New Lifestyle

A month ago I posted about doing a ten-day raw food detox.  It was about as difficult as expected.  The first four days were extremely tough, but it got easier from there.  By day seven I was getting very sick of the food prep but not the food itself.  Days eight through ten were almost as mentally excruciating as the first four.  But we did it!  And my body became healthier for it.  All in all, I would highly recommend this detox from the book “Detox for the Rest of Us.”  The one major complaint I have is that each meal is extremely specific and the book doesn’t explain why.  I wish I knew why the meal plan had us eating specific foods on specific days and if my taste buds wished for a substitution, what could I use?  Why an orange instead of a lemon?  Why red bell pepper instead of yellow?  What if I don’t like sesame seeds?  Because they were in some form in damn near every dish.  I’d like to know the bodily benefits of each ingredient.  But regardless some less than informative details, the cleanse did its job.

Since the completion of the cleanse, I’ve actually kept up with a great deal of the raw lifestyle.  Part of the cleanse included the elimination of coffee (and basically all caffeine) from my diet.  A month later I’m still essentially caffeine and coffee free.  I say essentially because some of the herbal tea I drink has a little caffeine in it.  And occasionally I’ll break and have a decaf coffee.  I’m also allowing myself one cheat soy latte every Friday night for Craft Night.  Where giving up caffeine cold turkey was a mother fucker, I have to say I’m loving the caffeine free lifestyle.  I’m sleeping better, I’m less jittery and anxious, and I’m much more alert in the mornings.  It no longer takes me two hours of grumpy grunting and gallons of coffee to get me functioning first thing in the morning.

My new morning routine is fixing up a 32oz smoothie.  That’s my breakfast along with some gluten free cereal or granola if I’m still a little hungry after the smoothie.  But generally I’m not.  My smoothie is different every morning.  I use 3-5 fruits plus some leafy greens (usually spinach or kale), pure pumpkin, almond milk, coconut, cinnamon, hemp protein, pressed juices, almond butter, ground flax seed… etc.  I just play “mad scientist” every morning and make sure all of the essentials are represented.

My lunch every day is raw.  I’m still putting salads, fruits, and dinner inspired raw dishes together the night before so that I have a good meal every day at lunch.  Before the cleanse I skipped lunch a lot.  Mostly because I don’t have anywhere healthy around my office to grab food.  It’s pretty much all drive-thrus and processed God-knows-what.  Those things make me sick.  So I used to opt out of eating at all if I was rushed and didn’t bring food with me to work.  Or sometimes I’d just be so into my work I wouldn’t stop to eat a full meal.  I’d have a granola bar and a banana.  By dinner time I was ready to consume an entire village and their pet elephants.  NOT a healthy way to eat.  But now?  Now I have truckloads of food with me every day.  And it’s good food.  Good for me and tastes amazing.  But most importantly I don’t feel sick during/after eating.  I’m becoming less and less afraid of food and that’s amazing for me.  When you suffer from chronic nausea, food is pretty much your mortal enemy and every meal is a mental struggle.  But not when I eat raw.

Click image for larger, easier to read view.

When it comes to dinner, I just make sure it’s clean and healthy.  I’m not eating all raw at dinner because Rhonda is not keeping up with the all raw diet, and that’s a tough thing to do: preparing two separate meals in a two person household.  Plus, I know my limits.  Where I very much enjoy this raw diet, I know it’s unrealistic for me to think this is all I could eat for the rest of my life.  If I eat meat it’s generally chicken white meat, lean turkey, or fish (or tofu as substitute).  I’ll eat cooked vegetables.  I’ll eat starches. I eat dairy, but now I try to stick to vegan cheeses.  My big goals in the evenings are eating lots more vegetables than meat, keeping my grains as gluten free as possible, and cooking everything without processed spices or sauces.

It’s only been a month, but I’m seeing some incredible progress in my health.  And I know it’s going to keep improving.  I’m sleeping better.  I have more energy.  I’m less worn down and exhausted from fighting my body all day (because I’m not having to as much).  My skin is getting clearer and cleaner looking.  My digestive system is happier.  And I’m not under weight, nor am I struggling to maintain a healthy weight.  Eating this way keeps me there.  The results are pretty incredible.  So much that it makes me wonder why it took me so long to get to this point.

