicited advice!!" She did just laugh.

Side note...when you run up a hill, run "proud". Keep your chest up and open and don't look down. You lose a lot of energy and a lot of lung capacity by bending over and looking down!! :D

For the first time ever on Owens I took the "low road". There are two sides to Owens and I have always taken the one to the left (the "high road"). It feels out of the way to move to the right. I won't do that again. I was watching my heart rate (well over the 150 goal I had set originally) and decided to take a little walk break (not my first one). H3 passed me by on the high road. Then I ran a bit and she took a walk break.

We got to the bottom of THE hill about the same time. She asked me if I was going to run it and I said emphatically "NO, but I'm going to start it". I had no intention or expectation of running the whole way, but as I got started I felt good. The theme from Rocky was playing and I passed the first mail box and then the second one...I got to the little "flat" section and I was able to pick up the pace a little bit. The last little bit is pretty steep and the thought crossed my mind that it was a little stupid to be running but I really felt like I could make I pressed on. As I topped out the hill and made the right turn onto Tollgate I cheered for myself! "YES, I DID IT AGAIN!!!" That's two years in a row I have run the whole hill!!! Now if I can just do it in the middle of an actual RACE, and then keep running....

As I started walking I knew H3 had to be right behind me. I knew she would eventually catch and pass me but I wanted to stay in front as long as I could. I don't know why. It was stupid, but I started trying to run again. I couldn't keep it up so I started walking. As H3 ran past me I told her how good she was looking and to keep it up. She looked over her shoulder and yelled at me "COME ON DANA". I decided I would try to stay with her as long as I could.

As we were running down Bankhead H3 said she was going to back off the pace a little bit so I asked why. She didn't have a good reason and we were about to run up a little rise so she said she would keep going until then. We walked a little but and started running again. We talked and talked and ran and ran. Daisy just moved into a house on the course so she was out cheering for the runners and shaking a tambourine. That was a huge boost and gave me a pep in my step. We got to mile 6 and H3 said she needed to walk a little because her heart rate was higher than she wanted it to be. She told me not to walk if I didn't need to. I was feeling good and my HR wasn't "too" high so I decided to keep going. I figured Dwayne was surely going to be showing up any minute. (His plan was to race and then turn around to come find me on the course.)

I was right. Just seeing him makes my heart skip a beat. He asked how I was feeling and I did a genuine assessment. I felt surprisingly good. I was fatigued, but I felt good overall. He told me he finished in right at 50 minutes. (That was slower than he wanted to run.) He said he started out fast but faded bad in the last mile. The heat had really gotten to him. When we made the final left hand turn I knew it was about maybe 1/2 mile to the finish so I started running just a bit faster. Team Red White and Blue was out with the memorials to the soldiers and waiving the big American Flags. It always gets to me.

Dwayne ran with me to the start line and then said he'd meet me around at the finish. I pushed in and finished feeling really great. I didn't look at my time and I didn't care. H3 was pretty much right behind me.

So, why "H3". Well...because she was in the Army and she is very strong and she has lost weight since I've known her and she's reliable and dependable and indomitable. The Hummer is a strong Army vehicle that will go for days. The H3 is a lighter version of the Hummer. I hope she takes it for the compliment that it's meant. :D

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around. Part 2 of this (where I talk about why those two old posts matter so much) will be tomorrow....