Four ways to love a messed up body.

Here’s the backstory; the four ways – how is a bit below. My body is constantly killing pieces of itself off. When I was ten, my immune system attacked my pancreas and killed off the beta cells that create insulin, the hormone vital to breaking down the food you eat into fuel for your body.

In my twenties, it decided to start treating the food I ate as foreign invaders, everything I ingested setting off the immune system response squad and leaving me in joint pain and nausea spirals.

At thirty, it’s developed a weird need to constantly break down my muscle fibers like an Olympic weightlifter and, no matter how much I try to coax it that we are not, in fact, aiming for any gold medal, my body seems to think that it needs to act like it’s training for the podium in our sleep. My shoulders are in a cycle of freezing, draining the fluid that allows me to reach and bend to the point that my joints lock up, then – months later – magically deciding we’re done with that and granting me motion again.

The cycle is frustrating but throughout it, I have to give my body credit. For all it messes up, it is trying REALLY hard to protect me. Like the guard dog who has lost all semblance of cool at the mean, scary leaf that just drifted into its yard, my body seems to have no idea that it’s in major overkill mode. Its intentions are good; it’s just supremely bad at its job.

In my early twenties, all of this overzealousness led to almost 60 pounds of weight gain. Continue reading “Four ways to love a messed up body.”

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Sick doesn’t equal weak.

 

It’s been really interesting to watch how some people react to the idea of being sick, particularly when it comes to mental and chronic health issues. Having a body that doesn’t quite work the way everyone else’s does isn’t weak. It’s the most normal damn thing there is.

No one’s body works the same as anyone else’s. Some of our quirks are a little more pronounced than other’s, sure. But the same way someone has freckles, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. The same way someone has a thumb that bends all weird (you know what I’m talking about), my brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin.

It doesn’t make me weak. It makes me human.

It doesn’t make YOU weak. It makes you strong as fuck. Continue reading “Sick doesn’t equal weak.”

Get to know me ❤

With the recent publication of my book – Beyond Powerful: Your Chronic Illness is Not Your Kryptonite – I recognize that a lot of you are new visitors to LalaJackson.com so I wanted to give you a little intro into who I am!

You can also learn more about what I write (and love to talk about) here. Drop me a note to lala@lalajackson.com if you’d like to say hello or have an idea for how we can collaborate on something together!

When my doctors don’t listen to my pain.

ONE
Before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, I had been sick for months. Not eating, downing gallons of water and soda every day, lethargic, sleeping as much as possible, peeing every 30 minutes. In the last month before diagnosis, as I rapidly lost 30 pounds (on a 5’2″ frame), multiple doctors told my mom I was doing this on purpose – losing weight on purpose – to better fit in with my new classmates. I actually had an incurable autoimmune disease but, because I was a preteen girl, multiple doctors assumed I had an eating disorder. When I was finally diagnosed – by a nurse, as I was carried into the emergency room at 4am on Thanksgiving morning – I was likely less than hours from a permanent coma or death from severe diabetic ketoacidosis.

TWO
When I broke my ankle in 3 places while hiking when I was 26, I called 911 from the trail. I told them my ankle was broken (it was visibly broken – bone at odd angles and everything). They kept on insisting it was sprained. They took an hour to find me on the trail. When the EMTs walked up – and I mean SLOWLY walked up – as soon as they saw my ankle they sprang into action. “OH SHIT. Shit. We should’ve brought you pain meds. We didn’t bring the stretcher down with us. Can you hop?” Three places. My ankle was broken in three places. And I told them that. And they didn’t listen. Continue reading “When my doctors don’t listen to my pain.”

What’s your superpower? Join the Beyond Powerful book launch team 🎉

If you somehow missed it, on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 my first book Beyond Powerful: Your Chronic Illness is Not Your Kryptonite, will be available in print in all major bookstores in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. I’m still not used to writing that sentence.

As part of the launch, I am recruiting YOU (if you want to be recruited, that is) to join my launch team by sharing your superpower with the world.

What you get:

  • a snazzy social media image
  • bragging rights that you were on a book launch team because how cool #streetcred
  • super simple instructions from me on what to share and how to share it to help on launch day. I’m going to send you your picture, write you a post (which you’re free to edit) and tell you when and where to post it. You can effectively turn your brain off, I got you.

What’s really amazing to me about the images that have already been created for those who have jumped in to the launch team is the proof that we are all so damn powerful. Look at what we each carry. Look at how we each crush it. It’s truly amazing.

It reminds me that we’re all dealing with something. That we’re all so strong. And that not one of us is alone in this.

If YOU would like to be on the launch team for Beyond Powerful, here’s what to do:

  1. email lala@lalajackson.com
  2. send a photo of your gorgeous self (pictures with “white space”, i.e. pictures where your face doesn’t take up the whole frame, are best)
  3. include your first name, what you live with (can be anything from a chronic illness to stress to whatever it is you carry), and your superpower. I promise you have one. ❤

I’ll be sending you instructions on when and where to post, but your image will also be included on BeyondPowerfulBook.com and possibly on one of my social media channels. I appreciate you!

What my fibromyalgia feels like.

While not exhaustive, this post is meant for you – the person who is trying to figure out exactly what’s causing you so much pain, the person who is looking for answers after a fibromyalgia diagnosis, the person who is trying to find better ways to care for your body.

