A Study in Ridiculousness: My Experience With Treating Colitis (so far).

If you read my last blog, which I know that you must have, you know that I have a very recent double diagnosis of Colitis and a Cavernous Malformation on my cerebellum. There is not much to talk about with my brain, other than I am working with my Neurologist to realize my dream of having an actual picture of my brain on a coffee mug. We are also working together on a migraine strategy, which has no obvious triggers at this time. Any input from you migraine sufferers out there is welcome! We are mostly sure it is not food related, but open to suggestions.

That leaves us with the colitis. Not just the colitis per se, but my experience with insurance, doctors, and healthcare during this, my time of medical need. I think it is important to note that as I am writing this blog, I conscientiously did so while holding a treatment enema (you read that right) in for at least 30 minutes, but ideally, over night. Remember that as you are reading my words. We will revisit this.

My insurance plan year renewed on December 1st. I was able to see my PA and get the MRI on my brain, and see my Neurologist once before the plan year ended. So far, 26 days in, I am responsible for a Neurosurgeon visit ($250), a Gastroenterologist visit ($250), a Colonoscopy ($415), the facility charge for said colonoscopy ($765), the creepy anesthesiologist who is not covered by my state’s largest insurance provider ($1220), and now, the medication. I technically met my deductible about 10 days into the new plan year. However, it all depends on how quickly the providers bill. They demand payment up front, but then some drag their feet on billing the insurance company. The issue here is that you, the patient, are eaten alive in medical fees that are required upfront, when your insurance could be kicking in and covering the majority of the fees. This is the case with the treatment for colitis.

After the colonoscopy, my doctor came in and told me everything looked great except for the colitis he found and showed me the picture. It was biopsies, a prescription was handed to me, and I was asked to visit his office in 3 weeks time. He mentioned that there is a coupon for the drug he prescribed, so I knew there was going to be a problem. In the meantime, I have no idea what colitis is, and trying to research it leads me nowhere. There are so many different variations that mean different things. I figure that I will get a better picture when I visit the office after three weeks. We went straight to the pharmacy to ask about the medication cost and get it ordered.

My belly just made a screaming noise at me. We have 10 minutes minimum to go on the enema.

I asked Wave to inquire about the cost of the prescription. I knew in my mind a dollar figure that would be acceptable, and hoped that it would fall well beneath that. Considering I just spent at least $1,500 in 10 days, I need to be mindful of what we can afford without murdering our savings fund that is ear marked for new air conditioners next year. The pharmacist took a moment and reported back that a 30 day supply was $990. WHAT. Suppositories. That you put in your bum. 30 of those were almost $1,000. You’ve got to be kidding me. I asked for the prescription back, and called the doctors office the following day.

First, I spoke with billing. I asked when everything would be billed to my insurance company. I was told that they were at least 2 weeks behind, and I shouldn’t expect anything sooner. I explained that the doctor asked that I be on this medication that is $1,000 for one month without insurance and asked if they could try a bit harder in light of these circumstances. I was told they are doing the best they can. Really? Is that really the best you can? I have a job with clients. If they are in a bind and need help, I can always try harder and do better. Accepting this answer, I ask if I can speak to someone who can help me to get a more cost effective medication. I am transferred to the receptionist.

30 minutes achieved! I feel like a real astronaut now. (I tried to find a picture from the enema scene in the movie ‘The Right Stuff’. The internet has failed me.

I explain to the receptionist that I am not a Rockefeller, and I (like most people) can’t afford to shell out $1,000 for something that I will be shoving up my ass for 30 days. She said that she also could not afford that, and was sending a message to my doctor’s medical assistant to get a different prescription. In the mean time, another migraine, more urgent bathroom trips and stomach aches, and extreme fatigue. After 5 days, I call again, and explain that I still do not have medication to deal with the colitis that the doctor found. I was told that the doctor JUST responded to the medical assistant, and they would call in the prescription right away.

I seem to be lucky in that every time I call a service provider to follow up on a request, the person in charge JUST responded. I mean, my timing is impeccable I guess.

