Monday, October 20, 2014

The Sick Has Taken Over

I have been feeling like sheeeeeeeee-it.

The depression and anxiety are totally out of control, until they aren't and I'm nearly fine. It's very much hormonal, and very fucking frustrating.

I usually try to avoid swearing here, but since I haven't been around much, I'm not going to stifle one iota of this writing momentum I'm trying to build up, so if I drop a few fucks, shits, and assholes, well, I guess you're finally getting to know the real me.

I got the enterovirus, or something similarly coughtastic, and it's been mothercracking WEEKS of this shit now and I'm so tired. Actually this is the first day I've felt somewhat normal, singing and dancing while I clear out the MOUNTAIN of dishes in the sink. Now there's just a rolling hill, and I'll tackle that once the precariously piled clean dishes dry in the rack.

My head doesn't appreciate the coughing AT ALL, so that's been miserable too, except I can't medicate because smoking triggers what? COUGHING. SONOFAMONKEY.

Edibles are an option when we have the stuff to make it ourselves, but we haven't for the past few weeks and resorted to store-bought and guess what? It's all either too heavy to gag down while 'graining or inflammatory to my IC, so NO.

The IC has been a dick, too, but that's mostly my fault because in the midst of all the sick I wanted Chinese food so bad I didn't care about the repercussions and ate the hell out of some delicious chow fun and mediocre potstickers. I felt the pain for a week! The hell, urethra, I have no idea what I did to anger the renal gods but they hate me.

I got some bloodwork done, and got the results back but no comment from my doctor yet, so I'm going to share my abnormal results with you and we can all speculate.


Test - my number (what is normal)
Vitamin D - 22 (30-100)
White Blood Cell Count - 3.6 (4.0-11.0 K/uL)
Hemoglobin - 11.8 (12.0-15.5 g/dL)
MCH - 25.8 (27.0-33.0 pg)
Neutrophil - %39 (49.0-74.0%)
Monocyte - %13 (2.0-12.0%)
Abs. Neutrophil - 1.4 (2.0-8.0 K/uL)

So, the internet says these low blood cell counts could just be anemia, which I've had off and on for years, and I suspect being in the midst of the sick has also thrown off some numbers, but then it also suggests cancer, which is so damn rude, but that's what I get for googling instead of emailing my doctor.

So, I started taking vitamins again because I'm still too tired to properly cook for myself every meal, and that might be improving my energy, but it could also be that I'm only having five coughing fits a day instead of 16,000.

I haven't hiked with the puppies in ages, and I really miss working out, so hopefully I'll be able to reclaim that in the next week, but as soon as I feel well enough it'll be time to get my flu shot which knocks me down for several days too. Weeeeee!


At least I'm pooping regularly.







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Friday, September 12, 2014

Driving, Walking, Waiting, Whine

I really need to complain about not being able to drive.

I can physically drive a car, I have a license. I just can't drive anywhere alone because there is a 95% chance I won't be able to drive myself home, or even make it all the way to my destination in the first place.

That means I rely on my boyfriend to take me almost everywhere. When we lived in the city, I could walk short distances, but we're out in the middle of nowhere now, there are no stores or libraries or anything within walking distance, for me.

Other people walk and bike the highway that runs near our house, it's only about six miles to town, and even less to two glorified turnouts that house a little convenience store and a burger joint, but there is no way I could make it. It's a two-lane, winding, mountain highway, there are plenty of blind turns and narrow bridges, the speed limit ranges from 25 to 45 mph, and there is no sidewalk or bike lane. I can't even stand next to the highway for more than a minute or two; the noise, smell and pressure of the passing cars thumps my head into a delirium.

I haven't seen my friends or family in ages, in part because we moved an hour away and most people don't want to make the drive. They also used to be semi-reliable sources of transportation when I had to get somewhere in a pinch, but my resources here are much thinner.

And making new friends is harder when I can't drive. I hate asking someone to pick me up all the time, and since I can't really go out to most places, or even watch movies or listen to music with other people, I'm basically trying to get people to come over and drink tea with me. I know you are out there, fellow tea drinkers! Come over! And please don't mind the mess.

