June, 2015 - November, 2015
The trip to Colorado for a weekend web development conference in June, 2015 turned into a bit of a disaster. I flew out Friday evening and got into Denver at 2 a.m. A co-worker kindly picked me up at the airport and shuttled me to the AirBnB place we would be sharing. I got a few hours of sleep before getting up and going to day one of the conference. I woke up not feeling great but chalked it up to my normal morning bla and lack of sleep. My normal pattern had been feeling the worst between 9am and 2pm and then gradually start feeling better throughout the afternoon and into the evening. By evening I was usually functional and not feeling too bad. I noticed by about 4pm that not only was I not starting to feel better, I was feeling significantly worse than in the morning. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day and knew there was no way I was getting anything down unless I started feeling better. I had my co-worker take me back to where we were staying hoping that a little nap would help. It continued to get worse. By 9pm, I was writhing in pain and severely nauseated from a completely inflamed gut like I hadn’t felt in over a year. Then it occurred to me. I was at altitude where there was less oxygen. Could that actually cause inflammation to flare? I started googling. Sure enough, there were tons of reports from people with autoimmune issues talking about having their inflammation issues severely worsen at higher altitudes from the lack of oxygen. Aw crap. That meant this wasn’t going to be magically subsiding in a few hours and was likely to continue to get worse for awhile. I’d already gone an entire 24 hours without getting any fluids in me. If I stayed and chanced riding it out, I was likely to end up in the hospital dehydrated. Playing it safe, I made a desperate call to the airlines and rebooked my flight home from 3 weeks into the future to a 7am flight the next morning.
I made it home with the help of some ginger lozenges I found at the airport for nausea. A day later I came down with the worst cold I'd ever had in my life and it lasted three weeks. It took several months for the gut inflammation to subside. I’d made the right call. If it took that long to subside at sea level, I didn’t have a chance at altitude. Unfortunately, the mental hit I took from the failed trip lingered much longer. My biggest dream in life is to live in Colorado where I can climb all 52 of the 14,000 ft peaks and hike and run countless miles of trails above treeline. I had been planning the move when I got sick nearly 2 years ago. Now that was no longer even possible for the foreseeable future. It would be a long time before I even attempted to travel to altitude. I saw my dreams crumbling.
The trip put a temporary halt to my healing and set me back a few months. Then once I emerged from the setback, a string of events continued to set me back even further. A sudden intolerance to a supplement my doctor put me on when the cold wouldn't lift. And then a sudden complete intolerance to eating meat. And then another intolerance to another supplement. Each set back was a new blow to my already impatient and frustrated state of mind. By September, my gut had become uber sensitive once again and I started dropping weight.
October brought some major stress. I had assembled a team of co-workers in May to work on a side project for a competition. The competition was to run from October 1 through November 1 - an extremely tight schedule to be building a full featured website much less with stringent requirements. We got permission to use some of our work hours toward building the website. It turned into a monster project and started consuming my life. I was working 60 hour weeks when I should have been taking sick days. By the third week of October, I was back down 15 lbs and started another 2 week episode of not being able to eat again. I was vomiting and the cramping was unbearable. I went to an emergency room to make sure there was nothing seriously wrong like a blockage. A CT scan and blood work pronounced me completely healthy.
I was done. I’d had it. I was not willing to continue to live like this. If this roller coaster was what life was going to be like for the next 5, 10, 20 years, it could count me out. I started toying with the suicide card, just taking it out of my pocket and fiddling with it, but not allowing myself to give it my full attention. One evening I took a little walk out to the end of the driveway to be alone with my thoughts and to examine the card a little more closely. I started contemplating but was then interrupted by the trees and fields and sky and everything else in nature that I love telling me that I would no longer be able to experience its beauty if I went through with it. I put the card aside.
I’d taken the 3rd week of October off of work to pull it together for the final week of the competition. One more 60 hour push. The competition was all around building the most accessible website possible. I was the lead on the project and the only one with the accessibility knowledge. I couldn’t let my team down. I could do this.
