Monday, January 01, 2018

Word Of The Year

I haven't put up my Word Of The Year for the past two years in a row. For different reasons, at the time of conceptualizing them they were deeply personal and I wasn't ready to share.

It's a long 'un. {deep breath}

In 2015 I was struggling with a lot of medical issues, personal issues, fears etc so I wanted 2016 to be about letting it go. The word I came up with was Release and it turned out to be quite apt.
I released my fears about schooling and realised my ambition to pass the Teacher's Aide certificate. I released the ovary and cyst from my body and didn't realise just how much of a release that was, and how deeply it had affected me and for how long, until approximately eighteen months after the surgery. I released Alaskaboy from the horror show his job had become and insisted that he go train as a baker. Nan died. I let go of the dream of owning our own house. All of these things and many more lead me over the course of 2016 to my word for 2017. Especially when I released my wrongly held beliefs that Alaskaboy was the biggest part of our marital issues and my MS would always stand in the way of who I wanted to become. And by the end of 2016? Wow, there was a LOT of fear. So much fear. Still is fear in regards to world events but the word for 2017 has helped with that too.

My word for 2017 was Acceptance. Apt considering all year I underwent Acceptance and Commitment Therapy sessions with my awesome Health Psychologist. Twenty eight sessions I had all up in just over twelve months. The journey was so amazing and I learned so much that I could never have pictured who I am today. (I've covered a bit about my physcial exercise parts of this, but wait there's more!) My psychologist and I had our last session the other week, she's going on to do her Masters for the next two years, and she's given me the name of another therapist in case I want to work some more next year on my Schemas etc. But for now, completely with her encouragement and blessings, I'm taking a break from therapy to let what I've learned settle in some more and enjoy the life I currently have. Which again leads me to my word for this year.

My word for 2018 is Present. It really clicked for me after the last session, when I turned on the car radio on the way home and within thirty seconds Billy Ocean was singing "Get outta my mind, Get into my life!" And it was precisely the stuff we'd been talking about in that last session in particular. Continue what I've been doing with acceptance and commitment..focusing more on not letting the voices talk about what was or what could be, but focusing on what is. I've let go of several ropes, now I need to live and learn to balance in the present, now those things have less/no pull on me.

Some of the biggest things I've let go of are:
a) The Just World Theory. Fascinating thing that a lot of us are raised to believe.
b) A false belief that acceptance means being zen about something. Again, a lot of people practice acceptance wrongly in that they think that have to be happy about something in order to truly accept it. Or even use it as another form of control.
c) The MeToo movement brought up a lot of stuff for me about harrassment, assault, misogyny, the male gaze, and a whole host of other things connected with them. I'd been using my obesity as a form of protection and as a way to take my rightful space in the world (among other things). But when it came up in discussion how I was still giving my control away and being controlled by my fears to be this weight...woah nelly! Click, click, clicketty click went lots of little things on the inside. Then we moved on to ways I could get involved, take my own power back etc. One of which is I've agreed to let another Mum at school (who's been asking me ever since Term Two of Grade Prep) nominate me for School Council. The president of the council even let me know she was happy about the nomination, "We need more proactive, sensible, smart people on the council!"
d) Shit or Get Off The Pot is another form of Let Go Of The Rope. I can't control anyone else. I can't magically make my MS, Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, or Our Financial situation go away. I can't make anyone's behavior change. I can model behaviours, it's up to them if they pick up what I'm putting down or not. I CAN CONTROL how I behave/respind a lot of the time. This doesn't mean I'm always happy and zen. Again it means I can choose to go with the feelings, learn to live with them and deal appropriately with them, or I can continue to eat them away. Some emotional eating is okay..but it's not the only tool I have in the bag now. "Negative" emotions are perfectly healthy. They're a warning sign that needs aren't being met, boundaries aren't being respected.

