Reteaching Wonder

Today’s Happy Note: Spending a wonderful weekend with USB!  He loves to talk/cuddle/eat/have adventures/walk…pretty much all the same things I like to do!  It is nice to have someone who wants to have adventures with me.  We still do lots of things by ourselves though — yesterday I went to a map-making class while he did an introductory yoga workshop!  It’s a wonderful balance.  I have been hesitant to say this, because I am afraid of somehow jinxing it, but I’ll just go ahead and say it anyways, because it’s true: USB is, plain and simple, the most wonderful thing that has happened to me in years. I even have a picture today.  Look!

Okay, so referring to that as a picture of him might be a bit of a stretch, but take what you can get!  I don’t have a lot of pictures and wouldn’t really feel comfortable having him on the blog, at this point.  But he does have nice hands, right?

Thanks for your sweet comments about it yesterday.  I feel silly talking about him sometimes, but it’s a good silly. I’m completely smitten and it has all happened so suddenly.  Each moment with him is a new lesson in blessings and gratefulness.  He has retaught me how to wonder. I was a hopeless romantic before, and now, well, I’m downright sappy.  So I apologize for my sappiness.  You’re just going to have to deal with it for a while. 😉

In the above picture, we are eating delicious wraps from this Noodle Shop. We got one of the tofu and one of the duck, and each had half of each.  They were really tasty!  They are definitely snack-sized and not meal-sized though.  Or maybe that’s just my marathoner’s perspective.

I squeezed in a long run today, between studying, cleaning, and cuddling.  I did about 12.4 miles in 2:10-ish. Somewhere thereabouts.  I think I was probably around a 10:30/mile pace overall.  Didn’t feel great, didn’t feel terrible.  For parts of it, my legs felt powerful and strong; at other times, they felt sluggish and sloooow as molasses. Sometimes within minutes of each other.  Weird, no?

It was my last long run before the marathon, so I’ll take it.  My body was happy for the shorter run, and is happy about the lower mileage in the next two weeks.  Less than two weeks from today I will be an official marathoner!  I even got my number in the registration pdf today!  I am number 40920.  Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Other eats today weren’t too exciting, but did include this very necessary froyo monstrosity:

It’s a mixture of pinkberry original and pumpkin flavors, with my own toppings (seriously, always bring your froyo home and do your own toppings — so much cheaper!).  And yes, pinkberry now has pumpkin flavor.  It isn’t very strong at all and I kind of like it!  I added chunky pb, a part of a crumbled chocolate chip pumpkin cookie, and more chocolate chips.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I have been *sort of* making an effort to eat less carbs.  The key words here are *sort of*.  I  would estimate that I’m eating about 20% less carbs than I was a few weeks ago, in the heart of marathon training.  I have always liked my carbs, but I have never been obsessed with them.  I don’t love bread.  I actively dislike rice.  I like quinoa but am usually too lazy to cook it.  I also like whole wheat pasta but again, it takes a long time to cook, and it is more of a treat for me.  I have been consuming more sweet potatoes and squash (they’re in season, so it’s easy), about the same amounts of veggies, a little less fruit, and less sugary carbs.

I have made the switch to totally plain yogurt.  I have also started actively buying more proteins and fats lately. Here’s whats in my fridge/cupboard at the moment:

Protein — natural honey maple turkey, TJs grilled chicken, Fage 2%  greek yogurt, eggs, Amy’s spicy vegan chilibeans (refried pinto and plain), natural tuna, and half a block of tofu.

Fats — avocados, TJs guacamole hummus (it’s alright — but not better than either hummus or guac on their own), an assortment of nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts), peanut butter, earth balance vegan butter, Fage 2% greek yogurt (does double duty!), TJs goddess salad dressing, olive oil.

I think that variety in protein and fat sources is key.  I make an effort to do different combinations and flavors and textures.

I am not doing this as part of some silly diet or fad weight-loss craze.  You guys know I wouldn’t do that!  Rather, one of the most widely accepted treatments for PCOS is a lower-carb diet.  For many PCOS patients, it is the only way to manage their weight. I don’t event know if I have PCOS or a different disorder, but I have, in the past, experienced success with a lower-carb diet overall (I am using “diet” in the general sense of what I eat here, not to refer to any type of restriction).

So it’s just something I am trying.  It is easier now that I’m running less.  I am seeing an endocrinologist next week, and will start dietary/medication experiments the following week (after the marathon is over).  It is going to be an interesting journey, to say the least.

Favorite protein?  Favorite fat?

Best part of your weekend?

Are you sappy and romantic or serious and collected?

Love Your Body Day And Therapy Thursday

Today’s Happy Note: Willow Smith and her song “Whip My Hair”.  She uses her braids to fling paint.  Enough said.

