Listen to the Ali on the Run Show!
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Stress & Stuff
I know I know I know. It’s been a while.
I’ve missed you! I’ve missed writing here! But such is life, and life lately has been, well…let’s discuss.
Remember when I had that awesome week of Brooklyn Half training, and I was finally starting to feel fast and fit and ready to race Brooklyn? I ran a great track workout, I surprised myself with a speedy almost-5K, and I was feeling good.
And then I wasn’t.
The week of the New Jersey Half Marathon, things started to feel not quite right. And I knew. Deep down, I knew. But I tried to un-know or ignore what I knew.
That week, I noticed myself dropping things constantly — my keys, my shampoo bottle (on my toe, every time), my dinner, Ellie’s leash. It’s a strange, random symptom, but whenever a Crohn’s flare is on the horizon, I drop things. I fumble a lot.
My running also started to suck that week. I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. I started lacking motivation, which is rare for me (because yay I love to run), and I felt exhausted. I was taking plenty of rest days and was generally getting enough sleep, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being beat down.
Still, I managed to bust out a great race at the New Jersey Half. I’m super proud of that 1:47. It wasn’t a PR, but it was a solid performance. Despite a bathroom stop in the second half of the race, I stayed strong and had a good day, so that felt like a victory.
I expected to feel sluggish the week after the race and opted for easy runs, extra days off, and some yoga. But I couldn’t seem to recover. And I was going to the bathroom a lot.
And what was happening in the bathroom was Crohn’s-like.
It’s always obvious to me. Sometimes I’ll tell my mom — even though I hate letting her know I might be sick or am on the brink of being sick — that I’ve had a few bouts of diarrhea and that it “seems like Crohn’s,” and she’ll always try to convince me otherwise. She’s sweet. She doesn’t want me to be sick. Hi, Mom.
So I give myself the benefit of the doubt — or rather, I live in denial for a little while. At first, it was just diarrhea. But then there was some blood. Then the blood stopped! But then it came back. Then there was some urgency, but no pain. Now there’s pain and urgency. For a while I was still running fine, making occasional bathroom stops but without much drama, including my birthday run in Central Park last week, which was fun and happy. (I made a few stops, but none were panic-inducing.) This weekend, though, I got to the point where I just couldn’t run.
I’m disappointed and sad — not that I haven’t run for a few days (that’s just life), but because I’m sick. Again. I don’t know if I’ll run Brooklyn this weekend, which is fine. I’ll go through the motions of picking up my bib, and if I feel like running on Saturday morning, I will. If I don’t think it’ll serve me, I won’t.
I’ve been healthy for the past few months, but that’s not good enough. I want more healthy time. I want more fun runs. I want to get fast and strong. I want to actually train for a race. Because, let’s be honest, I ran some miles leading up to Brooklyn, but I never fully committed. I never pushed as hard as I could’ve, I didn’t strength train, I was lazy about cross-training, and I could’ve eaten a few more vegetables along the way (though, especially compared to Past Ali, my nutrition over the past few months has been pretty solid).
And the truth is, I’m not surprised this is happening — not in the least. In fact, I’m pretty sure at some point over the past month, I actually said to Brian, “I am going to get sick.”
I have been so stressed lately. And I know I’m supposed to say “excitingly busy,” but let’s call a spade a spade here. I’ve been stressed. Over the past three weeks, I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks almost every single day. I’ve cried on the floor — and at my desk, and in the shower, and while running — on more than one occasion.
I haven’t been able to sleep without Ambien — yes, I had kicked that habit, and yes, I’m back on it, regrettably. I can’t fall asleep or stay asleep without it. I need it to get through the night right now. I wish I didn’t, but I need a good night’s sleep in order to function.
In the past, I would’ve pushed all this mental stuff aside and focused on the physical. I would’ve asked my GI for advice — or drugs — to help me handle my disease. But now, probably because I’m 32 now and I’m so smart, I’m doing the opposite.
I’m still on Stelara, and I do believe that’s a good medicine for me to be on. I believe it helped me get into a short-lived period of remission (if you could even get to the point of calling it that), and I believe this is just a stress-induced setback. We have always known that periods of high stress bring on and exacerbate Crohn’s flares.
So I’m going to try handling the physical stuff on my own as best I can. I’m still going without dairy, at least 90 percent of the time (since the Levain Bakery cookies I ate for my birthday breakfast were most definitely loaded with butter), and am cooking most of my meals. I used to deny that diet had any effect on my disease, and while I still don’t believe my diet has caused any of my Crohn’s madness, I know how much better I feel when I’m eating foods that work for me and won’t make all this inflammation worse. That’s always a work in progress, but I’m committed to it. I’m taking probiotics and I’m trying to drink more water. I’m a damn hero.
But I need help on the other side of things. I need help managing my stress and getting to the root of why some of it exists. (Like why, why, why do I get so worked up over things that really shouldn’t matter, like the dishes and the laundry? I know they’re not worth my obsession, but I get to the point of fixating on these things and can’t divert my focus.) So I’m doing that. I’m working through this stuff. I’ll keep you posted.
There’s a lot going on right now. And everything, in theory, is fine — it really is. There’s nothing to hide, no secret drama. I have a ton of work on my plate, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve overcommitted. Freelancing is tricky that way sometimes. My schedule has changed over the past few weeks, too, which is something I’m trying to adjust to. I’ve been working nonstop from 5 AM until 10:30 PM almost every day, and as much as I love checking off lots of things on my to-do list along the way, I’m feeling burnt out. I’m writing a lot, hence the little break here. And I’ve gotta say, I feel like I’m failing at a lot along the way. I feel like I’m stretched thin and can’t give anything my full attention — that includes my work, my marriage, my friendships, my running, and beloved best friend Ellie. I’m trying my best, but I’m just doing a shit job all around.
So it’ll be fine. Eventually. I’m always learning to be more OK with uncertainty and rolling with life’s punches. I remind myself that everything is temporary, and that helps. This period of high stress is temporary. This Crohn’s flare may last a few more days or it may plan to stick around for a while — either way, it’ll be temporary. This cluster of zits making my chin look ready for a lunar landing? Probably also temporary.
As always, one of the toughest parts of going through a Crohn’s flare is not knowing how long it’ll last. I could kick this by Thursday, or I could be in it (“it” mostly meaning “the bathroom” in this case, I suppose) for a longer haul. Only time will tell, dun dun dunnnnn.
On the upside (I like the find the upsides!), I decided to make a list of the Top 5 People I Want to Have on the Ali on the Run Show. I’ve reached out to two of them so far. Both said yes. I recorded with one of them today.
So there are glimpses of light between these clouds, and I’m finding them and appreciating them. And the sun’ll come out tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever.