Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Invisible Woman

Content note: This post contains talk of depression, isolation, and suicidal urges.

I wrote a journal entry a few days ago that's hard to share, but is so relevant to my truth as a person who is chronically ill, I feel I have to. I'm having regular bouts of depression at the end of my periods again, and this last one was brief, less than a day, but intense.

Today, I'm considering suicide.

It's not the first time, and won't be the last. Because I'm not going to act on it. Not today. But I'm considering it.

I'm desperately lonely. I'm in pain all the time. I'm depressed and anxious, bored and frustrated. I miss having relationships, friends. I'm tired of this limiting, tortured life. I'm tired of wishing and wanting and hoping and dreaming, just to continue waking up to a nightmare.

I have this huge extended family, and I never hear from any of them. Their lives are going on as if I was never even there, and it's devastating every time I go on facebook. I used to have a crowd of friends, but they've all but disappeared too. I don't think anyone would miss me if I did kill myself, because no one seems to miss me now.

The uncertainty of tomorrow is no longer interesting to me because there is no uncertainty. I'll wake up, be in pain, will struggle, try and fail, and that's it. That's how it's been for the past 8 years. I don't want this life.

I wish so much that I had someone to reach out to. I wish so much I had someone to hug me and tell me it'll be ok.

But I don't.

This is what it's like being chronically ill. I've become invisible.

Since regaining my balance, I've taken steps to remedy some of the problems I mention. I've made a point of contacting friends I trust and I'm putting myself out there to make new ones online. I've asked for help getting mental health care and in seeing a naturopath, because I'm certain this problem is mostly hormonal and western medicine has failed me and my brutal periods completely.

So, I'm ok now. But I wasn't then, and in another month I won't be again, so I've got to get ahold of it before it gets ahold of me.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Struggle is Real

Every day for the past week, I've awakened with head pain. My neck and shoulders feel like I tried to lift an elephant, or perhaps a grand piano. I did neither, I have no idea why my muscles feel as if they've been wrenched and twisted like moorings in a hurricane. It's interfering with sleep, and the pain is going straight to my head, of course. Which isn't surprising, I swear toe pain goes straight to my head.

So, I'm plodding through my days right now. I go for my morning hike, but it's much slower than usual and it's the only thing I do some days. I'm nauseated all the time. I can't bend over, reach, or turn my head too quickly without feeling ill, faint, or confused. It's the usual low-level of symptoms, kicked up a notch or five. As a consequence, I'm not getting much done around the house. I might over-medicate later to get some dishes done. I'll likely pay for it, but I can't live in filth.

I got an Obamaphone. Despite being free, it is not awesome. I have no reception where I live, or anywhere within a several minute walk, so it's useless to my basically housebound self. My boyfriend is going to look into it, see if he can connect a phone of our choosing, or if they can send me something with decent reception. It's a hassle, but I'm hoping they are still working out the kinks because it's an awesome program for those of us who can't afford phones.

I'm considering school in the fall. I'm intimidated though because I don't have a great support system and really don't think I can handle it. This may be a self-confidence issue, because I certainly struggle with that, but it's also a reality of chronic migraines. I'm limited by my illness and there's only so much schools will accommodate. But, school's not going anywhere, and it's not like I'm not enriching myself in other ways, but my little brother and a friend of mine are both starting college in the fall and I am positively green with envy. I'm excited and happy for both of them, but still, so envious.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fitness and Fiche

I started using My Fitness Pal again.

I've put on a few more pounds than I'd prefer over the last several months. I never really stopped exercising, save for the usual amount of days when I couldn't manage it, so the weight gain is almost entirely diet-related.

I needed a reality check. I eat very healthfully most of the time, but when there are certain junk foods in the house, I simply can't resist. And once I've started, I can't always stop, not until they're gone. Additionally, policing my food intake can be tricky for me; as a person who lived with disordered eating for years, I don't know if I'll ever really be free of it. I am better at recognizing problem behavior sooner, ideally before it spirals out of control. And that is exactly why I stopped using My Fitness Pal when I did; it was starting to feel obsessive to me, and I recognized that I was not having the healthiest thoughts and behaviors as a result of my using what is actually a very helpful tool. I feel I'm now in a better place mentally, and I see clearly that I need a reminder of what it looks like to eat moderately and healthfully. So, I reinstalled it last week and started entering info immediately.