I got in my nine miles this morning!  And they were really, really sucky.  It was just one of those runs that I needed to push through, and I did.  I did three miles at tempo pace in the first half.  I was supposed to do three fast 800s in the second half but there was no way that was going to happen.  Part of the problem was that I was inappropriately dressed.  I have running clothes for 55 degrees and higher and 40 degrees and lower.  I can never seem to dress appropriately for that 15 degree gap in between.  Ugh.  I really should invest in some long sleeve tech tees.

Thank you everyone for your sweet comments yesterday!  Every single one of them felt like a little gift in my inbox.  I talked through a lot of it with L today, which was nice.  I’ll share those thoughts at the end of the post.

First, in honor of yesterday’s National Love Your Body Day, I present you with 16 reasons why I love my body.  [FYI: there are many more reasons why I don’t love my body; I’m not perfect.  But I think that enumerating things my body does for me is not a futile exercise.  It does remind me of the good.]

  1. It’s super bendy!  I am seriously the most flexible adult ever.  I can do the splits and get into pretty much any yoga position.  I like this.
  2. My eyes are deep and dark and mysterious and nice.  I like how they fit under my eyebrows.
  3. I have really strong arms and can lift all kinds of things.
  4. My heart and lungs pulled me through my pulmonary emboli hospitalization this summer.  For that, I am eternally grateful to my body.
  5. I have nice hips for dancing.
  6. The skin on my hands is soft; I have good hand-holding hands.  USB tells me this.
  7. My spine and torso are very graceful — dancerly, I like to think
  8. In fact, I think I’m kind of good at dancing. I would love to be in a dance recital some day.  Is that weird?
  9. My feet take a beating through running, but they forgive me.  Thank you, feet.  You work damn hard.
  10. I have great hair.
  11. My body has let me climb mountains in Mexico, hike through cloud forests in Costa Rica, and run up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.
  12. I scar really easily and have some really unique, beautiful scars.  My favorite is on my right kneecap.  I like how scars tell important stories.
  13. My hands!  Oh, how much hands do for us.  I mean, come on, opposable thumbs?  How awesome can our bodies be?!?!
  14. My senses.  I have wonderful eyesight and hearing.  My senses let me interact with the world and respond in my own way, through sensory writing.  My senses help me create poems and prose and essays.
  15. Ribs.  I like how they form a cage around my middle, protecting me.  My body has ways of protecting and defending itself.  That’s beautiful.
  16. We cannot forget my legs, obviously.  They have carried me through three half-marathons, two ultramarathons, countless long runs, and hopefully, a marathon (soon)!  They are strong and forceful.  Sometimes they just keep going even when I don’t tell them to — when my mind is too exhausted to function, my legs have a way of working, regardless.
I have much to be grateful for!  What are you grateful for, at this very moment, in terms fo your body and its amazing capabilities?
Therapy Thursday
I think I’ll keep my therapy thoughts brief today (haha, am I even capable of that?).  I don’t want to get into certain things.  We spent a while talking about my anxiety surrounding the timeliness of our session and then we talked about how I characterize myself as “lazy” and then about how I operate, socially (how I make friends, how there have been some very lonely periods in my life).  I told her about my first day at my second high school.  I was a junior.  It was August, 2005.  I cried, recounting it to her.  It broke my heart, looking back.  But I was also crying happy tears about it — I was stubborn (I had this really geeky yellow lunchbox that I refused to give up; I spent the whole lunch hour walking around the school by myself on that first day, desperately wanting a friend) and held tight to my beliefs and identity.  If that meant being alone, so be it.  I think that in some ways I am better at being alone now — I manage it; it isn’t always a lonely alone.  I will always be a person who needs her alone.  I need to be by myself, often for long stretches of time.  I can’t fathom spending time with friends every single day.  One of the things I like best about USB is that he doesn’t fear being alone — he relishes it.  He uses that time to unwind and rewire; it also means that we are comfortable not spending every single second together.  I think that’s healthy.
I used most of the second half of the session to talk about my weight/body/health problems.  For a pretty straightforward summary, see yesterday’s post. I liked that L was both tremendously compassionate and objective about it all.  I actually just got an appointment with an endocrinologist today.  We agreed that I will try that — and I will make a serious effort to try any diet variations or medications she recommends or have tests done — and move forward from there.   As I was outlining my health problems to L, she said something like “having a chronic illness is hard; it’s not fun.”  I looked up at her, started crying harder, and told her “I might be able to handle one, but having two is destroying me” — the clotting issue and the endocrine issue.  Her face softened and she just said, “I wish so much that I could make it go away.”   It was comforting.  She was comforting.
And that is the honest truth — I don’t know how much longer I can handle having both of these things.  It’s exhausting.  I don’t know what takes precedence over the other.  I am tired of scheduling follow up appointments and having my weekly blood draws and having heart echoes and breathing tests and living in terror that I’m clotting again.  Seven doctors is more than any healthy 20 year old should have to face.  It was actually kind of nice to just have that moment of complete breakdown and vulnerability with L this afternoon: I basically told her “I can’t do it.”  And she acknowledged that.  That was all I really needed out of today, I think.
I have to keep living one day at a time.  The next few months will be full of visits to specialists and blood tests and endless round of medication trial and error.  But in some sense, I’m already used to that.  I feel like I will feel less burdened when I at least know that we are doing things to try and figure it all out.  I like journeys. This feels like a journey to me.  I’m trying to stay positive.
Goodnight friends!  Happy Friday to you all!

