Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Am A Tuning Fork

Another thing that really sets my teeth on edge is haptic feedback in electronic devices.

I can't use a smartphone that has this enabled, it's like every fatal keypress has a jackhammer going off in my brain. I can't explain why a little vibration in my hands will cause me to swear and feel sick and cry and throw the phone down in frustration, but learning to turn this option off is the first thing I figure out with every smartphone I handle.

I experienced this before migraines, too, but not as dramatically. Back when I used to play console games, some of the controllers had "rumble packs" in them, which would vibrate when a player took a hit, or crashed, or won the game, etc. Every time a rumble pack-enabled controller would vibrate in my hands, I would yelp and drop it, or force myself to hold it and curse the whole game from near-rage, though more often I would just stop gameplay and insist on changing the settings, another trick you learn quickly when you're a human tuning fork. It's just like that feeling of Chinese water torture, but in every cell of my body. I feel like screaming, or blowing apart into wee steph chunks, but instead, my neck, shoulders, back and jaw involuntarily clench, the nausea starts back in, and I have to force myself to breathe through the vibratory echoes that will continue to haunt me until they are durn ready to fade on their own terms, which is usually minutes, but if it hits me at the wrong time, could definitely last hours.

And I call myself the human turning fork because in elementary school my science teacher brought a few in and demonstrated how an inert tuning fork held near a vibrating one will take on that vibration. I hated these experiments because again, the sound of the tuning fork made me want to rip own head off and chuck it at the teacher, but this one stuck with me because I AM that second tuning fork, and I think I always knew it.

Other sounds that make me feel like I could start fires with the chaos in my mind, in the same tuning-fork way, include but are not limited to: bagpipes, jazz with excitable horns, and scraping.

Let me tell you about how much I hate bagpipes. (I'm sorry bagpipers, I understand yours is a craft steeped in ancient tradition and history, and I'm sure that people who aren't human tuning forks enjoy it, but I so do not.) When I was a kid, a second cousin from back east came to visit, and this cousin happened to be a bagpiping kind of guy. So, we all gathered in my grandmother's backyard, one hot, late afternoon, and he, dressed in full tartan and kneesocks with the cutest little glengarry perched on his head, played us a little concert. I'm sure it was a lovely performance, but all I could hear and feel was the undercurrent drone of the bag as it breathed, like a massive, living, paisley lung that was hell-bent on destroying my brain with its all-consuming resonance. Under the assault of both the afternoon sun and the unrelenting sound, I wilted like a flower in a microwave, and it's one of the few times in my childhood I remember thinking I just might pass out, I felt so frighteningly ill.

So, haptic feedback. I lost my phone, and had to set up a new one, which was probably for the best anyway since my new (but still used) phone is way better than the old one, but this phone keeps switching into an audio profile that allows vibration on keypress and I haven't figured out how to avoid this error because by the time I turn it back off I'm already vibrating and it's too late for me. Too late.

I don't know what this is all about. I'm apparently a sympathetic resonator, and I strongly suspect it's a migraine thing. Anyone else?


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Health and Tools

When I first switched over to a low-oil, vegan diet, I was concerned about making sure I would be getting the right amounts of nutrients.

(Content Note: This post discusses disordered eating and dieting.) I've been warning people of my impending veganism for a few years. I'm not a person who makes life changes on a whim, and I make it a point to go into any and every situation with as much information as my brain can hold. I've been working up to it because it's not an easy thing to be vegan in this world, especially being a chronic migraineur and so incapacitated some days that I can't cook at all. I knew my best chance of success lie with educating myself, because if I allowed myself to become nutritionally deficient, I could get sicker. And I also worried about my mental health.

My history of disordered eating has made this change an interesting one for me. Because I have this history, dieting in any way is a minefield. I have to ride this fine line of paying close attention to what I eat, but not obsessing. Exercising frequently, but not too much. I have not been entirely successful in my past attempts to healthfully diet, mental slips have happened, bad habits have reignited, and I've slid down that slippery slope too many times to enter into any exercise or dietary changes without a certain amount of trepidation. I hesitated to embrace these changes I've been wanting to make for years because I wanted to do it right, and I wanted to make sure I stayed ok.

So, education: There are a myriad number of ways to learn about food and nutrition. Some of the sources I've delved into include: documentaries (Super Size Me; Food Inc; Forks Over Knives; Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), tv series (Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution), books (The Food Revolution, The China Study), cookbooks (Veganomicon), and blogs (Happy Herbivore).

I also took nutrition and health courses at my local community college, which gave me a lot of information about biology and how our bodies use food. Learning the objective facts of nutrition has been excellent for beating back those always-wrong demons that continue to live in my head. They'll always be there, I think, but facts sure do keep them quieter.

I decided pretty early on that I would need some kind of monitoring system in place, and while hand-tallying my calories would surely have led to obsessive thoughts and behavior, I was excited to realize that using an app for the same purpose hasn't had (too) much of that effect at all. The first and only app I tried is My Fitness Pal for Android, and it has been really helpful for keeping me accountable.

Upon sign-up, I entered my weight, my activity level and my goals into the app, and it formulated a basic caloric-intake plan for me. Every day since, I've entered 99% of my food and exercise, the app tallies up all the micro and macro nutrients, adds and subtracts calories consumed and burned, tells me how I'm meeting my immediate needs, and, even better, allows me to see my patterns and progress over time. Check it out, you guys: CHARTS!!!!

Look at that progress! It's so much easier to keep going when I can see the evidence of all the hard work I've put in so far. (Also, this is my excuse for the sparse blogging happening around here. I've been busy hiking! SEE!)

This app is good for dieters because it's easy to see how each meal, each food, each ingredient can influence your overall nutritional intake, and it makes it easier to make good choices, when we can immediately experience our consequences. This app can also be a good tool for people with eating or exercise disorders, because it holds us accountable for eating enough calories, and gives a red-tinged alert if the daily tally isn't sustainable.

However, I haven't made it through this without a single unhealthy thought or behavior, just less of them than I've experienced in the past. I'm not recommending this app as any kind of a panacea for ED because: of course not. But this works well for me, helps me stay accountable to myself, and I've maintained a consistently healthy diet and exercise routine for over 100 days, thanks in part to My Fitness Pal.

I was not compensated for this review, just love the product. The app and online tools offered by My Fitness Pal are free.