My Overdraft

It’s not what you think!

Last Monday I visited my general doctor for a bit of a catch up. Remarkably, I hadn’t seen her since before The Quinsy, and had only been communicating via email discussing the other work I’ve been having and my abysmal bloodwork.

I’ve not been feeling physically great lately, and haven’t been able to put my finger on it. You know that general, crappy run down feeling, like you’re on the cusp of coming down with a head cold (or worse)? Yeah, I know it’s pretty common, but when you know your white blood cells are below the lowest of the safe range and had been feeling relatively good prior, it’s a worry.

My doctor never ceases to amaze me – she is a huge support and I am lucky to have her –  and the analogy she used to describe how I’ve been feeling was nothing short of beautiful. Well, to my financial mind anyway 😎 It was along the lines of:

To put it in a banky way, consider you’ve been in this huge overdraft for a long time. When you get back down to a zero balance, like you now have, there is no surplus cash balance to use, and even as the balance grows, while it’s small you can still spend it very quickly and end up back at zero.

How good is that? The run down feeling has passed, now, but by her telling me this I now realise this is what I need to continually tell myself when I become grumpy for feeling the need to rest by the time the afternoon rolls around, which is still most days.

I was in overdraft for 16 months, versus the four and a half months I’ve been saving since reaching zero balance. Now, I understand I need to save a bit more in order to be comfortable, and a bit more beyond that before I’ll have the cash for discretionary spending.

Happy Tears

I ease my sleeping mask onto my forehead and slowly open my eyes to squint at the time on my phone, as I do every morning – it’s 5.a.m., yippee! Excitement flourishes as I swiftly place my phone back down and take 5 minutes to breathe, contemplate what the weather may be doing when the darkness eventually lifts, and consider how good it feels to be able to take those long, deep breaths, cocooned in a Tempur and feather sandwich with a purring cat by my side.

What was different this morning to other mornings, were the tears that flowed.

I’ve gotten into the weird habit of intuitively placing my hand over my stomach when I get up in the morning, a hangover from when I was quite sick and would pray I feel nothing there, rather than the pregnant-like belly which was so unfamiliar to me and disappointingly there without fail every morning for much of last year.

I walked into the bathroom and was about to weigh myself (another daily occurrence at the moment) when I caught my reflection in the mirror – more specifically, my pancake-flat stomach. As I proceeded with my belly check-in, my top exposed that shadowy line between the oblique and ab muscles: the muscle definition more like I’m used to seeing; a stomach that is some semblance of mine, not a distended, foreign one.

For whatever reason, the magnitude of what my body has been through and the progress of my recovery hit me like a freight train, and the happy tears flowed.

To top it off, I descended into the foyer and was immediately greeted with the stunning framed L’Instant Tattinger poster gifted to me by a grateful client yesterday which, in my recently-woken state, I’d not quite remembered had happened yet. (How hypocritical to mention this when I’ve just written about my contempt for “stuff” – will elaborate more!)

My heart filled with gratitude. I am able-bodied, I can get out of bed in the morning. I have fresh air to breathe, food to nourish my body with, and I get to go and do worthy work that people appreciate beyond words.

I am happy.

Flextime

Up until my more recent implementation of flexible working, whereby I am actually going to make making an effort to accept the need for flexible working hours/locations for a while, I have fortunately been afforded unwavering support and understanding from both my manager and my staff over the last 12 to 18 months when I’ve needed to leave the office or work from home.

As I write this, it’s 7.12 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and I’ve just done half an hour’s solid, productive work. Shortly, I’ll start getting ready to go and spend time with family for my nephew’s birthday; I’ll likely return around 3 p.m. and get another hour’s work done and then relax with a book for the afternoon, perhaps doing a little more work in the evening (in addition to scheduling my week) if I feel the need to.

I spent 3 hours in the office yesterday morning, because I was meeting a client nearby at 10 a.m. instead of the Monday morning meeting we had scheduled which he could no longer make. The work I did means if I don’t feel up to it, I won’t need to go into the office on Monday morning – in fact, the hour or thereabouts I’d spend commuting, I’ll instead be able to spend on computer tasks, which frees up additional time for making phone calls later in the morning. It’s too early to make calls during my usual commute time, so I essentially gain an extra hour.

How good it feels to start my Sunday morning with a clear mind, little tasks out of the way, with nothing but a cheerful day to look forward to.

“When I’m better”

Compared to this time last week, I’m feeling better. Not “better” better, but better than I was feeling then.