I'm already making better choices, knowing that I'll have to face the undeniable results on my smartphone later. I still have sweets and snacks, I still want a veggie burger every now and again, but not every day. I'm working on the emotional issues that are leading me to crave food my body doesn't need, and My Fitness Pal keeps me accountable until I can get my brain calibrated again. Eating like a grown up is hard, you guys, but I can do it.

In other food news, I made a fiche (fake quiche! I'm hilarious, right?) with tomatoes and green olives and it came out divine. I enjoy symmetry, so I had to take a photo of the completed fiche to share.

I have one piece left.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Consequences and Flowers

I spent several hours dog-sitting yesterday and boy am I paying for it.

I started feeling the consequences while I was still there. The sun was suddenly so blinding I couldn't keep my eyes open and they watered and stung until I moved to the shade. I was having brief dizzy spells. My nausea kicked up. I was yawning.

I kept it together until after I was back home, and I suspect that the walk downhill didn't help matters at all. Once home, I grew colder and colder, until I was in my robe and under a blanket and still feeling like my hands and feet were blocks of ice. The weather has cooled a little, but it's not at all cold enough for this reaction, which has continued into today. No, this is definitely a migraine chill.

Additionally, I'm exhausted and had a nightmare last night that my honey woke me from because I was yelling and thrashing. I'm so sore this morning, I feel like I was in a boxing match.

So, I'm taking it easy today, though I really want to get outside and garden. The boyfriend surprised me with a few sixers of annuals, and I can't wait to have a spot of color in our yard. We have some native flowers around; teeny, perfect wildflowers, gorgeous irises that grow in clumps and bloom in spurts, and wild roses that are incredibly delicate and lovely but flower so briefly it's easy to miss them entirely. Bright clumps of hardy, commercially created flowers is just what I need right now. I think I will go putter out there for a while. If I wear a hat, and keep warm, and don't strain myself too much, I think it could be a good time.

Update: It was.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Peaches and Choices

My food has been repetitive and processed. Don't judge me.

I have started eating greens from my little garden, so that's new and exciting, but otherwise, it's been basics like quiche, chili, potatoes, brown rice, far too many delicious vegan junk foods, and - oh yeah - fruuuuuit.

ALL the produce is coming into season around here and I'm so here for it. I've been living for grapes and pears lately, but that's about to expand into the wonderful world of stone fruits! Bring on the peaches! And I've decided that this summer it's going to be required to have watermelon in the house at all times.

Now that I can eat soy again, I've been going a little wild with it. I forgot how good veggie burgers could be, and the veggie dogs! I'm just a sucker for anything I can slather in mustard and ketchup. I've been making pizza pretty frequently too, and while I usually completely bury the crust in a mound of roasted veggies, I'm noticing I really am a starch junkie, and I've been thinking about how to reduce the wheat and sugar in my diet, while still being a happy person. I know from getting off addictive foods; five years ago I never would have believed I could cut the cheese (heh) because lactose had its hooks firmly in my brain, but after only a week or so off it, I felt much better and lost 99% of the cravings. Cheese really is overrated! (don't tell cashew cheese I said that, I didn't mean it, I love you) So, I hope I'd feel the same way about those refined sugars after a short time? Maybe?

However, I've been having some IC twinges lately, which means this liberal diet does not get to stay as free-wheeling as it's been. But in moderation, I seem to be able to eat just about anything! I still haven't tried any real quantity of citrus or other acidic foods at a time, but I've gotten real brave with the soy and spices, and the repercussions have been very mild thus far. My aim is to keep it that way.

