Frustrated, Helpless, but not Hopeless

Today I have feelings. I am reserving judgment on these feelings for now. I feel frustrated, and helpless, and agitated. I feel as though I am burning with energy to channel into positive things, but paralyzed in my inaction at the same time. I have fear of the unknown. “What if the things that I want to do take too much time? What if I fail? What if I sit in my anxiety so long that the opportunities pass me by, as I sit on my hands and wait for someone to tell me what I should do?” As I sat this morning, scrolling through Twitter and becoming a mixture of defeated and incensed, I decided that the best thing that I could do for myself is to write. Today, I am ever-hopeful for a stranger to tell me, “I’ve been there, and I know how to start. Let me share my experience with you!” Will that happen? Will it be you?

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’ve recently had a few bumps in my road to being healthier. Today, I celebrate day 18 of being migraine free. Yesterday, in a follow up with my Gastroenterologist, I learned that I indeed DO NOT have colitis. I was confused, because he told me I had colitis, then had me do nightly enemas (as you may recall). So confused that, as soon as I got in the car after my appointment, I called Wave and asked him, “He told us that I had colitis, didn’t he?” Wave confirmed my memory, so all that is left is that I fought and argued and wasted so much of my time to try to get an affordable treatment for an ailment I didn’t even have. The doctor did not own this mistake. He acted like this was just normal to tell someone that they definitively have something, then act like you never said that.

Fodmaps diet bowel map including explosive gas

He asked what my symptoms are, if any, and I told him that I have dull abdominal pain every day, peppered in with sharp pains that feel like lightening, and when it’s time to go to the bathroom, I have about 10 seconds to get there or all hell is breaking loose. He sat back, silent for a moment, grabbed a stapled set of papers from a stack, and handed me a packet describing a low-fodmap diet. It was clear from the size of the stack that this is a common handout. He looked again at the pictures from my colonoscopy, commented that I had some internal hemorrhoids that he didn’t think to mark during the procedure, and said that the inflammation I had was simply irritation and not infection. He pointed to the diet and said that obviously I am eating something that’s irritating.

I left the office much like I leave most doctor’s appointments. Irritated, agitated, and a general feeling of loss for the time and money that I’ve wasted. This is my second go round with a Gastroenterologist, and both experiences (twenty years apart from each other) have been similar. No answer but suggestions to reduce stress and cut even more foods out of my diet. That will be $1,500, please.

F*ck you Pay Me Meme

I have spent the last several years learning about food and food sensitivities, and streamlining my diet to try to manage the IBS that I was diagnosed with as a young adult, which has led me to veganism. In addition, there are several fruits, vegetable, and beans that I need to cut to see if these are my current problems via elimination diet. What makes me laugh a little is that a friend of mine showed up at my desk about a year ago with the exact same hand out. She has diverticulitis and colitis, though. I have nothing but IBS. I feel almost exactly the same as when I got the original diagnosis, which is, “I don’t really know what is wrong, here is a diet, do that, go away.”

To clarify, I don’t think that IBS is nothing. I have lived with it for as long as I can remember. It is painful. It is embarrassing. It can take over your life if you let it. It is frustrating. It is lonely. It is something that you have to champion for yourself. The pain can lead you down dangerous paths. What it has made me learn is that no one will fight for me better than me. It has taught me that I have the power to become my own healthcare manager. I have the ability to research, ask, relate, and try methods that a doctor might not ever recommend.

I also want to touch on the ever present ‘maybe you need to eliminate stress’ suggestion. This was the only suggestion that the first Gastroenterologist gave me. This and a prescription for an anti spasmodic as they were sweeping me out the door as quickly as possible. I am a rule follower, and a person in authority gave me a rule to ‘eliminate stress’ without any guidance. I did what any twenty year old would do. I took up drinking my cares away. Soon after, I took up smoking cigarettes, because then I could take breaks at work! After I figured out better ways of managing life, I learned how to eliminate stress through exercise, thoughtfulness, coping skills, and good planning. I am not a stressed person. I sleep well. I eat right. I exercise. I talk out my feelings. I don’t internalize stress. Yet still, physicians and others counsel me to stress less. To me, this is silly and generic advise that needs to just stop! It’s like saying that to lose weight all you have to do is take in less calories than you expend. FALSE! This is generic and misleading, and quite frankly, LAZY! Every single body is different. Every body is delicate and intricate in its inner workings. Everyone has different optimum hormone levels. Some bodies can stretch and bend and do yoga well. Some bodies have shorter muscles and tendons, which make it all but impossible to do yoga. Some people can put away an entire pizza and not gain an ounce. Some of us can look at a pizza and gain a pound. If you issue any of this advice, please stop. Join me and stop. It’s insulting. We are all individuals, and what works for me, may not work for you. Not everyone handles stressors in unhealthy ways. Not everyone is able to just drop 5 pounds in a week. Not everyone can go from couch to marathon with ease. So stop.

