Teaching myself intuit

Health has been a focus of mine for a while now, but more on the side of diagnosis and dealing with the various issues that have been rearing their heads of late.

But, now I’m kind of tired of always focusing on what I can’t do. I’m ready to start moving forward in a more positive headspace.

Several years ago, I was at peak fitness. I was going to the gym (Curves, which is expensive, but amazing for women’s bodies if you can afford it) regularly, I was eating well, and I felt good in my skin,

Then, I hit peak stress instead. A relationship breakup, a job that was rife with bullying and long, long hours. When I get stressed, I lose my appetite, and in that environment, the stress lasted for months. Looking back with the help of a psychiatrist, I was likely also in a pretty strong depressive period, but found it too difficult at the time to talk to anyone.

So, I ate less and less and got very unwell. I have a neurological condition that affects my balance, and with so little food in my system it got worse and worse, until some days I couldn’t walk unassisted. I would lose my balance and fall anywhere, and get dizzy spells anywhere. I had to stop walking close to roads, after almost falling out in front of cars a couple of times.

This is me in 2008, at my best friend's wedding. It was a beautiful and very enjoyable day, but I was really not at a healthy point. I know this photo is a little hinky, but I promise it's not 'shopped - just a Facebook download that I cropped way down because I don't know how to edit people's faces out. This must be about the longest photo caption ever!

This is me in 2008, at my best friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful and very enjoyable day, but I was really not at a healthy point. I know this photo is a little hinky, but I promise it’s not ‘shopped – just a Facebook download that I cropped way down because I don’t know how to edit people’s faces out. This must be about the longest photo caption ever!

When I finally started to recover and eat again, I had lost all connection to my body. I ate and ate, I ate all the wrong things and too much of everything. I gained weight fast, and have continued to gain slowly since.

All this time I have wanted to lose weight, but I was scared of going back to my old ways – years of crash dieting culminating in that long period of barely eating, I desperately wanted to be healthy, not just skinny. But I still was focused on what I didn’t want, and what I couldn’t do.

The shoulder injury about 7 months ago, which is still causing issues, has made exercising difficult, and the pain and emotional issues linked with it have led to me making poorer choices and gaining a bit more weight. Even brisk walking leads to more pain, so I really do have to be careful, even though I have a lot of movement back now.

20140920_150214

Me in late 2014, pre-injury – I don’t have any more recent body pics because I, uh, tend to avoid them. Sorry not sorry!

In an effort to start focusing on my health in a positive way, I have started doing yoga videos – Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, I’m starting here. I can’t do the parts with weight on my arms (no downward dog for me), but I can do everything else, and doing most of it is better than doing nothing at all. It feels really good, it’s gentle and it’s easy to fit in around work and toddler.

I’ve also started reading Healthy Hits the Spot, a blog focused on intuitive eating – learning to listen to your body and eat accordingly.

It makes so much sense, and it feels right, which is important.

At the moment, my plan is to do yoga every day (it’s 20 minutes, I can fit that in!) and really start listening to my body about what it wants and when. So far, I’ve already realised that I tend to drink coffee to mask hunger, and that I crave a lot more veggies than I generally eat. Oops! Luckily, carrot sticks make a great snack to keep under the counter for days when I have a late lunch break, so that I can fill up a little in the quiet moments.

So, here’s to positive changes in my life, and hopefully, my health.

Cheers!

My pancreas is an overachiever

Long time, no blog. Been busy. Work. Now-19-month-old. Accidentally started a business, as you do.

But none of that is what I want to talk about today. No, this is another health post, also known as “my body is a bit shit, really”.

So, my shoulder is coming along nicely. I’m mostly out of the sling, except for when I jar it (n.b. when stepping down from the bottom rung of a stepladder, make sure you are, actually, on the bottom rung), and I have a lot more movement back. I still can’t wear t-shirts, which, as I discovered just yesterday, is nothing at all to do with getting them on (“this is so easy! Why have I been avoiding it?) and everything to do with getting them off again (“… oh bugger”). Yeah. Can’t do that without stretching your arms over your head to some degree.

But, on the whole, it’s getting much better, and is having far less impact on my life now, which is great!

