The Difference

For everything I've lost, it'd be easy for me to quit fighting. For as difficult as my battles have gotten, it'd be understandable if I let go of my goal of completing my second marathon.

But I can't. I just keep chugging along.

It's not been easy, though. The difference between this year and last is like night and day. Last year, Botox was working for me, I wasn't on any meds, and the dystonia was staying above my ribcage. This year? Botox is not helping, I'm on narcotic painkillers that suck the energy right out of ya, and I'm battling exercise induced spasms in my abdominals.

I didn't know what I was getting into last year and was learning along the way how to properly fuel my body and recover from the impact of the long runs. I know what I'm doing now and my legs seem to be accepting the fact that I'm putting them through this again. But this year is so much harder on the rest of me.

It hasn't stopped me, though. I made it through the second half of my long run today and actually enjoyed myself, despite 50 degree temps, rain, 85% humidity, and 25 mph winds gusting to 38. Sounds miserable. But to me? It meant a warm hat, an empty parkway, and miles of nothing but solitude.

It gave me lots of time to think. About what I'm doing. About what I'm battling. And about all the folks out there battling the same condition I am, but who aren't physically able to run the miles I am.

It made me grateful. And just remembering how lucky I am can make all the difference in the world when it comes to seeing the glass as half full.

Running With Needles

An exciting time. Yesterday I went out for a 12 mile run. It was, without question, the most difficult run I've ever had, outside of the marathon itself. It was blazing hot, and so humid that I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my life. For the first time, I couldn't make it through. I had to split my run. I went 8 miles outdoors, but came back home to do the last 4 on the treadmill. It was absolutely a test in persistence.

Weather aside, the run went alright. My legs held up.

But, the Dystonia was all out of sorts. The Botox has worn off, and so my brain is playing tricks on me. One mile it's the front of my neck that hurts. The next it's the base of my skull, my jaw or tongue bothering me. Then that all stops and it moves into my arm. And on a fleeting basis, it's still moving in and out of my abs.

Once I finish up, for the next few hours nearly every muscle in my body aches and hurts. Except those with Dystonia. Those muscles, sufficiently worn out by a long run, are finally given permission to relax.

People wonder why I do this to myself. Why I push myself so hard via vigorous exercise. Truth is, I can't find a better way to combat my Dystonia. Not even Botox seems to provide as consistent of relief.

I'm due for my shots today. I have no idea how this round will play out. I'm not going to do anything drastic to alter what muscles I'm getting injected, but I've yet to figure out whether I'm better off running with needles; or without.

Smiles for Miles

happyface

Take a look at that smile there. That's real. That's genuine. That's me: High. On life.

After seven weeks of miserable runs, where all pleasure has been snuffed out by horrible abdominal contractions, ribcage pain, and overall uncoordinated breathing, I actually had a good run today.

Nothing. No drug, no chemical, no other sport, nothing in the world can compare to the cleansing I feel in my soul when I get in a good run.

It only made it better that it was raining. I love running in the rain. But, rain means I left my Garmin at home. So, I'm not sure how fast I ran. Or how many times I had to stop to stretch my bad arm, twist a bit, and walk. But, I know what I did.

I ran 6 miles. And I didn't have to lie down in the grass once.

My abs started kicking in the last few miles, forcing me to walk with more frequency. But, they didn't get so bad to bring me to my knees. The Botox is wearing off now. The Dystonia is settling back into my head, neck, tongue, throat and shoulder; where it usually is. It seems odd now that I started having these troubles with breathing and running right after my last round of Botox on May 26. Makes me wonder if the injections aren't just pushing the Dystonia into other muscles again.

I hope that's all it is.

Today? Not only did I get in a good run. But, I also got a little hope that maybe, just maybe, this abdominal issue is temporary. That it might just be related to this round of injections and so will continue to wear off.

It's all added up to put a great big smile on my face.

It's a good day. And I'm happy to be still breathing.

An Unlikely Inspiration

Some people might doubt me. For all the negative portrayals of addicts and addiction we seem to be getting via the media these days, it might be hard to believe my story.

How could anyone who claims to have chronic pain and Dystonia run? More than that, how could anyone who had the problems or consequences with addiction I say I did have turned their life around so very dramatically so that they do run? It must not have been that bad, right?

