The Ocean is Worth It

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We were right there in the sea! 

Have you ever gotten off the wagon? It’s not easy getting back on. Hubby and I went to Cozumel, Mexico for our honeymoon. While there we enjoyed the snorkeling. It was the most beautiful, serene, exiting time of my life. If you have never been, what you do is basically float with your head in the water and have a tube in which you breathe into the open air. The minute I put my mask into the water, I was in another world. A world with no sound, beautiful shades of muted blue and sand, and exotic fish I would have never had the chance to see: It was akin, in reverence, to walking on the moon. Had I the capability to talk I would probably have gasped audibly but I had no medium to express my awe.

We floated all the way out to the buoy before we came up out of the water and then swam slowly back. When we both popped up near the ladder to go back up to our hotel my husband said, “I think we were made for this!”

I giggled and said, “Two chubby people floating in the ocean, who would have thought!” The only downfall from this blissful foray into the ocean was climbing out of the water onto dry land.

I had the flippers still on, and I had to climb up this steel ladder, much like a ladder out of one of those above ground pools. Except, this ladder is halfway in the ocean and covered with slime.  It took several attempts to get up the three steps to finally reach the platform. My legs were a particular form of Jello that made it gut wrenchingly hard to get out of the water at all. My feet kept sliding off and I would plop down into the ocean time and time again. I would then have to collect my breath and then lift myself out of the ocean again and again.

The platform was half out of the ocean. The waves hit the large cement platform most of the time, so it too was covered in slime, but this didn’t stop me from laying down like a beached whale to catch my breath from the physical exertion of pulling myself out of the ocean.

That is how getting back on the wagon feels. The exertion of overcoming the doubt in my belly, the stiffness in my muscles and the weakness in my pallet can sometimes leave me beached on my bed with doubts of my success. I came back from vacation and was sick so my eating habits were atrocious and I didn’t exercise for two weeks because I was extremely sick.

Last week I was getting back to my yoga, walking and veggies. Before my fall off the wagon I had only been vegetarian for about two months. Grocery buying and recipes weren’t cemented in my mind so I again had to reacquaint myself with what to buy and how to cook it. I only walked a mile that first day, and I was up to three miles before. So my one mile left me aching and sore like someone had beaten me with a baseball bat. I was a whining wimp.

I was disheartened but Brad pointed out that I was just getting over being sick and having my “Aunt Irma.” These assurances made me feel better, but I also realized that I had gotten back on the wagon almost like it was second nature. I didn’t think about it as if it were a choice. I just did it. I never stopped doing yoga except when I was sick, and even then I did it once. After I got better, I got the right groceries, and I started walking. Done. No hemming or hawing. I didn’t have to think about whether or not I was going to exercise or eat right. I just did it.

I guess I am just gonna have to remind my body that this is the way life is now. I am a healthy person, who does healthy things. That is who I am now. I climb up the ladder. I will probably be climbing that ladder my whole life, but more time in the ocean is worth it.

The Good News

This is a day I was super happy. Swinging with my nephew. (Had to cut him out of the pic, that's an internet no no.) I am almost this happy today.
This is a day I was super happy. Swinging with my nephew. (Had to cut him out of the pic, that’s an internet no no.) I am almost this happy today.

September of 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was prescribed 1750 mg of a drug called Metformin and a Victoza injection every night. That day I cried on the floor with my husband looking on helplessly. In the two years since, I have gone through so much pain and setbacks. I have quit my job, my Dad had a heart attack, I left the friends and family I love so much and moved across country. It has been a really hard two years. Between the PCOS and Endometriosis, I have been in pain, depressed, on pain pills and frankly fed the fuck up.

Slowly I have been trying to take control of my health. First, I started eating all organic about three months ago. I have learned about all the chemicals and antibiotics they put in our food, and how cruel they are to animals in industrial farming. I have wanted to vote with my money for a long time, but finally put that into fruition three to four months ago. An amazing side effect of this choice is my PCOS symptoms have lessened. It was surprising but also very motivating, and so Brad and I decided to take it further. About a month ago we went to a mostly vegetarian diet. Ninety percent to ninety five percent of our diet is meat free.

