Monday, September 23, 2013

Food anxiety

This is what I had for breakfast:

gluten free crackers, strawberry-banana milk, and watermelon. Not pictured, a handful of pills designed to make this collection of calories not hurt. Nevermind actual nourishment...

It's been a while since I've written about my digestive and other food issues because so much has been going on. And it wasn't that I magically got all better. In fact, when my dad died, I kind of gave up trying to continue my recovery. It meant more stress in an already stressful situation, and I wasn't really that interested in trying to have a better outlook on my body and the fuel it uses while grieving my father.

I stopped taking my supplements (which, was a really bad idea), because they all got packed up and moved around during the move. I tried to keep my anti-gluten pills nearby at all times, but that's only so effective. I also tried to keep D3 and B-complex on hand so that I would have enough energy to get thru my life. I was trying to try again, but then Dame died, and -- well, if you know me, you know what happened.

So, my health has deteriorated. I no longer so much have a complex about eating, (altho I am still fighting against ideas about myself that are not helpful), but I've developed a much stronger sense of food anxiety because I keep getting sick. Whether it's just THE WORST INDIGESTION EVAR or an abdominal migraine, or general anxiety and depression keeping me from eating, I've become much pickier than I've ever been*, AND barely able to digest anything**.

As before, lack of calories destroys my body's ability to regulate all of the things (especially blood sugar), causing anxiety and paranoia, AND depression; making me an anti-social wreck which is really bad for me since I'm pretty extroverted. This means I stop trusting people who usually bring me comfort, and that makes me more anxious and paranoid and so on top of the massive amounts of grief I'm experiencing, I'm also unable to find solace because the only person I can really handle being around most of the time is my dog***.

I stay up late watching movies and tv shows I've already seen, try to work on my art but emotional strangulation and creativity don't really go very well together. And then there's mornings. Now that I've given my body this expectation that when it asks for food, I'll feed myself: I get hungry in the mornings. But that hunger hurts. It hurts like a wound. Not only is my stomach aching for food, but my intestines are aching from the previous day's adventure in attempted sustenance, and other parts of me are hurting because of the lack of nutrients. Getting out of bed is a battle for me. Not just because I'm depressed and grieving, but because moving around means using energy and that energy needs to be sustained by something and in the morning, I don't know what that something could be.

It's always been like this. The pain reinforced my EATING IS BAD complex, because eventually if I ignored the pain enough, it would go away and I would feel fine. How fucking insane is that? I mean, do you even understand how nuts it is to have yourself convinced that not eating will make your hunger pains go away? Do you get how messed up it is that the pain of not eating, and all of the negative side effects that has, is worse than the pain from putting food in you? Or just how scary it is to be afraid to eat? I don't think most people get that, and not really having anyone to talk about that with is kind of a problem.

But, I can't go on ignoring it. The pain doesn't stop at my stomach now. Other digestive organs have begun to be affected by the inflammation that goes on in the rest of my body*', and so this insane swelling goes on that, while it doesn't really cause any bloating or anything, is so painful it keeps me awake at night. As if the rest of what's going on in my body wasn't enough of a party.

This weekend, tho, I hit my limit on ignoring what's been happening. I went to a party, but instead I got sick and had to go home without really having any fun beyond the first few hours in the afternoon*''. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep after crying almost the entire drive home, and when I was able to really process what was going on, Ten and I made a plan:

Step 1: I'm going back to being a vegetarian for a while. Last year's experiment in veganism was horrifying in its lack of cheese, but I did start to get better while eating mostly vegetables. So, I'll give it another chance, but there's got to be some dairy in there so that I don't go mad. No eggs tho. Fuck eggs. Those things are assholes.

Step 2: No more booze. At least, not more than one drink in a sitting. And for right now, none. Alcohol causes inflammation in the body (along with a number of other substances I enjoy, but at least losing this one won't drive me mad).

Step 3: Take supplements again. Every day. Including a protein supplement that is easily digestible and meant to help repair the insides of your insides. Other stars include the supplement my doctor gave me for my stupid gal bladder, digestive enzymes, probiotics, coconut oil, glucosamine, L-glutamine, Cal-Mag, and the D3 and B-complex mentioned earlier.

Step 4: I'm going to the doctor tomorrow (you may have already read the footnote), to talk about what's been going on with my intestines, hands, and anxiety. I don't know how much he's going to be able to help me right now (since you know, no health insurance), but it's worth talking about and seeing if there's anything else I can do aside from what's outlined here.

Step 5: OBAMACARE! I'm going to qualify for a subsidy. I'm going to figure out how to make sure that I get the best health insurance I possibly can for my subsidy buck and then I'm going to get all the healthcare. ALL of it. Okay, I might try to skip the colonoscopy, those sound horrifying.