The rest of my body, however, is struggling. Starting karate was so great, for a multitude of reasons, but one of the less-great things about it (and exercise in general) is that my body can’t physically keep up with how much energy I burn. I’ve had issues with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) since I was a teenager, and the only medical advice I got on it was “just don’t eat sugar”, advice which was noted and duly ignored.

If it was a once-in-awhile thing, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s pretty much all the time. I need to eat really regularly, and if I don’t then I start to get low. Shaky hands, foggy brain, slurring words, losing my balance, lots of other fun things. I also get grouchy, which the good Captain can attest to. Poor guy.

I can mostly manage it by eating as regularly as I can manage, and as healthily as I can manage, and bolstering it artificially with sugar when I need to. I’m not saying this is a good thing to do, because it’s really not. If you have similar issues then DO NOT DO WHAT I DO! Seek medical advice that goes beyond “don’t eat sugar”.

But with more regular exercise, and particularly muscle-building exercise, it was getting out of control. I couldn’t sleep at night, because I was hungry and my body won’t let me sleep until I eat (this is possibly a defence mechanism to stop me from slipping into a coma overnight due to low blood sugar). Eating at 2am is not generally considered healthy, but not sleeping all night is also unhealthy, so I picked the lesser of two evils.

I was constantly losing focus at work as my blood sugar dropped between meals or even snacks, and the shared Milky Way bars in the back fridge were disappearing at an alarming rate as I desperately tried to keep myself going.

It just wasn’t working.

The last time I went to karate, I had run out of time to eat breakfast in the morning, and as a result, I didn’t even make it through half the class before I started to crash and had to stagger across the dojo to sit down. It sucked.

So, today, I saw a dietician. She is amazing, I’ve seen her before when I was pregnant, but with what turned out to be hyperemesis, she was really fighting a losing battle. But this time, I think we can win!

As it turns out, there are a couple of potential causes of hypoglycaemia, but in my case the most likely one is the overproduction of insulin. Basically, any time I eat, my pancreas gets a little excited and produces too much insulin, which makes my blood sugar drop lower than it was before I ate. As a result, I get low, and need to eat more to bring it up again… but pancreas, insulin, blood sugar falling… you can see how it can be a vicious cycle.

This is a problem, not just because of my blood sugar fluctuating and making me feel icky (plus the slight risk of coma, death etc), but because it means my pancreas is overworking, which can cause it to wear out sooner than the rest of me. That puts me at an increased risk of diabetes later on in life, which I’d much rather avoid, if possible.

On a slightly more superficial level, it also makes it difficult to lose weight, because my body doesn’t need all the calories I’m consuming, but I have to eat to keep from crashing.

It needs to be fixed.

After some discussion, the dietician and I (I’ll share her name once I have a chance to ask her permission to do so) agreed to focus on diet and lifestyle, and if we don’t see any results, then follow up with my super-awesome GP for *shudder* a fasting blood glucose and insulin test.

(I did the two-hour fasting BGL test when pregnant and thought I was going to have a seizure because I crashed and my body went out of control. I was spasming and nauseous and nearly collapsed altogether. By the time the two hours was up I was back to a normal level, but it was awful. I’d rather not do that again if I don’t need to.)

In the meantime, I am on a low-GI, low-GL, low-fat, protein rich, everything else good for you-rich diet that will hopefully keep my pancreas under control and retrain it to only release the insulin that’s needed. I am also contemplating praise and a sticker chart, to reinforce the message.

The best laid plans of mice and me…

Often go awry.

After a couple of crazy weeks, during which I worked full time hours whilst being officially “in charge” at work (whose crazy idea was that?) and picking up a couple of freelance copywriting clients*, I was so looking forward to going back to normal.

I was dreaming of my regular part-time shifts, lowering my stress levels, exercising more and getting my sleeping pattern back on track.

I was going to be early to bed and early to rise and I was gonna be healthy, wealthy and mothertruckin’ wise, damn it!

Then, just as I made all these resolutions to look after myself and get on top of everything, I got hit by the Cold of Doom that seems to have taken over half my twitter feed**.

I had one day off work where I was basically incapable of anything other than sleeping or watching the Kardashians do… um, actually, I’m still not clear on what they do. Luckily, it’s only a couple of days later and I’m well on the mend, but now the Captain and Munchkin both have it too.

