Thursday, May 02, 2019

On Self-Care and Deciding I Matter

I've had a lot of time lately to think about the little ways in which we tell ourselves we are important...or the ways we tell ourselves we're worthless. I am pleased to report that after almost two and a half years of chronic migraines and neck pain, I'm almost back to "normal." Of course, normal was a world where I still had parents. I had a small family, and it had its problems, but I never doubted that my parents loved me or that I loved them.

I met with a therapist early on in the grieving process; after I lost my mom but before I lost my dad. She told me about self-care. Now, the notion of self-care wasn't new to me. After all, I'm a writer who follows other writers on twitter. Lots of us have mental health struggles. But I was very busy being a mom and a daughter and a wife. I had a full-time job and I was trying to get a literary agent and then published author. Surely I didn't have time to take care of myself. Surely self-care was for people who were really struggling.

Spoiler alert: I was struggling.

At one point, I had as many thirty migraines a month with accompanying neck pain. I'd gotten my first migraine at 16 while a chauvinistic driving instructor had me drive back and forth over a bridge that was five lanes in either direction, and in one of those directions, I drove west toward the setting sun. But neck pain was new. Maybe I was just getting old?

Since that time, I've put a lot of time and effort into making myself healthier. I spent a solid month gluten-free. I've done acupuncture (two different practitioners), deep tissue massage, osteopathic manipulation, saw a chiropractor (the worst experience that caused a ton of pain and anxiety) floating, yoga (almost a half dozen different yogis), a daith piercing, and more therapy. I've changed up my supplement routine a dozen times, adding things and taking things out, trying different dosages and formulations. I start to feel better, I miss a step or two, and the pain comes back.

Of course there was a step I didn't originally understand the importance of: I quit my job. My job at the university I went to as a college freshman, where I worked in a building that was 114 years old. A building I later found out was contaminated with black mold. I added chlorella and charcoal to my supplement routine. Sometimes I wondered if I was wasting my time and money on stuff that was ultimately useless.

Except that I just went ten days without needing a migraine pill. That's ten whole days of being a better mom, working on my novel, enjoying the world. I've started making lists of places where I can get a job in the fall. And even though I'll be parenting my amazing kid, writing, and working, I won't skimp on my wellness routine. Because the things that I do make me feel good. Instead of wondering how I'm going to make it through the pain into another day, I know that I'm going to be okay. My health is important. Without it, I'm not a good mom, I can't write books, I can't enjoy the world I live in.

Which brings me to the decision to tell myself I'm important, that I matter. Life didn't stop after I lost my parents. Good things happen, and less good things happened. But I've got a long life ahead of me, and I'm not content to settle for less than my new dreams. And those can't happen if I'm falling apart.

I see people who decide in a dozen little ways every day that they don't matter. I know that it isn't easy for everyone, but I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't at least try to enjoy as many moments as I can.

My supplement routine costs me about $65/month on Amazon. I hate them, but if I tried to buy supplements at a health food store, I'd go broke so fast. My massage therapy is $65/session and I currently go once a month. Acupuncture is done in a community setting, which means there are up to a dozen of us in a dark room at any one time, in recliners with the needles in our arms, legs, and head. It's a sliding scale, and I pay $20 per session. I'd like to thank my parents for the money they left me that allows me to pay for my regimen.

Here's some Enya, for my dad, who loved Enya.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Migraine Update & Some Details on Floating

You'd be surprised how frequently people DM me and ask me about my advice on dealing with migraines. Sure, I've had migraines for 25 years. That' But in October 2016, my mom died and my migraines went chronic AND I started getting chronic neck pain. That's tons of fun. Right after this, I got an IUD put in (Mirena). And then I got 30 days in a row of migraines.

Yep. One solid month of migraines. No pain free days. And I'd just started a new job that September, so I was doing my best to muddle through and impress my bosses at what I was sure would be my forever job (and then I got a whole $422/year raise 15 months after that and I quit not too long after, but that's a different story). And I succeeded. I did great work and people liked me and all was well. Except that I've been writing for almost five years and I couldn't write, and I was a terrible, cranky, under-involved mom for my amazing then 10 year old daughter.

What's a migraineur to do? I had my IUD removed (and whoa boy did that thing HURT when it got put in). I started experimenting with different supplements. I tried meditating. What else did I do? I can't remember. Too much pain.

