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.

I had no idea I was so disgusting.

When she invented "smad".
Sookie from Gilmore Girls. (Thank you Buzzfeed for the pictures)

I enjoy this new fat turn around we have been having.  Women of all shapes and sizes are starting to claim Hey, assholes, we are humans too. I didn’t really understand the depth of distain for me or my people. I mean I have dealt with teasing and the occasional conversation where people give me a certain look of embarrassment for me and my shameful fat—but hate? I haven’t experienced hatred. I am sure people do hate me, but not usually because I am fat. I am not saying it doesn’t happen. Apparently fat hate is common according to a Salon article I just read here: http://www.salon.com/2015/06/14/back_off_thinsplainers_fat_people_have_heard_it_all_before/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

These ladies have studied fat and assumingly fat people? I don’t really know what that means. I know the hatred must be true because I have a lot of friends who have felt this weight distain. My husband has told me there is a Reddit section that had to be blocked called: r/Fatpeoplehate. I know I might have joked once or twice about beautiful thin women saying, “Don’t you just hate her,” but that was only teasing and was meant to be flattering. Do thin people really HATE fat people?

Isn’t this the stuff of middle school drama? Aren’t we all supposed to be grown? Media? Society? I don’t really understand it. Aren’t your mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, brothers, sisters fat? I mean I can’t imagine when sixty plus percent of the American public is fat that there is anyone who doesn’t know and love a fat person. However, these things are as illogical and apparently as prevalent as racism, sexism, and homophobia. All of them stem from fear and pain. There is no logic in hating a section of humans.

On the other hand, the resulting body positive movement has been good for me, even though I haven’t felt this blatant hatred. I have been following Instagram ladies that are plus sized like me and it has been a revelation. I am really loving seeing women who are my size wearing beautiful clothes, made up faces, and in yoga poses I aspire too. It is amazing to me that at thirty nine, I have never seen this before. I have never had anyone in the media whose beauty I felt was attainable.

The beautiful Tess Holliday

Also, now we finally have plus size models. Before the store Torrid came on the scene, we used to be relegated to trying to figure out what a garment would look like on our bodies. We would flip through catalogues looking at women a size two modeling a size twenty four. It would look like a shapeless tent, even if the clothes were tailored. Torrid was established and that was the first time I saw women my size selling clothes my size. It seems logical now, but back then it was amazing. Now we can even look on certain web sites and see normal women wearing the clothes. Things have changed slowly, but it is still astonishing for me to see women like Tess Holiday creating beautiful tableaux’s in fashion magazines. When I do it makes me feel more beautiful than ever.

Between those pictures and my favorite actresses Melissa McCartney and Rebel Wilson I am finding it amazingly comforting to see someone who looks a little like me in the media. I was surprised to have been affected so much just by seeing Sookie on Gilmore Girls in those cute clothes and the story line that never addressed her weight. It was like a dream. When Lorelai asked her how long had it been since Sookie had been in a relationship, it wasn’t even implied that Sookie should lose weight to have a more successful love life. As she taste tested cookies and whipped cream, no one said, Hey, you shouldn’t eat that… Sookie was treated like a human, a fully formed person who was loved. It wasn’t that she was loved in spite of her weight. She was loved in her totality. I already loved that series but loved it even more because of Sookie’s portrayal.

When she was super cool.
Sookie played by the wonderful, beautiful Melissa McCarthy

It is only in recent years that we have gotten persons of size on TV and movies in more than a supporting role, and Sookie is the only one I can think of that didn’t draw direct attention to it. I just want to be a human. I want all my plus sized loved ones to be considered human, complete. As I write this I am pleading for myself, but also my family and friends. In my heart I feel a desperation. As that desperation hits me in a wave, I recognize the words. I just want to be a human. I have seen that in my Facebook feed before, I am sure of it. It is the thread underneath every call for equal rights. Why do we look for so many reasons to dehumanize each other?

