Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Posts tagged “social isolation

Tashi! :D

Life sure does move fast sometimes! It’s been another long while since I posted and much has gone on. I think it’s time I share what it is that I’ve been up to which has been keeping me away from more frequent updates.

Gupta Amygdala Retraining Program is a process by which many can heal from chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, and a few things they don’t list on the website. For example, I’ve also been using it to heal my PTSD.

Jeremy and I began the program mid-September this year. After three months following it diligently, the results are quite amazing. On the other hand, it can be a lot of work and you really need to commit yourself to doing it every day. Is it worth it? Heck yeah! 🙂

Coming back from a long-term illness can be very challenging. Especially considering how far from normal our lives had taken us – living in a tent for nearly 10 years, extreme social isolation from being fully housebound, extreme physical degradation from being mostly bedbound. It all adds up to situations that need healing in their own way.

We’ve been living indoors for sometime now and enjoy our current apartment. Swimming 1-4 times a week, occasional hikes, weight lifting, and frequent evening walks are taking care of the physical reconditioning. I’ve begun volunteering for a dog rescue at their adoption events and will be helping a cat shelter next month during their spay/neuter clinic which is all healing the social aspect. Life is beginning to be on the move again!

Speaking of the cat shelter… we adopted a 2 year old cat three weeks ago! Yay!!! Through an odd sequence of events I found out I don’t have a cat allergy as I thought I did, within a week we had adopted Tashi. Here she is a few days after coming home with us: Tashi a few days after being adopted from the shelter.

I am loving having a cat around the house. She has been a shelter cat for a lot of her life, though she did have one home at some point. Her first home had a 4 year old and she spent a month hiding under the bed from it, so they decided to take her back. I’m happy to have her here with us instead.

Tashi playing with paper ball.

She suffered from at least one nightmare a day for the first two weeks, but then someone gave us some amazing stress reducing drops that are basically water with minerals and an electric charge to combat stress. I add one drop to her water each day and she hasn’t had a nightmare in a week! We are really enjoying seeing her personality come out as she grows more comfortable and confident in life with us.

Tashi is a Tibetan name meaning good fortune and auspiciousness. She is a talker with many different chirps, meows, mews, and just plain odd noises. I’m hoping she will learn to be more of a lap cat as right now she is uncomfortable being in a lap even though you can tell she wants to climb onto it. When in a loving mood she’ll gaze at it and shift her weight forwards then change her mind, but for now it is too much for her. She loves lasers, catnip, and playing with various homemade toys. We also have a homemade cat scratcher made from cardboard boxes we had lying around… aka free!

Having Tashi come into our lives is just one of many examples of how much healing we have seen since starting the Gupta Retraining Program. Our improvements really are incredible and tremendous.

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Home has been Found!

Aloha! I am thrilled to say we have found a new apartment to rent! Hooray!! A week after finding it, we were moved out of the old and into the new. It has been an incredibly busy three weeks as we accomplished all of this.

Our new place has had it’s ups and downs for our health, for example we had to clean off old cleanser and soap residues from past cleaning, making it more MCS safe for us. We still can’t use the cupboards as they need the most work, but that is something that will become better with time and they do not cause trouble unless opened.

There is still much hard work ahead of us and it will take time to regain our energy and health back to where it was even four months ago, but I am feeling highly positive it is already happening.

It has been one heck of a road which led us here, with a huge learning curve about finding an MCS safe apartment. Had I known four months ago what I know now about finding a safe rental, I’ve no doubt it would have taken half the time. Thankfully, I had the forethought to write myself notes on how to make our rental search easier in the future, since the whole process is already becoming a foggy memory.

Already we are feeling the stress of our rental journey slowly lifting from our hearts and our minds, freeing us for a much more positive and brighter future. It feels wonderful to have found a place that holds so much promise of being a safe healing environment.

Our apartment is more of a ‘mother-in-law’ style unit, fully detached from the main house where our new landlord lives with 3 other family members. They have all made us feel extremely welcome and like we belong here. It is an amazing feeling to be around such kind hearts and positive energy.