Acceptance is understanding that the weather is friggen hot or that someone is behaving contrary to what I'd prefer. There's nothing I can do to change the weather/behaviour. Being fused means I am so caught up on the fact that it's hot/infuriating that all I can see is the heat/rage and how awful it makes me feel and how bad bad bad it is and how it's not fair and it/they should change to suit my needs etc etc. Defusing is when I can take even a small step back and say hey, it is what it is, I may not fucking like it, but it is what it is. I can't change that. Then comes, What CAN I do/think/say that is helpful, rather than unhelpful. Sometimes nothing is all I can do. Acknowledge that this is making me feel x y z and that's that. Can I install cooling system? Can I leave the room? Can I say hey you're making me uncomfortable. Each situation is different but acceptance is understanding what is real, feeling what you need to feel about that..and not judging yourself for what you think/feel/say. There's been lots of Modelling of emotions this year, lemme tell you. One of the hardest things to admit to Kiddlywink and Alaskaboy was that sometimes my emotions get too big and I don't know what to do with them..and yes, when I'm not eating them away, sometimes I have tantrums too, because I have to let those emotions out and don't have any other way to do so.

I love the last phrase my psychologist taught me, Chunk and Check. It was something I didn't realise I unconsciously did for others..but didn't do with myself. Bascially, it's a way of learning, or processing, that allows for information to be broken down into smaller less complex bits and then you check back in later to see if anything has been retained. It struck me that I need to do it for myself when Kiddlywink asked me the other day, "Mummy, you were really upset the other day, you and Daddy were arguing. Did you work it out?" She learned from me, when she or AB have been upset over the years, that it's not always easy to digest stuff in the moment, especially a heated moment, and that sometimes you need someone to check in with you later to help with that. And Alaskaboy also modelled it back to me that very same day because he had thought about it at work and checked in with me again when he got home about what he'd figured out and it was exciting for us both to realise we were in fact Chunking and Checking. And boy was it helpful. Big break through for his Holiday Season Blues.

My test of Acceptance and Present came with his revelation. I didn't rush off and try and play therapist like I would have done in the past. We stayed in the present and discussed how it was informing current behaviour. And after that we agreed we'd talk more about it in the future..when he's ready. But also that if he hasn't brought up by a certain time, that it's then okay for me to check in again. So much more respect on both our behalves. More work to be done, but so much better than it's been. So much so, that for the first Christmas Day since we've been married we didn't have one argument. Not on the day itself, at all. Not even one of those awful nit picky ones about something stupid. Not even biting tongues to avoid one. There was no need for one.

So, yeah, I'm actually looking forward to 2018, ups and downs, and I'm hoping that being Present will lead to even better understanding all round.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Acceptance

For the last few months I've been working on acceptance with my Health Psychologist. One of the mistakes I've made for a long time is mistaking acceptance with a zen-like happiness about something. Apparently, it's a common mistake. Not only a mistake but still a subconscious form of control.

In the past we talked about the story of the man yelling at the waves and expecting the waves to behave how he wants them to, not how their nature dictates. Anger often is an expression of feeling out of control or wanting to control one's environment, or those in it. That part I understood, no point railing at something that is out of my power to control. Understanding what is and isn't in my area of control was a little trickier.

We worked through that as well, and I thought I was doing okay with acceptance. But no, I was using it as a form of control again. If I go through life not getting upset about things, I'm not accepting life, I'm rigidly controlling how I feel about things. And thus, I would blow up at inappropriate moments.

A few weeks ago, I expressed nervousness about coping with the heat again this year. I feel so helpless in the face of the inexorable heat that is an Aussie Summer. My body hates the heat with a passion. All of my MS symptoms feel much worse.; The numbness, the fatigue, the inability to reason, my typing and writing look like a dyslexic monkey on LSD has done it. I can't sleep, I feel useless and afraid. Kiddlywink and Alaskaboy enjoy the heat and want to go out and do things, I want to hunker down because I'm in survival mode. I can't escape the heat.

“What do you do about the heat?” my psychologist asked me.

I'd never really thought about it before then. “It's hot,” I said, “ I feel afraid.”

“No, what do you DO about it?”

“I paid for Mum and Dad to have evaporative cooling in their house. I only wear cotton or plant based fibres that breathe, or as little as possible. I drink cool things, I hop in a bath. I live my life as best I can.”

“Do you like the heat?”

“No, I hate it.”

“Does hating it, or anything else you do to mitigate it, make the heat go away?”

