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Health
  • Pain in the Eye

    Didn't we clean up pretty well for the Arbonne Christmas party? :)

    I made that necklace probably six or seven years ago. Offhand, i can't think of any other necklaces of mine that are still around. (That I made, I mean) 

    So, I think it was my senior year of high school, my tear duct started acting up. Since then, it's been almost a yearly occurance. There were several years where I just let it go, and eventually it went away. I got tired of this approach a few years ago, so I brought it up to my doctor, who said pink eye. The next year, I didn't want to go back to the doctor, so I just went to the urgent care, who gave me drops for, you guessed it, pink eye. 

    This year, my eye started watering a bit in early September, and has been a leaky faucet ever since. I started using myself as something of a guinea pig - trying to figure out what might be causing it. It didn't matter whether I wore makeup or not (though you might as well not if you're just going to weep it off anyway), took allergy meds, or ... whatever else I tried. Point is, I couldn't really come up with a cause or a cure. So I gave in and made a doctor appointment. 

    This time, the doctor agreed that it was a clogged tear duct. Unfortunately, they couldn't really do anything, so they sent me to the eye doctor. The eye doctor also agreed that it was a plugged tear duct (TWO IN ONE DAY!) and gave me oral antibiotics. 

    Well, it's gotten better in that I no longer have white discharge from my eye, so it's no longer infected. Now I just weep 'normal' tears from that eye. I'm so bummed. I could cry, but hey, my eye will just do that for me. 

    Yes, warm compresses. Yes, I've massaged it. 

    If I go back to the eye doctor, I have a sneaky suspicion (thanks, google!) that the next step will be some sort of probe or flushing of the duct. My tear duct. Right by my eye. Just thinking about it makes me squeamish. I'm not relishing that idea, but I'm hoping that there's some sort of sedation involved, and at this point, if I have to do it, I'll do it, because I'm just THAT sick of this.

    I keep threatening to just poke my eye out, but it's an empty threat, because I never would, and also, it wouldn't fix the tear duct.

    Anyway, I have friends that rant and rave about essential oils and how amazing they are. A very nice friend of mine gave me a blend to try rubbing on my nose and under my eye, but not in it. (I feel obligated to clarify this, since you're not supposed to put them in your eye.) I figure worst case scenario, it does nothing and I end up at the doctor anyway. But on the chance that it does encourage my duct to move along whatever's clogging it - hey, why not? 

    ---

    It's annoying to have something that's SO uncommon (in adults, anyway). Sometimes it's nice to have people at least wince and say, "Oh man, I know how annoying that is." But no. I could buy a few pizzas with the amount of people who've said, "Oh, my child had that. I just put a warm washcloth on it and it went away." 

    I also miss wearing makeup. I don't always wear makeup, but to me, it's fun. It's like my face is a canvas that I get to paint on. 

    But what I really miss is seeing clearly and not having headaches. It's not that my vision is fuzzy, but a watery eye isn't the clearest experience. And I think my other eye is tired of having to do all the work, hence the headaches. It's really putting a damper on my book reading.

    It's not the end of the world. Don't get me wrong. There are a LOT worse things to have. But I want to acknowledge that this is a really annoying problem. 

  • No Sweat: What sustains us, we sustain

    No Sweat: What sustains us, we sustain

    Today is the last post in my series on the book No Sweat by Michelle Segar. If you've enjoyed the series, please consider picking up the book for yourself!

    Do you always put taking care of business (whatever that is - work, school, spouse, kids, household work) ahead of self care? 

    If so, you may have a problem, and you are definitely not alone. 

    I know, fulfilling responsibilities seems like it has nothing to do with exercise, right? But here's the thing - we're brought up being praised for taking care of others, getting schoolwork done, completing tasks, but not so much for taking care of ourselves. I mean, how often do we speak highly of our kids for staying up late to finish up a project, but not for knowing their limits and going to bed early? Culturally, we're told to get things done. We're encouraged more to be martyrs under the title of "good wife/mother" and sometimes looked down on for "taking time for ourselves". 

    It has to stop, because we're burning ourselves out, and the results are all over our bodies. When we tune out anxiety, exhaustion, pain, depression - often red flags that something isn't right - our bodies will turn up the volume and give you even more serious aches and pain. 
    When we are socialized not to take care of ourselves and to focus on numbers (the scale, measurements), we don't take into account how our bodies feel. 

    Positive emotions make us feel more expansive and creative, but negative emotions, like stress, reduce our abilities to see opportunities and to make good decisions. So it's a spiral. Don't take care of yourself - your body stresses out - and then you can't see the opportunities in front of you to take care of yourself. It's a pattern that can be broken, as long as we recognize it and pay attention to our bodies and our need for self care.

    Think of self care like a pyramid. No Sweat calls it a self care heirarchy. Put the non-negotiable thing, the thing that you cannot function without, on the bottom. Work your way up from there. The thing on top is the thing that is nice to have. My self care heirachy would probably look something like this:

    Caring for ourselves replenishes our energy and supports our well being. Give yourself permission to stop following all the shoulds. Yes, you should vaccuum and get the dishes done and do a little extra work tonight. But what are all these shoulds costing you? Give yourself permission and unlock self care.

    If you don't mindfully give yourself permission to prioritize time for your own self-care, no one else will.

    If you don't have a pattern of self care already, it may sound counter-intuitive, but giving to yourself means that you can give more to others. Self care, and exercise, is fuel. 

    What sustains us, we sustain.

    Self care fuels us, our mood, our energy, and allows us to be and yield what matters most to us - a patient parent, a loving spouse, a creative worker.

    I hope this little guide through No Sweat has taught you some things about not only the importance of physical movement, but in having a good relationship with it. The book is an absolutely amazing, encouraging read, and Michelle Segar puts things so much better than I did. So if this is a topic that resonates with you, I highly encourage you to go ahead and pick up the book for yourself

    Thanks for reading!