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.

BoysEatingTherapyWorkouts

Today’s Happy Note: Flirting with a British guy at the grocery store…

Boys

I don’t know if my Happy Note has ever involved a boy.  But male specimens have been flying around in my life like crazy lately!  I don’t know where they’re coming from.  Well, I do: the library, the gym, the specialty market.  I suppose they have always been there.  But now I’m noticing them.  And they’re noticing me.  And this is all so strange and new and, well, a little bit wonderful, for me.  It’s sort of a little self-confidence feedback loop: as I have become more and more confident in my abilities, my personality, and my body, I think other people notice that confidence. Feeling loved and sought out then reinforces the confidence, etc., etc.

I will NEVER base my self-worth off of men.  I am my own woman, my own beauty, my own happiness.  But having others involved in my life is a beautiful, fulfilling thing.  Relationships — of all varieties — are a component of happiness and self-fulfillment.

I am not sure if all this flirtation (interaction? fun?) means anything or will lead to anything.  But I honestly regret not introducing myself to the man at the store.  He truly seemed wonderful, and it couldn’t have hurt to say my name.  I rarely get that sensation in my gut like “I should have done something differently.”  I did this evening.  But I can’t go back and talk to him now, can I?  I’m pretty sure he’s gone by now. 🙂

Eating

I definitely was emotionally snacking this evening.  I sort of got onto a weird eating schedule today and ended up being hungry at 10:00.  Once I have one snack in the evening, I can never have just one.  Does anyone else have this issue?  I am still in the process of observing my eating habits, emotions, rhythms, and associations. I am not getting angry at myself at this point.  More and more, I am beginning to realize that I deserve the best: I deserve to feel happy in my mind and body and to treat myself with love and care and kindness and respect.  I know this sounds all soft and new age-y, but it is what I am thinking about a lot lately.  In the past few months, I have felt like I have actually begun thinking about and repairing my relationship with food.  The funny thing is that I’m probably at my highest weight ever right now.

A big realization in this process has been that hunger is not a character flaw. Food is not the enemy.  Wanting to eat does not indicate some horrific problem in my body or in my heart.  I haven’t had a chance to talk about this with L much, but do plan to soon.  We have talked ever so slightly about my body image and general eating concerns, but that just isn’t an area we have explored yet.  I am anxious to do so.  Our weekly hour-long sessions never seem long enough!

I think this is a good segue into some vague therapy thoughts…

Therapy

As I said last week, my relationship with L and my thoughts about the process of therapy are changing.  This is okay.  Thanks for all your sweet thoughts on this — I was a little nervous that people wouldn’t want to read if I changed the content of my therapy posts.  But I need to do what I am comfortable with and what is right for my mental health at the moment.  I still struggle with depression and anxiety, daily.

So I am not entirely sure of the direction my therapy posts will go on at the moment.  I still write detailed thoughts in my journal.  I might share all or some of those thoughts on the blog, or some days, none.  I might just talk about the process, or something tangential, or simply verbalize some questions.

All I know is that my relationship with L has undergone a subtle but powerful, sudden shift over the summer.  It is now painfully intimate.  Lovely, raw, tender, delicate.  Different.

It’s funny how sometimes my biggest revelations in therapy aren’t necessarily related directly to what we talk about. Sometimes the breakthroughs come from connecting things in new ways, or from writing about it afterwards.  This week we talked a lot about stressors and money and the little things that tend to build up and make me crazy.  Not in a structured way at all — our sessions are terribly unstructured, and I like it that way.  I like that she never says things like “tell me a list of things that stress you out, and how those things make you feel.”  It is so much more organic than that.  That’s part of the beauty of it.  It is simply, on one level, a deep conversation between two people — an open wound.

The revelation this week was that I am capable of relating to and empathizing with people. And, therefore, I am capable of growing and sustaining satisfying friendships, relationships, etc.  I need not judge others — or myself — on their feelings.  I can be calm and gentle with others.  I can open up to them (even if it takes some time).  This ties back to what I said about food earlier; I deserve love, caring, affection.  From myself and those around me.  In fact, I deserve it so much that I can (and should) be an active participant in the development of relationships in my life.  In the last year, as I have come to understand myself better,  I have also begun understanding others.  And the ways in which we relate.

Sometimes, my relationships with other people hurt.  And other times they are very, very soothing and right.

