Archives for posts with tag: Illness

I need help, dear friends.

You see, for the past two months I’ve been.

Well. Huh.

I guess I’ve been sick. But it’s been the strangest kind of illness I’ve ever experienced in my life.

You see, I’ve been experiencing what I’d call “mild diarrhea” every day for almost two months. Not “Sprinting to the Bathroom and Moaning” diarrhea. More like “Can’t Quite Trust that Fart” diarrhea. It’s been uncomfortable.

I’m sore. Raw.

I’ve had cramping and gut pain that at times left me hunched over on the couch, desperately trying to stretch, crunch, bend, or fold in any way that would relieve the pain running down my side.

I’ve been so bloated, even my yoga pants started rolling down the hard ball that had become my stomach.

The constant bathroom breaks mean that I’ve felt dehydrated for an entire season.

And, yet, I haven’t even been able to enjoy the “advantage” of stomach flu-induced weight loss.

I’ve actually put on weight.


I have stopped running.

That’s perhaps the worst of it all.

I’ve gone from running about 20 miles a week while I was training for my half-marathon, to now running . . . well, nothing.

Last week, I managed about 2.5 miles before I had to stop, focus, and penguin-walk the last mile back to my house.

I have called my doctor, and I have an appointment with a gastroenterologist in August. I’ll likely get to (in the words of my husband) “meet the Silver Stallion.” But I’m okay with that. I hate that I have to wait until August, but I’m willing to go through testing and procedures to figure out what is wrong. Or if anything at all is wrong. Because I need to get back to running. I need to.

BUT, the good news is that this week, I’ve started feeling much better.

I’ve had whole days where I don’t have that “Gotta go NOW” feeling.

And my yoga pants are fitting once more.

I’ve even been able to feel hydrated again.

But, though my more obvious symptoms have abated, I now have other problems to contend with: namely exhaustion and motivation.

I’m so, so tired, you guys.

Today, I fell asleep while watching my kids. Twice. Completely on accident. Once after lunch. Once after dinner.

This morning, I woke up with my alarm at 6am. I got up, used the bathroom, and looked at my tired face in the mirror.

The next thing I knew, my daughter was crying in the next room. I rolled over to look at my clock: 7:44am.

I don’t even remember going back to bed.

My husband suspects I’m likely anemic from the last two months of what must have been some serious intestinal inflammation. And I suspect he’s likely right.

And I just don’t know what to do.

I want to run again. In a weird way, I know that I’d improve both physically and mentally if I could just get back into my running, my training. But I’m feeling stymied right now. I have a hard time finding motivation for early morning runs in heat and humidity, even when in perfect health (I’m a Northern Michigan girl. I vastly prefer cold winter mornings to the heavy, cream-of-chicken-soup summer air of Southern Indiana). Now, I’m frightened at the thought of being trapped, two miles away from my home, and suddenly having to dig a hole.

Also, I just don’t know how to get my energy back.

But, more than that, I’m frightened that I’m starting from zero again. That I’m not a runner anymore. That the second I start trying to run again will be the second I realize I never had any business trying it in the first place. That I am and always have been a fraud.

So, please, friends. Motivate me. Inspire me. Help me.

Shower me with advice. With tips. With life hacks. I’ll take them all. (Though if you start spouting off about toxins or essential oils, I reserve the right to privately mock you, even if I publically thank you. You’ve been warned.)

Because from now to August, I can’t just keep dragging along like this. I can’t undo all that I worked for, all the strength and endurance. All the hours. I can’t watch them disappear under a fog of exhaustion. I have a race coming up in November. I refuse to give that up. I have to get past this.

I have to run again.

So, please, help to show me how.

I’m a weaver. I received my first loom when I was 14. It was a Christmas gift from my Dedo, an artist in his own right who whittled figures out of soft blocks of wood and created stained glass pictures. The loom was a 10″ wide lap loom, capable of only plain weave (think about the over-under crisscross of a cherry pie). I loved that loom. I made dozens of scarves and table runners, belts and sashes. Every birthday party, every Christmas, I wove presents. When I was 17, instead of spending my final days of summer vacation going for long drives with friends and trying desperately to get Jason Gauthier to kiss me, I went to a weaving conference hosted by Harrisville Designs. I took classes on weaving rag rugs, spinning wool, and the basics of tweed weaving, all against the backdrop of New Hampshire in late summer. That trip was only me and my parents. Dad and I, our ears trained from musical theatre,  picked up on the New England dialect almost immediately, much to my mother’s embarrassment, and we giggled uproariously at the locals who stared in confusion when we ordered “lobstah” and told them that we were from Harrisville too. Born and bred. Harrisville, Michigan, that is.