Yes, being overweight is a health issue, but seriously do I discuss anyone else’s health? Do I point out all the other health issues or waste any time at all thinking about any of the preventable diseases out there? Truly, I don’t think anyone is concerned about my health at all, unless they are a friend or relative. Those people who have posted on a hate filled Reddit, or have made my friends and family feel less than. I can only say, mind your own business, because if I ever stop being socially oblivious and notice someone doing that to a person I love. I don’t know what I’d do, but I am pretty sure you’ll be embarrassed.

Treats for Me!

I bought the one in the upper right hand corner. I took this picture from their facebook. I hope they don’t mind.

My emotional attachment to food sometimes hits me in the smallest and most rare ways sometimes. I live only about three blocks from Reading Terminal Market. It is filled with delicacies and some of the best food in Philadelphia. If I stayed there a week- eating all day- I couldn’t eat all of the deliciousness there. It is number four on trip advisors best restaurants, and one of the restaurants – a donut shop – is number one. That shop, Beiler’s Bakery, is the first place I went Thursday.

“Oh, no Danielle! Don’t eat donuts,” you say.

I give you a discerning look.

“Donut’s are fattening and you are trying to lose weight,” you gently remind me.

If anyone said that to me a year ago, I would have said, “Whatever.” Then I would have gone back to Beiler’s and eaten a box of twelve in self deluded retaliation. However, I understand certain things about myself that I didn’t before. Losing weight can’t be about deprivation for me, more like allocation. I need to be able to eat a donut if I want, especially the apparent best donuts on the planet. In other words, if I say no donuts to myself eventually I will be down at that counter ordering up as many as I can afford. Last time I bought donuts a couple of months ago, I bought at least three for myself. Thursday I went to Beiler’s and ordered one, only one. I took it and a coffee and sat down at a metal table and took about thirty minutes enjoying it. Bite by bite I savored it and my surroundings. The fact that I didn’t go back and order two more is the success. I also remember it’s richness as well, and don’t believe I will need another one any time soon.

20150218_153238
The Magic Elixer

Small decadent treats I believe are going to be my secret weapon in the battle of the bulge. In this spirit I bought another treat on my shopping trip. Along with the wise vegetables and meats in my cooler, a very special honey rolled home with me. When I was little, my Grandma used to serve this type of honey with breakfast. It is the raw light honey that you can spread over toast. I have bought it since, and time and time again it has turned out not to be the honey I remembered. Either it wasn’t sweet in the right way or it was so hard I couldn’t spread it. Finally at the market I found it. This morning for breakfast I tried it finally. I had made a frittata and cut up fruit (very healthy.) Then to add the finishing touches on our leisurely Saturday morning, we had a nice whole wheat toast with the holy grail of honey. As I bit into the pale golden elixir, I was transported back to the round hard table in my grandma’s kitchen, looking at her sweet rosy face and kind blue eyes. The electric coffee pot is gurgling in the corner, when I remember watching my Grandpa break up his poached eggs with his fork. Each bite solidified those memories down to the smell of the bacon left over on the stove.

This honey, while not great for my waist line, has brought me back to one of the most pleasant memories I have. While not probably the most scientific of theories, I believe a small treat now and again will really go a long way towards not feeling like I am depriving myself. I also believe it will provide normalcy to this new life where I am eating differently and overhauling my entire life. A spoon full of sugar…

We Need A Different Way Of Seeing Things

These two pictures were taken within two weeks of each other, neither photo shopped.  I was the same weight in both.
These two pictures were taken within two weeks of each other, neither photo shopped. I was the same weight in both.

I started this blog because I got tired of hearing how easy losing weight is. I got sick of hearing, “I lost weight like this and you can too!” This is typically accompanied by a picture of the happy smaller person in some sort of tight clothing, next to one when they weighed their worst. The worst picture is always of the person wearing something unfortunate and usually sitting down so their rolls are perfectly blatant or chin down, double chin emphasized. A picture like that could bring one to their senses and start a weight loss journey.

