Crying it Out

I cried yesterday. A lot and for a long time. At first I was angry, then frustrated. I shouted a little and then I cried. I cried until I felt a little better and then I cried some more. It’s been a long time since I’ve cried, but it felt good.  Sometimes all we need is a good cry, embarrassing as it may be when it happens in front of others.

I didn’t know that I needed a decent cry. I know that I haven’t been myself lately, but I thought it was all circumstantial. Last week, I was angry. My mood swung from annoyed to downright ropeable continuously throughout the week. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t get control over it and I blamed it on the fact that last week was shark week. And I was starting to get sick.

The week before that I was a little moody, but I figured it was because I hadn’t exercised in a long time. I’d also eaten badly more than I should have, which in turn upset my skin and sleeping patterns, so why not my mood too?

Last night I also had my depression support group. The group meets fortnightly, but I haven’t been for a while. I’ve had so much on lately and sometimes the thought of going out after work is just too much. The last thing I felt like doing after my crying session was going out and facing people, but I felt like it was even more important to go because of it. I’m glad I did.

When it was my turn to speak, I had trouble stopping. I didn’t cry again, but I just couldn’t stop talking. I talked about my mixed emotions, my worries, about being sick and as I was talking I realized that once again, I had ignored my mental health alarm bells.

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The point of the group is not to give advice or ‘fix the problem,’ but to give us a safe place to let out our emotions with people who can relate. We can share as much or as little as we want and yesterday I found myself sharing things that I didn’t even realize had been bringing me down, things I had accepted as just being.

It was pointed out to me that I was forgetting about myself again. I have a tendancy to put everything before myself. It’s something I’ve been working on changing this year, with some success, but because putting myself last comes naturally, it’s easy for me to do so without realizing.

Self care is so important. I struggle with it, because it makes me feel selfish. There are people who need my support and a lot of things that are my responsibility to ensure get done. Sometimes it’s easier to forget about myself and focus on keeping everything ticking over. Problem is, it takes it’s toll on me and unfortunately I haven’t learned to notice the warning signs yet.

Self care is simple. A little bit of time each day, that is just for me. Yoga, meditation, zoning out to some music, anything that is relaxing and for me and me alone. Sometimes after a busy day at work all I want to do is go home and blob in front of the TV, but the reality is, that isn’t the kind of me time I need. I need a little time alone each day, doing something nice for myself. Sometimes it seems like too much effort, but I’m going to focus on it more now because I don’t want to burn out again.

It’s now 3.19 am and while I should be asleep, my current mental state has decided otherwise for me. I’ve been awake since just before one and I’m not even tired, even though I’m still sick and all I want to do is sleep. At first, I tried ignoring being awake. In the past I’ve found that can sometimes work. It didn’t. It’s too cold to get up, so I did something stupid. I checked my phone.

Ok, it’s not stupid stupid, I read a few blogs and I wrote down my feelings here, so I do feel better (still not ready to sleep though grrr), however electronic devices are a big no no when you can’t sleep so I know that realistically I’m doing myself more harm than good. But I’m bored. I tired of trying to ignore the fact that I can’t sleep and ending up in a whirlwind of negative thoughts and having something to do while staying warm in bed has been a welcome distraction. Hopefully work tomorrow isn’t too hard with the lack of sleep.

Life is busy, stressful and constantly throwing hurdles in our way and it doesn’t take long before it gets overwhelming. It’s hard to stay on top, but even harder when you’re not looking after number one. I’ve had a couple of reminders of that this year and I’m hoping that I don’t forget it again.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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Mind Says Yes, Body Says No

It’s that time of year, colds and bugs are doing the rounds and it appears that they have targeted my workplace in particular, we’ve been dropping like flies for the past couple of weeks.

I haven’t avoided the bugs. Currently I’m experiencing the worst cold I’ve had in a really really long time. All energy is gone and my days have been filled with lots of tissues, sneezing fits, I seem to have lost the letter M and N from my vocabulary and today the sore throat decided to make an entrance. My glands are so swollen that it hurts to move my head and getting out of bed each morning has taken every ounce of willpower I have.

I think I might have Man-flu.

The thing I find really interesting though, is that my brain hasn’t stopped functioning. That’s probably a bizzare way of putting it, but it’s the best way I can describe it. In the past when I’ve been sick, that’s it, it’s all I can think about for the duration of the illness and any hint of motivation would be quickly replaced by the need to sit and feel sorry for myself. I’d spend my days dreaming of days when I wasn’t sick and knowing for absolute certain that I’d never be well again. It’s funny what we can convince ourselves of when we’re not feeling 100%

This time round is different though. I’m waking up every morning excited at the prospect of not being sick anymore. The excitement is quickly replaced by disappointment when my nose starts running again, but for once, im not feeling like all is lost.