I loved how our dialog went back and forth this week.  I love learning new things about L; it is important for me in terms of my ability to open up to her.  She told me a lot about her career trajectory, especially in her 20s, yesterday.  This was helpful to me both in terms of figuring out how the next few years of my own life might look and in terms of understanding and relating to her better.  She got married when she was 22 and divorced at 40.  I can’t imagine being married so young.  I almost didn’t believe her.  I don’t think that uncovering bits and pieces of her life is unproductive to my therapy at all.  Many psychotherapists and mental health professionals thing it is.  But I don’t.  It might be hard for her to sustain several of these intimate relationships, but, first of all, I know that not every patient is as interested in knowing her and, secondly, I get so much more out of it when I have this verbal, emotional dance with her.

Random but important thoughts.  That’s all for this week, I think.

Workouts

Yesterday I did four miles easy, with 5×100 meter strides thrown in, and 45 minutes full body strength training.  Today I did seven miles with hills.  Marathon training=hungry Caronae.  I will admit, I have a lot of anxiety about losing weight while training.  I might need to come up with some more specific goals and plans.  We shall see.

Goodnight friends!  Have I ever mentioned how wonderful you all are?  Seriously, every comment warms my heart.  Blogging has led me to such wonderful friends.  Even if you just stop by to read for a few minutes, I know you’re there, and it makes me feel so happy and connected.

Happy Friday!

Scariest Moments of my Life

Hello beautiful friends!  I have missed you all so much during my absence.  But I do have a good (albeit scary) story to tell you!  I want to preface this by saying that I am so grateful for all the love and support everyone has given me during the last few days; without my family and friends this would have been very difficult to get through.  Our human connections lend a lot of grace and beauty to the smallest moments; illustrative examples to follow.  If ever I had forgotten how much people love me and treasure me and care for me, well, now I know just how much they do.  I feel like I’m looking at love from a slightly different angle now.  I think I am beginning to understand how compassion alights through us.

This past week was really hot and humid.  Like, painfully hot, and as you all know, I sort of wilt in the heat.  By Wednesday, I wasn’t really feeling myself.  I kept getting out of breath on my walk to work.  I attributed it to the weather and the droll, tired pattern of mid-summer days.  In the evening, I went for a run.  I had to stop every half a mile or so and ended up only running three and walking two.  I threw in some yoga and abs in the middle and felt decent, but thought that I might be having some asthma.  I called my dad and he suggested I should make an appointment with my doctor for the next day; I might need an inhaler.

In the morning, while I walked to work, I called the doctor (which is conveniently right next to my office) and made an appointment for 2:00.  I still felt tired/short of breath and my chest hurt a little bit around my sternum, but again, I wrote it off as asthma.  At work, I pretty much sat at my desk typing away for five hours.  The office is air-conditioned and calm.  I felt fine, but avoided any excessive trips up and down the stairs.  I left my work spread out on my desk and my lunch in the fridge when I headed to the doctor, thinking I would be back in thirty or forty minutes.

I finally got into the room with Sam, the nurse practitioner, about a half hour behind schedule.  I was a wee bit cranky because I wanted to get back to work and finish what I had been doing.  I told him I was there to follow up on my GI infection of two weeks ago (I was almost back to normal) and to tell him that I was a little bit out of breath, probably because of the heat/humidity/air quality.  He took my pulse, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels; all normal.  I told him that it was much worse when I moved around.  So he did something that probably saved my life: he took my blood oxygen levels while I walked up and down the stairs.  The level dropped pretty rapidly to 89, which is not considered near normal range, especially for a runner.  He saw how out of breath I was and seemed concerned.  We went back to the office and talked for a few minutes.  Then he walked me over to the urgent care, which is just in the next office over, where he talked to other doctors.  At this point, I was really scared: I sat in a room with the door wide open while a cluster of doctors and nurses talked literally five feet outside the door.  I could hear everything they were saying: basically, there was a lot of “this is not normal” and “this is dangerous.”  They started saying that I was going to have to go to the hospital, which made me nervous, but I also felt skeptical.  I really thought I was perfectly fine.  I called my mom and started crying and told her they wanted me to go to the ER.  She said it was okay and probably not serious.

The NP (Sam) got a nurse who got a wheelchair to take me to the ER – the hospital is across the street.  I refused to get in the wheelchair and told them that was a ridiculous idea.  We walked over instead.  She helped me sign in.  Because I was having chest pain (albeit mild), I got moved to the front of the queue.  I talked to the triage nurse who sent me back to see the pediatric ER nurses (like last time; I’m not yet 21).  I told the nurse my symptoms and explained that I didn’t really know why I was there because it wasn’t that serious.  I waited around for an hour or so then saw a doctor who was clearly a resident (a very very hot resident; like hotter than TV doctors hot).  He was concerned that I could have a blood clot (um, what?), although my blood oxygen levels were back to normal.  He ordered some blood tests; mainly, a test called D-Dimer, which measures the concentration of a protein that forms in the blood if you have a clot.  The test, however, does not mean that you necessarily have a clot, it just indicates a problem.  I waited around some more for them to draw blood.  Then I waited another hour for the test results.  It came back positive (triple the normal level).  That meant that the (hot) doctor had to order a CAT (CT) Scan which would actually use a dye to look inside my lungs.  I waited for a while to go up to the scanning room; they made me go in a wheelchair which greatly annoyed me.  A technician injected dye into my IV catheter (which nurses had put in when I first got there) and took a bunch of pictures.  I went back downstairs.   Meanwhile, doctors looked at very thin cross sections of my torso (from my collarbone down to my liver) taken in the CT pictures.