I can't get my own groceries, because I have to have someone drive me, and be willing to handle the actual transaction for me, if I'm unable.

I can't... just go. I used to love to just drive, take off for hours and go to the beach, or take care of all my errands in an afternoon, or just be by myself, in the world, in control of my destination and arrival time. I miss that independence so much. It's been seven years, and it still hurts like it's new. My only solace is being able to go into the woods alone, but there's no real destination there, no purpose, so it's not quite the same, though it is a similar feeling.

I am waiting right now for my boyfriend to get home. We need to get groceries, and it's already been put off several days. He's got legit stuff going on, so I'm trying not to be rude about it, because I do have food to eat and I'm in no danger of dying of malnutrition, but UGH if I could just drive myself, it would be great.


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Monday, September 8, 2014

What is Good

I'm still quite a bit in survival mode right now.

The IC is calming down finally, but now my period has started for another whiz-bang of a pelvic party. Ibuprofen helps with the cramps, but I am chained to the house for the first several days of my periods just for their heaviness, and besides that my head is so, so sensitive, and now I'm finding myself feeling sad and really lonely, so I've decided that I need to focus on what is good.

~*~**~*~A List of What is Good~*~**~*~

Daiya Cheddar (I'm still on the IC diet, and still praising the vegan overlords for the soy-free, dairy-free genius that is this stuff)

Avocado

The hit 90's tv series Charmed, starring Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, and Alyssa Milano

Pot, which is saving my head, and the bubbler that is saving my lungs

Being able to exercise

Tumblr (I'm starting to lose time, so it may be time to back away)

My boyfriend. Having support is invaluable.

The internet, at large. It is my lifeline, and my major time sucker. Pros and cons.

Tortillas. Everything is better wrapped in a tortilla.

Books. The thing about rereading old favorites is that the book stays the same but sometimes we've changed. The same happens with all kinds of things, but books are so personal to me, it's always surprising to reread something I've read a thousand times and have totally new thoughts about it.

Sleep. Just can't get enough.

A night warm enough to have the windows open and the sound of crickets lulling me to sleep.

Dogs, because they help me live in the moment, and find joy in just being alive.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Truth-Seeing Leads to Truth-Saying

A squirrel leaped into my line of sight just now, clinging and half-hidden on the shadowed side of a redwood tree. It twitched its little head around in that way that most prey animals do, but as it moved, its skull seemed to change shape entirely and it became a grotesque confusion for a moment as my brain sorted out that it was not actually a squirrel but a jaybird.

This was a random occurrence, a trick of the light more than anything, but it made me think of how many times in my life that my perception has changed like that, suddenly and unexpectedly. I'll be humming along, thinking a thing is a thing, then suddenly I make a connection or see the thing from a different angle and the world shifts, everything is akimbo, and I've realized an entirely new set of parameters by which to judge whether things really are things. Atheism, existentialism, vegetarianism, socialism, feminism; these are ideas that clicked with me in a flash of understanding and before my respective epiphanies, I was a half-hearted christian, absolutist, capitalist shill for the patriarchy, without ever really thinking much about those beliefs at all. Instead I blindly accepted the opinions of the people around me as truth and found ways to justify and defend those beliefs, even if they didn't always ring quite true to me.

And that was the problem, turning a blind eye to the things that sat wrong with me, ignoring them or excusing them, more interested in staying comfortable and keeping the peace than challenging the problems I might see. Until one day, one moment changes everything and I can't go back.

I see sexism, racism, ableism, classism, etc everywhere, in the everyday speech of everyday people, in advertising and media and our clothes and even our food. Rich people get richer, poor people get poorer, but it's always the poor who are abusing the system, somehow. Unarmed black citizens are being shot by our own police while white men with guns demand their right to carry them into grocery stores. Anti-rape nail polish is a thing. Most of the meat available on supermarket shelves is from factory farms, essentially large-scale animal torture operations, and yet it's the vegans who are accused of being extreme.

I sometimes wish I could unsee it all, but that's not practical, or fair. Besides, no matter how hard I look at (or away from) that jaybird, and no matter how it may still vaguely resemble a squirrel if I squint at it out the corner of a half-shut eye, ignoring the reality won't ever change it.

And I do want to change it. I want to change it all.



