Resilience

First I wrote the “Lessons I Learned in 2013” post. I’d been taking notes throughout the year, so drafting this bad boy was a breeze. But the lessons were predictable (People love to be offended! A good couch is a great investment! America’s healthcare system is broken!) and the whole post felt forced.

Not my style. Plus, I didn’t want to look back. I was so over 2013.

My plans for May 2013: help throw a first birthday party for Tyler, race the heck out of the Brooklyn Half Marathon and then go to Hawaii! Unaccomplished goals all around.
My plans for May 2013: help throw a first birthday party for Tyler, race the heck out of the Brooklyn Half Marathon and then go to Hawaii! Unaccomplished goals all around.

So then I wrote some crap about all the emotions I was feeling at the start of a new year.

But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel authentic.

The short version is that 2013 was not my year. I first showed signs of a Crohn’s disease flare-up on January 4, 2013. And I never really, truly, fully got better. I most definitely basked in fleeting moments of unabashed joy — like my first “run” back in Central Park (half a mile in 7+ minutes accompanied by the biggest, goofiest grin of all time), the day I somehow managed to run the New York City Marathon in 3 hours 58 minutes and three bathroom stops…

Last marathon photo for a while. Promise. Except probably not.
Last marathon photo for a while. Promise. Except probably not.

…or all the days I spent fawning over Tyler, who makes me laugh harder than any person I’ve ever known.

From start to finish, though, I never got on board with 2013, in spite of all my very best efforts.

Those 365 days (was it a leap year? can’t recall) kicked my ass to the ground, and when I thought I hit rock bottom, I discovered another layer ever-so-slightly lower. 2013 tested me and it tested my relationships. I distanced myself from some friends in 2013, and that’s OK. I also gained a ton of quality ones.

On set at work. There's a teeny tiny 11-year-old sitting on my lap. She holds the world record for the most pirouettes (55 of 'em!).
On set at work. There’s a teeny tiny 11-year-old sitting on my lap. She holds the world record for the most pirouettes (55 of ’em!).

I fought hard for the relationships that mattered most, and there were days when I took advantage of those same relationships. In the end, I’m proud to say I still have parents who haven’t put me up for adoption (can they do that once I’m, oh, 28?)…

My parents and I spent Christmas Day skiing in New Hampshire. They were nice to me when I demanded they pull over on the highway so I could...Crohn's.
My parents and I spent Christmas Day skiing in New Hampshire. They were nice to me when I demanded they pull over on the highway so I could…Crohn’s.
This is our Christmas tree at home. No, not at all. But it's one of like 204 trees at the Mount Washington Inn, which is just lovely. You should stay there sometime! I can't attest to the guest rooms, though — we stayed at the cheap "lodge" across the street. Sorry.
This is our Christmas tree at home. No, not at all. But it’s one of like 204 trees at the Mount Washington Inn, which is just lovely. You should stay there sometime! I can’t attest to the guest rooms, though — we stayed at the cheap “lodge” across the street. Sorry.

…a brother and sister-in-law who let me Skype with their son even when I’m crying too hard to be able to squeeze out words…

Whenever I'm around, Michaela lets me give Tyler his nighttime bottle. It's my favorite time.
Whenever I’m around, Michaela lets me give Tyler his nighttime bottle. It’s my favorite time.

…and a boyfriend, Brian, who still tells me I’m pretty (eh, sometimes — he can be brutally honest, guys) and knows there’s no greater medicine than a hug.

The couple that juices together... (probably breaks up, because juicing makes me CRANKY)
The couple that juices together… (probably breaks up, because juicing makes me CRANKY)

I love hugs. Come on. Come at me. Hug me. I can’t get enough.

There were times during 2013 that I didn’t want to even be alive anymore. The physical pain, the emotional distress — I truly believed it was too much for me to handle. Every time I tried a new diet, a new medicine, a new homeopathic nature lady-endorsed whatever — and every time one of those things failed me — I wanted to give up.

OH GOD, SO GORGEOUS.
OH GOD, SO GORGEOUS.

Somehow I didn’t, though.

Somehow I made it through the year.

I didn’t make it out of 2013 feeling healthy. Since Thanksgiving I’ve gotten progressively worse, both in terms of pain and in terms of “urgency,” as my doctor cutely calls it (loosely translated, it’s “get the hell out of my way, I need a bathroom right now, rawrrrrrrrr!”).

But I’m here. And in spite of my health, which I miss dearly, I’m doing OK.

I’m happy about a lot of things right now, and I feel at peace with many of the things that were causing some pretty serious anxiety late in the year. I’m learning how to deal with things and I’m learning that sometimes it’s actually OK to say “screw it” and not deal with things at all (laundry, dishes, changing the sheets more than once every two months).

Happy.
Happy.

