Piercing the Invisible Veil of Fibromyalgia

Laguna Beach, CA July 2017

“It’s life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I have talked about having fibromyalgia in my last two posts and I want to explain why it’s such a mystery to many, and why it is so important for me to talk about.  Mainly because it is an invisible chronic illness that affects 5 million people (NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).  That picture above is me, taken this summer, and I look healthy and happy, which I am.  What is not visible in the photo or to anyone who looks at me is that I was in pain that day, and I was extremely exhausted.  I’m sure most people with fibro, like myself, brave through the pain and exhaustion because they don’t have a choice.  It’s a constant battle and I have good days and bad days.  This day in the photo was a relatively good day.  What people don’t see is the feeling of waking up everyday unrefreshed, having pain in my neck, shoulders and hip, and the psychosomatic symptoms that accompany my pain, like depression, anxiety, frustration, and anger.  And I am a positive, happy person!!  I don’t want to talk about my fibro to complain or gain sympathy.  I am actually a fighter and an eternal optimist in life, but a lot of people who might not know someone with fibro might think it’s a made up illness because we don’t look ‘sickly’.  Even some doctors don’t believe that it’s real.  My former primary care doctor back in Chicago didn’t believe in fibro and when I struggled to recover from adult mono, she dismissed my complaints.  So, I have had personal experience with people not recognizing it; however, it doesn’t mean fibro doesn’t exist.  Hence, the term “invisible illness” and I hope that by hearing my story, someone somewhere can relate or have a better understanding about it.

The truth is for me, I don’t want to believe in it; mainly because I still carry some residual anger towards having it.  I was diagnosed only about 3 years ago, even though I have had symptoms for about 10 years.  I was in the dark about what this was as much as the next person, but the more I uncovered, the more identified with it, and the more upset I became.  I am one of your ‘Type A’ personalities, always wanting to be on the go, and do more, and always having the inevitable “FOMO” syndrome.  What fibro brought me was forced breaks in life, and more rest, but less socializing, working, and intense exercising.  This was not something I viewed as a positive change in my life.  I hated it and hate is a strong word.  I still do, unfortunately, but I am working towards healing those feelings and coming to a place of loving acceptance of myself.  I used to love going to spin classes, or kick boxing, having a personal trainer and pushing myself, but one thing I noticed is after all my hard workouts, my body backfired on me.  I would wake up in incredible pain (not the good kind after you really work your muscles), but unbearable pain, and I felt like I had the flu.  I would have a cold, chills, aches, and I felt completely exhausted and drained.   I didn’t know why this was happening to me and I used to beat myself up about it because I loved working out, and still do.  I didn’t want to stop or slow down!  I soon discovered that these episodes were called fibro “flares” and now I recognize the symptoms, but they don’t just come after intense workouts, they show up when I’m very stressed or exhausted too.  Regardless,  I learned that I had to decrease the intensity of my workouts, even the lifting of heavier weights because my body didn’t respond well.  So, over time, I have come to be gentler with my workouts.  I lift light weights with more reps, use resistance bands, power walk/jog and I always did yoga, so I continue with that.  Stretching and doing yoga poses first thing in the morning really helps me set my day right.  I am still learning though, as having this invisible illness is a work in progress for me.  I may never fully get it right.  And that’s okay.  There are days where I do push myself too hard when working out, and I pay the price the next few days.  There are many components to having fibro that one needs to work on to improve their lifestyle.  Exercise is that for me, but so is diet, mental health, and spiritual health.  I will continue to inform and share my experiences about how I have begun to pierce this invisible veil of fibromyalgia, and hopefully you will continue to read and make changes of your own with your health.  We only have one life and one body!  Make it the best you can!




It’s all About Goal Setting…



Goals are like magnets. They’ll attract the things that make them come true.” –Tony Robbins

Ever since I was a young girl, my dad would make my brother and I write down our goals or resolutions for the new year. He would have us read our goals to him and he would tell us “to make sure we kept to them.”  When I was young I wasn’t a big fan of this annual game because like most kids, I didn’t know what to write down!

As I grew, however, I continued with that tradition and it developed into a ritual that I actually ended up enjoying.  Now, I always write goals and lists on what I would like to accomplish, personally and professionally; except now, my goals aren’t just limited to January 1st.