However, what really upsets me is the myth that is perpetrated by the media that weight loss is easy. If I did it this way– you can too. This is not true. In the most basic sense, yes, it is possible to lose weight a myriad of ways. It’s possible, but highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely that I will lose the weight the exact way anyone else has lost it. Everything I do, from waking up in the morning, to talking to my husband is different from anyone else. The most essential and basic relationship is the one with sustenance, and it’s a personal one. Not even my siblings like the same things or eat the same things I do and we are essentially genetically as close to one another as can be. We each have different emotional responses to food, exercise and will power. My own mother approaches food differently than I do, yet, the one stop shop method of weight loss is peddled from every media outlet possible.

One thing sadly missing from most weight loss programs or ideas is the emotional component. It seems blatantly ignored. If you look at other programs for addiction they deal with the emotional component. They ask questions like: How do you deal with stress, how can you get support, why do you use this addiction to cope, and how does your addiction affect the ones you love?

Here is the support food addicts get, jewels like: calories in/ calories out, eat less / exercise more, and nothing tastes better than skinny feels. The simplicity galls me.

What is worse is that over simplification can make failure all the more disappointing. By making weight loss seem easy then it makes it even harder not to internalize self hatred and pain. The fallacy perpetrated by most weight loss companies, that anyone can do their programs, does more harm than good.

For me, I didn’t realize how hard it could be until I had failed many times.  Each time I failed at a diet attempt or exercise venture, I would go into a deep guilt and binge for days. I am sure I am not the only one who didn’t realize that weight loss is a lifelong goal, and a very difficult one. No one admits they were deluded into believing that they could lose weight easily. I would say we are all patsy’s of the weight loss community. If you look at the statistics, you can see two thirds of Americans are overweight, I think that something is wrong with the system. There is a multimillion dollar industry out there, and it isn’t helping as much as we’d think. I believe the problem is the misconception that it is easy.

I want to show that losing weight and getting healthy is not easy. To weight loss professionals and to companies who provide weight loss assistance, I would like to offer this advice: don’t trivialize weight loss. If you want to be helpful, acknowledge the struggle it takes to change an entire lifestyle. Let those people, who do accomplish this great thing for their bodies, be even more proud because society could finally realize the difficulty. Even more, allow people who are having trouble losing weight be kinder to themselves so that it is easier to get back on a healthier path. Studies I’ve read show confidence and self esteem is an important factor in weight loss. It is time that as a society we started to work towards that goal instead of against it.

Cooking as Meditation?

vancouver and mexiblog 291
Lately, I think of cooking as a chore. I don’t know what has changed in my perception. What I used to love most was to get up on Sunday mornings and make my husband blueberry whole wheat pancakes, French toast, or my own special blend of omelet. There is something about the breakfast meal that my particular brand of multitasking is meant for; trying to get eggs, bacon, and hash browns all out and hot at once is a challenge that I used to enjoy. Not to mention, the look on my husband’s face -like he was the luckiest man to walk the earth- was worth a million breakfasts.
However, mornings have been kind of cloudy affairs lately. I wake up excruciatingly slow and only truly feel like myself after I have had something to eat. Thanks for that hurdle, Diabetes. So I wake up and sort of dry heave a little until I have something to eat. Even after that I feel out of sorts for about thirty minutes. Brad has been taking over breakfast, mostly because of my nausea. I don’t even cook it on the weekends. No, I am not pregnant.
Brad does the other cooking because he is applying for jobs and working from home. However, I feel like I am not contributing enough. I really do need to get back in the kitchen on the weekends in some form, even if it is just to show husband he is appreciated.
Studies also show that the best way to lose weight is prepare your food at home and control what goes into it. I just haven’t ever enjoyed cooking dinner or lunch in the same way as breakfast. It is sort of slow and boring. The chopping, standing, sweating, and with me the breaking things and burning the fingers.
blog pics 77 024
However, I just read an article in Yoga Journal called, “The Power of the Pan.” They were interviewing the brilliant Michael Pollan, who is the author of many books relating to food. He said something that really hit home with my new plan to slow down and be mindful.
“I was hasty in the kitchen, hasty chopping onions—mine were always chunky and I didn’t sauté’ them long enough to get them sweet and caramelized. Samin Nosrat, my cooking teacher, who was a serious student of yoga, was always trying to get me to slow down. She said the key to great cooking was patience, practice, and presence. And this was a very hard thing for me to learn. It involved basically paying much greater attention to what I was doing. Learning how to just be there is the hardest thing of all.”
Sing it brother! I am telling you, focusing on only one task is the hardest thing for me to do, but I want to be more mindful. I want to teach my mind to enjoy doing things fully. I want to learn to focus on the task at hand and just enjoy it, and I also want to eat healthy. That makes two birds but with one stone, yeah?
So this weekend I will be cooking a nice dinner for my lovely, long-suffering husband and I hope to knock his socks off.
Pollan enjoys cooking now, so maybe I will too. He says, “Once you do, it’s this beautiful process that absorbs all your senses in a way that checking your email or watching television does not.”
I am going to try this way of cooking and tell you how it goes. If you have experienced this sort of bliss, please share it here on the blog site. I would love to hear about it.