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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Food and Measuring Moments

So this has been my worst Interstitial Cystitis flare since I started actively managing it, and as a result, my diet is ridiculous.

I went mostly vegan almost a year ago, which cut out 99% of dairy, eggs and seafood from my diet. It's been going great and I haven't looked back, but now I'm faced with some severe dietary restrictions to heal my urinary tract and eating has become complicated in a whole new way.

The IC diet actually encourages dairy, which is annoying, but eliminates all acidic foods (tomatoes, citrus, pineapple, vinegar), most spices (cinnamon, paprika, cumin), soy (tofu, soy sauce, almost all the veggie burger type products), onions, pickles, chilis, and basically 80% of the ingredients I use in every dish I make.

So, I've been eating a lot of potatoes, brown rice, beans, and veggies, and thankfully avocados are still safe. Eating so blandly has made it difficult to get adequate calories some days, so I've started eating selective junk foods (kettle chips, nutter butters, mmmm) and I've started cooking with oil again, occasionally.

Another blessing has been daiya cheddar. It's fake cheese that isn't made from soy and it's seriously saved my taste buds on days when I could not cook and had to whip up a plain potato burrito, or something similarly sad. It tastes like a cross between cheddar, american cheese, and nacho cheese, the last two of which are totally nostalgic flavors for me, so I feel like I'm getting that childhood treat when in actuality I just feel too crappy to make myself anything better. We take what pleasure we can get. It's also particularly tasty over a baked potato and a load of steamed broccoli, which is what I had for lunch today.

The pain is slowly decreasing, but I keep accidentally eating foods that are tainted with irritants and now I suspect that my multi-vitamin is triggering pain, which is ironic because I'm only taking it because I'm having trouble nourishing myself on the IC diet.

Hahahahasob.

My head's been temperamental lately, too; the weather, the IC, my restricted diet, the abdominal assault my period waged on my body last week, who even knows the triggers at this point, I'm just trying to keep my sanity.

When I feel like this, just raw from the surviving, every bit of tenderness that's sent my way feels transcendent, small kindnesses are miracles, and beauty is almost painful to behold. I woke early one morning to a fogged-in forest and despite my aching eyes, throbbing back (WHY? IDK), loneliness and hopelessness, the branches of the towering redwoods faded into the fog in such a way that I thought I might die from the magic of it.

Blessed are the poor and sick, for we know the true measure of a moment.


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Dreaming

I had a dream last night, the first I've remembered in ages. I was on a glass submarine.

The sub was floating at the surface, in dock. We moved past a huge old steamship, and I goggled at the size of it; I could see the entire girth of it from inside my glass sub, and it was astounding. Then, we dove. The waves crashed against the glass, and then the sub was engulfed entirely and I was underwater. It was murky, and ghostly fish passed by too quickly to be identified. Then there was a coral paradise, like Nemo's home, and it was brilliant and dazzling and I was laughing and crying and giddy with the experience, totally unaware that I was dreaming. And this morning, when I remembered the dream in a surprised rush, I told my boyfriend the tale and felt like I was recounting an amazing vacation story.

I haven't felt that kind of joy in a long time. I've had happy moments, I've laughed and had good times, but lately I feel like I have nothing to look forward to, and yesterday those words formed themselves exactly in my mind. Nothing to look forward to. I can't have kids. Going to school feels like it'll never amount to anything. My relationships are all faltering. I'll never be well enough to really be happy or free.

Writing it out, yes, I can see depression talking, but isn't some of it, at least, just being realistic?

I used to feel so secure in the world. I'm so jealous of myself pre-migraines, I had no idea what I had.

I think that submarine was some part of my brain sending up a signal flare, We need to be amazing again! We need to LIVE! I need to listen. I need to find a path. Or make one.


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Fitness, Limits, and Flares

Even with how hard I've worked to get physically fit, my head is only slightly better. I'm grateful for the improvements I do feel; I can get out a little more easily, my recuperation time is usually less, and the pain and debilitation are, on average, less than they were when I was neither exercising nor eating vegan.

But I have definitely hit a wall.

