Serious Stomach Stress and Sabotage

My first marriage was to a man, who although pleasant, had less financial sense than a 5 year old.  This wasn’t just me – his own mother was relieved we were marrying so I could take care of him.  I had lost my job and had started a business using my savings and unemployment.  He basically made less working than I did on unemployment. His idea – play Lotto.  He bought the you gotta be in it to win it ad.

Yup,  I had massive credit card debt.  One month, the bills came in, I literally doubled over and could not stand up.  I had massive pain in my stomach.  It took about two days till I could stand, do anything and of course, pay those bills.  The second month it happened, I figured out the trend.  It continued thereafter.  Usually, I could stand but could not do much of anything else.  It’s hard to read or think when you are in pain.  The marriage ended.  I cleared up the debt and it basically went away.  However, anytime I was in a stressful situation, it came back.  Mercifully, the duration was only a few hours and I have found that tea and warmth around my stomach help.

My last real bout of this was 10 years ago or so when my life started falling apart or changing.  I was seeing a counselor at the time and did manage to show up for an appointment in distress.  She suggested it could be irritable bowel or colitis.  Before I could go to the doctor, I was laid off. As I told the man who let me go “Thank you.  Summer on the beach with shells in my hair”.  No more stomach problems.

Periodically, about once a year or so, I get an “attack”, usually short-lived.

I am so much more than the condition(s) that are afflicting me.  Most times, I forget until I try to stand up or walk.   Right now, I am involved in projects at my job that not only do I enjoy but are high profile.  I do have a meeting scheduled with the top guy to present my work. I have noticed through out my working life that if things are going well or have the potential to go well, I get sick, typically a respiratory thing and/or fever.  I have never taken a final in high school or college without a fever.  I closed on my mother’s house and walked out of the offices with a 102 fever and had to go to bed for a few days.  My body knows.  So, I am working away on this presentation and putting in major time.  It’s the reason I haven’t blogged.  I felt prepared and rather calm.  Then I had two meetings and need to do more work.  Not a problem.  I have been house bound due to the weather.  Oh yeah, the other night, whammo!  My stomach thing hit full force.  I was grey, perspiring, in intense pain, the kind where every time you move and every way you move, hurts.  I knew exactly where it was coming from.  My body was telling me that I could not move forward and do this.  I couldn’t work.  I couldn’t think, I couldn’t sleep.  Taking deep breaths hurt!  3 a.m. found me panting.  My brain struggled through to my body and said Enough!  I am approaching a milestone age which has been weighing on me.  There are things I want to accomplish with my life.  It’s time for me to deal with it and realize what’s left of my potential.  I woke the next morning and started going for it.  As I write this my stomach is twinging but I am writing and working.  I am not going to let my body continue to sabotage me.  And isn’t that what part of this condition is?  My body literally not allowing me to move forward?  When I was in counseling during that bad time, the counselor said when you get upset you let your feet out from under you.  I am not saying that what’s happening with me is psychosomatic.  It isn’t but I am also saying the mind/body connection is a powerful one.

And as I said when I started this unforeseen journey, I will overcome.  I will rise.  It will be different.

Vanity, the Spectral Leg and Vows

cropped-shoe-with-brace.jpgI have always been consumed with the way I looked.  I joke “Clothing is my life”.  I can look at a picture and know by the clothes I was wearing what was going on.  It’s how I express myself.  For example, at a certain period in my life, if I was wearing pants to work, it meant I was unhappy and didn’t want to be at that job.

I grew up in a household where “ladies didn’t wear trousers”.

And I was/am a dress and heels kind of woman.  People would say Oh we are getting older now we don’t need to wear heels.  Or isn’t it wonderful that flats are in fashion.  NOT.

I used to walk a 15 – 17 minute mile.

When I went to get fitted for the spectral leg as I call my brace or as the doctor calls it my appliance, the ortho guy told me I would never wear a skirt or heels again and I would have one on both legs and probably my hands.  Can I tell you I will never go to that man again or recommend him?

I still have only one spectral leg which I am actively looking to ditch.  I do still wear skirts and therein is the problem.  I used to take the spectral leg off at work and wear reasonable kitten heels or flats.  Somewhere along the line, I began to fear and kept the spectral on all day.  I had some relatively cute black lace oxfords for summer.  I bought a sensible pair of black oxfords in the fall.  Doesn’t that sound awful – sensible black oxfords?  And I bought some wonderful clothes – beautiful sheath dresses, a skirt with panels.  They look great when I am seated or when I am behind something but the full length?  It’s horrid. It makes me feel really old and ugly.

