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!

 

 

The recent weeks

“Come in, Cat, or stay out,” I thought this afternoon as I opened the glass doors in response to his meow. Often during ‘bad’ weather (which includes rain, snow, extreme cold, wind, and chilly Autumn days) the cat will look behind him before deciding to step over the threshold. It’s as if he wants to make sure that things have not improved to his standards before he deigns to come in.

People say things like “your struggles make you who you are”, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and other things to the effect of “people are the sum of their experiences”, and the more good character you build, the more personal victories you have, the better the person you are. This may be true, but if there was a one-two, all-purpose, guaranteed-to-be-safe way to rid my body of my diseases, I certainly would not look back to make sure they didn’t regress to a lower level I could somehow better manage, and go on character building. It doesn’t look like I’ll be offered a magic solution any time soon.

Sorry for the lack in posts the past weeks. I have been in a very low depression, so strong that I pretty much woke up, sat at the computer until it was time to go to work, then went right back on the computer after work. I have been irritated with DB, the world, and my parents, and have been avoiding contact with friends because of the level of effort communication takes. This depression has been partly triggered by my grandpa’s recent death from Parkinson’s, and partly by a recent appointment with my GI.

Dr. Gutimov said that the results of the colonoscopy I wrote about a while ago showed some not-unusual redness around the surgery site, and some other tiny areas of redness as well. He did biopsies of those areas, and thankfully did not find the presence of anything nasty. The worst part of the appointment was when he said he wants me to have another MRI done.

An MRI is a medical test where the patient lies on a platform in a dimly lit room, told to lie very still, and then slid into a giant metal doughnut. The doughnut uses radiation to take pictures of the inside of the body part that is being examined. It’s kind of like x-rays. Actually, I’m not sure what the difference is, except they use different kinds of radiation, and you don’t need to wear the lead vest to get an MRI. It is not painful, and not the most unpleasant thing I have had done to me. However, I am tired of having things done TO me. Useful or not. When I was in the hospital last time, to make sure the images were clear, they gave me two bottles of water to which an invisible dye was added. I had to drink one by the time so much time had passes, and the other after I finished the first. I think I had to drink them both in the space of an hour. I couldn’t exactly taste the dye, but if they hadn’t told me I think I would have been able to tell that something was off. Again, it could have been worse, but as I mentioned in the colonoscopy post, I hate having to force myself to consume weird things!

I don’t know. Aside from that, this test could potentially reveal the return of the disease in the part of the small intestines which is unreachable by the scope. If it finds disease, I will probably need to take “maintenance therapy” as he put it. In other words, nasty medications with severe side effects. He said that he was definitely not telling me to get married and have kids right away, but he usually tells Crohn’s patients to be done having kids before they take these medications. That was very comforting of course…it was just one more ridiculous thing to make me feel like my life is a failure. I don’t want to completely get into it again now–I can already feel myself getting more depressed when I was having such a good day today. But yeah, that has been what’s going on.

I’ve gotten some laundry done today, repotted some aloe plants, and cut out some pieces with which to make a cushion for my grandma. I need to be able to feel good about today without raising it to the level of myth–unattainable on the regular the future. If I can get the laundry put away and take another walk at some point, I’ll say I’m satisfied.

Failure, victory, and confusion

While I was on my walk this morning, I realized that I’ve been posting a lot on my good days–the hopeful ones when I feel that baby steps aren’t so bad after all. That isn’t bad, but it doesn’t give the whole side of the story. I started this blog in part to be a form of therapy for me, and in part to provide reassurance to other young people like me, who feel that no-one in the world under the age of 50 shares their kind of health problems. When I am in no mood to write, when deciding what to have for lunch leaves me circling the kitchen for over 15 minutes, and when I lie on the couch staring at the back–these are the times when I just want to hear someone else say “I know,” and know that they mean it.

I am not a person who likes failing. When I was around 7, my father started to help me learn to ride a bike. After I wobbled around for a while, I got so frustrated and embarrassed at my incompetence that I ended the learning session. Later I spent an afternoon or two on a long stretch of street where I could pedal a few times, then put a foot down when I needed balance. Then I’d adjust the pedals so one was facing up, and do the same thing again, gradually getting the feel for what successfully riding a bike felt like.

I feel like I’m doing the same thing now. Although as an adult I try not to shut down around my family, just because of the way the days work out they tend to only see me when I am pedalling smoothly. The same with people at church. Of course, I don’t know for sure, but the impression I get is that, as a result,  people think I am doing much better than I am. In the months immediately post- surgery, the top of our piano was crowded with cards from people who I know genuinely care about me and my well-being.  I know that volume of mail cannot continue for ever, but it would be nice to feel that some people can see through my charade, can call me on my health  bluffs–especially people from the young adults potluck group I was a part of. When I give my usual “I’m doing ok, still working at getting better etc. etc.” answer, if only people could say “Ok. So how are you REALLY doing?”

How would I answer that, though? Very few friends know the depth of my struggle. DB (Dear Boyfriend) of course, my long-distance-friend Josh, and to some extent, my sister-in-law, Addie know how my depression rages at me.  I do feel badly about constantly responding with something about my depression or fatigue, because it puts them in an awkward position–what are THEY supposed to say in response? Ah, well…I can’t run an entire conversation by myself. I kind of caught myself on the edge, there, because one thing my OCD does is get me stuck running over endless “what ifs”. Haha, It’s still just 11:00, and I can still have a great day. Not a blissful day like I had last week or whenever it was, but there is still a great day.