I thought about it some more. No. No the heat doesn't go away. I can do what I can to deal with it..but every year for at least three months of the year it's gonna be bloody hot!

….
….
…....”OH!” I said. “I don't have to like it, I just have to accept it. Do what I can to cope with it, but I can't CHANGE it. I'm allowed to feel whatever I want to feel...but I can't change that fact that IT IS!”


Acceptance is admitting that no matter what I do, there are things that I can't control and sometimes things happen just because, not because of anything I have or haven't done. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. (This week we dealt with the Just World Theory..more on that another time.) All I can do is choose how I deal with those things out of my control. And sometimes I can't even control that. I'm human, I have emotions, I react. Sometimes, I react appropriately, sometimes, I over react. Acceptance is learning that as well.

Being responsible means I go back and check in with myself later when I am able and try and figure out how/why I overreacted. And then check in with AB or KW or whoever I've overreacted with. And sometimes they won't forgive me. And that's okay too. Sometimes I can't check back in and have to live with how I may have affected that person's day too. I can't always make amends. I won't always figure out why I reacted the way I did. Over analysis is another form of control I have used in the past to try and figure out how to control myself and others in case the situation comes up again. The what if game, I played a lot. So IF something happened I'd be prepared to react accordingly. Ahh anxiety, that's a whole other form of control.

I'm amazed at how much my anxiety levels have dropped in the past couple of months now that I'm beginning to understand acceptance. My marriage is better for it. My daughter is happier for it. I'm modelling behaviour that they either will or won't learn. I'm happier for it.

Not many people know but I had a relapse during the last two weeks. Before, I would have hunkered down on my couch, woe is me, panic, panic, how can I fix it make it better, what did I do to cause it. OMG! And It would take me months to come out of the depression it caused. And eat. Oh, man, would I eat.

I have relapsing remitting MS. Relapse sucks. I am getting used to my new normal. I'm another layer of numb over at least 50% of my body. My eyes are a bit worse, green traffic lights look like beautiful flowers or fireworks, even during the day now. I feel weaker. I'm scared. But, even though I'm feeling those things, this time I could strike a balance. I had my moments/minutes/hours of feeling negative..and I felt them whatever those emotions were. But, I also had a picnic in the park. I went to morning tea with a friend. I went swimming. I watched movies or shows that I love...without binging on them. I didn't have a lavish birthday with tonnes of photos “in case it's my last one where I'm normalish,” I didn't try and fight it, I accepted it..and got on with my life, the ups and the downs. Because that is life, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. This is my life, and I accept it. I accept my community, near and far, present or absent. I accept myself, warts and all. And it feels damn good.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Getting back into the swim of things.

Feeling so much better with the walking I've been doing that I bought myself a multi visit swim pass (MULTIPASS!!!) to my local leisure centre. I made sure I didn't get a membership because then I would put pressure on myself to go every week whether I was up for it or not. This way I have three months to get the visits in on my own terms. Sooner if I like is fine..but if not, then like the walking I won't feel bad.

I'm also going to ensure lap swimming is off the table for several months. I have no ability to pace myself there. All those years pushing for PBs when I was doing competitive swimming, I guess? It doesn't matter whether it's time or lengths or even number of strokes, it'll do my head in trying to restrict myself from "go on, just one more! More than last time, you can do iiiit!"

So, for the moment it's about getting IN the pool. Floating, playing, walking, just movement of some kind...again, no water aerobics because I can't pace that either!

I'm even taking Kiddlywink's dive sticks to remind me just to have fun!

So..here goes. Mum and I have decided that once she's up to it, she'll be joining me too.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eight weeks of Six hundred Metres.

It's been eight weeks since I started my new attitude towards walking. The first month I did quite a lot of walking. This month I didn't do as many walks, however my times have improved slowly but consistently over the 600m lap.

Today, Mum felt like a longer walk. It's a place we always used to walk to with our dog when she was alive. Even my Nan used to do it when we first moved back here. It showed me how long it's been since we walked out that way because when Kiddlywink reached a road that we have to cross along the bike path...I had the urge to say, wait! Stop! Even though she's old enough now to know how to stop and look. Last time we went that way, she had no road sense at all.

