30 Apr

Why You Should NEVER Stop Living Your Best Life

live your best lifeThere have been times in my life when thoughts about my future were very bleak. I imagined that I would always struggle to breathe and would, therefore, continue to have a declining physical health. I imagined that I would never be able to rectify my relationship with food, and would continue to binge eat and make unhealthy choices, destroying my body with uncontrolled diabetes. I imagined that depression and anxiety would be the locks and chain that held me tight on a path of self-destructive behaviors.

How could I possibly have any substantial length of time left in this world? And would I really want the time that remained, with the physical and mental conditions that were such a large part of me? How could I look forward to the life that was ahead of me, so lacking in any positive aspects?

Somehow, over time, I came to realize that I have led a great deal of “life” already. I have had 47 years of experience living. The ups and downs have provided me with the lessons I need to move forward to the next chapters of my life. How many chapters are there to be written? Well, that remains to be seen. I have the ability to positively affect the number of chapters, simply by making positive changes in my life.

I don’t want to live with breathing issues. I, therefore, need to work on my lungs. I need them to do their best and a little bit more, all the time. They have years and years of work ahead of them.

I don’t want to suffer the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. I need to pay attention to not only what I eat, but how my food choices affect my blood sugar levels. I now leave the blood glucose monitor on the kitchen counter 24/7, right beside the beloved coffee maker. I can’t “forget” to check my blood every day. My blood glucose levels  will benefit greatly from 30 active minutes of exercise, per day. Interestingly enough, so will my lungs.

I don’t want depression and anxiety to get their hands on me again. They are life altering conditions with dire consequences when left unsupervised. I have learned the art of being mindful. It is something I know, I need to practice constantly. I have learned the benefits of personal development. I have just finished the book The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Now, I have started to research the topic of “Fear of Failure”, to learn what I can do to help myself be free of this phobia. It is an actual phobia; “atychiphobia” is when we allow fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.

The change to my nutrition lifestyle is already helping better manage my diabetes. The exercise I have added to my life is going to help my lungs get stronger and has already removed the intense fear of losing my breath. This overall lifestyle adjustment has made a huge impact on my mental state. Suddenly, I’ve gone from dreading my future, to looking forward to it. I’m planning how I can make the years ahead the best chapters of my life. This book is nowhere near finished. Part II has just begun!

Stay tuned! Til then…..do the next thing.

08 Apr

Take Nothing For Granted


I recently took a Creative Writing course. I really enjoyed it. I learned so much about creative writing. The following is the creative nonfiction piece I submitted with my final portfolio.



Take Nothing for Granted

by Sharlene McMullen

On May 13, 2014, as I was walking upstairs to my bedroom, a strange rippling pain shot through my right side. It was a pain I had never felt before. I have no memory of any pain or even a physical sensation that could compare to this. With both hands, I grasped at my right side. I firmly believed an internal part of me wanted to be on the outside and was going to get there by passing through my ribs.

As I held my side and continued walking up the stairs I remained quite calm. I thought to myself, “It’s not my time.”

Reaching my bedroom, I laid down on my bed and waited to see if there was going to be any other weird sensations or pains. The odd thing was, I was experiencing shortness of breath, not pain. I thought I had lost my breath from climbing the stairs and my breathing would improve as I rested. After lying still for a minute and still being unable to catch my breath I knew something was wrong. I wanted my phone within reach in the event I needed to call for help. I had to walk back downstairs to retrieve it, which caused my breathing to become more difficult. As I reached for my phone, where it sat on the arm of a chair, I had visions of stars in my peripheral vision. In one smooth motion, I scooped up my phone, turned, pressed 9-1-1, and headed down a set of stairs to my front door. I unlocked and opened the door while providing the 911 operator with my personal information. I sat on the bottom step and took deep breaths, in and out, the 911 operator staying on the line with me until help arrived.

The paramedics arrived and I was provided with oxygen. I don’t remember all the details of what transpired after they arrived. I know I was relieved to be receiving help. I knew the oxygen was helping me breathe. They took me by ambulance to Foothills Hospital ER. I had a great doctor in the ER. I wish I could remember his name. He was very thorough in determining the cause of my shortness of breath. I was transported from the ER to other areas of the hospital for numerous tests. It was finally a CT scan that showed I had been struck by a massive bilateral pulmonary embolism. My doctor told me I shouldn’t have been sitting there. I must have looked at him with great concern because he quickly said, “Don’t worry, you are exactly where you need to be.” They quickly began treating me with IV anticoagulants. My bed in the ER was positioned adjacent to the main station. My curtain was never closed. They kept a very close eye on me. Each time a new doctor came through the ER, my doctor would show him my CT pictures and then point at me, sitting in a bed watching the action around me. I was admitted to the hospital and for a week, I was given oxygen day and night in order to breathe.

On that day, my life was dramatically changed. I was no longer able to take the simple act of breathing for granted. Even with oxygen, any movement required a concerted effort on my part. The act of sitting up, long enough to eat, was exhausting. I was able to remove the oxygen tube from my nostrils to visit the washroom. I had to drag my IV pole with me and walk slowly in order to breathe. I slept often. Every time I opened my eyes from sleeping I was relieved to still be alive.

The IV anticoagulants were combined with oral warfarin. Once I had a stable INR and my breathing without oxygen assistance was sufficient, I was discharged. A bed in a hospital room had become my world. My meals were brought to me. My only travel was to the washroom on the other side of the room. When I arrived home my house seemed so much bigger and my world was no longer in arms reach at all times. Walking upstairs to my bedroom required a stop halfway up to catch my breath. Ten deep breathes in and out before being able to continue my walk up the stairs.

My life has never returned to what is was prior to PE. I still lose my breath when walking uphill. I still have anxiety attacks over changes in breathing; fewer, but they happen. A cold virus affects the lining of my chest and leaves my chest feeling heavy and breath feeling a little thicker than normal. Last summer’s forest fires that brought poor air quality to Calgary, had me visiting my local walk-in clinic to see my O2 number. When I can see that I’m getting enough oxygen, I can usually calm myself.

I will take blood thinners for the rest of my life. This means I cannot take anti-inflammatories. I must maintain a balanced intake of vitamin k. I cannot compete in extreme sports. I must be super careful around knives. If I were to receive a head injury I need to be examined for internal bleeding. If I am in need of a surgical procedure, I must first lower my INR by lowering my oral dosage of anticoagulant and begin using an anticoagulant that is administered by injection. I must have my blood tested on a regular basis. It is important to maintain the INR between 2.0 and 3.0 in order for it to be at a therapeutic level. Essentially meaning, in order for my blood not to clot.

I’ve recently started completing half hour exercise routines. My breathing is good as I’m sticking with low impact routines for now. I’d like to improve my breathing enough to run without fear of being unable to breathe. I’m not sure how long that will take, but I will persevere and keep challenging myself to get to that point.

23 Mar

Jump in with both feet.

If someone asked me, “How do I start working on something now?” I’d reply, “Just do it! Just start! Jump in with both feet.”

These are the words I told myself this morning. I’ve been humming and hawing about writing to the blog. I never once just called up the editor and started writing. Today there is no time like the present to return to doing something I love, writing. I’ve missed writing to the blog. A lot has happened during the last 6 months. I can’t write about all of it today but I will write about some of what has transpired as I move forward.

Today I want to talk about a new project I am embarking on. It is called proprioceptive writing. In a nutshell, it is a method of writing that is almost meditative in nature and allows one to explore their inner self. I’m working on learning this technique and will update you with my progress.

I promise, it won’t be another six months before I write again. Thanks for sticking around. Let’s do the next thing!