Because Ultimately I Just Like to Torture Myself

It’s not news that my health is pure crap.  I have Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, Interstitial Cystitis, Pelvic Wall Dysfunction (domino effect to SI Joint Syndrome, Piriformis Syndrome, and Sciatica), IBS, Migraines, and an overall immune system of a goldfish.  I’m constantly juggling ways to help my body better function so that I may have some semblance of a normal life.  My brain calculates basic human functions as if each day were the most intense chess game of my life.  Every move counts.  Every ounce of sleep.  Every bite of food I take.  Every activity from watching paint dry to playing in a softball tournament.  I have to prepare my body for everything I do, or my body crashes and I end up either bed ridden or in a hospital.

I digress.

In the name of perhaps working myself ahead of my body, attempting to eliminate symptoms over living a life of constantly treating them, I set the proverbial ball rolling on a ten-day Raw Food Detox.  Rhonda was totally on board from the get-go and in a fit of momentary insanity, our dear friend, Becky jumped on the bandwagon.  We are currently on day two, which means all we can think about is eating deep fried cheeseburgers wrapped in pizza and dipped in peanut butter.

Going into this I knew the first few days would be extremely tough.  I’m actually eating more food during the day than what I’m used to, but the design of the what and when I’m eating is boosting my metabolism (as well as, eh-hem, cleansing my system).  So I pretty much think I’m perpetually dying of starvation.  Dramatic?  Absolutely.  But I also gave up coffee/caffeine cold turkey, and whoa buddy the withdrawals!  Last night I had a dream about that old coffee commercial starring that Columbian guy and his coffee bean toting donkey… you know what I’m talking about, right?  I’m pretty sure dream me tried to ride off into the sunset with that donkey.  Which is beyond ideal because then I’d have a pet donkey and two baskets full of raw caffeine.

Where was I?  …Right! Detox!

I know if I stick with it it will get better.  Even day two is easier than day one.  And each day, more food is added to the meal plan.  I can absolutely do this.  And the food IS truly enjoyable.  I love everything we’re eating and I’m already experiencing some interesting results as well as noticing some changes in my body’s functionality.  I’m growing more hopeful with each meal that this process will teach me so much more about how to manage my body, and how to get it feeling better on a more consecutive and long term basis.  I just need to get through this first handful of days.

Ugh… I’d kill for a mother fucking BLT right now.

*If you’re interested: The plan we’re following is Chapter 3 of the book “Detox for the Rest of Us.”

Here We Go Again

About a week ago I made vague public mention that I was dealing with a new serious health issue.  My exact words were, “I am the valedictorian of rare and unusual ailments and illnesses. –  Processing. Research. Decisions. Treatment.”

In July I began experiencing fluctuating symptoms that would suggest that I had a urinary tract infection.  Between July and October I saw my doctor three times about this and we couldn’t seem to properly get it treated.  Three sets of full lab cultures have come back completely clean.  I followed a course of treatment for a UTI as well as a yeast infection, just in case.  Neither treatment worked and my symptoms continued to worsen.  Certain activities and other outside elements seemed to make the symptoms unbearable.  Other activities and outside elements seemed to, at times, ease the symptoms a bit.  But still, I had no idea what was going on and when the symptoms are at their worst, I’m in a great deal of pain.  In the “down there” area.  NO ONE WANTS TO BE IN EXCRUCIATING PAIN IN THEIR “DOWN THERE” AREA.

Defeated, my doctor sent me to a Gynecological Urologist.  Long story short: I’ve been diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis (IC).  Which, wouldn’t you know it, is directly related to all of my back problems.  Which were a result of Pelvic Wall Dysfunction.  Apparently a great number of my other chronic health problems are actually an effect of this Interstitial Cystitis.