  • No Sweat: Taming your inner feral kitten

    No Sweat: Taming your inner feral kitten

    Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to be talking about a book I read recently, called No Sweat by Michelle Segar. It's an amazing book, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself.

    So, if all physical movement matters, and we need to have a good, concise WHY to keep our movement sustainable for a lifetime, how do we go about that?

    We need to reframe exercise as a gift. 

    What do you need more of, or less of in your life, and can physical activity help with that? 

    "But I want to be healthy! Isn't that a right why?" - It can be, but how we feel about the movement we're doing is going to be more influential than the nebulous "better health" of the future. So, if you absolutely hate slogging along on the treadmill, knowing that the cardio is good for your heart isn't a very sustainable motivation. Eventually, it's likely that the dread of the slog is going to win out, and you'll quit. This doesn't mean that some of us aren't able to power through anyway, but with no shame - most of us need a more immediately noticible benefit in order to keep going. 

    So! If you want to stay motivated and make physical activity something that you can sustain for a lifetime, you need an immediate reward to go along with your why. There is the arguement that we shouldn't bribe ourselves into exercising - and this is true-ish. You can't bribe yourself into doing an activity you really truly despise - not in the long run. 
    BUT, you can help yourself build a positive interaction with exercise if you do something you enjoy AND give yourself an immediate reward. 

    We all know I love animals. Recently, I went through a little feral kitten training. If you get to feral kittens when they're young enough, you can help them build a positive reaction to humans. Basically, you scoop the hissy, sassy little kittens up, wrap them up like a little kitten burrito (so that they can't claw you to death), and give them tasty treats and kitten food, all while giving them positive interaction and cuddles. Eventually, the kittens will look at humans and go "HEY! GOOD THINGS!" and voila! 

    So we're essentially treating ourselves like feral kittens when it comes to exercise. Give yourself positive interactions with exercise and little rewards along the way, and your body will eventually go hey, this is a good thing. I want this thing. And that is what we're aiming for.

    Changing your personal Meaning of exercise and physical activity from a chore into a gift will transform your relationship with movement.

    When you connect your right why with what your body needs and wants, your meaning of exercise changes from a chore into a gift. So instead of exercising because you should or in order to fulfill a narrow goal (weight loss), you'll want to engage in movement because this movement makes you feel good.

    Liking something triggers wanting that thing. So if you like what you do, you'll want to do more of that thing. So listen to your body when you're moving around. Do you like what you're doing? If not, try something else. Move any way you can and want to. Because remember: it all adds up.

  • No Sweat: It all matters

    No Sweat: It all matters

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about a book I read recently, called No Sweat by Michelle Segar. It's an amazing book, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself.

    Humans tend to avoid things that make them feel bad. So, if we want to make exercise something that we can sustain for the rest of our lives, exercise needs to be something that makes us feel good! 

    When you think of exercising, how does that make you feel? Does it fill you with dread? Do you feel bored? Or maybe you're invigorated. 

    For me, when I think of exercise, I think of cardio - like running. I think of my legs hurting, my lungs barking at me, and it makes me not want to touch that with a ten foot pole. But when I replace running with thoughts of Piyo - I feel a lot differently. I imagine feeling strong, feeling like I've accomplished something. 
    Even within exercise, how we feel about it can change!

    I have a challenge for you: Make or find a list of various types of exercise and decide whether those things make you feel positive emotions or negative. 

    For me, going to the gym is a positive thing, as are walking outside, exercise dvds, yoga, ballet beautiful.
    Ice skating is a huge negative. Running? Negative. Group sports, definitely negative.

    See what kind of patterns emerge, as these might help clue you in as to what will work for you!

    When you enjoy exercise and have a meaning for it that is personally motivating, it is far more likely to stick. If you don't know what you enjoy, feel free to try out a bunch of different things! Pay attention to your body while moving - does it make you feel good while you're doing it? How do you feel after? If you hate every moment of it and don't feel the reward after, you are not going to stick with it. So find something that excites you. 

    Now, fact of the matter is, lots of us exercise because we want to change our bodies. But is this a good, lifelong motivation? Science tends to suggest that it's not. People who exercise for the purpose of body shaping describe their thoughts about exercise much differently than those who are being physically active for enjoyment. The body shapers use say things like they are "feeling winded and uncomfortable" whereas the non-body shapers focus on how good it feels to be moving.

    Even more interesting, 

    We wanted to know whether these groups of women did differing amounts of exercise. They did: the women with body-shaping motives exercised almost 40% less than those who were not exercising to shape their bodies.

    So clearly, the why of changing your body is not a good lifelong motive! 

    When your whys for exercising are body shaping or achieving weight loss, it frequently leads you to exercise at higher intensities even if you don't like to exercise that way because your objecgive is to burn as many calories as possible.

    If you want to lose weight, you are more likely to treat exercise as a form of torture, and "punish" your body with exercise. That is not sustainable in the long run. 

    So what then? 

    One secret is to count all your movement. Exercise is not just 50 minutes on the treadmill, it's not just hot yoga, it's not moving until you're so sweaty and sore that you can't function. 

    The truth is, we undervalue the act of moving around, and the little things that we do throughout the day. It's actually just as good, if not better, to keep our bodies moving in little ways than to have one block of 'exercise' - because if we are making a point to move around often, we are sitting less. 

    The update that the duration of physical activity needs to be at least ten minutes long to benefit health was based on not having methods sophisticated enough to measure physical activity that was less than eight minutes long. There is growing support, using advanced measurement technologies, that shorter amounts of movement can benefit health and energy levels, and that being sedentary promotes physiological changes that harm health.

    I'm not saying that you can't go for a daily run if that is what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. But, don't discount the little things you do throughout the day. Look for reasons to move around a little more, to take the long cut instead of the short cut. These things add up, just like exercise. 

