Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In My Shoes

I’ve introduced myself and some of my symptoms to give you all an idea why my path to health is so important. I definitely underlined the fatigue part. Without going into too much detail of why exactly I am the way I am (and that would only be speculation based on my limited medical knowledge), there’s obviously something fundamentally wrong with my body. Originally, about two years ago, I was finally able to get a doctor to run enough tests to realize I had out of whack hormones and some weird looking follicle build up in my ovaries. This was something. I could attribute my feeling awful to something that had a name, but more and more I realize there must be more to it. This is not an invite to diagnose, criticize, or give me advice. I'm on my own path, but understanding from those around me could possibly help the journey.

Recently my mother has been going through a medical rollercoaster of problems with doctors diagnosing her with multiple autoimmune diseases. It could all be one, but maybe my mother’s body is legitimately fighting itself. My mom has honestly been the only one to understand me through all of this. It kills me to see her suffering so much. For awhile there, I was the one who seemed to have it the worst. Something very scary inside my body is happening, and doctors won’t push to find the main cause, because it’s probably not even a medical capability at this point. I’m not dying (although sometimes I wonder), so I should be fine. What scares me is the symptoms are piling on. I got rid of nausea (for the most part) and seem a little more functional than I was in college. Recently I’ve been having a lot of soreness, which I was attributing to me being out of shape or sleeping wrong. The fact that my back pain has not stopped in the year since it started is also disheartening, considering my attempt at both physical therapy and chiropractic care. I have started to have this chest pain that seems to originate in my diaphragm most times. This particular pain has gone from occasionally to all the time. I’ve had X-rays and blood tests taken, so no one call 911 on me. The joint pain I experience would make you think I’m a 60yo woman. On top of this, some weird things have been going on down there. It seems like some form of cervicitis, and I haven’t had my period in awhile. So, here I am thinking: “I wasn’t ready for this to get worse. I’m still trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning.”

I went to a couple doctors recently. I’ve learned to go see the same doctors my mother sees. They listen because they have had to deal with her for awhile and take me seriously. I wrote a long list of all my symptoms to read off to him. While in the office (actually ready to fall asleep right there), I found myself reading off this list and everything sounded so disconnected that any doctor would just think: “This girl sure does complain a lot.” I didn’t even read all of it because I was slightly embarrassed and figured after awhile he’d just lose interest. He wisely asked me some personal questions to evaluate if the symptoms are severe enough to affect my actual day-to-day activities and work. He asked others to rule out depression. Nonetheless, this well intentioned doctor with nothing else to do, gives me a prescription for an anti-depressant. He asks if I’m willing to try it, to which I respond: “I’ll try anything that might get me through grad school at this point.”

I will write a post later about my tests results. I’m waiting for them all to come in. I will tell you now that they’re never eye-opening or conclusive. On paper, I seem like a healthy 24yo woman. So without trying to get even more depressing and whiny, I want to walk you through my day. Maybe next time I will try this with a doctor…Skip this paragraph if you want to.