It's now been almost 2 years since I lost my mom and it's been 8 months since I lost my dad (it was a really shitty period in my life and continues to be a struggle in so many ways). Here's what I've been doing to get my migraines under some semblance of control (except for the really hot and humid summer weeks where nothing mattered because it was almost one hundred degrees in Maine and I was miserable):

  • Supplements
    • Eu Natural's My Brain. Yeah, it has most of the stuff I was already taking. But for whatever reason, it helps. After I started taking this stuff, I went eight days without a migraine. I hadn't gone eight days without a migraine in over a year at the time.
    • Magnesium. 400mg. I've gone as high as 1000mg/day before, and I've gone as low as 325mg/day with Natural Calm, but this is where I'm at now. (I buy supplements from A'zon when I can. I hate A'zon and they're crappy in so many ways, but I'd go broke on supplements if I bought them at my local health food store.)
    • Butterbur. I thought maybe I could go without this one since the My Brain has butterbur. I was wrong.
  • A good contour pillow for my neck. I just spent a weekend away from my pillow and it was awful. I actually woke up bracing my neck with my hand. 
  • Headache hat! Until that glorious day when winter comes, this thing is amazing. It's not really a hat. It's cold and wonderful.
  • Massage therapy! I have a massage therapist. I get deep tissue massage. It hurts/is awesome. Can't live without. I decided to see her more regularly after seeing a chiropractor. He was terrible. It was an awful experience. I'm probably never going to a chiropractor ever again.
  • Yoga. The place near me is $29/month if you let them auto debit your account. MAGIC. Since yoga classes are usually around $15/each, I only need to go twice a month to make it worth it. I love the yoga teacher I was seeing there, but I realized I always felt worse after her class. With the first guy I saw, I always felt amazing after his class, no matter how bad I felt going in. I've been trying some of the other yogis here to see if they work better for me. Of course my favorite so far conflicts with the one day a week my kid DOESN'T start school at the butt crack of dawn.
  • Acupuncture. I found a place that does community acupuncture, so it's a sliding scale starting at $20/session. Basically, there are like 10 recliners in a room and you can have up to 10 people there at a time getting acupuncture. She only places the needles in your hands, arms, legs, feet, neck, and head. I'd love to try this guy that my stylist just recommended, but he's $160 for the first visit, so I see this other person who just took an unscheduled hiatus (grr) so I'm trying...
  • Floating! Yep. Floating in a super salty tank of water. Dark, calming, meditative, take some tension off the neck, magnesium in the epsom salts. I did it for the first time today, which is actually why I started this post. There are private rooms with a shower and a float tank or a pod. I chose the tank because the pods seemed tiny, but they're actually fine. So you take a shower, climb into the tub (they say you can go nude or in a bathing suit. I wore a suit.) and float. I used a little ring to help hold up my head (you don't really need it, but again, neck pain). At first, I loved it. And then I got motion sick! Ridiculous me. So I turned off the light (it was a dim light that was cycling through various colors) and floated in the darkness. By the end, one of my arms and my face were crusty with salt, so I took another shower. It was interesting! I signed up for a 3 pack, so I have 2 more visits to figure out how I feel about that. TRUE STORY: part of the reason I signed up for a 3 pack is because I want someplace super warm to shower/float/shower when it's freezing cold out and I can't feel my toes. 
  • Ugh I quit gluten again except for Ezekiel bread. I'm already sad. I wanted the spicy fried cauliflower at Trader Joe's and I couldn't get it. We'll see how long it sticks this time. If you've recently quit gluten for the first time: every time you eat gluten after quitting, it gets harder to quit. FYI. 
I think that's it. The weather recently took a turn for the colder so I've been feeling pretty good. Of course it's going to be eighty degrees again Sunday and Monday so that doesn't thrill me. Maybe I'll sneak in another beach visit though. I really home I'm on the road even back to where I was. Most people wouldn't be able to handle 8 migraines/month, but that's what I'm dreaming of right now. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Starting Over

Okay, so I've gone and done it. Become one of those blogs that stopped posting with no warning, and for over a year at that!

Sorry about that. Aside from regular mom stuff, my husband deployed and came back again and I switched jobs from a vegan baker at a health food store to the Director of Marketing at a local business. And now we're preparing for one last move as my husband retires from the Army and we leave military life behind. We'll be returning to New England in the southern NH area! 

Here's the view from NY into Canada!

So. I've been listening to a lot of podcasts at work and my favorite is Rich Roll's podcast. His voice is soothing (there are a bunch of podcasters who have voices that are not good for my migraines) and he talks to an interesting variety of people. Because of him I'm currently reading Jasmin Singer's ALWAYS TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH and I'm really enjoying it, which is saying something since I almost never read non-fiction. 

