Healing

So, we have a situation. My body is out of whack, and I don’t know why. I’ve been piecing together fragments to make sense of this all, but I’m not a practicing licensed medical professional. There is only so much I can determine with the amount of undergraduate education I’ve recieved.

[P​lease note that this post was originally written three weeks ago.]

C​alifornia is up in smoke. This is nothing new. She has been up in smoke since 45 took office. It’s been a year and a half. My body is reacting to all the ash that we cannot escape. I’m having trouble breathing, my throat is constantly irritated, I am always congested, and when I blow my nose, there’s always blood. The thing is, there was blood even before the fires. The wave of ash we got in the Bay Area has just amplified the amount of blood that is coming out.

I​ have delicate tubes connecting my ears, nose, and throat. I always have. As a child, I was prone to murder scene nose bleeds, ear infections, and snot that looked like brain matter (to quote my family). When I was a child, I hated blowing my nose, and it was a battle that almost always ended in tears. There were times my parents had to use tweezers to dislodge dried mucus. Having someone you love come at you with tweezers for something other than hair or splinter removal is traumatic, especially as a four year old.

T​o this day, I still dislike blowing my nose. Honestly, it’s not the act of forcing snot and foreign objects out. I don’t like the sensation of having anything blocking my nasal passages, nor do I like the sensation of itchy nostrils. I mean, who gets joy from having a congested nose? I highly doubt anyone finds that pleasurable.

M​y ear, nose, and throat issues are not the point, though.

T​hrough the years of my life, I’ve learned that I live with polycystic ovary syndrome, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I would like to make it clear that I have a problem with the word disorder, especially when it comes to my diagnoses. I am in no way incapable of being a well functioning part of society. At first glance, none of these are apparent.

W​hile not apparent to the naked eye of a stranger, those diagnoses are there. They are a part of me. And, they were triggered by some biochemical reaction in my body. Science. She is a beautiful thing.

I​ wouldn’t have polycystic ovaries if I wasnt a biological woman who went through the natural process of puberty. I have ovaries that function, even if they aren’t very efficient. Puberty and PCOS triggered a hormonal imbalance which caused my brain to process my moods “abnormally”. With the hormonal imbalance came the depression. With the depression came the anxiety and OCD.

H​aving all of these formally diagnosed by licensed medical professionals and licenced psychologists has helped me understand my body and mind. I’ve gained a wealth of information from them, including self-care and holistic treatments, such as proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

L​ately, I’ve been experiencing joint pain that seems abnormal for my life. For two months, the mornings have been dreadful. The knuckles in my right hand feel like they have been smashed, and my left wrist feels like it did when I fractured it 25 years ago. Both of my shoulders feel extremely tender. My hips have been in immeasurable pain, and my ankles swell, even if they’ve been elevated. I get fatigued quicker than usual, and my mood has a harder time to shake.

O​f course, I went to the internet. That’s what we do in 2018. The first thing that popped up was lupus. Immediately, I convinced myself that I had lupus. That rash across the nose and cheeks? It seems similar to the redness that is constantly present. The pain that is its worst in the morning upon waking? Yes, that’s me. Am I constantly tired and do I feel emotionally low? Of course. Am I sensitive to light? Yes, I hate bright light.

T​he internet has made us all hypochondriacs. After a few sessions with my therapist, she helped me down from my lupus ledge I had found myself on. She asked me if anything else came up during my search. I said, “yes, there was one thing that actually makes a lot more sense: rheumatoid arthritis.” As I described my findings, we combined our knowledge (and she has a lot more than me), and agreed that RA is far more plausible than lupus.

T​his was in September. It’s now November. I have yet to see a doctor, and that was because I didn’t have health insurance. I’m insured now, so it’d be wise to get my body checked out, right?