During the final week, the competition was extended by seven days. I was not celebrating like everyone else. I didn’t know how I was going to do an additional seven days of it. We were in good standing with the site to finish it in time for the original deadline. Why did they need to extend it? Grrr. Then Barry, my co-worker, started talking about including an additional section of the site that was originally deemed out of scope of the project. It would mean another 60 hour week the following week and an additional 20 hours of testing for me beyond the 60 hours I was already putting in that week. This was on top of not eating for 2 weeks, getting IV fluids at the doctor’s office every morning to keep me hydrated, and pushing through the pain and nausea every minute of the day. I pushed back hard and let the project manager in on what was going on and why I was being so adamant. She swayed things in my favor. Barry countered that the client was suddenly threatening that we wouldn’t be allowed to launch the project without that section and the launch was a requirement for the competition. We wouldn’t be able to submit the site without a public launch. I snapped. It was the last straw. I was done. Done with the website, done with work, done with life. I wanted no more part of any of it.
I jumped in my car and tore down the lane looking squarely at the suicide card. I was examining every inch of it, front and back. All I wanted in life was for the misery to end. I no longer cared about Colorado, I no longer cared about ever running again, and I no longer cared about experiencing the beauty of nature. I no longer cared about anything. I was driving at top speed and I saw an 18-wheeler coming at me. This was my chance. Surely I’d never survive it. It was getting closer and I was calculating, wishing I’d paid better attention in algebra class and been more diligent about figuring out those trains-traveling-in-opposite-direction equations. Then I thought about the potential of hurting the person in the truck. Then I thought about hurting Rachel. I called it off. I couldn’t hurt Rachel.
I drove back to the house shaking, knowing I’d crossed a line that would be very easy to cross again. I no longer trusted myself. I knew I couldn’t be alone.
I got through the rest of the competition. We did well but not as well as I’d hoped. I did the best I could given the circumstances but just didn’t have it to put the final touches on the site necessary to win the competition.
I started to be able to drink clear liquids again. Then full liquids, and finally some soft foods. My body was starting to heal but my mind wasn’t. The majority of every day was spent in tears, pushing through the darkness to get my 8 hours at work in. Concentration was just gone. All I thought about was just having the misery end. I wasn’t willing to live like this. This wasn’t living and I wasn’t seeing an end to the hell. I just wanted out.
Rachel was scheduled to attend a Cesar Millan dog training in early/mid November. I dreaded her leaving. There was no way I was going to make it through 9 days alone. But it was an opportunity of a lifetime for her and I wasn’t going to deny her of it. We lined up people to stay with me. Our beloved Toni was first. She spent 3 days. And during those 3 days I felt better than I’d felt in months. Next up was another friend and she bailed so I went up to my dad’s for a day. Then a friend from Illinois came in to stay with me. It turned out that he was not the right person to be around in my current state of mind. I just needed someone to be present but tears freaked him out and he wanted to try to fix me by distracting me with going places and doing things I didn’t feel good enough to go to or do. It wasn’t going to work. It turned out to be a perfect opportunity to go visit Sandy in Rehoboth Beach. I hadn’t seen her since she’d moved and I missed her. My friend from Illinois mercifully drove me down to Rehoboth and then returned to my house and took care of my dogs and then returned to pick me up the next week. It worked out perfectly. I only had a few hours of being alone before Rachel returned home from Florida.
I started thinking. Something desperately needed to change or I was not going to make it through the remaining 6 weeks of the year. I knew that without a doubt. I didn’t know what I could possibly change though. I wasn’t in any shape to actually do anything. I got quiet and started listening and the thing that started bubbling up was a desire to be near Unity in Frederick and attend Unity events. I didn’t fully understand why and I had no idea how it would even be possible. How was I going to fend for myself and grocery shop and attend the events? I just wasn’t physically up to it. I knew I needed to follow my heart though. It was the only way forward I could see, and besides, it had never failed me before. I contacted Toni and asked her to put out feelers to see if I could find a room to rent with access to a kitchen for a month. Within a week a place was found close enough to Unity that I could manage the drive and I moved in the following weekend. And thus began my healing journey with the wonderful folks from Unity in Frederick.
To be continued...