    Make your body happy, and give yourself more credit for the things you do. It all matters!

  • No Sweat: Why your Why Matters

    No Sweat: Why your Why Matters

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about a book I read recently, called No Sweat by Michelle Segar. It's an amazing book, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself.

    Knowing that you should do something - even if there are many good reasons that you should do it - is not enough. The obligation mentality will fail us more often than not. 

    On page 34 of No Sweat, Michelle Segar says,

    We develop our perceptions and understandings about things over our entire lifetime, based on our own idea of how the world works that we've constructed from specific experiences and interactions, especially emotional ones. Whatever Meaning you ascribe to exercise, for example, is completely unique to you because it has been constructed from your interactions with physical activity.

    That means, your best friend may have an entirely different Meaning for exercise than you do, because they have been exposed to it differently. Maybe you grew up in a family who was constantly moving, playing sports, and exercise is really more 'movement' than an aerobics dvd. Or perhaps you grew up looking at magazines of perfect bodies and feeling that there was no way you could ever make it through these complicated routines. It is totally unique to you. No one can tell you how to perceive anything, because they aren't you.

    When someone tells you that you must do something OR ELSE, we certainly aren't very motivated. Perhaps we'll get that room cleaned, but OR ELSE doesn't make us want to keep the room clean. In fact, OR ELSE is more likely to make us do the exact opposite when we're left to our own devices. So when looking at exercise, if our relationship is based on OR ELSE or YOU SHOULD, it's probably a stressful relationship. 

    It all boils down, scientifically, to the self-determination theory. According to sdt, we feel no ownership when we are told that we must or should do something. It's when we want to do something because we place our own value on it that we will take ownership, and feel satisfaction from it. (So when your company promises lower health insurance premiums for people who walk x steps on a daily/weekly basis, they are actually preventing you from taking ownership of your health.)

    Changing your relationship from a should to a want isn't easy, but it's not impossible. Understanding that it is in fact a choice and can be a gift is a good place to start. 

    On page 42, Segar says,

    If the underlying reason for the behavior feels like something we should do (i.e., the Wrong Why), it leads to a chore-based Meaning, and as a result, it is more likely to make performing the behavior depleting and increases the chance that we will not have the desire or energy to stick wtih it. We are more likely to sustain behavior like physical activity when we view it as a gift, something that is fun or personally meaningful.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Segar suggests that we look at our Why as a source of fuel. Filling your tank with low quality fuel will only cause you to sputter out before you get where you're going. So we need the Right Why - something personally meaningful.

    But just to complicate matters, having LOTS of Whys is actually more detrimental than having one good solid Why. Multiple motives actually decrease motivation because we get distracted by competing outcomes. Is it for weight loss? Feeling better? Looking good? Getting healthy?

    Segar says on page 47,

    Marketers understand this perfectly. Consider how the most popular companies market their products to us. They don't give us three different reasons to buy their product; they brand it with one primary meaning. they know that to really get us hooked and coming back for more, again and again, they need to identify a very strategyic, emotionally focused benefit from using their product or service that we'll focus on and desire to keep having. One make of a car, for example, may be "sexy", while another is "sporty." We want one or the other, but probably not both.

    So if you want to change your relationship to physical activity, start to consider:
    - What is your current relationship to exercise and fitness? What messages have you grown up with and internalized? Are they positive, negative, both? How have they impacted you.

    - What is your current why? Does that work for you? Do you have too many whys?

    - What do you want your why to be? 

  • No Sweat: Exercise is good BUT

    No Sweat: Exercise is good BUT

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about a book I read recently, called No Sweat by Michelle Segar. It's an amazing book, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself.

    We know that exercise is good for us. We know that we should do it. While there are studies upon studies that contradict each other - coffee is good, coffee is bad, meat is good, meat is bad - one thing remains the same: exercise!

    And yet.

    We don't. At best, many of us struggle with it, and lots of us don't even try. We're too busy, we're too tired, we don't like it.

    On page 5, Segar talks about an experiment with breast cancer survivors. She says:

    We split the participants into two groups, one that exercised and a control group that did not exercise. The results were as we expected: The survivors who exercised showed significantly lower levels of both depression and anxiety than the control group.

    She goes on to mention that the people in the experiment talked about how good exercise had been for their health. But three months later, nearly all of them were no longer exercising.

    We can see tangible benefits in exercise - lowered anxiety, better mood, more energy - and yet.

    Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we go through these cycles of failure, only to give up on something that is so good for us?

    One answer lies in our relationship to exercise. What does exercise mean to you?

    What messages did you get from friends, family, the media about exercise? How do you feel when yout hink about exercising? What motivates you to exercise, and what keeps you away from it?

    One of the first things I think of when I think of exercise is the mile. Starting in fourth grade, everyone had to run the mile once a year for gym class. I've heard stories of other schools training the kids for this event. Ours didn't. I distinctly remember the mile changing my relationship to gym class. We went from playing dodgeball and diving under a colored parachute to the dread of this incredibly un-fun, oppressing thing.
    The day that we actually ran the mile was bad. I didn't come in dead last, but I know I was close. I hated every miserable step of it, I hated feeling bad at something. I remember being overjoyed when I was homeschooled the next year because it meant that I wouldn't have to repeat that experience.

    So when I think of exercise, I think of failure and inadequacy. Exercise is the punishment for not being good enough. When I'm honest with myself, it makes sense why I wouldn't be too keen on sticking with it!

    I suspect that I'm not alone, and that many of you have your own stories of exercise baggage.

    We need to change our relationship to exercise if there's any hope in turning it from a chore into the gift that it's meant to be. That's right, I said gift. It may be hard to believe right now (and I wouldn't blame you for scoffing), but moving our bodies is not meant to be punishment.

    It may not be an easy task, but it's a worthwhile one.