In other health news, I was strongly considering getting an IUD to deal with my heavy periods, even though it releases progestin, the same hormone that gave me such a terrible IC flare several months ago when I tried the pill for like four days. My doctor thinks it will be ok, but I really don't, and many other women on forums report adverse IC effects, so I believe them and choose not to risk subjecting myself to that pain. At least for now. I've been slowly regaining the ability to live after my last flare, I'm not even trying to test myself again. And by that I mean I had suicidal thoughts and was existing in such a constant state of panicked survival, it took months after the pain was over for me to not scrutinize everything I ate obsessively, or to feel fear when I felt the urge to urinate. I need to feel normalish for a while before I try something that might shatter it all to bits. I've still got the migraines and intense periods anyway, so it's not like I'm getting comfy over here or anything.

Anyway, I can't wait for the peaches. I can almost smell them now.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Acupuncture! Finally!

I was referred to an acupuncture clinic put on by a local school. And I went!

The place was awesome; it's called Five Branches, and I found both the administrative staff and my acupuncturist to be helpful, knowledgeable, and totally unscented.

The acupuncturist was an intern, a week from graduation. We talked about my health for a while, he took my pulses, looked at my tongue, then stuck some needles in me. I wasn't nervous until he was prepping the needles and rubbing alcohol on various points of my body. I asked him if he would warn me before sticking me and unlike the dentist of surprise sticks I visited recently, he readily agreed and very respectfully gave me plenty of warning for each insertion. It was a breeze, really. I felt a few of the pricks when they first went in (heh), but they hurt much less than when I jab myself with a sewing needle. And then he had me lay there for a while, so I tried to relax and every now and again peeked at the long, thin needles sticking out of my hands, feet, and stomach. If I'd had a mirror available, I could have seen the crown of needles on my head, but alas, the room was mirrorless.

He came back in and popped the needles out and I was on my way. He recommended I come once a week, or as often as possible. I hope to be able to make it that frequently, but getting off our mountain isn't so easy for me. Why no in-home acupuncture Five Branches? In fact, why no in-home medical care for everyone who needs it? Y NO?

State and federally provided health insurance don't cover acupuncture, so we're paying out of pocket. The clinic does offer a good discount for those of us on Medicare though, so that's a bright spot. Also, the clinic was nicely lit, and there was a sign in the lobby asking patients to refrain from wearing fragrances. I love those signs!

I haven't seen any definitive difference yet, but I really wouldn't expect to after only one visit. I'm so glad to be finally trying acupuncture! It's such a controversial field of study, I can't help but be intrigued by whether I'll see any changes. I'll definitely be updating as far as further appointments and results.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Gooeyness, Creamyness, Deliciousness, and a Rant

A vegan equivalent to eggs benedict isn't just a fantasy. It's real, and it's delicious.

I made another quiche this morning. This time I didn't have any artichoke hearts and not a whole lot of spinach, so I was forced to branch out. Besides the small amount of spinach I did have, I ended up adding some well-chopped broccoli, cauliflower, yellow carrot, and a few heaping tablespoons of fake parmesan. Now, when the quiche first comes out of the oven, it's super creamy and thick, and reminds me of a hollandaise sauce. That's where the benedict inspiration strikes. Hungry for lunch, and unwilling to wait the time it can take for the quiche to completely cool and set, I ran with it.

I had some apple-smoked fake sausage in the fridge that I cut into slices lengthwise and laid across half a piece of naan. I broiled this until it was warm and crispy, then smeared some fresh-from-the-oven still-gooey quiche over the top of it and broiled for a few more minutes.

It didn't taste a whole lot like traditional eggs benedict, but the mouthfeel was creamy and the flavor was savory and salty in the most perfect way. Mm.

I would also like to share my recent pinto bean revelation. I like to make them from dried when I can, but wondered why my beans never came out as nice as canned. The texture was never quite creamy, they would go from hard, to soft and a little grainy, to mushy. I had a different experience altogether the last time I made them, though, and let me tell you what I did. I soaked the dried beans overnight in cold, salted water. I did not boil the water, and I did not rinse the beans after soaking. I cooked them the next day until they were soft. They came out perfectly cooked, with the skins nicely intact, and the loveliest creamy texture, even nicer than canned.

Now please allow me a moment of complaint. Yesterday, I shared my dinner plans with a neighbor and he got super rude. It went like this:

Me: We're grilling hot dogs tonight! I've got an urge for a chili-cheese dog and we got all the ingredients vegan! I'm excited!