So, the pharmacy robot calls me to tell me that the prescription is delayed. She tells me that it is the EXACT SAME PRESCRIPTION THAT I TOLD THEM THAT I CAN’T AFFORD. I am now at a cross road. Do I just let it go through and hope that my insurance deductible is met by the time it arrives? In speaking with the office, I don’t have a lot of hope for that. So, I call. I tell the receptionist who was nice enough to help me before what happened. She is now irritated with me and tells me that all she can do is transfer me to the medical assistant’s voicemail. “Look, I am almost at the end of my rope here. You can transfer me, and she won’t get back to me, and here I am, with these bad things happening, and getting next to no help here.” The snark was thick. I felt bad, but at the same time, I think of my clients, and how I treat them. The feeling disappeared quickly.

The pharmacy called me two days later, my new prescription was in! It was December 22nd. The colonoscopy was on December 14th. My insurance deductible was just met that day, so I went to the pharmacy to collect my prescription. “That’ll be $15, please.” I happily handed over the money, and was handed a huge sack. “Do you have any questions?” Embarrassed, I said no, and left abruptly. I quickly realize that I was prescribed daily enemas. Not only that, but I was expected to hold the fluid in my body for at least 30 minutes, but ideally all night long. WHAT? Who comes up with this stuff??? Not only that, but the cost without insurance was $630 for two weeks, or $1,260 per month. The medical assistant called in an even more costly prescription. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?? I called the pharmacy and asked them to please fill the platinum suppositories, and asked if I could return this nonsense. They refused to return it, and I have since come to learn that it is almost impossible to donate unused medications to people in need.

The pharmacy called today, December 26th, to tell me that the prescription was ready. The amount? $370. Much less, and yet still, unaffordable. I remembered that the doctor said that there was a coupon online. I looked, printed it out, and took it to the pharmacy. Even with the coupon, the cost was $130. As an astute accountant, I immediately multiplied this out by 12 and mentally reviewed our budget. On principle, I refused to accept this. I can pay $30 a month and do enemas, or pay $130 a month for the luxury of not doing enemas.

So, as I sit here, holding fluids in my rear end, I reflect upon people who can’t afford to buy insurance. These aren’t deadbeats. These are people I go to work with every day. They are not lazy. They never call in. They aren’t relying on welfare. In fact, most people who are on welfare aren’t lazy either. They have actual, verifiable needs that we as a society should chip in and help. I know people with devastating diagnosis’s who have been told that they don’t qualify because there are still some jobs that they can do. The idea that America’s welfare programs are clogged up with lazy people who have multiple kids just so they can stay home is a fallacy. I have always been very healthy, and have never really understood the need for medical insurance until this time in my life. I am coming to realize that I need to advocate for affordable healthcare, and be a voice for those who don’t have one.

I am happy to say that I still have this enema held in. It’s medications are soaking through the walls of my colon. My colon isn’t super happy, and is making that clear through. all kinds of noises. However, I am finally starting to treat this thing.

I would love to hear your stories. Medical bills are the number one causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Together, we can be a voice for change.

As always, listen to your body. You are the only one who recognizes its voice. I know it is telling you this…


Where The Heck Have I Been?: A brief synopsis

Hello, again, my friends. I have been absent from blogging and social media for several months. Some of you have noticed. Most have gone on with your busy lives, not even missing the weekly Monday drops. It’s ok. I don’t think my own family even reads these things. As a child of a divorce and re-marry situation, I don’t take kindly to anyone who makes an assumption that I know anything different from the information that they last told me. I hate when a tv show or a book leaves you in one place, then picks you up three miles down the road with no explanations, just inferences made in hopes that we are all bright enough to connect the dots. However, the inferences are generally sub-standard. With this in mind, I’m offering a short blog to catch you up, so we may begin volume two.

Starting back in late September, I had decided to start writing another book. I promised I would pop in with semi-reliable blogs, but really wanting to focus on the book. I did follow through on a few blogs, and then everything went silent. Even my real life friends and family were perplexed. It wasn’t just silence in blog-landia. It was silence on all fronts. I had some people send simple one line texts, “Are you mad at me?” To which I would reply, “No”. I wasn’t mad. That was the absolute truth. The whole story goes like this…

In early October, I had a migraine. It was no big deal, I usually get one or two a year. What made it a big deal was getting another one 4 days later. Then another 5 days after that. Then another. And another. And more. I stopped counting after 10. Instead of getting help or admitting defeat, I kept going to work, and hiding my symptoms. Then I started shitting blood. It wasn’t just black turds like we all see from time to time. It was straight up, bright red, “Did someone just get murdered” red. And it wasn’t a little. I called my PA (because the doctor of the practice never sees me anymore), and scheduled an appointment with her. Reason given: Migraines. As any of you who are American know, it takes a week or so to get worked in if you are a current patient. I waited about a week, had another migraine, then went to meet with her.

