I don’t share or blog as often as I’d like. I tend to toss something on Facebook or Instagram, it’s quick and gives a snapshot (literally!) of my life. But sometimes there is more information that may prove useful in understanding my life a little better. So, before you congratulate me on how great I look, my weight loss, or all the projects I get done, or question why I don’t race so much anymore, give this a quick read.
So, let’s talk. Lets talk about:
I’ll start with health, which will likely segue into the rest. My health is not great. Yes, I eat carefully most of the time. Although I live off of Smartpop cheese popcorn, for the most part. Yes, I exercise, I run, I do yoga, I work out sporadically. But, I’m slow, fatigued, weaker than I used to be, and my body is evaporating before my eyes. In the last several years I’ve had serious issues with my gut, (inability to keep food down, rectal bleeding-I know, TMI, food intolerance, chronic pain), my joints and general body health (bruising, pain so severe I sometimes can’t walk because the soles of my feet hurt so much, I drop everything because my hands won’t close, eczema, joint pain, fatigue so severe I can’t remember what I’m doing, accompanied by insomnia, sometimes because I’m anxious, sometimes because my body hurts so much my legs can’t touch one another, and the pain from the surface area of my body touching the bed and sheets is too much, headaches, mouth sores, chronic sinus infection, pneumonia). I also have frequent bouts of various skin cancers, but those are the least of my concerns.
So, health issues, then. Previously, I was diagnosed with Thyroid disease, hypothyroidism. I’ve been on medication for that for several years. A couple of years ago, I was not satisfied with the diagnosis, I still felt terrible, and I found a new doctor. Since then, she has tested me and sent me to multiple specialists. Outcomes so far are as follows:
- Hypothyroidism. Thyroid ultrasound reveals 3 polyps on my thyroid, not a big deal medically, unless they get large enough to really inhibit swallowing (which they do to some degree already) or decide to become cancerous and grow like mad, or metastasize.
- Positive Celiac Gene profile. Thus some of the gut issues, eczema, and possibly some of the pain and fatigue. Celiac type diet. No Gluten. Careful of other foods, as well. Most everything except popcorn and yogurt make my stomach hurt excessively and give me gas. Still can’t eat lots of foods, except in tiny amounts. Among these, onion, garlic, peppers, rice (which is a real problem when eating any gluten free prepared foods), nuts, sugary foods.
- Rectal bleeding/hemmorhoids. Some of you know that I had surgery for this issue a couple of years ago. Hands down, the worst thing EVER. Much worse than childbirth, dental work, anything unpleasant or painful. I’m still having some issues with this, of course, it’s just more gut problems. Seeing my specialist again in a couple of weeks. At least there was no diverticulosis/diverticulitis/cancer the last time I had a colonoscopy. This concerns me deeply, since my father died of colon cancer. I often wonder if he actually was a celiac sufferer and went undiagnosed and kept the tissue so inflamed all his life that it finally developed cancerous growth.
- Ehlers-Dahnlos Syndrome/Fibromyalgia. After seeing the rheumatologist for the chronic body pain, she initially diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia, as I have the classic pain profile, and also when discussing my joint hypermobility and skin and gut issues, says I likely have Ehlers-Dahnlos, but the treatment would be the same as for Fibro, anyway. This explains the intermittent extreme fatigue and joint/body pain.
- Heart Valve Insufficiency. After a recent echocardiogram, I learned that two of my heart valves are leaking. The docs tell me that this may be the cause of my inability to build up any endurance in my running, and my attacks of severe fatigue, as well as my difficulty breathing when exerting.
- Asthma. I’ve had it, along with allergies, for most of my life. It gets worse when I get a cold, bronchitis, or anything that leads to pneumonia, which is apparently my new normal.
Okay, let’s talk about Medication/Self-Care:
Medication first. All you woo practitioners out there, don’t shame me with your magical essential oil and coconut oil cures for all that ails me. I have tried various things, I use adjunct treatments when I can, believe me, but actual medications, prescribed by doctors, built by valid scientific research, are what make real change in chronic health conditions. That said, here is the rundown on medications.
- Synthetic Thyroid Hormone (Levothyroxine) T4 supplement
- Cytomel (Levothyronine) T3 supplement
- Savella (Milnacipran) A pain control drug that functions as a Serotonin and mainly Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. This drug is the 3rd I’ve used for pain, and it really seems to work, enough that I can get up and do things almost every day, and live an almost normal life. Unfortunately, it also causes nausea, hot flashes, excessive sweating, and several other unpleasant side effects.
- fiber and stool softeners as prescribed by my gastroenterologist
- Antibiotics. I have a standing prescription for a cipro antibiotic, due to my constant sinus infections morphing into pneumonia
- Albuterol Inhalers. For the days I really can’t breathe, and for the times when I have pneumonia.
Self care is important in all things, but particularly when one’s health is “fragile.” You might think this would involve me doing less and sleeping more. To that I’d say yes and no. Self care for me consists more of budgeting my time. Planning time to do the things I enjoy the most (work travel, running, yoga, sewing, knitting, arts, school and play with my kids, walking the dogs), forcing myself to take time off from client work when I can, making sure I have adequate family time, and planning realistic breaks and down time between work travel. So, if you invite me to do something, and I seem excited about it, and say “Sure!” I probably am excited about it, and want to do it, but I may or may not show up on the day, because that could be the day that I feel really awful, which is more often than one might expect. I may have to budget my time that day to care for my kids, dogs, and house. And I may only get one of those done. Jacob picks up all the slack here, and facilitates my self care constantly. Self care is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do, and sometimes I fall off the wagon. I was brought up to be the woman who does it all, and when I can’t, I feel like a failure. I’m still learning the power of NO.
