Something Is Not Right

Today’s Happy Note: Catching up on most of my schoolwork.  Okay, so the actual act of doing the work isn’t “happy”, but having it done makes me happy.  So there.  I deem it worthy of a happy note. 🙂

Sorry to have disappeared on you friends!  I truly wish I could blog every night and it makes me sad that sometimes I have to hit the books instead. I have quite a lot of reading this semester, but not a lot of assignments.  This means that it is quite tempting to put off the reading, but then when the assignments come around, I would be screwed.

I know I have talked about priorities before (blah, can’t find the post), but I have been reorienting myself the past few days.  School already was a priority, but it needs to be even more of one.  I just kind of need to grit my teeth and get it done.  Meh.

Anyone else out there feeling mid-semester blues/overwhelmed?

I saw something fun on Angela’s Blog today!  Apparently, it is National Love Your Body day today.  I’ll get to that in a minute…

First, I have some training notes to catch you all up on!

1. Monday: I did an easy 25 minutes of weight lifting followed by my easy yoga class (it’s for school).  The instructor wears sweatpant booty shorts.  He is a man.  That is all.  My body was grateful for the easy day.

2. Tuesday: Was supposed to be nine miles of speedwork.  I really didn’t want to do it during the day and finally set out around six, planning to stay on the streets.  But it just didn’t feel right.  My body was moving in all the wrong ways — my lower legs seemed to be doing something completely different from my knees, which were doing something completely different from my quads.  You get the picture.  I listened to my body!  This is something that I have really struggled with in terms of exercising, so I was proud of myself.  I cut the run short and did four miles, with 5×100 strides in the last mile.

3. Wednesday: I figured I would just get in my nine miles today.  But.  Again, something wasn’t quite right.  Mostly, I was terribly tired.  I couldn’t seem to get out of bed in the morning or after my afternoon nap.  So I just did my easy yoga class. That was it.  Taking it this easy is hard for me!  I feel a lot of guilt.  But I know that taking the rest is a good idea.

I think there are three reasons why I struggle with guilt when I don’t workout hard everyday:

1. I tend to have an all-or-nothing mindset.  I feel like I’m either completely sedentary all day (in reality, this isn’t true) or insanely active.  I struggle to find an appropriate balance.

2. I overexercised at an unsustainable level for years — I think this is tied to the ways in which I was active as a child and adolescent.  From when I was four until I was fourteen, I was a gymnast.  The last few years of that, I would practice about 20 hours a week.  Then in high school, I did diving, track, and swimming (sometimes at the same time).  I would often be working out for hours a day — senior year, I swam for 3-5 hours a day during the fall season.  Thus, my expectations for physical activity were shaped unrealistically at a formative age, and thus it is truly difficult for me to understand that not working out that much is okay — normal people in the real world do not typically work out for more than two hours a day.  Even an hour is more than enough.  I think that, for me, mentally, moderate exercise is actually best.

3. I still feel the need to “make up for” everything I eat.  I probably eat slightly more than the average 20 year old female college student (although really I have no way of knowing this).  But I really am running a lot, and I also have a significant amount of muscle mass.  Regardless, I feel like if I don’t run 6+ miles a day, I am just another slovenly, greedy American who overeats and doesn’t move.

A few weeks ago, L pointed out to me that I would never say the things I say to myself (in my head) to another person. I would never, ever be that cruel to someone else.  So why do I do it to myself, over and over again? I don’t know.

I think this post is going in a slightly different direction that what I intended.  That’s okay though, since these are the things I need to talk about.  FYI: the rest of this post is about weight and related health concerns/body image issues. Please feel free to skip this part.

I typically weigh myself every 1-2 weeks.  Sometimes I go even longer, maybe every 3-4 weeks.  I am not obsessive about it and don’t record it or anything.

But.

