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.

Undetermined Life

The last couple of weeks have seen me getting off my tush and moving. On Sunday and yesterday, I actually made myself run. Once was in the rain that California so desperately needs, and the other was on a treadmill. I love running in the rain; always have. There is something magically cleansing about running in the rain.

But, running is not the point of this post.

Today, on my walk around our neighborhood, I found my mind wandering on what I’ve done with my life so far, and where I want it to go. Ten years ago, I wanted to be married with three kids, a dog, two cats, and a five bedroom house in Woodside or Portola Valley by this time.

Clearly that hasn’t happened.

Coming up on 34, I still want to get married. Three kids, though? Sure, three kids would be nice, but that means I’d have to get married yesterday and be well on the way to having $750k saved up. I want kids. Two is still doable, and I am happy to adopt. In fact, I’d rather adopt. But the five bedroom in Woodside or Portola Valley? Nope. A five bedroom house, period? Nope. I’ve learned as I age that, while luxurious and impressive, large houses on huge properties aren’t essential in live. Space is space and a house is a house. Home came be anywhere and space isn’t the only important factor.

Walking past newly renovated houses, sprinkled with a few houses that haven’t changed in sixty years, I really started to consider what kind of living space I could see myself in. For the time being, I am happy with a decent studio or loft space, or even a small one bedroom apartment. For now, it’s just me. And, I don’t need heaps of space in order to create my own home. If and when I fall in love and decide to co-habitate, I’ll need my own bedroom. That’s non-negotiable. Even if it’s an office that I can convert into a sleeping area, I’ll be happy. I’m one of those people that sleeps better alone.

All of these adorable and fresh houses are charming, and I’d love to live in one like them. That is definitely possible if I leave California. I used to think I could never leave the Bay Area. Now, I want to run far away from the Bay Area (even California) as fast as possible.

Oregon is calling my name. Washington state might even be able to lure me back. There is also a strong pull to the East Coast. I’d love, very much, to get away from the overly-PC liberal bubble of the West Coast. Sure, if I move back East, I might find myself in the minority and in a community that holds more moderate or conservative views than I. The thing is, I’m fairly good at keeping my two cents to myself. Unless I feel that a life (mine included) is in immediate danger, I tend to keep my two cents to myself.

In my research, Minnesota seems to always be the favorite for women’s overall wellbeing (health, economic, social, and safety).* Do I want to live in Minnesota though? No! Snowy winters are not good for my mental health. The cost of living is, but my mental health is important. Hawaii ranks in the top 20-25% quite often, but the affordability and cost of living isn’t quite the same. I keep getting pulled towards Boston, though. Sure, the winters are cold. But, New York is pretty accessible from Boston. There is a specific mindset in Boston that I have been told I’d do well with. [I get along very well with hardworking, blue collar people. I also can be direct, in a kind, Irish way.] Who knows? That might just be where I end up. Summer weekend trip to Boston this year? Yes please!

Ultimately, the dream is to live in Europe. But, that’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. I think it’ll help if I find a partner first, and make sure they are on board with that. If we both can be our own bosses, that’ll benefit the dream in a major way.

Anyway, it’s time for me to get on with my life. It’s time I find a place to live, a job to sustain me, and someone to share my time and love with. It’s March already. No time for to waste!!

*https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women/10728/