Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hippocrates May Have Been On To Something

I learned to cook out of necessity, and I didn't always enjoy it. It was a chore; I didn't have any real skills or knowledge, so I used a lot of prepackaged foods, and there was inevitably a huge mess at the end of preparations that no one wanted to clean up. Oh, the humanity.

As a child I rarely helped in the kitchen, save for shucking corn or peeling garlic, which I enjoyed mostly. I also was in charge of the crescent rolls on holidays, which felt like an awesome responsibility, though they were the pillsbury kind in the tube so the hardest part was remembering to set the a timer while they baked.

As I got older, and particularly after I moved out and was able to rebuild a real relationship with my stepdad, he and I started shopping for groceries and cooking together. We made lasagnas and soups and ravioli and potatoes au gratin, and I learned to clumsily chop vegetables (I insisted on using a steak knife for ages) and how long to cook them. I made complicated, intimidating dishes by simply following the steps of a recipe, and I learned how to tweak that recipe to suit my own tastes.

I started experimenting a little more in my own kitchen, but was still shy of herbs and spices, and rarely touched the cookbooks on my shelf, instead relying on boxes and cans and plenty of oil for frying. Most of what I made tasted good, and got me more motivated to learn, because I am nothing if not picky about how food tastes, so gaining control of that ability was like magic to me.

But what really got me cooking was getting sick. The more I read about migraines, the more I realized that the preservatives, processed foods, and artificial ingredients I was eating could be having a direct affect on my head. I was embarrassed to note I hadn't intentionally eaten a green vegetable in who knows how long, besides perhaps the occasional dressing-soaked salad.

I wasted so much produce that first year. Cooking it badly, forgetting about it, or being too sick to cook for a week or more and finding it rotten soup in the fridge far too late; I hated throwing food out, but this was not food anyone could eat. My turning point was the discovery of green smoothies, and I went through a phase of several months of drinking my liquefied greens every morning, with fruit to taste of course. It was a revelation, and my body felt so much healthier. I resolved to learn to cook better, despite how bad I was at it or exhausting it was or how big a mess I had to clean at the end of it all, because I really liked feeling stronger, and it was clear food had a power that I'd never credited it with before.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.


So, I kept cooking and I got better at it. It took a few years of accumulated knowledge - of reading cookbooks, taking nutrition classes, hours and hours of internet research, and even more spent in the kitchen making mistakes - for me to be as comfortable and confident with food as I am now. I'm able to improvise and try new ingredients without a hint of fear. I know how to fix mistakes and when to toss it and start over with no regrets. I'm still endlessly searching the internet for techniques and ideas, new and improved or old and perfected ways of cooking that will make my mouth and body happy. I would even like to take classes, under the right circumstances. That's the best part about this hobby, besides the edible rewards, there's always something new to learn.

I consider myself really lucky to have the comfort I do with cooking, especially after being diagnosed with IC. So much of this illness revolves around diet, if I didn't know how to cook I'd be miserable. Either I'd be eating nothing but questionable veggies and rice or I'd have given up entirely on the diet and gone the route of drastic medical intervention. I'm not trying to judge or look down upon people who do live like that, because we've all got our own circumstances and make our own choices, but I'm truly appreciative that I'm able to manage my IC (and my migraines, for that matter) the way I do.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I am fed up with other people.

While I often feel lonely and isolated way up here in the forest, the interactions I have make me want to never leave.

Whether I've gained, lost or maintained the exact same weight for years, there are some people who greet me every time with, "You look thin!" or some derivative, as if it's a compliment. This is not how I want to relate to people in my life, but I'm not sure how to get them to stop without making it awkward.

I mentioned I just turned 36, and everyone I've told in person is making weird age comments like, "Is that all?", "36 years young!", and "It's just the anniversary of your such-and-such birthday." STAHP, everyone, let's not making aging weirder than it already is! "Happy birthday" will suffice. Really.

I have also been recently inundated with helpful migraine advice from people who have no reason to give me advice. They aren't medical practitioners, or even friends of mine; these are people who hear about my disability second or third hand and take it upon themselves to google or ask their neighborhood witch-doctor and then force print-outs on my boyfriend for magnet clinics in other states I can not possibly afford to visit. One perfectly nice but terribly misguided old lady sent me a long note containing a numbered list of things I should and should not be doing, as a migraineur, like avoiding caffeine. Honestly.

There's been a shift in my house. We're both more serious suddenly, trying to wrangle our lives back from our respective chronic conditions but without the usual two steps back. So maybe that will mean something positive for the future. I've been feeling stagnant for so long, some forward momentum would be wonderful.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Eve of my 36th Birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm feeling a little weird about it.

This is the first age that's really hit me in the mortality, and I'm a little uncomfortable with being this close to forty. I mean, I'd be lucky to be 40, and 50, and 110, aging is inevitable, sickness or accident can take any of us at any time, and immortality would be a huge bummer, anyway. But at forty there is absolutely no girlishness left to most women - in truth it disappears for most of us in our early thirties - and by forty, almost every one of us is a grown-ass adult woman without a bone of naivete in our bodies.

Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I have been really enjoying the confidence that comes with knowing my own mind and not feeling so much pressure to perform femininity in the way younger women are sort of required to. I had some good times in my twenties, and yes, my thirties have definitely been harder to enjoy, but I have definitely lived them, and I'm sure my forties will be nothing but not interesting; but I do wish I had more time.

For example, I'm not quite ready to have kids, but could see it in my future. Unfortunately there's an expiration date looming over my uterus that I suddenly have to be thinking about. I could adopt, of course, but I don't like having my options taken away, when I'm not even done deciding if I want to use them.

So today, the day before my 36th birthday, I've spent some energy in the kitchen and made myself a vegan quiche and a bunch of dolmas, so even if I'm not able to go out tomorrow for the ideal beach and lunch experience, it will still be a relaxed and happy day with plenty of good food to help me appreciate and celebrate my life, however I'm able to live it.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Progress is Perfect Enough

So, I made it through xmas without too much pain or stress, and it's mostly due to avoiding everything.

I have this tradition with my grandfather that we go shopping together for xmas, I help him pick out gifts for my parents, brother, and boyfriend, and of course he prompts me repeatedly to pick out things along the way that I would like. He's a sweet man, kind and patient. He's always been supportive and empathetic and is one of my few family members that hasn't completely disappeared from my life since I got sick. I make a point of being well enough to go out with him, even if I'm really not, because he's one of my favorite people in the world. I skipped several events this holiday season, but his and my annual shopping trip was not one of them. And it was great, as expected.

And then I saw him again at my parents' house xmas day and he told me his new years' resolution was to get up to see me more often! I need more people in my life like him, this can only be good for me.

Xmas eve was at home, and it was very quiet. My boyfriend had a spine procedure during the day, so we took it easy, watched Trading Places and opened stockings, which were stuffed with little things we'd gotten each other and ourselves at the dollar store.

Xmas day was at my parents' and we spent hours talking about nothing and hanging out. Everyone was in a good mood, I brought my own snacks (these amazing veggie chips I found at 7-11) and there were nuts I could eat, so it was pretty much a perfect day.

I'm having quite the migraine hangover today though; so much nausea, confusion, and overall malaise, I can hardly move. I've been soothing my addled brain with Gilmore Girls, and they aren't a bad remedy for what ails me. At least, they are a light-hearted distraction.

I expect the new year to be quiet as well, and to pass as any other day. I feel like I spent much of this year being frustrated and anxious, and I'll be glad to see the end of it. Not that it was a total loss, I set some boundaries in my life and have been successfully reinforcing them, I've continued to exercise every day I can, I've maintained my mostly vegan diet, and I've even been writing a little. But, I've been very bothered by not being in school lately, and the feeling of aimlessness is not a comfortable one.

I hope 2015 is more focused, more productive, and I'd like more control, more freedom, and I could probably stand some clarity. Couldn't we all.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Self-Indulgence, A Panacea

This has been a trying time for me.