My PA has been pretty good to me. If she’s in over her head, she refers me to a specialist instead of trying to deal with it. While checking in, the medical assistant asked me really silly questions, like “Does it hurt to move your head?” Or “Is it like a dull pain or a stabbing pain?” Or “Does it hurt to go from sitting to standing?” I am just really happy for anyone who has never had a migraine, and those of us who have them know who you are. Anyway, in talking to my PA finally, I expressed that I wanted an MRI or a CT scan to make sure there was nothing up there, then I would seek out help from acupuncture. She kind of rolled her eyes, but agreed that it’s better to put my fears at bay and check things out. I mentioned the blood, and she paused, thought about it, and told me to keep an eye on that and call if it happened again. She and I both agreed that we expected to find nothing on the MRI, but it was good to check things out, just to make sure since the migraines were way out of character.

A few days after the MRI, Shanna (my PA), called me and had a strange tone in her voice. “So, I have your MRI results. Looks like there is something there after all.” The Radiologist couldn’t tell if it was a tumor, or a cavernous malformation, either way, this was far outside of her pay grade. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten news like this. Chances are, you have. For me, I felt a very clear moment. I had a choice. I could cry and be scared and start calling everyone I know, or I could be calm and fearless. One of my dearest friends (who I KNOW is reading this) had a brain tumor removed many years ago, and I thought of the grace that she had while in the midst of that situation. I chose to be like her.

I got in with what turned out to be an amazing Neurologist about 10 days later. We spent an hour and a half looking at every scan, making notes, asking questions, and hearing him say over and over, “…but WHAT is THAT?” It was decided that the migraines, which are not being caused by Alf (my name for the new part of my brain) needed to be assessed by a Neurosurgeon. Alf resides on my Cerebellum, and it right in the path of where all of my spinal fluids enter and exit the building. It’s really not the best or easiest place to get to, so a second opinion was welcomed.

The Neurosurgeon’s wait list was 3 weeks, and that was only because there was a cancellation. Otherwise, it was three months. During this time, Wave and I had some very frank end of life discussions. It’s pretty sobering to talk about what needs to happen if we do have the surgery and there is an oops that renders me in a vegetative state, or if I was to die before Lily graduates, or how I want certain possessions to be split amongst our family, or telling Wave that it’s ok to live even if I don’t. It’s ok to love other people. Hoping that my sisters will take on the role of mother to my 17 year old child. In this time, I shit bright red again, twice, and was referred to an Gastroenterologist. 2 weeks wait on that appointment, but still before the Neurosurgeon.

The Gastroenterologist was interesting. They stressed when making the appointment that I must arrive at least 30 minutes early. I ended up 45 minutes early, and the receptionist was a bit snarky about me being early. I brushed it off, as it was clear that she was eating her lunch at her desk, and sat in a completely empty waiting room. Shortly after, another medical assistant arrived, and I was treated to listening about her lunch date, their office holiday luncheon, and burritos. I tried to read the book I brought with me, but I just couldn’t concentrate. I sat and listened until the medical assistant called me back.

The doctor came in, talked with me for about 5 minutes. He noted that I have IBS, and asked about it. He also asked what exactly it is in my brain. I told him that I wish I knew. Interestingly enough, 1 in 5000 people will get a brain tumor in their life. Of those, only about 1/3 are cancerous. Most brain tumors are secondary to another illness in the body. There is a pretty solid link between brain tumors and colon cancer. So that was something that I was constantly thinking about. Unsurprisingly to me, he ordered a colonoscopy to take a look at the situation for himself. I also want to note that my insurance plan year renewed on December 1st, so now, all expenses are out of pocket until the deductible is met.

