Category Archives: In Sickness & In Health

When you don’t feel “good enough”

I haven’t been writing here lately, because I don’t feel “good enough”.  Not in the sense that I’m unwell, or unhealthy, just imperfect.  And imperfection seems like exactly the opposite of what people want to read about.  I want people to see someone who has it all figured out, is working on their process and making huge strides in the right direction.  Apparently, that’s not me.

There has been some turmoil in various areas of my life, personal and professional, this past year and every time I sat down to write about what I was going through, it felt too raw, too exposed, too broken.  Mostly that I didn’t have it together enough to be good enough to share with people what is going on.

Perfection has always been something of a demon in my life.  I was taught early and often that I needed to be “a lady” at all times and that excellence was the only thing that mattered.  When I stumbled and fell down on my face, it was because I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t trying hard enough.  Or worse, that there was just something wrong with me on a base level that was impossible to overcome.

I’ve been working very hard with my nutritionist on my need for perfection around food.  It’s okay to be imperfect and have a set back or even a complete break down around food and order something from a drive thru.

We have been focusing hard on the 80/20 principle, as described in the Slow Down Diet book, where 80% of what you eat is whole, good and real and then there is some wiggle room with that other 20%.  A few weeks ago I told her I was afraid I would be 75/25 or 70/30 and ruin it FOREVER!  She asked me, as she was looking at her notes, where I thought I was even close to going over the 80%.

With tears  in my eyes, I said that sometimes I like to have some brown rice, or other whole grain with my dinner.  And I miss eating breakfast with an english muffin.  And crackers.  I sure to miss crackers.  She just smiled and asked me why I thought those weren’t part of the 80%.  I said, “Because, CARBS!!!”

She smiled and once again drew me the familiar picture of the ideal plate.  1/2 fruit and veggies, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbohydrates.  Then she underlined the carbohydrates.  We had a talk about how carbohydrates are brain food and give us energy and that as long as I’m choosing quality, healthy, whole carbs, they are fully within the eating plan.  I nodded at her, but inside I was still saying “… but carbs.”

But I went to the grocery store and looked for products that were free of preservatives and chemicals.  I bought some delicious whole wheat english muffins and read the ingredients on what seemed like a million boxes of crackers.  Who knew that triscuits were going to be one of the better options out there.  I took them home and worked them into my meal plan for a week.  I lost 3 lbs that week.  I know!  Complete madness!

During that week, I allowed more room for that 20%.  I wanted some ice cream after a difficult work project.  I went out and found the very best ice cream I could find and savored every single bite.  I paid attention to how it tasted and how it made me feel, both physically and emotionally.  And for what seemed like the first time in my life, I realized that I had eaten enough before I was trying to lick the bottom of the pint container. 🙂

Now I’m trying to work that 80/20 rule into other areas of my life.  I admit that I can’t be perfect.  The best I can hope for is to do just a little bit better today than I did yesterday.  And when I can’t, that’s okay too.  I’m trying to find a way to embrace imperfection in all it’s messy glory.

All of us human beings are a constant work in progress.  There is always a lesson in everything we undertake and every experience teaches us a few things we didn’t know before and can use to be better the next time around.

So, from my mess to yours, allow yourself a little freedom of imperfection.  Embrace the mess!  It’s YOUR mess.  And maybe tomorrow it will be slightly less messy.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

When it’s difficult

Sometimes life can be really difficult and uncooperative.   Demands on our time and energy come, even when we don’t have any of those things to spare.  And such is my life right now.

I’m in some pretty serious adrenal distress and I’m having trouble keeping my anxiety in check.  But that doesn’t seem to stop life from asking the impossible.

My parents have sold their home in California and are getting ready to move to Idaho.  My father has been ill for over a year and my mom is drowning in this down-sizing project.  She needs me.

J asks me what I need and I don’t really know.  I feel like I need a pause button in my life so I can catch up and feel better before these things come up.  She doesn’t want me to make the trip as she’s afraid it won’t be good for me.  But how do you say “Sorry, mom.  You’re on your own”?  I can’t bring myself to do it.

My logical mind tells me that I should be able to just keep an eye on my stress and health and if I grit my teeth and keep leaning forward, I should be able to do all of it.  But I’m starting to see that attitude is part of why I’m so ill all the time.  I push forward when I should be stepping back and taking a break.

This kind of difficult situation comes up a lot.  Times when I “should” be taking care of myself, but the needs of others feels more pressing and important.  It seems like there’s always going to be time to take care of myself later, but that time never seems to appear.

