Therapy Thursday

Hello hello!  Sorry for my little absence; I traveled back from Michigan to New York this week. I don’t find traveling itself stressful, per se, but I do have difficulty conceptually transitioning from one place to another.  This means that the weeks before and after I have to switch places are stressful for me, which just prolongs the whole ordeal.

I like new places though!  I like being on my own and figuring out how to navigate a new place.

Are you a travel lover or hater?

Sugar update: The experiment has been going well!  I have been working on consuming less sugar, not zero sugar altogether.  I think a low sugar diet might be best for me (at least low in processed/refined/added sugar).  I have still been enjoying a moderate amount of fruit, tea with stevia, and 1-2 servings of something that has sugar in it (like a protein bar or chocolate) per day.  It has actually felt like I have gotten rid of a burden, somehow.  And I don’t miss it too much, since I still let myself have a moderate amount!

Therapy Thursday

I know I went through a period where I didn’t really want to blog about therapy, and I will probably feel that way again someday, but at the moment, I do want to blog about it.

I feel like it’s a hallmark of my blog; it is, after all, in the title!

It was scary for me to “be on my own” for almost a whole month, without L.  I ended up calling her once or twice, as it was a difficult period for me in a lot of ways (breaking up with USB, dealing with my sometimes crazy family, applying to law school).  But at the same time, I feel like she is always in the background of my life — like I can feel her there, somewhere slightly distant, but not terribly far away, on the whole.  Just knowing that I have this person who exists, who does not judge me, who cares deeply about me is so comforting.

I’m someone who needs a lot of comfort in general.  I told L about one of my particular “rituals” today, which involves taking this tiny wind-up otter toy that I have (his name is Oliver Henry Hudson) on planes with me and winding him up when the plane takes off.  I have lots of little animals — a plushy key chain duck, a small cloth elephant ornament.  I find small animal toys comforting.  I also like to name things.  The elephant is called Leila Emlyn Giovanna and the duck is called Leland.

Maybe it’s odd or childlike, but I think that the way I look for comfort is a little bit heartwarming.  I find objects very meaningful; I cling to things.  I can typically explain when it is from and why it is meaningful.  My mother gave me my first set of measuring spoons for Christmas.  They’re black and silver and the measure amount (e.g., “1 tbsp”, “1 tsp”, etc.) is marked in colorful letters on the handle.

I have a feeling I will still be using them in thirty five years.   And my children will snarl at them and think they are old or ugly or outdated, just as I snarled at the plain blue plastic ones my mother has used since I was a baby.  But it won’t matter.  One day, I hope my children understand the importance if little objects.

I broke down with L; told her how sometimes I feel like such a child.  How this is the way my extended family sees me and I hate it.  I want to be grown-up and mature and kind, but I am afraid to step out of certain boxes I have lived in all of my life (particularly the “bad” box and the “mean” box).  I have always had a little mean streak, wherein I hurt other people’s feelings.  Most often, it is completely unintentional.  I tend to latch onto an idea or a word or a topic and never let go of it, even when it has become hurtful or upsetting or annoying to someone else.

I don’t want to be mean anymore.  But at the same time, I feel like I’m looking out at the world from below the flap of my trusty box and it’s scary — being inside the little box is comforting to me, and I seek out comfort wherever I find it.

I suspect that one day I will suddenly be ready and I will step out of all the boxes that I need to step out of when the time is right.

Until then, I have L.  I have my otter and my elephant and my ducks.  I have stories that I like to read and habits and ways of looking at the world that comfort me.

At the bottom of everything, I simply want to befriend people.  Almost every action that I undertake or every thought that I speak comes from a place inside me wherein I feel deeply lonely and want to make friends.  It’s funny, that I would be “mean” or “bad” and expect to make friends.  But it’s true, in a strange way.  It’s like I’m announcing my flaws and I want to be loved anyway.

Everyone just wants to be loved.

******

FYI: I’m trying to make the blog a wee bit more anonymous at the moment.  If you see a comment on your blog from “Run Write Therapy Life” or “CH”, it’s still me. 🙂

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Sugar

Dear Sugar,

You know I love you.  I really do — especially in homemade baked goods, cereal, energy/granola bars, ice cream, and chocolate.

But we have to take a break.