I started this blog to deal with the 16,000 stages of grief that I was going through with the chronic migraines. I detailed my symptoms and treatments, worked out my every thought and emotion about being chronically ill and relatively young, and just as I was starting to feel like I had a real solid grip on living this altered life, the IC got all serious on me, and now I feel like I should start an IC blog, detailing my every thought and emotion, symptom and fear, and how goddamn irritating this diet is and how terrible I am at following it.

I mean, I'm pretty good at it, but if you ever eat anything from a box, jar or can, there's a 99% chance that it violates the IC diet somehow. When my head hurts or I'm depressed, I forget to read labels, and it's practically guaranteed that after I've eaten enough to hurt, I'll remember and find soy lecithin or citric acid or cinnamon. I'm so tired of being in pain.

It doesn't help that I've been waking up with migraines every other morning for the past week, and this morning seems to be a juicy one. I feel a little depressed, but not too bad, because I have two things to hold onto right now, and I'm holding them tight.

1. I decorated for xmas. For the first time in years, I put on some holiday music and slowly set up our wee, two-foot tall tree, decorated it with the tiny ornaments I could hardly remember having, and hung the stockings by the chimney with care. It's a little thing, it only took me an hour or so, but it's the first time that I've decorated my home for christmas, and enjoyed it. I even found a few bells in the ornament bag (a sandwich ziplock lol) and hung one on each of our stockings, so we'll hear if St. Nick puts anything in them.

2. I'm writing a story. I haven't written anything like this ever, so it's exciting and scary and all those emotions we get when we do something we're not sure we can do.

They're little things, but I'm doing them both just for me, and that makes them both feel very indulgent, which I think is good for the soul.

As the wise Donna Meagle says, "Treat. Yo. Self."


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Complicated Holiday

It won't be the typical Thanksgiving this year, and that's probably a good thing.

I read that there are going to be protests and fasts today; people are mad about working for sub-living wages, they're mad that a police officer shot an unarmed teenager and is suffering no consequences, and of course, they're mad because this holiday is a hypocritical mess of pretending white people were friends with the natives of our country and didn't actually commit genocide.

And it's not the same at my house this year, either. We don't have money for groceries right now, so I'm making what I can with what we have. Lentil loaf for me, chicken for him, instant potatoes, mushroom gravy and whatever veg I throw in there last minute.

Despite the hypocrisy of the holiday and the frustrations I may have in my own life, I do like to try and be thankful, it's a good plan to appreciate what we have.

So, I'm grateful for the lucky combinations of food in my pantry and fridge that is allowing me to make something resembling a thanksgiving meal. I'm thankful for the roof over my head, the people who care about me, my dogs, and the internet. I'm thankful for justice, when it happens, and for those who stand up when it doesn't. I'm grateful for the trees and the quiet, the clean air and peace that living in the country provides me. I'm lucky in a lot of ways, and it does me good to remember it.


Monday, November 10, 2014

The First Steps are the Steepest

So, I finally told my doctor that I am sometimes horribly depressed and it often coincides with menstruation or ovulation, and also my periods are brutal and heavy and painful and she prescribed me a progestin pill. I was hesitant until she said it might stop my period, I am ALL ABOUT THAT.

My periods have gotten worse and worse over the years, and it's been really affecting my life for the past six months, probably longer really, but my head affects my life, and my IC affects my life, and the depression affects my life; the period problems kind of blended in with all that for a long time.

I started it on day four of my period, and the bleeding did not miraculously stop, but my cramps sure did, almost immediately. Maybe they were already on their way out, but I doubt it, and I got all excited. My head did hurt a little more with exertion, but it was nothing I couldn't handle at first.

Unfortunately, my IC symptoms went out of control after a day or two on the progestin. I didn't connect the two right away, not for another few days, but my diet has been perfect as far as I know, and I'm pretty sure I don't have a UTI, so as soon as I realized the only other change in my routine, I stopped the pills and now, 48 hours after my first missed dose, I'm finally starting to feel definite improvement.

The migraines are hard to deal with, but I've had time to adjust to the sacrifices. They've taken away relationships, my ability to work, and so much of my freedom, and I thought I was coping with it rather well for a while there, but the interstitial cystitis has really showed me another side of myself. I didn't know the depression could get this bad, and I could live through it. I didn't know I could handle this much pain, and still walk around like a semi-normal person.

