Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Strange Days

I've seen a lot of posts lately about managing eating disorders during a crisis. I have to admit, it's a topic I've wanted to address but haven't really known how. See, there is no right or perfect way to respond to what's happening because there are so many unknowns. In any stressful situation, personal or global, a tendency to revert to past behaviors can occur. There's no doubt about that, so it helps to remember the tools we always have available to avoid an actual relapse.

What many of us are seeking now is comfort, distraction, and some kind of reassurance that things will be OK or at least better, eventually, but without any fantasy that what's going on is trivial. I mean, people are dying, for fuck's sake, so it's perfectly fine and natural to be scared, however, there's a way to address fear without letting it consume you. Self-regulation in times of chaos can be a challenge, but one way to address that is to work on being in the moment. Focus on the little things, small daily tasks that make you feel more at ease, more productive, or more connected to others.

The unfortunate reality is that I don't know what to suggest that hasn't already been suggested. I don't have any magic words of wisdom. I can tell you that it's important to reach out if you feel like you are struggling. It's important to ease off on being self-critical. Ignore ridiculous comments and memes on social media that poke fun at weight gain during this time. It's fine if your body changes or appears to change (remember how distorted perception can be under stress); it's not a given it will. It's fine to do a little more self-soothing, comfort eating, and napping through all of this. Stress is not easy to navigate, so do your best to be aware of your responses without being critical of them. Acknowledge the voices in your head without feeling like you have to act in any extreme way, just notice the tone of what's floating about in your mind.

The only reason why I'm writing at all is to say that those of us who have struggled are really in this together. It is hard enough for anyone facing this added stress to manage it well, but, for those in recovery, there are even more pressures and difficulties. What I've noticed in some support groups is that people are quick to respond with anger or judgment, most likely a sign that we are all being too hard on ourselves and others. What we all need to remember is that everyone reacts differently to this kind of situation. Whether you use humor, are more of a helper, like to isolate, or feel better leaning on social media, it's not wrong. Keep doing what you need in order to survive and maintain good mental health.

I want to add that if anyone is really feeling overwhelmed and can't cope there are resources for you listed below:

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255  USA
Eating disorder help: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline and hotline: (800) 931-2237

Though everyone seems to be saying it, stay safe. Just like any unpleasant, dark storm, this uncertain period will pass. All we can do is make an effort to follow the guidelines for safety and respect others in our community by taking appropriate precautions. And if anyone needs, I'm available. Leave a comment or drop a note at ggirl.kglr@gmail.com if you need some support. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Twelve's A Charm

Thursday marked my twelfth foot surgery, this one on my left foot. I've had more on that side than my right, but both feet are far from normal. I'm oddly optimistic about this one. I think I got used to a certain level of pain with both feet and sort of accepted discomfort would be a big part of my life. Maybe it doesn't have to be, though, or maybe it doesn't have to be so unyielding and intense.

On paper, this procedure looked far more complicated and invasive than others, but it's actually not. The joint repair I had years ago, when described to me, both sounded like and was a fairly elaborate surgery with a long recovery time, and that one I experienced twice. This one, despite shaving the bone down in multiple areas and removing more scar tissue (man, my body is GOOD at creating that shit!) will probably be my quickest recovery to date. The incisions were all through the top of my foot, and it was done in-office.

I'm through the worst of it already. Thursday night wouldn't have been as bad as it was had I been able to take the pain meds I was given as prescribed. The first one I took really didn't sit well, so I was too afraid to take another one. After a mostly miserable night with sharp, stabbing pangs in my foot, I took some Aleve, which took the edge off on Friday morning, and since then, I have been able to take 1/4 a pain pill at a time without issue, except for my ulcer acting up a little. I really haven't taken much in terms of pain medication, which is a good sign, and, after getting the OK from my doctor, I can already limp around the house without crutches or a scooter.

Leading into the surgery, things hadn't been going all that well. A lot of mid-life crisis type questions have been floating through my head the last couple of months. Like many others, I've faced a lot of loss in the past few years -- some loss I was OK with and others hit hard -- and I wonder why I'm here. I can't say I've been very happy. When I ran well, I felt like I had purpose, maybe not a great one, but it was something that made me feel like I was doing the right thing, even though I was often miserable. These days, I don't feel like I fit in well in any area of my life. Volunteering at the vet clinic comes close, but it also leaves me with the realization that I missed out on a lot throughout my life. And when it hurt to stand, volunteering and pretty much anything else seemed like a chore.

For now, I'm working on a novel without knowing why. Sometimes I look at it and think it's a disaster, just complete shit, and other times I dig out an old passage that intrigues me. I have the story in my head; I just haven't been good about getting it fully out. It's bogged down by a lot of mundane blah blah and makes me realize that I never had a natural ability to write well. Few dyslexics do, but, for whatever reason, I keep plugging away at it.

Regarding the surgery, it won't fix everything. I knew that going into it, but it should help with a good portion of the pain I was experiencing. There are other issues going on, but this will at least address something. It won't cure my overall unhappiness or fix my tendency to be compulsive, but it will reduce some of the pain.

In the meantime, I set a few reading and writing goals for the year. Considering what a slow reader I am, I'm off to a decent start with the number of books checked off my list. My goal is half that of an avid reader I admire. Of the four I read in January, the only book I would strongly recommend is NOS4A2, unless you're curious about brain function and illness, in which case "Brain on Fire" was interesting.