When there are difficult demands, I always just find a way to push through and make it happen.  Am I doing myself a disservice?  Should I be taking care of myself first and others later?  But what if later is too late?  What if they need me now, regardless of how much gas I’ve got in my tanks?

I never seem to know what the right thing to do is when I have difficult decisions to make.  Any tips?

When you’re sick of being sick

I’m so sick of being sick.  I have these periods, sometimes as long as a few months, where I start to feel like I can see myself getting better.  But then one minor issue and I’m back at square one again and I find myself feeling like I’ll never climb out from under all this illness.

The nutritionist, E, and I talked about the food allergy panel and we’re trying a few changes, but nothing dramatic.  The big change is that I’ve been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and prescribed a CPAP Machine.

They tell you that it may take some getting used to.  What they don’t say is that you will feel like you’re suffocating, even though you aren’t and your body doesn’t want that thing blowing in your face all night.

After a week, I think I’m getting better sleep, but it’s been quite a struggle.  I wish the doctors had prepared me more for how difficult it could be and that I may have some sleepless nights for a couple weeks.  Why?  Because I’ve got some other health issues that are greatly exacerbated by not getting quality sleep.

Add on top of all this, some family drama and stress with my father’s health and my parents moving across the country in short order and their need to have me come visit them 1000 miles away to help.  Well, that was enough to tip me over and send me back into the adrenal fatigue again.

I’m jittery and have trouble regulating my body temperature.  I can’t sleep when I lay in the bed, but I fall asleep quickly when I sit down on the couch with the laptop.  I can’t think and have absolutely no appetite, even though I recognize that I’m hungry, no food looks or tastes good to me.

My husband and sole support system is leaving town to visit his family for a long weekend and I’ve got my trip to California coming up quickly and I can’t seem to get going on any of the million or so things I need to do between now and then.

My health team has been great at giving me guidance on the best way to take care of myself, but the hard work is all mine.  And frankly, hard work is the last thing I want right now.  All I want to do is sleep.

The last two nights I’ve managed to get good quality sleep, with about 5-6 hours on the CPAP.  I think that’s helping, but I’ve got a deep hole to climb out of here.  All I can do is take it one day at a time and do the best I can to care for myself.

And that’s the frustrating part.  I hate feeling like the “broken girl” or the “sick one”.  I want to be able to exist and live my life like a normal person, but that’s not happening right now.  I know I need to be intentional and patient with myself, but I still hear that inner mean-girl screaming, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?! GET IT TOGETHER!!”

All my team members are trying to remind me that I’ve already come a long way, but when I feel sick, I just can’t see it.  I feel like I’m back at square one and I have to start all over.  I’m just so sick of being sick.

When Nothing Makes Sense

I struggle a lot when nothing makes sense to me.  I consider myself pretty logical and smart, but when I can’t make sense of something, I immediately want to toss it out and forget about it.  That isn’t always the best solution.

I took a food allergy test with my naturopath a little over a week ago.  We have had some suspicious about certain foods being less than ideal for my body and I was curious.  So we took a blood draw for the “E95 Common Food  Panel.”

For about the last year I’ve been avoiding gluten, sugars, high glycemic index fruits and the like.  I’ve been focused on proteins, especially eggs, yogurts, kefir, etc.

So imagine my surprise when the test came back and all the wheats are fine, but the big reactions were from egg whites, egg yolks, whey, garlic and sunflower seeds.  I wasn’t too surprised to see bananas on there as I’ve never really liked them and they seriously spike my blood sugars.

But let’s talk about that Whey result.  Okay, I can accept that dairy  might be a problem for me and I’m more than willing to experiment with my nutritionist to see if it makes a difference to remove it from my diet.  But as I read the test further, I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that none of the other “dairy category” foods had a high response.  All the other milks and cheeses are in the low category.  How is that possible?  Isn’t whey in milk?  Shouldn’t they be “avoid” foods too? I find myself getting frustrated and screaming into the ether, “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore!”

I am seeing my nutritionist today and she promised to work through this with me, but I’m finding myself having a bad attitude about the whole test.  If I can’t make that whey result make sense to me, then maybe I should just throw the whole thing out and forget about food sensitivities altogether.

Or is that throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath-water?  Do I just need to look at the information in this test as a starting point and road-map to explore with my nutritionist and see if cutting back on dairy and eggs helps me to feel better.  My rash decisions are not always the best ones, so I’m trying to take a deep breath, be patient and let E help me figure it out over time.

When Your Troubles Didn’t Happen

troubles

 

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened.”