I did weigh myself this Monday and a pattern clearly emerged. Or maybe the pattern has been there for a while but I just noticed it.  Whatever.  Thee point is simple: I have been gaining weight at a rate of almost exactly 1 pound per week since leaving the hospital.  It’s been just over three months, so approximately twelve weeks.  I have gained 12-14 pounds.  I was already a few pounds over my “happy weight”; I would estimate that I have about 17 pounds to lose at the moment.  This is very scary for me.  Very scary for me.

The reason it is so terrifying is that, as far as I can tell, it is something that is either largely or entirely out of my control. Something is wrong in my body.  I know my body and I know when something isn’t right.

Well, something isn’t right.  This weight doesn’t make sense.  I should not have gained 14 pounds since I left the hospital.  Not only have I been training for a marathon, but I have also been fairly careful to keep my eating in check.  I stopped taking birth control as soon as I was diagnosed with my pulmonary emboli. I am not a doctor (in fact, I pretty much suck at science in general), but to me, it seems like the birth control was doing something in my body that was good, and now that it has been taken away, something is going unchecked and rampant in me.

I saw the women’s health Nurse Practitioner at my school a few weeks ago (is it weird that there are a grand total of zero gynecologists for a college student/grad student population of like 30,000 students????).  I basically told her the same things I am telling you guys.  Something doesn’t make sense.  I want to know what is going on.  And, unlike many health conscious young people, I have no aversion whatsoever to medications.  I would happily take several medications, daily, if it would fix this.  I already take about four medications a day — I have several more types too.  I joke to people that I have my own pharmacy.  Taking pills really doesn’t bother me, nor do I feel like I’m somehow polluting my body. They’re pills. Scientists made them to help us, for the most part. It actually kind of bothers me when people get all purist and shit and say “oh, I don’t take pills, I don’t put chemicals in my body, I treat things naturally.”  Great — it’s really nice to know that you have never been burdened with serious medical conditions that require drugs.  I am so happy for you.

Okay, so that was completely tangential.  I’m a writer.  What can I say.  I like talking.

Getting back to the main storyline here.  The NP I saw referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist.  I called her office a week or two ago and she isn’t taking new patients until January.  I am not trying to wait that long, so I got a referral to someone else.  I will schedule the appointment tomorrow.  Hopefully, it will be in the next few weeks.  This is causing me a lot of anxiety, as you can tell.  I want to get to the bottom of it.  Fast.

Unfortunately, medicine doesn’t always work that way.  Our bodies don’t always work that way.  Sometimes they do not want to reveal their secrets, even when their secrets are hurting us.  I hate how medicine is simultaneously so scientific and so unpredictable.  Anyone else find this duality unsettling?

My guess is that, starting after the marathon, we are going to have to do some serious screwing around with my diet and medications.  Probably accompanied by some serious blood tests.  I may have a weird adrenal disorder.  I may have PCOS.  I may not have it.  I may have pre-diabetes.  I may have some bizarre hormonal problem.

So, things are complicated.  I know that’s a really lame conclusion, but it’s all I have for now.  And I need desperately to share my struggles.  Thank you for listening! 🙂

One other note: Any inquiry into/treatment of my hormonal/adrenal/endocrine problems is severely constrained by my history of PE and accompanying clotting disorder.  I cannot take any hormones.  I cannot take anything that might interfere with my Warfarin.  I cannot take anything that  might predispose me to further clotting.

I truly am sorry for unloading all of this on you guys.  But I just need to get it out there.  USB has been amazing about it all — I never would have thought a love interest would be interested in my bizarre medical problems.  Especially not when they make me fat.  But he listens to me and soothes me and tries to help me in whatever way he can.

So.  The Love Your Body post shall be saved for tomorrow, I think.

I’ll leave you with my latest purchase!  I’m going to be wearing these on marathon day!

Katie is giving away a massive amount of Artisana. I want it.  Bad.

Anyone out there, by any chance, happen to have a simultaneous history of PE and PCOS/unidentified endocrine disorder? I know it’s a long shot — I haven’t met anyone else with this combination of problems.  But if you have had similar experiences, I would be thrilled if you would let me know your story!

For everyone else, what is the most frustrating health experience you have had?