I have to admit that getting through the last week has been difficult. My mind and my body seem to be at war with each other. My mind has all these plans and ideas that are just begging to be put into action, but unfortunately my body just can’t do it at the moment. It takes all the energy I have to get through the day, but I’m doing it positively. I’ve never been a positive sick person so it’s definitely made a nice change.

It is a shame, because this cold hit last week, just after I had decided to stop making excuses for not exercising, so unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten fully back on track. I am hoping to be able to do some yoga in the next few days though. I’m pretty sure that I’ve lost some of my flexibility over the past month, so I’ll need to work hard again to get it back if I want to reach my goal of being able to do the splits before the end of the year.

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I do seem to be getting worse each day, which isn’t fun and I’m at the stage where tissues hurt and the skin around my mouth and nose is cracking from the constant stream, but my brain is sharp as ever and I’ve caught myself getting agitated a few times because I just want to get on with it. I’m being good though, one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is to listen to your body. And right now, my body wants rest, plenty of water, and healthy foods with lots of garlic and lemon involved.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

It’s Okay to Disagree

You know those people who don’t have their own opinions? The type who will proudly say, ‘I like this,’ only to change their mind when someone disagrees? A bit of a pushover?

I’m one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, if you bring up a subject I have a strong feeling on, like the wearing of crocs (simple, don’t do it), I will tell you in no uncertain terms exactly what I think of it, sometimes I’ll even get into a heated debate about it. I can be very pigheaded when it comes to trivial things like that. If i don’t like something, it’s usually a very very strong emotion. I’m not sure where this courage comes from though, because the main reason I tend to outwardly change my opinion to suit the people I’m talking to is because it’s easier than dealing with confrontation.

Because, of course, disagreeing with someone means you absolutely have to have an argument with them.

Sounds ridiculous on paper, but for some reason, this is the way my brain perceives it. I’ve never been a fan of confrontation, whether I’m involved, or nearby to one, unfortunately in my attempts to avoid it, I usually lose myself in the process by going against what I truly believe. The amount of times I’ve agreed to or with things I don’t want to because of this is seriously astounding. My flight or fight response is very strong and its generally flight, because that’s ‘easier’. And when I choose to ‘fight’ I tend to turn into a bit of an arrogant prat.

I’ve gotten into lots and lots of arguments when I have disagreed with people. For some reason I used to associate disagreeing with someone’s opinion as them being straight up wrong. This is not how opinions work, but it took me a long time to learn this. Instead of accepting the other persons opinion then offering mine up for discussion, I’d usually come out with a ‘no you’re wrong because’ and be quite rude with the rest of my response. Of course all this ever got me was a huge pile of regret littered with anger and fear that I would obsess over for weeks, sometimes even months after, while I’m sure the other person would have forgotten about it moments after writing me off as a person not worth the drama.

I am getting better at being my own person, without being a dick about it. With my close friends, I’m quite happy to disagree with them. Because I’ve known them for a long time, I know that they aren’t going to turn their backs on me just because I don’t like the same things they do.

Zombie and I disagree a lot. I sometimes feel like we disagree with each other just because we can and not because we actually do! He likes documentaries, I like cooking shows. He likes really really hard metal and I like a bit of everything when it comes to music (there’s not a heap of music that we both like), he thought the dress was blue and black, but I still see a gold and white dress, even after they revealed it was in fact, blue and black.

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We hardly ever argue though. Almost never. And it’s not because I give in and agree with him all the time, it’s because we know we are different people and that’s what we like about each other. I used to believe that to be friends or have a relationship with someone, that you had to have everything in common, agree on everything and never ever argue. Of course none of my relationships worked this way and while I don’t take full responsibility for the failure of them (it does after all, take two to tango), I do understand that my misconceptions were a huge factor. But that’s all part of growing up.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t taken so long to grow up. I’m now able to have some really interesting conversations with people, where we share our conflicting views, and accept them while not being swayed. I’m also able to disagree with people now without making myself look like an idiot, which sure is nice, but I guess that because it took me so long I can appreciate it more.

I’m still scared of confrontation. On the rare occasions that Zombie and I do argue, I’m always scared that he is going to leave me (which I know is ridiculous). I usually avoid telling people if they’ve hurt or upset me because I’m afraid that will make them angry and I don’t want that. I still freak out about disagreeing with peoples opinions, but I’m able to do it without negative consequences now and I appreciate that more because it took me so long.