I waited around another half hour or so (I arrived at 3:15; it was probably about 6:30 or 7:00 by now).  I was sitting in my little “cubicle” in the ER, listening to a plethora of loud, hurting children (NOT something you want to hear for six hours).  After a while, the doctor came up to me, accompanied by the attending physician.  They had sort of grim looks on their faces and the first thing he said was “I have bad news for you.”  He spent the next five or so minutes explaining to me what that bad news was; I was crying and shaking because I was just so anxious.  He kind of forgot to mention that I would be okay until after he explained the problem.  So at this point I basically thought I was going to die.

He told me that I had two large pulmonary embolisms, one in the main artery running through each lung.  This is a very dangerous condition.  If I had not come to the hospital, I could have died!  A pulmonary embolism (PE) is the same thing as a gigantic blood clot.  When you have big clots hanging out in your lungs, you can stop breathing.  I cannot describe how I felt at this moment with any word other than “terror.”  I was by myself and did not understand what was happening to me.  All I can say is that human kindness carried me through.  The hot doctor was super nice to me and explained everything very carefully.  He talked to my mom on the phone.  The nurses patted me on the shoulder when they drew blood or gave me injections.  The woman whose daughter was across the hall with a knee injury came over and hugged me.  My aunt called her cousin (my second cousin) who eventually was able to come by.  I can’t thank all these people enough.  You don’t really understand what compassion means until a stranger is holding your hand in an ER, telling you that you will be okay.

The doctor told me that I would have to be admitted and stay in the hospital for several days.  I had only been to the ER for the first time two weeks before.  So now, within a single month, not only did I have my second ER visit, but I was actually being admitted!  Terror no longer accurately describes the feeling that was spreading from my stomach out into my limbs.  The doctor ordered a shot of a drug called Lovenox.  This is an IV or injected drug that prevents any new clots from forming.  I had to wait two hours to get the shot, which was apparently dangerously long.  I talked to both of my parents a lot more during this time.  They were pretty freaked out.  In fact, everyone around me was pretty freaked out: here was this healthy, young woman presenting with a deadly disease, with virtually no explanation.  As each test result came back positive, I could read the confusion on the doctors’ faces.  There are several risk factors for PE: smoking, immobility or serious inactivity, surgery, cancer, leg fractures, family history, and taking birth control.  I do take birth control for my PCOS.  As was later discovered, I also have a family history, but we didn’t really realize this at the time.

A nurse finally came around to give me the Lovenox.  She told me it would go into my stomach, into subcutaneous tissue.  This was too much.  I burst into tears and yelled at her and told her I did not want the injection.  She calmed me down within a few minutes and gave me the injection.  It kind of hurts – not when the needle goes in – but when the drug is actually pushed into the stomach fat.  After this, I had to wait for patient transport who would take me to a different building where my room would be.  The transport finally came and they put me into a bed.  I got wheeled to the Sixth Floor West wing, where I would be for the next three days.

I got up to the floor and went into my room.  It was what a hospital room seemed like it would be; two patients to a room, a small box of toiletries, a curtain, a giant bed that I could make go up and down (very entertaining!), thin blankets, an icky inpatient gown, oxygen machines.  I was in room 20A, right outside the nurses’ station.  I met the attending physician for the evening, who really just reiterated to me my condition and the seriousness of it.  He gave me oxygen via a plastic tube thingy going into my nose.  He talked about the medications I would be on for the next few days.  In addition to the injected Lovenox, I would have to take a pill called Coumadin.  I had my blood drawn some more and took more pills.  I was extremely tired but so hugely anxious that I couldn’t sleep at all.  I slept for maybe five hours that night.  My second cousin (and another second cousin who came later) stayed until 11:00 or so with me.  They brought me a sandwich and a pastry because I had missed dinner.  I was hangry by this point.

I was awoken at six the next morning by my first nurse, Joan (I had three other nurses: Remy, Adrian, and John).  She did my blood pressure, blood oxygen, and drew blood.  My iron and a few other things were a bit low, but the most important test done was for my INR.  INR stands for International Normalized Ratio.  It measures the ability of the blood to coagulate.  It is supposed to be a little less than one in healthy people, however, my blood needed to be thinned out quickly, so we had to get it up to between two and three.  It was only 1.2 the first morning.  After that, I was taken to have an echocardiogram taken of my heart.