Things I’ve already accomplished?

1. Went for a walk

2. Had an ok breakfast

3. Cleaned the cat box

4. Set myself a Minecraft time limit and stuck to it

5. Brushed my teeth and hair

6. Took medication #1

May seem like minutiae, but as I read somewhere (I forget where), there are no small victories with depression. Any healthy decision I make helps dissipate this blue mood before it becomes even stronger.

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.

Back again, with good life choices!

This morning I woke up around 7:15 with strong gas. I went to the bathroom, then came back and snuggled back into my bed with a book. Not too much later, the gas was back again, so I made another bathroom trip. I decided my body was telling me it was time to be up, so I decided to go upstairs and start my day. Good life choice #1. I still live in my parents’ house, in the basement room my brother occupied when he was still at home. (Side note: although I moved back home before my abdominal troubles started, things worked out excellently. My parents tend to spend most of their time upstairs, so unless someone’s doing laundry the downstairs tends to be pretty quiet. I have a bathroom only steps away from my bedroom door, so if I feel like it, I can pretend I still live in an apartment and seek out my parents’ company as it suits me.)

I am feeling pretty good today. While I was not tap dancing and singing show tunes when I came upstairs, I was in a good enough mood to take the 1:00 total it takes to scramble myself an egg in the microwave instead of reaching for my usual cereal and plain yogurt. I ate my egg on a slice of white bread with a piece of Muenster cheese hacked off the loaf my dad brought back from the States. It was delicious. I also peeled myself two peaches. GLC #2.

As if the wonders  would never cease, after letting stuff digest a bit I did a gentle Pilates workout I found on Youtube, and supplemented it with some more advanced Pilates moves I knew already. After that, I went for a brisk walk down a few blocks and back. GLC #3! It was the best kind of workout I can do for myself. Before my troubles (I say that a lot…shorten itmaybe to B.C? Before Crohn’s?) I did do Pilates, but also loved doing heavy workouts–Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred, her kettlebell one, and other 20-minute cardio and dumbbell  workouts I had on DVD and found online.

My incision has long since healed, and my doctors have given me clearance to do whatever exercise I feel up for. For the most part, that has not included long workouts like that. To clarify, for the most part I have simply not wanted to. I work a challenging retail job, with a LOT of standing, walking, and crouching. On the days when I work, I usually count that as my exercise. Often, I am so mentally and/or physically tired and uncomfortable that it feels like work takes the kind of effort I used to put into my old workouts, without the endorphin rush. I am not fully happy with this choice, but to quote one of my co-workers, “It is what it is.” Most often, since varying levels of depression have become my norm, on days I DON’T work I tell myself that I need to rest, and save my energy for work. Whether or not this is true or just a trick mental illness plays on me, I’m also unhappy with this choice–but it is one I am making steps to change.

I think that part of the reason exercise seems so daunting is that I am on some level stuck in the same mindset in which I approached exercise B.C. That mindset might work for and inspire some people, but it is not healthy for me any more. The all-or-nothing, go-go-go, type of inspiration now feels like bullying my body instead of listening to what it desperately needs to tell me. My goal is to do SOME kind of physical activity on the non-work days, even if it is only a 10-minute walk. Yes, ideally the human body should get more than that, but for me it is an achievable, non-scary baseline when brushing my teeth and hair twice a day feels like a prize-worthy achievement.

Gentle, yet effective forms of exercise I have found are:

1. Solo walking. Indoors to a video or outdoors. Sometimes I will break it into chunks, doing 10 minutes or however long in the morning, and again in the evening or whenever

2. Pilates. Pilates can be extremely demanding, but it is a type of exercise that is based on quality of movement rather than quantity. So, doing only a few repetitions of a movement with proper breath can be extremely effective AND feel really good! When I am exercising pretty regularly, I like Pilates For Dummies. When I am feeling less in shape, there are tons of gentle Youtube workouts that are designed for pregnancy, or bodies that have other challenges. Do not feel ashamed of searching these out!

3. Walking with friends. I put this in a separate category than solo walking, since it takes more effort to co-ordinate schedules. DB (Dear Boyfriend) is a fantastic partner for me since he is encouraging of however long or hard I want to walk. I’ve also walked and hiked with my parents, DB’s mom, his brothers and sister-in-law, and my own brother and sister-in-law. I am blessed with a fantastic support network, but you can also often find walking buddies through fitness stores, gyms, and the Y.

4. Squats, belly dancing moves, leg lifts, and the like while brushing my teeth and hair, fixing food, washing dishes…if anything else feels like more than I can handle, this is a fantastic outlet! It probably looks pretty funny, but screw anyone watching, it’s good for you! You can get a decent amount of total movement a day just by doing this. When my depression is strong, my days can get pretty sedentary. Movement keeps me fit, and helps prevent blood clots by keeping my blood flowing.

To sum up: I feel good today. It is almost 11:00 AM, and I have already made several healthy choices! Blogging was #4 for anyone keeping track 🙂 Any one can feel big on its own, but when I help myself wake up well, one small good choice tends to prepare the ground for another.

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow”

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 

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