For some reason, that joke never got old.

I remember taking my wool spinning class, trying to take the soft wool fluff and turn it into usable yarn. But I couldn’t keep the rhythm of the spinning wheel going. I would forget how much pressure I was using to pass the wool through my fingers, leaving lumps and thin spots, compromising the integrity and strength of the finished product. Several times, I would get distracted, more interested in the view of the water mill and the old colonial brick outside the window than in the yarn. My fingers would slip, and the entire strand would spin madly, curling and bunching up in a tangled mess. I could never create more than a few yards of wool at a time, perhaps enough to crochet a coaster, but not nearly enough to place on a loom.

Lamenting my inability to make anything beautiful (especially when every other aspect of weaving had always come naturally to me), I became frustrated, angry at the impossibly knotted clump in front of me. My spinning instructor would come over, deftly untangle my wheel, and smile at me.  “It doesn’t have to look good. It doesn’t even matter what it looks like on the cone. The goal isn’t to make a beautiful cone, but a beautiful weaving.”

I was too embarrassed to take any of my handmade yarn home. I didn’t want to make a weaving out of it. I didn’t want anyone to see it. I left all of it there. I told my instructor to give it to the school children who took tours there every fall.

This past Christmas, while setting up my rigid heddle loom (making Christmas presents once again), I was reminded of my spinning class. I was using a large skein of yarn to warp my loom (Weavers often prefer to use cones of yarn instead of skeins, but with limited resources locally, I grabbed what I had available and just worked with it), and the whole roll was bunching, knotting, catching. Frustrated, I shouted at the skein, “Your only job is to unravel! You were made to unravel!”

I stopped.

You were made to unravel.


I’ve been thinking a lot about unraveling recently. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four girlfriends whose lives have been changed forever by a recent diagnosis of a chronic illness. Young women. In their early 30s. And their bodies are starting to fail them. There is no hope for a “cure,” just the resignation of good days mingling with the bad–days when they can play with their sons, or sing a libretto, or walk along a rocky coastline with their beloved dogs and spouse butting up against days of complete stagnation, bed rest, takeout dinners, and pain pills.

So, so many pain pills.

They feel as though they are unraveling.

And I can only watch.

It’s been hard to watch them go through these things. Hard to see them vacillate between appreciation for the good days, and crippling despair over the seeming unending bad days. Hard to see them feel bitter, cheated out of their youth, their careers, their schooling, their families, their futures. Hard to see them learn how to renegotiate the world while trapped in a body that is slowly (or quickly) losing the ability to physically experience that world.

As usual, I am no good in these kinds of serious situations. I crack dirty jokes. I tell poop stories. I change the topic. I start giggling. I defer and deflect. But then, I started working on my loom, and I shouted at a knotted clump of cotton, and I realized something:

Sometimes, beauty only comes after the unraveling.

Sometimes, we think that we are “complete” when we’re really just the raw material.

We get too caught up on being a beautiful cone, or a beautiful skein. Or a beautiful paintbrush, or a lovely pencil, or a freshly filled inkwell.

And we forget that none of us were born in a body that is complete. We are all just giant messes of potential. We’re not finished yet.

Only in the unraveling can we be made into something amazing. Only in the thinning out, spreading, scraping, chiseling, breaking down, cutting, and slicing can we metamorphose into, well, something.

Something messy.

Something broken.

Something uneven.

Something filled with flaws.

Shaped by an inelegant hand.

But something.

Because what is a cone of yarn? It is the illusion of completeness. It loves the potential of its potential. But it is nothing until it is stripped bare, rendered naked and searching, pulled taut. Remade.


Of course, the sad truth of it is that the unraveling is the easy part. The hard part is in the reassembly, the (re)creation. Making a self is no different from making art. It is painstaking, frustrating, infuriating. It keeps you up at night, embarrasses you, shames you. It makes you feel unstoppable one moment, and like a fool the next. And that’s just how it is for those of us fortunate enough to be working with undamaged tools.

But even a broken brush can paint a masterpiece.

A stub of a pencil can still write a poem.

Uneven yarn can weave tapestry.

It just takes a more patient hand.

My dear friends, you are the ones with the talent, vision, ability, intellect, and perseverance to create art, even on your imperfect canvases.

My wish for you in 2015 is not for perfect health. (I’m sorry. As much as I want it for you, I fear that would be just an empty hope.) My wish is that you will understand the potential you have in the unraveling, and that you start to make something new with your own clumsy, inexperienced, ill-prepared, broken, perfect hands.

M.L., R.S.T., M.W.U., N.W.– This post is for you. All of you are strong women made even stronger for the weaknesses you admit. I look forward to watching you kick this new year’s ass.