Second chances and Feeding the body

Today was a day I decided to give myself a second chance. To give a little backstory: it’s been resting at about 30° C in my area, vacillating by about 5° either way. Yesterday, since I don’t drive, I did WAY more walking and sweating in that heat than I should have, and as such had a mini-migraine by the evening.

Back to today: when I woke up, thank goodness the migraine was gone. However, it was also about 5:40am. Although I was sleepy, I failed to get back to Slumberland so I got up and started my day. A few hours later I lay down on the couch and had an hours-long nap during which I drifted in and out of consciousness. Normally when I nap I wake up groggy, disoriented, and lazy; today, I said “f*** it, I am going to try and make what I can out of this day anyway.”

I fully admit that most of the afternoon was spent binge watching Colleen Ballinger Evans’ Youtube channel*, but with much effort I was able to get myself to journal (got a new idea for a short story!), go outside for a Pokémon Go walk**, and have lunch.

What I really want to talk about is my yoga practice for today. It consisted of two and a half Yoga with Adriene videos: Alternate Nostril Breathing (supposed to be good for anxiety), A Little Goes a Long Way,  and the second half of Greet the Day Yoga .

I started Greet the Day yesterday, and halfway through got so frustrated and discouraged that I had to stop. The asana (pose) that triggered the “toxic thought world” (as Adriene says) was about halfway through the video: three-legged dog. I’m really trying not to say that I HATE things quite so often, but at best I only tolerate this asana. I see so many yogis posting pictures of themselves practically doing a full split while they do this posture, looking so peaceful, and it makes me feel so weak with my shaky, sweaty attempts to get and hold my leg as high as I can (not very far.) Yesterday I had posted about my frustration in my online yoga community. A few of the other members gave me some advice, and I decided to give Greet the Day another try while keeping said advice in mind. I didn’t feel happy and floaty when the video was over, but I still chose to do it and got the satisfaction out of revisiting and finishing the video.

Today had the potential to be a very crappy, frustrating, and depressing day and at least I have so far managed to keep myself out of a downward spiral. I don’t know exactly what the deeper message of this post is—I didn’t have any big, obvious insights or successes, but it’s good that I tried. It’s good that I got two forms of physical activity in, and it’s good that I didn’t spend the whole afternoon watching videos. I was dealing with several factors that each could have caused my depression to tank, but whenever I felt like being healthy was worthless or useless, I told myself that even if I didn’t see the point, I needed to give it a try anyway.

It’s good.

Much love.

*She’s the woman that does Miranda Sings, who knew??

**Since I was kind of grumpy, I wasn’t fully able to fully appreciate the things I saw on my walk, but there was a nice breeze for part of the time. At one point I also passed a neighbor who was walking two large chocolate labs.

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Feeding the body: Pokemon Go

Whether for or against, people tend to have strong opinions about Pokémon Go. For those who have not somehow heard about it yet, Pokémon Go is a new game developed to be played on smartphones. It was made by Nintendo, and designed by Niantic, Inc, and has sparked a new Pokémon craze (although the franchise never fully lost its following between its 1995 beginning and now.)

Each player creates an in-game avatar, which captures Pokémon (fictional friendly and hostile monsters), which can be trained and battled at in-game gyms. One of the feature which makes the game so controversial is the method of play—through Google and the phone’s GPS, the map that the avatars explore matches up with the player’s current surroundings. The player physically walking is a vital part of gameplay, as gyms and Pokéstops (in-game checkpoints where players can gather supplies) correspond with real-life landmarks. There are certain functions that can’t be completed without movement—and the game will not register when the GPS tracks the player’s speed as being that of a car, plane, etc.