What are you grateful for about your health?

I’m grateful for my body’s tremendous ability to untangle its clots.  Seriously.  The clots are long gone by this point.

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Therapy Thursday

Today’s Happy Note: Owls.  Something about fall just makes me think of owls.  I doubt there are any in NYC.  They are such beautiful, intriguing creatures.  I wish, right now, that I could be in a cool, wet forest, camping out, watching owls fly overhead.  That would be nice.

Sometimes I love New York and sometimes I desperately want to leave.  It’s a strange mecca, really.  I have fallen in love with the city over and over and over again and I am not sure I will ever be able to leave — the sounds and lights and people and neighborhoods.  The buildings.  The way the architecture seems to merge with the humans flawlessly.  But there is a small part of me that is a small-town girl.  Or even a rural girl.  I love meadows, streams, forests, mountains; scrambling over rocks in National Parks, kayaking down long windy rivers, climbing big old willow trees in a huge backyard, rambling endlessly on dirt roads surrounded by corn fields.  And owls, of course! I like all that.  I just want to have that and New York.  And it scares me, because I don’t think that it’s possible.

Are you a country girl?  City girl?  Wilderness girl?  Suburban girl? Or boy.  I might have some male readers, I suppose.

For the first time in a long time today I did nothing, really, exercise-wise.  And it felt damn good. I walked around campus all day, of course, and did about 10 minutes of yoga to stretch out a bit.  I have been really exhausted lately. This tends to happen when I am stressed/making a life transition.  I think it may also be tied to whatever is happening with my body, hormonally or otherwise.  Sick Caronae=Tired Caronae.

I don’t think I was being lazy by not running or working out today.  I genuinely listened to my body, which is harder to do than it sounds.  I love running, but I also think that it tends to make me a little bit out of touch with my body.  I can never figure out my hunger cues when I am running a lot.  So no run today.  I am still running five days a week, with some yoga and strength training thrown in there.  I think that is perfectly acceptable for now. 🙂  NYC Marathon, here I come!

I have a confession: I have a vision of myself breaking up with running, one day.  Not necessarily soon, but it is something I have known will happen for a while now.  Maybe in a few years.  After a few more marathons and ultras. Maybe even sooner than that, or maybe later.  Maybe after I have babies.  Maybe I’ll stop for several years and then come back to it.  I have amazing natural endurance — in fact, I would argue that that is my only real physical talent — but I also have arthritis, sciatica, weak joints, a problem in my sacrum, and frequent generalized muscular/skeletal/nerve pain.  Right now running is working for me, but barely. I love when Heather talks about this because I relate so well.

Anyways.  Just some rambling.

Therapy Thursday

First: do you know how long I have waited to have my appointment with L be on Thursdays just so that I could write “Therapy Thursday”?  I love alliteration.  I am such a geek.

Second: This post is a little bit emotional, a little bit heavy and difficult and painful.  I won’t be afraid if you don’t want to read it.  Sometimes when I am sad, reading about someone else’s sadness only makes it worse — if you’re like that, I highly recommend skipping. 🙂

Last night’s blog post was in the back of my mind for the whole session.  I didn’t talk explicitly about it, but talked about those issues — weight, body image, health, self-hatred, self-esteem, the essence of me. It is sort of strange, but I feel like the whole last year with L (it’s officially been a year, this week) has been leading up to this point, where I feel comfortable sharing the deepest, darkest secrets I have about myself, all of which have to do with the body.  I do have other deep, dark secrets, but I think I have mostly already shared those things with her.  The body is the hardest thing, because it is entirely real.  It is not a ghost or a memory or a scar.  It is not something that happened to me when I was six or an ephemeral feeling.  It is not something that goes unspoken, like love or growth or opening myself up.  It sits right in front of me.  It is me.  Always.