I went to my doctor’s appointment last week, at the time I found out that I had lost twenty-nine pounds in just a month and a half of my last appointment. This is really awesome, but not even close to the best part. This morning my doctor called to give me the results of my tests. I am overjoyed with the results. I now have the A1C results of a pre-diabetic, not a diabetic!!!! Hard work pays off!  I am not out of the danger zone yet. I doubt I will ever be out of the danger zone truly, but for the first time ever…my numbers are going the other way!!!!!! I am only taking one Metformin now and no Victoza. My doctor wanted me to take two but said it would be okay if I waited another three months to see what I could do in that time to get my blood sugar down.

I have three months to get my sugars down .2 points in order for my doctor to feel good with my current medicine regimen. So that is where I must start. I can do this! I am of the fake it until you make it camp so I say that a lot. However, for the first time ever, I believe it. I am so happy that the choices that I have been making are finally the right ones. I feel like I should celebrate, but I will wait. I have many more meals to plan, and miles to walk before a PLANNED celebration. That’s how I do things now. I plan my indulgences. I make good decisions. That’s me, controlling my destiny over here.

Okay, so I might be having a mini celebration in my head which is pretty powerful these days.

Everybody in my Apartment is Relieved!

One of the good days
One of the good days

I danced this morning to music in my head. I woke up and started singing to my husband. He had a slightly relieved but also amused look on his face while I started pumping my arms over my head and shaking my chest at breakfast saying, “Mocha, mocha, mocha, mocha!”

See, for the past three days I have been experiencing fantastical headaches to go with my endometriosis pain and sinus infection. What a boon! Right?

My CPAP mask has been leaking. When it leaks I don’t sleep so well. When I gasp for air I lunge with my neck and that causes my neck to seize up. When I wake up I feel like someone has been wrapping a rubber band around my neck all night and all the blood in my body is stuck up there. I used the alien head massager, ice, heating pad, and my husband gave me hour long massages. Nothing helped to relieve the headache until my mask got fixed. Brad got me a caramel mocha at the Starbucks across the street as a reward for my ingenuity, fixing my mask and helping myself feel better.

I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me. I am just struck by how wonderful I feel this morning. I want to explain how glorious it is when I don’t am not in pain. I am so happy this morning that the pain is gone, I am dancing. The thing is: I don’t know when the cramps will come back so that means that since I am feeling good, I have a long list of things to do today. I will be cleaning the kitchen, writing blogs, editing my book, emailing my new friends, writing letters, and cooking three meals.

I will try to do more if I get that done. I am excited to do things. I love getting things done. I have to pace myself though because if I don’t I will be in pain again tomorrow. So I mix sedimentary things with active things. It is a trick I have learned after ruining my good health streaks. I think sometimes these bad health streaks are there to remind me to take care of myself.

I just read an email from Myfitnesspal with a quote from a woman who lost over one hundred pounds. She said, “You need to take care of yourself like your life depends on it.” That really makes sense, because our lives do depend on it. It is a simple saying, almost like a “duh” moment, but I have never thought of it like that. I would go even further for myself to say, I have to take care of myself like my next week depends on it.  I can really mess up my week if I don’t eat right, get exercise, and sleep deeply.

These horrible times are fewer and farther between which is all I can hope for. I am slowly making things better through research and my resources. I am taking better care of myself and that is a win in itself, but the product of that is less pain. The other benefit is that I am able to listen to my body better. When I first had sleep apnea it took me years to realize why I was having the headaches. I figured out my mask was leaking the first day this time.  I am listening to my body closely now, and that is a benefit I didn’t see coming.

While I am working on my health I am going to relish the days I do feel good. I am going to live life to the fullest while I can. So today I am gonna get as much done as possible, but I will be singing and dancing while I do it.

I Took a Mental Vacation

These are all the books I've been reading. I apologize for the blurry pictures in this post. Perhaps I was bliss-ed out.
These are all the books I’ve been reading. I apologize for the blurry pictures in this post. Perhaps I was bliss-ed out.

I was researching endometriosis for so many days that my brain was mush. I have been looking into treatments, diet, and herbal medicine. I was stressed at all the conflicting information and burnt out. I hadn’t written for fun in a while or done anything fun for weeks. So I decided I really needed to clear my mind so that I could think of something else besides that week every month I am in monster pain.