I’d be happier if I were healthy, that’s for damn sure. If I didn’t have this disease trying to beat me up constantly, I’d be pumped up with goals and plans, but you’d have to wait to hear about them because I’d definitely be out running for a long time, and then I’d want to talk about that. <3 Running <3

I’m learning to go one day at a time. I’m learning to be happy in the moment, and if I’m not happy in a particular moment, that’s OK — that moment will pass.

The first thing I did when the new year arrived was close my eyes and take a really deep breath. I guess all that yoga stuff really is rubbing off on me. I’d like to think I inhaled some positivity for the new year and let go of any lingering horribleness from the year gone by.

Life's mantra. Or quote. Or essay. It's kind of long.
Life’s mantra. Or quote. Or essay. It’s kind of long.

Then, on New Year’s Day, I finally faced my fears. It’s my fourth week on my new drug, Methotrexate, which is supposed to be done as a self-injection (in either the arms or the thighs, my doctor suggested) via syringe. During weeks one and two, I went to the doctor and had the nurse do it for me, because I was a big loser wimp. When I was in New Hampshire for Christmas, I had my mom’s nurse friend sneak off into a bathroom with me during a Christmas Eve party so she could do the shot for me.

On January 1, 2014, I didn’t have a doctor or a nurse by my side. So I took that same deep breath again, I washed my hands, sterilized a patch of skin on my leg, drew up the medicine into the syringe, sterilized my leg again to stall time, and then gave myself the stick.

BOOM!
BOOM!

I injected the medicine slowly, pulled the needle out, managed not to make myself bleed even a drop, and then it was done.

And then I burst into tears.

I wasn’t sad and I definitely wasn’t in pain. I don’t really know where the tears came from. Relief, maybe? Pride tears?

It’s been four weeks and the drug hasn’t started kicking in yet. The doctor said to expect results in 4–6 weeks, so I’m still hopeful.

I’m also realistic. I know this may not work. I know I may still have many treatments, many experiments and many sick days ahead of me. I know I can’t make a grand declaration about how I’m going to stay hyper-positive throughout 2014.

I don’t have the slightest clue what 2014 is going to throw my way. I don’t have any expectations. I don’t have any resolutions or any goals.

But I know one thing I’ve discovered in myself: resilience. And I’m going to do my very best to hang onto it, no matter what.

Resilience. On a CitiBike.
Resilience. On a CitiBike.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you, from the bottom of my sickly little heart, for sticking by me during this less than fun year. Your comments, emails and Tweets really did keep me going through my darkest days, and I truly believe more than ever in the kindness of strangers (or, more appropriately, in the kindness of internet friends, because I believe you are my friends even though we’ve never met).

Ali

Ali

51 Responses

  1. Nice story. Maybe 2013 wasn’t exactly your year but I think a lot of good things happened to you that year despite the setbacks that you had. Anyway, I hope you’ll have a better year this 2014.

  2. Wah, sorry to hear about 2013… I really hope that this year will be great for you and that it will lift you higher and higher.

    You faced a lot of challenge in 2013, but that strengh you gained from them will make your 2014 wonderful. Have a nice year Ali.

  3. Hey Ali! It’s Allie! I hope you start feeling better soon 🙂 I am in the blood lab righ now *boooring* getting all my levels checked since I’m having a flare up as well (boo)… I hope you keep blogging and stay happy! Your words definitely pick me up when I’m not feeling so hot and I’m stranded on couch island for days. ((Hug))
    Alie

  4. Ali, I read your blog often but rarely comment. But I feel that you must know you are one strong woman that doesn’t give up. You remain the most positive upbeat gal and deal with your God awful horrific situation as best you can. I’m pretty sure I would be a million times worse at handling your situation. I would have fully been committed to an institution by now if I was in your shoes. Here’s to 2014!!!

  5. My New Year’s wishes may be a little late but no less heartfelt.

    To one of my blogging heroines, may 2014 bring you strength, smiles and a surplus of all you want and need.

    Virtually sending you some CA sunshine!

  6. Happy New Year, Ali! I wanted to tell you to keep your head up – it took 8 ish weeks for methotrxate to work for me (that’s not to say there weren’t side effects). I had a different type of chronic illness that could not be controlled by anything else. I hope that you experience similar success! I will be keeping you in my thoughts.

  7. Resilience ain’t easy so keep your head up and your chin held high. Sorry for the platitudes; I just very much want heath and happiness for you in 2014. Here’s to hoping this new med works and if not, at least you can now inject yourself. Not many people can do that. It might not be the skill you really want or doing a thousand pirouettes, but it is a skill.

  8. I’m crossing my fingers for you Ali! These things are hard- I have Type 1 Diabetes so I know about the crying for no reason thing. It just happens sometimes. You’re such a strong woman and I really look up to you. Good luck with this medicine- 2014 will be your year.