It’s strange, I suppose, because it (the body — my body) is so obvious and cerebral, but also so subtle and hidden and emotional.  There are some moments when I feel like my relationship with my own body is incredibly straightforward — like there are signs plastered across my stomach or words scrawled on my arms.  But most times, I don’t even understand the relationship.  I get confused — I eat when I am not hungry or don’t eat when I am hungry. I tell myself I am lovely and I have dark, reflective, mysterious eyes.  I tell myself that my stomach and hips and thighs are so big that I should take a carving knife to them.  I have not tried this, but it has been a horrible fantasy of mine for many years.

Tonight, for example.  I almost didn’t eat dinner.  I wanted a piece of pizza or a half of a giant burrito, with chicken.  But I didn’t have any of those things.  I had a salad, which ended up being really good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.   It was the lower calorie version of what I wanted.  I almost didn’t eat at all. I did not listen. Or I did listen, but it was to the mean part of me that has “you are fat and horrible and unworthy” on an endless repeat cycle in my head.

I can’t outline exactly how long I have had this struggle.  Let’s say six years.  Six years into this and I still hate myself so much?  I still struggle to eat a meal sometimes.  Or to stop eating sometimes.  Obviously, the intensity of these feelings has been triggered by recent events.  I have never handled stresses well — I feel things so deeply that it hurts every part of my being.  When something is upsetting, every tiny crack in my body will be upset.

Today, with L, was about all of this.  I am not really sure how to characterize her responses, both verbal and non-verbal.  I can definitely say that they were comforting.  She was comforting.  At one point, I felt like she was looking at me like a mother — that shook me, more than anything else.  It made me realize just how much she cares about me, and how much I care about her.  Strange things happen in a psychotherapy relationship.  I wish I could say that I wasn’t too attached, that it was completely clinical.  But that is not the case — I’m long past that point, and there is no turning back, for good or for bad.  She continually reminds me that there is something wonderful and engaging and warm about me that has nothing to do with my body. I just don’t know what that is exactly, yet.

L and I agreed that we don’t know where the hatred comes from, and that I feel better on days when it is not there.  I can’t tell you how many windows and mirrors and bottles I find my reflection in.  More than should be allowed. Sometimes I wish the world could be devoid of these things.  I want to scream at the makers of bus shelters, “don’t you know there are girls walking by who want more than anything not to see themselves; don’t you know that this one moment — this reflection in the glass — is the most horrible moment of their lives, and it happens a thousand times a day; don’t you know?”

Hurt is human.  L reminds me of this, a lot.  It makes me feel less alien.  We all have our demons.  I happen to have more than many people, and  I also think I feel them more.  But everyone has them.  There are so many things we don’t know about the people we walk by on the street, or even the people we work with or have class with.

The agony surrounding my body and my physical self is not helpful: the hours every day I spend hating myself actually do not make me happier. In fact, they suck away my time and my energy.  What a revelation!  L was telling me how, when I finally accept myself exactly as I am, the agony will go away.  And I know she is right.  I think that maybe it might be in the process of going away — this process started a year and a half ago, in February of 2009, when I left school (don’t worry, I came back).  It’s painful.  It’s not like I can just say “okay agony and hatred — be gone, I’m done with you!”  It helps to say that, sometimes (like in yesterday’s post), but it doesn’t necessarily make it true.  I guess I don’t understand why the process can’t be faster.

Sometimes when I write about therapy, afterwards, it sounds like L wasn’t there or involved at all.  That is not the case, ever.  She is very involved — she probably talks at least 30% of the time, which I like.  It’s such a wonderful combination of helping me see things differently, listening, and sharing her own experiences. Sometimes I can’t remember what it is that she said.  Usually I just know that it made sense and made me feel better.  I guess that my own narrative kind of takes up most of the space in my head, which is okay, as long as I’m being honest with myself.  There are, of course, stories that we tell ourselves, which are not always accurate reflections of reality.

For example, I tell myself that I am basically unlovable.  But I know this not to be true.  My friends and family love me, I can feel it and hear it and sense it.  And on another level, romantically, USB is attracted to me.  He wants to be with me. For someone who hardly wants to be with herself most of the time, this is a large does of cognitive dissonance. I like USB so much that it hurts, and I think he likes me back similarly.  So I can’t be completely unlovable, completely horrible.  USB is making me so happy that I cry about it, sometimes.  Slow, big, quiet tears.