  • Health Loopholes

    Health Loopholes

    I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's work. Her most recent book, Better Than Before, came out in paperback at the end of the year. I highly recommend it. It's all about forming habits, and how to use our personalities and strengths to make those habits stick!

    One thing that makes us stumble is invoking loopholes - and as it turns out, there are lots of different loopholes we can use! I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's "Happier" podcast (which is so much fun) recently, and she talked about the different loopholes. I started thinking about how these are so easy to apply to how we eat and exercise (or don't!). Here are some examples I came up with:

    What it is:

    False choice loophole.
    I can't exercise tonight because the dishes are piling up.

    How to bust it:

    Take a moment and be honest with yourself. Is this really a valid excuse? Are the two choices muturally exclusive, or are you just looking for a way out?

    What it is:

    Tomorrow loophole.
    I don't need to exercise tonight, because I'm going to do it tomorrow!

    How to bust it:

    Is tomorrow really going to make you do it? Or is tomorrow always a day away? Maybe just do a little bit - five minutes is better than nothing, and a little gentle yoga could make you feel more relaxed.

    If you absolutely must do it tomorrow, plan on doing it as early in the day as possible. You're far less likely to have life catch up to you that way.

    What it is:

    Concern for others loophole.
    I should finish my plate, I don't want to offend my host. I can't exercise, I might wake up my spouse. I can't go on a diet now, my friends will want to celebrate (XYZ) with me.

    How to bust it:

    First of all, we have to be honest - is someone really going to be offended/inconvenienced? Often, we project our insecurities, fears, and excuses onto someone else, and it's not the case! Don't assume someone will feel a certain way.

    If it does turn out that someone would have a negative reaction, it's time for a decision. There is a time and a place to be polite to someone (where it may be very culturally offensive to decline a drink, for instance), but remember that you are valuable too. Don't put yourself last. Your health and well-being are important too, and those close to you should definitely understand that.

    ---

    So, loopholes are not necessarily a bad thing. But it's important that we be honest with ourselves when we're making excuses. Try to get to the heart of the matter, and figure out why you're trying to invoke a loophole in the first place.

    For more information on habits and loopholes and all that good stuff, check out Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before! (Not an affliate link)

    Want to bust some excuses and start a new exercise program or try Shakeology? My beachbody coaching page is here.

  • A new adventure

    I've really struggled with exercise and nutrition since Anklegate back in November. I went from feeling like I had things under control, and I had consistency and plans, to needing help just to get to the dog gone bathroom. But I'm not upset that it happened, because taking that step back helped me to realize that I wasn't happy with how I was eating - or more accurately, I wasn't happy with the burden I placed on myself to eat healthy, and the guilt I inflicted on myself whenever I didn't.

    Putting yourself under a guilt trip whenever you eat suboptimally or whenever you miss a workout is no way to live. However, I missed feeling my body get stronger and leaner. I liked seeing my body do new, cool things, and I missed having the motivation to try new recipes.

    I was invited to, and joined, a challenge group in March. The weather was getting nicer, I was physically and mentally starting to feel a bit better, but I just didn't know what to start with on my own. So this challenge group came along at a really good time for me. I decided that I was going to throw myself head first into it - not just the PiYo program, but try the shakeology too. Worst case scenario, I was out a bit of money and a few weeks. At least I could say that I had tried something new!

    What I didn't expect was to love what I tried.

    I'll break it down further at another time, but PiYo is amazing. It is hands down the most difficult workout that I can still muddle through and feel like I got a great workout out of it. What's great about it is that there are modifications for everything, and you aren't shamed for using them. The point is to do your best and feel better at the end of it, and boy, hearing that really kept me going. It's a great workout, but not high impact, and doesn't make my exercise-induced asthma flare up.

    Shakeology was by far the biggest surprise for me. I've tried protein powders before, and I like them, but I didn't think Shakeology could be any different. Well, after using it consistently for just about a month now, I can say that it really is better than other things I've tried. For one, the taste is incredible. My mom likened it to her favorite dark chocolate ice cream, Matt to brownie batter. When I mix it up in the blender with some milk, banana, and frozen fruit, it keeps me satisfied for quite a while!
    I can't back up any of the claims about lowering cholesterol or blood sugar because I haven't had a doctor visit since starting it. But I can say that before starting the Shakeology, I was jonesing for 'something sweet' every night. Now, I'm not. Seriously. I can't describe it, but I could just take it or leave it.

    During the 21 day challenge group, I lost 8.75" and, more importantly, gained a whole lot of optimism and confidence. Being in that group, having something to focus on, doing something that I really enjoyed, all helped knock me out of the rut I had been in.

    I believe in it enough that I signed up to be a beachbody coach. If I never make a sale, I still get an awesome discount on the shakeology and exercise programs, and I like that.

    But I won't lie, I want this to be something more. I feel it in my bones.

    I want to change my life. I want to change how I think, how I see the world, to be my best self and I want to help other people do that too.

    I don't believe in pushing things on people who don't want them. That's skeevy and nobody has time for that. But if you're at all interested in a new exercise program - beachbody has some great stuff out there. After PiYo, I'm excited to try other stuff as my fitness level increases. I'd love to hear what Shakeology does for other people that I actually know. Internet testimonials are one thing, having someone you know try it is completely different.

    So this is what's inspiring me right now. I'm feeling really good about it, and I want to see this grow. Physical activity is great for mental health, and if I can get my mental health in a consistently good place, that will be great for my creativity. It all works together.

    Here's my beachbody page, if you're interested in looking at what products they have to offer. If you want to talk to me about it, I'd love to help you find a program that works for you, and see how I can help you be happier and healthier.

    If you're not interested? No biggie. :)

    I look forward to sharing the results of my new adventure with you!

  • When anxiety told you so

    Almost two weeks ago, Matt and I were on our way home from Michigan. We were in southern Ohio, it was 7pm, and I was driving.

