What are these antique things called blogs? Man, it's been a while!
I thought I'd give a health update, since several people have asked me about it and I'm not sure I've totally processed it all yet.
I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis this summer. For a few years I had been having these joint flares that would come and go and migrate around my body. It was so mysterious. I didn't think it was RA because it did not manifest like most people's RA, and I didn't want RA. The migrating, one sided flares threw me for a loop with all my sophisticated online self diagnosing. The first few times I thought I was injured. The doctor agreed and gave me pain meds. Then after it kept happening, I knew something was wrong. Also, for the last couple of years, I've had this sleepiness, almost getting sick feeling. I kept telling Willie, "I think I'm coming down with something". Well, I wasn't coming down with something, I had something.
The last two Decembers things were the most crazy. The end of the year is stressful for me professionally and personally. It's at these times that I drink a lot of caffeine, don't sleep very much, and eat poorly. I thought maybe I was having an overuse problem in my wrists and I would wear braces and then once things settled down, I felt better and kind of forget about it.
Last December, I had a hip flare that hurt so bad. Hip and shoulder flares are very disruptive to sleep and just about anything. So I went to the doctor and he had me take a few blood tests. When I came back elevated for two of the blood tests, I didn't know for sure what that meant. I now know that it meant I had RA. One test gives someone a 95% chance of having RA and the other test 97%, and I had both of them. I ended up meeting with a rheumatologist in January. She was so relaxed about the whole thing and hopeful that I think I misread her message. She said she was not going to diagnose me yet. I heard, "You don't have RA, but you might someday. Keep in touch." Now I realize what she said was, "You have RA, but probably in the early stages. It's coming. Call me when it gets here."
Just when I thought, I can live with a flare ever couple of months. No big deal, it came on so strong. I had almost a month of a flare every day. It just kept moving to different joints, even my jaw, and sometimes on both sides. Having two hands out of commission is the worst! Depending on the flare, i couldn't open a jar, get out of the tub, pull my own hair back (Hank liked helping with that), get my clothes on or off, play an instrument, etc. If it was an upper body flare, I would still run, but if it was a lower body flare, I'd just try to take it easy. Also, flares hurt really bad. It makes my stomach churn with pain. It's like an infection in the joint. It can be red and hot and get so inflamed that the joint just stops working. I flinched if my kids were too close to the hurt joint. My whole body would get tense from the pain. Ibuprofen doesn't really take the edge off. I took a narcotic pain killer once that my primary doc prescribed. My rheumatologist doesn't prescribe them. I'm not sure if it helped with the pain, but it made me so happy/sleepy/high that I didn't care if I was in pain.
I think my rock bottom was at girls camp. After so much pain, so many sleepless nights and being up in the mountains trying to sleep on a cot, I called the rheumatologist's office sobbing. At this point i dramatically changed my diet (it's an AR thing, everyone is doing it), and prepared to see the rheumatologist. She agreed it had arrived and she wanted to start treatment immediately with an immune suppressant. She said it would take about 3 months to be in full affect. Ever since then, I've been steadily improving. I strongly believe that the diet is helping and the medication. I don't want to stay on the medication my whole life, if possible, so our plan is for me to be in remission for 6 months then I can try coming off. At that point, I may need to get even stricter with my diet. Right now I don't eat gluten, dairy, or refined sugars. I do have rice and gluten free oats sometimes. If I can't keep in remission without the medication, then I will move to Paleo (removing all grains) and if that doesn't work I'll need to go to AIP (autoimmune protocol), which further cuts out nuts, seeds, eggs and nightshade vegetables. Then you try to see what you can add back in. I also met with an integrative doctor and did a delayed food allergy test and had 60 days without 22 foods that I reacted to. I'm now adding them back in and without any problems. I had to be two months off of chocolate. It seemed like the worst thing ever, but I got used to it. Now that I added chocolate back into my diet, my feelings for chocolate have changed. We used to have something so special, such a deep love, but now I'm just not that into it. So strange.
Right now I am feeling so great. I have been able to keep up with my half marathon training. The hardest part has been getting up early without going to bed early the night before to beat the heat. My joints feel great. My general feeling of sickness has lifted. I don't need caffeine. I have to pay close attention to my sleep and stress situation and the food thing has finally settled and I have plenty of good things to eat and am not bummed out about it. Thanks so much to everyone that has been concerned and inquired! I'm so lucky to have such supportive family and friends.