I think things have been a bit heavy on the blog lately.  With reason, of course, seeing as this is me and this is how I am feeling — I began the blog on the premise of honesty regarding my mental/emotional and physical health.  I try to keep things real in both areas.  But with that said, I also don’t mean to overwhelm you with all these darker things at once.

I promise a lighter, cheerier post tomorrow!  Involving delicious foods. 🙂

Thanks for staying with me here; this is simultaneously a very exciting and happy and scary and dark moment in my life.

Reflections on Infections

Today’s Happy Note: Drinking my weight in iced tea.

Hello friends!  Thanks everyone for your well wishes.  I’m on the mend, definitely, although still not totally repaired.  I am having tests done at the doctor’s throughout this week, so we shall see where that leads.  It’s surprisingly hard to keep myself hydrated — I’ve been consuming a weird mixture of ginger ale, gatorade, iced tea, water, and salty broth.  I have eaten a few things — mainly plain toasted bagels and instant noodle mixes, which are surprisingly yummy.  I like the Simply Asia mixes because they are salty and tasty yet very simple (no gluten!  The noodles are rice noodles).

Right now I’m munching on frozen fruit.  I really wanted to change things up a bit and figured frozen fruit can’t kill me.  I know too much sugar is no good but I didn’t have a lot.  I also ate a banana at some point.

Going through this has been very hard on my body.  I’m guessing my weight has probably fluctuated about 10 pounds, plus or minus, in the last three days.  This has also been a big emotional struggle.  Carbs, plain and simple, on their own, are a BIG fear of mine.  And guess what?  This weekend, my diet has consisted of noodles, rice, toast, and bananas.  With a side of salt.  And gatorade.  Not exactly health food city.

I still fear my body — its tumultuousness, its fluctuations, its imperfect shape.  But for the first time, these past few days, I was in awe of it. My body can take this terrible infection — my guess is that I must have lost 10-20 pounds of fluid in about 48 hours — and survive. The pain I experienced this weekend was the worst pain I have ever felt.  I am not sure how it would compare to labor, but I’m guessing it was on a similar scale: intermittent stabbing cramps every half hour to hour for about a day and a half.  And it wasn’t just pain and fluid loss — it was nausea, headaches, weakness, just exhaustion.  Somehow, though, I have strength.  If I have a strength to overcome this, the precise pudginess of my stomach or the disproportion between my huge thighs and my small waist cannot possible be relevant.

I am hoping this moment can continue to be a turning point for me.  I have finally come to not just understand, but to believe in my body: I believe in its bizarre makeup, its inexplicable reactions (I gained five pounds this weekend), its sugar imbalances.  And with this belief comes an acceptance.  I cannot control things.  We have different bodies.  Fuck the BMI scale.  I am not yet perfectly accepting.  But I know that it took two things to get through these past few days: a tremendous physical strength (doctors said I would recover much faster because my body was already so healthy) but also a mental power.  I spent many hours talking myself through a bout of pain that I thought would kill me (okay, so sometimes I’m a little melodramatic).

So I know this: I have raw physical and mental abilities that exceed the shape of my body. When you are writhing on the floor trying to crawl back into bed after spending half an hour in the bathroom, it doesn’t matter if your pants are a size ten or a size four.  It matters that you find the strength within you to make the journey.

Part of the beauty of this illness has been realizing that this strength applies to all things in my life.  At the end of a marathon, no one cares (myself included) if I weigh 145 pounds or 155 pounds.  After making it through multiple 20 page papers at the end of a term, what matters is my ability to analyze, to write, to look at things in new ways; not how many calories I have or have not eaten.

I hope I can sustain this way of seeing things.  I feel lighter; not just physically (although I have lost a massive amount of blood and fluid), but mentally.  I need to believe I am beautiful.  I am.