    There weren't many cars on the road, and up to that point, it had been a routine trip home. Already long, a bit boring.

    If you've driven for any length of time, you see things happen on the road that look like potential accidents. Part of you thinks for sure that one car is going to collide with another, but it never does.

    So when I saw the semi and the suv coming together in front of me, it looked like certain doom, while my brain still insisted no, they won't actually collide...

    Only then the suv was careening across the road. The driver turned the wheel, and then it's headlights were facing me, as he tried to avoid going off the road. But at 70 miles an hour, there wasn't enough road.

    He hit the edge of the road, and physics happened. The suv was in midair, barrel rolling. In the dark, I saw the headlights, one, two, three times roll. It hit the rocky hill just off the side of the road and landed just off the curb on it's roof.

    It happened so fast. I remember hitting the brakes, completely amazed that I hadn't been caught in the middle of this, and horrified at what had just unfolded.

    Matt called 911. The couple in the SUV, last I knew, survived, and the semi involved fled the scene, though I saw him pull over up the road.

    It was horrible. I managed to drive for a half an hour further, intermittently shaking and crying, as it hit my body how terrible the accident was that I had just witnessed.

    I already struggle with anxiety and depression this time of year, probably some combination of less light, cold and sedentary days. (I would like to believe that had I not sprained my ankles right before winter, I could have mitigated some of the sedentary days, but I guess I have to wait another year to test that theory.)

    I may be able to tell the story now with a straight face, but please don't misunderstand, what I saw traumatized me. I get sick to my stomach when my brain replays those headlights flipping over.

    Anxiety says, don't drive. Stay home. Stay safe. Stay away from other cars. This is the only way.

    But I know that isn't true. I know that if I do that, my anxiety will spiral, and if I don't keep myself active, I will have a very difficult time getting out of the house later.

    Since we've been home, I've had one car cut me off so closely that if I hadn't slammed on my brakes, I'd have run into the side of him. Other cars have swerved in and out of lanes, and just...driven like idiots.

    I want to yell out my window, don't you know how hard it is for me to drive at all right now? This is really unkind of you!

    I resent having to battle this increased anxiety when I should have been feeling better. I'm angry that I have to actively choose to leave the house or risk being too afraid, and losing my independence. I hate that anxiety keeps whispering in my ear I told you so.

    (For the record, we did speak to the police about the semi. Unfortunately, because it was dark and scary, we didn't see much that could help them track down the driver.)

  • Can't can

    When I lived in Michigan, there was so much that I could not do. So many places I could not go because of traffic or inclement weather.

    (To cut myself a little bit of slack, having a car that I perceived as unreliable did not help)

    I wouldn't drive anywhere south of the Auburn Hills area, because that freaked me out. It took me years to drive on I-75 at all. When I started to be able to do that comfortably, it felt like a real victory.

    I'll say this over and over again - anxiety medicine is not a cure all. I think it's best described as removing some of the logical part of your mind from the emotions, so you can better distinguish between actual danger and your brain playing Chuckie Finster.

    But it has amazed me, on recent trips to Michigan, how much my brain has decided is, in fact, possible. I won't lie, part of it really ticks me off. I haven't hit a road in Michigan yet that has made me panic. It's as if my brain now understands that every car around me isn't looking to play bumper cars. They want to get to their destination just as safely as I do. (Though some of them really don't look like it - I'm talking to you cars that whip up behind people doing 90.)

    I never ever dared drive with Matt to work, because I had no idea what I would do once I got down there. I felt like I would be trapped in that building, because there was no way I could drive anywhere. Now, it's no big deal. I hop in the car, and I go. Back on the interstate, up Crooks road, whatever!

    On this last visit to Michigan, I even drove in (gasp!) snow. Now, it wasn't a lot of snow. More like aggressive flurries. But there was a coating of snow on the road, and that would have been enough to keep me at home before. But I drove around and just took it slow. I even had traction control pop on a few times, despite my best efforts, and it still didn't do anything to me.

    I can't help but lament all the things I could have, should have done, were I properly medicated. How much happier could I have been if I weren't perpetually afraid of what would happen if I left the house?

    But there's nothing I can do about that now. What's done is done.

    At least I can do more, moving forward. Maybe it sounds bleak, but for me, it's a pretty good consolation prize.

  • On Citalopram

    I've been on some dosage of Citalopram, otherwise known as Celexa, since November 2013. At the time, it, or some kind of medication was absolutely, positively necessary. To some degree, I've struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time, and my brain needed a break.

    What's great about citalopram, at least in my experience, is that it cuts off the emotional highs and lows - at first, it feels like this blissful cone of silence. You don't feel the awful depressive lows, nor do you feel the heart pounding anxious highs. It's so nice just to go about your life with that filter, you can just do things without all the noise and draining emotions.

    It's a very nice vacation for the brain, and one I desperately needed at that time.

    In the time since going on citalopram, I've learned a bit about making decisions that I want to make, versus making them out of anxiety. I've learned that anxiety is so very uncomfortable, but it's not the end of the world - or at least it hasn't been so far.

    I even made my first road trip to Virginia and back, all by myself, last September. It took me years to venture out on any major highways in Michigan - a road trip like this would have been unfathomable. It's no big deal to me now, and I love that. In some ways, being medicated has allowed me to think for myself without the anxiety and depression demons lurking over my shoulder.

    But there are downsides to just about any medication, and citalopram is no exception. For me, the big one has always been drowsiness. On 20mg, for me, it's the feeling of constantly being an hour short on sleep. A little tired, a nap always sounds good, but isn't necessary.