I arranged to meet with a good friend to write on Friday. It was a lovely morning at a coffee shop in Rittenhouse square called Elixir. We had a quiet table by the window but there wasn’t a plug in nearby so I got inspired by my writing partner Alice who writes in a journal and free wrote for a while. It was such a relief. I just sort of pushed out all the gunk that had been eating my brain. It was like my pen was shouting out word salad for thirty minutes. I tried to turn it into a poem. The process brought me so much joy because I hadn’t written only to enjoy the process of writing for what seems like a kazillian years. (Lately I have felt a pressure to only write what could someday bring in money.) This indulgence really seemed to liberate my mind.

The chaos in my head
The chaos in my head

Afterwards I worked on fiction and then we decided it was time for lunch. My friend and I then talked and leisurely walked over to a restaurant called Cosi. The walk there was so relaxing like all those scenes on TV when people walk and talk in the big city. I concentrated on being in the moment, listening to my companion and taking in the scenery.  At Cosi I had some delicious tomato soup and a Caprese type sandwich, talked, and people watched for a couple hours.

The weather was so nice, perfectly cool, and the corner wasn’t that busy. It was just calm and languid. I didn’t have a care in the world except for the interesting conversation with my dining companion about pain, loss, abuse, humanity and whether or not it could get better…you know the light stuff -leisurely lunch conversation. My mind was totally engrossed and delightfully challenged. I walked home in love with life and had forgotten all about my health problems momentarily.

When I got home I was so relaxed I wrote some more. I wrote two more chapters, cleaned my kitchen, and made a kick as vegetarian meal for dinner.

I was more productive and creative that day than I have been for months which made me realize I need more fun and less worry. I have been researching, writing, cooking, researching, cleaning, cooking…etc. for weeks now. I have decided to do something indulgent at least once every day this weekend. Luckily hubby got a free pass to a video game he wanted to play. So Saturday while he was tethered to the computer with his headset I took a long leisurely hot bath with some new bubbles Brad bought me. I went all in lighting candles and listening to the yoga channel on Pandora. I was in my bathtub for two hours reading blogs and meditating.

Don't tell Mom I posed for this
Don’t tell Mom I posed for this

Sunday I took a couple of hours to lie in bed, read magazines, and listen to my AC/DC channel on Pandora. It was bliss. I like the dichotomy of listening to Korn, Marilyn Manson, and AC/DC while looking at rustic décor in Country Living, or how to decorate pumpkins in the Martha Steward magazine. While bed dancing and singing at the top of my lungs, I read interviews with starlets and perused pictures in Coastal Living, Elle Décor and National Geographic.  I finished the evening doing yoga and cuddling with my very cute husband. BLISS!!!

Basically I gave myself a sorely needed mental palate cleanser. Today I am back at work, researching vegetarian recipes, looking up PCOS and Endometriosis, and writing with even more gusto than before. Except now, I am enjoying the process because I have less weight on my brain.

What I really love and am super proud of is that even though I have been frazzled and stressed, I figured out a way to work past it without a Domino’s pizza chaser. All week I have been eating fruit and veggie heavy, and no junk food. I worked through my sadness by indulging another way.

Elixir has a Chapbook dispenser! Isn't that fun!
Elixir has a Chapbook vending machine! Isn’t that fun!

Endometriosis? Really?

I think this is the appropriate sentiment.
I think this is the appropriate sentiment.

It has been a long time since my mother has had to remind me of who I am. I don’t know if everyone has someone like this, but my parents are realists when it comes to parenting. They believe their kids are smart, handsome, beautiful etc. just not the most of any of these qualities. Neither of them have any qualms about telling me how flawed I am if I decide to get too big for the britches as they say.  For instance, once I was very indignantly mad at my husband and Mom pointed out, “You are not such a peach either.”

I am not complaining. Knowing where I stand is something I value. I am telling you this to say that when my parents give me a compliment, I know I deserve it. So Friday, when my Mom told me that I am one of the strongest women she knows, I know she means that. It was one of those moments where I looked inside myself and found something so deeply hidden, it is probably going to take months to dig it out and that is my indignation.

I have gotten a little soft lately. I think it is because I found love and all that bliss it contains. So this pain I have been having every month, this horrible bed ridden type pain that is making me a little crazy, I thought there would be a solution for. I was looking for an answer from other humans. I trusted the medical professionals to find me an answer and just remove this pain. It seems logical. It was blissfully ignorant, the hope and faith that people have who believe in love and such. Right? I mean that is how the world works right, you go to the doctor and leave feeling better and with hope you will feel better…yeah not so much.

