February #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge 

Each month, I post a question a day on a spoonie related topic for the first days of the month. The theme for February is self care! Many spoonies have been talking about how they wish they were better at self care, and we certainly need extra self care at this time. 

Each day I’ll add the daily #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge  question here. 

#SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 1. What are some things you do for self care?

Background is two tone ombre going from green to yellow. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 2. Two things I'd like to start doing for self care are...

Image is an overcast day at the beach, calm grey water, and the back of a woman in a long brown sweater looking out to sea. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 3 is there an unhealthy strategy you want to let go of

Image is blurry lights going from orange, yellow, green, white, blue, purple and red. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 4. When you think about self care what color comes to mind? How can you incorporate more of that color in your life?

Image is blue water with ripples across the surface. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 5. What helps you stay hydrated?

Finding Rest and Saying No on the Holidays

andrew_stevovich_oil_painting_woman_with_autumn_leaves_1994_36-_x_72

Woman resting on fall leaves, from Wiki Commons

Nothing else is worse for trashing all my spoons than the holidays. I don’t know what it is, but when I get around my family specifically at the holidays for some reason it is so hard to draw boundaries or do pacing. Maybe it’s that I revert back to being 12 again and feel like I have to live up to everybody’s expectations of me? Normally I am really good at saying no. Even when someone isn’t asking me to do something, I feel this nebulous exterior expectation of how things “should be” and I feel a great deal of anxiety about living up to it.

This isn’t conscious. Consciously I completely disagree with this and actively work to undo it. But in the moment I find myself acting unconsciously and before I know it all my spoons have slipped through my fingers and shattered across the floor.

Normally I’m a huge advocate of direct communication and working things out with the other person. However I recognize process takes a lot of spoons then I may not have, especially with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Sometimes I just have to do what I have to do to take care of myself. And that comes first before anything else. I don’t actually owe anybody any explanation and feeling like I do is just socialized pressure that impinges on my health.

These may not work for you, but hopefully they spark some ideas

Pacing

Find ways of getting a break. I set alarms on my phone reminding me. Even just 5 minutes every hour helps me a lot. Good ways to get a rest if it feels hard to just say it directly:

  1. Put reminder on my phone to never expend more than about 30% of my spoons at a time. By the time I notice, I’m flagging it may be too late
  2. Go to the bathroom and stay a long time. If asked, say not feeling well. I don’t need to explain that I always feel unwell
  3. Say I’m not feeling well and find a bedroom or quiet space to lie down
  4. “Forget” something in the car, then rest there
  5. Go for a “walk” and find a place to sit
  6. Say I need something from the store, drive to store, nap in car. If asked, say it was hard to find what I needed (since this is probably true)
  7. Arrive late and leave early
  8. Put a relative who likes to be bossy in charge of making sure I take breaks. Gives them purpose and reminds me to do it
  9. Anything I do, like chopping vegetables, try to do it sitting down

 

Saying No

This can be so hard! And often the person I most need to say no to is myself. Questions I ask myself to help myself figure it out:

  1. Am  I willing to do nothing else today and the next few days if this takes all my spoons?
  2. What will happen if I don’t do this?
  3. If I don’t do this will anybody be seriously harmed?
  4. Is it more important to do this thing or is it more important to spend time with loved ones?
  5. Will anybody remember that this wasn’t done in 10 years?

When the person won’t accept no as an answer or it would just take too many spoons to have the conversation (this includes getting out of political conversations):

  1. Excuse myself to go to the bathroom.
  2. Say I need a kleenex
  3. Say I’m going to see if ____ needs help.
  4. Ask friend to call with urgent problem. In a huge pinch, just pretend someone is calling, preferably work
  5. Avoid areas like the kitchen or people who get into politics
  6. Cough on them and say I think I’m getting a cold
  7. Start talking about graphic medical procedures I’ve had

Some of these are rather silly but the trick is for each of us to find what works for us. We are worth the effort! Wishing you a high spoon, low pain day

Xx

Elimination Diet Part Two: Seven Years Later

Hippo quote

I have known for a very long time that I need to be completely gluten free, to the most minute degree. Although I was never diagnosed with Celiac disease, I have the same level of sensitivity. It now makes me obviously and incredibly sick, however for most of my life I had no idea that gluten was bad for me.

How is this possible? Well, according to some reading I’ve done, when you are first introduced to a substance that is bad for you then yes you get sick. But then you quickly climatize to it, although it is still doing a lot of damage. Like how cigarettes make you sick when you first start smoking them, but you get used to it, and although it is doing a ton of silent damage you don’t really notice. Symptoms gradually get worse and worse, until one day you body screams enough, and collapses. With cigarettes that may be increased sinus infections, allergies, headaches, leading eventually to emphysema and cancer.