This game has had some great effects. Because the game needs you to physically move, more and more people are getting out into their communities, and getting more and more walking and biking time in. And duh, walking = better all-around physical and mental health. Health care professionals and mental illness patients are also reporting vast improvements with depression, anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia, and autism among others. Ever since meeting and getting involved with DF, autism especially has been a subject close to my heart. It’s wonderful how many parents are reporting direct connections between Pokémon Go and increases in their children’s social skills and mental flexibility. Here and here are a few of the articles I’ve seen

However, with every good thing comes people who will find ways to cheat, or take it to unhealthy extremes (wouldn’t that make a great t-shirt slogan??) People are finding ways to get around the walking requirement by using pets and moving toys. Since the game can be so addictive while potentially causing players to lose track of what is happening around them, people have been documented as being injured or killed by falling off cliffs and into rivers. Players have also been robbed, had car accidents, and suffered illness resulting from sun overexposure. There are too many cases to individually list–it seems like every day brings up a fresh crop in the media outlets from Buzzfeed to the TV news–but here is a good article, from The Atlantic, that I used while writing this post.

Now, all that being said, I do have pretty mixed feelings…

When my brother and I were pre-teens, there was a pretty major Pokémon craze among our peers. I was never a rabid Pokémon fan. My brother and I watched the TV show, and half-heartedly collected pogs when they were given out in Dorito bags. As an adult, I tend to look on Pokémon affectionately while remembering the good old days. So when I recently downloaded Pokémon Go, it was mainly just to get a sense of what exactly everyone is talking about for myself, not to fervently catch them all.

I’ve had it since Saturday, I think. Some players reported that the game was requesting FULL access to their Gmail accounts (including email and history). To be safe, I created a new Gmail account specifically for the purpose. The day or two after I got it I had some trouble signing in—it wasn’t wanting to recognize my GPS or load. Whatever the reason, it’s been working fine the last few days and I’ve been finding that it’s pretty fun!

I usually struggle with getting enough exercise. While it may just be because the game’s still new and novel to me, I’ve gotten out of the house and been on several walks in the last two days. I live close to a parky type area which has many stops and gyms. It’s been fun discovering what different features, and discovering what the developers/Googlemaps deemed significant enough to qualify as a Pokéstop.

Since I don’t want to end up like one of those people who walks into traffic or anything while on my phone, I took (and take) precautions. I make absolute sure to look up from my phone for a decent amount of time every few seconds. I look at things I am passing. I take note of cicadas, and the sound of running water. When I was walking through the park area, I would regularly sit down and visually enjoy the beauty of my surroundings, even turning the game off for a few minutes.

I also turned off the option to connect my phone’s camera to the game. This means that instead of seeing a cute little critter perched in that big oak tree down the road, they appear against a cartoony background. I suspect this makes it easier to dissociate myself from the virtual reality. Reminding myself that every second I’m playing, I’m also burning through data helps too.

Playing Pokémon Go gives me a kick to get off the couch and do something different. Getting outside changes my surroundings, and temporarily distracts me from my worries, anxieties and apathy. Although catching pretend monsters is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it is a gentle and immediate thing to care about. It’s been cool to realize how many of the creature names I remember from childhood—I also remember the lyrics and tune to the original theme song! I’m also a bit less scornful of the people who get SO into the game they barely look up from their phones.

That actually sounds like a good closing point actually. Pokémon Go can be great, but don’t let it take over your life. Keep at least trying to find other things to get you up in the morning, to catch and keep your interest. Evolve, train, and battle your Pokémon, but don’t forget that it is also important to evolve and train your body, soul, and interests as a valuable, individual, and unique person! Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here!

You are worth it.

Much love.

Therapeutic mac and cheese, fiber, and recipes!

Cooking is soo therapeutic, and I can’t remind myself of the fact too often. Today, after another night of not enough sleep, I was still feeling groggy and bloated from my cousin’s wedding on Sunday. All I wanted to do was be lazy and re-watch Full House on Netflix. Days like this spell danger with a capital D for my eating habits, since the temptation to just grab a bowl of cereal or a plate of carbs is soo very…tempting. I might have given in if it weren’t for laziness—and actor, author, and Youtuber, and comedian Grace Helbig. I was I was binge watching her videos and found one where she made lemon angel hair pasta with shrimp. Pass on the shrimp…yaass on the pasta!

