Wellness Wednesday – When Food Turns Against You

Back in early January, I got a bad cold and lost my sense of smell, as you tend to do when you get all stuffed up. The cold lingered and kept recurring for months, until it turned into full-blown bronchitis in April. I finally got a doctor at Urgent Care to give me antibiotics, and got healthy again. But my sense of smell didn’t return. The day I went to visit my uncle in the hospital in Houston, my mom handed me an essential oil diffuser she kept in her car and asked if it was too strong. I couldn’t smell even a hint of anything.

That changed on June 1st, when suddenly my sense of smell was back, but everything smelled like plaster dust. At first, I thought this was due to the construction in my house, but it persisted long past when there was plaster dust in the house. I didn’t realize immediately that my sense of taste would be changed as well. I threw out a jar of peanut butter because it was near the bottom and I thought it had gone rancid. That was the first thing I noticed. Normally, my sense of taste doesn’t change even when I’m sick and stuffed up. It doesn’t even get muted like for many people. But suddenly high-fat content foods like peanut butter tasted rancid, and milk products ranged from mildly fermented to extremely metallic. Everything else had a small, identical change in flavor that coated every food no matter what I ate.

Things didn’t get better. In July, the plaster smell very suddenly changed to a yeasty undercooked bread smell (which is nauseating to me). Then after my cruise, everything smelled of sewage. Then I got a cold in October that stuffed me up for awhile – couldn’t smell anything – and since my sense of smell returned, everything smells like rotten onions. Throughout all these changes, food has stayed exactly the same awful twisted tastes – except that one glorious stuffed up week in October, when suddenly I could eat peanut butter and cheese again because they tasted normal!

The trouble is that there are so few foods I can eat right now. Anything with a strong scent (like brussels sprouts, which I usually love) turns my stomach because it smells like rotten onions. Anything with a high fat content tastes rancid, making it practically inedible. This goes for anything cooked in olive oil, anything fried or sautéed, any food with higher fat like nuts. And now, meat protein sources are starting to turn my stomach as well, regardless of fat content. This leaves me with mostly high carb low fat/protein choices, which make me sick due to insulin-resistance. And that leaves me in a place where I have to either make my body sick or eat food that makes me gag. Or eat with my nose plugged so I can’t smell anything and my sense of taste returns to normal.

I don’t know what to do about any of this. My doctor’s office was supposed to put in a preauth request for a brain MRI about a month ago, but I’ve heard absolutely nothing. Since I had a substitute doctor that day, I’m starting to wonder if any request was put through at all. I’m making a follow up appointment with my actual doctor to check in and get things taken care of if possible. This whole thing has gotten way out of hand and I’d like to know if I have a brain tumor or a severe sinus infection or something else. I’d like to know what the hell is causing these bizarre, so-far-inexplicable symptoms. And I’d like to be able to eat again without feeling sick!!

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Run For Mom 5k

My friend Stephanie and I made a goal to do a 5K together each month for the rest of 2018, and so far, each month has been a bust. In September, she was sick, so I had to do the 5K alone. In October, I was sick and she had something come up, so we both had to skip, though we did a 0.5K later in the month. This month, we chose the Run For Mom 5K, which benefitted a home for older/disabled women. The 5K took place this past Saturday, and for once, everything lined up for the two of us to both go!

Except…the “5K” wasn’t actually a 5K. This was the worst-organized event I’ve been to in a long time. There was no communication with the participants, not even when we contacted them directly. Stephanie and I had no idea where we were supposed to go, and just had a general direction (ie “it’ll be at this particular lake”). We headed down and basically just circled, looking for any sign of a 5K. Eventually we found a place where a bunch of kids were wearing shirts of the same color, so we parked and tried to find someone who knew what was going on. About 15 mins before the 5K was supposed to start, someone directed us to a small building where we could pick up our race packets. We managed to get to where we were supposed to be in time to start our walk, which was two laps around the lake. And how much was two laps around the lake? It was 2.7 miles, or a 4.3K. Right around the time we finished our first lap, one of the runners was approaching the finish line where they had a timer clock. As she passed us, she caught sight of the clock and exclaimed, “No way!” (cynically, not joyous) because we’d been told that two laps was a 5k!