I’m seeing someone else.

Okay, that was a lie.  I’m actually seeing three someone else’s: fat, protein, and vegetables.

And sugar, they are so good to me. They’re better for me than you are.  Our relationship has been fraught with violence and abuse: you make me breakout (which is especially bad given my general hormonal issues), you make me overeat (I thought I could just have a little bit of you and be satisfied, but you’re so demanding — you always say “more, more more”!), and you  make me a little lethargic.

It’s time for a change.  I want more energy.  I want a happier, healthier looking face.  I want to feel like my digestive system is squeaky clean (TMI?).

Moreover, I’m an athlete — I thrive off of running, yoga, strength training, and just generally playing/exploring.  And you slow me down.  I know that all the experts say “carbs before and after a workout”, but I just don’t think that it’s working out for me.  See, that means it’s not you, it’s me.

I hope that we can see each other again some day, but only a little bit at a time.  I want my clear skin back.  I want my marathon energy back.  I want to look forward to eating healthy meals and not dread it.

I hope you are understand.  Feel free to call/text/email me anytime.  I hope we can still be friends!

xoxo, Caronae

And so begins a little experiment: seven days sugar-free. At least, refined-sugar free.  Don’t murder me if I use a dash of maple syrup at some point.  But seriously though, I think something has been bothering my tummy, my body, and my energy levels lately, and I have a suspicion that this white powder (no, not the other white powder) is to blame.

I have been focusing more and more on vegetables, a little fruit, proteins (meat, fish, chicken, yogurt, milk, beans, tofu/soy, eggs, cheese) and fats (EVOO, coconut oil, nut butter, plain nuts, low-fat dairy, whole eggs, cheese, butter, avocados) lately and I love it.  I have lost twelve or so of then nagging pounds I’ve had hanging out since the hospital this summer, and would love to lose about five more to be at my happy weight.  I’m fine with the way I am now, to be honest.  I just want to feel like I can finally get a hold of my weight, for once and for all.

And I think sugar (or at least, excessive sugar), is standing in my way.  I am a woman on a mission.  A very determined woman.  Don’t get in my way. 😉

-A few notes: my goal is NOT complete sugar elimination, jsut serious reduction

Source

-I will probably use a little stevia and maple syrup

-I am going to reevaluate after seven days.

Good night all!

Do you have a healthy relationship with sugar, or are you one of the many people who struggles with it?

Protein+Fat=Happy Caronae

Today’s Happy Note: Crossing things off my to do list.  I still have a lot to get done before this insane weekend, but I’m getting there. 🙂

PS — Does anyone else add things to their to-do list that you have already done, just so you can experience the joy of crossing it out?

Marathon Training: Yesterday I did four and a half miles, with an easy mile and a half warm-up, 4x (400 fast/400 easy), and a mile cool down.  It wasn’t terrible, but I just felt weak.  Today, even more so. I feel lightheaded,blurry vision, etc. No idea what is going on, but I’ll be sure to monitor things and be careful.

I had my super easy yoga class today. We literally sat on chairs half the time and stretched.  I’m taking it very easy this week, so this was perfectly acceptable.

I never told you about my endocrine visit on Monday! The doctor was extremely nice and extremely knowledgeable.  She also seemed obscenely young (early thirties?) for a faculty practitioner (meaning she is a professor) which made me a bit nervous.  She was very thorough.  We talked about everything — diet, exercise, hormones, habits, genetics, blood sugar, endocrine/metabolic systems.  She is running a really broad panel of tests to see if there is something significantly wrong.  If nothing is found, then the “answer” is simply going to be that I have a little bit of a weird metabolic/hormonal system.

I am not freaking out as much as I was before though because of two things:

1. She basically told me that my weight “problem” actually isn’t a problem.  Because of my healthy diet and exercise choices, being a few pounds over the recommended weight for my height isn’t a big deal.  She was actually really soothing/comforting in this regard.

2. I have been making a conscious effort to eat more fat and protein lately and have lost seven pounds.  My period just ended, so some of this might be hormonal/water weight.  But still, seven pounds is a good chunk of my overall body weight.  I am hoping that continuing this eating pattern will help me lose a few more pounds.  But if not, I am not going to freak out.