Upon receiving this diagnosis, I was sent home with many research materials as well as some time to process.  My Urologist wanted me to understand what I was dealing with as well as have some time to decide how aggressively I’d like to treat the symptoms.  IC is something you live with for life.  There is no cure, only symptom management.  However, when caught early and treated aggressively, there’s an exceptionally high chance of living symptom free for a very long time.  So that’s exactly what I’ve decided to do.  I’ve talked to my immediate family and friends and they all agree that attacking this full force now is the best course of action.  Unfortunately what that means is that I’m going to be pumping my body full of oral medications, as well as once a week installations (cocktail of medications inserted directly into the bladder via catheter) for anywhere between two – six months depending on how my body responds to treatment.

Starting tomorrow morning.

Getting this diagnosis was initially a huge blow to me.  I only just graduated from physical therapy for my SI Joint/Piriformis/Sciatica pain and I was so happy to feel like I was getting my life back.  My back has been pain free for weeks and as such, my energy levels have been lifted drastically.  So the thought of jumping into another aggressive, arduous treatment process is one of the most deflating things in the world to face right now.  But I’ve had a week to process and talk about it.  And yesterday I took a much needed mental health day to get myself feeling as zen as possible before diving into treatment.  So I feel ready.  And I’m positive.  And I’m just going to take this one day at a time.

Not only do I feel like a broken record, but a broken record stuck on the most irritating song that ever did sound and my arms are too short to lift the needle.

The subject of this post is the last I want to write about but it’s my life right now.  And I know that for a number of my family, friends and even a number of acquaintances, this space is a way for them to keep up with what’s genuinely going on with me.  I don’t always project what’s really happening to me because if I did that I’d be a broken down, miserable, sickly, and generally depressing human being to be around.

And that’s not me.

The truth is, I do feel broken.  I’m coming up on the ten year anniversary of when the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome made its grand entrance into my life and tried to kill me.  After nearly ten years of wrestling a chronic illness I feel like I’ve seriously mastered the art of it.  Every day is a battle, but I’ve learned how to push myself and function around it.
Happily.
The toll the CVS takes on my body cycles; and as such, there are moments I simply don’t have the endurance to deal with it.  I’m human and I have my breaking points.  But those instances of complete cessation invariably have a short shelf life and I’m awesome at pulling myself out of it.

Just when I was at a point in my life that I had majorly Jedi mastered my illness and I was finally feeling in control of my body again, the back issues dug in.  The affect has been so physically and emotionally crippling in a way for which I could have never prepared myself.  Where I’d mastered and remastered and straight up owned the art of managing what happens to my body internally, I’ve never lived with a constant physical pain like this before.  Perhaps had the back problems happened to me as a fully functioning, healthy human being, I’d be better equipped to tackle it and fight it with the same tenacity that I approach my illness.  But because the back problems and physical pain are simply another extremely heavy compound on top of an already worn down and abused body, I’m collapsing.  And that right there is one of the hardest things for me to admit.  I don’t collapse, I kick ass.  The last ten years I’ve lived my life as if I’m perpetually giving a giant finger to the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.  My motto has been something in the realm of, “Fuck that, I’m gonna have the funnest, kick-assest life ever.  Illness be damned.”

Where my motto has not changed, I no longer have the tools in reserve to force that motto out.  My brain and my will are still dead set on “Fight, fight, fight, one step at a time, one minute of each day at a time, fight, fight, function, fight, ooh look a puppy!”  But no matter how Stonewall Jackson I am about the situation my body just wont. back. me. up.  My spirit (and consequently my endurance) has been severely compacted.  Just this morning I had to sit on the kitchen floor, leaning against the cabinets while I waited for my coffee to brew because I simply didn’t have the strength to hold myself up.  Little moments like that are abrasively humbling.  And when you come to the realization that those little moments are becoming more frequent than “once in a blue moon,” it’s a hard pill to swallow.  Especially for me.  I’m the person who despite my piece of shit body, fights for a ridiculously fun and fully active lifestyle no matter what.  I always find some way to immerse myself in the positive, in what makes me happy instead of focusing on my POS body.  I don’t exactly know how to handle the instance of that focus being taken away as well.  When what little strength you had to cope and deal and remain happy is actively drained from you without your permission or control.  I’m not saying I’m unhappy.  I’m just… too exhausted and physically incapable of actively emitting happiness on my own.  All I have the strength for right now is keeping my body somewhat functioning.  The only reason I still smile and laugh is because of the incredible people, love, and support I have in my life.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.