You can make goals or lists at any time in the year and it is never too late to create new ones or change old ones.  My friend gave me this book, The 52 Lists Project by Moorea Seal recently, and what I love about it is that it’s seasonal journaling for self-discovery and exploration.  You can start it at any season you are in.  There are 52 lists of different reflective and inspirational ideas that can help you discover what you love, what inspires you, and what makes you happy.

I love books that spark the creativity in all of us and it’s especially great for those who are trying to figure out what their goals might be.

Here are my goals for 2017:

  1. Write, write, and write.  I love writing. I’ve kept a consistent journal since I was 19 years old and I have found that when I write my goals, dreams, and desires down whether at the beginning of the year or at the end of the year, at some point I end up achieving them, or at least close to it.  It may not happen that year or even the next, but the goals that are meant for me to achieve do end up happening.  I think the key thing is remembering to write about goals that are specific to you and your needs, and then figuring out the steps you are going to take to make that goal achievable.  For me, writing more is what inspires me, so I started this blog and that was my first step in achieving this goal.
  2. Travel.  I love traveling.  I consider myself well-traveled and have been to a good number of places, but there’s still so much to see in the world!  I sometimes feel as an adult I don’t do it as much as I want because of work commitments and time constraints.  I didn’t end up traveling at all last year, but then I was planning the biggest move of my life to California, so I guess I’m going to give myself a freebie on that one! 😉  So far, I booked a trip to Spain, and I went to Barcelona, San Sebastian, Biarritz, and Madrid.   I’m hoping to plan a trip to Cuba at the end of the year or at a the beginning of next year.  Booking and planning these trips have helped me to achieve my travel goals so far.
  3. Focus on my physical and mental health.  I think it’s important to challenge your body with new physical activities, especially if your work out routines become just that- routine!  Exercise is mandatory for me.  It is something that always makes me feel better: mentally and physically.  However, doing the same thing can be boring.  The best thing about being in California is working out outside.  I love going on different hikes, and just walking/running anywhere near the ocean or in the hills.  I recently went paddle boarding and I hope to one day soon learn how to surf- at least once!  I know it is extremely hard and I’m terrified of being horrible at it, but I think it will be a challenge I want to take on.  I also want to take a yoga class on the beach and try Pilates.  Whatever your workout goals are, the key is to mix it up and have fun doing it!
  4. Find work/life balance.  For me, my job as a teacher takes up a large amount of my time and energy, even though I have been teaching for 10 years.  I think that starting a new job this last year was like being a first year teacher in a lot of ways.  I had to learn a new curriculum, adapt to a new work environment, and acclimate to teaching high school versus middle school.  I felt exhausted most of the time with all the essays I had to grade and the planning that I had to do.  Moreover, I have fibromyalgia and that doesn’t make things easy for me!  A lot of things happened this year and this last goal is my new addition because I have come to realize that I lacked that work/life balance.  So, going forward, I am going to work on getting back to the things I enjoy that make me happy.  I love to cook and it has always been a creative outlet for me, so I have gotten back to it recently.  I had forgotten how much I love cooking and trying new recipes! I also want to try my hand at gardening.  Grow some herbs and tomato plants and see how I do!  My parents were excellent gardeners, so let’s hope I got the gene!  Lastly, but most importantly, I want to make room in my life and in my heart to find love– wherever and however that may happen.  When we are too busy with work or too tired at the end of the day, we lose sight of the big picture and what’s really important in life.  Prioritizing what brings you joy and makes your heart happy when you are not working is the best way to find that healthy balance we all need.

As you can see, it’s September, and I am talking about goal setting.  The point is that it’s never too late to start creating the life you want or changing the way you live day by day.  All it takes is writing down your goals and doing your best to achieve them.  And hopefully, before the year ends, you will begin to see the changes you have been wanting to implement in your life.  Enjoy the process, embrace change, be confident that you can do anything you set your mind to, and Happy Goal Setting!!!





Happy 2017! It’s time to soar to new heights…


“[S]he who is brave is free.”- Seneca

This is my first blog post.  Ever.  I decided to start this blog to share my varied life experiences in the hopes that maybe one of my stories will resonate with someone or help someone somehow.  I also love sharing about all things related to health and wellness, fashion, and self-improvement.  I don’t claim to be all-knowing on any of these topics or to be some kind of sage, but I have something to say, and if by chance what I write connects with someone, then great!

This past year was one of great change and movement towards making my dreams come true.  It was a year of high risk and high reward, and after all the uncertainty, I ended up exactly where I was supposed to be…in sunny, beautiful Southern California.