I promise. 🙂

So what have I been eating of late?

One carb I REFUSE to get rid of is oats (above: 1/4 C with 1/2 serving vanilla protein powder, 1 C vanilla soymilk, chopped apple, and walnuts).  Other than that, I am not eating too many grains.  And I am not giving up carbs entirely either.  I kind of love them. 😉  I’m just making sure to reduce them and then pair them with more fat and protein.

One trap I have fallen into in the past is eating more protein without reducing carbs.  That just results in more overall calories, which isn’t going to help anybody.  Unless you are trying to gain weight, obviously.

Other eats:

Squash “pizza.”  In reality this was actually a squash bowl stuffed with veggies, ground beef, and cheese.  I cut it into little slices and ate it like a pizza though, which made it 10x more fun.

Really random lunch with two mini corn tortillas (which aren’t that good; I wanted wraps and thought these would be good since they were smaller, but they are dry), almond butter, carrots, and a protein cake (a la April) made with peanut flour and cocoa powder with PB.

Dinner was full of fat, veggies, and protein.   Exactly how I like it!  I used a base of pumpkin puree, topped that with ground beef/mushrooms/carrots and brussel sprouts/broccoli cooked in EVOO.  Enough to feed one small army OR one hungry Caronae.

I have heard a lot of different research about diets higher in proteins/fats.  Some of what I have seen has indicated that a diet high in protein/fat, even of the saturated variety (think whole milk, meat, butter) is not harmful.  I tend to agree with this with the caveat that people have very different metabolic/digestive systems with very different needs (I talked about my wants and needs with  my diet in Monday’s post).  I think that it isn’t animal fat or protein that’s killing us/making us obese, but processed crap full of chemicals, like candy bars and pop and snack foods.

I think that there is evidence on both sides of the spectrum, at the moment.  In my opinion, this just furthers my conclusion that different people are suited to different diets.

On the horizon the next few days: CRAZY INSANELY BUSY Caronae.  I promise to post before the marathon though.  Is anyone interested in tracking me/coming out to cheer and wants to know my number?

If so, email me!  I know a few bloggies have already mentioned that they would like to know, but I have lost track.  So please leave a comment/email me and I will let you know.

T-4 days!  Ahhhhhh!!!!!

It’s All Mental (And Physical!)

Today’s Happy Note: Sunbutter.  I know that sunflower seed butter is made from a kind of a modified sunflower seed and has some added sugar and oils.  But I. Don’t. Care.  It is my new favorite nut butter and I am in love.  Nut butter heaven.  If that is a real place, I am so going there.

Marathon Training: Yesterday was a day off running.  I did about 15 minutes of yoga then lifted my beloved weights for 45 minutes. I really do love weight-lifting.  It’s oddly relaxing.  Anyone with me on this?

Today was a speed workout day.  It may officially have been the longest speed workout of my life:

2 mile warm-up

4 x (2 mile @ Tempo pace, 1/2 mile easy)

2 mile cool-down

It ended up being a whopping 14 miles! That’s longer than my long run on Sunday.  It was a really good workout — I felt strong and fast, but not too fast; I think I paced myself pretty well.  I definitely needed a succesful workout, mentally.  I was super anxious to get started and have been feeling a bit down about running lately.  This brought my spirits back up! I estimated the distance for the fast portions using the street numberings on lamp posts in CP (a well-kept but amazing secret — the first two numbers on any lamp post correspond to the street cumber you are at, and there are 20 blocks to a mile).

An awesome mid-week workout, although 14 miles is kind of a time-suck.

All-Around Health

I want to talk a little bit about the intersections between mental and physical health today.  I think that it’s easy to become too focused on the physical aspect of health: mainstream media frequently portrays a narrow, singular conception of health which is framed largely around the exclusion of non-physical elements.  For example, you see advertisements at drug stores with people working out at a gym and eating salads and taking supplements.  Or there are segments on news shows telling us “how to get healthy” by doing this new exercise or eating this new superfood. One of the reasons I think that Caitlin’s book, Operation Beautiful, is wonderful (and has been so successful) is because it addresses a legitimate need for emotional health information and empowerment, both amongst individuals who already consider themselves to be relatively healthy(e.g., bloggers) and amongst those who don’t know where to start, physically or emotionally. I try to deal with things holistically, although I am not always successful.  But the fun part is the journey, not perfection.

