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.

Noticing the inconspicuous awesome–dark humor

I realized that I haven’t done one of these in a very long time–and also that I’ve been posting about a lot of negative and/or dark things lately. So, here’s something to…kind of…counteract that!

Today while I was eating lunch, I was browsing a catalogue of various programs and workshops available around my city, and I noticed one called Cremation 101. Does that strike anyone else as humorous? What’s the final exam? Do you practice on dead animals, like when you dissect things in science class??

Now, in all seriousness, it is a course meant to give people information on what options are available while planning end-of-life details. I just thought the wording was kind of funny.

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.

Dissatisfaction

Really not feeling good about myself right now. I just tried a 50-minute yoga video, and had to really push myself to get 31 minutes through. I feel so fat and lazy. It feels like have my fitness routine these days is catching up, getting back in the swing after over eating or needing to take  break for some reason. Why can my body not do this? Why do I feel the need to keep falling into disordered eating habits? I’ll do ok for a week or so, and then slip into bad habits without even noticing or knowing.  I have been wanting to lose weight and tone up for so long, but it feels out of my grasp.

To top things off, my skin is breaking out too. For a long time I had really dry skin. At some point, again without me noticing my forehead got bumpy and shiny, and my cheeks are now showing a few spots of their own. I know I’m bad at self-maintenance, but shouldn’t the fact that I’m trying count for something?? I don’t have money to see a dermatologist, OR buy a bunch of new products, so I feel like I’m screwed no matter what I do.

It all comes down to money. I am sick and tired of my retail job. Other than working at McDonalds the first year of my career so far, I have been in retail for almost a decade. I’m sick of it! But when I think of changing fields, I feel so very, very tired. I don’t have experience, but the only way to get experience is to enter the field. With whose energy? With whose stamina? With whose hope? The spurts I get every now and then aren’t enough. Working with kids is one area where it’s especially important to provide dependability.

I wish I knew what my end goal was, what I want to do with my life. I’m in an Educational Assistant program, but I don’t even know if that is exactly the career I want. It’s the field I want for sure, but my classmates seem so much surer in their occupational goals.

It sucks not to be able to sit down and plan for my future without having panic and a fresh, black, wave of depression.

I wish I could end in some hopeful way, but that’s all I’ve got right now.

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.

 

Feeding the mind, and book reviews

A while ago I bought The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way is a self-help book that is worthy of an entire post to its self, but put simply it is a book and corresponding series of exercises that take more of a spiritual approach to reclaiming and nurturing creativity. I never finished it (although it’s on my list), but I’d like to paraphrase one principle in particular which has always stuck with me: in order to maintain artistic motivation and momentum, it is important to keep one’s bank of inspiration full, so to speak. Cameron suggests doing this by taking one’s self on weekly “artist dates”, to do something that one is truly interested in. As she explains artist dates on her website:

[They] fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.

This means that even if an artist date doesn’t involve an overtly artistic activity, it still stimulates extremely important qualities: lightheartedness, curiosity, pleasure, and, indirectly, a sense of self worth. I struggle with ALL of these things quite often, especially when I am going through a low. I feel guilty about allowing myself to do pleasurable things if they are not directly and explicitly tied to work or improving my physical health or my home situation.

One way I’ve been taking artist dates recently is by getting back into reading fiction. I was on a non-fiction kick for a while, but as great as the genre can be, it’s been leaving me unsatisfied lately. I’ve been craving more creativity, more stories. It’s been great so far. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and allowing myself to devour books if I feel like it or read things that can’t exactly be defined as fine literature has felt freeing.  It’s one way I can take back some of the power that I feel mental illness has taken from me—the ability to follow my interests without discounting them.

When I struggle with allowing myself to feel strong emotion, I return to light-hearted, familiar books and series. A particular favorite is the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke. These books comprise a murder mystery series that is fun without being gory or gritty. They follow Hannah, owner of a small-town Minnesota cookie store who always manages to stumble across murder victims. Each book always contains some of the recipes mentioned within the story. These books are formulaic but addictive. Perfect for when I want something to distract me from my life, but not heighten my anxiety or depression.

Over this past long weekend, I spent some time at a friend’s cottage with another friend of ours from college. We spent the cozy evenings coloring and reading. I whizzed through the first book in the Butternut Lake series, Up at Butternut Lake, and another book in the SouledOut Sisters series, Come to the Table (I told you I was a voracious reader!) Both of these titles also fall under the lighthearted fiction umbrella.

Up at Butternut Lake was written by Mary McNear. It is about a woman (Allie) who, along with her 5-year-old son, moves to her childhood cottage following her husband’s death. The plot follows Allie re-establishing herself in the Butternut community and (duh) falling in love with her workaholic neighbor; the middle-aged waitress at the only diner in town; and Allie’s friend Jax, who has a big secret. Also pretty predictable, but I really don’t consider that to be a bad thing. In this case, it was exactly what I needed. Perfect summer reading, with relatable and interesting characters.

Come to the Table was written by Neta Jackson. It is part of the SouledOut Sisters series, which is a spinoff from the Yada Yada Prayer group series, which I also love. Both series are Christian fiction. Come to the Table also follows multiple POVs. It is about a group of friends and roommates as they interact with their church community and work with needy Chicago populations. One of the things I liked about it is that the young adult protagonists do not have their shit together—they struggle to find their lives’ callings, just like I am. Although I do not really connect with the style of worship depicted in the book, I am Christian (Mennonite, for anyone who cares), and enjoyed finding a series that is not fairy-taleish, mystical, or preachy. I liked how it showed God working in the characters’ lives in a real-world, down-to-Earth kind of way.

Lastly, I just finished Queen Sugar. Written by Natalie Baszile, it follows the story of Charley, a black Californian woman who inherits a Louisianan sugar farm. Readers are thrown into the struggles and new pleasures she and her daughter Micah experience as they move to Louisiana, and reconnect with Charley’s family. I am still processing this one. It’s definitely not a light-hearted read, and I see myself re-reading it when I am in the same state of mind as when I re-read The Help, actually.

A couple of closing notes: Click on any of the book titles to check out its Goodreads review. Also, check out the Buzzfeed listicle entitled “31 Books You Need to Bring to the Beach this Summer.” It’s where I first learned about Queen Sugar, as has a TON of other great-looking titles, spanning a bunch of genres!

Lastly, I know that of course not everyone shares my tastes and religious beliefs, and that’s just fine. I just ask that if you feel compelled to leave a comment on any of the books I mentioned, please keep it respectful and constructive. Thanks!

 

 

Cameron, J. (n.d.). Artist Dates | Julia Cameron Live. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/artists-dates/

Thompson, L. (2016, June 29). 31 Books You Need To Bring To The Beach This Summer. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/lincolnthompson/books-you-need-to-bring-to-the-beach-this-summer?utm_term=.xgeNV2ZyX

 

https://www.buzzfeed.com/lincolnthompson/books-you-need-to-bring-to-the-beach-this-summer?utm_term=.xgeNV2ZyX&sub=4286341_8993172#.eu3x1nDmB

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.

 

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