And with that said: I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon/pain management specialist last Thursday.  The second injection in my SI Joint didn’t take.  I’m left with three new options.  One is a potential bone deformity for which I had X-Rays on Thursday to confirm.  If I have the bone deformity then, Yay!  I’ll have an obvious arrow pointed at the problem and I can have an insurance covered surgery to solve it.  If I don’t have the bone deformity, then the next step is to try a third and final injection in my L5 Facet Joint.  It’s the last of the three “trial and error” injection points to see if we can get me pain free for a while.  If the last injection doesn’t take then my final option is a form of Rhizotomy.  Which is a procedure where in a metal prod is inserted into my back and it burns off the nerves around the source of my pain.  Apparently this is a rather painful procedure from which to recover and insurance won’t cover it because the procedure is considered experimental.  Considering my options, I’m praying my doctor calls with the news that I have a bone deformity.  In the mean time, I’m just gonna keep doing what I do and hope that

ooh look a puppy!

Image shamelessly stolen from the Internet without permission but I linked back to the site owner. If you own this image and you want it removed, just bitch me out in the comments.

 

When I figured out I only consumed 1,266 calories a couple days ago I freaked so now this is happening. I’m dragging you all down with me.

Because of ongoing health issues, I’m constantly focused on food: How much of what kinds of foods I’m putting in my body, and is it enough?  I’ve realized that though I may eat a huge serving of food and feel so incredibly full that surely another bite would have me exploding all over the walls Monty Python style, I’m still not getting a healthy calorie intake.  I eat foods that are so lean that I need truck loads more of them to gain any weight.

I’m desperately trying to gain weight.  It’s harder than it seems.  I could eat all the fried chicken and cupcakes you want to serve me, but I actually end up losing weight eating straight crap like that because of how sick it makes me.  Besides, I need healthy calories and fats, not grease and sugar.

In an attempt to better keep track of what I’m eating and subsequently my calorie intake, I’ve turned into that guy who photographs everything they ingest with their smart phone before eating.  At least I’m not posting every one of those photos on Instagram while flashing a fingerstache.

Instead I’m posting them here!  Sans fingerstache.  You’re welcome!

Turkey bacon and Kale with peanut sauce.
Steamed squash, zucchini, carrots, and green peas.
Fresh pineapple and raspberries.
Vegetable (wheat) pasta, turkey meatballs with zucchini and mushrooms (baked), tomato sauce, and a handful of raw mushrooms.
Potato rosemary bread, fresh mozzarella slices, and “all berry” jam.
Frozen yogurt with strawberries, pineapple, cherries, Fruity Pebbles, and Cap’n Crunch.
And of course, more soy lattes than I can count.

Yup… this is what my life has come to.  Calorie counting photos of my food.  ABSOLUTELY THRILLING, isn’t it?  Yeah, I don’t really think so either.

Glitter Bombs and Bath Salts

I know.  I’m a dirty slacker and I fell off the planet.  Again.

In actuality, I’ve been really sick.  My back problems returned with a fierce vengeance.  To the point where I spent an entire weekend barely able to walk.  Heck, I’ve only sporadically been going to work.  In the evenings I would take a pain pill to help me get through it, but the pain medications were playing “chemistry lab” with my Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.  The result was less back pain and more nausea than I could handle.  Also… all that other stuff pain meds do to your system that no one wants to talk about.

Hey, look! Glitter bomb!

*Photo shamelessly stolen from the Internet. But it’s okay because it was a free “stock” image.

I’ve really been struggling the last month or longer… I don’t know, time seems to get all fucked up when you’re sick and in pain every day.  It has taken a major toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I’m doing absolutely everything I can to get my body back on track.  Including taking Epsom salt baths.  And if you know me at all, you know I’m probably the only girl on the planet who absolutely detests taking baths.  HATE THEM.  They’re boring and sweaty and uncomfortable and boring and did I mention boring?  You just sit there.  And if you’re doing a proper Epsom soak you have to sit there for AT LEAST 15 minutes.  Baths are just annoying.  Maybe if someone gave me a pet duck I’d take to enjoying the whole bath thing…  Oooh, and some Mr. Bubble.  That guy knows how to party.