I spent all of last year saying “when I’m better I’m going to do this”, “when I’m better I’m going to do that” and wiled away far too many days waiting for better ones.

I think when you’re sick, you do need to take a certain amount of time to throw yourself a pity party – not necessarily a long, continuous one, but sporadic allowances to just let yourself feel crap; to feel your emotions arising from the current situation, maybe even show them instead of bottling them up.

When you’re living off pharmaceuticals and symptomatic such that physical activity is impossibly uncomfortable or dangerous, it’s OK to say “when I’m better I’m going to do this” and “when I’m better I’m going to do that”. The physical limitations scrape in as justification.

This past week or so, that no longer is acceptable to me. The rejection of that phrase “when I’m better” has been creeping up on me for some time now, and even though there have been times this year when I’ve in some ways been sicker than ever, too much time has passed for my life to be on hold.

There are certain aspects of my life that do and will remain very much on hold for the time being – I’m not exactly running 8km in the morning or spending an hour lifting weights. And there’s the “physical step back” from work that I’ve taken as of 3 weeks ago, which I am learning to do, and has made me even more productive. But I am slowly making adjustments to my mindset, made possible by my improved physical state, and avoiding use of that phrase, which only places negative connotations on the present moment.

It is something I’ve never had to do in the past, being an eternal optimist with a dash of realism. I’m a little bit embarrassed that I have felt so “down” at times, and I’ve tried not to appear that way as much as possible, for the sake of others around me, as well as my own good. In fact I credit my insistence in doing that, as well as my generally sunny disposition, as contributing towards my resilience throughout this saga.

So from now (or more accurately, from sometime in the past few weeks) I have banned “when I’m better” from departing my lips. In some circumstances, I may say “when I am feeling well enough”, exercising the full spectrum of wellness rather than the finite “better”, and I think that’s OK. More acceptable, anyway. “When I am at my best” is what I will allow myself to hear in my mind, whenever I feel the thought of “when I’m better” pushing its way in. It simultaneously reduces present negative connotations and stimulates positive imagery for the future.

I most certainly don’t resent any time I’ve wiled away because I know I’m getting that back tenfold, due to the personal growth and extra zest for life this experience has afforded me, and what that will allow me to achieve. That’s not even resentment masked with denial. I truly hold no resentment for the time that has passed.

Whilst I need to continue listening carefully to my body and be mindful of the need for self care, I hereby declare that I will do my absolute best, between now until I reach the day I can say to myself “I am at my best”, and beyond.

Rough Nights

As I write this it’s 11.40pm, on a weeknight, when I should be asleep.

I’ve had my fair share of nights like this; there was the month I slept with an ice cream container by my pillow earlier in the year, or even roll back to the beginning of last year when the medication kept me awake with a racing heart and the feeling of poison coursing through my veins – it’s a wonder it took so long to realise how sick it was making me.

Tomorrow morning I’ll have to cancel a 9a.m. meeting with someone I was really looking forward to catching up with. If the level of discomfort is keeping me awake now, it’s not likely to be miraculously better in 8 hours, and although I hold out hope for a brighter morning, I’ll take this as a reminder that I still need to be gentle with myself, and put my physical needs first tomorrow.

I’m not particularly good at that, and whilst these nights can feel like an act of the devil, the silver lining inside them is in fact the angel on my shoulder teaching me, and guiding me along the path to wellness.

Broken? No, just rearranging.

It seems that when you’re poorly for a long period of time, floating in the middle of the health spectrum somewhere between life-threateningly ill and perfectly healthy, a lot of assumptions are made as a result of your circumstances.

Let me elaborate.

“It has been ages, you must be feeling better by now.” – A thinly considered assumption and statement I’ve heard far too many times.

And the questions, oh the questions:

“How can you be sick for so long when it’s not cancer/*insert any other awful illness*?” Or, “when will you be better?” or one of my least favourite variations, “when will you be back to normal?”.

Generally people would (I hope) never ask a person battling a potentially life-threatening illness that kind of question. And would anyone pose a statement like the one above to someone who was, say, grieving the loss of a loved one instead of the loss of one’s health?

Assumptions and related statements/questions also arise from decisions and actions; they tend to be black and white, exemplified in their most basic forms as:

  1. *Attends event/work/appointment* = must be “back to normal”.
  2. *Decides to work from home/cancels social plans* = incapable of any work and disinterested in all social interaction.

Now let’s consider the decision-making process behind the person’s actions, and the subsequent actions not seen and therefore not considered:

  1. *Attends event/work/appointment* = striving for a sense of normalcy despite knowing there are 2 days’ rest ahead in order to recover from the expended effort.
  2. *Decides to work from home/cancels social plans* = balancing responsibilities and others’ needs with the need for self-care, at the sacrifice of some things.