So, okay, it wasn’t a 5K, and it was badly organized. We still walked our two laps even though we were frustrated and it was windy, raining, and in the 40s out. It was pretty by the lake, and we’d paid for this, so okay. We did it. But then we got to the end, ahead of many of the walkers, and the water station was already packed away and the organizers were mostly gone and it was basically like there was no event going on anymore. The whole thing was a mess! We just left and went out for breakfast at that point. This is definitely not a “5K” that we’d do again. Hopefully our December event will be the one that finally works out for us!

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Sunday Coffee – Rearranging (again)

Do you ever feel as if a room, arranged a certain way, can automatically make you feel more calm and peaceful? I spend a lot of time carefully arranging furniture in order to make my spaces feel like home. Sometimes it takes a lot of shuffling to get things right. Sometimes even tiny changes can make a big difference, like how I changed the position of my yoga mat last December and suddenly loved my practice again.

This summer, we did a bit of rearranging in our house since it was torn apart anyway. We shifted the living room around, bringing the bookshelves down from our room. In the bedroom, we moved my office area to the old book area, and brought our exercise equipment to the old office area. It all seemed like a good idea.

Something didn’t feel right, however. I didn’t really like the way my desk felt in the new location. It worked. It was practical. But it didn’t feel peaceful. Additionally, the exercise equipment area was basically an unusable part of the room. We have three sets of equipment there: an old Nordic Track that Jason keeps even though he only uses it about once every 18 months, a body weight strength training incline machine, and a combo elliptical/recumbent bike. The latter two were mine, but over time I’ve come to realize that my body no longer tolerates heavy strength training (something about PCOS and hormones), and as ever my feet don’t handle ellipticals. No matter what weight I’m at or which elliptical I use, I go numb within ten minutes of using it. This is apparently a common problem for some people and there’s not much you can do about it. In any case, that means that the elliptical/bike never gets used, nor does the incline machine.

We decided to sell off or give away the two pieces of my equipment. No point in having them clutter up our room, right? And that’s when I decided to rearrange. I hauled out the three exercise machines and moved my office area back to where it had been six months ago, then shoved the machines where my desk had been until we can get rid of them. After we clear up that space, we’ll decide what to do with it. In the meantime, I felt an immediate peace on moving my desk back. Instead of being flanked on one side by a filing cabinet, it butts up against a window and allows me a nice view outside. When I type, I look out over my reading area rather than my bed. The electrical lights from the computer are all hidden/lessened at night when I’m trying to sleep. The whole setup just feels right.

I love when you finally snap everything into place, to give a room a feeling of lightness and sense of home. There’s still a lot of work to do in other parts of the house – the living room in particular will have to eventually shift around – but it’s nice to have another little piece of the house feeling good again.

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Old Friends

“Old friends sat on their park bench like bookends.” – Bookends, Simon and Garfunkel

In the last week of October, I revisited The Night Circus for the first time in five years. I read it slowly and luxuriously over about a week, enjoying my time with these characters that I’d loved so much in the past. The book hadn’t lost any of its power or beauty.

I thought that the change in my reading mood last month was pointing toward nonfiction. Apparently not, or at least, not yet. Instead, it has been pointing me toward old friends. First, The Night Circus. Presently, Oathbringer, a book that was so intense and difficult to read last year that it took me until now to finally revisit it. After that, I’m pretty sure I’ll be listening to Alan Rickman read out Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native for the first time since 2010. Maybe the next month or so will bring rereads of other comfort books – Love Walked In, Howl’s Moving Castle, Jane Eyre, The Nature of Jade, The Tapestry of Love, Fangirl, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrill…

There are still plenty of books remaining on my 2018 list. I have books in from the library that I doubt I’ll get to, and others that are still releasing that I’ll probably wait until 2019 to read. My Audible queue is full of potential reads, and my list to investigate on Goodreads is growing longer. For now, though, I think I need this time with familiar settings and people and stories. I need these old friends.