That took a while (you have to keep waiting for “patient transport”, and they are slooooooow).  I didn’t get back to my room until almost ten.  I asked when I could have breakfast and they were like “you missed breakfast.”  I almost cried.  I told them that they needed to go find someone who could bring me something, and finally they did.  I saw the breakfast choices; basically cereal, whole milk, banana, tea, bread, hard boiled eggs.  Not terrible but not great.  I was really craving some peanut butter!  I then looked over the menu that they gave me for the rest of the day and told them that it was not going to work.  They sent a nutritionist up and I wrote the department a letter explaining why they needed more produce, decent protein, whole grains, and healthy fats on their menus.  Hey, it gave me something to do!  The food didn’t get much better so I didn’t eat a lot.

In addition to the Lovenox, I had to start taking a drug called Coumadin (the brand name for Warfarin).  The clots were still big and my heart was dilated because of the pressure from my lungs.  Scary.  The rest of that day (Friday) was really boring.  Lots of random tests and meetings with doctors; I met the attending for the floor, a physician’s assistant, and a pulmonologist. More pills.  More blood draws, more tests, more doctors, more nurses.  I had visitors though!  I had friends, people from work, relatives.  By Friday night, my mom had arrived.  People brought me cards, chocolate, magazines, flowers.  I read lots of books and walked up and down the hallway ten billion times.  I chatted with the nurses.  Everyone was surprised because I had basically no symptoms outside of a mild shortness of breath.  There was no chest pain, no coughing, and no low blood oxygen levels. Because of all of this, they said that I would be able to go home the next day (Saturday)!  I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure what the situation with the clots was.  But my doctors explained it: the clots (PEs) are still in my lungs, but, while the drugs are thinning out my blood, the clots are moving to the periphery of my lungs and slowly beginning to dissolve.  They will dissolve (and hopefully never come back!) within two weeks, in theory.  I can rest at home while they dissolve.

This still seems so much to take in.  I am reeling, anxious, not sleeping at night.  My mom injects me with the Lovenox every morning and I take the Coumadin at night.  I have to have blood tests drawn tomorrow morning and every few weeks thereafter for at least six months.  I will be on the Coumadin for at least that long.  If I have a certain genetic abnormality or I ever develop more emboli, I will be on blood thinners the rest of my life.  I will not be able to drink alcohol, take ibuprofen, or take long flights without being extremely careful.  I will have to have the level of Coumadin in my blood measured constantly to make sure that the INR is between two and three.  I will meet with gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, pulmonologists, clot specialists, internists, and nurses.  We will need to figure out why a healthy, young person developed massive pulmonary embolisms.  Usually, this is a condition associated with older or less healthy individuals.  I will never again be able to take birth control, which could cause a clot again.  I will have to find alternative medications to manage my PCOS or else I could quickly become infertile.

But.  At this point I’m alive.  And that is all I can ask for.  So many other things seem trivial right now.  I have walked around with my mom a bit today.  Gone to museums, eaten whatever I wanted.  If I walk too much I have trouble breathing and have to sit down.  Stairs and hills are especially hard.  I have lots of pretty flowers in my apartment to look at and chocolate to eat.

I might go back to work Wednesday.  We shall see.  I have a lot to do for my non-profit job so I’m a little lost on that.  But I know things can and will get back to normal.  My life will always be different because of this; I will have to exercise extraordinary caution in doing everyday things and in more serious things, like pregnancy, or surgeries.  This is something that, unfortunately, can never be removed from my medical history.  I am so thrilled to be alive right now: thrilled to touch my mama’s shoulder and hear her breathing.  Thrilled to be able to pick up pears and avocadoes at the grocery store.  It’s hard to describe.  Coming back from that sort of panic and terror and near-death experience, I am most definitely different.  Stronger.  I am not sure how, but I am sure that things will begin to unfold before me as I move forward.  And I will move forward.

Recommitting

Today’s Happy Note: It’s the weekend.  Somehow, four day work weeks always feel especially long.  My body never quite gets into the right rhythm.  I haven’t been this excited about a weekend in a long time.  With that said, I am feeling 95% better and am planning on enjoying this weekend and cramming it full of goodness and such.

The combination of recovering from a serious illness and the unbearable heat/humidity has left me exhausted. If I had to draw a picture of the way I feel right now, it would be a maple tree being tapped for syrup.  Endless syrup would be flowing out of an open gash in the tree until it was sucked dry.   I am the empty tree.

Bad tree metaphors aside (I have a minor obsession), I. Hate. Summer.  I am ready for it to be over.  My favorite season is fall, followed by spring, winter, and summer, at a distant last.  I overslept this morning, was late for work, and was still too drained after work to do anything besides collapse on my bed and sleep for three hours.  I had made plans for a quick run, yoga, and a meet up with a friend. Tired Caronae=Weakling Caronae=Anti-Social Caronae=Frustrated Caronae. Therefore when I am tired like this I end up frustrated.

I can’t even describe to you the amount of guilt I feel after a few days sans exercise.  I walk about two miles every day getting to/from work and doing errands.  But in my mind, it doesn’t “count.”  Regardless of whether it counts, I want to be moving.  It’s a healthy outlet that relieves my frustration.