In just the last two weeks we have expanded from the survival mode of finding a rental to living again. Jeremy has begun making jewelry for the first time in a couple of months. We’ve been swimming in the healing ocean 3-5 times each week (up from once every 10 days or so). Also we’re having fun planting a few seeds for a small garden with more seeds ready soon as the energy is there.

In other words – life has once more started to bloom for us.


Metamorphosis

I feel as though life is currently lived in a haze of passing moments. It is difficult at times to capture what is going on around me as I’m still trying to adjust to their speed. Living in the woods for nearly 10 years was a different world than the one I life in now.

I rose when the sun was up and the animals made enough racket to wake me. Life followed the seasons and weather, Each winter I rested while dreaming of warmer days. I would initially welcome spring bringing new life back into the forest around me, then curse it for the alder tree pollens that nearly crippled me with allergies each year. Summer would come as a blaze of warmth and sunshine, drowsy hours spent resting in the sun and locking away the memory to be cherished next snow storm. The autumn would bring a welcome crispness to the air and spur me to finish all my winter preparations.

Life was much simpler as each season had its own pace and little to hurry me before the next season began to make itself known.

Over the years I would often dream of once again living indoors. Things would be easier, I would feeling safer – being warm. One thing I always forgot to add into the details was the flow life takes when you have places to be and things to do.

I feel as though time stood still while I lived in a tent, events moving around me to change the world I live in, but ultimately not touching me. I saw a war, a new president, our economy plummet, avian flu bugs, cellphone use explode to a way of life, gas prices sky rocket, the internet become a culture – all of this and more as though looking on through a one way mirror.

Now life feels considerably different. Trying to reintegrate with a world that has flown by me, it can be … tricky. Things others take for granted after years of living in the American culture of the 21st century, I am coming into having read about it, but not personally experiencing it. It’s like reading a guidebook before you get to your destination – things are familiar, but you still have to learn your way around.

While the last 10 years of illness are hazy in my memory (its surprising how quickly the tent is fading away), the previous healthy years of life as a college student and bookstore clerk are surprisingly clear and sharp. This has caused an odd juxtaposition of lives to needing to be merge: The one knows how to live in a fast paced world, but approached it as a healthy and vigorous 24 year old; verses the one who knows how to live with chronic illness and in sync with the seasons of life.

Trying to merge these two dynamic halves into a whole has been both invigorating and stressful.

Last summer I awoke in a new world and a new place, considerably changed from when I fell asleep 10 years ago. As I move through my new surroundings, I am letting fall behind the shackles that bound me, and stepping forth into the rainbow of possibility before me to discover who I have become.


Tired.

Over the last few months it has become harder to avoid using the term “crash” as an explanation for the trend our health has been taking. Those of you who read this and have CFS, or other similar illnesses, are likely familiar with the life meaning of such a simple word and the hushed tones used to speak of it.

For us, it is the hidden monster lurking in the dark closet waiting for the light to go out after an exhausting day. Creeping up soundlessly, you wake to find only a shadow of yourself remains.

dec 2011 blog 1

In my experience, the main problem with a crash is there’s no shortcut to ending it. You can’t go to the doctor, get a new pill, and voila – you’re back to the same energy levels you had weeks or months before.

No, instead the cure is most often one of rest and pacing yourself, a gradual culling of all the nonessential aspects in life. Often essential comes down to the true basics of life – food, sleep, and keeping some sort of roof over your head whether it be house, tent, or car.

A social life is nonexistent, a tidy apartment falls down on the list of things to do, laundry piles up and you find yourself putting on the same shirt you wore the last three days in a row for lack of something clean to wear. Meals become more simplistic and you’re just happy to have something hot even if you’ve eaten much the same all this week… and last week too.

After months of avoiding the dreaded word, I have found myself quietly testing the sound of it and hearing the the sad ring of truth it brings. I’m usually much quicker to speak of a crash, much more willing to put life back on the shelf for a few months and heal.