  9. Happy new year. I have followed you for years and your positivity amazes me. I no you have low days but still think you are amazing. Here’s to hoping 2014 is a good heath year for you 🙂

  10. Love the quote. Seriously- LOVE IT. I’m going to keep repeating it to myself, over and over until it sticks.

    Wishing you a happy and healthy 2014… I’ll keep hoping the methotrexate kicks in and helps you. And BTW- you look great, even when you’re sick. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

  11. I love how honest your posts always are. I wish you happiness and good (or at least better) health in 2014! *HUG*

  12. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through this year, Ali, but your persistence and tenacity through all of it is so inspiring and just straight up incredible. I just know, know, KNOW that 2014 is going to bring some sunshine for you. Way to be such a rockstar!

  13. You’re probably one of the strongest ladies I know. No. You’re definitely one of the strongest. I truly hope 2014 is a better year! RABBIT RABBIT

  14. You are awesome Ali!!! I know we don’t know one another but there were times that I would check your blog and be so worried for you : / I hope 2014 is much better!! Follow your heart and your dreams and keep taking those deep breaths : )

  15. Happy New Year Ali. I know we don’t know each other but thanks for the inspiring post. I hope 2014 kicks 2013 in the ass!

  16. 2013 was such a grotty year for you Ali, 2014 has to be better almost by default. And I love how you took the bull by the horns and stuck a needle into your leg! Gutsy! Happy New Year…2014 is looking up!! x

  17. Happy New Year! You are such a strong person, showing that even when you think you are done you are able to make it through. I love the arrow quote too. 2013 was kind of shitty (not in the same way) for me too, and that gives me faith that better things are in the future for me.
    Thanks for continuing to post your experiences even when you are not able to run, they are really inspiring.
    Internet hug! I hope 2014 is good to you <3

  18. I think this is SO important:

    “I’m learning to be happy in the moment, and if I’m not happy in a particular moment, that’s OK — that moment will pass.”

    The thought that whatever we’re feeling is momentary and transitory is incredibly powerful. It’s certainly helped me work through some tough times. I think, “I can stand anything for this one moment.” Take care of yourself, Ali! Thank you for your honesty and wisdom.

  19. Happy New Year, Ali. I don’t know you in real life but I hope 2014 is kinder to you than 2013 and that lots of wonderful, healthy things happen. (PS: I e-mailed you twice in 2013 and both of your responses genuinely helped me, so thank you for that.)

  20. No one can guarantee all days made of fluffy puppies and adorable nephews. No one can guarantee 100% (or even 50%) health. [Except a few ads on my Facebook page. Should I forward them to you?] No one can promise you won’t fall off a Citibike. But no matter what, I’m pretty damn sure that resilience will get you through when all those other things go to pot.

    That may not be the most optimistic thing to say, but it’s certainly realistic. So I’m here, cheering you on loud and clear (listen hard, I’m all the way in Asia). You’ll get through this year too – and I suspect even find some good things, tucked amongst some of the sucky stuff.

    [And…erm…is it wrong of me to wonder if your pirouette gal is holding that plastic pumpkin bowl in case she pukes after spinning in 55 circles in a row?? I though I could have this simple thought, then let it go quickly. But I finished reading the rest of the post, and it’s still sticking with me. Ew.]

  21. I’m old enough to be your mom, Ali, and I’m proud of you as though I were your mom. You are Resilient indeed! And brave and smart and funny and just remarkable. I really hope the methotrexate is your wonder drug! * hugs*

  22. Here’s hoping 2014 is an ass-kicker in the other direction for those of us who felt less than delighted with the way 2013 kicked our asses!

    Keep on keeping on, girl. It’s what we’ve got to do. Wishing you all the very best!

  23. You’re a true testament to surviving… I know how the lowest-of-the-low feels with this disease (rrrarrrr get me to the bathroom all day long is NOT fun! p.s. cortifoam is what “saved” me from that particular symptom I think). Sending healing thoughts your way always and so happy to hear you’re coming out the other end. You’re a brave, strong soul Ali! Keep rocking it.

  24. This post made me cry. 2013 was not a good year for me either with my endometriosis. It’s progressively gotten worse in the past month, even though I thought my treatment was working. My doctor figures I’ll need my second surgery. I think I’m more pissed off that I have running plans! I have a 25k race and 3 1/2 marathons to run and I will be damned if I can’t do those! I’m rooting for you (and myself haha) Here’s to a kick ass disease/pain free 2014

  25. Wow, I’m right there with you Ali! So amazing you can put it in words. 2014 may not be our year either, but it will be better. Also has a nice ring to it!! Keep going.

  26. Sending hugs from snowy CT – hope you can get outside tomorrow to enjoy it. And know that you are more than resilient, you conquered a fear….that is huge!!! Wishing you many more good moments in 2014 xo

  27. Ali, hang in there! 2014 will be awesome! Crossing my fingers that this round of meds works for you! Lots of love and positive energy from Chicago!

  28. Ali, your posts always make me cry. I don’t know you in life, but I love your blog and I wish so hard that this sickness would GTFO. I hope the needle poking medicine works and I hope 2014 is a zillion times better for you.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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