My body continues to get leaner and stronger, but my head is stubbornly refusing to improve any further. Which I thought was funny this morning, when I recalled that my burning lungs and aching legs were what used to stop me from reaching the top of our hill when I first started out. Now, I make it to the top wishing I had farther to go, and I wish I could run marathons but my head won't allow more than a few minutes of jogging.

I have been able to continue my now daily hikes with the dogs during this petit heat wave by going out as soon as I wake up, and waking up early. I'm risking getting eaten by a mountain lion, but there aren't that many of them out here, so I think my odds are good. Hopefully! I carry mace, that comforts me a little.

The yoga continues, and my balance has gotten so much better, but those inverted poses still elude me most of the time. But then I feel like an ass for complaining at all, because I used to not be able to touch my toes, because I couldn't reach and because my head wouldn't allow it, but now I can, I just have to breathe carefully. There are improvements. I can see them. I just want more, and I don't think I'm going to get it.

I've graduated from doing pushups in cat pose to doing regular modified pushups, and that feels awesome, but again, it's something I have to breathe through very carefully.

Besides all that fitnessy stuff, I really miss school. I don't know if I can attend a class and exercise at the same time. And take care of my dogs. And myself. I don't know! But I want to try. I have been playing around with some free online courses, like what they have on coursera, I only wish they had a broader selection. And that I could earn a degree that way, that would be nice!

I'm in the middle of an IC flare, so that hurts. It was triggered by a few things, I think. it's tomato season, number one. And probably numbers two through five, I was really having a tomato party for a while there. Then, there were the popsicles; ice lollies, frozen fruits bars, whatever you call them. I bought some from the store without reading the label (I know, WHO AM I??) and they had some kind of fake sugar in them. Before I even realized that though, we got some popsicle molds from the dollar store, and I filled them up with a green juice, naked or green monster or something, and they were DELICIOUS, but acidic as hell so the combination stripped my poor urethra of its protective linings and now I'm crying every other piss. All I can do is restrict my diet severely (no hot sauce or tomatoes, how will I even live) and take baking soda and antacids a few times a day.

In comparison, my head seems mild. Except for the nausea, god it is just ever-present lately. But I've been using these nice ginger chews, called Reed's. They're yummy and really helpful and much less sugar than a whole ginger ale.

I miss being able to write here frequently. I've lost my voice, it seems. I wish I had a working camera, images never fail me.

Hope you all are well. And thanks for reading. <3
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting Out Of My Own Way

So, things are hard.

And they are harder than they should be which tells me that I'm in a funk. If I ever really climbed out of the last one.

I had Big Plans to look forward this last week, which really shook off some of those lingering cobwebs of depression, but even in the midst of excited preparations, there was a campaign being waged in my head to keep me down. "I can't do it," "I'll mess it up," "I'm terrible at it," I shouldn't even bother." I listen to these voices far too much, but in the excitement of these Big Plans, I threw out my negative self-talk and tried the things I knew I would fail at. Annoyingly and happily, I did not fail, and in fact did a much better job than I ever imagined I could.

I read an article over at Captain Awkward this morning, which is what inspired me to even crack open this blog and put some words down, on Breaking the Low Mood Cycle, and it really hit my nail on the head.

So many things are already standing in my way, I certainly don't want to be one of them.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

So, Optimism

Let's the start off with the bad: My head hurts and I'm nauseated and my neck and shoulders are sore and creaky and my eyeballs ache and there are other things, but hey, that's plenty enough isn't it?

I haven't been writing here much lately. I've been feeling like I have to scrimp and save every scrap of energy I have, but it's my own fault because I spend more of it than I should hiking with the dogs almost every day. They say exercise can be addictive, and I can see how that could happen. Dedicating ten to sixty minutes a day to doing some kind of aerobic activity or strength exercises has improved my overall mood, made me stronger, increased my stamina, and improved my self-confidence.

And usually it's hiking, but I've also broken out the Wii fit (which I still kind of hate for it's body-shaming, but I find talking back to the screen with profanities and rude gestures helps) for a little indoor jogging or yoga. I dance to music, especially when I clean the kitchen. I do pushups and situps sometimes.