Him: Oh. (face-making)

Me: It'll be good!

Him: That's an oxymoron.

Me: What is?

Him: "Good" and "vegan". Those don't go together in a sentence.

Me: Aw, don't be closed-minded! That's sad!

I was trying to stay jovial about it, but it still devolved into him calling vegans rude and angry, and me saying I've met way more rude meat-eaters than vegans (CASE IN POINT), to which he replied that he was happy for me??? Which I guess is sarcastic, but I'm too old to give a fuck frankly, so I gave up and let the other meat-eaters nearby (who had heard this bizarre exchange) school him for me. And later that evening, one of them tried a vegan chili-cheese dog and proclaimed it delicious! SO I WIN! :D

I'm proud of my mostly vegan diet; I don't hide my preference for avoiding animal products, and I can get excited when I tell someone about some tasty dish I made entirely from plants that I perhaps could not have even conceived of in my pre-vegan days. It's a thing that makes me happier. Now, I don't shame others for consuming animal products (I'm only mostly-vegan myself, anyway) or intrusively inform people about my morals regarding their diet, but it sometimes seems like an impossible request to ask some meat-eaters to give me the same respect. I got comments as a vegetarian, but now that I am rejecting the cheese and ice cream, it is really being taken personally.

Happily, there are so many more people who don't make weird comments, who don't make fun of me, who ask perfectly polite questions or who simply ignore our dietary differences, because it's no one's business but our own what we eat, amirite? Those people are delightful, and if you are one of those people, we should be friends.


Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dentist

I went to the dentist and it was awful.

I've been putting of the dentist for years. Too many years, it seems, because I have quite a few cavities. Many people I've spoken with recently say that going to the dentist is torture, and I would agree, but I very much want to challenge these people get their cavities filled with a migraine. My dentist had to stop after one filling because my shaking and crying was making it difficult for her to work. For the record, I would have withstood at least one more, but I can't help my body's reaction to extreme pain. I was recommended to sedation dentistry, but I don't know how much that costs, or if denti-cal will cover it. I believe firmly that they should, but what's right and what's covered aren't at all the same things.

The dentist could have done a few things to improve my experience. I told them I was nervous because I had a migraine and that I was somewhat needle-phobic. I asked the doctor to warn me before she stuck me. She didn't. Instead, she told me to close my eyes, then poked me repeatedly while grabbing my cheek hard and speaking to me in a soft, gentle voice. That last part was fine, actually, but without any warning, I couldn't help but feel frightened by the surprise needle in my mouth. Despite my best efforts at remaining calm, I could only take four stabs before I started panicking.

If she had warned me before starting, or counted down the number and the durations of each stick, I honestly think I could have dealt with it easily by breathing and forcing my muscles to relax. This has worked pretty well for me in the past, and as long as I felt I could trust the person doing this awful thing to me (ie blood draws, pap smears, vaccinations) I would get through it with minimal tears and we'd all part friends. But by ignoring my simple requests, she obliterated any natural trust I might have had; and even after my initial, very evident panic, she totally dismissed my repeated pleas for warning of what she was going to do in my mouth. She insisted it would make me MORE fearful, and I would tense up MORE at her warnings. I couldn't get her to listen. She made it clear I couldn't trust her, and I couldn't relax.

She came back a while later, after the novocaine had kicked in, and started work. As I already mentioned, there was shaking and crying. I don't know if I can explain what it feels like to have a drill grinding in my tooth with a migraine. The dentist tried to stop early on, said we should reschedule for when I don't have a migraine. With tears streaming down my face, I sobbed that I ALWAYS have a migraine, it would never go away, and if she could do the work, I could take it. Then I put my head back and opened my mouth, ready for the torture. She finished the one cavity she'd started, then disappeared into another part of the building, probably to drink herself into a stupor.