Anyway, we see the Neurosurgeon, who is a very bright and highly recommended professional. He was immune to my jokes. I did the same tests (very similar to sobriety tests) and answered the same questions. Then we looked at my brain again. The surgeon also found that at one time, this area hemorrhaged. There is also a misplaced vein in the area, which in the past, would have been cause for an immediate surgery. Thankfully, this is no longer true. His professional assessment is that this is a cavernous malformation. He would be willing to remove it if I wanted to be aggressive. You all know me. I’m a wait and see kind of gal. Also, if it were to be removed, it would be a pretty heady (pun intended) surgery, with a very difficult and long recovery. We decided on a schedule of brain scans with immediate changes if the pattern of migraines worsen or if I start to lose dexterity or balance. If it grows in size or bleeds again, it will need to be evicted.

Hurray! But this doesn’t solve the blood shitting or migraines.

The colonoscopy is scheduled for the next week. It was easy. People cry about the prep. It’s really not a big deal. You shit your brains out, but you get a clean slate. The procedure goes off without a hitch, except the anesthesiologist makes a creepy joke about his wife at home pounding breasts for dinner…chicken breasts of course. Also, that he is just like Sting, and will be watching every move I make and every breath I take. I get the dude’s intentions, but no. This is NOT ok. I don’t need to be put at ease. It’s not like this is brain surgery for crap’s sake. Stop being a creepy dude and just be quiet if that’s not possible.

So it turns out, I have Colitis. And the cavernous malformation on my brain is also referred to as a lesion. We are dubbing this ‘The Col-esion”. Like “Collusion”. Get it? HAHA. Still no migraine answers though.

I think you are all up to date now. I will be sending out another blog in the next day or so, documenting the treatment plan for the colitis, not because any of you want to know, but I believe that a lot of what I am experiencing is highly relatable. You can judge for yourself. I also want to point out that I have no idea what colitis is. But we will get into that as part of the relatable aspect.

The next time you see your doctor, and you know that something is wrong, don’t let them roll their eyes at you. You know why? You know your body best, and also…


Finding the Courage to Ask For What You Need

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed.  Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do.  I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade.  I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach.  Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?  Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.

I am not a very social person.  Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic.  “Who will be there?”  “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?”  “What if there is nothing that I can eat?”  “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?”  My sisters are the opposite of me.  Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all.  Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect.  I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time.  We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now.  Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip.  I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier.  This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses.  So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way.  Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!

FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me.  But I can totally relate to this young lady.  Still.  As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right?  Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies.  I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry.  Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying.  I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that.  In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family.  I disagree.  I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully.  I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related.  I’m over it.

This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning.  “Thank you for thinking of me.  Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.”  I eventually got there.  In the mean time, panic ensued.

I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona.  We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge.  We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job.  Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable.  When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona.  Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days.  She did..and stole about $200  worth of things from us.  So how could we have avoided this situation?  Simply by saying “No” in the first place.  As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.

I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you.  When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours.  I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me.  So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.  

I know that we are not easy hosts at our house.  We are very particular.  Dishes should be cleaned immediately.  You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day.  If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap.  Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us.  For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with.  We are ok with two day max house guests.  We are not ok with anything beyond that.  We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.

It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries.  There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation.  It is just better to be open and honest upfront.  Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it.  It happens to the best of us.  Don’t worry…

You’re probably not crazy!!!

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!!

Why not choose kindness?

My dear readers, I hope that you are feeling the same way that I do.  Do you remember when you were a kid how all the neighbors in the hood would talk to each other?  Remember when you would know everyone’s name?  My mom used to send me over to the neighbor to borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar when she was short.  What happened?  I remember being 8 years old when something seemed different.  We heard some rustling out in our garage, and went to go check it out.  A neighbor had just decided to help himself to tools without asking first.  This was more than 30 years ago, but still comes up in conversation sometimes.  Should this have been such a betrayal?  Had he just knocked on the door and asked permission, this trespass would have never been remembered.  But he didn’t.