I never thought of myself as a dieter, which is strange, since I'm always on some diet and have been most of my adult life. I guess I had a hard time admitting it and I just considered it healthy eating. A big change in my thinking has come recently, because I am no longer the awesome restrictor I used to be. I could deny myself food so well in the past, that it was never a problem to loose weight. I just starved myself, slowly, until the weight was gone.
My first major immersion into dieting was after Willie and I spent a summer camping and road tripping before he started law school. I always gained weight when I was out of my norm like going on study abroad or on my mission, but I lost it once my routine went back to normal.
This time was different. Dieting become a part of my regular life. My clothes were tight after our summer adventures so I thought I'd try out weight watchers to drop a few lbs. It ended up being a thrilling experience. I loved controlling my body and seeing the weight fall off. I've always related love with being skinny. I lost the few lbs then kept going. I had lost so much weight that everyone was saying that I was starting to look too thin. I was just going to roll with it. I weighed less than I did in high school and now my clothes were all too big. Then I got pregnant and dieting fell by the wayside while I was pregnant for three months and miscarried the baby, recovered, then got pregnant again with Wyatt.
During Wyatt and Hank's pregnancy I indulged in any food I wanted to eat and gained a lot of weight. Then I went back to my restricting ways and was able to loose the weight but it got harder. After my pregnancy with Lula, everything is different. I can't restrict what I eat to the point that I used to. I want to rebel from restricting. I want to eat what I want. In this book, I learned that restricting and indulging are just two ends of the same problem, using food to fill a hole. It comes from a place of shame and fear. These feelings are so complicated because I don't want a life of obsessing about food and weight. I don't want to be defined by the way I look. I know there is more to me than my body but being thin has become an obsession. This book uncovered so much for me. Deciding to give up dieting and learn to trust my body has filled me with excitement and euphoria. I feel free.
I read a similar book over a year ago and it freaked me out. In this book, Geneen Roth says to pay close attention to whatever makes you want to bolt. It will tell you something important about yourself. Last year, I tried to eat whatever I want for a month or so, after coming off a restrictive diet, and I ended up just eating sweets and gaining at least 5lbs and feeling horrible. I hadn't quite grasped the ideas yet and I was terrified that I would never stop eating. I also couldn't bear the thought of accepting myself at my current weight.
A little time and more knowledge has brought me to a much better place. I have come to terms with the fact that my body may stay this way. This is what is real right now. I am healthy. I am fit. My body can do amazing things, like running 13.1 miles and enjoying about 11 miles of it. I can run these beautiful trails where I live and smell the desert and see the animals. What is first and foremost for me now is that I treat my body kindly, that I give it fuel so I'm healthy and strong and can do all the wonderful things I want to do.
I also deconstruct the crazy thoughts in my head, over and over again. For instance. The other day I was getting ready to go to the gym. I looked in the mirror and thought, I'm fat. What if someone at the gym notices that I wasn't able to loose my baby weight? They saw me when I was in such great shape before I got pregnant. They'll think I'm the worst.
There probably are people at the gym that would think that, but really, who cares? Why do I care? I think about it for a while and realize that I feel like I've failed for not returning to my pre baby weight. I've lost the control I had. I feel like people might think I can't do hard things, I'm lazy or indulgent. So I think it through in my head and see the thoughts for what they are (just thoughts) and what they uncover about how I feel about myself. Almost every thought leads back to a place of fearing that I'm not lovable.
This book teaches eating as a practice. It's not a program or something to fall off of. It's a practice. It's mindful eating. You get better at it with time and it comes from a place of love for yourself. What hit me the most was, eat when you are hungry and eat what your body wants. She goes into more detail about each of these, but the idea of only eating when I'm hungry is so simple but hard to get in tune with. This is about what your body wants/needs to be healthy, energetic, strong and happy. It's not about numbing, entertainment, habit, etc. This is really hard.
I'll update as I go, but I've only been internalizing these ideas for about a month so I'm kind of new to this all. Below are the eating guidelines.
A while back, I thought I was at the cusp of a mid-life crisis or a depressive episode (if only medication could fix it). It turns out it was a mid-life crisis, breakdown, awakening or something like that. That all sounds kind of dramatic. I'm not sure what to name it. I think naming it is kind of reductive. There are a lot of things that have been leading up to this.
Here is what Brene Brown said on the subject, "People may call what happens at midlife "a crisis," but it's not. It's an unraveling -- a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live,
not the one you're "supposed" to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are."