So Jasmin's book centers around being overweight and then finding veganism and still being overweight, and eventually losing the weight. But it's also so much more than that. It's about self-discovery and finding your place in the world and animal rights. And that leads us to her podcast, The Hen House, which I've only just started listening to.

That brings us to me, still attempting to make my diet healthier by eating more whole foods and less processed ones. I started by doing a few rounds of 21 Day Fix (I'm a coach, if you want to sign up and buy a program or some yummy vegan shakeology or whatever) and I finally lost weight after being stuck on a plateau for years. And then I goofed it up again. I was just so hungry and I thought that if I couldn't do the food right, then why do it at all? Though really, the food plan worked better when I was modifying the regular plan by substituting vegan foods than when I did the actual vegan plan. 

So instead, I'm just going to give it a go for whole foods vegan, little to no processed foods, no added oils (but totally a go for avocado and some nuts (but not a lot, because nuts are one of my migraine triggers--go ahead and cry for me)), and mostly gluten free. And I'll share more food pics here, and not just on my food instagram

This week was the first Saturday's farmers market! For whatever reason, the Saturday market is small and the Wednesday one is huge.

And I made this rice noodle and veggie dish from the FORKS OVER KNIVES cookbook. I had to substitute molasses for date molasses and I'm sure that was way less healthy, but whatever. Still good!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Work Food

Hi! Okay, here are some pics from the place I work that makes vegan food.

Coconut Thai Curry Soup

Some sort of quinoa thing with pears and squash and I don't know. Super yums.

Thai Quinoa salad topped with portobello mushrooms, tofu, and peppers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shepherd's Pie!

One of the few things my mom made when I was a kid was shepherd's pie. Hers was hamburger, creamed corn, and instant mashed potatoes. When the husband said he wanted shepherd's pie, I knew I'd find a good recipe for it, but I'd planned on using the Gardein meatless crumbles. 

But last night, with no idea what to make and plenty of lentils, I searched Pinterest and found this recipe. A recipe where I had every ingredient! That almost never happens, so I gave it a go. I didn't have quite enough potatoes, but it was still yummy. The kiddo cleaned her plate, and the hubs added cheese and hot sauce to his and loved it. I loved it too. Simple but yummy. 

No pics! Maybe I'll get a decent one later when I eat leftovers. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Seasonal Yummies

No pics, cause there are some things I can't make pretty :)

Right now I'm drinking a Silk Nog smoothie. Silk nog, frozen bananas, nutribiotic rice protein powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. So yummy.

Dinner last night was the raised waffles from Vegan Brunch and an apple cinnamon sauce I made to top them. Of course, it ended up being chunky applesauce, but it was yummy. 

So yummy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Vegan Pot Pie!

I haven't made one of my favorite recipes, Mercy for Animals' Chix Pot Pie recipe in entirely too long. I didn't buy any Phyllo dough this time ($5/pack!) so I made dough from scratch using this recipe

I used some Gardein strips for the chix. 

LOVE this recipe. Love pot pie. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Birthday Cake!

This year the kiddo loves wolves. Maybe you'll recall that last year, it was tigers

As it happens every year, I drew a total blank on what to make her. And then, eventually, I remembered Pinterest. Through the magic of pinterest, I found this amazing cake. Challenge accepted.

Except for the chocolate rocks and the plastic wolves, the entire cake is vegan. The kiddo loves chocolate rocks (she used to get them on her FroYo at TCBY) so I wasn't going to skip them. Hubs helped with the grass a little and the kiddo helped place the chocolate rocks. The cake is Red Velvet. For some reason I didn't use Isa & Terry's recipe, and I regretted it. NEVER DOUBT ISA AND TERRY. 

And yeah, my baby is EIGHT. Wow. She's still epic amounts of awesome, too :) 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sorry for the MoFo Suckage!

Sorry everyone!

I've been querying a book and revising a book and thinking of more books. Clearly it interferes with my food blogging.

But the kid's birthday is soon and I've got plans! So hang tight. :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Apple Cider Donuts

I know what you people like.


We went to the local cider mill this morning.

Okay, wait. Let's take a break right there. I spent the last 5 years living at least 3 hours away (one way) from an orchard. Cider. Fresh apples. Nothing. Now we live 15 minutes from a place that fresh presses their own cider and sells apple cider donuts. Of course they aren't vegan, which is sad for me and the kiddo. So I took my gallon of cider and we started making donuts.

Up first. This recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. I subbed ener-g for the eggs.

They're yummy! I used the Bob's AP GF mix and it has a little bit too much of it's own flavor, but these were yummy and the kiddo really loved them. Yay!