Anyway…

Yesterday morning I had an appointment with my Pain Management Specialist/Surgeon.  She poked and she prodded and here’s what’s up:
I’m getting another injection in my Sacroiliac Joint on August 10th (my brother’s birthday. happy birthday, Adam!!!) and I have prescription anti inflammatories to help with the pain until then (easy on the stomach stuff).  I’ll be going to see another Neurologist for more extensive nerve testing for all the Sciatica pain.  If the next injection doesn’t work, I do  a round of multiple MRIs (so not looking forward to that) and potentially surgery for the Piriformis Syndrome.

I know a lot of people are all, “WTF?!” right now because I’m not particularly paying attention to things like human interaction or involving myself in life in general.  I’ve really been down for the count.  My schedule is: Sleep in. Hobble to work.  Leave work early.  Crawl into bed for a nap.  Wake up, eat dinner, watch a couple T.V. shows while I wait for pain meds to kick in.  Go to bed.  Rinse and repeat.  I’m hoping this is a dying schedule because, well, a.) I’m miserable.  And b.) I miss having a life.  I miss my friends and family.  I miss my artwork and photography.  I miss being a productive member of society.  Also, there’s only so much daytime T.V. a person can handle.  Also, also, Sugar sucks at drawing a bath for me.  She keeps huffing my bath salts and then I have to crate her so she doesn’t eat my face off while I’m passed out on pain medications.

Huh… I wonder when A&E’s “Intervention” will be calling…

Aliiiiiiiiiiiivvvve!

Where I’m sure you’re all about to pee yourself with anticipation of a detailed explanation for my absence, I’m gonna hit you with the reader’s digest version.  The details aren’t all that fascinating, I assure you.  So.  Here’s the sitch:

-Work has been hell.  Three weeks of insanely long hours and then a new schedule with lots of stress and pretty much hating everyone and their cute kittens.  That’s about all you need to know right?  Who wants gory details about work?

-Post back procedure healing went pretty well and I was pain free for a while (notice the past tense slipped in there?), until symptoms started showing up about two months after the procedure.  So (again) long story short: I’m close to where I was before the procedure.  There are doctor appointments and decisions to be made in my near future.

-My health in the arena of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome management has been extremely shaky.  I’d be lying if I said I was 100% on top of it right now.  The super-duper-Hulkian proportions of stress from multiple areas of my life have taken a huge toll on my body.  Consequently my nutrition has suffered, which means I’m a little too under-weight and terribly afraid I’m going to look like an Olsen twin soon if I can’t get proper nutrients and fats in my body. I am currently 5’6″ and 115 lbs.  Anything under 120 is bad for me.  So… Yeah…  Working on it.

-All that stress I just mentioned above?  Let’s see…
*Multiple deaths and funerals.
*Family feuding.
*Cracked pipe in our foundation resulting in home demo repairs to plumbing and 3,000 lbs of sheetrock dust everywhere.  Which means I’ve been in Lady Macbeth mode since the first cut into our walls over a week ago.
*Sugar needing multiple (very expensive) trips to the Vet.
*Health keeping me from working out.
*Trying to find time to finish up a commission and get a series of works together for a rather large submission.
*Balancing attentiveness to friends and family with my body’s need to essentially hibernate so I can heal and be better functioning.
*Balancing finances like Rain Man to pay for home stuff, Sugar’s Vet stuff, my back and health stuff, and eating my weight in 365 brand frozen fruit bars from Whole Foods (SERIOUSLY, you guys, these popsicles are THE SHIT).

So basically: When I’m not at work, or cleaning, or working at home, or force-feeding myself, or pushing through exhaustion and feeling like crap every day; I’ve been majorly checked out.  I haven’t had time to blog or update the website.  I’ve barely had time to be an attentive friend.  Not sure I’m succeeding all too well at that either.  I’m alive and kicking and chugging along, for sure.  I’m just a bit off grid right now, for which I apologize.  I miss writing, photographing, and blogging like crazy.  I promise I’m not gone for good.  I am working on a perfect balance.  Until then, thanks so much for sticking with me and still checking in around these here parts from time to time.  I love you more than cupcakes.