I have a bit of a plan, but I don't know how well it's going to work. I made a pretty good dinner for myself tonight, after not really eating at all today. I do have some things made that I'll be able to eat tomorrow, but I'm still concerned what's going to happen on the inside of my insides between now and then. It's not a pleasant thing to think about when your insides are healthy, let alone when they feel like they're melting.

Too much information?
*No, really.
**Vegetables are the worst.
***Who is awesome, but really doesn't fulfill my need for human contact.
*'Inflammation that may be attacking my joints, specifically my hands and neck, as well. Before you say anything, I'm going to the doctor tomorrow.
*''I also had a bit of an emotional meltdown, and there wasn't really anyone available to comfort me after that.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Being happy in the dark

This week my rabbi asked how I was doing, "you don't seem like you're okay," she said. "It's okay not to be."

I had to think about it for a few hours before I was able to really tell her what was going on. The truth of the matter is that I am not okay. Life has dealt hit after hit this past year, and being okay in the face of all that would make me some kind of unfeeling monster. I will eventually be okay, but I am not now and I'm not ashamed of that at all. My heart and soul are raw and blistered from a kind of hell that not everyone gets to visit*, and I've barely begun to heal.

Yet, I am happy. Not content. Not ecstatic and overcome with joy. Not experiencing constant bliss. But I am happy. I look around and see the wonderful people who are in my life because of the work that I have done to better myself; I hold those whose hearts are close to my own; and thru desperate sadness and pain from the sheer unfairness of life I can find this weird happiness that comes from knowing I am not alone in this darkness.

Very few people understand what I'm going thru, or what I've been thru already. Even those who grasp its magnitude are viewing my struggles thru their own, so it's not always easy to connect. But those people hold their pain and grief out as one holds out one's arms for a hug, and we connect in the darkness, smiling because we have each other.

Some of my loved ones are not in the darkness, but understand how it overwhelms and envelops you. They reach out their light, illuminate me for a while, and while that doesn't make anything the way it ought to be, the patience and kindness helps me.

But most of the people around me have no idea. Many have been in dark places, but this is not a darkness caused by the lights going out in your soul because your brain forgot to pay the electric bill. I'm not depressed. The sun went out. I won't be able to regulate serotonin to turn the lights back on**, the light will return when it returns and I don't know when that will be. Grief is not like depression. Grief is not like any other sadness you've ever felt and there is nothing you can do but accept its presence and realize that the entire purpose of Grief is to help you.

And so while I am not okay, while nothing is okay (and in some ways never will be again), I am not harmed. I enjoy the embraces of my friends, the gentle caresses of my lovers, the feel of my dog's fur; I take in all of the experiences not as someone whose senses have been dulled by a chemical imbalance, but as someone falling in the shadow of an eclipse. It is beautiful, this pain that I am feeling. Beautiful and terrifying, but I am safe, loved, and happy.

I talk about my feelings a lot right now. I post about them because I'm not fighting them. I'm just letting them wash over me because I know that these emotions, these "stages of grief" are there to heal me. If the hell of the past year has burned me, my grief is cooling water infused with the nutrients needed to heal those wounds. There will be scars and adhesions, and I may be very uneven for a while longer than some think necessary but this process will take as long as it takes and I've decided not to allow it to scab and definitely not to pick at it if it does.

You may not understand the sadness in my eyes. I hope you never have to. But the smile on my face remains genuine, and the love of my companions and protectors is felt, held, and honored.

*And to my Evangelical Christian friends, I really don't think Jesus could have saved me from it. If you had been thru what I've been thru in the last year, you'd know that the threat of "Hell" doesn't scare me. And please don't try to argue the point. You actually don't know what you're talking about.
**Do please note that my explaining how grief and depression are different does not mean that one or the other is more valid. If you are experiencing depression, please please please talk to someone about it. You are valuable, and maybe your brain needs a little help so you can remember that.

Teddy Roosevelt, Inanna's descent thru the Underworld, Hearts on Sleeves, and my horoscope: a love letter

I have been struggling with something recently, and while it falls along the same lines as my previous battles because it involves allowing myself to be vulnerable in a whole new way, it's different at the same time.

In my OkStupid profile I promise to be the type of person who wears her hearts on her sleeves. Most of the time that's pretty easy, unless I'm showing a part of me that has been damaged before and isn't quite healed yet. I'm the fall-in-love type, and usually have a pretty hard time keeping that information to myself (which, as you might have guessed is part of why I'm writing this). I don't hold back. I base my relationships on openness and vulnerability because I know in the deepest part of me that love isn't the kind of activity that is outcome-based.

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...."
-Teddy Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena" April 23rd, 1910

When I read this quote at the beginning of Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly, I was reminded of my place and what it means to be Empress. The archetypal Inanna, Queen of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld earned her title by falling, failing, being betrayed, and ultimately left to die until the head god realized "oh shit, no Empress means no life!" and convinced the other gods to figure out a way to get her off the hook in the Underworld. I didn't know that I would suffer so strongly early in my life when I chose the name Empress. It didn't register until I re-read the chapter about Inanna earlier today, after thinking over and over about how to overcome this bit of fear I've been up against for more than a few weeks.