This is bad for my health, seriously.  My image is intrinsically part of who I am and if I am feeling old and ugly, it’s not good.  I don’t want to hear the nonsense about blah, blah well you are lucky you can still walk.  Uh, I get that but there’s more to me.  And I said when this whole thing started I wasn’t going to let it define me and those freaking shoes do.

So, I keep on looking for something that will be less obtrusive.  Mail order hasn’t been working.  Today we went to Lord and Taylor, one of my favorite stores.  Major shoe sale.  My husband says let’s try it, It’s the first time I have tried to try on shoes in public.  The spectral leg just hung out.  I tried to try on three pairs of shoes.  It did not go well.  And then my husband put the appliance back in the sneaker (it’s the weekend) tied my shoe and covered my leg with my pants.  The salesgirl (she was young) just stood there and said “Wow, till death do us part and all”.  I said “Things happen and life keeps on changing.”  It’s one of my mottos.

But this is not the life we thought about.

We have been through a lot together, sometimes me, sometimes him.  Who knew those vows really meant something?  I am amazed and grateful that we are doing the “in sickness and in health”.  They are not just words.  They are our reality.

One of my doctors said she had noticed a spiritual evolution in me.  I don’t see it.  But there are moments like today with my husband on his knees in a department store helping me that I know grace.

Drinking the Kool Aid

My old manager always said when someone bought into something that they had drunk the Kool-Aid.  It wasn’t necessarily a good thing.  It was definitely an illusion to Jonestown and he didn’t mean it positively.

Oh, and he never said that about me.

I am not a Kool Aid drinker.  When I was little and everyone had birthday parties with Kool Aid, I didn’t drink it.  I am told it made me sick.  My mother, who was very advanced for her time, didn’t believe in it.  No sugary drinks for us.  I didn’t drink soda till junior high.  I digress.  This is about Kool Aid.  Well, not really. It’s about buying into something whole heartedly.  I don’t think I ever do.

I have written about my mother and her force and determination.  Well, my Dad was a non-Kool Aid drinker.  He was always skeptical about everything.  He always took a step back.  It was something we argued about.

However,  I never ran with the pack or the clique.  My mother used to say that I conformed to non-conformity. I probably still do.  I pick and I choose.

That’s what I am doing with this food thing.  Picking and choosing.  After all, I am the editor’s daughter.  In addition to writing, he was an editor. I know I edit.

And I don’t commit.  It’s my failing.  I have had more than one manager at work who has said if I ever committed I would be frightening.  And as to relationships…….  My sister friends I commit to with a fierce loyalty.  For them I would drink the Kool Aid and I do drink the Kool Aid of friendship.  Men were another story.

So, where does this leave me?  Do I drink the Kool Aid of this way of eating?  Can I drink it?  Maybe Kool Aid isn’t right for me?

I read all these people that are drinking it and getting personally filtered water and questioning everything they eat.  Have you ever been out to eat with one of those people who question the wait staff?  And then basically want it cooked without anything?    Like why bother to go out to eat?  I think that makes it uncomfortable for everyone. But the people who succeed appear to be fanatic.  I was raised in a household where fanaticism was antithetical to our being.  Also, funny enough, I am a Libra.  Whilst I may not buy into the whole astrology thing (there goes the Kool Aid again) I need balance.  To be that extreme, puts me out of balance.

What I do need to do is finally, ultimately commit to me.  If I make that leap then I can eat the way that will help me. I can rise.


What would Reima Do?

REIMA 1940'S - 50'S

Reima was my mother. I am literally her pale shadow. One of the things I am deeply grateful for is that my mother passed away before she could see me like this. Two of my mother’s best friends at different times had MS and they both died. In fact, one of my earliest memories is walking with my mother and her friend and a stroller. I don’t think it was for me and there were two little brothers. I am not sure which one it might have been for. I was very, very little. Her friend had an attack and Reima had her walk with the stroller. Looking back on it, it must have been terrifying for all of them. They were young, alone with anywhere from 2 -4 little kids. She got worse and died before I was 10. We moved and there was a friend on our block. She became wheelchair bound quickly. She, too, died from this. So, when they told me that this wouldn’t kill me, I wasn’t buying any part of it.

More about Reima – she had a very high tolerance for pain. She thought childbirth was vastly overrated. She used to get her teeth drilled without anything. She maintained the same weight for just about her whole life – 7 pounds more than before she became pregnant with me. She made sure that she weighed the same every year when she went to the doctor. When she decided to quit smoking, she just stopped and yes, she didn’t gain an ounce! When she made up her mind to do something, she just did it. She came to this country essentially by herself because she wanted to.

