Whole 30, Round 2!

I was really excited to write this post because I wanted to share my Whole 30 experience this time around, but I find myself struggling to get started. The main issue is that I’m having a really horrible day pain wise, which I’m 99% sure is due to the snow storm about to hit us. All of my old injuries are aching, I’ve got this electric tingle flowing through my limbs, almost like it’s pinging off of my trigger points and causing them to pop. At the moment, I’m at about an 8/10; this is the worst I’ve felt in a long time. So, now, instead of writing a post simply to share what I’ve been eating and how I’m feeling about it, I’m also writing as a way to escape the pain. Bleh.

Where to start? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Whole 30 plan, here’s a quick overview. The basic idea is to reset your body by cutting out “all psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days”. –whole30 

For the next 30 days, (25 for me, since I started this on January 3), there will be absolutely NO:

  • Added sugar/sweetener of any kind; including maple syrup, honey, agave, coconut sugar, stevia, Splenda, equal, nutrasweet, xylitol
  • Alcohol, not even for cooking
  • Grains (or pseudo grains):  wheat, eye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, quinoa
  • Legumes: beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, soy
  • Dairy (except ghee or clarified butter)
  • Carrageenan, MSG or Sulfites

By now, you’re probably wondering, (like I did initially), what is even left to eat? 

“Meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.” – whole30

I know, it sounds like a lot. It is. I’m not going to sit here and tell you how easy it is. If I’m honest, it’s a pain in the ass. BUT ITS WORTH IT. Yes, I desperately miss cheese and chocolate and bread and pizza and all of the yummy things, but this is the second time I’ve done this diet and I will be the first to admit that I am just too lazy to do something like this if it didn’t do something for me. I’m only on day 5 and pain issues aside, I feel wonderful. My head is clear, I’m sleeping better, I have energy and my mood is excellent. 

The one thing that I have found to make this easier is meal planning. Before we, (my amazing husband is doing it too!), start the diet, I sit down and write out 5 weeks worth of meals, so there is never any question of “what am I going to eat today?”. No, I am not writing out different meals for each day. What we do is make a big batch of something on the weekend and then portion it out for the rest of the week. Here’s a sample of what I wrote out for this first week: 


See? Not that bad. The only real decision I have to make is which option I’m having for breakfast and lunch. I write this plan out for the next 5 weeks and we follow it. 

The hardest part is finding things that are compliant. Like bacon, for example. I never even considered sugar being used to cure bacon. It is possible to find bacon cured without sugar, but it ain’t easy. Another thing is mayo. So far, I haven’t been able to find a store bought mayonnaise with out added sugar or non-compliant oils. I’m sure there is one, but I hate to pay shipping costs on something that I can just as easily make myself. It took me a few tries to get it right, but I have finally mastered avocado oil mayonnaise. No added sugar or junk; just oil, eggs, a bit of salt, lemon juice and mustard and now I have mayonnaise that I can use to make compliant sauces or dressings. Yum! 

Now that we’re all caught up, I hope to keep updating on how it’s going and probably at least a few posts about what I’m actually eating. I’m really hoping that my current pain is only due to the weather and not the start of another flare up, but even if it is an actual flare up, I’ve found that eating cleanly really helps with the duration of the flare. Fingers crossed!!

Setbacks, road blocks and fighting through them

For me, the hardest part about chronic illness has always been the ups and downs. A few years ago, I was mired in misery and the good days were so few and far between that all they did was point how very awful my “normal” was. Even when I had a good day, I was unable to enjoy it because I was dreading the return of my pain. 

Now, I generally have more good days than bad, but the bad days hit me much harder than they used to because I am no longer accustomed to the level of pain and fatigue they bring with them. I find that it is so much harder to bounce back from the bad days, especially lately, since I’ve fallen so far off track. 

I finally started going back to the gym about 3-4 weeks ago. Week 1 was great! Tiring, but I felt amazing. Then, on Thursday of the second week, I slipped and twisted the bejeezus out of my left ankle. It was bad. Tears and cursing and more tears followed by a miserable drive home. It nearly took the wind out of my sails, but I got through it, (thanks largely in part to my ever supportive husband!). I gave it a few days to heal up and I got back to walking. 

Last week, I started running again. I decided to restart my couch to 5k program, (AGAIN). I made it through the first two days and then I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday sick as a dog. It seems to happen every time I start working out, the best explanation I can find is “irritated airways”. We’re talking full blown flu symptoms, they come on super fast and usually last just long enough to throw me off track, (if I’m lucky, sometimes there’s a wracking cough that lasts for WEEKS). This time, I’ve decided that I’m going to fight back. I got sick on Friday, today is Tuesday and I went back to the gym. My workout was certainly not amazing, but I managed to do week 1, day 3 of the C to 5k program. I’m going to take it easy tomorrow and then on Thursday, I’ll start week 1 over again. I figure there’s no point in moving forward until I can comfortably do the entire week’s program. 