If you’re anything like me, thinking about this quote may hit a little close to home.  We often make mountains out of those troubling little molehills.  Or we can take a simple little annoyance and decide that our whole lives are over because the local grocery store stopped carrying your favorite coffee creamer.  (Not that the coffee creamer thing actually happened to me. Okay, it did and I freaked out about it and now drive 30 miles round trip to buy it elsewhere. )

The other day I was at a new medical specialist for my initial consultation.  We talked about my symptoms and the tests I’d like done and he ran a few simple tests in the office.  That’s when he said my three new least favorite words – “Everything Looks Normal.”  I actually felt my body physically tense up and that hot feeling when you’re resisting tears.

Now, a “normal person” would be happy and grateful to hear that everything looks normal from a doctor, except I don’t FEEL normal.  I feel like something is seriously wrong and nobody can find anything or give me something I can do to make it feel better.  My frustration at the medical industry and my own long journey to health surged up and I was sure it was all a waste of time and money and effort and…..

Oh, the doctor is still talking?  Oh, you want me to do some other tests and some scans to narrow down some possibilities?  Oh, okay.  If I listened to my immediate reaction, I would have grabbed my coat and fled out of that office.  But taking a breath, noticing that all is not truly lost and realizing that there are still plenty of options, kept me sitting in my chair and got me tuned into listening again.

We really have to watch the stories that we tell ourselves about doom and gloom.  Those things that may seem like The Worst Thing Ever may actually be the door opening to something more in line with the life you actually want to be living.  For example, losing your job is never fun.  Nobody likes to get fired or laid off, but it happens all the time.  Often, looking back on it later, the timing worked out well and you ended up somewhere with better money, better benefits or just a better work environment.  That trouble you thought you had, turned out to be just the thing you needed at that moment.

So, as I work my way from doctor to doctor, trying to find a solution to what ails me, I’m going to try to remember that “Everything looks normal” doesn’t mean the doctor is writing me off as some crazy hypochondriac and that maybe, just maybe, there is a light at the end of this particular tunnel.  Hopefully it’s not an oncoming train. 🙂

When You Have to Face Body Issues

Body Issues
When You Have Body Issues

One of the most interesting things about my recent weight loss is the baffling concept of Body Issues.

My eyes work. My brain is mostly functional and I can see the change in the numbers on the scale.  So explain to  me why I think it’s perfectly acceptable to put size 3x pants on my size L body.

On laundry day, I keep putting my new shirts into the pile with my husband’s shirts because they seem “too small” to be mine.  I have yet to show up for my therapy sessions without J telling me that the pants I’m wearing are still too big for me.  I keep trying to buy pants that fit, but my brain keeps telling me that I’m not a size Large.

I do have a couple pairs of pants that are close to the right size, but the body issues seize my brain and take over.  I hold them up and say “Nope, those won’t fit.”  Then I put them on and look at how they sag a bit in the butt and legs and think, “Hmmm…”  But smaller seems wrong.

My husband got one of those helicopter type drones with a video camera for Christmas and we were looking at some video he shot in our front yard while I was gardening.  Because we were hanging out at home, I had “comfy clothes” on.  But looking at that video, I look like I’ve got on some kind of clown pants and my shirt is barely hanging on to my shoulders.  They are clearly too large, but I like them.  They feel like me when I’m wearing them.

So, where is the disconnect?  Am I not able to see the weight loss?  Am I not able to see myself as a smaller person?  Do I think I don’t deserve the new, nicer clothes?

I don’t think any of those are exactly the issue, so I just keep on digging around in that messy mind to try to break through these barriers on my way to a better, healthier life.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you face this same kind of struggle and what you’re doing about it.

When a Team Member Leaves

EXITI haven’t been writing on the blog because I’ve been having a rough time.  It started with my nutritionist, M, leaving the company I’ve been working with. I wasn’t planning on changing any member of my health team, so….

I panicked a bit with that news, because I’ve come to rely on our meetings so much.  I’m still afraid of my food decisions, hesitant to make the wrong choices.  Having my every-other-week appointment with M sort of kept me on the right track.

I was given a new nutritionist, E, who was also wonderful.  We started seeing each other weekly to get to know each other and get up to speed.

Well, fast forward 6 weeks and *POOF* the company let go 14 of their nutrition counselors as they seem to have decided to head in a different direction.

E assures me that she will be back in a few weeks with a private practice, but still….  I can’t help but get a little sad and worried about the interim time. Being without the food segment of my team is worrying and leaves me feeling anxious.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve gained 9 lbs.  I don’t think I’m eating much differently than I was, but it’s there.  Is the stress of not knowing what’s happening next enough to cause that?  I’m not sure, but I’m sure looking forward to getting things back to “normal”.