    However, once my brain settled, I also noticed that cutting off the emotional highs and lows began to feel restrictive at times. I still had (and have) all my normal human emotions, I just feel like I have to work a lot harder. I still enjoy things, but I don't enjoy them as voraciously as I know I could. When something is funny, I chuckle. Things don't make me laugh so hard I cry. Speaking of crying, I find it extremely hard to do that. It's not for lack of desire - on the occasion that I'm in a lot of pain or very frustrated, I find that I can't vent out my feelings in the form of tears. As a person who occasionally needs that "good cry", not being able to get there is really annoying!

    So I think, when I had my physical back in January, and they asked me questions regarding my emotional state, I sounded like my medicine wasn't working very well. Not enjoying things, sleeping too much ... Let's up the dosage!

    As I've mentioned in a few other posts, increasing the dosage has been a nightmare for me. If 20mg made naps sound like a good idea, 40mg makes sleep inevitable. I've told Matt that if I'm not moving, I'm sleeping. I can, at times, outrun the constant need for sleep - but not always. The increase in medicine has made me feel even more "blunted" emotionally, and it's made me feel like a very boring person. I hate it.

    I want off this ride. I can't say for certain that I don't need medicine at all right now, but I know that I don't need this.

    For full disclosure, I'm being thwarted in my attempts to get off this medicine. A recent change in policy at the doctor we chose meant that they insist on having my medical records in hand before they'll even make an appointment for me.
    So they sent away to our doctor in Michigan for them.
    I got a bill in the mail, saying that when they received a check, they'd send over the records. All that paper correspondence takes time, which is especially annoying when my records with this doctor are so short that I could have told them almost virbatim what's there.
    I'm still in the process of waiting for our new doctor to receive the records, at which point they said they'd call me to make an appointment. I don't know if they'll remember.

    When you've reached the point where you realize that the medicine and the dosage of said medicine are completely wrong for you, and are harmful, it thoroughly stinks to be bound to that medicine because of paperwork. I don't recommend this course of action, but this is the extent to my desperation - I've started tapering myself off the citalopram because I can't stand it anymore.

    You really shouldn't do it without talking to a doctor, and I know that, and I wouldn't tell anyone to wean themselves off of medicine like this. The withdrawal side effects are kind of nasty, and I've gotten away rather easily so far.

    But that's my story, for better or worse. I haven't decided yet whether I want to ask a doctor to switch my medicine, as they did with Matt, or try life without an SSRI for a while. Right now, I kind of want to try living on my own again, and trust that Matt will help me see if I'm wrong once everything is out of my system. At least by then, the paperwork will all be straightened out.

  • About ALS

    About ALS

    Unless you've been under a rock for the last few weeks, you've heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

    One of the main criticisms I've heard about the challenge is that people are participating in the challenge - perhaps even donating - but not learning anything about the cause. So I'm here to fix that. Here is what you need to know about ALS:

    ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gherig's Disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the motor neurons. In human speak, it is a disease that weakens the muscles in the body, and it does not get better.

    There is no cure for ALS. People generally live between two and five years after onset of the disease - though rarely, people may live longer, like Stephen Hawking.

    ALS is not contageous, and it typically does not run in families. (ALS that runs in families makes up 2% of all cases)

    One of the most common symptoms of ALS is a progressive weakness in one or more limbs. About 25% of cases are "bulbar onset" ALS, where symptoms include difficulty speaking (including slurred speech), or swallowing.

    While there is no 'easy' way to die, having watched my grandma go through this, I believe that ALS is one of the absolute worst diseases. In almost all cases, your mind remains in tact while your body slowly stops working. One day you can't swallow your food as well. Then your speech is too slurred to be understood. Since you can no longer chew, you have to receive nutrition other ways. Things start to slip from your hands, and your sluggish feet trip over the edges of carpet.

    Eventually, you'll be bedridden because your muscles can no longer support you to stand. As your hand dexterity goes, you won't be able to communicate by paper or keyboard, either. Then, the muscles in your respiratory system will be weakened, and you'll need to be hooked up to a ventilator.

    You are stuck as a prisoner in your body as it deteriorates, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

    As difficult as it is to watch, I cannot imagine what it's like to live it. I would not wish ALS on the worst person in the world.

    I think everyone has their own 'pet causes' at different points in life. Some of us deeply care about diabetes research, clean water, human trafficking, or animal welfare. The hope of people not having to die from ALS is one the causes closest to my heart.

    If you can, and would like to make a donation to the ALS Association, here is a handy link to do so, here.

    Now, whether you feel compelled to dump a bucket of ice water on your head or not, you know what the cause behind the ice bucket challenge is all about. Please spread the information on to anyone you might think needs it.

  • One Foot in Front of the Other

    One Foot in Front of the Other

    I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've taken up running as my new hobby. My great athletic achievements to this point in life have included jumping out of a car because a large mosquito was on my leg, never actually getting over the pommel horse in high school gym class, and tripping up the stairs enough to tear a skirt.

    So for me, running isn't easy. And by this point in the Zombies 5K program, running takes every ounce of my willpower to keep going, every time.

    As much as I want there to be a cheat code that will make this easier, there is none. In order for running to feel easier, I need to carry less weight and to build more muscle.

    So, I need to run more. Oh boy.

    That sounds appealing, doesn't it? In order for something to hurt less and feel better, you have to be okay with pushing through the pain and discomfort in the meantime.

    Why do this? I ask myself. Why put myself through this?

    I admit, sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is that the thought of not finishing the Zombies 5k program is worse than the muscle aches in my legs. I started this, and I am going to finish it because I made that commitment to myself.

    I want to run a 5k with my husband someday. Apparently, I want it badly enough to huff and puff along.

    But there's something else, too. There's the little milestones that pop up at just the right time to refill my energy.

    I am walk/running over two miles at a time now. That's easily over half a mile more than when I started! My walking speed is up .2 mph from where I started. Is that a lot? No. But I'll take it!Also, my 'slow' running speed is up a whopping .7 mph from where I started, and my fastest is .9 mph faster than that starting number. It's still pretty embarrassingly slow when you're talking about running, but I am so pleased I can't even express with that progress!