I won’t lie, it’s taken a lot of fighting to keep from getting discouraged. I feel like every time I turn around, something goes wrong. It’s a daily struggle for me not to give up, but I know that if I do, I’m lost. I cannot go back to the dark place where the fibro rules, I don’t have what it takes to pull myself out of that pit again, so my only option is to not fall into it.

If I have to, I will do every week of the program over and over until I can get through, but I don’t think it will come to that. Hopefully, I can acclimate myself to the more strenuous workouts and my body will adjust accordingly. My goal is to finish the entire 9 week run plan before the start of 2017. I may be back at square one, but at least I have the benefit of knowing how my body reacts to it. Fingers crossed!

We are not alone

I have decided to start republishing posts from some of the blogs I read when I’m not posting my own writing. Not because I’m being lazy or I’ve run out of things to say, but because I find that one of the things that helps me the most is knowing that I am not alone in dealing with chronic illness. Having fibromyalgia or any chronic condition isolates us. We don’t want to bother others with our troubles and before long, we’re all alone in our own little bubbles of misery. I think it’s important to take the time to hear what others have to say and I am often pleasantly surprised when I do. It’s comforting to me to know that I am not the only one suffering from certain symptoms or feelings. I hope that by sharing some of what I find will bring comfort to others as well. 

The light at the end of the tunnel

Saying it’s been a rough summer is a bit of an understatement. 

Several times, I started writing posts about what I was going through, but I could never get the words out. I’ve never been very good at expressing my struggles; the worse they get, the more withdrawn I become. That’s why I began writing this blog in the first place, it’s one way of dealing with life’s hurdles without the added stress of actually talking to someone.

Unfortunately, even writing out my thoughts is often difficult for me. I have no problem writing about happy, positive topics, but when it comes to pain or stress, I just feel like I’m whining. I know that there are others out there struggling with worse situations than my own and it just feels silly to sit here and whine about my problems, even when I know it will help me in the end. Which brings us to this current post, I guess I’ve hit my limit of what I can actually carry because now, the words are boiling over in my head, so here goes… 

I’ve been dealing with my own chronic illness for my entire adult life. I know how to live with it and I’ve (mostly) finally figured out how to ask for help when I need it. No big deal. It is what it is. Unfortunately, this summer I got a crash course in the monumental difference between living with a chronic illness and loving someone with a chronic illness. I may have said it’s harder to love a sick person than it is to be the sick person, but until now, I had no actual experience on which to base that observation. I can now say with absolute certainty that it’s true.  

I have no problem being the patient. I’m a great patient, (assuming you’re a doctor who doesn’t mind a million well informed questions). I do my own research before the appointment, I generally know exactly what kind of treatment I’m looking for and I’m usually fully aware of any side effects/complications involved. Unfortunately, none of this is very useful when you are not the patient. 

My fiancée has been dealing with his own chronic illness for about a year now, but over the last few months it’s been getting progressively worse and he’s had to resort to some more aggressive methods of treatment. I do what I can when we go to his appointments, but the doctors rarely want to hear from me. 

The worst part, however is having to sit idly by while he’s in misery. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life so far is watch him being hooked up to an IV for treatment. I knew he was sick, but until that moment, the severity of his illness hadn’t really hit me. He has to go to an infusion center every few weeks or so and seeing him in there with the other patients, (many of whom are receiving treatments for things like cancer), is heart wrenching. The first time we went in, I thought I was going to burst into tears. I know that his particular illness isn’t life threatening and I know that it is treatable, but knowing that there’s nothing I can do to help only adds to my everyday anxiety.  

That was all at the start of the summer. Between the added emotional stress, taking care of my fiancée and my own existing issues, I haven’t been able to keep up with my routine. If I’m honest, I stopped working out (regularly) at the end of May, due in part to feeling under the weather myself. Much of my summer was spent taking care of my fiancée, (while trying not to smother him with attention). I made a few sporadic attempts to get back into the habit of workibg out or at least walking daily, but those were brought to a complete halt earlier this month due to serious complications with my own health. 

I’m on the mend now, but this last month brought some very difficult decisions and more pain, both physical and emotional than I have ever experienced. I am not exaggerating when I say I now know what my own personal Hell would be; I’ve experienced it at the hands of doctors and nurses under the guise of “treatment”. Before these last few weeks, I was confident that I was familiar with pain. I was wrong. What I previously believed to be a “10”, (aka, the worst pain imaginable), is now only about a “3” on my scale. I laid there, on that table and the only thing I could do was endure it; there was no way to stop it, I couldn’t even move. All I could do was lay there, screaming inside my head, silently praying for it to be over. 

I think the worst part of this whole experience is that I was not expecting that level of pain. I knew that there would be some pain involved in my treatment, but I was led to believe that it would be minimal. Too late, I learned that I had been mislead, whether or not that was intentional on the part of my doctor, I cannot say. I only know that on top of the physical pain I felt during the procedure, I am left with a seething rage as well as a feeling of complete and utter violation. 

I know I’m being rather vague, but at the moment, it’s the best I can muster. I’m just not ready to delve into the details; I still have too much left to sort through before I can process it enough to make it comprehensible. 