I’m going to try to be as thorough as possible and share what has helped me, but different things can help you. Do your research. Consult doctors and wellness professionals but know that you know your body best. Look into patterns. Keep food and activity journals.

Just like with my type 1 diabetes, my fibromyalgia is a game of data. I have specifically engineered my life – what I eat, my activity levels, my exercise, and more – to gain control of my health. You can too (and no, I didn’t just meant to sound like a motivational poster. I just legitimately know that you got this. It’s hard, but you do.)

On my worst days, noises cause me pain. I’ll hear a car horn blaring and it feels like every nerve ending in my body has been set off. I’ll try to tense and release my muscles – my calves, my thighs, my forearms – as a distraction, but it’s like the sound waves are reverberating through my body and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.

On my best days, it’s like I’ve never been sick. The human brain is a wonderful thing and tends not to hold on to pain if we train it to do so. People will ask me how often I have pain flares and I can cheerfully answer, “Oh! Not more than, I dunno, once every few months? It’s not awful.”

In reality, I have pain and inflammation flares once every few weeks. Some are worse than others. Sometimes I’ll just wake up with pain – a lulling ache in my muscles, sharp pains in my joints and the typical fibromyalgia pain points (all of which flare for me) – feeling foggy and lethargic, my brain chemicals doing everything but helping my mood, but my symptoms will level out by midday and I’ll be back to feeling like myself. Sometimes the flare lasts a month or more and I’ll be working from bed most days, willing my joints to stop feeling like they’re on fire, avoiding eating for as long as possible because anything I consume seems like it sends me into further inflammation. Continue reading “What my fibromyalgia feels like.”

I am never naked.

If you scroll down in this post, you’re going to see a topless/nearly naked picture of me, as well as a few others that show quite a bit of skin. They are meant to challenge you to think about what I’m about to write. Please read first, then scroll if you want (but do not scroll if you think mostly nude photos of me will offend you).

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. It meant that, at the age of 10, my body was no longer my own. It became the property of diabetes, of medicine, of science, of the devices it takes to keep me alive.

When I was first diagnosed and still in the intensive care unit, every part of my body was poked and prodded. I ended up with an IV in one of my jugular veins because none of the rest of my veins were stable enough to support a line. My clothes had been ripped off my body to make it more accessible to save. My necklace had been cut from throat so it didn’t get in the way. My body was just that – a body to save. Not a person. Not my own.  Continue reading “I am never naked.”

That tricky little bastard, serotonin.

One of the most important tools in the understanding-my-brain arsenal is pure science. It makes it all more manageable for me if I know why something is happening on a basic bodily function level.

In a previous post, I talked about having a chronic mental illness called dysthymia – it’s a chronic form of depression that I’ve had since I was 12 in which my brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin. I used to manage my body’s ability to produce enough of it – since it affects feelings of well-being, mood stabilization, and digestion (your body produces serotonin in your brain and all throughout your digestive tract) – with medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  Continue reading “That tricky little bastard, serotonin.”

Being chronically ill but wanting to make a difference: the balance.

Three years ago today, I spent my day in a traditional Lakota sweat lodge. Two days prior, I had walked away from my corporate job with zero fallback plan.

Already in the midst of a major autoimmune crash, I was also doing work that was breaking my soul. I had been hired as the wellness communications specialist for a 15,000-employee company. The job description was everything I loved – creating messaging and programs to support and inspire health, educating around nutrition and wellness. What my position ended up being was spinning the company’s new high deductable healthcare plan. I could’ve just created the messaging being suggested to me – “Here’s all the ways this will be great for you and your family!”

Because I’m me, I instead started digging. I started running the numbers myself. I started going back to the vendors and actuaries and asking them to give me real-life scenarios I could illustrate so people could at least plan for what was actually coming. I found that, for anyone with any kind of chronic issue – asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, etc. – this plan was going to run them into the ground financially within the first three months of the year. It was a plan designed to cover emergency needs for otherwise healthy people. It was a plan designed to save the company money, not take care of its people so they can keep doing their jobs. Continue reading “Being chronically ill but wanting to make a difference: the balance.”

I’ve been depressed since I was 12.

Lora Zombie
“Rainy” by Lora Zombie

 

The most common comment I get since moving to New York City a year ago is that I am too positive for this city and that it will change me. My response every time is that I have worked too hard for my joy, and it isn’t going anywhere.

But I realize that people probably don’t know what that really means. That, when people see me being positive, they assume it’s an inherent trait – one that exists just because it’s who I am.

They don’t realize that I actually have clinical depression – dysthymia, specifically. That the chemicals in my brain are not wired for me to feel okay and that when I say I’ve worked hard for my positivity, I mean it. Literally how I eat, my exercise, my daily habits, my alone time – not only are they built to support my physical health, but my mental health too.

My happiness, my positivity is a choice, but it’s one that I had to learn how to make over years upon years of work, not only personally but with the help of doctors, clinicians, counselors, nutritionists and, at times, medication. Because – just like how my body does not make insulin, it doesn’t create enough serotonin, the chemical that helps contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. Everything can be going right but without serotonin, my brain does not have the ability to recognize it. Continue reading “I’ve been depressed since I was 12.”