I'm holding onto a dread that makes my heart heavy, because I'm going to have to stop exercising so frequently eventually, and I'm afraid I'll lose the improvements I've seen in my head. The heat has already been keeping me more inert, and I often feel the urge to do something more with my life than exercise.

I miss school, but I'm still really undecided about the direction I want to go, and frustrated with my limited options as an online student. I've been "working" a few hours a month at the dog sitters up the street, which is pretty much a dream gig for me. It's even on my usual hiking route so I can get myself there most of the time, it's run by really low-key people and populated by awesome dogs and I've grown to consider them and their dogs like an extended pack.

I've struggled to find motivation otherwise. Sewing, gardening, I want the results of both but they both seem impossible right now. The latter for the drought, so I can hardly be blamed for that, however I do take ridiculous hot showers when my body hurts. Forgive me, unless someone rips me out of that blessed heat, when I ache I can not leave until I am blanched. Sewing on the other hand has no barriers besides my own frustration. I just need to make something new.

There was a wedding a few weeks ago, a cousin married his long-time partner. I made it through the ceremony with earplugs, but as soon as we all started filing out of the space they'd reserved for the ceremony and towards the the building in which the reception was to take place, I found myself surrounded by the perfume of a thousand old ladies, which compounded the effects I was already feeling from the sun and wind, the drive there, talking, the loud pre-ceremony music, and the stress of wearing uncomfortable clothes, makeup and heels. I was suddenly feeling quite ill and volatile and because I very much do not want to insult people unnecessarily, especially on a special day, I shut my mouth firmly in a pleasant smile and steered myself towards the parking lot for an early escape. I did try to medicate before ordering my boyfriend/chauffeur to whisk me back to the forest, but there wasn't enough pot in the world to counteract the overstimulation of that wedding.

My favorite part of dressing up always has been the taking it all off because the feeling of ease is so delicious after all that pinching of shoes and scratching of fancy fabrics; I could not wait to get back into my comfortable clothes, so I did that before we were even on the road home. It felt silly to have gone to all that trouble (makeup, hair gel, properly fitting undergarments, lint rolling my nice coat), but of course I intended to at least try to go to the reception, at which sweatpants would have been unacceptable.

The motion sickness seems to be coming back with the warm weather. It eased some for a few months, only getting bad in the car, but now it's a 24/7 struggle not to guzzle ginger ale all day again. I've got to find an alternate, something with a little less hfcs.

I'm dealing with the heat pretty well so far, though we've only really had a few hot days. One day we hit the mid-90s, and I soaked my head no less than four times, drank water and ate fruit like it was my job, and stayed out of the sun totally, only taking the dogs for a short walk under the trees, and I survived pretty well! So, optimism.

And as a final note in this wandering post, I'd like to share that asking for help is something I don't do easily, but it's something I've had to do recently. I'm very afraid of being rejected or laughed at for my feelings and my failings, or of appearing foolish or weak, and I worry that my relationships can't take the strain of my problems and my needs. These fears aren't the worst things that could happen to a person, though, so I'm realizing that maybe it's worth the risk to share my vulnerabilities, especially if it helps me get to a better place. I've got choices to make and I certainly can't do things alone, so I have to hope that those I turn to for help are open. These are murky, uncharted waters and without a map or compass I can only rely on those around me to help me keep moving forward. Wish me luck.



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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oxygen is Imperative

I have been relearning how to breathe.

I've been taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide like a good little human should, but not quite as reliably as we're meant to. I could blame the issue on being born with only one working nostril, but while that's an odd story, it's not at all the issue. What the hell, I'll tell it to you anyway.