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Wellness Wednesday – Exposure Therapy

It’s morning, and my phone alarm goes off. For those of you with iPhones, you’ll probably be familiar with my particular alarm. It’s standard, called “Uplift,” and has been described to me as a “jaunty, happy” tune. The first time I heard that description, I was floored, because for me, it’s a sorrowful, mournful tune. In fact, the reason I chose that particular alarm four years ago was because I couldn’t hear it without crying. During that time of my life, we’d just moved across the country to an unfamiliar place, and my marriage was falling apart. My emotional state was one of constant panic and fear and misery. My boys all had new iPod Touches, and Laurence started using Uplift as an alarm, and somehow that particular tune got mixed up with intense pain and sadness. So I made it my alarm.

That probably sounds counterintuitive, but it was something I needed to do. I’ve now heard Uplift thousands of times. Every morning when I wake up. Every time I need to pull something from the oven, or have finished a half-hour walk, or need to remember to take some medicine. Each time the boys finish their time on the Wii, or I need a timer for meditation, or we have a timed break from housework on the weekend. Uplift is no longer tear-inducing. It will never be a happy tune, but it’s neutral now, stuffed with so many mundane moments that overcrowd any lingering painful sentiment. It’s just my alarm, no more, no less. And that’s what I needed it to be.

Everyone’s brains and mental health work in different ways. When I go through something traumatic, I have a couple steps I need to take in order to get past that trauma. I must understand the root of the trauma, and what effects (mental and physical) it has on me, especially those that initially seem unrelated. I must pick apart the trauma, setting each moment aside in microfragments, dissecting until the pieces are small enough to look at indifferently. Then I must take the things that have emotional weight and force them on myself over and over until they no longer have any power over me. Exposure therapy, like with the alarm. Strip a painful song or photo or memory of its negative influence until it becomes just a song or photo or memory.

This kind of work takes years, and the process is not fun. Example: When I go hunting through photos for fun former-Thanksgiving pictures to post on Facebook this month, I tend to skip the album of photos from our year in Boston. Those ones are not okay yet. If I look through them – even just a fragment of them – I will get very triggered and have a bad PTSD day. But I tend to force myself to go look through them in chunks from time to time. I want to get so far away from those photos that they no longer stab at me to see them. I would never delete them – I don’t erase memories, no matter how painful – and time won’t make the situation better (that’s now how complex-PTSD works). The only way to unravel the pain, for me, is to face those memories over and over, until they have no power over me. It’s the reason I look at my Facebook memories every day, even in times when my 2014-2015 posts were particularly painful and triggering. It’s why I still rewatch shows like Downton Abbey, which somehow got mixed up with triggering situations, so that now when I watch it now, I tend to get panic attacks. One day, I will neutralize all of these things, the way I’ve neutralized Uplift. The way I’ve neutralized other traumatic events in my life.

I have a long way to go. That particular year – and to some degree, some of the years since – was so intensely traumatic that I have a lot of triggering attachments. I can’t follow a certain breathing technique for meditation (four beats in, hold seven, exhale for eight) without a panic attack. I can’t get through the month of May without binging on mindless TV and drinking too much. I can’t even see certain book covers without an immediate jolt of anxiety. It’s ridiculous.

Exposure therapy isn’t one many doctors would recommend, I know. It’s akin to someone with claustrophobia being locked in a small space for half a day in order become accustomed to the situation and stop having a phobia. It doesn’t work for most people, and can be very dangerous to try. But it works for me, and I know how to take things slow, one at a time, while I’m picking them apart and giving myself enough distance to (eventually) not be affected at all.

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Sunday Coffee – The Great Kitty Escape (and more)

It has been one crazy week! It started with a nightmare night where the cats apparently popped out a screen window and escaped. I doubt it was intentional – the window they went through is one where Jojo often hunts flies, and he probably just pounced against it. I’d had bad insomnia that night (possibly because the dog next door kept barking all night, possibly at the escaped cats), so I was up in the wee hours of the morning groggily making coffee when Ash jumped into the kitchen through the window. All the cats except Jojo were inside by that point, though I know they were all out at one point, and Jason and I had to go chase Jojo until we could get him back inside. Somewhere out there he lost his collar, and he was running across the street heedless of cars, but because it was 4:00 am, he ended up safe, if terrified. He’s recovered now, though a cold is making its way through all the cats. Being out at night in the dew probably isn’t good for immune systems that are used to the indoors!