We walked to a point where there is a bench to sit on, and sat for about ten minutes, then turned around and came back. I paused the timer while we were sitting. Also, for curiosity's sake and future reference, making notations in a file on my phone about times, distance, date, time rested etc.

We walked 1.55kms in 23:16mins.

Eight weeks ago neither of us would have even contemplated walking for that long or for that distance. I also didn't use my walker.



Kiddlywink's excited to be walking with us again. She'd really missed it.

Win! Win! Win!

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Make like Lego. Built It One Block At A Time.

Control. It's one of the things I've been talking a lot about with my psychologist. People with auto-immune conditions often feel a lack of control. So we overcompensate in other ways. I'm currently learning to let go of things I can't control. Being so very sick these last few weeks has helped immensely with that actually.
I'm learning what I can control. One of the things I can control is when I go for a walk. Once I get back home of a morning, all the what-ifs and but-I-have-tos and it's-too-hards start kicking in. And yet another day goes by without a walk.
Self defeating, crazy making, control issues, "If I can't do what I want then I won't do anything." Usually at these point I go gungho and have challenges and all sorts of tables and plans and points and schedules. Because I love that stuff too But again, that's a form of control.
This time, I've simply put up a printed out table. In each section I'm going to write the date, the distance, and the time.
I'll use google maps to calculate the distance I actually walk.
The big change? I'll drop Kiddlywink off at school, and simply walk around the block. That's it. Simple start. One block. I hope I can do it every day. But if I can't. Oh well. Each day that I can. One block. 600m. This morning it took me 9m56s to do it. It's a start. And even if I never progress any farther or faster or I go slower and need a walker. It's one block at a time. I'm going to be in the moment, enjoy my walk. And then get on with my day.
This'll help in several positive ways. I have to have breakfast at a reasonable time, and actually be dressed for the day. There may be days I come back home and go back to bed. I get that. But on the days I can. There'll be me and that one block.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

What A Week!

Before I was diagnosed with diabetes in May last year, I'd been making little changes here and there, trying to cut out the incidental calories that I wouldn't notice. Starting with baby steps, since I could no longer exercise and diet they way I used to be able. Gently-Gently is the new approach to avoid provoking unnecessary MS relapses. One place I had never been able to make a change over all my years of trying to eat healthier was with cups of tea or coffee. Gradually, as I've lost more and more sensitivity with my taste buds my love for coffee has faded. There are certain brands/places I like to get it from still but even those I can only drink occasionally...and definitely before 10:30am or else I'm up all night. Cheap date these days, no more 3-4 cups of anything caffeinated. Whether it was tea or coffee, I've always had it with milk and two spoons of sugar. Have done ever since I was a child. But herbal tea I don't like sugar in it, go figure. So, after my surgery, I decided to cut it down to one and a half spoons of sugar. It took ages to get used to that. The transition from one and a half to one was a little shorter. But final transition from half a teaspoon to none was even longer. And then it seemed like all of a sudden it was done. I've even realised I can't drink skim milk anymore as it's way too sweet and gives me wicked heartburn.

Not that I drank a lot or often before, but I don't like much soft drink anymore either. And if I do have some it's a small glass. (Still can't stand diet drinks either!) I'm assuming it was my body subtly telling me to knock off the sugar content as my pancreas was working over time to deal with it all. I'm down to one cup of tea per day now. So for Christmas, Santa put in my stocking some loose leaf tea to go with my personal teapot I already owned, and a tea ball spoon for the days I don't have the luxury of enjoying the whole tea brewing process. Screw tea bags, I'm gonna enjoy my beverage of choice!

I also transitioned to a higher seed, lower carb bread and that helped...I'd always eaten healthy breads but I looked for the brand which kept me satisfied the longest. I made sure we put as many colours of vegetables on our plate as we could at each meal and same with fruit, tried to vary things up. Once I was diagnosed, all those instinctive changes made sense. And since my diagnosis, I've moved even further away from the low-fat way of eating that I used to follow. It worked for me then, when I was fit and active, it doesn't work now. My blood sugars spike too high. I need less carbs, more healthy fats, and more fibre.