When I seem down like this, it's because I am. It's not that I don't have happy moments; I do. It's just that, for me, life isn't really about being constantly happy. For some of us who are prone to depression, sometimes even having goals or doing small things can be difficult, so setting a few goals is actually a step up from where I was a few months ago. I'm not completely out of the woods, but I'm closer to feeling some kind of hope than I was. And being depressed doesn't mean I don't laugh or have fun. I do, especially listening to podcasts like Small Town Murder and Crime in Sports. But, I'll say it again. Depression is something I've struggled with that's separate from recovery. The two can be connected, but they are not really the same issue.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Carrot Cake

I'm taking a short break from my daily activities. I don't want to say my daily grind because that would imply I'm productive with my nose to the grindstone, which is a painful sounding idiom if taken literally. If searching for and almost finding the perfect carrot cake in Boulder and its surroundings after January 19th but before January 21st were a job, however, I might be able to say that. Let's just say that nothing beats homemade, so far, but I have tried some good contenders over the years. And I put a lot of effort into my yearly search.

Yesterday, I was on a mission. I wanted to find a piece of carrot cake, a good one, not one made from some kind of boxed cake mix with limp carrot bits added to it and then topped with thin, overly sugary frosting. Homemade wasn't happening, so I wanted the next best thing. It took some doing, but I found a pretty good piece of carrot cake at Pizza Colore. After reading a Yelp review about the cake, I called to see if they were still baking the dessert in house. Sure enough, they were, so after a decent morning with an OK run and the rest of the day at work, I scooted over to the pizza place a few blocks away, purchased the cake slice (I think he gave me an extra large piece after I confessed it was my birthday), and headed back to my car.

As I strolled down the mall and then up a few blocks, I took note of my foot, which seemed oddly less painful than it had been in recent days. As is often the case, the minute I noted this, I felt a stabbing pain shoot across the top of my foot. On I limped, determined to keep my attention on the cake slice in the plastic container held tightly in my hands. The pain subsided and then came back and so on until I finally reached my car and sat behind the wheel.

Back home, I made a birthday wish and then ate the cake, which was delicious. My only complaints were that the frosting was a little too sweet to my taste and the cake lacked raisins. I'm not a huge raisin fan, but they are perfect in carrot cake.

What I'm really doing here is taking a break from writing by writing. I haven't been adding much to this project I'm working on, but I'm very, very slowly plodding forward. It's an absolute mess of 20,000 words or so at this point, but I'm starting to get some kind of outline going. It is such a weird process, and I wish I had a better idea of what I want this thing to be. It will need a lot of work before I can even get to the fun part of rewriting. Can you write a novel by adding just a few words a day? We'll find out.

Creating a novel or story is a lot like making a cake. In order to get to the fun and fancy decorating, you have to first get through all the grunt work: bake the cakes, even them out, put a base frosting on, stack them, and then add a thicker layer of frosting before you can start really decorating it. In writing, you have to create some kind of outline, get the story out, rework it to the point where it's not a complete mess, rewrite it, and then go through and get creative with it.

Next week I'm scheduled for surgery. It's going to be interesting because I'm still taking care of my mom and working. It sounds like it's a pretty simple procedure. I don't know the recovery time, but I'm hoping it's not long. I've been able to run and even ran a harder workout without too much pain. According to my doctor, running won't hurt anything. It's just nerve stuff. I'm conflicted about the best way to handle this, but my doctor seems to think the surgery will work.

It seems quite a few families on our street aren't doing very well lately. One neighbor recently passed away. Another is in the hospital. My mom is still recovering. My other neighbor's daughter just had foot surgery, and my other neighbor recently had hip surgery. That's a lot of unpleasantness in this small neck of the woods. We are all hoping for brighter days soon.

Oh, and you know that saying about kill your darlings? Sometimes you have to kill someone else's little darlings, and that's even harder when the writing is good. The last couple of months seem to be all about letting go, something I've struggled with all my life.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Looking Back (again)

Actually, I don't want to reflect too much on this past year. There were some pretty shitty and disappointing parts and some not so bad ones. After crawling out of one of my more serious depressions recently, I'm not in the mood to think too hard about anything right now. The one message I keep coming back to is to try to avoid getting caught up in other people's bullshit and lean on those who actually care, if you are able, of course, because for some of us, reaching out isn't easy.

Something I keep bumping up against lately is this idea that our minds create pain. On some level, this is true, as there's a huge psychological component to pain. But, man, every fucking time I run into something I know is real, physically real, all the talk floating around about how just using your mind to magically get rid of discomfort trips me the fuck up and I'm left trying to push through pain that I shouldn't.

As I head into 2020 possibly facing my 12th foot procedure (I don't want to call it surgery because it's not major surgery) I'm oddly optimistic, sort of. I mean, I ran some pretty embarrassing races this summer in terms of time, but most of them were improvements on what I've run in recent years, and I did so on an increasingly sore foot. See, I have a sharp bone that's poking up on the top of my left foot. The nerve that runs over it is crying out every time I press up onto my toes. Sometimes it hurts just sitting around, too. There are some other issues going on in the joints near my ankle, but, chances are, shaving that bone down will reduce the pain by a fuckload. The diagnostic cortisone shot I got this week seems to indicate this will be the case.

In other news, I got to watch a leg amputation at the vet clinic. It's a long surgery, so I only stayed about two hours into things, just to the point where the broken dog's leg was freed and everything looked good for a healthy recovery for the pup.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy 2020. I'm off to do some writing, something I gave up for far too long. Yeah, I suck at that, too, but at least it will occupy my melancholy mind for a while.