I’m also really struggling with getting quality sleep.  Part of the problem is new medication that wakes me up REALLY early.  But yet somehow, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t have to go to bed earlier.  Sure, I can still stay up until 2am on the computer and get up at 6am.  Why not?

Oh, I sure do hate it when that bratty teen-age girl inside me is driving the bus and making all the wrong decisions.

I did a home sleep study this week, hoping to get some answers about what is actually happening while I’m sleeping.  It was not too fun.  I had a terrible time sleeping and kept getting tangled up in all the tubes and wires on the machine.  Fingers crossed that they find something that can help me to improve my health and well-being.

Until then… back to the “to do list” for health.  Tomorrow I’m taking a Food Allergy test (IGA/IGG Panel) to see what foods might be causing me trouble.

Hopefully I’ll get back on track with my writing schedule.  It’s just hard to write when I have nothing “good” to say.  Ya know?

When You Are Suffering

When you are suffering, you feel like you will try anything to get some relief.  I often start to lose perspective on things and I suddenly can’t remember ever feeling good before and lose hope for feeling good ever again. (I acknowledge this is more than a tad dramatic.)

I am in it right now. I’m coming to the end of a 10 week protocol with my naturopath to combat these biofilms and candida to get my gut healthy again. I liken this process to chemotherapy and my husband rolls his eyes a bit.  I understand, but as a care-giver to someone who went through chemo, a lot of this was familiar.  Lack of appetite, tiredness, constant nausea, muscle aches, joint pain, excessive vomiting, hot/cold flashes, headaches, vision changes, migraines and I even had significant hair loss at one point that was starting to really freak me out.  However you describe it, this has not been a fun year for me.

And here I am at another potential break-through spot in my life with enthusiastic team members cheering me on, but all I can see is darkness, suffering and more suffering.

I’m tired of this restricted diet and eating food that’s “good for me”. Because I’ve been feeling so ill, I’ve completely socially isolated myself.  It has been months since seeing anyone other than the occasional cashier, my husband or a team member.

Even my dog isn’t able to make me smile like she usually can. I find myself annoyed when she wants to play and enthusiastically brings me toys.  I think, “Not now, I’m suffering.”

My mental attitude is also in the toilet. I have lost focus on my intention for doing this whole process in the first place.  I have somehow convinced myself that this is a punishment the people supporting me are subjecting me to.  Of course, this is an illusion I create to distract me from reality and my responsibility in this.

I’m having a difficult time and that is an indisputable fact. There is quite a bit of suffering going on, both mental and physical. That’s real.  But I really did choose to be here.  I knew this was going to be a rough road.  I had hope that I would be through the worst of it by now, but I’m not and I need to acknowledge and respect that.

Five weeks ago, I was making huge portions of our dinners to stock some away in the freezer for nights I’m not able to cook. I cleared my calendar of all things not health team related or absolutely necessary things.  I even let my co-workers know that I’d be scarce for the duration and to do their best without me.

But here I am, wishing it wasn’t happening instead of appreciating the fact that I’m here and this is exactly what I wanted.  I want to be well. And getting there isn’t easy.  But if I keep my eye on the prize and keep my head straight, I will get there.  Eventually.

When Your Body Says ENOUGH

There are times in life when we just aren’t listening to our bodies and they have to start shouting ENOUGH in our ears.  It’s time to slow down, regroup and rethink the situation.

Last December, my dog got very sick.  It was totally unexplained, but one day she just couldn’t stand up.  She would fall over when trying to eat or go potty.  We took her to the vet and she had a seizure. They called to have me rush her to the emergency hospital on the other side of Puget Sound.

She was diagnosed with encephalitis of unknown origin and was put on a round of high-dose steroids and we took her home to hope for the best.  She eventually responded to the treatment, but I was exhausted.  I had been so stressed out and worried about her and then, when things were getting back to normal, my body decided it had enough and started to shut down.

I had no energy.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t sleep, but I was constantly tired.  I had low grade nausea and everything in my body ached. I went to the doctor and she ordered every test under the sun and sent me home with instructions to rest as much as possible.  I just went to bed until test results came back.

When results were back, my MD had found high cortisol levels, some elevated calcium and many other measures were just “off”.  She ordered more blood tests, a CT Scan, an ultrasound, etc.  She told me to rest in between appointments and we’d see what we found.

A week later, my husband took me back to the doctor for results.  He never comes with me to the doctor, so I knew he had been worried by all the tumor talk.   But, as usual, my tests were indicating no serious health issue.

I was given Xanax to reduce my stress levels and sent home to rest.  And rest I did.  Taking the Xanax, I was sleeping 15-16 hours a day and barely conscious for the rest of the hours of the day.