I Hate Treadmills

10285016_10201909213963266_8517736088291945423_o
My favorite Willow trees

I feel like, for the last few years, I have been running in place. I have made a few strides, kicking smoking and losing twenty-five-plus pounds. I work a little towards something every day, but I feel as if I am still in the same place. For a while, we were waiting on the sale of our house with bated breath, and now we are waiting for my husband to find a new job.

Waiting and hoping isn’t something most people excel at; the feeling of hopelessness doesn’t seem to abate, even when I’m doing my best to be optimistic. So what do I do to live in the now? Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “All my life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm?” This describes me perfectly, always thinking ten steps ahead, if I can and when I can’t, I am in agony.

I was reading a book called Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he talks about a term called “mindfulness.” This is a practice of being in the present at all times. An example he gives in the book is the Buddhist monks who drink a hot cup of tea and take an hour to do so. They focus on how the tea engages their senses: the color, taste, smell, temperature, and texture on the tongue.

My husband, Brad, was the first one to introduce “savoring” to me. All of my life I have flitted about, living a life of fun, but not really of depth. My senses were mostly dulled in my attempt to live. One of our first dates Brad took me to a small Greek restaurant here in Boise called the Cazba. Enamored with Brad, I paid attention to his every move: the way he took in the way I smelled and looked, the way he savored every bite of his dinner, how he slowly chewed and took deep resonating breaths to really taste everything fully. Senses heightened, I too enjoyed that meal more than any other meal in my life. I can still picture him looking at me and taking his first bite of lamb. Watching him savor it, I could live within that memory.

That night we sat for what seemed like hours in the car, just talking or sometimes holding hands in silence. It seemed as if touching his skin forced my mind to shut off and only feel, that sense overwhelming the constant chatter of my mind. It was the first time in my life when I have felt that blessing.

Those times are far between now. I struggle for that sort of life-giving focus. I want my body to be overwhelmed by the joy of touch. My mind combats the idea of giving into such frivolous pursuits. As a Midwesterner, I combat my base compulsion to feel useful at all times. I am making a vow to stop that. I need that peace, and so does Brad. I haven’t noticed him enjoying himself mindfully as much anymore.

We need to live in the now, even if it is a smaller scale. Last Friday, Brad surprised me at work and took me on a dinner picnic. He made some roasted chicken, Greek salad, and brought bottled water. We sat on the bench watch the geese frolic, the sun glistening on the lake, and wind flowing through my favorite weeping willow trees. We laughed as the geese squawked at us.

We are trying.

10431304_10201909211483204_434546123250446854_o
That is my gorgeous man!