It was painful and I was crying a lot, that's why I thought it was depression. I'll maybe write more about it later, but what I want to write about now is how much better I'm feeling. Not only do I feel
better, but I feel hungry for knowledge and learning. This last year has become a time of self discovery and inquiry. It's been hard and scary but very fulfilling. I guess you could say I was living on auto pilot and getting knocked off that has been a huge growing experience.
I wrote this a while back about being a feminist in the Mormon church. This was the start of my unravelling. It became impossible to stay on auto pilot and I could no longer resist my emotions. I was afraid of being overpowered by sadness. The unraveling had been trying to happen for years. I actually remember calling it a pre-mid life crisis after Hank's birth. This excommunication and backlash against Mormon Feminists broke my heart. I was hesitant when I wrote this post, and I never publicly shared it since it's such a charged subject but I'm much stronger now. I was afraid of what people would think of me or say to me or afraid they would stop loving me. I was so desperate for approval that I was afraid to use my voice.
I have come a long way in trusting myself. It's okay if people don't feel the same way I do. I also understand that some people didn't give a second thought to this subject. I know most Mormons are over it, but it affected me deeply. I had absurd expectations about how my beloved religion (institutionally and socially) would treat it's members. I was so disappointed.
I increased my medication last year and it could not touch what I was feeling, which I think was grief. I started a round of therapy, at the recommendation of my doctor. I have had several positive
experiences with therapy and I agreed it would be helpful. I have something I call my "cry-o-meter". To give you an example, my first session of therapy, I did not come up for air in my crying the whole time. Sobbing for an hour straight is exhausting. I had been holding a lot in. Every session I cried a little less until I eventually didn't cry at all and started feeling much better and in control of my own life. Once my therapist and I started talking about things, like where I got my highlights or what book I was reading, we decided that it was time for me to stop coming.
The therapy book we used, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, was an answer to prayer. It showed me that I was creating mental pain for myself and living a life in my head, instead of living a full and meaningful life right now. I was suffering from negative thought patterns. The voice in my head is judgmental, self righteous, belittling and mean. I was believing the voice in my head. I was
believing those damaging thoughts instead of seeing and accepting the real me. I was resisting feeling and examining my pain. Pain from fear and shame. I was loosing myself in it. I had to be willing to take my emotions in the moment without defense.
To quote from the book, "Willingness and acceptance means adopting a gentle, loving posture toward yourself, your history, and you programming so that it becomes more likely for you simply to be aware of your own experience. The goal of willingness is not to feel better. The goal is to open up yourself to the vitality of the moment, and to move more effectively toward what you value."
This whole experience includes a lot of aspects of my life (spirituality, culture, family, my creativity, embracing aging, my values, religion, belief, doubts, wants, regrets, uncertainty, body image, motherhood, etc). My capacity for empathy has opened up, my capacity for love has deepened, my connection to God is stronger. I'm trying to embrace uncertainty. I'm trusting my intuition. The best way I can explain it, is that my heart broke wide open and I'm so thankful.
We had a great road trip last weekend. First we went to Stake temple day in Monticello, Utah. The Stake provides childcare once a year and we haven't missed the blessed occasion in years. We normally camp out but we decided that this would be a good time to go to Durango for me to take some pictures for my friend Chad's website. Case is in the process of making him a new website for his construction business and working on his branding. I was able to see his new logo in action on one of his tractors.
From Monticello we went to Cortez and were hoping to have some time to spend in Mesa Verde but we were running too late and went straight to Durango. Chad put us up in his posh condo. I could not get over the beautiful scenery and how nice the condo was. We went on walks, played cards, went swimming, stayed up late watching a Jackie Chan movie with the boys, went out to eat and Willie and I stayed up late reading and talking.
I took pictures on Saturday and we had some crazy beautiful rain. Sunday morning we went to Mesa Verde and it was everything I thought it would be. It was so cool. I can't wait to go back. Then we drove home through the mountains and it was such a beautiful drive. The kids were great in the car. Lula fussed a little when we were at the ruins but in general she did great. I can't believe what beautiful things we live close to.
Also, Durango, where have you been all my life? Sometimes Willie and I have the "where else could you see us living" conversation. I could never really think of a place that's a good fit. Durango is such a good fit, besides Willie not having a job there and how expenses houses are. We looked through houses a little bit online and I was bummed about what was in our price range. It made me thankful for our current house. It may need a lot of work, but I love it. It suits us so well and was affordable.