We also switched to eating off bread and butter plates (salad plates) as we realised most plates these days are restaurant sized. We realised it after Nan died and I was given some of her plates, then when we put them next to modern crockery, we were shocked at just how ginormous modern dinner plates are in comparison.

During my placement last year, I did the best I could by taking a lunchbox which helped with portions and avoiding buying stuff from the canteen. That last push to finish the course, plus Alaskaboy studying as well, getting ready for Christmas, and with my Mum mostly recovered from her hysterectomy she had to go back full time to work to train up her replacement for when she retired, all of this combined put me all out of whack. I was exhausted. No! We were ALL exhausted. We still hadn't recovered by the end of the first week of January and my weight had crept up another couple hundred grams and I swore I wasn't hitting 117kg again. Certainly not getting back up to 119...or heaven forbid 120kg! Enough was, once again, Enough!

We knew what we had to do, but we couldn't get the mojo going to organise meals and shop properly, so we weren't always prepared as we should have been. Oh! We were also breaking in a new housework schedule too now that Kiddlywink is old enough to help more difficult tasks than simply clearing her plate and sweeping the floor..which is great in some ways but also means more brain power used by me since neither KW or Alaskaboy are good at keeping a schedule. But it beats me nagging them all the time, now I can say Look at The Schedule!

So I did my research and I found Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar Website. I don't know if I'll ever follow her with any sort of zealotry, for starters fruit has too much else going for it that balances out its sugar IMHO, but I'm certainly taking what suits me and my lifestyle from her principles and using them to teach all of us a better way to eat and cook. Diabetes runs in Alaskaboy's family as well, and he's very guilty of secret eating and late night sugary binges because he forgets to eat often during the day, or eat regularly, or enough volume when he does eat. (He also has ADD and his meds require enough calories or he'll be skin and bones eventually, but he needs the RIGHT kind of calories rather than straight up sugar all the time.)

With my taste buds already wanting more savoury foods I assumed that I'd be okay with this transition. I wondered if just getting the books would be okay, but I remember how much easier life was when I was on Lite'N'Easy and took the need to plan meals out of the equation. I discussed it with Mum and Alaskaboy. Dad didn't care as he has Chron's and is sorting out his own dietary stuff too, so Mum could do what worked for her too. During that discussion we decided to go halvsies in the cost of one of the 8 week courses to see how we liked it. It includes a shopping list per person (which was easy enough to multiply), meal plans, a community etc.

So we did our research then went shopping for all this fabulous food last Saturday, and have been learning a whole new way of eating this week. But on Sunday...the neighbours cut their shoulder high grass and all of a sudden we were infested with cockroaches and a pair of mice! So, this week we've ALSO been desperately cleaning the whole kitchen and everything in the pantry, cupboards and drawers in stages, after catching the mice and laying traps for the roaches. It's amazing the sheer amount of stuff two families can cram into one kitchen! Alaskaboy has done most of the cleaning himself because Mum and I were only able to help so far. And Dad has been out the back painting the fence we share with the neighbours on the other side from lawn mower guy! So it's certainly been an interesting week with all this chucked in on top of regular daily life stuff.

One thing I didn't expect was to not want a snack. That's right for the first four days I ate no snacks, not morning or afternoon teas nor evening snack! How? I reckon I need to answer that next time. This is already long enough, and I'm tired from the typing and thinking. Catch ya later!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Change Is A Given.

In 2015 I found out one of the reasons my PMS was so extremely intense all those years, it turns out I had a septated cyst on one of my ovaries. We waited to see if it would naturally resolve but by the end of the year it had only gotten even bigger. So in January, 2016, I had my whole ovary and the cyst removed. It was massive. I spent several months recovering from that, and then also during that time I had a sebaceous cyst removed from my back. Mind you I was also trying to study a course at TAFE during the first half of the year also. I ended up having to defer that until later in the year because I'd already been struggling with the workload but then on Mother's Day my Nanna almost died from Sepsis.