I have been going to the doctor with intense menstrual pain for over twenty years. I have had a gazillion different appointments where I have described excessive bleeding and intense pain. I have missed work, vacations and other fun.  I have had ultrasounds and even emergency room visits where they pumped me full of morphine. They have told me the entire time that I have PCOS and that the cysts where causing me pain. So my last appointment at a new doctor here in Philadelphia I asked why I didn’t just get my ovaries removed if they were causing me pain. She said that sounded reasonable so she set me up with an appointment with one of the best gyno/surgeons in Philadelphia.  If you are a follower of my Facebook or Twitter feed, you probably know I have been sort of excited at the prospect of no pain. I have been daydreaming about my ovaries in a jar.

The first thing this accomplished doctor told me was that PCOS doesn’t cause the pain I am experiencing so removing my ovaries would be pointless and stupid. Well she wasn’t that rude but by the look on her face I knew that is what she thought. I immediately started crying. Why the hell hadn’t anyone told me that before? Why was I blaming PCOS for all my pain this entire time? Why didn’t any of the ten doctors I have seen for this before tell me this?

She thinks it is probably endometriosis, but will have to do tests to be sure. She was very vague about treatment. Maybe we will try IUD or to put me on a medication that will put me on a fake menopause. Neither of these things sounds pleasant or like something I want to do. She also said surgery most likely won’t fix anything.

Afterwards I was in a daze. I didn’t really know how I felt other than devastated and extremely exhausted. I had a coffee date with a friend after and she was so lovely to me, and reminded me that there was still hope with this new diagnoses and I was still on a journey to getting better. She also told me that it was okay I felt sad. This was good because the minute I got back to my apartment I called my Mom and broke down.

She was mad too. She had hoped the same things I did, that it would be as simple as removing the pain. Furthermore, she wanted me to get mad too. She said, “Cry today. You deserve to cry today, but then you need to pull it together and be you. You are the strongest person I know and I want you to talk to the doctor and tell her what you want. Don’t cry at the doctors. You are a very capable women, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you are not.”

You know it wasn’t the doctor making me feel like I wasn’t capable; it was me and the pain. I let the pain make me feel feeble and timid. I am not timid. I am a bulldozer in sneakers. My family and friends know I am not subtle. My sister told me I needed to pretend that I was advocating for her, because she knows I would be searching for solutions all over.

I would love to say that conversation gave me instant back bone and now I am researching with a resolve. I am researching.  However, I am still having a bunch of feelings I don’t understand. They range from frustration with a system that took over ten years to give me an answer, sadness that I will continue to have this pain, and anger that I still don’t definitively know anything. I am creating a girth of information and choices for me, but in the meantime, I am frustrated by the lack of information. I am re-angered as I look for answers in the chat rooms. The women there have all been ignored or told their pain either is made up or doesn’t matter. There isn’t one story I have read so far of women who were believed, cared for, and helped right away; years after years plagued by a debilitating pain and no one listened. I flit between resolved to find my answer and all these other feelings, some of them all at the same time.

That is where I am at now. I am in research mode. At the very least, I am again taking my health into my own hands and searching for an answer.

Working on my PCOS

Probably all the chemicals I have put in my body could fit in here.
Probably all the chemicals I have put in my body could fit in here.

This morning hubby and I were high fiving in the kitchen and I was yelling ecstatically “Yeah! My ovaries are my bitch!!!!”

Not even thirty minutes later I was laying on the bed wincing and crying out in pain, “Your still my bitch!!! You’re still my bitch!!”

As I write this I am blissfully pain free because I took two Aleve and a Tramadol.

See, I accurately depicted that I would start my period this morning and I did. I know, those of you who have periods are like, “Big woop, Danielle, we all do that.” My response would be, “No we don’t.” For the past twenty years, I could no more tell you when my period was gonna coming then what whining lottery numbers are going to be. Having PCOS means I don’t ever know when Aunt Irma will visit. She can sometimes leave me alone for years, only to come back for six months, or come every two weeks, or two days even; basically my menstrual cycle is totally random.

Also, there is the horrific pain, but I will conquer that next. Even though the cramps are still debilitating, the fact that I have been regular two months in a row, is astounding. Twenty years of medications and doctor’s visits have not given me so much as a step closer to regular periods. I am not blaming that all on the doctors although I will say my healthcare hasn’t at all been comprehensive until recently and mostly because I have been doing most of the leg work. I am really working hard to be informed.