We will be back to Durango, though, hopefully soon. The landscape was a much improved version of my childhood landscape. It felt great.
Here is a picture recap of our journey. Pictures don't do it justice, but I had to try. Also, it's time to pay my dues by editing the pictures of Chad's houses I took. He builds beautiful, huge, artistic houses with great lighting, but they are still pictures of houses. Blah.
I needed a picture for this post and I like this one. My post doesn't directly relate to the photo, but I like the mood.
I haven't posted for a long time so I think an update is in order. I'm hoping this won't be too heavy. Sometimes I don't really know until I get going.
It's back baby. I have had some pretty intense dips this last year and it's hard to realize it when you have up times most of the time. When you are always depressed, it's pretty obvious. It turns out that I was calling my sister on a regular monthly basis, admitting that I was crying a lot (like don't know if I can stop for days a lot). She finally said, hey you have been doing this for about a year. You should go to the doctor. It seems so simple. Why didn't I think of that? One side affect of depression for me is denying how bad it is. I'm glad I have people in my life that can help me see that.
I've had my medication adjusted and am starting therapy. My doctor said the most effective form of treatment for depression is medication and therapy. I actually like therapy. It's great talking to someone for an hr and they really listen and they are always on your side. Plus, therapy seriously changed my life while i was dating Willie, like my therapist's name will forever be blessed in our home. I've only been once so far and I think I have a good fit in my new therapist. We hugged (she's a woman). The only thing I don't like about therapy is the cost. Insurance does a bummer of a job covering the visits and she wants me for 12 weeks.
I think i might, in fact, be having a midlife crisis. I suspected it a while back but wasn't sure. I'm not sure if it's because of depression or some other heavy things I'm dealing with, but all I know is that some things can really, really hurt and I'm not sure why. I'm hopeful that things are going to get better. My medication is already helping a lot, and I am a dedicated student and have already jumped into my studies for therapy. We will be using the New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and it's kind of mind bending. It's going to take practice to grasp it. It's like the idea of leaning into your pain when you have a baby. I remember trying that for like one minute while waiting for my epidural with Lula. Running away from my pain is what makes the most sense to me.
I'm not totally sure why I'm putting this out there. I hope I'm not over-sharing. I just hate the idea of depression being a shameful thing to talk about. I don't see a lot of people wanting to hide their struggles with their diabetes. It helps me feel better when I can talk openly about it. It's not my fault and I am not ashamed to take medication. I have several people in my life that like to suggest alternatives to me and I try so hard to see their attempt at caring for me instead of the unspoken shame they are inducing by saying I shouldn't take any medication. I use a doctor for my treatment. That's my choice and I'm okay with it. I need someone qualified, that I trust, that understands the mental illness. I also want people I care about to know how I'm doing. Facebook and instagram posts don't really tell the full story. Who wants to post a picture of themselves crying? Buzz kill. I have a dear mission campion (the one who introduced me to Willie) that posted about her depression close to Robin Williams death. She said that her depression treatment is like walking on sand. I agree.
My depression is just a portion of my life. In general, I'm so happy. That's what is so strange about this whole thing. I don't understand it all. Lula is such a wonderful addition to our family. It's a serious love fest around here. Wyatt and Hank are the dearest creatures. My home (though messy and outdated) is my safe place. I love being here. I love that Willie is my other half.
I think this is all the update I want to do for now. Talking about other things, like getting new quartz countertops in our kitchen (squeal) can come in another post. Oh, and post baby weight loss (so tired of it). When will it be over? Will it be over?
I haven't posted forever. I'm not totally sure why. I've been working in the evenings a lot then a lot of things happen and I feel like I need more time to write about everything. I'm breaking the silence with some pictures. Then I need to write about so many things.
The night before Thanksgiving I made pies and I asked Willie to take this picture of me to match the one I have of my Grandma on my picture wall. It's not very often that we have a whole, picturesque pie. If I waited for morning for better light, there might have have been a piece missing. I'm wearing one of her aprons in the picture. While I was cooking, I listened to a radio story about making pies. It talked about women learning to make pies from their mothers and grandmothers. My grandma was really into pies and I learned a lot from her.
I miss my grandma. She's been gone for about 14 years. She was such a strong influence for good in my life. She worked tirelessly to keep her family close together. I have many memories of dinners and holidays. I want so much to be like her. I haven't turned out to be much of an entertainer, but hopefully I'm like her in other ways. I do know how to make a good pies, though,and I think she'd be proud.