    Finally, in the last week, I've discovered actual, bonafide muscles in my calves and thighs. Muscles that feel surprisingly solid and tough. I didn't know I could have muscles like that, but now I want more.

    Running, for me, is hard. While it's not good form, all I could do to get through one free form run was look down at my feet and think, "One foot in front of the other" and refused to quit.

     

  • On a serious note

    On a serious note

    I wanted to write something eloquent and compelling. But for once, I can't figure out how.

    If you suspect that you are depressed, please talk to someone. If that person does not take you seriously, that is their problem, and not yours. Find the courage to talk to someone else. Find a doctor, a counselor, who will listen to you and treat you with respect.

    I know how very hard that sounds. Taking that first step is incredibly intimidating. But you are worth it.

    That's right. YOU are worth it.

    The above advice goes for anyone who suspects they may be suffering from depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or any other mental illness. Get help. It's not all in your head, and you don't need to handle it alone. It's not "your problem" or your burden to carry. Really.

    If you are suicidal, please, talk to someone who can help you.

    Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    Suicide.org

    The suicide.org site has a list of hotlines by state and internationally. You are not a burden. Someone can and will listen to you.

    Mental illness is real. You are not broken, you are not defective, and you are not the problem. Lots of people struggle with it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we just don't talk about it much. You do not have to be ashamed of whatever thoughts you're having.

    Just find someone to talk to. You're worth it.

  • Running for Noobs.

    I've always wanted to run. I don't really know why. My dad was an athletic type in high school, with his running and setting still-standing records for long jump. Hoo boy, I didn't get those genes.

    But still, I have these dreams sometimes where I'm running - granted, usually away from something, and at some point, I realize, wow, I'm running well! Then I wake up, a little bit sad that I can't really run effortlessly down the road, but also relieved that some masked gunman isn't really chasing me.

    I've tried to do those C25K programs before, and the first thing I notice is, wow, these programs are geared towards someone waaaay more in shape than I am. Whether they were or not, they felt impossible, which was discouraging, which ultimately led to me quitting. But I still wanted to run.

    It would be more cinematic if there was some amazing moment where I was led to try it just one more time and discovered that the magic was inside of me all along. No such luck. I found out that there was a 5k training version of the Zombies Run app I've been quietly drooling over for a couple of years, and thought, well, I guess it's worth a shot.

    I'm almost at the end of week 4, and there are some things I'd like to tell you.

    1. Zombies 5k is the running app of my dreams. It integrates my own playlist with story. There are audio queues when to run and when to walk, so I don't have to think. I just listen and do, like a mindless ... heh heh ... zombie.

    2. It's still difficult. :Cough: :Wheeze: :Sputter: Holy mackerel is it difficult. But unlike the other programs I've tried, week 1 was addictive enough and easy enough to where I felt like I could bite off week 2. I've taken longer breaks during "week" 4, mostly because I was having some knee pain ... but I'm keeping with it, and I'm so proud of that!

    3. It's become a full blown hobby, which I really didn't expect. When I started running, I very quickly realized that running in pants wasn't going to happen. My only pair of shorts had bad holes in them, so I had to buy some new shorts. Well, when my shoes needed replacing, I discovered moisture wicking and cushiony socks. Then my calves started tensing up, and the running store said that I needed to hydrate better, and hey, they also have electrolyte tablets. Finally, I got tired of my earbuds falling out of my ears, so I invested in a pair of runners earbuds, which actually lock in place. They don't sound great, but they lock in place, so they are worth 10x their weight in gold.

    I'm having fun running, which I really never expected. That doesn't mean that I don't grumble and part of me doesn't dread how sweaty and tired I'm going to be afterwards. But when I do finish, that sweat and grossness feels like it's own reward.

    Never mind the fact that my running still feels like I'm barely keeping ahead of those shambler zombies. I think I'm doing great.

  • Weighty Matter

    I've had a bad relationship with the scale since I can remember. I have a vague memory of stepping on at some point and my childhood, feeling horrified, and trying to figure out how many years I needed to not gain weight in order to be 'normal'.

    I didn't step on a scale for almost seven years because my anxiety over that number got to be so ridiculous. The fear of having to step on a scale kept me from going to see doctors for that period of time. I'm not sure whether this is proof of how absolutely crippling anxiety can be, or commentary on how stupid our obsession is with weight. I think it's both.

    When I did finally step on a scale because of I had to go to a doctor, the number wasn't pretty. But I had reached a point where I really didn't care. I knew that I was so much more than whatever number the scale read.

    I was me at my lowest weight, and at my highest. I had come to the place where I didn't believe that my weight determined whether I was worthy of love, of good things, or health. (Now, whether I was able to act on that belief on a day to day basis - much more difficult.)

    In the past, when I've tried to 'consciously eat better and exercise', I end up petering out because I'll exercise really hard and then not really see any results. Sure, Matt might tell me that, "I think your sides are slimming down!" but if I can't see it ... it's really discouraging. And I had that experience over the winter/spring. I exercised my little heart out, but my jeans still felt the same. I might have had more energy, but a really overcast day still sent me hiding under the covers.

    As much as I want to be a 'it's the journey' oriented person, I apparently need to see some results in order to stick with things.

    I want to be healthy and I want to be strong. I want to be able to run, and to give myself the best shot I can at a long and happy life. That means so much more to me than what the scale says.

    But ... I'm finding that when my self esteem isn't completely bound up in the number, the scale is a decent way to track progress for me. It's not the only measure, mind you, but it's tangible and concrete. The jeans I couldn't button last year are now getting baggy. I can run for two at least two minutes, and I remember when forty five seconds was unimaginably difficult. But the scale also says that I'm down, as of this morning, 26.4 pounds.