Wrong.

Addiction stole the best years of my life. It tried to kill me and I'm very lucky to be alive. But I clawed my way back from death, jail, psych wards and detoxes to turn my life around because I believe there is still life here for me to live.

And I'm going to embrace that life fully, chronic pain or not.

I'm over six years sober. After all these years, I wish I could say I put my past away. But, the damage to my brain, caused by head trauma and chemical dependency, is permanent. The drunk feeling, for me, unfortunately, doesn't seem to want to ever go away.

I can't change what happened. I can't take it back and undo the mistakes I made. I can only share my story with others and keep runnin', clinging to the hope that perhaps I can inspire someone to make a change in their own life. Before it's too late.

Success and Suicide

Twelve years ago today, I tried to kill myself. I failed.

But, I also succeeded. I succeeded in saving my own life, and in the process, I saved myself from becoming a ghost.

I still feel an eerie connection to the spirit world. I still believe that your soul lives on even when you die. I believe I did die, physiologically speaking, and I’m convinced that had I not come back, my soul would’ve been trapped in that hospital- forever.

But it wasn’t my time to go yet, and I got the message, loud and clear.

I had a near death experience. A vivid one. One that, to this day, is etched in my mind. I can still describe it with exquisite precision. I can still feel the pull of that bright light as it drew me nearer and called me to cross over to the other side. I can still hear the bang. I can still feel myself being sucked back to consciousness.

But, I can’t pretend to understand how I survived. All I know is, somehow, I did.

For as gruesome a scene as it was when I came back to, the whole thing has left me with more than just anoxic and traumatic brain injuries. It left me with a sense of purpose in the world: to share my life story so that others don’t make the same mistakes I did.

It might sound cliché, but it’s true. Drugs don’t fix anything, and suicide is never the answer. It only causes more pain.

Some might call me a failure for having screwed up my life so badly that I tried to hang myself in a psych ward, high on crack. Others might call me a failure for having not succeeded in my effort to end my life.

But, all these years later, I won’t call myself that.

I’ve just had to rethink what it means to be a success.

Running For My Life

After surviving years of serious chemical dependency and the near fatal suicide attempt by hanging that accompanied it, I fought tooth and nail to turn my life around in 2004. I got sober, started eating right, getting more sleep, and I also started running. Running breathes life into my soul. It helps me stay physically fit and mentally balanced. It also helps me stay clean and sober.

With life under control, I went back to school. I finished my college degree and got myself a good job. I thought my toughest battles were behind me. But, then a new foe came along. One that I never even saw coming.

In 2006, at the age of 26, I started having pain in my shoulder while sitting in my chair at work. Nothing seemed to help. I couldn’t function. As the months went on, it grew so bad that it forced me to call in sick and leave work early. At first I thought it was the aftereffect of an old shoulder dislocation injury rearing its head. I went to a shoulder doctor, who thought it was much more serious. Turns out, it was.

Still Breathing

Stop.Be very quiet. Stay very still. Just listen. Can you hear it?

It’s the sound of your body breathing. Can you hear your heartbeat there in the silence? See the rise and fall of your chest as it translates air into life? Do you feel the blood pushing and pulling as it rushes through your veins?

Stop. Just listen. It’s there. It’s your life, in your breathing.

We take it for granted, the air we breathe. The natural processes happen subconsciously, but even when we become aware of them, we can’t will them to stop. No matter how still you are, your heart will keep pumping. You can try to hold your breath, but you’ll eventually respire. Whether or not you are aware of it, you just keep breathing. We all keep breathing.

I am still breathing, but I shouldn’t be. I killed myself and I died.

I took my last breath. I saw the other side. Yet, here I am, alive as a soul in this body. I am Still Breathing.

From Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus:

Entry Word: breathe Function: verb Text: 1 to inhale and exhale air, breathe Synonyms: respire Related Words: expire, inspire; gasp, huff, pant, puff, wheeze; sniff, snore, snort, snuffle; yawn Near Antonyms: asphyxiate, choke, gag, smother, suffocate; garrotte (or garotte), stifle, strangle, throttle