I ended up removing my butt from the recliner, and making a yummy, creamy version of macaroni and cheese. About 6 months to a year after surgery, one of the things I did to take back control of my life was research ways I could get vegetables into my diet, while reducing the amount in insoluble fiber I consumed. It is counterintuitive to what we are usually told by doctors, magazines, and the internet. But to a person whose gut still healing from major surgery—ok, I’ll back up a bit.

Basically, there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which you get from oatmeal, peeled fruit and veggies, and various other sources, thickens stool (poop). It grabs on to water, and therefore slows down everything that happens in the intestines. This is especially important to people who have had bowel resections. I had about a foot and a half of small intestine removed, including the ileum—which a part which usually plays a big role in digestion. Since there was less intestine in which digestion could happen, slowing the process down made it easier for my remaining intestine to absorb whatever nutrients they possibly could. That’s what soluble fiber does.

Insoluble fiber (found in fruit and veggie peels, whole grains, and such)…well, it very much has the opposite effect. The s***s I got for at least a year post-surgery while I healed and figured out my new diet were some power s***s. If I hadn’t temporarily removed as much as possible from my diet, I can’t imagine how much less energy I would have had.

All that to say, I had to get pretty creative with how I got my veggies. Cooking vegetables breaks down a lot of the molecular bonds that make them hard to digest, as does pureeing them. One of my top tricks was to buy up bell peppers from my local farmer’s market when they were in season I’d roast them, freeze them between layers of wax paper, and then use them whenever I needed them on pizza, thrown into pasta, on sandwiches…

I’m also pretty picky regarding the texture of cooked veggies, so I did a lot of food dupes, like you do when you don’t want picky toddlers to know what they’re eating (what can I say? I’m working on it!) One of my absolute favorites was the Super Mac & Cheese recipe from simplebites.net. Since the recipe was from a post geared towards babies and toddlers, it didn’t use a lot of spices, and sat very gently with my gut. Although I usually east pasta with peas, if I only felt up to making the mac, I still got a boost from the pumpkin in the sauce! Another healthier mac and cheese recipe I love is from pinchofyum.com.

Another great trick that my sneaky mom used from the time my brother and I were little was adding ground veggies to tomato sauce. Carrots and those priceless roasted bell peppers work especially well.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, today’s lazy recipe was Karen from kitchentreaty.com’s delicious take on macaroni and cheese. Now, although the original recipe was vegan, the way I made it definitely was not. I didn’t have the vegetable broth the recipe called for so I used chicken instead. Also…I added lactose-free cheese. BUT I did taste the sauce before I added it, and it was delicious that way too!

Now…I may not have got as much done today as I “should have” done to qualify for the mature, functional, adult awards but at least I made one good choice. Getting into the kitchen felt incredible. While washing, peeling, and chopping the veggies I felt the satisfying feeling of crunching through them with my favorite chopping knife. I looked through the window, and saw a grumpy-looking bird sitting on the lawn. I felt the steam from the boiling water. Most of all, I was proud of myself for each nourishing ingredient that went into cooking that dish.

When I cook, I am showing myself that I matter instead of just telling myself. When I buy ingredients for a new recipe, I nurture curiosity and interest. When I tweak ingredients mid-recipe, I am showing myself that it is ok to take risks, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.

I nurture. I thrive. I grow.

Much love.

 

Hard questions

Bad gut day 😦 Spent some time on the can twice–I think it was twice–before noon, with my tummy feeling crampy. What did I eat yesterday? Was it the stress of getting ready to go to a friend’s cottage this weekend? I did have some broccoli and cheddar flavored Uncle Ben’s last night, but fake cheese like that doesn’t tend to bother me. …is that wishful thinking and I’ve been in denial this whole time? See, it’s so much fun to have OCD/anxiety disorders on top of others, because it means you get to play the second-guessing game with yourself when making decisions. I do the exact same thing when deciding whether or not to spend money, what the next step in improving my financial situation is, and how heavy of a courseload to take each year. I think over all possible sides of a decision, then get paralyzed by the options and end up doing nothing. It’s terrifying.

