A year ago today, I spent most of my 40th birthday in bed, except for when I ate pancakes, twice. I really love pancakes. I probably should just write about pancakes, right? Well, here is my update on pancakes: I eat them every week. Sometimes for dinner. What? Yes. Sometimes I make a sandwich but instead of bread, I use pancakes.
So, ugh, by March of 2015, I had been slipping back to a place that was physically and mentally inconvenient. And I kept slipping. Stress at work and stress in my personal life weren’t helping. My Hashimoto’s symptoms were back, my thyroid levels were in my boots, and I was almost too tired to care. The sharp pain in my legs woke me up most nights, an all over stiffness slowed me by the end of each day, and my skin hurt. It what? Ya, it hurt. My life felt heavy and dark and hopeless.
The most difficult part of 2015 was my parents seeing me in pain. My parents don’t live here and with infrequent visits, they hadn’t really seen the decline in my health. They were scared. Which made me afraid too. Like, when you go to a haunted house and you know it is just a bunch of high school kids dressed up like ghosts but someone starts screaming and you start screaming too? Yes, just exactly like that.
So in bed that day, filled with pancakes (which really are very important for good decision-making) I mustered up a little plan to try something new and keep trying until I found something that worked. That was all I had, but it was something. I couldn’t drop out of life any more than I already had. There were squirrels outside that I needed to look at. Dogs that needed compliments. Cats that needed to be forcefully pet.
I started by making an appointment with a Naturopath. I knew after my first visit that she and I had similar beliefs about how food and allergies affect autoimmune conditions. I promised myself to be devoted to the process even though I wasn’t very optimistic at the time. I also knew that for everything I know about food and health, I needed help and I wasn’t going to do this on my own. I was surprised at how quickly things shifted. Simple changes. Slow changes. For the first few months I followed a gentle gut healing protocol. My medication started to work (I take desiccated thyroid and see my endocrinologist regularly*). The pain in my legs was mostly gone. The absence of pain is a weird and floating feeling. I give it 4 thumbs up. Two of those thumbs are actually toes! Gross!
I took a break from drinking and learned a lot about how my body processes alcohol. Turns out, not great! I think I should have done this when I was 19, because I was never “good” at drinking. I promise you that I tried very hard to be good at drinking and apologize to the parties I ruined by insisting people arm wrestle me or for all of the one-handed push-ups I did in restaurants.
When I couldn’t eat or drink things that made me forget how I was feeling for a bit, I had to face those feelings. There were some tears in the late part of 2015 that I was unable to sooth with sauerkraut. I have always liked food that made me forget for a moment that I was uncomfortable in other ways. I would rather have a stomach ache and maybe some terrible toots than feel emotions. But hey, here I was with no cookies. And no toots. Weird.
I struggle with my thoughts. Long ago seeds of unworthiness that rooted in my heart, twisted around my legs, and took me down again and again in these 40 years. Some days I can’t push them off. I talk more openly about this now, in that way that dragging things out makes one hug them and let them go, like a cat you know doesn’t want to be hugged but you do it anyway because you are bigger than them. I talk more openly about this because I think it surprises people that this is part of who I am and perhaps if I share it and they have similar feelings, they won’t feel as alone as I have sometimes. Maybe people are like, ew, stop sharing. Fair. That seems fair.
I try to spend time with people who see me, and I them, for who we are. I will take physical pain over the hurt of not being seen, or not being whole, in the eyes of someone I have in my life. I am really trying harder to see people and bring some softness to my judgment of them as well. Some people will always be “butt sausages”, but I figure a lot of people are having a hard time just getting up, they have their own sadness, their own little voice that keeps them down, or some combination of things that takes them 15 minutes to order a coffee while I wait behind them with my brain melting down the front of my face. On good days, I see all these hearts, brains and bones, getting up and trying. I don’t feel so different anymore.
Since last summer things have been looking really good. I can stay up late and go for long walks and bike rides. I feel happy, which feels weird and nice and sexy. I laugh a lot more and a silliness that had been buried by fatigue has returned and wants to be a brat. Sorry in advance!
When I eat something I shouldn’t or “over do” life in some way, and a pain flare starts to build, I climb into bed, and wait it out. I am not too proud now to take something to help. My ND taught me about the cycle my chronic pain has and how to stop it with herbs and over the counter pain medication. I also learned that I can’t eat Cheetos, or as I was calling them, “party carrots”. I stick to a few important diet things, no refined sugar, and low grains, lots of vegetables and fruit, plus daily gentle exercise. This is what has worked best for me in these 8 years of figuring it out. No miracles, no magic vitamins, really nothing extreme at all. Just time, patience, and a little plan. Each day I keep trying.
So this brings me to today, my 41st birthday. Thanks for reading my blog and sticking by me and sharing your own stories. It means a lot to me to know that you are out there too. Thanks to my parents, my extended family, and my beautiful friends, for being supportive and strong and hopeful. I love you. This is probably my best birthday ever and I can’t even have a stupid delicious cake. But I can have pancakes!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.
* little joke for my peeps with an endocrinologist, I wait 6 months to get a 15 minute appointment, but it is covered by health insurance and she is brilliant so I am not complaining. Okay, I am complaining a wee bit.