The fatigue is getting worse. While the joint pain might not be as severe as it was a couple weeks ago, it is still there. There is something happening with my body aside from the ash inhilation and wacky, mood altering hormones. My body is unhappy with itself, and I’d like to be just a bit more comfortable every day. I’d like to be able to have a 13 hour day and have the energy to clean the kitchen when I come home. I would rather not slowly hobble up the short flight of stairs to my apartment and fall right into bed in the clothes I’ve worn all day. I’d like to, at the very least, drink a glass of water and eat an apple or a cucumber before falling into bed, but I don’t have the energy or painless range of movement to pour a glass of water or simple chopping of a cucumber. The feat of doing both seems too mighty. Neither of those are difficult, and an able bodied 36 year old should not have trouble doing either.

S​o, to a doctor it is. Blood needs to be drawn and looked at. All the normal things they check should be checked, and they should look at other things not normally ordered. I’d like an explanation as to why my body seems to hate me right now. Our bodies are intuative. They tell us when there is something not quite right. Scientists have come up with ways of looking at what is inside us for answers. The sooner I get answers, the sooner I can heal myself.

W​hen we take care of ourselves, we can take care of the world around us.

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Fall. Fallen.

Today was the first day that it really felt like autumn. The morning greeted us with a thick blanket of clouds. There was a crispness to the air. I even had to put on a fleece before sundown.

Here’s the thing: leading up to this day, my body has been responding to the seasonal atmospheric change.

Earthlings, flora and fauna alike, respond to light and temperature. Both are necessary parts of our lifecycles. My body, like a good chunk of humans, seems to be a bit more sensitive to changes in both.

Y’all. Seasonal Affective Disorder is legitimate. There is a moment when one notices the days getting shorter and the temperature is just a couple degrees below comfortable. As much as we try to keep some pep in our steps, life seems just a little bit more unbearable.

In the last twelve months, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, as well as mental health as a whole. The past year has given me insight about my values, work ethic, desires, and a deeper understanding about why I feel all the emotions that I do. It has been an interesting and amazing journey.

So, I’ve known for awhile that my moods are very much affected by the weather and the seasons. I am a cranky bitch if I’m in an non-breezy atmosphere hotter than 80 Fahrenheit. My body runs hot, always; being in a hot environment without any solace is painful. That has nothing to do with SAD, though. That’s just a physical response to heat. I’ll take the risk of being physically uncomfortable if it means the sun will be out until 9:00pm.

As soon as October hits, my body starts to slow down. I feel the upbeat mood still lingering from summer waning. It’s harder for me to get motivated in the morning, and I feel like I’m dragging most of the day. The Major Depression my body hosts is heightened from mid-October to the beginning of March.

The SAD started to kick in a week or two ago. For a moment, I just thought it was menstrual hormones. It might still be, but I know my body well enough. The sluggishness and apathy stem from a lot more than just a change in my hormones. It’s the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. We are creeping into winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’ve started to ensure I have tools in place to help ward off the deep navy winter blues. The apartment complex I live in has a “gym” (two rooms with a few pieces of equipment). I need to make sure I get down there and get on the treadmill at least three times a week. I’m starting to stock my bedroom with some dumbbells. They get used everyday, especially when they are in plain sight. All of my lightbulbs are warm to give my brain a boost of happy lighting. I use uplifting aromatherapy, citrus blends being my favorite. I make sure I take a B-Complex pill every day, as well Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. Being a vegetarian, I get a lot of nutrients from all the veggies, fruit, lentils, and nuts I eat. And, about a year ago, I invested in a light therapy box. I’ve used it only three times, but it’s living right next to my bed, so I can use it more often. Apparently these light boxes are great for people with SAD (and people who live in places far away from the equator), as they help regulate circadian rhythms, ensure melatonin is being produced, and the body’s ability to create Vitamin D is not a lost cause. Or, something like that. Don’t quote me. In fact, please correct me. I’m not a licensed medical/mental health professional. I’ll have to go look at the legitimate studies again. 

This will be my first winter without my family nearby. My parents are enjoying their retired life thousands of miles away in Ireland. I am definitely in for a huge learning experience, as I don’t get the treat of my mother’s delicious wintery Irish soul food. (Irish people really do do the best comfort food during winter months.)

Who else experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder? What are some of your coping mechanisms? Share! We are not alone and should lift each other up.

Take care of yourselves. Remember: YOU ARE LOVED.