I have been researching getting healthy for myself and my family. I have a vested interested in all of our hearts continuing to beat and both of my parents have had heart attacks so it is a red alert situation. Even before the most recent heart attack Brad and I wanted to go organic. Since I am in charge of the groceries now for the past three months, I have been buying strictly organic food.

I started worrying about the chemicals and antibiotics after watching food Inc and then it took three antibiotics to get rid of my ear infection. I am really of tired of ingesting stuff I don’t have any idea of what is in it. (I know there are fertilizers in the organic stuff too but I struggle to buy local as well so I am feeling good about my chances.) Since it started I have been reading a lot about how our hormones are affected by these chemicals in our food. Essentially PCOS is rooted in hormone issues.

Going organic is the only thing that I have done consistently for the past three months so I feel  that my regular periods are a direct correlation to the elimination of those chemicals. We have only gone veggie the past two weeks, so I don’t think it is that. I am not an expert. I can only tell you what I know but it seems pretty conclusive to me. I am feeling pretty amazing lately. If you have PCOS, you might give it a try. I can’t say it would work for everyone will PCOS, but it seems to be helping me.

So Far it’s Working!

One of those meals I would be ashamed to write down.
One of those meals I would be ashamed to write down.

I am very pleased with myself, because I of my new daily goal system. I may not be a morning person. Heck, I may never be a morning person, but I may have figured out a way to get things accomplished anyway. When I am productive in the morning it makes me feel good the rest of the day. Last post I told you that I have started to make lists at night. I write down what meals I am going to make, and what goals I have. The purpose of making the list at night, when I have the most brain power, is so in the morning I don’t have to think about tasks or the order of those tasks. I don’t get overwhelmed anymore by my hazy morning brain. It has been giving me just enough clarity to get me by. So when I finally fully wake up around eleven a.m. I have some tasks already done, which is encouraging.

There has been a really great side effect of writing down all I have to do, and what I have done. I have been journaling how I feel every day because I wanted to know how this was working. It was like a science experiment. I have realized so many things as a result.

The first one is that I realized I have more good days than bad. When I feel bad, groggy, lethargic, it is like thinking through a haze. Lately I have been thinking that my life is filled with those days. Between the fibromyalgia and the soreness from exercising, I thought pain was what my life would be like now.

I had about four days in a row that I felt pretty amazing when I started keeping track. I was feeling energetic and thinking clearly. It was pretty good and I thought it might be because I was really paying attention to my feelings. Also I was eating well, and getting exercise because it was on my list. I was really happy that my list was successful too.

I don’t know why but slicing words in half is so rewarding! Seriously when I cross stuff off my list I get a real high. Does that make me a weirdo? Maybe. However, it is also making me very happy so..

Something else I noticed is how awful I felt when I ate something horrible. I was craving some junk food and when I ate some “not so good for me” Mexican food one night, the next day not only was I bloated, I was lethargic and my body ached. I don’t think I would have even noticed that was the cause had I not been writing down everything I ate and how I felt.  I always understood that fast food could give me indigestion or that extra bloat, but I didn’t realize that because of one bad meal, I slept badly and so the next day I was seriously off my game.

I think that is part of the reason that I am so horrible at losing weight sometimes, because I don’t notice how bad food makes me feel. I don’t know if others are as oblivious as I am, but I think that not only writing down what I eat but how I feel is helping me see what I have been missing for years. I think I am different in that I don’t really notice what food is doing to my body. I am teaching myself to be more in tune with how I feel and what I need to do to fix it.

This is making food choices and exercise easier because I understand the repercussions a little better. I am excited that I am making a little more progress on my road to being healthy. I guess it is super healthy to at least know how I feel.

I am oblivious about how my body feels so often. If I have a goal, I can work through pain and hunger without feeling it. I have eaten crappy food before and I know it must have made me feel sluggish over and over but I didn’t notice it. At least, with my new plan I can get on top of that now.

Not only that, I have been writing myself encouraging things. I know that sounds corny but I am really liking having this way of checking up on myself. It is both an efficient way to keep track of how I am feeling and what affects my feelings, but also a way of encouraging my efforts in all areas. At this point, I have to be excited about anything that is working and providing more stability in my life.