Then there were the injuries this week. First, Jason sliced open a finger while cutting up potatoes. It was BAD, and still requires gauze padding several days later. Then on Halloween morning, he spilled boiling grease onto a finger on the other hand. From knuckle to nail, he was blistered with second degree burns, and he lay in bed trying not to throw up from pain while I ran around town acquiring various medical supplies. I’ve never seen Jason react so badly to an injury before, and we’re talking about the person who sliced through his hand with a reciprocating saw last year. He slept for about five hours before he felt any better, and today he went back to work with one finger on each hand wrapped in gauze and medical creams.

In better news, we worked our butts off the last two weeks to get a big chunk of the front yard done before Halloween. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt on the unfinished pathway from sidewalk to our front door. Most people used the driveway anyway, but we still needed to make sure all was well. Jason worked on the drainage area, and we built the path as much as we could. The sides where it meets various rock walls still need to be finished, but it was great work all around. We also got the final planning done for the dirt pit where our Halloween skeletons lived. That’s the next part of the yard we plan to work on, and it should be pretty easy to do. In the meantime, the one section of the yard that didn’t get ripped up is thriving, full of intertwining mistflowers and salvia and ground-daisies and purple hearts and silver ponyfoot (and a lot more). It’s attracting tons of bees and butterflies! I’m so happy with how it’s come out.

And speaking of being happy with how things came out, let’s talk costumes. One of my goals this year was to dress up for Halloween, and I had no idea what I was going to wear. Jason found a DIY skeleton image on Pinterest, and I ended up modeling a costume on that. The face paint didn’t last long – it itched too much! Ambrose’s costume came out well, too. He was originally going to be Santa Claus, but then it was 80 degrees for most of Halloween so he modified the outfit into “summer Santa” complete with flip flops and beach towel. Ha! He went to a friend’s house to help pass out candy, while Jason and I passed out candy at home. Despite there being a thunderstorm for the first hour of trick-or-treating (it was raining last year, too!), we had a good number of kids come by. And several people from the neighborhood stopped to talk to us about how great the yard was looking, and how sorry they were when we had to rip it out in September.

Halloween decorations came out well this year, too. There were the spiders crawling up the kitchen door (above), and spiderwebs draped all over our bookshelves, and ghosties hanging from every window, and of course the skeletons in the garden. Plus the shelves of sugar skulls and Halloween duckies and sleek ravens and flickering faux-candles (because real candles are a no-no with cats!). The house was very festive this year and I just loved every last bit of it! I’m sad to put it all away, but it’s time for the next round of decorations.

November has started off fun, with the arrival of our first Empty Faces package. Have y’all heard of this? It’s a serial supernatural mystery where you get to puzzle out codes and such to try to solve the mystery. Jason and I decided to try it for the first five-month episode, and had our first date-night-mystery on Friday. It was a lot of fun. Once I have a few more episodes, I’ll do a review with my thoughts on the series.

And now it’s the end of DST, the hardest day (physically) of the year for me. While most people sleep more on this day where we supposedly get an extra hour, I always lose many, many hours this day. And more in the days to come, as I spent the next few months jetlagged. This year was worse than normal, waking up just after 3am. I think a nap is in order today! Wish me luck switching to the new sleep schedule easier than I usually do. I can’t wait until the spring time change! Only four months of “regular” time to go! And hey – the week ended the exact same way that it began, with me up in the wee hours of the morning groggily gulping down coffee…

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October in Review

Normally, I love October. It’s the month where I start to feel alive again after six months of perpetual heat-hell (aka summer), and I start wanting to go out and Do All The Things. Unfortunately, this year we were still playing catchup. We spent most of the month dealing with the rest of the fallout from September’s house explosion: putting back together the yard as much as possible, rebuilding the guest bathroom in a very rudimentary way (it’ll have to be professionally redone in a few years), that sort of thing. There was also a lot of attention to health hiccups for both Jason and me, and a lot of Morrigan-related milestones (more on that below). At least that last part was good! And Halloween, of course. That was fun. Things went relatively smoothly given everything that was stuffed into the month, but I admit that we’re all pretty exhausted and looking forward to a bit of downtime. Fingers crossed (see below). I also admit that I missed that come-alive feeling this year. Oh well.