So this is basically a bullshit “this is why there’s no real post” post.

I really will get on top of things one day! Maybe. Some of them, at least.

*My writing on this blog is in no way indicative of my professional writing. This is one big stream of consciousness. Sorry!

**At least three people.

The day my dad had a heart attack

It’s a generally accepted wisdom, in Australia at least, that men are terrible at looking after themselves. I’m not talking about cooking and cleaning (despite what the advertising industry seems to think), but health. The culture of silence, of “manning up” and “she’ll be right” is so damaging that mental illness* is the leading cause of death amongst men between the ages of 15 and 44.

This culture also has a strong impact on older men, with statistics** suggesting that men are less likely to visit a doctor until a much later stage than women.

My dad, in his 60s, fits the bill in some ways. While he’s not completely opposed to going to the doctor, and has a really good one he sees regularly, but he does tend to take a ‘wait and see’ approach with things. So when we got the call in the early hours of the morning to say that he was having chest pains and was waiting for an ambulance, I knew it wasn’t good.

I’ll skip ahead to ease any tension – it was a really minor heart attack, no lasting damage and he’s fine. It was likely a result of smoking in his youth. He’ll be on medication for the rest of his life, but there is no reason for it to happen again. We are all so grateful that it wasn’t worse – it was really the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

But we are also grateful that dad didn’t wait to get help.

The day after it happened, while he was still in hospital, dad told me that he hadn’t been sure about going to the hospital. He didn’t want to call an ambulance unnecessarily (a fear I have shared in the past) or waste anyone’s time. He wasn’t sure if he was making a big deal over nothing. But he woke mum and got her to make the call anyway, because he’d been told by a physician he met through Rotary how important is to get checked.

He also said to my mum that he was worried about us, not wanting to risk us losing him too early by ignoring something potentially serious.

He made the right call.

I wanted to share this story (with his permission) because I want other men out there to realise that sometimes to “man up” means accepting that you do need help. That your families are better off with you here.

Some people never get a chance to make that decision. Sometimes it’s too quick, or an illness is beyond their control. But if you have the choice to speak up, to get checked just in case – do it. Do it for yourself, and do it for the people who love you. Trust me, they will be grateful.

Munchkin and Grampy

Munchkin and her beloved Grampy

*Source: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats

**Source: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men’s_health

Let’s talk

There has been a lot of talk about mental illness and the resources available over the past couple of days. The reason for this subject being at the forefront of people’s minds is devastating, just as it is devastating when anyone loses their battle with an illness.

But I think it’s important, now that we are all thinking and talking about mental health that we open up as many important conversations as we can.

For people who are lucky enough not to have experienced a mental illness, now is the time to ask questions, to listen and to read, read, read and learn as much as possible about the complexities of having and treating mental illness.

There are a couple of reasons to be educated on the subject. One, even though you have not been directly affected, someone in your life has been, or will be. As the friend, partner or family member of someone fighting a mental illness, educating yourself about the issues will allow you to be the best support possible to them.

The second reason to educate yourself right now, is that maybe one day you will be directly affected, and in my limited experience the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to recognise what’s happening and grab hold of the weapons you need to start fighting sooner.

I have had a few major depressive episodes throughout my life, but since supporting my husband through a breakdown a couple of years ago I understood not just how to get help, but how important that help is.

That knowledge meant that when I started to really struggle and feel like I was going off the rails, I forced myself to reach out and get help instead of trying to battle on my own as I had done in the past.

For people who have been directly affected by mental illness, this is a great time for talking. Talk as much as you feel comfortable about your experiences, your care, your needs. Talk to friends, write it down, share your story as much or as little as you like, and know that you are helping to keep the conversation going.

One of the awful things about mental illness is how it isolates. It will tell you that you are alone, that no one cares, or should care. It will make you feel unworthy of every good thing in your life and tell you that you bring nothing to the world.

None of that is true, the outpouring of grief at Robin Williams’ death is proof of that, but it feels true when you’re there.

Let’s fight those lies with truths – true stories, open conversations, education and removing the stigma of mental illness.

Let’s shine a light on the darkness and hopefully help someone else in the fight of their life.