Monday, July 30, 2012

Pressing "reset"

The view from my room at St. John's University.
This past weekend I went away for a 48 hour writing retreat. While I did make some good progress on my paper, the trip was just as useful for the opportunity to recharge.

A couple of weeks ago my husband Leo told me about the Abbey Guesthouse at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.  Seeing as my paper is due in a couple of weeks I booked a weekend getaway right away.

Main lobby of the Abbey Guesthouse
 After all the health bullshit of the past few weeks, the getaway was an enormous blessing. I spent most of the time in silence & solitude, going to bed early and waking up to the sound of a woodpecker outside of my window. Yesterday before heading home I took an hour for a good walk around the beautiful green St. John's campus, something I hadn't done since a 1991 visit with my good friend (and SJU alum) Jim.

Sunday's nature trek
 I expect that I'll return to St. John's next spring when I'm writing the bulk of my dissertation. It's a beautiful and nurturing place. Although I'm still dealing with some physical challenges due to my Crohn's, I'm very happy to report that my mind is in a much happier space as I return to the real world.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Once a Crohnie....

...always a Crohnie.

It's like Davy Jones used to say about being a Monkee. Once you're in, you're in - like being in the mafia. Having Crohn's disease is a bit less glamorous and probably a lot more painful than being a Monkee, but I like the analogy.

This past week I was, literally, painfully reminded that I have a chronic illness that's never going away. Minnesota had a record stretch of temps in the triple digits, and as the heat went up so did the frequency of my symptoms. Later in the week Leo (my husband) installed a window AC unit in our bedroom which offered some relief, but my body remained in an uncomfortable state even after the temperatures started to drop.

I have survived some dreadful bouts with this disease, some that make this past week seem like a stubbed toe by comparison. So yeah, I am grateful that I'm merely dealing with symptoms rather than a full blown attack. I'm also grateful that I learned this week that I'm not the only Crohnie that is negatively affected by extreme heat.  I wish it hadn't taken me 25 years to make that connection, but that's water under the bridge at this point.

One of the worst side effects of this past week has been depression. I can't imagine that there's many people with chronic illness who do not live with depression. Being sick is depressing! The way I see it, depression and Crohn's are interconnected.  Every so often I have a pity party for myself - I only make a brief appearance at the party because a) I'm an introvert, and b) eventually I get tired of feeling sorry for myself. Yeah yeah, it sucks to have to deal with this disease, but it's not going away. Having the wake-up call to that reality is what allows me to keep going.  I cannot make this disease disappear, but I can learn to live with it.

As I type this I'm bloated from the one meal I had today about six hours ago. I've had explosive diarrhea and headaches for six days now. It sucks. But I am taking some positive steps to make myself feel better, if only mentally.  I'm meditating, which helps to keep me more centered & calm.  Also, in the morning until early afternoon I've been able to work on my literature review for my dissertation.  Since last Monday I've probably put five or six solid, productive hours into writing & revising, which I feel good about.  Academics are my priority for the next 12 months, so I'm learning to be creative and strategic about getting things done.

So that's where I'm at today.  I'm hopeful that this next week will be better, but if it isn't then I'll hope for the following week.  All Things Must Pass, as Mr. Harrison once said:
"Daylight is good at arriving at the right time,
  It's not always going to be this grey..."
For any of you that are still reading, thanks for your interest. As someone who always has thoughts in his head, it is useful for me to put all of this into words.  Every so often these ramblings bring me to some form of clarity, and clarity can sometimes be a reasonable consolation for feeling shitty.  :)

Thx as always for reading, and have a great week! Hope you are in good health.

peace - JEFF