So Far…

I wish getting a job was a lot easier than it is. I also wish that I had an advanced degree that would make getting a job easier. And, I really wish getting a higher education didn’t make people bleed money. It’s such a shame that education is so expensive. I’d have gotten a Masters a decade ago if higher education wasn’t so expensive.

And, if I had taken care of my mental health.

May is mental health awareness month. It’s no secret that I live with major depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Life is no picnic for me, and part of living with these is the constant, nagging thought “there are actually large communities of people out there in the world who actually have serious issues, so get out of bed and be happy.”

Yes, I think this very regularly. It is a common thought that many people with lifelong depression (may) think. The people I have spoken to with similar mental health concerns can empathize with this train of thought. It has the potential to be detrimental to our healing and self-care, as it minimizes our health.

One thing that I have learned over the course of self-care is that I “can’t heal the world.” Really, I can’t. I am one person in an aquarium full of 6+ billion people. And, the best thing that I can do to help people who I feel have it worse than me is take care of myself to the best of my ability.

When I take care of myself, I feel like a productive part of the community. I believe that my efforts have an effect on the immediate world around me. When I make other people happy and/or create or fix something, other peoples’ lives are easier. When their lives are easier, they can pass that flame on.

Something that I rarely talk about is that I have borderline personality disorder traits. We have a tendency to over-overthink things and see the world in only black and white. Mix this with obsessive compulsive disorder, and life gets real tricky. I am constantly having to remind myself to calm down, take a step back, and think in the grey.

This is why I get fixated on people who have it worse than me. The guilt is something that has been ingrained in my psyche. It’s what I have known for twenty years. My mind can go in a guilty loop for days, until I do something good and I’m shocked that I’m an okay person. It’s an extremely annoying cycle.

So, after 36 years, I’ve had enough. That’s why I started seeing a therapist and got on an anti-depressant. I’ve chosen to stick with both, because both are tools for success. It is important that I take care of myself, so I feel comfortable in my skin. A byproduct of this is that I’m more pleasant to be around and people will enjoy my company more. When I am a pleasure to be around, I feel better about myself. This is a cycle that I can get used to. But, I need to not think of it as a cycle. I just need to go with the flow.

Because not everything is black or white. Most things are grey and grey is a pretty color.

Change is Inevitable

Here I am, still unemployed. I am also very hormonal, or so it seems.

My weight seems to drastically fluctuate daily, and even something low calorie, like cucumber or spinach makes me extremely bloated and uncomfortable. This is always a sign that my flow is about to start. But, I’m 36 and have never had a naturally regular cycle. So, this could just be my body rejecting change.

Whatever the case, I had two phone interviews yesterday, both of which seemed promising. One lead to an actual onsite interview (and was told I needed to ensure I had two free hours to do so). This morning, I let someone know that I would like to rent the room she has available. It’s the most expensive room I looked at, but it’s a nice room with a large private bathroom.

Here’s a secret: I am a bathroom fanatic. I love large bathrooms that are light and welcoming. The larger, the better. And, a bathtub is essential.

When I was a teenager, my parents let me have the master bedroom. This meant I had a private entrance to the house, as well as my own private bathroom. High school was great, because I got to sneak out whenever I wanted. I could take a shower when I crept back in at 4:30am to wash the night’s fun off. But, there wasn’t a bathtub.

I am absolutely excited for the bathroom that will be all mine. The bathtub is perfect! As soon as I am all moved in and settled, I’m going to light a few candles and toss some essential oils and salts in, and luxuriate in this new journey I am embarking on.

The next couple weeks are going to be jam packed with packing, storing, interviewing, exercise, mindfulness, eating well, and moving.

I do still have my GoFundMe active, as well as an active Patreon page! Please visit both. Any donations are greatly appreciated. Please know that I will keep all donors updated on my progress with moving and job hunting, as well as any exciting events in my life!

When Time Stops

It’s been sixteen months since I created this blog. I started it with the intention to document my journey with PCOS. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. For the last year or so, I have barely taken care of myself and been focused on plenty of things that didn’t directly heal my heart and mind.