So I am making a recommitment to my health. Less mindless eating, more fun exercise.  More fresh fruits and veggies (although my digestion is still not back to 100%, so this will happen slowly), less lying on the couch in a half-dead position watching TV.  Pretty simple.  This is NOT an obsessive goal or a calorie-counting goal or even a weight loss goal (although that might be nice since I did gain weight while sick).  This is just me consciously recommitting to the healthy lifestyle that I know I truly enjoy.  I am giving myself guidelines, not rules.  My goal is to have more energy and to feel better about myself.

Guidelines:

  • Water.  Drink it.  A lot.  I have a 32 ounce bottle and would like to get through it at least twice a day.
  • Strength training: 2-3 times a week.  Lifting makes me feel strong and toned and is, quite simply, fun.
  • One exercise class a week: this is a nice way to switch things up.
  • Cardio: 4-6 times a week.
  • Yoga: 1-2 times a week.
  • Positive self-talk (“gee  Caronae, you look great in this dress today!”): infinite times per week.
  • Real meals: no picking.  Sit down and eat the damn meal.  More veggies and real food in the evenings (this is where I really struggle).
  • Take advantage of the weekends: come up with some new, awesome, longer workouts.

So that’s the plan, roughly.  I might add more guidelines as I go along.  We shall see.  If any readers want to join me, that would be fun! It’s always nice to feel like you are doing a challenge with a friend.

Anyone have any recommendations?  I am certainly open to your suggestions!  What are your favorite ways to “get back on track”?

Okay.  Enough boring stuff.  Onto more important things:

Like blueberry banana smoothies:

And Mr. Softee ice cream cones (this was my Cookie Friday, although really, the whole rest of the day ended up being a Cookie Friday of sorts.  See recommitment plan above.)

Cherry-dipped ice cream cones is one processed thing I will never give up.  Another thing: the occassional goldfish (not the swimming kind, the cute little snacking kind).  Someone had these in our office today and my hand kept sneaking into the bag.  I’m sure they can’t be that bad for me.

The up-closeness of this photo is cleverly designed to disguise the size of my portion.  Which was big.  But I was feling genuinely snacky.  I balanced it out with a power lunch!

Delicious salad beast with spinach, peppers, carrots, plain raw tofu (surprisingly yummy) and sweet poppy seed dressing.

What was your Cookie Friday treat today?

Off to write!  Goodnight and happy weekend!

Mothers, Banana Maple Chia French Toast, Women’s Bodies

Today’s Happy Note: Going to the Cathedral and listening to the organ in honor of my mother!

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you more than I could ever say.  You are strong, beautiful, caring, and dedicated.  I hope that one day I might be a fraction of the mother you have been to me.

Speaking of mother’s day, go say congrats to Heather and her new little HEABlet!

There aren’t a lot of things that I claim to know in this ever-changing world. But I do know this: I will be a mother some day.  I know it more than I know almost anything else about myself.  I don’t know where my career will go, where I will live, who I’ll be with, or even some of the more nuanced details of myself: but I know that I have to be a mother.  It’s sort of strange how strongly I feel this.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Exercise: I had a short and sweet five mile run this evening.  Although I felt good, the weather did not seem to agree with my mood.  It was seriously blustery!  I was running north along the Hudson River and was a little bit afraid that the wind would blow me into the water!  I also did 20 minutes of yoga, making up my own poses and doing some core stuff along the way.  I love doing balancing flows.  Today I did  a lot with airplane, standing splits, half-moon, dancer’s, hand to foot, extended hand to foot (leg out to the side), and headstand.  Balancing poses seem to reorient me and calm me down.

Eats: Eats were actually pretty fun today! Don’t expect anything too thrilling for the rest of the week though.  I’ll be working my way through my “pantry” (a very disorganized plastic bin) which has a lot of random stuff in it.  Although random food supplies seem to bring out my creative culinary side (exhibit A: tonight’s dinner).  Anyways, breakfast today was extra special!  I love weekend brunches — they are my favorite meal of the week to make and eat.

Banana maple chia french toast!

1 tsp coconut oil

2 slices whole wheat cinnamon bread (or other variety)

1 egg white

1 tsp cinnamon (divided in two parts)

splash vanilla soy milk (or other milk of choice)

3/4 C vanilla greek yogurt

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 banana, thinly sliced

Heat coconut oil in a pan on medium-high heat.  Prepare toast “bath” (egg white, half of cinnamon, and milk).  Coat both sides of each slice in the mixture and cook in pan (about 5-6 minutes).  Meanwhile, mix yogurt, maple syrup, more cinnamon, chia, and banana.  When french toast is cooked through, plate and top with yogurt mixture!

Purely, simply delicious.  The maple syrup really takes the plain old vanilla yogurt up a notch in terms of flavor and the chia seeds give it a nice texture.

Other eats included a vanilla peach smoothie (vanilla soy milk, frozen peaches, vanilla whey protein powder):

Topped with almond butter and pomegranat chobani.  For some reason, now that I am obsessed with SIABs, I cannot stand to eat my smoothies without toppings anymore!