Is this why we, as a culture, have learned to isolate ourselves from our neighbors?  Was there a point in everyone’s life when a neighbor crossed the invisible line and caused us to assume the worst instead of giving the benefit of the doubt?  Or was it always this way, and as a child, I just failed to notice that it wasn’t one giant family?  Shortly after the neighbor in the garage incident, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t notice at the time, but my parents didn’t go out of their way to meet any neighbors, unless they belonged to their church.  I still went out and met them.  I babysat for a lot of them.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to isolate myself from them.  The kids grew up, they didn’t need a sitter anymore, and I was old enough to get a real job.  Still, my parents didn’t talk to their neighbors.  I mean, they did occasionally, as we do, to avoid the awkward moment of being outside at the same time time.  It’s that fleeting moment when you have to decide, “Do I pretend I don’t see them?  Do I run inside?  Do I just say hello?  What If they want something?”

So, what has this isolationism brought us?  It’s very easy to see.  Just look at the world’s political climate.  This is not just strictly the United States either.  I’m looking at you, ‘Brexit’!  The phrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ is not strictly for good works.  When we act locally as isolationists, we translate that globally.  How else can we explain the idea that any person on this earth doesn’t belong in certain areas?  We are all on this planet together.  I didn’t choose to be here.  I was born here.  I didn’t have any say in it.  Just like people in Germany didn’t choose to be there, or Iran, or Namibia.  We all just got to where we are by chance.  I am not lobbying for breaking laws and disrespecting boundaries.  But what I am asking for is a little compassion.  Possibly, a little empathy.  

Maybe you are feeling helpless right now.  Maybe you are watching the news and you are outraged, but don’t know how you can do anything to stop what is happening.  I know for myself, I have a lot of fear.  I see shows like ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’, or ‘Diverent’, and I am terrified of what all of this could devolve into.  Maybe you think that honesty, integrity and inclusion are dead. My process in dealing with this new and illogical reality has been slow.  I go through rage, and then I struggle with defeat.  I have decided that real change can only come through kindness.  Yes, we have to fight. Yes, we have to march.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand up for others.  That we make our beliefs clear.  That we understand denying ANYONE basic liberties and freedom is NOT AN OPINION!  It is morally incorrect.  If we are ever going to get through this very troubling time, we are all going to have to learn to find a common ground with each other first.  Yelling, screaming, pointing fingers has never changed a single mind in history.  

What we can do is say hello to strangers.  Meet your neighbors.   Lend out eggs again.  Offer a smile once in a while.  Talk to your kids.  Ask their opinions.  Discuss current issues and understand their thoughts.  I still kindness in those around you.  I was walking to pick up my mail the other day, and two lady missionaries were riding by on bicycles.  One of them dropped her bag on the street.  I stopped and helped he to pick up her things.  She said to me, very gratefully, “You are a kind soul!”  All I could think to myself was, “Isn’t this tragic?”  The missionaries happened to be part of the church I was raised in, but am no longer a part of.  I didn’t leave on good terms.  Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of what I witnessed in my personal experience there.  I could have kept walking and ignored them, but if I did, how would that have changed the world? How have we become a society of people who do not help ladies who drop their bags?  Does it matter how we got here?  I think that what matters is that we have a clear population within our throes that live and breathe hate.  The moment we stop fighting is the moment we die culturally.  Why not try to assume the best instead of the worst?  What will it hurt to offer a helping hand to a stranger?  You might feel better if you did.  Not only that, but it may help you to finally accept that you’re probably NOT crazy!

Take care of each other.

When will the darkness leave?  My lifelong battle with depression

I was totally devastated this week.  Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, ended his life.  He was my age.  His Arizona home is a few miles from mine.  His son attends my daughter’s high school.  In fact, our next concert was next month, Linkin Park.  Tickets purchased months ago.  Before the news broke, we were talking about how excited we were that the concert was just a mere month away.  He, like me, and so many other people, struggled with depression and addiction.  Before Chester, Chris Cornell.   Are their lives more valuable than any of ours? Of course not.  But the tragic loss of their lives brings back to the forefront the often silent and ignored battle many of us fight alone.  Chester’s lyrics always reflected what he was going through, which made him such a relatable figure.  I have read so many tributes.  “A part of me dies with him.”  “I feel like I just lost my childhood.”  “You always spoke to me.”  “Please come back.” And then, then inevitable, “Only a coward commits suicide”, which truly, maybe shut up if you are saying that.  Just don’t.  Same goes for the “Suicide is the most selfish thing you can do” people.  Stop talking. 