I know this isn’t a cheery or encouraging post to read, but in my dark days I’ve often wished I knew of any other young adults whose lives felt stalled because of invisible medical diagnoses. To anyone who is in the same boat, know that you’re not more of a screw-up than everyone else. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. You’re not alone–I’m here too.

 

Climbing/belaying

I did it. I had my belay lesson this past Wednesday, and it wasn’t horrible. For those who may not know, belaying is one of the security measures that go along with top rope rock climbing. You know how you sometimes see people climbing rock walls while attached to a safety rope? In top rope climbing, that rope goes through a pulley thing and is clipped to the climbing harness of a belayer, who stands on the ground, making sure that the climbing rope is not too slack or taut, locking it in then the climber needs a break, and slowly lowering the climber when they are ready.

I first started considering this a few weeks ago, when I tried my first ever public yoga class, held at DF’s rock climbing gym. DF decided to go with me, and we both ended up feeling great afterward. We had tried doing at-home yoga videos together, but the experience never quite clicked for me. For some reason, doing the public class together felt different, and we both came out happy, and high off of endorphins. It must have been those that made me feel generous enough to entertain the idea that maybe, even though I hated climbing in the past, trying again could be a good bonding experience for us too.

After much consideration and flip-flopping, I found myself strapped into a climbing harness, learning how to tie a figure-eight knot. This class was the first time I remember really being able to climb more than my height or so off the ground. All the pre-climbing advice DF gave me must have stuck, because I was able to shift from my usual habit of trying to pull myself up with my arms, and put most of the work into my legs. It was embarrassing to only get a short way before needing to take a break, but it also felt incredible to get as far as I did. And DF couldn’t have been sweeter or more patient with me.

Long story short, I rate the experience a win. Even though I like to do things perfectly, I was able to appreciate just how well I did do and enjoy the bonding time with DF. My body felt great, and not TOO sore, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to trying it again

Hello Again

If only my mind was linked up with this blog…I would long ago have posted several essays’ worth of catch-up posts, each beautifully updating you up on the latest in my gut, mind, and body. However, the Depression Monster and his sidekick, Anxietron struck again. Each time I thought of some things I wanted to say, Depression Monster convinced me it wasn’t worth posting, I had more important and elusive things I should do first. Anxietron agreed, and added that I wouldn’t be able to articulate exactly what I wanted to say anyway.

Bullshit. I am taking the step to post anyway. This entry won’t win a Pulitzer, but it will sock the Depression Monster in the gut. There have been a lot of changes in my life since my last post, and I want to get them out there.

Picking up from 2 years ago…

  1. I did NOT start maintenance therapy. The thought of the type of medications Dr. Gutimov talked about at our appointments terrified me, and I was extremely loath to start with them and their side effects, when I already was not satisfied with my mood and energy level. The decision was a gamble, but SO FAR (please, God, please…), according to the results of the MRI I mentioned in the last post, and self-reporting, active Crohn’s doesn’t seem to have some back. Yay!
  2. I’ve raised the dosage of my anti-depressant a few times, and have rode the birth-control train to the point where I am FINALLY at the point where I am mostly happy with the one I am on. Not having monster cramps and period bowels (you know what I mean, sisters!) every month really tends to improve my mood somewhat!
  3.  I think the aloe plants I talked about repotting next time were the ones I ended up giving to DB’s mom and stepdad for Christmas (all the transplants took root well, and are thriving, for anyone who cares 😉 ). And OH!…
  4. DB is now…DF! There is a beautiful sapphire ring on my left ring finger! We have a tradition of him writing me little love notes on pages he tears out of a little spiral notebook I got him…and the day before last Easter, we were playing with the cats at one of my cat-sitting houses. I thought he was down on one knee to give Kitty some love, but instead he handed me a note asking me to marry him! We don’t have a date set, but we know it’ll be at least another few years, after I’m done college.
  5. I still struggle with getting myself to get enough exercise. Most recently I’ve been loving yoga. For a year or two I’ve been practicing at home with the free videos on Yoga with Adriene. Adriene has a ton of free videos on youtube, and she leads you through them with very real, conversational language. She emphasizes that yoga can be for everyone, and stresses that modifying or switching asanas to make them easier or harder is not cheating…anything to make sure they feels good for your body!