Was this my life? Was this the new “normal”? How is that acceptable?  It’s not!

So I had to go back to the drawing board.  I talked to some of my team members and they encouraged me to call a local naturopath and see what she had to say about my situation.

I’m pretty resistant to adding new medical team members because it always feels like an exercise in futility.  They usually tell me the same thing – Your numbers are pretty much in range. Lose weight. Exercise more.  YAWN.  And despite assurances from people I trust, I was really reluctant to call.

But I did call and the doctor happened to answer the phone.  We had a nice conversation about my situation and set an appointment for later that week.

She had me fill out an extensive intake questionaire and we discussed all the issues.  She ordered a huge number of tests and assured me that we would figure this out together.

Dr H. was also the first doctor who ever took a moment to look me in the eyes and say “This must be so difficult for you.” I thought I was going to cry in front of a stranger.  It is difficult! It’s awful.  I wish I could do things that everyone else seems to be able to do, but the harder I try, the further back I slide. I am not asking to be a superhero, I just want to be able to participate in my life without having to go to bed for a week as a result.

Long story short, Dr H’s tests found a number of systems that were out of balance including my adrenals, my gut-bacteria and my thyroid. I also tested positive for high-levels of candida in my system, so that was a place to start.

Dr H referred me to a book to help me wrap my head around what was going on.  The book was The Stress Remedy: Master Your Body’s Synergy and Optimize Your Health

In it, Dr Doni Wilson breaks down the systems that support your health and how any one of them being out of sync can disrupt the others.

I read the book, although I did sort of tune out once she started talking about a cleanse and her diet regimen because we were doing our own protocol.  I had a clearer picture that self-care had to become a priority and I had to slow way down in my life and just do the things I am able to do.  This meant asking for help, which is not my favorite thing to do.

Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired!

I’ve been battling some kind of low-grade illness for years  without being able to make any progress forward.  Basically, I’ve just felt sick and tired for month after month after month.

I’ve been to a variety of doctors who all tell me that my test results are all “basically normal”, meaning some are on the high/low end of normal, but pretty much in range.  To me that sounds like something is out of balance and needs attention, but if you fall within the arbitrary range, there’s nothing the doctor can do for you.

Of course, there’s also the familiar fat girl story where the doctor tells you to go home and lose some weight and you’ll start to feel better.  Eventually I got tired of that and decided to do something about it.

I was back on a diet!  I even took a job with a pet-sitter friend so I would be forced (FORCED!) to walk dogs every day and get my exercise.  So there I was, starving, walking 4-5 miles a day with dogs and my weight was mostly staying the same.  HUH?!?!

What did start to happen was that the low grade pain I had in my hips and back started to get much, much worse.  I was pushing myself physically, mentally and leaving very little time for self-care in my day.  I was just getting sicker and sicker.

I had to leave that job after about 2 years, but I was newly focused on figuring out what was wrong with me and how to correct it.  I had my doctor give me all kinds of tests to figure out what was wrong.  We tested for brain tumors and disorders that might cause my symptoms, but everything kept coming back normal.

It is quite an unusual experience to find yourself hoping you have a brain tumor so they can at least have something to work on. 🙂  I didn’t have a tumor, but while we were chasing the high cortisol and calcium levels when we found some nodules on my thyroid.

It was my para-thyroid and 2 of the four nodules were enlarged.  I hit the internet to do my research and read pages and pages of posts from people who had the surgery and awoke to be new people, with all their health problems behind them.

I was given a surgeon in Seattle and I was poked, prodded and scheduled for surgery.  My surgeon told me not to get my hopes up too high, because some people report no change in symptoms after surgery.  Shhh!!  Don’t tell me that!  I’m hanging onto hope here!

Well, 12 weeks later, I was fully recovered from surgery and felt exactly the same, except for the new scar on my neck. Back to the drawing board.

I continued working with my nutritionist, M, and did what I could to get myself physically well.  I was doing yoga, eating whole foods, taking care of myself, getting sleep, not stressing out, etc.  But every day I woke up with dread and somehow managed to eek  my way through every day.

My doctor was thrilled with my blood test results and despite my reports that I don’t feel any different, she said my blood sugars and other measures looked fantastic. Hmmm.

Several of my well-meaning friends would tell me, “You need to go see my ____________.” (Chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, doctor, naturopath, shaman, faith healer, pastor, fairy godmother, etc.)  But how was that going to be any better than my doctor?  What do they know that she doesn’t?

And then, last December, my body had enough.  It just stopped functioning and I couldn’t do this any more.  It was time to call in more reinforcements.