I wake up groggy to an alarm and hit snooze. I hit snooze every nine minutes for about the next hour and a half (I will tell you, lately I’ve been ok at waking up at six thirty; I think the spring helps). I planned on getting up at 6 or 7 to get up and get ready for work at 8:30. This seems like a reasonable time to go to the office. I usually end up finally getting out of bed around 8 or 8:30. I know this sounds ridiculous to most people and you may be thinking “lazy”, but I can tell you it’s so much more than not liking your job. What I feel in the morning is similar to how you would feel if you had just stayed up all night. No amount of sleep makes me feel rested. Yet I crave it with every part of my being. At least it’s the only time I’m not tired. I get out of bed to eat a quick breakfast. I don’t have the energy to make anything that takes more than two minutes: usually oatmeal, cereal with fruit, or just fruit and some peanut butter. I drink smoothies when I’m in the mood, but the cold has turned me away from them most of the time. After breakfast, I usually sit in bed for awhile or actually go back to sleep. Eventually I get up to actually get ready to go outside. If I have a bit of energy to spare, I walk my dog for 10-15 minutes. I think that breaks my heart the most: the fact that I can’t even find enough energy to walk my precious baby. It becomes slightly more understandable when I describe my walk to work. It takes me 30 minutes to walk to work. My knees start aching ten minutes in; my back comes shortly after. At some point my chest pain starts if I hadn’t already had it from earlier in the morning. I’m lucky if I don’t experience at least a little twinge of nausea (it was bad this morning). The pain will continue throughout the day, including hip pain. By the time I’m at work, I’m already ready for a nap. I try to start my day nonetheless and write a to-do list. I get through about one or two of those things before lunch(especially if caffeine has aided me) already fighting a headache and having gone to the bathroom way too many times for one person in a three hour time span. I will tell you, those will be my most productive time of the day: from about 9-11. I actually have clear thoughts for about an hour and everything. At lunch, I usually have a big salad, or I steal food from my generous friend when I just can’t stomach salad. I continue my day doing tasks as much as I can focus for at a time. I’m usually helped by listening to podcasts to keep me somewhat engaged. I tend to not stay at work too late in the day, because I am craving a nap beyond belief around two, and when three or four rolls around I can literally not think straight. I walk home (trying not to hobble because my knees are killing me) usually trying to plan some ingenious way to be productive when I’m there. I eat dinner (I’m starving by four) or at least grab whatever’s available. I usually cook for my boyfriend as well, which is probably the only reason I find energy for that because I have someone else to do it for. Now that sunset comes later I try to walk my dog again, or at least think about it. If not I try to make sure he gets as much yard time as is possible. Today, I actually just sat on the porch outside and watched him, that was all I could muster. My night is pretty bad after that. If I’m with my boyfriend or with friends and family, I can usually engage in some form of light socializing. If I’m alone, I tend to just sit and do nothing much. I try to study, but am usually too tired to read and I’m cold which makes me even more attracted to my bed. If I’m lucky I can get about an hour worth of productive things a night. But evenings are really the worst for me. I think my body is just exhausted from being alive that day. I go to bed early hoping I will get up early and be more productive. Mornings offer at least a small window of clarity, but if you go back to the beginning of this very non-sensical, boring story, you’ll realize that doesn’t really happen.

I guess it would have been easier to sum up everything saying “I’m fatigued all the time and can’t do anything.” Diet has not seemed to make it better. There are other little things that can happen, but that’s really all that affect me. I realize some people have it worse and I’m not in debilitating pain, just annoying and definitely keeps me from running. Even this morning I wanted to go to yoga and decided not to because my joints were already sore. There’s always so much I want to do and so much I could be. The point is, I am not a healthy 24yo. Even so, I try to keep in mind that I still have a job, food, a roof over my head, and a support system. Most people in the United States, not to mention outside of it, could claim such opportunities. If you were to see me, you would not think I have anything wrong with me. I’m very amicable and tend to engage in the conversation as much as I can. I’m glad a lot of people don’t notice. I try really hard to not show how much I struggle. Being social is actually the only thing that gets me through most times. I like being around people, it’s relaxing and it doesn’t take much effort on my part to interact with others. Only people who really know me and my wonderful boss in college that allowed a ridiculous amount of sick days, know how much I struggle. I let my mom see how tired I am. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend still hasn’t fully grasped it. He does realize I don’t get all the studying done that I constantly tell him I need to do. I guess when I don’t show people how tired I am, they assume I’m not and say things such as: “Don’t take any naps this time.”, “Go home and be productive!”, and “Just focus.” I promise you I am not lazy. In fact, it may be my overachieving self that brought my demise by working long hours, eating poorly, and raising my cortisol levels through the roof in my pre-20 years. The worst part, is I don’t think my attempt at telling you how I feel every day really even helps. The best way to imagine it would be to think of yourself after having done a pretty hard workout the previous day to then pull an all nighter to study for an important final. The feeling you get when you walk into that test room, exhausted, sore, and completely unable to focus because you just want to get out of there and go to bed to make up for lost sleep; that’s how I feel every day. 

Saturday Brunch: Veggies Benedict and Rosemary potatoes :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Letting Go

I've been thinking of this next post for awhile now. I mean, since the last time I wrote. So, this may be a bit longer because I may have to go on a “philosophical” journey towards the end.

I just got done cooking a lot! I kept coming home and not cooking much and wasn't eating the things I had planned for. So I finally just came home early from work to cook up a storm and now it's all in my fridge, including chopped up veggies to put into the crock pot for chili tomorrow. Lately I've been saving money on food so I can spend elsewhere. I can say it's easier than I thought. I use websites like and happy herbivore to make cheap, quick recipes.