I just signed up for a belay lesson at DF’s rock-climbing gym.He loves climbing, and though I don’t (lol, really don’t), I’ve been wondering if it could be time to try again. I have made some progress with my positive self-image and motivation, and I’m actually looking forward to the potential bonding time with him ❤ We tried taking a few yoga classes the gym also offers and loved them even though he’s not really a yogi, so I also figure it’s only fair I give his main exercise a try!

6. I finished most of the first year at an educational assistant program offered at a nearby college. It was tough, but it also brought some of the greatest life satisfaction I’ve found post-surgery. My main professor is amazing, and very supportive of her students’ efforts. I adore her! I also met a new little group of friends, and their presence has been…warm and fuzzy, supportive, and fun. We helped each other through the stressors of college, and I’ve done my best to see them whenever we’ve been able to swing it this summer

That probably covers most of the main pillars of my life right now…depression is still a thing, anxiety is still a thing, I’m still struggling to get to church and talk to people, but I’m trying. I’m still alive, and I’m still growing. I’m going to try and become more regular with this blog again. Here’s to second chances!

 

 

Food, Glorious Food

One of the best health decisions I’ve made was to start roasting bell peppers. When I’m feeling all-around crappy and have no desire to cook, it is easy for me to go a day or two consuming very little to no fruits and vegetables. Obviously, this does not do good things for my energy and mental health. So I try to make it as easy as possible to get SOME amount of easy-to-digest veggies inside me, even if it is only a bite or two at a time.

This is an interesting and fun goal. I was a childhood picky eater and I carried my aversion to many vegetables into adulthood. When I lived on my own for a year I was kind of forced to try new things and experiment with recipes. Some of my discoveries?

1. Roasting bell peppers in the oven and freezing them. Since bell peppers tend to be pretty expensive, this lets me stockpile them when I find them on sale. Frozen bell peppers can be cut into skinny strips and and tossed with olive oil, parmesan, and pasta (veggie, healthy fats, protein); a wider slice can be added to a simple cheese sandwich (carbs, protein, and veggie!); strips can be added to soup for great flavor and another veggie serving…limitless possibilities with only one messy cooking job covering many meals.

2. Comfort food with sneaky veggies. A Google search for healthy mac and cheese turns up tons of recipes, most of which use some kind of pureed squash in the sauce. My favorite so far uses canned pumpkin, and the result is orange and creamy like KD, and does NOT taste of pumpkin! 😀 A crap-ton of vegetables can also be pureed and added to a plain tomato sauce to eat with spaghetti. Probably the simplest discovery I’ve made is to add a smashed clove of garlic to the water when I cook pasta.

3. Using my juicer. I  got a gently used one from a wonderful cousin, and while I don’t think it’s a good idea to regularly substitute meals for juice–even fresh juice you make yourself–it is a good way to get extra vitamins without a lot of insoluble fiber (the kind that leads to diarrhea). Vegetables that are slightly too far gone to enjoyably eat as they are are great in juice. Yesterday I used a few peaches and pears, a handful of grapes, some unroasted bell pepper, and two carrots for a great result to drink with my iron pills

Whenever I get a day off work, I love taking the morning or afternoon to try new things I have bookmarked online. It seems to help  view it as less of a chore when I come at cooking leisurely.

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