Dinner was also fun.  It was basically a casserole with layers of sauteed asparagus and mushroom, macaroni and cheese, more asparagus and mushroom, fresh spinach, and fried eggs.

Below is a little diatribe I wrote after reading a certain article in Oprah magazine this month.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Women and Their Bodies: Why Real Health is Beautiful

In my monthly reading of Oprah magazine this weekend, I came across an article that disturbed me.  I felt unsettled as soon as I began reading, and quickly realized why: the entire premise of the article is that women’s bodies necessitate correction in order to be beautiful, particularly as we age.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some super ultra-feminist who rages against makeup or push-up bras or anti-wrinkle cream.  Women deserve to feel beautiful, but that begs the question: to what extent?  Where is the boundary between natural beauty and technological beauty?  Furthermore, what about the idea that beauty is on the inside?  Most women’s magazines seem to push this fact, but they also relentlessly remind us that we need our abs to look this way or that we need this new haircut.  I think that this particular article, which talks about the “fantastic possibilities” that will emerge in the field of women’s beauty and style in the next decade, reimagines the female body and places it in an unattainable context.  This strikes me as dangerous because, through a pervasive focus on correcting the outside’s of our bodies, I worry that we ignore the insides.  And I am not just referring to the fluffy “I’m a smart, beautiful, kind woman with a good personality” stuff.  Our insides are serious markers of our true health.  By masking this more and more, I worry that we are distancing ourselves from the natural frameworks our bodies have established to maintain our own health.

The article I refer to is entitled “Stop Grays With a Pill, Melt Fat With a Laser: And 12 Other Fantastic Possibilities that might be fully realized by 2020”.  It can be read online here.

Basically, the article profiles some slightly disturbing “health” innovations.  And by profiles I mean “obsesses over”.  From a magazine as empowering and insightful as Oprah, I would have expected a much more two-sided portrayal of things.  For example, one of the items I found most upsetting was entitled “A Slimmer Waistline, Trimmer Hips — No Surgery Necessary!”  It described a device that works like an ultrasound to break up fat in any desired area.   Once the fat has been broken up the body flushes it out naturally.  It can remove 2-3 inches from the waistline.  As mentioned earlier, I find this problematic for two primary reasons.  First of all, why can’t we leave the female body alone?  I find it quite distressful that, as technology becomes more and more developed, we insist on applying it to our bodies.  Isn’t this somewhat invasive?  I would like to think that there is still one personal, sanctified space in this world — my own body.  Do I really need to take a pill ensuring that I never get grey hair?  Or use at-home laser treatments to remove the “unwanted” hairs from every part of my body?  One of the innovations mentioned refers to a sort of improved botox whereby or own blood and proteins are used to fill in wrinkles.  Really?  I think women in their natural state are gorgeous.  Granted, I may think otherwise when I’m sixty, but nonetheless, I hope that I would have the courage to realize the beauty in my health, intelligence, and ability to move and dance and play.  I think these things are beautiful; not artificial mechanisms whereby we bizarrely rearrange the body in the hopes of making it more appealing to who?

The second reason I find these innovations problematic is as follows: let’s imagine a hypothetical woman who has employed these innovations.  She has no love handles, a wrinkle-free face, thick hair, perfectly white teeth, and firm skin.  Regardless of whether or not we might think of her as “beautiful”, there are dangerous health implications.  What about exercise and healthy eating and meditation?  All of these healthful practices can be thrown away when we correct the external body with such a fine-toothed comb.  I am not saying that every woman who chooses to use these technologies will let her health go to the wayside, but I do worry that such inventions could mask real dangers.  For example, many sedentary woman could become relatively thin by removing several inches of fat from their stomach, hips and thighs.  But this does not mean that their hearts are any healthier or that their lungs or any stronger or that their bones are not withering away inside.  Ultimately, I think these new conceptions of beauty create a risky divide between internal and external dimensions of health and beauty.  I think that the internal and external dimensions are intertwined — and are meant to be so.  When I lift weights, I tone my arms and stomach. But I also help keep my bones dense and build confidence and self-esteem.  I think it is morally incorrect to create a separation here.

My own mother, who is in her fifties, is vibrant, radiant, powerful, and compassionate.   She hikes, gardens, bird-watches, plays word games, kayaks, skis, works, and loves.  To me, this is beautiful.  The (few) wrinkles around her eyes are signs of a lovely journey, not signs of an ugly body.  When will we learn to appreciate this?  I only hope that we can see the beauty in the natural female body before we have gone too far down this dangerous path of reconstruction.

So, Oprah, I am highly disappointed in you here.  While I applaud you and the health innovators who are coming up with ways to make us truly healthier — like finding ways of increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables among people in impoverished communities — I do not think that these devices, mechanisms, and ideas constitute true health.  I hope you will forgive me when I say that I found this article unpleasant, upsetting, and an offense to healthy, beautiful women everywhere.

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