The poor thing had spent most of my polishing and prep telling me about how far dentistry had come, and how the needles are the worst part. I had tried to tell her that wasn't my real issue, but I don't think she was at all prepared for how intense it would get. While she worked, she tried soothing me with that soft voice again, and it was rather nice, "You're doing great, darling, we're almost done." Near the end, even softer than her other reassurances, she said once, "You are a very strong woman." At the time, if I could have laughed, I would have. I didn't feel strong, not even an iota. I was a complete wreck and wasn't aware of a thing except the impossible pain coming from my head, my boyfriend's hand in mine, and her voice. But looking back, I am a fucking badass. Who willingly lays back and allows an unpredictable stabber to inflict pain at a level beyond explanation? Me. At the time I thought the dentist was patronizing me, but in hindsight, I think she meant it.

But yeah, sedation dentistry. It's another ball of worries, but I think it's the better option for me, and for my poor dentist.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Food Photos

I hate my current cameras. I have a point and shoot and the camera on my smartphone and both are just terrible. There is hope for the future of my photography hobby, but for now, we will enjoy the best I can do. Which is a little blurry.

I snapped a shot of one of my macro bowls.

Except it's a macro plate, I guess. This one is pretty kale heavy, but excessive garlic powder and those seared mushrooms cover any bitterness nicely. Also featuring brown rice and chickpeas.

I was so proud of this pizza, I joyfully took a before-cooking pic:

but then I ate it before it occurred to take an after shot. It was gorgeous, and tasted incredible. Under those portabello mushroom slices is a layer of savory pesto. This dish is one of those that saved me during my intense IC diet, and I'm just so happy I live in a world where just a handful of ingredients can transport my heart to a place of bliss. I mean, portabellos and pesto. There is no happier combination.

I've got a wee garden going in our yard!

I've already had to do some pest control, and I'm afraid the deer are going to trample our pathetic fence as soon as they notice those fresh, tender baby greens, but I'm also hopeful for a summer filled with fresh kale and chard, and maybe more if we get our butts in gear on raised beds.

We also have an accidental potato patch in the compost bin.

I knew this would happen when I tossed green potatoes in there, I don't keep it nearly hot enough to kill the sprouts. The plants aren't growing a whole lot of potatoes so far, there isn't much sun where they are, but it's pretty amazing to watch them try.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chickpeas Mostly, But Also: Hot Dogs and Cheeze

Vegan quiche remains half my diet.

I exaggerate, but I have been eating a piece every morning. Scrambled like eggs, on top of toast, or most recently, sandwiched with some daiya cheddar on a biscuit. They were totally reminiscent of McDonald's breakfast sandwiches, but way better. They were so good, it was painful to finish them. The biscuits weren't vegan, so it's not something I want to eat often. I need to find vegan biscuits.

Speaking of vegan junk food, I've got the biggest craving for hot dogs! I'm going to get some veggie ones and indulge the craving, since it doesn't come around often. I missed being able to eat soy, it gives me so many more options. I'm really looking forward to a chili dog with cheeze, but I've never met a hot dog topping I didn't like. It's gonna be a party.

Not being able to eat soy did introduce me to Quorn, so I guess there was a bright side. I adore their chicken bites. Most recently, I used them to make ramen a legit meal, with the help of some chopped bok choy.

The last Whole Foods I went in had Miyoko's, that cashew cheese I'm always raving about (occasionally here, constantly irl). That's my favorite snack right now, eaten with an apple or a pear, the smoked farmhouse is simply heaven.

I made an accidental hummus dressing today. I meant to make regular hummus, but neglected to strain the canned chickpeas before dumping them in the processor. The extra liquid made it way runnier than is appropriate, so I went the salad dressing route with it. I've got two heads of green leaf I need to use up, so I grabbed a bunch of leaves off one of them and peeled a few carrots, tossed it in the dressing (which was 1 can of chickpeas and their water, some peanut butter, pesto, and lemongrass (i'm still a little afraid of citrus)). I wasn't feeling like having a salad plain, so I wrapped it all up in a tortilla! I love salad burritos!

I made asparagus with dill, lemongrass, and garlic powder for dinner tonight. And I scooped some vegan quiche on top of it! No wait, hear me out. The quiche was fresh from the oven, and before it cools, it's very rich and creamy and runny, so eating it with the asparagus was almost like a chunky veggie hollandaise sauce. OMG I need to make a vegan eggs benedict pronto.