We don’t shame people for having cancer, or heart disease.  We do like to judge people who are in depression, or have a form of mental illness.  I distinctly remember being a young mother, sitting at a table at work, when a man who was in his forties came and sat at the table with me.  He started talking badly about a more difficult customer, calling them ‘bi-polar’ as an insult.  I pulled out my courage and  said to him, “I’m bi-poplar, but you are still talking to me, so he must not be that bad then I guess.”  The simple truth is this.  If you have not experienced the sucking black hole of depression, or a depressive disorder, perhaps you should sit down and stop talking.  I’m not meaning to come across as harsh here.  Or maybe I am.  

A few years back, I sat in a meeting with the owner of the company I work at.  It seemed obvious that something rather earth shattering had happened to either him, or someone close to him.  He started to talk to us about signs.  We all wear signs.  Most of our signs are invisible.  The person who smiles at you in the hall everyday may have a sign that says, “My son is being bullied and I don’t know how to make it stop.”  The person you work next to you may have a sign that says, “I don’t fit in here or anywhere.  Please help me.”  But because our signs are invisible, we can’t know what anyone else is feeling or going through unless they tell us.  He asked us to please remember that every one of us has something, and kindness is always warranted.  

I remember the first time I felt depressed.  I was 10 years old.  I went into my bedroom, shut the door, sat in the dark and cried.  My sister came into my room and asked why I was crying.  I told her I didn’t know.  I just can’t not cry.  She sat with me and hugged me, and then left.  As much as I wanted her embrace to make me feel better, it didn’t.  I just felt dark.  Like all of the light in the room and in my body was being sucked away from me, like a black hole swallows everything around it with no remorse.  It is not sadness.  It is empty.  It is feeling that no one cares, and you are a burden.  You want people to stay, but you want them to leave you alone.  It’s confusing.  You can’t articulate what you want or what you need.  Others may marginalized your feelings..  Everythign cuts.  Everything hurts.

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling manic depressive.  What the heck is that, right?  Basically, I can go from the depths of depression, to an all out mania, back down to depression several times a day.  For someone who craves stability, you can only imagine how frustrating and exhausting this can be.  The mania helped to get me into steep credit card debt, but also helped me to have a very clean house and organized files.  I remember being up at 2am on a week night feeling like I needed to reorganize and purge all of my files.  To the point where I felt jolted out of bed because the need was overwhelming.  I know now that my drinking was self-medicating to just make it stop.  If I got drunk enough, I wouldn’t wake up.  There were times that I hoped that I would just go to sleep and never wake up again.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

There was one point in my life that I was on 4 or 5 different medications, drinking heavily, and taking sleeping pills.  How did I live through this?  Friends, this is why I forever admire the resilience of the human body.  It seems impossible that I didn’t accidentally die from overdose.  To this day, I can’t bring myself to even take Advil unless there is just no other way.  I maybe take 10 a year, if that.  I don’t impose this strict regimen on anyone else.  I know, for me, I am lucky to be alive.  I need to respect my liver and kidneys and give them every opportunity to recover and heal from the years of abuse.  

There is help available.  It is hard as hell to ask for help.  And you need to use the help in a way that if helpful to you.  That sounds dumb, let me explain what I mean.  I took every pill the doctor gave me.  I told him that they don’t work, give me more and more and more.  I didn’t tell him I was drinking at a very dangerous level.  If my older self could kick my younger self’s ass, you bet I would!  Medications help to stop the cycle.  They can help you put on the brakes so you have an opportunity to work on yourself.  For me, I have found what helps is for me to have an honest dialogue constantly with myself.  I have to recognize negative self talk when it creeps in, and I have to vigilantly keep it from taking hold.  I have to deal with every painful thing that comes into my life immediately, and I have to let shit go.  What I did with medication was not what it was intended to be used for.  I used it as a crutch instead of a tool.  Talking helps.  I talked, but I was never honest.  To be able to keep my mental health in check, I have to be 100% honest with myself, and with everyone around me.  Now, there is a difference between honesty and over-sharing.  It’s important to be appropriate, and not over share with people who don’t need to know EVERYTHING about you.  Still…talk to people..  There are times that I feel depression creeping back.  I talk about it.  I call out the boogeyman.  I will not suffer silently anymore.  I will not let the emotional pain become so debilitating that I wish for the end.