After somehow miraculously surviving that, Nan was put into a rehab facility. This rehab facility mismanaged her care and when she came home at the end of May, we ended up taking her straight back to hospital 2 days later. She spent more time in the rehab place but eventually at the end of June she was transferred to a palliative care place. Five days after that, she was gone. She truly was at peace at the end and ready to go. I miss her terribly, but I was glad we had those two months to process the reality of her passing, say goodbye and start the grieving process and move into acceptance. She had such a beautiful passing. I know this because I have a friend who works in an ER so I believe her when she assures me of that fact and I was also one of the few lucky people that got to be there with her when she died.

During the course of her decline, I was feeling very tired. Even more tired than MS or sleep apnea or caring for Nan would make me, so I went and had a full check up. Turns out I am now Type 2 Diabetic. And at that time I had a fatty liver. (From all the meds I'd taken post-operative recovery.) My GP and my diabetic nurse fully believe it was the stress of that whole period..surgery plus emotional crap that tipped me over the edge. Because up until then my blood sugars and cholesterol and everything had always been picture perfect. Fatty liver is now back to normal thankfully and last year I worked really hard to get my diet as good as possible.

At the start of last year I weighed 119.45kgs. A lot of that was due to the chaos the cyst was causing in my system. By September I had gotten down to 113.60 kgs. Unfortunately, once my coursework and placement started back up in earnest..I gained three of those kgs back. I am HIGHLY pleased however that I ended the year at 116.45kgs.With a shit of a year I still managed to learn heaps about myself, successfully pass my course, and lose a bit of weight in the bargain.

This year to get myself back on track and remember what I had learned, and provide a little structure that my mum and I need and education for Alaskaboy about what's a better way to cook for me I needed something both informative and easy to follow. So I did my research and then Mum and I paid half each in an 8 week I Quit Sugar program, which we started last Sunday.

More on that in another post. In short, I'm back, baby! Anyone miss me?

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Satan's Arsehole.

Satan's arsehole couldn't be hotter than the hell I just went through.

Over the years I've regaled you with stories of some of my spicier adventures. Those that haven't heard it secondhand have witnessed how much I like spicy food. And know the fact that I'm up for some serious mucous membrane searing action if there's enough money or kudos up for grabs. They talked about that Dave's insanity sauce hot wings challenge for YEARS after that 4th of July BBQ. I ENJOY wasabi by the tablespoon with sushi. Habaneros and Wiri Wiris etc anything up to about 400,000 scovilles I have both enjoyed and been tortured by over the years. And I've never had any come back up, instead it all went out the way Ghandi's Revenge (as Billy Connolly calls it) should, in a southerly direction. I know to draw the line at Ghost peppers and have no intention of trying a Carolina Reaper, unless it's seriously tamed.
In short, I like spicy food.
Tonight, I had a simple Mexicana pizza from a local pizza shop, and I struggled to finish my second small slice. Soft drink, garlic bread, nothing helped this sucker go away, except time. It was that sneaky hot too, that you think you've stopped before it got too bad, but it only got hotter and hotter for a good half an hour afterwards.
This is even with some of my tastebuds and pain receptors compromised by MS-induced numbness!
And then like a fool, I believed all was well. I feel like the ignorant sucker who innocently stood there and watched the eerie phenomenon of the waves silently retreating out of the cove..not understanding the full terror that was rushing towards me all too quickly
I'm betting most of us have regurgitated in our sleep, either through over eating or drinking or illness. Or know someone who has or can at least imagine what it feels like. It's never pleasant at the best of times.
Now, imagine your stomach has happily digested just about every part of this aforementioned pizza from hell, and anything else you ate prior to that EXCEPT a few stringy bits of stuff and the chilli oil slick that was floating oh so innocently on top of your stomach acid.
Stay with me....you wake up with that oil slick coating every mucous membrane in your throat, mouth, nose and sinuses....as you desperately try not to breathe it back into your lungs.
Yeah, painful, right?
In desperation, I asked Alaskaboy to grab me a bucket in case I didn't make it, and then I ran to the bathroom and vomited up as much as I could into the sink. After rinsing my mouth out, thinking it would help bring up whatever was going on in there, I drank about 500 mls nice cool water.
It only made it worse. It didn't dilute the oil, it simply increased the surface area the damn slick could spread out over and tenfold increased the number of tsunamis I had to endure surging up and out.
The chilli queen has been deposed by two small slices of pizza. Oh, the embarrassment!

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