Smiles and Sunshine

Chicken And Kumara Curry

The thing I love about winter, is the food.  It’s the perfect time to have thick, warming soups, hearty roasts, tasty casseroles and creamy curries.  Some of my favourite veggies are in season this time of year, like kumara (sweet potato for my non Kiwi readers), pumpkin and yams (Oca) which means they are way more affordable than in the summer time.  I’m definitely a seasonal shopper, it’s a lot easier on the budget!

I’m quite a curry fan.  Unfortunately for me, since being on my elimination diet, I can no longer handle spicy food like I used to be able to.  I can still have a bit of spice, but what I find hot nowadays I would have barely been able to taste back in the day.  So this prompted me to find milder curries to enjoy and I’ve managed to adapt one that I think is just perfect.

Chicken and Kumara Curry

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I started eating this curry after I reintroduced butter into my diet.  It’s still unprocessed, gluten free, healthy, refined sugar free and it’s easy which I absolutely love for busy weeknights.  And the best part, it’s a flavour explosion!  I made this for my friend last weekend, who made the comment that she doesn’t like kumara, but she liked that meal.  That for me is a total win.

For 3 serves

300 gm chicken breast diced
50 gm butter
1.5 tbsp hot curry powder
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium sweet potato, cubed
1 cup of broccoli florets (I like to chop them even smaller)
1 kale leaf, shredded
400 gm can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat a wok or frying pan on medium heat and melt the butter

Add curry powder and mix well

Add onion and garlic and gently soften for 2-3 minutes

Add chicken and stir fry until browned.

Shake the coconut milk can to combine the contents then add to the chicken

Add kumara and stir well

Cover and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes

Add broccoli and kale and mix well

Cover and simmer again for a further 10 minutes, or until kumara is soft

Season to taste then serve

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I like to serve this on brown rice or cauli rice, but it’s also nice by itself.  I’ve been eating this once a week for dinner and the leftovers for lunch ever since I first made it and I always get comments from my work mates about how nice it smells.  I’d share it with them but it’s too tasty for that!

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

 

Winter Blues or Old Habits

Lately I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral. I’ve barely exercised apart from a little yoga for about two weeks now. I’ve slipped up on my elimination diet a little, not majorly and nothing that can’t be undone, just a little processed food here and there, but after 6 months it’s a little disheartening. I’m starting to get tired all the time again, my mood is swinging all over the place, my eczema is coming back with a vengeance and worst of all, I’m slowly putting weight back on. To the point that I’m not the only person who has noticed.

I do not want this, but I feel like I’m stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment. I’ve had a lot of compliments recently from people about my weight loss and general overall changes, but I don’t feel like I deserve it anymore. This is the first winter in a really long time that I haven’t been depressed, which is a huge win, but I certainly do feel like something’s not right. And with the weight gain and return of the eczema, it’s getting me worried.

I’ve been doing a bit of research on Seasonal Affective Disorder. Wikipedia explains it as people who usually have sound mental health who tend to get depressed in winter (winter blues) or summer (summertime sadness). Obviously I don’t fit into this category, but it certainly makes me wonder if we are all to some extent, affected by the seasons.

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I love summer. If my mental health is suffering, I tend to improve. I’m more motivated to exercise and go out. I like to organize BBQs, go for walks up the hills, spend time with people and am generally a happier person. Last summer. When I was eating clean, was one of the best I’d ever had. The weather wasn’t perfect, but I had so much drive and I managed to kick start my health journey which until recently was going swimmingly.

But now, winter is well and truly here and I’ve lost my Motivation Hat. I’m running out of ideas on how to find it too.

I’ve had a few wake up calls. I felt quite sick and bloated recently after eating way too much chocolate and far too many peanuts. I’ve had some terrible nights of sleep recently, which I think is directly related to the overeating and lack of exercise. My mood on Friday was disgusting, to the point that I was incredibly rude to my workmate and a friend, which, while I used to make a habit of this, I have made a point of not being rude and snappy like that this entire year. I had it pointed out to me that my clothes were looking less baggy the other day and the fact that I’ve been contemplating using steroid creams on my skin again is a huge sign that I’m abusing my body. Steroid creams are not good for me!

I’m not giving up. I’ve come too far to do that. I’m still eating healthy the majority of the time, which is good, I just need to get everything else in check, stop treating myself daily (chocolate). I need to get out of bed in the morning and jump around for a while before work. I need to completely cut the processed food out again. The theory of ‘a little won’t hurt’ clearly only works if it is genuinely only a little and not several times a week. I need to start practicing daily gratitude again and most of all, I need to calm down. I know I’m not depressed again, I haven’t even come close to gaining back all the weight I’ve lost, my skin, while worrying, is not beyond repair, I just need to stop sliding further and further to avoid these outcomes.