    I don't weigh myself every day, or even with any consistency. If I get the urge to check in, I do. But I'm happy to be at a place where I feel like the scale is working for me, and I'm not working for it. That's how it should be.

  • Feeling the Burn

    Follow me for a while and you'll know that I'm always looking for ways to motivate myself to exercise, and methods of exercise that aren't tedious or impossible.

    Through "The Power of Habit" (which I just finished this week - the book is amazing, highly recommend it!), I learned that successful habits will cause the brain to crave the reward when the cue is triggered. I think that this is where my habits tend to fall apart. As soon as any reason not to exercise comes along, the reward isn't enough for my brain to plug back in.

    You would think money would be an incentive to exercise, but alas ... Nope. The reward doesn't happen fast enough for my brain to get excited about exercise long term. Boo!

    But a little while back, an ad came across Hulu for this website called "Daily Burn". For $10 a month, you answer a few questions about your current fitness level, how much time you can spend on exercising, and what personality you want in your trainer. The site gives you some recommendations, and you choose the program you're interested in. It keeps track of what day you're on and what video that corresponds to. You can stream to your android devices, tv, Xbox 360 and computer - other streaming devices coming soon, according to their site.

    I picked the "True Beginner" program - I figured it was better to go with something too easy at this point than something too difficult and wind up discouraged. Most days, the videos are just shy of 30 minutes, including warm up and cool down. Even better, the trainer is so. incredibly. nice. He's the most encouraging guy ever - he gives you props just for showing up! (He also looks like he should be John Barrowman's younger brother. I laughed when I figured that out.)

    Your mileage may vary, but I find the program as a whole just the right amount of challenging. I'm ready to be done at the end, and I'm sweaty, but I can get through it all, and feel like a rockstar for doing so.

    And here's the thing - I tried out the program a while ago, because Hulu graciously gave me a free trial. But right after I plugged it in, I got sick, and I've been nursing this cough that I'm just getting over. Mostly. Sorta. I think it's still going to hang around for another few weeks, but it's not ruining my life aaaagh! anymore. Under normal circumstances, that would have been the end of the story.

    But I came back to it a week ago, as soon as I was feeling capable of exercise again. All I had to do was click on 'workouts' and there's a handy dandy little "restart my program" button - it crosses off each day on the calendar whether or not you do the video, so there's really nothing to feel ashamed of. It's becoming the first thing I do at night after Matt goes to bed (see: night owl) if not before. The praise I get from the trainer for showing up, for sticking with it, for doing my best, seems to be hitting that 'reward' center of my brain, such that when I think of exercise, I don't think of how hard it's going to be, how sweaty (ew!) I'll be when I'm finished, but that there will be encouragement. (Also, the people working out alongside the trainer are not super fit abtastic models, which is awesome.)

    If you're looking for an exercise program that not only tells you what to do every day, but queues up the video for you, look into Daily Burn. They've got several programs to choose from - there are at least four that are 'recommended' for me based on my answers, so I really don't think I'll have anything to get tired of any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised if they add more content as they gain more subscribers, as well. They have variety from ripped dude with kettlebell to prenatal yoga.

    The website also features a weight tracker and a somewhat sparse community feature, but hey, the workouts are what's really worth it, in my opinion. The only real downside, currently, is the lack of streaming to the PS3, so I just stream through my computer. I'm fortunate that my desk area offers just enough space for me to move around comfortably - but Matt wouldn't have enough room to do it at his. But! Last I knew they were working on it, which is why I'm reasonably optimistic that Daily Burn will only get better over time as word spreads.

    Now that I've done a lot of free advertising for them, here's the link: http://dailyburn.com/

    I'm not really one to gush about exercise, but I am thoroughly enjoying this. I don't know whether you will, but I'm so excited about it, I want other people to know about it, in case it works for them, too.

  • Where's the magazine for me?

    Have you ever noticed that health magazines tend to assume a certain level of built-in fitness? In theory, I love magazines about health. I like learning, finding out tips and tricks to try to make my life better. But health magazines make me feel like I've slipped into the back of the room in which I don't belong.

    I hoarded the workouts that came in the magazines - some of the e-reader versions will come with videos to watch, even. But to be honest, Step 1 of "Bikini body ready in six weeks!" is usually as much as I can handle, and then I feel like a failure. The workouts seem to assume that you're already pretty fit, if your goals include "Lose 5 lbs", "Tone that booty" and the like.

    Maybe I'm reading the wrong magazines, it's true. But the thing is, there this is every health and/or fitness magazine. There aren't any magazines (that I've been able to find) that have a focus on getting healthy. 

    They tell you to eat fewer carbs, but don't explain that there are good carbs/'bad' carbs, and what they do to your blood sugar. And their solutions are usually, "add this supplement to your morning protein power smoothie" - but what if I'm not at that point yet?

    Oh, sure, most of the time, they throw in a significant weight loss story on one or two pages. But the story is always the same: She was really fat and unhappy, and she lost weight through diet and exercise, now her life is awesome!
    No real explanation of how, or that it was a real struggle, or any stories where someone lost a lesser amount of weight but massively improved their health. They either lost 80 lbs and their after pictures are modeling bikinis or sportswear, or they don't exist. It's not encouraging. It reeks of, "look how this poor fat girl became one of us!"

    It's frustrating. Do magazines assume that if I'm not already fit, that I don't want to be? Do they think, if I want a magazine, that I'll grab "good ol comfort cookin"? Or am I really so much of an anomaly that there really is no audience for magazines about health that don't assume you're already fit?

    (Side note: I am aware of "Weight Watchers" magazine, but that one is pretty much one slim, expensive advertisement. It's the closest I can find, but it's certainly not a great magazine.)

    Really, is this what we're settling for?

    The only way to opt out is to say, "No thanks, I already have a bikini body" ... shame shame!