The migraines often come with so many other symptoms - slurring of words, dizziness, irritability, and confusion, for example - that I am not always totally with it when the worst of the pain is hitting. But the IC has no cognitive impact, I feel it completely and my faculties are cruelly intact. This is torture. This is shake your fist at the heavens and curse deities for having forsaken you pain. Sometimes I wish I wasn't an atheist.

But, it's getting better! At least I'm not crying at every pee anymore. The pain is still substantial, but going from a 10+ on the pain scale to an 8 means the world. It means sanity.

And even though the stair gave out under me, I think I just took my first step towards something better.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Everybody Poops (On Themselves)

Did I tell you guys about how I shit myself recently? It was surreal.

I love telling stories about stuff like this, poop and periods and disgusting things children do, because while people are sometimes shocked that I talk about this stuff so easily, once I finish a story, someone else has one to top me. We all experience the disgusting parts of being human, we should talk about it, and laugh about it more.

I used to get these bouts of diarrhea that I was fairly certain were dairy-related. I hadn't had one since I went vegan, but I ate some cheese in the midst of my being so sick I didn't have the energy to feed myself properly, and therefore woke the next morning at three am with a gurgling belly and an undeniable urge. I took some pooper pills, it stopped after a while and I felt relatively better, relatively quickly. At the same time, the never-ending IC flare had actually turned into a urinary tract infection, so I was taking some pain pills that make my pee bright orange but dull the bladder spasms beautifully.

SO. I've gone through this pooping rigmarole before, and at first it was the usual response. Normally, once I take the poop pills, my digestive system stops totally for about 12 hours, after which operations started resuming slowly, but I don't expect to really poop again for two days, and then it will be pretty much business as usual.

I made it to the second stage, operations were getting fired back up, and I was feeling my first urge to pass gas, so I casually leaned a bit in my seat to let it out gently and WOOSH. Leftover poopwater shot out my butt, soaked my pants and was starting to soak my chair.

OHMYSHIT. So, I jumped up to get a rag to save my chair, and when I looked down at the seat I was horrified to see the stain was BRIGHT ORANGE.

OHMYSHIT. I hurried to soak the rag in water and save the chair, which I did, and had to change my lower clothing entirely (socks too! lolgag), and had to stain treat and wash everything immediately and the whole time I'm alternately baffled at how I became a grown adult who deals with watery shit without crying, and giggling at how the one time I've shit myself since toddlerhood it has to be bright orange.

My favorite comfy pants still bear a faint stain on the inside, and it cracks me up every time.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Filling the Jug

I'm feeling better, for the moment, and I am taking care of a few medical things from the never-ending list of medical things I have to do.

The most interesting of these is a urine histamine test, because it requires me peeing into a jug for 24 hours. It's a large jug, but I'm trying to ignore the fear that I'll fill it up by noon. What do I do then? Start filling jars? What if I run out of room in the fridge? Will the neighbors mind if I ask to store some of my pee until tomorrow? I was half-convinced my fears were irrational until I started filling the jug and it's already a quarter way up at 10:15.

I'll be fine, I have jars.

I'm also getting a lipid panel, so I have to fast for 9-12 hours beforehand. I get emotional when I'm hungry, and needles are not my favorite, so it could be a scene.

The mornings have finally turned cold in the redwoods, and I sense that my walks will start getting longer and longer. I was frustrated with my progress over the summer, I exercised more than I thought I'd be able to, but I didn't increase my time, my stamina, or my strength, and I couldn't help but feel discouraged by that, even though it was for perfectly good reasons, like I was coughing up my spleen for a month, and before that I could barely walk from the IC pain, and before that it was all explosive heat migraines, all the time. I was finally able to get back out on the mountain last week, and my struggle was real. Breathing hard, stressing my head, and taking rests felt like a step backwards, but three days in and I'm already starting to bounce back. I took our hill like a champ this morning, despite having interrupted sleep and a waning IC flare. Yay!


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.