Six months after creating this blog, I decided that I would focus on every aspect of healing myself. Instead of just talking about my experience with PCOS, I decided to branch out and discuss my experience with my relationship with food. Well, that didn’t happen. I let this blog lay in wait, gathering dust.

So, sixteen months after setting up this blog, I’ve made an actual, logical decision. I commit this blog to the discussion of my experience with PCOS, my (physical and emotional) relationship with food, my relationship with exercise, and my take on my own mental health.

I plan on making time each week to write one new post. Who knows? I might even write two! Currently, I am reading a lot of daily meditation books, including ‘Beautiful You: A Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance’ – a book that was waiting around for months to be used. This is a book I highly recommend to anyone working on their self esteem. I’ll be sharing some of the activities or questions that I find most poignant.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained and licensed therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. All of what I discuss is in regards to my own experience, research, and education. When talking about someone else’s research or experiences, I will respectfully and legally cite them. If I misquote someone or cite incorrectly, please let me know and I will correct my error. Don’t sue me, please! Give me a chance to correct any honest mistakes.

Six Months Later…

After reading the very few posts I wrote, I decided that I want to revamp this blog. Instead of it just being about my experience with PCOS, this blog will be about my experience with my overall health.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is just one of many parts that make up who I am. It is the root of a few core issues I experience. Primarily, my reproductive health is affected. My mental health is affected. And, I have to work really hard to lose weight and keep it off. But, PCOS does not define me. I don’t let it. It is just a part of my body that exists.

My main focus is calorie input and output. It is the easiest way to take charge of my health. I have a history of, let’s be honest, disordered eating. During the first couple years of high school, I was restrictive with what I put in my body. I also ran cross country and (long distance) track. I put my body through the ringer those first two years. By the time I was 17, I started eating more and running less, but went through waves of restriction. The moment I went 1,000 miles away to college, I stopped running 5-6 days per week, started drinking heavily, and ate whatever I wanted. The Freshman 15 found me, plus some. That caused major confusion in my body, and myself.

In the last fifteen years, my weight has fluctuated. I have gone through periods of amazing health (bordering on disordered eating & exercise) to periods of complete lack of care for myself (again, disordered eating & lack of exercise).

I scare myself sometimes. There are occasional weeks that I find myself without much of an appetite. I’ll eat a piece of fruit or a salad and feel guilty for doing so. But, then there are weeks were I do the complete opposite. I can’t seem to stop eating. Psychologists have said and will say that this is classic anorexia-like thinking mixed with classic compulsive overeating. I’m the first to say that in those first two years of high school, I had a simple case of ED-NOS bordering on anorexia. The two therapists I have seen since then have agreed. At such a pivotal point in my life developmentally, I know and understand I was not setting my body up for success later in life. Our bodies are so intricate, and when we do more damage than good in our teenage years, it is scary how our adult bodies respond.

Here I am today, opening up about my history. A scary endeavor, but an important one. This is a way for me to heal and to find peace. And, this is one voice in a sea of voices. I’m giving you all my experience. And, I hope my experience touches speaks to someone, anyone. I’m a cheerleader for happiness. I feel that the happier we all are, the stronger our communities can be.

Please, reach out to me if you want. If you stumble across this blog and are feeling lost, do not hesitate to contact me. I’m lost, too. Instead of going at life alone, let us support each other and find joy.

Day Zero: Overwhelmed

Exactly a year ago I ran my first half marathon. It was the first time I had run more than 10 miles in approximately 14 years. After high school, I eschewed running. The thought of doing fartleks and hill sprints and making sure I jogged (at the very minimum) at least five days a week made me sick. Competitive running had been a huge part of my life for six years and the moment I left home for college, I decided to wash my hands of the emotional toll that running had become.

In the last year, I ran a very small amount. I had started the year wanting to train to do a triathlon for the first time. But, “life got in the way” (don’t you love that excuse?). Being a full time student and working part time, I allowed myself to get lazy. I went to the gym once, maybe twice a month. I’d go on the occasional walk around the neighborhood. I’d use the free weights very occasionally while I watched TV. I found myself getting frustrated and depressed more often, at a rate that was much quicker than when I was exercising regularly.