The fact that I moved to California from Chicago about 5 months ago may not sound like a big deal, but how and why I got here is.

I had always wanted to move to California after I came here in my 20’s and drove down the coast from San Francisco to Big Sur.  I just thought I would end up here when I retire, and just shelved the idea for later in life.

I had an epiphany in 2014 on my first ever trip to Hawaii that I needed to move to California now.  The warm weather, beach, ocean was food to my soul; but again, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind.

In January 2015, I got incredibly sick with adult mono.  I didn’t go to work for nearly three months.  What made matters worse was that I had recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia which I probably had for 10 years without even knowing it.  That is a whole other story!  Having fibro made my recovery an intense uphill battle.  During that time, I vowed to leave the cold winters which were becoming unbearable and wreaking havoc on my health. I was also unhappy at my job.  I had been teaching for 9 years in a middle school and couldn’t do it anymore.  I felt stuck in so many areas of my life.

That summer, I went back to Hawaii and met someone who told me about Newport/Laguna Beach in Orange County.  I decided that I would go check out areas in and around LA to see where might be a good fit.

I came to Laguna in October of 2015 and I felt an incredible pull to this place. On my last day, I was walking on the beach in the morning, and it was like my heart was magnetized.  I did not want to leave, and I saw myself living there and really building my life in this beautiful area.  I decided that I wanted to move there.

I put a plan in place and gave myself until the summer of 2016 to move.  I am a teacher so I had a finite window of time to do my resume (mind you, I hadn’t done mine in 10 years!), get certified to teach in CA, and find a job.  Sounds simple, huh?

It wasn’t, but I did it.  I finished my resume in the spring and started networking.  I was on a curriculum board at a company where my brother worked and the person I worked for happened to know a contact in Newport Beach.  He then referred me to a school administrator in one of the school districts in Orange County.

There came a crossroads at the end of the school year where time was running out, and I had to either quit and see how things worked out in California or stay another year.  I made the choice to quit.  It was risky but I couldn’t stay in a job that no longer made me happy.  However, every job I applied to that summer, I wasn’t getting.  Finding a job out of state with limited connections was proving to be an arduous task.

It was now July and my lease was up at the end of the month.  I had to make the decision to not renew and just go to California…with no job, no place to live, no family and knowing only one good friend in LA, and two acquaintances!  So I did.  I moved out of my apartment, shipped my new car to California and bought a one-way ticket to L.A. for August 1st.  When you are in your 20’s, this sounds like an amazing adventure, but when you are 45, it was a “stress-induced” adventure!

The only good friend I had was in LA, and luckily I stayed with her for 2 weeks until I could figure out what I was doing!  I still wasn’t able to find a teaching job…and where was I going to live?  Yes, I wanted to be in the Laguna/Newport area but only if I got a job there first!

My school administrator connection (my guardian angel) was relentless in helping me find a job and she had never even met me.  A week after I arrived in LA, (most schools start in 2 weeks, so time was running out) her colleague told me about an opening at a high school in Irvine, and he happened to work in the English department, so he said he would give me a recommendation.

August 9th I applied for the job.  I decided that regardless, I would move to Newport Beach and I went looking for apartments that next weekend.  I signed a lease on August 13th without a job! What grown adult does that? Not me, that’s for sure! What would I do if I didn’t get a job?  The rent was astronomical!

I left my friend’s in LA and came to Newport on August 15 and stayed for 2 days until my apartment was ready on Thursday, August 18th.  On Wednesday, August 17th, I got a call from the high school that I applied to asking me for an interview that Friday. Yes! 🙂

I moved in on Thursday, the 18th, interviewed on the 19th, and an hour and a half later, they called and offered me the job! It was surreal and so emotional.  It all actually worked out!  I started a few days later and now here I am, 5 months in, living in my dream place, in a dream job, and had I not risked everything, I wouldn’t be here today.

What I garnered from this experience is that there is a grand design to our lives, even though we may not know it at the time, and that the plan was for me to be here in Newport long before I realized it.  Probably when my brother got his job at his company, and I started working on that curriculum board, probably when I grew weary of my job, and my health started failing, probably when I went to Hawaii and met someone who told me to think about Orange County, probably when I was in my 20’s and fell in love with California for the first time…

So, this year, it’s all about soaring even higher.  Building a life and creating a beautiful world in this second phase of my life.  If I can do it at 45, think what life-changing things you can do?