With gluten, I had no idea the myriad of vague health issues I had was related to it. I thought everybody had headaches 4 or more days per week. I thought it wasn’t unusual to get migraines on a monthly or more basis, since there were several people in my family who had this. I was taking ibuprofin almost every day and had no idea that the chronic pain, mostly in my head, was not normal. A friend tried to tell me, but I just brushed them off and didn’t really think about it.

Although I could “write” on my skin, scratching with medium pressure would cause swollen red lines because of the high level of histamines in my system, I thought it was just some weird random fluke. I never connected it to the fact that it really hurt to get my teeth cleaned because they were so sensitive, nor to the fact that rain to me felt like little cold needles. Nor to the fact that I was always so cold, and that once cold it was in my bones and took forever to feel warm again. I thought it was just cold out or that other people didn’t like talking about how much teeth cleaning hurt.

I was tired all the time, but hey, I thought, who isn’t? I frequently got super cranky but I thought it was just because people were being especially stupid that day. I had a cold or the flu once or twice a month, which I knew was more than other people, but I thought I had just inherited a bad immune system from my mom who was also sick frequently. (Did I mention that food intolerances are hereditary?)

NONE of this is normal.

I know this because I finally got sick of being sick and was finally willing to do the elimination diet, found out that gluten is my kryptonite, and have been hypervigilant to keep it completely out of my life.

From what I have researched, the ONLY way to know for sure what you are allergic to is to do the elimination diet – it is the “gold standard” according to my doctor. The blood and skin scratch tests are not very accurate. I have read that they are now finding that there are antibodies (allergic response) that develop in the bowel that never make it into the blood. If you are serious about getting well, you must do an elimination diet. (And of course, consult your doctor first! And hopefully your doctor is one that actually understands elimination diets. If you don’t have one, get one)

I am doing much much MUCH better now that I have completely eliminated gluten, in even its tiniest forms (such as the evil maltodextrin and “natural flavors”). I only eat at places that understand celiacs and have strong protections in place against cross-contamination. And, of course, my own house! Most of the food I consume was prepared by me in my own house from scratch. No boxed food! Few canned or bottled either.

I NEVER get a headache or a migraine unless I have been “glutenized” (ingested some gluten). In a year, the three times I had a cold was when I was glutenized. My teeth don’t hurt now when they get cleaned! You can no longer write on my skin. Many other health problems have cleared up as well.

However, lately I have been feeling kinda tired and off. I know that I am also allergic to corn, sesame and chocolate (yes, chocolate). I have been wondering if there is something else that is slowly poisoning me. I have my suspicions about dairy and the nightshades, especially potatoes and tomatoes (sob!).

My spouse has been thinking that maybe she has allergies too and has been wanting to try the elimination diet. Her mom recently was confirmed with Crohn’s Disease and is thinking of doing one too.

So here we go, Elimination Diet round two!

Thanksgiving – Free Your Mind

The more I think about it, the more I realize Thanksgiving is just a hot mess. There is just so much pressure for it to look a certain way.There has to be certain foods, and certain people, and you are going to be happy, damn it. And if you don’t conform, you don’t love your family.

Which is just silly.

If I came to you and said, we have to cook a huge amount of really unhealthy food all day long and then eat enough to make us sick and act like we like each other on June 23rd and if you don’t then you aren’t good enough, you would tell me to go take a hike (or probably something stronger). But this is basically what Thanksgiving is for many of us.

What most Americans don’t know is that what we think of as “tradition” has been shaped more by marketing than by history.

If you do a little bit of research, you’ll find that the original Thanksgiving in 1621 was really more like an English Harvest Festival (dur, they were from England) to celebrate not starving to death (they had lost half of their people in the year since they landed) and they ate what they had: venison, fish, birds (more likely duck and goose than actual turkey – they called any wild fowl “turkey”), pumpkin, corn, berries, dried fruit, etc. They did NOT have any cows, so there was no milk, cream, or butter. They thought potatoes were poisonous, so they didn’t have those either. They only had the flour they had brought, and very little was left, so it is extremely unlikely they had pumpkin pie or bread or anything made with gluten.

Hey! Gluten free Thanksgiving is “traditional”! LOL!Tell your family that, if they give you a hard time about cooking gluten free! Invoke the pilgrim clause: “Well mom, the pilgrims didn’t have gluten, and if it was good enough for the pilgrims, its good enough for me.” (wow, I amuse myself)

They did not have another “Thanksgiving” for 55 years, and then it was to celebrate winning the war against “heathen natives” (that’s gratitude for you – we’d have died without you, then we commit mass genocide against you). Oh, and it was in June.