(Summer Santa & the Skeleton)

In sad news, a new leak appeared on our kitchen ceiling last week, in the same place as before. Once again, despite replacing that section of our roof three times, the roofers did an inadequate job, and we had to go back to our insurance AGAIN. Sigh. They came out with the roofers on Tuesday and decided that this time it was the roofer’s liability, so they’ll have to come out and replace the roof a fourth time and repair the internal damage. Nothing out of pocket for us at least, whew, though having these same inadequate people do the job again seems a mistake. Anyway. Since the roofers agreed to do this in front of our insurance company, I hope it’ll happen without a fuss like they kicked up this summer. Still, I feel like we’re playing a “how many times can we replace our roof” game this year, and I’m sick of it!! At least this time, the damage to the kitchen should cause no disruption in terms of usability!

Goals:
What goals? Honestly, I’m mostly done with my goals this year. I have a few left on my original list, but the ones left are unlikely to be done before the end of 2018. I’m working on those on my 40×40 list, though. Half of those are complete, with a couple that are a fail, but I have quite some ways to go considering there’s only four months left of the time limit! I guess I need to get on it!

Health:
This was one of those good news bad news months. Found a lump in my breast, turned out to be nothing, had good blood test results at my checkup, but need a brain MRI for anosmia. (Still waiting to hear back on that.) I’ve been trying to keep my nutrition, sleep, anxiety, and fitness relatively stable and in control despite all the ups and downs. General stats for the month include 23 days of exercise for a total of 18.5 hours; 11 yoga sessions; and 35 miles walked/run. In food, I tracked my calories fairly faithfully (all but four days, mostly when I was sick) and had a total monthly deficit equal to 3.7 lbs. I bumped up my fruit-and-veggie intake as well, and tried to keep my processed food to a minimum, not always usually successfully, heh.

My weight has slowly gone down throughout the month, and I mean SLOWLY, but I’m happy that the general trend is downwards again! Total loss for October is 3 lbs, and total loss since I got home from vacation (Sept 23rd) is 5.5 lbs. I’m including that particular number here because I have a specific date penciled into my calendar (Nov 23, 2019 – 14 months from the day we got home from our cruise – more on that in a future post) and I want to see just how much I can accomplish during that time.

Books:
You know when you have a bunch of books on order from the library for months, and they don’t come in, and they don’t come in, and then suddenly they all come in at the same time? That’s how October started for me – over a dozen books arriving simultaneously. Unfortunately my interest in books took a nosedive at the beginning of the month, which didn’t bode well with receiving a dozen at a time! Sure, there were still books I wanted to read, but I didn’t feel a real connection to my current list. Usually this heralds a switch to a different genre of interest for a time. Nonfiction seems to be next up – at least it’s what I’m craving – so I plan to unofficially participate in Nonfiction November.

Highlights of October:
This month’s highlights were basically all about Morrigan, my oldest son. He turned 18, he voted for the first time, he got into his first-choice college, and he got recognized at his school (with a special breakfast and at a football halftime) as one of four students at his school to achieve National Commended Scholar. We also finally got some decent senior photos in for him. (The people who did it through the school were awful, not to mention outrageously expensive. Nope.) Other than all the Morrigan-based celebrations, here’s what I’ve got this month for highlights:

  • xeriscaping began anew – chopping down our chinaberry trees, redesigning part of the yard, rebuilding the path from the street to the door (yay!), extensive work on drainage to prevent more erosion
  • finally found some decent plus-size bras and sports bras
  • seeing A Simple Favor in theatre with my cousin Gina, and later a second time with my friends Stephanie and Liza
  • getting to see Liza, who was in town for a week from Colorado
  • watching Leave No Trace, which was a beautiful movie
  • getting those skeletons up in our ripped-up yard for Halloween, and generally getting a lot of decor up inside and out
  • participating in the awesome 0.5k for the Rape Crisis Center
  • dressing up for Halloween (and especially seeing Ambrose’s “summer Santa” costume!)

Coming up in November:
For years and years, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I still consider it my “normal” November. Since we moved to Boston, however, I haven’t really participated. Twice, I didn’t even sign up, and this year is the same. I’m not sure if it’s me or the event or what, but I just don’t feel it these days. Maybe I’ll come back to it eventually. Instead, I imagine my focus will continue to be on health, fitness, and getting my house/life back in order, hopefully all with improving results this month!

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