My cat died on July 28th 2014 and I had sunk into a deep depression in the following weeks, finding it really difficult to claw my way out. September arrived and I was feeling completely alone and hating the direction my life found itself in. Being poor and having nothing to do, I scrambled to get to the gym about four or five times the entire month. But, that was it. That was the only exercise I managed to make myself do.

That brings me to this very moment, Day Zero, the day that I have decided that I cannot afford to be sullen, depressed, and as overweight as I am. At 5’3″, I am not allowed to be 180lbs. That’s right. I said it. I am barely 5’3″ and 180lbs. Disgusting, right?

I used my fat to hide from getting painfully unwelcome attention from men I have no interest in, only to find that other men I have no interest in give me even more painfully unwelcome attention. On top of that, I have noticed that “fat girls” seem to attract all sorts of unwelcome “I met you 28 seconds ago, let me tell you everything that is wrong with my life and ask you incessantly to tell me what’s wrong with your life, even when you say no” people, people I had never encountered when I was healthy and taking care of myself.

So, it’s time I take back my life. I will take pride in my physical and mental health. I will be mindful of what I put in my body and when. I will make myself move for an hour a day, even if I’ve been on my feet for eight hours already. I will take time to journal and make sense of why I feel the way I do. I will go back to the clinic run by a graduate school that offers therapy at a price I can actually pay. And, in May 2015, I will run another half marathon. I have eight months to train for it. And, I absolutely need to train for it. I don’t want to just get through the 13.1 miles. I want to feel light when I run. I don’t want to feel like I’m running with three tires around my waist.

I may never get back to my 117lb 26 year old self. Until I can afford actual health insurance, 117lbs is an unreasonable target. By the time the half marathon happens, I’d like to have the scale read 148lbs. And, that is taking into consideration the physical change I will be doing to my body: transferring all of this excess fat into muscle. And, we all know muscle is more dense than fat. So, the scale can read 148lbs. More importantly, I want my body to feel healthy. I want clothes to fit better. I want to be able to look in a mirror and not hate what I see. That simple.

Here is a little preface:
If you didn’t read my about page, I share with you that I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago. The entire span of my menstrual life has been challenging. The only time I have ever had any semblance of a healthy reproductive system was for approximately a year when I was 25. That is often when women find their cycle evening out. Also, I was taking great care of myself then, which played a huge role in my reproductive health. Even then, my cycle was anywhere between 34 and 40 days. Never less than 34 days and never more than 40 days. Fast forward seven years, my cycle ranges anywhere from 25 days to 80 days. You can imagine how frustrating it is. Now imagine having aggressive PMS for an entire month. That happens at least twice a year. My body will get itself ready to have a period, then a month later, it’ll happen. Then three weeks later, I will feel like someone has taken a steel bar to my back and walking becomes the hardest thing to do. All of you Cysters out there understand, I am sure. PCOS comes with a few unfavorable side effects: excessive weight gain that is hard to control, irregular periods and many are extremely painful, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder; if you’ve never heard of it, look it up), and the occasional burst cyst. Sometimes, when those cysts rupture, the woman experiencing that does need to see a doctor, however, in many cases, the only thing we can do is ride out the pain. For me, it is rare for me to get a burst cyst. I know exactly what is happening and that there is really nothing that can be done. I’ve never experienced the sudden pain, fever, or vomiting. In all of my experiences, the pain has aways been intense, yet a constant annoyance for about two or three days. I feel nauseated, but never enough to actually cause vomiting. My body and mind are always exhausted and I have a difficult time walking, and whichever side the cyst is on, the corresponding leg is always more difficult to move. Bending over is usually not an option and sitting down/standing up takes more effort than usual. This is what I know. This is how my body is. And, I know that if I actually take care of myself, my body will repay me kindly.

Here it is. I am back on a healthy path. In six months, my 33rd birthday will be here. I want to enter my 34th year lighter, mentally and physically.

Lots of love and light to everyone reading this. May your days be filled with laughter and joy.