The next one was a hundred years after that, partially to celebrate winning the war against the British.

Huh, seems to be more about a war celebration than family.

Anyway, in the late 1700s some Americans wanted to have a regular Thanksgiving but a lot were opposed to it, and it didn’t really go anywhere.

It wasn’t until an influential magazine editor (who by the way was super into the whole “women should be in the home/domestic/moral compass” stereotypical gender thing) did a PR campaign for 40 years that “Thanksgiving” was proclaimed as a national day in 1863, nearly 250 years after the original event. But it was only for that year. Each year, the president at the time would announce another national day and which day it was would change. It wasn’t until 1941that it actually became a legal holiday and on the fourth Thursday in November. 320 years AFTER the original event. Somewhere in there, the various food companies jumped on the marketing bandwagon and created the mythical ideal of a turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all those other dishes the pilgrims didn’t have but generates a lot of money for those who convince you that you have to have their products or it just isn’t Thanksgiving.

Yeah. Kinda makes the tradition argument look really weak.

I also cannot forget that every single part of this nation was basically stolen from Native Americans as we committed mass murder against them. Just focusing on the first year when we were friends (aka they saved our ass from starvation) and ignoring systematic murder, slavery, rape and theft for hundreds of years is beyond insulting. By some estimates more Native Americans died because of European settlers than people killed during the Holocaust. Whatever the number, it is way too much and way too unrecognized.

I’m not trying to be a downer, I’m trying to lay out a really clear and compelling case for each of us to throw off the shackles of expectations (that are really fake anyway) and make Thanksgiving exactly what we want it to be.

I want it to be a restful day (I work everyday with homeless and foster care youth, which I love but its exhausting). An enjoyable and lazy day. I want to appreciate my family and eat some tasty food that is healthy. I want to remember and honor our complex history, and recognize that Native Americans are still suffering from the terrible things that were done to their ancestors.

To get this, I had a conversation already with my partner and her mother. They really feel in their bones that food is love, and to not make me a gluten free equivalent of every dish is to exclude me from that love. I let them know that what I wanted, what I truly wanted and what would make me truly happy, is for me just to make a little simple meal that I bring myself and to just spend my time enjoying each other rather than scrambling to make a lavish meal that I would be too tired to enjoy. They still want to make some of the meal gluten free, and luckily they understand that everything from the cutting board to spices must be completely free from gluten and cross contamination in its manufacturing process, so it should be ok.

I will also have a few conversations with the younger cousins about the real history of Thanksgiving, and making sure they are getting more information than the pretty lie we tell each year. I’m sure they’ll roll their eyes at me, but at least it will have lodged in their brains somewhere.

That was a hot mess too, but fun to try to make

Last year, Thanksgiving was a hot mess. We were hot, tired, cranky and HUNGRY by the time dinner was ready. There was way too much food, which we ate way too much of, and then lay around in a food coma, too dazed to actually enjoy each other’s company.

This year, I am going to feed myself healthy food I made with my own hands, have a few tasty treats on the side, and just enjoy the day as much as possible. I am deeply thankful for all the things I have, particularly a mostly sane mostly supportive family, a house, clothes, and food that nourishes me. There are many even in our own country who do not have these things.

What do you want for Thanksgiving this year?

PS – this post was inspired by the Gluten Free Girl & the Chef’s post on Thanksgiving and the ensuing conversations there ^.^

What I’m Actually Putting In My Mouth

I realized I haven’t really been posting about what I started out to do – only eat things that I prepared myself from scratch. I’ve actually been doing it!

Today I had mushroom rice with homemade kim chee (recipes to follow) for breakfast, brown rice pasta with homemade pesto for lunch, and spicy eggplant and tofu in miso sauce for dinner. It was a long day at work and I ate all three meals there, including dinner at a staff meeting/potluck where there were so many tempting things! The thought “I could just pick out some of the ricotta mushroom filling from that manicotti, it would probably be fine” crossed my mind before I realized with a jolt I had actually been contemplating eating something cooked INSIDE WHEAT! Continue reading

Operation Sleep More

I’ve read a million times about how it is not only important to get enough sleep, it is also important to sleep at the right times. Eight hours of sleep  that includes between 10pm and 2am is apparently much more restorative than eight hours from say, midnight to 8 am.

Sleep, another person said recently, is just like a nutrient – if you don’t get enough of it you will get sick and die. Continue reading