Ok, so back to my feelings. My stated goal for this year is to be a voice in affordable healthcare reform. I am feeling lost at the moment. It’s one thing to have a goal. It’s entirely another to figure out where to begin. I am frustrated with bad physicians. I am angry that I have paid so much money for an “I don’t know” diagnosis. I am flabbergasted that not only did I have to lie on a table in the most vulnerable position and listen to a man (who is not an anesthesiologist, but a nurse anesthetist (to correct my earlier post)) talk about pounding breasts and watching me like a stalker, but who is also going to be billing me for more than the facility and the doctor who performed the procedure COMBINED. I am appalled that I have the privilege and access to healthcare, and am able to pay my bills, while women who sit one department over can’t even afford to carry the low cost company health care policy because it’s either daycare or healthcare, but not both.

Where do I start? Tell me! PLEASE! Well, even if you’re not the person who is supposed to share your experience with me today, I know this, dear reader:

You’re probably NOT crazy (though sometimes, if you’re like me, you have your suspicions after meeting with doctors…)

Q & A

I am very lucky to have many people who feel comfortable enough to ask me questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Today, I will devote my post to addressing the most common of these questions in hopes that you will have your questions answered as well.  Of course, you can always ask questions in the comments section of this blog and I will happily share my experiences with you!
Q:  My relative has just announced that they are going Vegan, or have food sensitivities/allergies.  How the heck am I supposed to deal with family get together’s now??

A:  I understand that your initial response may be “OH GREAT!”  Going ‘gluten-free’ seems to be the current fad these days.  There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there about gluten, and not everyone who excludes gluten needs to.  It’s always just better to assume that there is a reason for what they are doing, and it’s their business only.  Let’s use me as an example.  I have the following food sensitivities:  Pineapple, Black Pepper, Rye, Yeast, Kidney Beans, and Cow’s Milk.  On top of this, I follow a vegan diet, so I am your worst nightmare!!  My family forever wants me to have meals with them, and ask me how they can accomodate me.  The simple answer?  Don’t.  I think that people who have issues like mine understand that trying to cater to me would be a recipe for disaster.  Or, my family will say, “Come over!  I will make sure that there is a salad for you!”  At which time, I remind them that I hate salad.  SO, a few things:

  1. Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
  2. Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
  3. Don’t take it personally.

I would advise to first ask that person to help you understand their diet or food issues.  I would then try to come up with strategies together to make sure that they are able to attend, and also feel like a ‘normal’ guest.  Many times, I will eat in advance, or I will offer to bring a dish that I can eat, but can also share with others.  Interestingly enough, when I do bring a dish to share, it usually ends up being a hit.  I tend to not tell anyone it’s vegan until they eat it and love it.  Not only is it fun for me, but it also gives people who may not ever be exposed to anything positive regarding veganism to come away with a good impression.

Q:  I watched the documentary “What the Health” (Or “Forks over Knives”, or “Fat, Bloated, and Nearly Dead”, or “Super Size Me”, etc…, and now I want to eat better.  Should I quit meat cold turkey (pun totally intended)?

A:  I have done both methods:  I have gone cold turkey vegan, and I have done the frog-boiling method.  The first time I tried it was cold turkey.  I did it for all the wrong reasons.  I was desperate to lose weight, and a junk-a-tarian that I know said I should get off meat and I would lose weight.  So I tried.  I ate frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheese, chips, French fries, and I failed miserably.  I didn’t really know what a vegan actually was.  I have the most basic possible definition, which was no animal flesh or products.  Did you know that gummy vitamins are not vegan?  Or that French fries are often fried in animal fats?  Or that Mexican restaurants usually make refried beans with lard and rice with chicken broth?  Not only did I not know what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t considering that it takes time for your body to adjust.  