I spent the last 2 years training myself to channel all of my stress, pain, anger, etc. into my workouts only to have that outlet unexpectedly taken away from me. I’m not confined to bedrest, but I’m not allowed to do much either. It’s a strange and very unpleasant sensation, not knowing what to do with yourself. Once, I would have turned to art, but there’s just too much pain and emotion to wade through. It’s as though I’m full to the brim and there’s just no way to channel it into any one thing. If I could run, I could burn enough of it off to make it more manageable, but at the moment, even walking is difficult. 

I’ve screamed, cried and raged, but still, I’m overwhelmed. I can feel the black hole of depression pulling at me, drawing me in; it’s taking all of my energy at this point to keep myself from sinking. Two years ago, when I first started writing this blog, I was in much the same state, except I had actually fallen into that hole and hit the bottom. My life was falling to pieces; I was alone, in pain and had no idea how to handle any of it.

I may be in pain now, but I am not alone. That knowledge is truly the only thing that keeps me going. Not only do I have my amazing fiancée, I have my family and I have those of you reading these words. Even if only one other person out there reads this, it is enough to remind me that I am not alone and that is the true source of light at the end of the tunnel.

Depression: My own story

Depression is everywhere lately; from Facebook to the nightly news, its hard to look at anything without some mention of it popping up. The recent, and truly tragic loss of Robin Williams to suicide has put depression in the spotlight as the latest must discuss topic. Depression should be a huge topic, since it affects pretty much everyone at some point in their life.

Like most things, depression varies a bit from person to person; some people only experience it once, while others live with it on a daily basis.
Chronic illnesses often go hand in hand with chronic depression. I’m not going to go into all of the clinical/scientific information on depression, but if you would like more info, here’s a good place to start: http://m.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.
Instead, I’d like to focus on how depression affects me, and how I’m learning to cope with it.

For me, depression has two parts: “the drain” and “the whisperer”. (I realize that to some, this may sound somewhat insane, but I’m doing the best I can to describe the inside of my own head, so bear with me.)

Not so long ago, these two parts of depression were constantly swirling around in my head, simultaneously. I lived my life in a fog and mistakenly assumed that this was just how my life would be. Thankfully, I was able to break that cycle. I still have bouts of depression, but they are usually brief and I know that eventually the sun will break through the clouds. It was only recently during one of my “cloudy” days that I was able to put what I was feeling into words; that is what I am trying to share with you now.

It usually starts with the drain. It feels as though there is a hole in my chest; a cavity that is slowly pulling all of the goodness and color out of my life. Think of trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it; you can keep putting water in it, but it will never stay full because it’s draining just as fast as you fill it. That’s what “the drain” feels like. The good things in life create a plug that blocks the drain, but even when it’s not sucking the energy out of my life, I can feel it sitting there, right in the middle of my soul.

When the drain has taken all it can, that’s when the whisperer shows up. It’s almost like all of the happiness and energy that gets pulled into the drain gets twisted around and warped into something dark. Out of that darkness comes the whisperer. She sits there inside my head constantly whispering to me about all of the negative things that have happened in my life.

“You’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough”

“This is all your fault”

“Why fight it? You’re never going to win”

Over and over she whispers these things, (and worse), in my head, no matter what I do, I can’t block her out. You may be wondering why I don’t just think of something else or simply stop thinking about it… It’s not that simple; I’m not actively thinking these thoughts. It’s like having the radio on in another room, (except this room is locked and you can’t get in to turn it off), you may not be actively listening to it, but you can hear it.

I think the worst part is that when I start feeling this way, it affects the people around me. I get grouchy and I withdraw. I don’t like to talk about it; I don’t think I’ve ever actually said “hey honey, I’m feeling depressed today”. I know that I should, but the words just stick in my throat, so I say nothing. Writing the words here is a start.

I used to believe there was nothing I could do about these episodes; that all I could do was wait for the whisperer to go back to sleep and the drain to get clogged again. I know now that I *can* fight it. It’s not easy, but at least I know that I can break the cycle by getting active, specifically, a good long walk or jog. (Exercise is what helps me, I’m not recommending a cure all for everyone!) Finding the energy to fight is probably the hardest part, between the drain and the whisperer, it often feels like I have nothing left to give. I would be lying if I said that I get up and fight every single time. Even now, there are days where all I can do is hang on until the clouds go away on their own.

Once I get myself moving, I have to figure out how hard to fight. Do I walk/jog until I can’t take another step or do I need to pace myself? Sometimes, just the feeling of my feet hitting the asphalt is enough to lift my spirits; other times, it takes a full throttle, pavement punishing run to clear my head. It’s hard to tell what will make me feel better, and since my depressive swings can last for days, I have to decide how much is enough. If I fight too hard at the start, I won’t have the energy to keep fighting later and then things just feel so much worse. It’s a challenge, but one that is definitely worth facing.

When all else fails, I just remember the Little Engine that Could: “I think I can- I think I can- I think I can…”

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