 

Therapy

I’ve had A LOT going on with my back pain: Finally getting to a diagnosis and undergoing a procedure to (hopefully) fix my Piriformis Syndrome.  I’ll get into all that later.  But since my procedure, I’ve been laid up at home in a lot of pain going through the recovery process.  It’s getting better and better each day but my activity levels are majorly limited.  It’s making me stir-crazy and damn near bat-shit-insane.  My body is anxious for activity and I’m not allowed to… activate.

Whatever, you know what I mean.

So when I got home from work today I pulled out my sketchbook and hit “play” on the new Alex Clare album, “The Lateness of the Hour.”  This is where it drove me:

I have some great ideas about where to take this sketch and I can’t wait to throw them all down on canvas… Which will be a while since I can’t bend, stoop, blah, blah, OhMyGodThisSucks, blah.  But thank the baby Jesus for art.  I couldn’t stay sane without it.

Some Whining, a Little Humor (but Mostly Whining) and (Shocker!) Some Sick Stuff (Also Whining. You’ve Been Warned)

Since I got sick with the Flu a couple of months ago, and then sort-of healed, and then got sick again with some other strand of Ebola, and then sort-of made it through Thanksgiving, and then sort-of healed again, all the while playing a game of Battleship with the Sciatica in my back (not to mention the regularly scheduled illness crap): I still haven’t fully recovered.  My body is, in theory, mostly where it needs to be.  My brain and my energy levels are not.  It has taken a huge emotional toll on me, and therefore every part of me is exhausted of any and all resources.

I’m so physically, mentally and emotionally drained right now that I’ve been pretty unresponsive to doing anything.  Which is nothing like me.  I’m always proactive, organized, full of energy, ready for anything, up for everything, and adamant about putting everyone first before me.  I take care of my responsibilities.  I take care of the people around me.  I take care of my strict illness regimen.  I’m used to taking on life at full force.

But right now I kind-of don’t care.  I’m not being active in any way, shape or form because of my back.  I’m trying to not overexert myself so I don’t relapse into another sickness.  I’m spending more of my free time sleeping instead of being a productive member of society.  I feel tired ALL THE TIME.  So all I really want to do is go back to sleep except I’m sick of lying around.  But the moment I come up with something productive to accomplish, the thought of getting up to attack it is too tiring to bear so I find something else to occupy my brain that doesn’t require doing anything.

I know.  I sound pathetic.  I feel pathetic.

Yesterday I just so happened to have an appointment with my Psychiatrist, so I filled her in on my current state of “MEH.”  We talked about it.  We talked about me.  And then we braided each other’s hair and ate cookie dough while my Psychiatrist proceeded to tell me that where I’m having some in and out moments of depression, I’m not depressed.  And basically it’s as simple as: my body has been through a  lot.  I haven’t caught a break in a few months.  So my body is just really, REALLY fucking tired.  And battling my body every day has made me really, REALLY fucking tired.  And everything I’ve been doing with the not doing of anything?  Is what I should be doing and as I keep feeling better bit by tiny bit, I can increase my activity levels and moods will improve and then I can take over the world.  Or something.

Until then, I’m struggling just to keep my attention focused on getting any single task accomplished (like answering a phone, or putting some laundry away, or shaving my legs.  These are difficult, tricky tasks, people).  My spirit is trying so hard to come up and I’m trying desperately to come up with it as my body lags behind me.  I swear I’m still alive and I haven’t completely turned to the dark side (although I hear they have cookies over there), but I am a little scattered right now and until my body starts getting back on track I’m gonna be struggling.  I guess in a way that’s my disclaimer for my “MEH” state.  So there you have it, Internet.  I’m way off right now but I’ll get back to me soon enough.  And when I do get back, I promise to bring lots of fun-ness and maybe even some confetti and pony rides.  Only the best for you.

XOXO