So if my mother Reima was confronted with this and knew that it could be addressed with not having certain foods, it would have been done immediately, no question, no hesitation. And then there’s me. I want to, I need to and I am not. Well, I gave up gluten. I no longer have yogurt. Practically no eggs. Almost no red meat, never really been my thing. But no beans, no soy, no apples, no bananas (depending on who you read) no eggplant, tomato, maybe corn, no shellfish.   I like fish and chicken. I like grilled things. Reima didn’t believe in deep frying. She was way in advance of her time in terms of food.

So, I need to think what would Reima do and do it.

Working and 9 Cups

I am taking elements from all the different ways of eating I have been exploring: Wahls, Swank, Clean Cuisine, MS Diet. I am trying to take the best of everything and maybe create something will work for me and on me. Well, I really like the concepts of 9 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. However, another thing I have noticed (and I am truly grateful this does not apply to me) is that these people were so disabled they could not work.   I work. I wake around 4 a.m. every morning, commute close to two hours each way and though I tend to demur, some people say I have a pretty high powered job. So, back to the 9 cups. Yesterday, Sunday, I set up some smoothies in advance. Smoothies are a great way to get in vegetables, fruits and nutrients. There is one I adore from Sparkpeople that sets me up for four cups – two cups of kale, one cup of blueberries and a banana. As I mentioned earlier, I wake around 4 a.m. I am a morning person. Most mornings I wake with a smile, literally. I am one of those people, people hate in the morning. I will beam and tell you we are going to have a great day. I can do this without coffee. I prefer coffee. However, cheerful and all does not do blender in the morning, even weekend later mornings. So, I thought I’d set myself up for success this week by making a few yesterday. It took nearly an hour! Oh, and by the way, I am a good cook so I know how to do my mise en place etc. Back to 9 so I am going to work, no private office, lots of meeting, interaction and commuting. There are logistics involved here.

I do have issues so there is literally only so much I can physically take into work with me. There is that long commute, most of it on public transport. Therefore, I am not using the public facilities. I have to time this!

Next is prep. Uh, my energy is kinda limited. My husband helps but.. And then actually eating all this. And it’s not the only thing I need to eat.

So how do you eat this healthily and correctly and hold down a job without lots of help? I know I have to focus on my health but work too and uh, yea, that exercise thing and getting enough sleep?   Just sayin’

Bananas, really?

Who would have thought that bananas are my new savior? As a child, I couldn’t stand them. I was not really allowed not to eat food but I stood my ground with bananas. Never on breakfast cereal. I was the little girl who adored stewed prunes. Being West Indian, we made fritters. Those I liked. Banana bread, not so much. It was barely tolerable. And Grandma used to make more of a baked fritter, dense and with raisins. Oh and baked with a little orange juice and brown sugar, a nice treat.

As an adult living on my own, I NEVER bought bananas.

Then a few years ago as this journey started, I felt I had to eat them for the potassium. Plus my husband will eat them. So, I started to eat them. A man at work started leaving them on my desk. I started losing a little weight. They were a necessary evil.

Then with this new way of eating came the smoothie and getting rid of sugar. The banana makes it possible! Who knew? It adds creaminess and sweetness to the smoothies. I feel full and want less sugar. I freaking crave this.

I did read in one of the Healing books – no bananas. What? I cannot see this working out. So I am continuing with my bananas, disguised of course!

Warrior Questions

Even though I am not a Wahl’s warrior, I think her questionnaire is a good way to start the year so here goes:

How do I feel today – Well, I have the usual New Year’s blues. I am always fearful of the New Year. I know what I had. I survived it. I am still literally standing today. I don’t know what the New Year will bring, the vast uncharted territory. We saw Life of Pi this past week and it’s sort of how I feel. I am embarking on a journey without a map with something that wants to destroy me. I should have the power and the tools to tame it. Can I? As to the physical, I tried some basic lift your leg exercises and my left which is supposed to be the good one, is for crap. I feel slightly determined and slightly overwhelmed today.

What did you do for yourself today? I finished reading a trashy novel with breakfast which felt great and here I am writing which has always worked for me. And I am going to finish listening to Serial

What did I eat today and how did it make me feel – Day isn’t over but I started positively with homemade granola and a cranberry smoothie.

Did I exercise? What did I do? How did it feel – Exercise, see above and I hope to get back to my abs.