This is the blatant disrelation I’ve found between what is usually assumed, and my reality. Reality consists of middle ground, of compromise; of balancing acts, brave faces and grey areas. Assumptions seem only to identify that I’m either broken, or fixed. Ask anyone else who has walked in these shoes and I’m certain they’ll agree with me.

I’d like to touch on the circumstantial assumptions I first mentioned in this post, and their resulting comments/questions, because it is eye opening just how many people don’t seem to know how best to interact with a person facing “loss”, in this case of course referring to loss of health.

How about asking, “how are you today?” instead of probing the “why” of chronic illness, which only leads to frustration and guilt from not having an answer. Or, “It has been ages, you’re doing so well” instead of a statement that invokes feelings of inadequacy from not being better (or “normal”) quickly enough.

In response to my actions, how about, “it’s good to see you” or “thanks for coming”, and when you don’t see me, don’t assume I can’t still meet my responsibilities or don’t want to do something, just because my body genuinely won’t let me in the usual way. Did I miss a social occasion? I’m still here, and would love to see you – please don’t forget me! (Or do, whatever). Or was it business? Let’s talk on the phone. I’d love to talk with you on the phone! We can run over things via email instead of via printed trees and probably save a whole lot of time in the process, something we can all use more of. Technology is a wonderful thing for that reason 🙂

Assumption is one of human nature’s absurdities to impact the chronically ill on a regular basis and has already arisen from the decision I made last week, in conjunction with my employer and staff, to take a step back from work, albeit only physically. The assumption is that I’m broken.

Broken? No, just rearranging.

How This Blog Began

I originally wrote this as my “About” page on 13th June 2017, however on 28th October I’ve moved it to act as an introduction to “The Illness”, as although it was how this blog began, I am feeling the need to exercise written cathartis less frequently now.

It is important to me that I honour the extremely tough period I went through though for it has truly made me, and is what started my exploration into minimalism.

Hi there, I’m Lani, pleasure to meet you!

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Well, this was me in happier, healthier times – sometime in the warm New Zealand spring of 2015 – before I was prescribed two medications for a problem it turned out I didn’t have. I’m still me, but the chaos which ensued beneath my hard-earned 6-pack has turned my life upside down and (nearly) wiped the child-like grin off my currently-pale face as I struggle to regain my health, whilst trying to grow a business and attack the goals I’ve always so tightly held for myself.

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This is me more recently – still Lani, but older and wiser, 10kg lighter and $10,000 poorer. In May 2017 (as I write this, that’s last month) my body finally signaled it’d had enough of pouring out of an empty cup by giving me a “quinsy”, or “peritonsillar abscess” (think pain, needles, scalpels, and a lot of blood), complete with three nights in hospital.

In hindsight I was bound to end up there at some point, but more about that in my first post.

What I’m recovering from is a chronic digestive disorder called SIBO. Treatment is unpleasant and in New Zealand, somewhat experimental and costly. Fortunately it seems likely I will be reimbursed under our government’s “Medical Treatment Injury” cover, since I developed it as a result of incorrect medical treatment. My prior impeccable health has no bearing on my ability to overcome it, and although the severity of the illness inhibits me from living my normal life, the good news is that I will recover fully, with time and patience.

Normal life for me looks like this: 4.45am starts, nice long gym workouts before “work” (I’m one of the lucky ones whose work doesn’t really feel like work in the traditional sense, but I don’t know what else to call it) interspersed with copious amounts of homemade peanut butter. Outside the daily grind lies numerous the odd espresso martini or Gewurztraminer, brunch with friends and family, running, singing and coaching a choir, planking poolside (evidently), playing various musical instruments, “working” some more, reading about everything and writing about finance, food prepping, renovating my home into my dream home, figuring out the least arduous way of cracking open macadamia nut shells from my garden – you know, all the good things in life. I intend to add to, adjust, and re-prioritise these activities once I’m well, which will be exciting and maybe even blogworthy.

Over the last twelve months I’ve found sporadic journalling to be extremely (and, unsurprisingly) cathartic and for some time now have been contemplating making my journey public, for not only my sanity benefit, but others’ too. You see, the lessons arising from chronic illness are bountiful. They have changed me, they have improved me, they have opened my eyes, such that I feel compelled to share them in the hopes that someone else can learn and grow as I have, without the undesirable catalyst of adversity.

Lans