As we have seen from these very high profile suicides lately, this disease doesn’t discriminate.  I encourage you to take courage.  Take people to task who believe that calling someone ‘mental’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘bipolar’ is acceptable. Let’s stand up and stop stigmatizing mental illness.  I am no longer hiding in the shadows.  I have problems.  People who know me now have no idea what I used to be.  “No way are you bipolar!  Impossible!  You’re such a positive person!”  I think that maybe we should recognize those invisible signs.  Maybe compassion, empathy, and understanding don’t have to be lost on us anymore.  Maybe just listening for once, instead of just making our own points, is more important.  Maybe that person next to you needs to hear that you are glad to see them today.  Maybe a passing smile and nod is all the person on the street needs today.  Today, I pledge to you that I will smile more, I will acknowledge strangers, I will speak up and say, “I hope you have a good day today.”  We can change the world.  Kindness is all it takes.  I challenge you to join me.  Let’s help carry the load of others.  

I am sitting and watching a July 2017 Linkin Park concert, and I am fighting back tears.  To be surrounded by thousands of people who love and admire you, and still feel empty.  Please, don’t choose a permanent solution to temporary problems.  The world can’t stand to lose any more of us to this affliction.  Keep fighting.  You are not alone.

…and you are probably not crazy either!

Finding Motivation:  How to light your fire and keep it burning, even when it gets tough

Close your eyes.   Wait, don’t. How can you read this if your eyes are closed?  Instead, imagine with me Friday afternoon.  It’s probably been a really long week at work.  That guy you work with has been dancing on your last nerve.  Your neighbor has been working on keeping you up all night with left over Fourth of July fire crackers.  The kids are crabby.  Your spouse is feeling run down.  You?  You feel totally overwhelmed.   All you can think about is crashing and binge watching Netflix until it’s time to get up Monday morning, and start all over again.  This, my friends, is the rat race.  Is this the life you really want?  You see Facebook posts from perfect moms who go on perfect runs every perfect day and have perfect kids, and wonder, “How in the world is that possible, when I am struggling to just make it every day??”

If I said I didn’t have days like this, you would know I am lying.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  The social media perfection machine makes me feel like such a failure some days.  Don’t get me wrong, I use social media.  It has one of two effects on me.  I either feel like such a complete loser by comparing myself to posts that may or may not be embellished, or I feel totally inspired to get off my tired bum and make myself better.  For me, Facebook is a total lost cause.  I gave up around the time that everyone I knew was farming fake crops and wanting me to contribute to their imaginary farms.  In my opinion, it was too much a time wasting, passive-aggressive bragging fest for my tastes.  Thankfully, I simply deleted my account and moved on with life.  Today, I use Instagram to look at positive and uplifting accounts to keep me moving towards my goals and grant me a bit of motivation.

 On many occasions, we go into changes and view them as a temporary existence.  Think: Diet.  We commit to ourselves that we will stick with the change until we reach a specific goal or number, then every thing can go back to the way it was, and we can ride our unicorn to the end of the rainbow where we will be granted the perfect body and everyone will love and accept us.  In the beginning of my journey, I thought that is what would happen for me.  In fact, I went cold turkey Vegan one time, and expected pounds to just fall off of me.  They didn’t, and I quit.  What was my motivation?  I wanted all of the glory with none of the work.  I thought that if I just give up meat, I would have a model’s body.  When that didn’t happen in two weeks, I quit.  Does this sound familiar?

At some point, we need to examine our motivations.  Not just what’s on the surface, but the deeper motivations for choices.  I used to be very afraid to know what my true motivations were.  Now, I jump at the chance to look deeper.  The more I know about myself, the better I am about making good choices for myself.  Case in point:  I have a sensitivity to yeasts and casein.  This means that breads and cheeses are really bad for me.  However, sometimes, the idea of pizza gets in my head, and I let go of all logic and do everything I can to convince my family that pizza is a good idea.  Every time I start to get under the spell of a piping hot pie, I need to think about my motivation.  I know it’s not good for me.  I know I am going to have stomach aches for 2 weeeks.  I know it’s going to make me irritable.  I know that once I have it, I will crave it more.  So what is my motivation?  Well, much like everyone else, I can fall prey to eating my feelings.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, sometimes I feel like work is overwhelming, sometimes I just don’t feel good about myself, and sometimes, I just feel like I deserve a treat.  You know, like a cheat day!  But my cheat days end in weeks of pain and discomfort.  Just like everyone else, I also at times just feel entitled.  I eat well, I work out…I deserve it!

