Monday, July 24, 2017

Taking my medicine

Last week I dove far too deep down the rabbit hole of Internet health content — synopses of scientific studies, anecdotal evidence, dubious recommendations and subsequent debunking. Combine all of this with a hearty dose of world news, and I emerged feeling hopeless — which is nearly always my reaction to the (non-adventure-focused) Internet. I don't even know why I spend any time in that place. 

Despite this disheartening spiral that ultimately re-enforced skepticism, and despite Beat's well-reasoned argument that trying too many things at once will only yield inconclusive results, I still ended up at Rite Aid with $100 of the most anecdotally recommended nutritional supplements. I contemplated the tedious realities of adopting a restrictive diet (I dislike food prep so much. If they made a Soylent-type product for the autoimmune protocol, I would be all over it.) Finally, my endocrinologist sent the okay to up my medication dose in a way that requires cutting pills in half. Do you know how much I hate that I've become a 37-year-old who contemplates special diets, needs a pill cutter, uses multiple daily prescriptions, and has a cabinet full of dubious supplements? I'm turning into Collette Reardon from the classic Saturday Night Live skits. 

That part of me thinks I should just chuck it all and feel the way I feel. But in this physical state, life loses some of its shine. My mind becomes a dull, unfocused place, overrun with unjustified anxiety. My body becomes strangely detached — both over-tired and over-stimulated, in a way that I believe I've previously compared to an underpowered car, my old 1996 Geo Prism. I imagine that car when I am sputtering up a hill, gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor. That thing would groan and rumble, but it did make it all the way to Alaska and back. And despite hard use, the motor was still running well when I finally let it go with 200,000 miles, expecting it to be sold for parts, and then catching a glimpse of it on the Interstate over a year later. Can I really glean hope from the performance of an old car? No, probably not. 

But performance is secondary. Right now, I'd rather rebalance my mind. If I thought I could do that by laying in bed all day, I probably would. But after a two-hour nap on Saturday, I felt more detached than ever. Beat is wrapping up his training for the Ouray 100, and wanted one more long day in the mountains. I was admittedly dreading this outing, because I don't feel so great in the high country. I feel underpowered, dizzy, and a little bit desperate, in a way I've described as oxygen-deprivation, although chemically it's probably more complicated than that. It's sad to spend a Colorado summer fearful of mountains, so I'm trying to overcome the aversion.

Beat planned to push hard to the top of James Peak while I meandered part-way up the mountain. He completed the seven miles with 4,000 feet of climbing in just over two hours, which is impressive. I was surprised to see him at the saddle — even moving as slowly as I had been, I expected to make it a little farther up the mountain before we met. But it all worked out well; I didn't exhaust my circulatory system trying to keep up, and thus felt a lot better than I would have expected to feel at 12,000 feet.

A nasty-looking storm followed Beat off James Peak. We both made efforts to pick up speed as we climbed onto an off-trail segment along the Continental Divide. I expected the storm to catch up to us, but it never did.

Moving toward sunny skies. The wooden posts signify the Continental Divide Trail.

This is a wonderful ridge walk, skimming the lip of dramatic cliffs above turquoise lakes.

I just can't feel bad in this place. When I'm back at my computer, like right now, I remember the sputtering and desperation. Yet all of that can so effortlessly fade in the moment. Maybe the excess hormones finally burn off, and I'm freed of my weird anxieties even as thunderstorms bear down and objective dangers rise. I don't know. I suppose my body has always been this way. It feels like happiness, and chemically it's probably not more complicated than that.

As is often the case with these longer outings, I felt better as I went. We swung around the ridge onto the loose gravel of Rollins Pass Road, and started running. And even though for me it was little more than a shuffle, I was still chuffed to manage simultaneous running and calm breathing at 12,000 feet. It was enough running that toward the end my right IT band began to hurt, which was so satisfying. I'm sure it's difficult to justify, but I genuinely begin to miss regular aches and pains. In many of my recent efforts, aches are either eclipsed by breathing difficulties, or I just can't go hard enough to experience them.

The collapsed tunnel on Rollins Pass Road. Spooky. I always want to climb inside, but then I see the huge boulders suspended in broken wire netting, and think better of it.

Working our way down to one of the Forest Lakes to eat a snack, filter water, and collect a few mosquito bites. This seven-hour outing was re-affirming — that I remain capable of motion where it counts, that I remain capable of soaring feelings of joy, and that summer in Colorado — despite my current physical state — is pretty fantastic. I probably just need to spend more time in mountains, as far away from the Internet as possible. 


  1. i think all think all things have a life force, even a car.

    On On!

  2. This is an really amazing place. You are enjoying natural beauty,that,s good.

  3. I concur regarding looking for "cures" on the internet. I found it left more fearful than hopeful, just sitting there reading horror stories and miracle "cure" supplements that didn't help my bottom line. Though I wholly understand the sense of desperation and frustration, I found "mountains" helped my moods more than anything else. Placebo? Who cares, I felt better.
    Your 7 hour foray does reaffirm... that you can spend all day being "Jill Outside" again. Nothing better than sore, stiff muscles after a good outing. :)

  4. Love the pictures of the Front Range, such broad, hulking mountains.

  5. Go Prism go!

    The brief moments of soaring make all the struggles worth it.

  6. Ich freue mich vonn Ihnen zu hören!

  7. You might have seen my husband, our black Lab, and two women running James Peak too! I'm so jealous of you runners... I wish that bikes could go to the peaks where feet can take you! I can't complain though - I rode 6 hours out my back door without my tires ever touching a road and while seeing only one other person. Not bad.

    I learned the hard way that it's really important to tell your doc what supplements you're taking. Some are downright dangerous (one that I took has damaged the livers of many people) and others will interact with your Rx's. It's rare to run across ones with serious bad effects but be careful!

    I hope that your good days outweigh your bad ones. It's sounds like they do. :)

    1. Hmmm. I do remember seeing a man with a black Lab. Possibly! I also saw a backpacker with a black cat laying on top of his backpack, looking perfectly content. I was so jealous. I'd love to have a cat like that.

      There's always Rollins Pass Road for pedaling — you could even descend into Winter Park and climb Rogers Pass for good measure. Let me know if you're thinking about doing a ride up there. I would love to join.

      And thanks for the advice on supplements. The ones I bought are mostly vitamins, and commonly used by people who also take methimazole, but you make a good point. What's funny is that I have been feeling so much better this week. My mind is clearer and my writing is going well again. What changed? Well, I started taking the supplements ... and I upped my medication dose from 20 to 25 mg. *Both* of these could be placebo effect. But I will gladly take any good day I can get.

  8. Gosh, such beautiful terrain up there! The high country in CO looks surprisingly different than the high country here in CA (the Sierras). And that last pic of beat coming to the lake is a total postcard! Just gorgeous! I'm w/ KB Bear...I'm SO not a runner. If I could get my Mt bike up there tho...oh YEAH!


Feedback is always appreciated!