This is all great, because lately it has felt as if I've been cooking for two. This last week I actually just made a meal plan for two people. I'm sure no one is interested in my love life, and I will only talk about it here as it relates to my diet, but the guy I'm dating devours my cooking. I can make something that would last me several days in leftovers and it will be gone that night. I'm not sure if I'm just that good of a cook, or he's particularly gluttonous. Haha, I'm making him sound awful. Anyways, this great guy has had me happily cooking for two for awhile, and I think it's benefited me more than him. I LOVE to cook for people. I've known this for awhile, but to actually have someone that will eagerly eat what I put in front of them is a completely new experience. I get even more excited to find recipes we'll enjoy and rush home to cook something nutritious instead of lounging and looking for any carbs that may be unprotected from my lethargy. I actually ate rice and peas with hot sauce the other night. This was a night that my guy was at work. Figures. But for the most part, I am learning new recipes and find cooking to be my favorite pass time.

The sad news is that all this wonderful plant-based cooking I've been doing in overdrive hasn't helped my energy level much. I've even been eating salads every day at work. Overall, I'm the same moody, lazy me. All of the crazy tasks I've been required to do now I've only managed to accomplish through shorter hours at work and caffeine. I don't like reverting to caffeine most times, but it has become a sad reality that it may be my only option for grad school and the road leading up to it. Most people would find this pretty normal, but caffeine isn't the best option for people with insulin and fatigue issues. Honestly, I still have to be careful, because it can make me crash into an even worse fatigue.

The upcoming move to Texas and prospect of starting graduate school has forced me to put a few things in perspective. Number one, being that I really needed to feel better by now. I'm at the point where feeling better is not in the cards in any near future. I'm not even sure it will be in the next couple years. I'm not saying diet and smart choices don't work to help your health situation, but maybe it doesn't work for everyone. Some people may just be too sick. For example, my mom has been having many scary health issues lately. Even though she's not as healthy as I am, and is in even more stressful situations than I am, there's no denying her body is working against her. My body seems to always be upset and never acts like a twenty-something body should act. I'm not complaining, these are just the facts. This being said, I would never give up living the way I do and striving for even better. There's nothing wrong with living a healthy lifestyle. I'm still doing my body a lot of favors. Who knows how much worse I would feel if I didn't do what I do now.

The point is that, I AM LETTING GO. I've been battling with this for almost five years and have made great improvements to my health, but none to ultimately make me wake up refreshed and ready for the day ahead. I am too hard on myself for not doing enough: “If I just were to go to the gym every day, I'd feel better.”, “If I ate more greens every day, I'd feel better.”, “If I started meditating, I'd feel better.” and so on. Goals are wonderful, but they can only get you so far when you feel like crap. Feeling like crap makes all those things you could be doing borderline impossible to do. I'm not saying they are, or that people should give up, but if your well-being were truly dependent on doing EVERYTHING right, what are the odds your body will cooperate and let you do that? I finally realized this while giving advice to a friend. I told him to stop being so hard on himself and that there's only so much one person can do when they are tired and depressed. You need help.

Unhealthy people cannot be expected to cure themselves. I know some can, and I admire them. The wonderful transformations I hear about every day on plant-based blogs happen, and there's no problem shooting for them. I am not perfect and have tried my best. I'm at the point where I eat lots of veggies. My grocery trips are composed of ¾ of my shopping cart being from the produce isle. Not many Americans could say that! I take vitamins that vegans should take so I don't have to think fatigue could come from any deficiencies. I have a love of yoga and running that has been cut short because of back pain, but I would love to start again. All I should be is proud, and yet when I don't get better I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I'm sure I am, but if I keep viciously attacking myself, I will become more fatigued and depressed. I guess you really have to take things one day at a time. I will be looking to doctors again for medications that may help, most likely Metformin. I think I'm at the point where I need a boost of something to get me to the next step. Or maybe, it's just a very gradual process with small change upon small change accumulating to amount to the final drop I need to fill the metaphorical health vase. None of this sounds uplifting, but believe me, I feel so much better. I am putting less pressure on myself to be perfect. At least, I'm trying. I still find days where I make lists of all the things I could do and should do in my head. I stop and make to-do lists now that are actually 100% necessary. These are still stressful for me, but grad school and being an adult take up a lot of time, especially when every moment is a struggle to stay awake and be productive. I still keep small goals. For example, I am trying to go to yoga at least once a week and I make sure to get a big salad every day. The little things are all I can do, and that is OK.

I'd like to finish off by saying that I do have a lot on my plate. Writing once a week, or even once a month, does not seem like something I have time or energy to do. I appreciate any people that have been reading and know I'm not giving up or quitting writing. My entries will be sporadic from now on and will probably only come about if I've had a break through or have a new plant-based thing to share with you. I hope this discourages no one and that you all find true health.

Thai Curry

Curried Chickpeas. Notice a pattern?