For whom or what are you grateful? What matters most in life? Grateful as usual to be warm safe and dry. I have a job. I have possibilities. I have people who love and care for me.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement – Ha, higher purpose is for childish dreams. Driving force – pay my bills and continue to walk. Mission statement -beyond me at this point. Something about sharing my journey. It’s self serving

How long have I been treated with conventional medicine Well, they haven’t really treated me now, have they? I have the spectral leg aka the brace. I was going to physical therapy. I did acupuncture for two years.

The first time I had a symptom – June 2004 walking on the beach boardwalk

What symptoms are most troublesome – Duh, gradually losing my ability to walk and being dependent.

Do I blame myself for things – Sure, being stupidly cheap and not getting the hole in my mouth fixed. I think a virus amok kickstarted this. Not searching hard enough or asking the right questions. Not being aggressive enough.

How is stress level? Not as bad as it’s been. Financially, things are frightening! It’s on me. I don’t want to keep on getting up at 4 something. It’s not healthy for me on all kinds of levels and I can’t see my way out. Time challenges. And then all that walking in public areas that I struggle with

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?   Well, eat properly, exercise and breathe. Make a plan.

I will do this questionnaire at the beginning of the month. And let’s be real, on the weekend.

Fat – A Plan of Attack

So,  I am a tad depressed.  I have been evaluating the different ways of eating.  I am making my plans.  However,  I haven’t been doing well.  More things seem not to be working well.  Change in plans.  First of all I know all or never doesn’t work.  So,  I thought I’ll just do it month to month.  A month is doable or we can break it down further and do a week at a time.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to start during the holidays though I have tried to mitigate the risk and lapses.  I have been reasonable.  But I thought all things considered I needed to try Swank for a month.  Sugar will be hard but I get it.  No eggs, no legumes – this is harder.  And then I was looking at the fats again.  This and sugar has to be key.  What am I going to do about avocado?  I have been enjoying avocado smoothie.  And it looks like there’s a great pudding ….  So maybe I’ll have to swap?

Looking at a modified paleo.  First,  a go at Swank.

Something has to give.  I have read too many accounts of food making the difference.  I have to do this.

What I am giving up

What I am giving up?

I am thinking a lot lately about what I am giving up. This new way of eating requires giving up a lot – pastries, sugar, chocolate!  Maybe beans, eggs.  Yogurt.  I have eaten yogurt since I was little.  Long, long before it was popular.  When it was only Dannon and a few flavors on one shelf.  I don’t mind  no bread or pasta.  Sometimes I walk past a stand in the train station and the odor of butter and sugar is heady and intoxicating.  I walk by.

But giving up— four summers ago, shortly after all this started, I was faced with giving up. My ability to walk freely was going away.  I was told I needed a brace.  The man who fitted it told me I would never be able to wear heels again or skirts.  Really?  Well, I wasn’t having that.  How I look is very important to me and an extension of who I am.  Not to be facetious but it’s part of putting my best foot forward.  Then I was told no more hot baths.  I adore my baths. They are how I decompress.  I sink into a tub with bubbles,  a novel and a snack.    It soothes me.  No hot baths?  I felt lost.  The doctors finally said well maybe you are different.  Aren’t we all?  So, I was able to go back to my bubbles.

I am known for my smile. People miss it.  I like to smile.  Yes, it’s very aggressive, one of the few facts I took away from my Hopkins education.  Buy it gives me joy and I know it gives others joy as well.  Something started happening inside my mouth.  It hurt me to smile.  I couldn’t.  This literally hurt inside and out, every day.  The doctor’s take – I swear he was 12 and surfed the ‘net:  herpes, stress, menopause, the condition.  Again, really?

Well, it started to clear and I heard that my mother was dying. It flared again.  My mother died.  She had been my best friend but she had dementia and there were issues with my brother so in many ways I had lost her before.  Another part of me that I had to give up.

So, if I think about it, what’s giving up food in the scheme of things? Especially, if I can give up wearing a brace and not being able to walk.   I am giving up in order to get.  Isn’t that the way things are supposed to work?

Annette Funicello

This morning I was thinking of Annette Funicello.  She had MS and died of complications from it. That’s what they tell me – I won’t die from it but probably from the complications. Excuse me?  How is that different?  But, anyway I was wondering why she didn’t explore this food option or did she attempt this?  If she did, for how long?  Why didn’t it work?  Or why didn’t she try?

I read the obituaries every morning.  I am of a certain age and my friends’ parents and my contemporaries are passing away.  And I need to know.  The universe is sending me messages as when I opened the obits, it was the anniversary of Annette Funicello’s death.

I take this as a sign that I need to make a decision and a commitment to live.  I must commit to living this lifestyle.  I do not plan of dying from complications.  I owe it to myself to do this the right way.