Nostril is a hilarious word, and a totally embarrassing one to have to say to your friends when you are twelve years old, so when I had to have the surgery I told my friends that I was born with a bone blocking one side of my nose and I still use that terminology to this day, if I don't catch myself. Anyway, I was born prematurely, and a piece of cartilage that blocks a fetus' sinuses didn't get a chance to dissolve like it was supposed to, and I lived with it for twelve years. I couldn't breathe out of my right nostril (hehe omg ew nostril) and it led to years and years of sinus infections, colds, and chronic bronchitis, and intensified even the mildest allergy and asthma symptoms. I remember being at my daycare in maybe first grade and having a cold, like I usually did, and trying to eat a snack with a completely blocked nose and realizing that no one around me was holding their breath while they ate, and rushing to chew and swallow before they turned blue. I sure was, was swallowing whole chunks of bread in my desperation to breathe with a full mouth of food, and had been almost as long as I could remember. It occurred to me in that moment that something was wrong with my nose. It just never cleared up. I tried to tell my mom a few times, but either she wasn't listening or I wasn't articulating well enough until I was eleven. I decided enough was enough, stalked up to where she was sitting with a friend in the backyard and told her I'd never been able to breathe out of "this side of my nose". Ever. This other side, sure, it clears up on occasion, but I could never, ever, EVER remember breathing out the right side of my nose. She paid attention that time and booked me an appointment with an ear, nose and throat guy and that was the beginning of the end of my life as a child snot-machine. I still seemed to get sick more often than other people, but at least I didn't have to hold my breath while I ate anymore.


So, nostril stories aside, breathing isn't the perfect autonomic response that biology classes would have me believe. As a weirdo only child, I used to pay attention to my breath and lose the rhythm of breathing entirely. I would be struck (every time) with a mildly amusing panic that I might not be able to breathe easily ever again. I'd try to think of something else, let the automatic processes take over again, but my mind was noticing every little hitch of my chest, how the air flowed into my lungs, how it filled my body and how my torso rose and fell, and breathing was certainly not a normal action that I'd been performing without thought since birth, but it was a phenomenal, complicated, probably supernatural, bizarre sequence of events that were completely impossible to keep straight. It was almost like when you say or write a word so many times over and over that it loses all meaning; I could no longer let the autonomic functions of my body just go, the analysis had ruined breathing, and possibly forever. So, resigned to a life of concentrating on inhaling and exhaling, I'd breathe as best I could, trying not to show my worry, even miming the in-and-out inhale-exhale motions that the people around me were making with their bodies, and hoping no one around me could hear how I was totally failing at even breathing. After several agonizing eons that were likely only seconds, I would inevitably be distracted and my body would continue breathing without my obsessing, miraculously. Muscles expanding and contracting when they should, with no prompting from me whatsoever. I grew out of this quirk, and hooray for that, because while it was never scary or really stressful, it was seriously annoying and made me feel like a total weirdo.

And a third breathing anecdote: As a child, I loved to run. I was the fastest in my class for a year or two, but I was always more of a sprinter, and found distance running to be rather horrible. I never questioned my preference until recently when I realized while hiking that I'd never learned to breathe properly. My body can take care of the basics (as long as I don't think about it too hard, haha sigh), but when I really push myself or if I'm focusing very intently, I often hold my breath. I never noticed this before migraines, but now holding my breath often bites back immediately with major head-pounding, truly it's one of my worst triggers. Relearning how to breathe through focus, pain, intent, tension, anger, fear, and excitement has been a constant challenge, but it's probably good for me to be breathing through these things anyway.

When I was first trying to push my stamina and strength while hiking, I was so easily tired out, I'd have to stop every ten feet or so. At first, I continued to rest when I needed to, but at some point I noticed that that my muscles weren't at all tired, I was just breathing too desperately to keep going, which eventually led to be the revelation that I wasn't just exercising inefficiently, I was HOLDING MY DAMN BREATH. So, I started practicing breathing. I typically start out my hikes with an inhale every two steps, even if it feels fast. As I continue up the hill, my body uses the oxygen quickly, and about halfway up my brain starts sending out Exhausted signals, but instead of resting, I speed up my breath to an inhale on every step. It feels unnatural at first, but I was shocked by how easy exercise was when I was getting all the oxygen I needed, I really couldn't believe it. I could exercise until I was tired, and then keep going! My exercise-induced migraines are MUCH less frequent when I'm breathing properly, and increasing my time and distance has increased my stamina by about a billion-fold.

So, this breathing practice is starting to bleed into my regular world, too. I notice when I'm holding my breathe from stress or concentration, and forcing myself to breathe through these things that normally make me clench up has been eye-opening. Instead of my body clenching up and powering through whatever stress, I'm learning how to work with it, let my body feel the stress and also feel how we can keep breathing if we want to.

We can keep breathing if we want to.

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