Let’s talk about beauty, weight, and body image. Also, let’s talk about relationships with food:
Aging has been difficult. We have a love/hate relationship. When I think of myself, I look like I did when I was about 26. When I look in a mirror, it’s a surprise that there’s an old woman looking back. All the fat has gone from my face, I’m sort of cadaverous, with a long nose and chin, like a witch in a kids’ picture book. Bitchy resting face, too, where did those big lines that make me look so angry come from? I’m not angry. I expected my body to hold up and continue to do my bidding forever. It lets me down frequently these days. My joints, my fingers, my skin, my bladder. Learning to accept the limitations of my body, especially the heart part, has been difficult. But with aging comes a lot of self knowledge and strength that I didn’t have as a younger person. And the ability to not give one single fuck what anyone else thinks or believes about me.
Weight is another thing. I’ve always been pretty hefty. Maybe not ever as hefty as I thought, but the messages I got as a kid were that I was large, stocky, hefty, uncoordinated and not good at sports (lies!) and would always be big. Oh, and that was not a good thing, either. My mother spent her entire life concerned about being “Fat.” Every diet, every drug, she tried them all. Maybe the amphetamines she took when she was pregnant with me, so she’d only gain 5 pounds, which was what her doctor told her was “healthy” as he prescribed them, caused some of my ADHD issues, who knows? Anyway, fat was bad. Big was bad. I was bad. I liked food, too much. Of course, I always got the “you’re skin and bones” message from grandma, which was also not true. The truth was somewhere in between, of course. I was probably an ideal weight, I was an athlete, swimmer, runner, horseback rider, all my life, not to mention all the hiking through the woods that was my daily self care. As an adult, I’ve never weighed less that 140 pounds, except after my time in the hospital when I couldn’t keep food down. I got down to about 130, I think. When I got home, I was afraid of food. Afraid to eat anything, because I didn’t want to vomit, or be a failure. With Jacob’s help, I got over the fear of food and gained right back up to 145 or 150 when I stopped eating gluten. And now I’m evaporating before my very eyes. Side effect of the medications. I’ve continued to lose weight, and not have much appetite. I’m below 130 now, and maybe still losing. When I look at myself, I still see a fat belly, which is so weird. I think at some point, body image becomes a fixed thing. In my brain I’ll always be fat. When I look in the mirror, it’s another surprise. Why are those bones in my chest showing? I wonder if I have anorexia. I try to make closure with all my clothes, which I feel like I should keep “for when I get fat again”, but which fall from my body like dead leaves. I wonder if I will stop losing weight, or just disappear. So before you congratulate me on my weight loss, think twice. My relationships with my body, and with food, are both very fucked up. I hope that I haven’t passed this to my daughters, but I’m sure I have.
Let’s talk about running, walking, and competition.
I have run for as long as I can remember. From bullies, from home, from fatness, and anger, and asthma, and aging. I run because it makes me feel good. I used to enjoy competing. I used to enjoy doing marathons, triathlons, and races of all kinds. I liked to challenge myself, beat my times, beat the person who beat me the week before. Now, I can’t seem to build up any stamina. “Training” doesn’t happen for me anymore. I cannot seem to build time, distance, etc. I feel pretty much the same, no matter how far, or how fast, I go or don’t go. I am too cheap to race. I used to race 1 or 2 races every weekend. I had a race calendar on the fridge. Now, I plan an annual goal race, and see if I can manage it. I wanted to run a 50K last year, when I turned 50, but I wasn’t healthy enough. So much for those kinds of goals. This year, I do have a goal race, thanks to friends Alison and Pam, who wanted me on their Ragnar team, despite knowing how slowly I run. So, in December, I’ll be doing a Ragnar relay, in Florida, with friends. Two good things at once, friends, and running.
Let’s talk about Yoga, and crafting, and other self-care.
Yoga is a great path to self care, both mental and physical. I had a daily practice for a very long time. I don’t anymore. Some days I just can’t. Some days it’s all I can do to wake up, put away clean dishes, and feed the dogs. Some days, I have energy to do it all. I am still following the Yoga path. I’m learning more about me, where I am now. That’s why we call it practice, right?
Crafting is a thing that makes me feel accomplished, and keeps my hands busy and my body still, so I can be social, so I can think, it’s a meditation, with a product as a side effect. Do I need a bunch of scarves? No, but I need to sit still, and knitting a scarf is one way to get my body to do that. So, when I’m super productive, it may just be a healthier way of venting my mania. I’m not trying to outdo you, I’m trying to outdo me.
Change. Another post I wrote was about change being the only constant. Well, it’s still true. Everything changes, and is changing. It’s not making me sad, (well, it has, at times) it’s making me re-assess and re-evaluate my relationship with my body, my family, my life. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to rest, the best I can, I’m learning to accept my body’s limitations and practice the things I’ve always done in new and different ways. I may be sick, but I’m healthy.