So, how can we find positive motivation, and keep it long enough to accomplish anything?  I feel like I’ve painted a grim picture for you.  My intention is to show you that you are totally capable of doing the impossible.  You can use motivation for good or for bad, just like social media!  Many moons ago, I was challenged to do Pat’s Run.  I had never really run anything but my mouth before, but something in my head just changed.  I wanted to run this.  I wanted to run the entire 4.2 miles.  So I started to train.  And I kept going.  I had a week long vacation scheduled to Washington DC.  I walked for miles all day long, and then would go to my hotel and run on a treadmill.  What was my motivation?  I wanted to prove to myself that I was not ‘that girl’.  In high school, I would wear my resistance to running as a badge of honor, when truthfully, I was totally embarrassed.  I didn’t want to try because I didn’t want people to know that, though I was a really good sprinter, I had no endurance.  This was a chance to prove to myself that I could do it.  That I could gain endurance.  That I was capable of change.

Possibly the best way to change your mindset is to start with a small goal.  What is it that you want?  What is on your mind?  Do you want to prove something to yourself, like I did?  Do you just want to know if you have what it takes to just see something through?  I was once told, “People who can start things are great.  People who can finish things are great.  The person who is able to both start and finish is exceptional.”  Doesn’t that seem strange?  I always felt like everyone around me had their act together.  That everything came easy to them, and everything was a struggle for me.  When I hear and understand that people who are able to both start and finish are exceptional, I begin to understand that everyone puts up a facade, just like I do.  If I know that, it’s easier for me to believe that I can do anything that I want to.  

Since I don’t know what you want to do as a challenge, let’s talk about a recent goal that I took on.  Oxygen Magazine hosts a challenge annually, which is a 3 month body and diet boot camp of sorts.  At the sign up, you can choose one of two coaches (some people choose both), and you start your 90 days of eating and working out according to your fitness pro coach’s plan.  I have been telling myself every year that I could never do that.  90 days is a long time.  That’s a big commitment.  This year was different.  Last year, I had a bone tumor on my tibia removed in August, and ran a half marathon in November.  That experience alone was enough to tell me that I can commit to 90 days, and I have no excuses.  Through training for the half, I learned how to not be so rigid in my schedule, and to start to look at time before and after work as opportunities, and not just tv time.  In fact, when I started to utilize those hours, I became less run-down at the end of the week.  I stopped telling myself that I don’t have time to run during the week, and started getting up earlier.  After work, I started cross training for 30-45 minutes.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.  I was cutting out dead time that I was spending on the couch.  Sometimes, you just need a goal that is so exciting to you that you area willing to look at possibilities instead of probably nots.

So, I signed up!  I am on #Team Jamie, under coach Jamie Eason Middleton.  I just finished week one.  Some days were pretty easy.  Some have been pretty tough.  But every day has been an inspiration.  Every day is a choice.  Am I going to stick it out and complete the goal, or am I giving up?  So far, I choose success.  That choice has inspired my husband to do it with me.  I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold. I am sure that there will be days when I am tired, or discouraged.  On those days, I need to examine my motivation.  If I am not motivated to be my best and have the healthiest body possible, then I need to change things.

Ok, I outed myself.  Now it’s your turn!  What are your goals?  What do you want to achieve?  Maybe it’s a one mile walk.  Maybe it is a marathon.  Maybe you just want to run around the block.  What ever it is, what is stopping you?  What are your motivations?  What are you fears?  The more you know your self, the more you understand your own patterns and cycles, the more you can harness your energies and become the best you possible.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  You CAN be exceptional.  You CAN be a starter AND a finisher.  Take it from a former great finisher, who is currently exceptional.  Don’t give yourself options.  Don’t give yourself a way out.  I believe in you.  Set those goals.  Take steps to achieve them.  I’m always here for you.  You can reach me in the ‘contact’ form, or through Instagram @healthierversionofchris. No matter what happened in your past, you don’t have to let it determine your future.  No matter what, I only know this….

You’re probably not crazy!!!