But not this time.

No, this time I find myself fighting against the whole idea of a crash. Refusing to even think of it. Unwilling to bow down and let it strip me of all I have been working towards.

Which only makes things worse.

The energy required to fight against it should be going instead to healing from it. As much as I have blocked the possibility of a crash from my thoughts, there is no more getting around the simple facts.

I landed in Maui, had a great couple of months where life almost looked normal again, but all this also came with a monumental amount of change and stress. For the most part we are now settled in; very little needs to be done outside what is becoming a familiar routine.

Life has a chance to slow down again. It is time to rest.

Meanwhile… what a place for a rest!

Baby Beach - December 5, 2011
(photo from December 5, 2011 at Baby Beach)


Take a Deep Breath, Now LEAP!

Today is my last morning with a computer before it too is packed away in a cardboard box and sent ahead of me towards my new home. Over the past four weeks, I have evaluated each aspect of life I collected around me – weighed and determined if it was valuable enough to warrant shipping or if I would finally part ways with it to lighten my load.

It is surprising how little I chose to keep.

I have always been a packrat by nature. This enthusiasm to keep things that might one day be ‘useful’ has still persisted even living in a tent year around, but what is useful here is not always the same as what is useful indoors in Hawaii. Certainly the sharp axe used to split small logs will be left behind, while our amazingly comfortable camp chairs have passed inspection and are already at our new apartment.

I find as our camp dwindles in clutter, a great deal of contentment begins to infuse my being. It is as though I am washing away a decade of grief and pain caused by a dramatic loss of health, family, and nearly everything I once was.

The woman who sits here today is a very different person to the one who walked into this exact camp site 7 years ago. Before now, I had never lived in a single place longer than a few years. How odd that I finally found the stability in housing I always longed for by living in a tent.

Am I scared of these new changes to come? You bet I am. It is all unknown – this will be the first time Jeremy and I will live outside of a tent on our own while ill.

But I am also hugely excited. Despite the fear, I will be stepping out of darkness and into the bright world beckoning me the last several years. I will walk with my head held high, the strength and courage I found in these dark years supporting me when my knees are weak with fear.

And so this is my last post from a tent – as always I am full of hope and determination to see myself and Jeremy walking forward into our future instead of looking back at our past.

Good bye tent. Hello Maui!


Winter Arrived Early

An early snowstorm and cold front brought some amazing weather this week. This time I decided to capture it on film!

Last week Planet Thrive published an article I wrote on how to survive in a tent during winter. I found the last few days entertaining as I had to live the same advice I had just written about … especially the times I blatantly went against my own advice! Such as eating half frozen paleo pancakes for dinner when I had no way to get warm afterward – but ohhhh, they were good!

While going through all this, I came across an article about Leonid Rogozov, a Russian surgeon who in 1961 had to remove his own appendix or die. Admittedly, it made me feel like my own experiences of the last 48 hours paled in comparison, but I also felt a kinship to him.

People tell me that they can’t imagine living as I do with these difficulties and hardships. And yet, the same drive to look outside the box for ways to survive and take them in stride is the same drive Leonid would have felt fifty years ago.

I wonder sometimes – is this imperative to live genetically coded in our DNA, or is it a function of something more ethereal and hard to define?

There are many people out there who quickly buckle under stress and become hopelessly lost in a crisis. What is different in my life compared to theirs that has prepared me to be calm and decisive under pressure? As far back as I can remember, I have always been this way.

When I was 9, there was a large earthquake in Los Angeles; it was my first. I went to school like normal and to me it was just another day, more exciting than most, but nothing to worry about. Later that night, my mom told me she had gotten a call from my teacher. I’d been so calm and helpful with the other kids who were crying wrecks, that on a hectic day she was impressed enough to take a few spare moments and tell my mom personally.

Have the same genetics that cause me to be toxically ill from everyday life also given me the strength to survive the devastation they cause? Or maybe the human spirit for survival resides in a less well defined place.