Once I finally did lose weight and cleaned up my diet, I started to naturally eat less meat.  It just started to not digest well with me.  I would get horrendous stomach aches and (sorry…) really constipated.  One day, I just stopped.  I thought about my meat consumption and what it was doing to my digestive tract.  I didn’t like the way it tasted unless it was drenched in sauces and seasonings.  So I just stopped.  And I haven’t eaten it since.

A few years after that, I was still having stomach aches, and decided to get tested for food sensitivities.  At that time, I would eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese with pepper and pineapple (I know…don’t judge…it’s good), and lots of beans every day, including my favorite, kidney beans.  So, if you remember my food sensitivity list, I was basically ONLY eating things that bothered me.  I didn’t become vegan out of compassion for animals, or anything other than I just wanted the stomach aches to stop, which they did.  Since becoming vegan, I have definitely become passionate about animals and how we as a culture treat them.  

Long story short, for me, it worked better to make small changes over long periods to maintain those changes.  Just like boiling a frog, start with Luke warm water, and slowly turn up the heat.  Side note, it’s sick that I’m advising on how to go vegan by compairing it to boiling a frog.  Oy.  

Q:  I want to go vegan, but I can never give up baked goods.  What’s the deal?

A:  Oh man, I know what you mean.  Did you know that you can make absolutely delicious cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies totally vegan?  It’s true!  In fact, I gained about 10 pounds once I figure that out!!  A great baking cookbook that was given to me by one of my best friends in the universe is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau.  You can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store, or, I have found a lot at Amazon.  Would you believe that I used a drop biscuit recipe from this cook book and crafted a vegan gravy recipe, and now we have biscuits and gravy for dinner on the regular?  I NEVER thought I would have that again!!

Q:  But where do you get your protein from/But are you getting enough protein ?

A:  This is by far the most asked question.  Over the years, I have answered this question differently.  Sometimes, I ask the asker if they are getting enough protein.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I know that I need 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of body weight, so it varies as my weight varies.  Did you know that vegetables have protein?  It’s TRUE!  My advice here would be to not ask this question to a vegetarian or a vegan.  They know where to get protein from, and if it is enough or not.  Protein comes in grains, beans, veggies, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and seitan (pronounced ‘satan’, as in “I ate Satan for lunch…hahah).  I am not sure why Omnivores are so concerned with protein intake, other than they believe that they will ‘stump the chump’ with this question.  I promise, you won’t. In fact, I think that we could all do ourselves a favor and stop listening to the meat and dairy lobbyists and educate ourselves on foods.  

Q:  Is it better to cut carbs, or go low fat, or do Mediterranean diet, or Paleo, or what?

A:  I have the definitive answer to this question!  The best diet is the one that you can stick to for the rest of your life.  You can’t cut carbs for the rest of your life.  I know I’m going to catch hell from some of you for saying that.  Carbs are converted to energy. If you cut them, you will burn stored fat, that is true, and totally sustainable in the short term.  However, our bodies adapt very quickly to all of our brilliant plans.  You will find what worked for you for a few weeks will no longer work.  The body is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium.  It will slap back with lower energy levels, headaches, nausea, and other issues.  Same with low fat.  Did you know that your body uses fat to transport hormones?  Fats are good for you!  The key to both fats and carbs are in the quality of the macro.  Cookies are carbs.  And so are vegetables.  Which do you think are better for you?  Butter is full of fats.  And so are avocados.  Which do you think supply the greater nutrient punch?  Your body will thrive on                            complex carbs and ‘good’ fats.  Keep that in mind.  Completely restricting a nutrient is never really a great strategy for long term success.  

Q: Why do vegans and vegetarians have such a superiority complex?  What makes you better than me?

A:  We don’t, and we’re not.  It’s in your head.

Next week, I will do an exercise Q & A.  Let me know if you have any questions about today’s blog, or have a question you’d like answered about exercise, and I will for my best to answer it.  Have a great week, everyone, and remember…

You’re probably not crazy!!