Even while wandering and wailing, the Empress doesn't crumble. Her majesty is stripped, and in the darkness she loses everything but her vulnerability. And while coming out into the light again, she realizes that everything she is, everything she has is not based on the scepters she used to rule; the symbols of her feminine power, or her family strength; nothing based on ego or bodily integrity. The only thing that saves her life is her vulnerability, so she learns to base her relationships on that and gains so much more.

Yes, there is danger in this approach, but when the right relationships come along in all their forms (familial, romantic, platonic, dog), what results is the kind of power you don't get through symbols and artificial strength. The Empress moves past her fears, says "I love you" first, and acknowledges that reciprocity may come later, if at all. And if it doesn't, the act of loving still stands and she is greater for it.

So when my horoscope this week asked, "Is the love that's blooming a transient pleasure or a powerful upgrade that's worth working on with all your ingenuity?" Then answer came thusly:  if this isn't all aiming for an upgrade, you've spent an awful lot of time, energy, and money chasing rabbits.

This doesn't just apply to my personal life (although, that's the direction most of the reflection on this question has taken), but to my career, my activism, and my family. If I expect to be fully Empress, I cannot, must not, set out directionless. If I expect to lead, I must know whether I'm climbing a hill or a mountain; setting toward a river or a creek, with neither being better than the other, but the important part being clarity of purpose and transparency of sleeve.

It takes two hearts to be a Timelord because sometimes one of them breaks. And while this may be my nerdtastic metaphor* for living fully in my purpose, the truth of it lies in this: I wear my hearts on my sleeve. I don't bow to fear or intimidation because I was made to dare greatly and to confess love when I feel it. And even if a heart breaks, the love still lives on because the broken pieces get reabsorbed and the heart becomes stronger.

Being vulnerable with you taught me that I am more durable than I thought I was. This last year has been a terrible descent, and I won't credit you with rescuing me, because I know better. Having stood in the arena this whole time, seeing you still there as parts of me were torn away by circumstances - some that I began, some I had nothing to do with - I know that I don't need to earn your love or approval, or to show you that mine is real. Of course you know. How could you miss it?

When someone primes us for an upgrade, we do the same for them. Love multiplies love, and we come to it through vulnerability.

*I do have a funky heartbeat tho

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

20 Affirmations for a More Fulfilling Life

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook today. It is well-meaning and right on point, but like so many other articles of the same theme it tells you what not to do instead of advising a solution. Yes, running from your problems, for example, is destructive, but what do you do to stop that?

By flipping the language around on these bits of advice and turning them into an affirmation you can claim as your own, then looking at or saying those affirmations every day you will begin to shed these habits. So go read the article to get an idea of what's going on here (I'll wait), then come back and read the affirmations that go along with it.

  1.  I face my problems, do what I can, and let the rest go.
  2.  I am always truthful with myself and others.
  3.  I allow myself to live in the present moment.
  4.  I allow myself to have my feelings, including happiness.
  5.  I am able to be independent and responsibly interdependent.
  6.  I always do my best, regardless of whether I may fail or succeed.
  7.  I learn from my mistakes.
  8.  I allow myself to be intimate with others.
  9.  I live from a place of compassion for myself and others.
  10.  I am allowed to be myself. My loved ones are allowed to be who they are.
  11.  I acknowledge my genuine reasons and motives for my actions.
  12.  I let go of things that I cannot control.
  13.  I err on the side of optimism.
  14.  Today, I am grateful for the following 5 things: [list 5 things]
  15.  I use my time wisely.
  16.  I allow myself time to rest and breathe.
  17.  I am proud of myself, and impressive all on my own.
  18.  There is only one me, and I am [chosen pronoun].
  19.  I am allowed to enjoy life.
  20.  Right this second I am enough. I love me. I'm allowed to love me.

See how much more practical that is than trying to shame yourself into changing? Feel free to use these or make up your own. Just remember that the formula for an affirmation is a positive action or belief that you either can grow into (it's like hypnosis like that) or already believe. If you say an affirmation and the voice in the back of your mind is screaming LIAR!!! try something a little closer to how you feel. For example, if "I love myself" feels inherently false to you*, try "I am allowed to love myself". If it still feels like a lie at that point, you can try stepping back to "I am allowed to like myself", but find a way to stick with it.

Affirmations skip over words like "don't" or "am not" in the direct action. Also, consider skipping words like "should/shouldn't" and "need". These words subtly shame you and we want to avoid that. Instead, consider replacing these words with "must", "want", "desire", and "require". More specific language feels weird at first, but when you stop shaming yourself you can have an easier time building yourself up to the point where you can say all of the above affirmations without that little voice calling you a liar.

*No shame in that. A lot of people feel that way but are still great.