My accomplishments are less dramatic than the stories told of legends and heroes, but it is with these people that I feel a hard won kinship. It fills me with a warm joy and chases away some of the loneliness life has brought me, because I know my feet walk the same path theirs once did.

And I have to wonder, did they also feel the same loneliness that I do?


Happy Birthday Sundog Tales!

As the title implies, today is the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ve spent the last few days trying to decide what type of post to write for marking such a momentous occasion. I could write a review of the changes, or lack there of in many cases, seen in the last year. It could be a more typical post written about the changes Fall is bringing to the woods around me as the very landscape itself is drastically altered in an unusually brief period of time this year.

But instead I have opted for a different sort of post.

Life in the Woods:

Each day I am awakened by nature. This is much different than the life I had known the majority of my previous years. Where once there was an annoying alarm clock to call me back from dreamland and into a world of deadlines, traffic, and various social responsibilities; now there are even more annoying squirrels to jolt me from my slumber, though the world they bring me to is much kinder than that of their electronic brethren.

I have spent a lot of time contemplating this odd life of mine, for make no mistake, choosing to live in a tent year round in the Pacific Northwest is an odd and difficult lifestyle. Sometime I am very angry at how things have occurred and the small role I played in my situation developing to its current state of dysfunction. Despite the difficulties of multiple infections causing a downturn in health the last six months, those times are mostly eclipsed by how often I find myself enjoying life and where it is leading me this last year,

Overall there is this growing sense that my path was never to be an average American woman. Rather, it seems to be unfolding into something much forgotten and ignored in the high pace of today’s society, guided by a deeper connection to nature and all that thrives around me. The trials of pain, loss, and hardship I survived have brought me here, and I am a much more liberated woman now than I was ten years ago as a fiery, young activist.

I find it very freeing to be without the boundaries set by our modern society. I am coming to understand that some of these boundaries and walls are surprisingly insubstantial once you open your mind to being allowed to do something different.

Our society has made me feel less than a whole human being, less than someone who is considered a contributor with earned money as the only valuation means, and because of the label for my illness I am less in need of cures than someone with a more impressive label – such as cancer or AIDs, yet many have offered comparisons showing my labels are just as debilitating.

I am here to say I am not LESS, I am MORE!

I am more aware of the small wonders in life than your average person who takes for granted all the ease they have in each day. The warm home, hot shower each morning, clean clothing with minimal effort, and the simple ability of not having to question everything they come into contact with to find out if it is friend of foe to their body. My life has slowed down as the world I live in is timed by seasons, not calendars. This slower pace allows time to stop and enjoy a cool breeze on my face or a stray sunbeam through the trees.

I am also very aware of the changing seasons and how it affects the birds, making the young ones born this year very nervous because their world is seemingly dying around them while they are helpless to change it. “Wait until spring,” I keep telling them, “it will be alright again.” I watch all the animals and plants around me, each one miraculous in its ability to have adapted to be exactly what it is today – a harmonious part of a self perpetuating cycle of life.

And I am more because I am learning to slip the knots that society has tied around me, trapping my soul to this damaged body; always telling me that to be deeply ill is to be sad, silent, and unfulfilled.

There is a growing awareness that I have a unique opportunity to step out of the box I was born into; the box my culture built for me based on ideals and beliefs so easily conformed to. Born again out of the fires of extreme illness and hardship, I am now free to explore life from a new perspective – one of my own creation. Even though physical healing has been very little this last year – emotional, mental, and spiritual healing has progressed by leaps and bounds.

And so as I continue to explore what it means to be Lisa now, instead of living in who Lisa used to be, I will not be posting as regularly to Sundog Tales.

This blog has helped me grow beyond need of it. The people who have posted comments to it have helped give me confidence and a new sense of community, two things which have been seriously lacking as illness put chasms of distance between myself, and my relatives and friends. I will still post updates and the occasional interesting bit of life that comes from living outdoors, but it is time I turn my energies elsewhere for now.

Thank you to everyone who has made Sundog Tales mean so much to me. Lisa