In the last two years, I have had a physical health crisis and a mental health crisis.  My experiences with each were very different, but both were powerfully formative for my conception of myself — I learned so much about my unique strengths and talents from each.  I began to understand my way of seeing the world; where I fit into things.  I think these crises helped me to figure out love — how to love myself and others.  I am not saying that you need to have a crisis in order to take care of yourself though!  There are simple things that we can all do, everyday, to make our lives the best they can be.  After all, I think that’s what health is about: living our happiest, most vibrant lives.

If my years in college have taught me anything, thus far, it is that I need to take the time to be healthy.  Taking time for myself has saved my life.

Before talking about the spaces between emotional and bodily health, I want to share some research/articles on the matter.  Some of these are more scientific than others, but I think that they all involve a good overview on the relationship or specific facets of the relationship.

How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

Psychoendoneuroimmunology — relationship between stress and mental coping skills and somatic illness

Meditation Can Boost The Immune System

Exercise As an Antidepressant

Finding Thinner Peace II — eating right for our mind and body

Exercise, Mental Health, and Mental Ability

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health — great roundup of articles

Improving Emotional Health — a more general but still useful overview of emotional wellbeing and its intersections with physical indicators

Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health — this has almost nothing to do with bodily health, but is a comprehensive overview of mental health (including disorders)

Most of these articles focus on the relationship between mental health and exercise.  I think this is certainly important, but it would be shallow to consider it the only significant aspect of the way our emotional and bodily health intersect.

For me, physical health means a constellation of things: regular exercise/movement (running, yoga, and weights), a good diet full of lots of plants, protein, and healthy fats, regular communication with my doctors, management of my clotting problem and my hormonal/endocrine disorders, and generally taking care of my body — proper rest, attention to appearance, stretching, etc.

Mental health also means a variety of things, for me: managing my depression/anxiety/mood, actively seeking happiness and contentment, healthy social relationships and connections, a sense of calm/inner peace/spirituality, and a general awareness of my place in the world.

By no means do I think that people conceive of physical and mental health in the same ways.  Even a more generic inquiry into “health” would yield vastly different responses from similar individuals.  My point here is to notice and acknowledge what being physically and emotionally healthy means, for me, and to think about how these definitions relate and overlap and inform one another.

There is a certain calmness that washes over me on occasion.  It happens when I feel best about my body and content with my life.  It represents my ultimate healthy state. In it I feel alert, safe, and well.  I notice what my body is thinking and wanting and what my mind is thinking and wanting.  Sometimes these things are different, and that’s okay.  I accept myself for where I am at in that moment.  I am exquisitely attentive yet also tuned out from the rest of the world.  My body has moved sufficiently and been well-fed, and my intellect has been active and my emotions have been even-keeled.  This is, I suppose, my ideal intersection point.

Of course, this is not my everyday reality.  No one who knows me well would ever think to describe me as a calm or collected person.  I can be hysterical or just plain crazy.  On a regular basis.

My thought patterns have a huge effect on how I feel, physically.  When I notice that I am harshly judging myself and hating my body, I tense up — I can feel the pit of my stomach clenching and my shoulders hovering up by my ears.  Or, for another example, when I hear from my doctor that my INR is too low (for the third time in two weeks, as was the case today), I start panicking.  My thoughts race, I can’t do school work, I am suddenly unhappy.

I wish I had a graph or something scientific whereby I could chart the precise overlap of my mental and physical health over a given period of time.  For now, vague descriptions like this will have to do.  All I know, in conclusion, is that there is a connection between my body and mind beyond my spinal cord: yes, my spine runs into my brain stem which opens up into the cerebrum.  But something more is happening here.  I have a sudden change in mood after a quick, sweaty run.  I feel different sensations in my chest and lungs and stomach when I have more fulfilling interactions with those around me.

I think the conclusion is that I don’t know precisely what is going on.  Rather, I am attuned to the patterns and the existence of the connection.  And I think that the details of this connection are probably different for different people.

And that’s okay.

How do mental and physical health intersect for you?  Or you more appreciative of one over the other?  How do you balance the varied roles that they play in your life?  What would you change, if you could?