Any goals we have in life are first and foremost only achieved if we are 100% mentally committed. I was, which is why I did so well for so long. I’d like to get back to that point. Winter isn’t going anywhere so I need to learn how to get back into it when every fibre of my being wants to take the easy way out. 

Today I forced myself to meal prep for the first time in a long time. I’m now fully prepared for the week ahead, food wise, which I’m hoping will take some of the pressure off. I’ve set my alarm for 5.30 am tomorrow and I’m going to have an early night so that I’m less tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep instead of getting up and kick starting my day with a decent workout. I’ve even put my workout gear in the lounge, ready to go. Tomorrow is a new day, a new week and a new chance to get back on track.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

My Anxiety Feels Like

It starts with a hollow, sinking feeling in my stomach.  It’s like nerves before a job interview, but magnified. My brow furrows and I start taking shorter breaths, through my nose.  I am normally a mouth breather, but breathing through my mouth at this point makes the hollow feeling worse.  Every now and then I run out of air, so I take a big breath in through my mouth and let it out long, slow and loud.

I start to feel a little light headed and sometimes shaky. My brain fogs over a little, thoughts swimming around, the same thoughts over and over, but delivered differently or from another angle each time.  Sometimes I start having internal disagreements with myself. Part of me fretting and over analyzing, the other part putting myself down, telling me not to be so stupid, basically making me feel worse.

Time slows down.  Seconds drag by slowly.  I might look at the clock four times before a minute passes by.  Most of the time I dont register that I’ve looked at the clock, almost like it’s a nervous tick. My desire to get away from my current surroundings increases, which makes me feel trapped, almost claustrophobic.

Often my skin gets itchy.  Sometimes it doesn’t, but I scratch it anyway.  The scratch provides a physical pain, much easier to process. I hunch over and sit rigidly, but fidgety.  I become an oxymoron as I sit there twitching, rubbing my fingernails together, scratching, but also sitting as still as possible.  I feel safer rigid, hunched low, arms as close to my body as possible. I might shake my legs, like they’re resting on a nerve, but I still try to stay as still as possible.

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I’m distracted.  I try to continue on with what I’m doing, but often find myself staring out the window with no recollection of the last 5 minutes.  I try to focus on the task at hand, but it takes longer than it should because I have to keep stopping to think about what’s triggered my anxiety and also to squeeze my hands together. Squeezing them together seems to calm me temporarily. I’m not sure why.

This happened to me yesterday. I made a simple decision, with no consequences whatsoever, but for some reason my anxiety thought otherwise. I spent quite a long time stressing about what a terrible thing I’d done, when the reality was, I hadn’t done anything worth giving a second thought to. I tortured myself for a while, before I remembered my 5 calming techniques. I took my own advice, slowed down, and managed to avoid spiraling into a panic. That’s a win in my books and next time I intend to take my own advice sooner.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

The Itch Life

I have vague memories of being very young and going to the pharmacy (it was probably the doctors but my memory is of a shop) because I had a rash behind my knees. Eczema. They took scrapings for testing. I remember the scraping felt really good. It didn’t hurt, but it was a nice relief. That’s all I remember and from what I understand I grew out of my eczema pretty quickly.

I never had anymore skin issues growing up. As a teenager I rarely got pimples and my mum was always telling me that I had really lovely skin. I never used moisturisers or any other skin creams because I didn’t need to. All my friends were using them and getting lots of pimples but I felt lucky that I didn’t have that issue.

Then I hit 16. It was an interesting period in my life. I left school and home because I thought I knew everything and went flatting. I ate junk. Fish n chips, cakes, McDonalds, chocolate bars, as long as it wasn’t healthy, I ate it. I also started smoking and had the occasional drunken night.

I had always been heavy, but I got heavier. I didn’t drive so I did get exercise from biking everywhere but I started to get lazy on that and took the bus often instead. I called in sick to work a lot because I always felt terrible and I spent most of my days sleeping, while filling in time at night playing video games and hanging out with my only friend at the time, who was quite possibly the worst influence I’ve ever had.

After a while, I started to get a rash on my right calf. It was itchy all the time and it started to spread. Before I knew it, it was covering both my lower calves. I stopped wearing skirts at this point because I was embarrassed. A lot of my friends at the time who had seen it were grossed out by it.

I went to the doctor and was given antibiotics, some antihistamine creams and aqueous cream. It just kept getting worse though, nothing I did seemed to help and while it wasn’t spreading anymore, it was becoming unbearable. Unfortunately it was to be a very long time before I found any relief that wasn’t temporary.

The thing I’ve found about eczema is that everyone seems to know someone with it. And yet I rarely came across another person with eczema as bad as mine. And I’ve had a lot of conversations about it and been given a lot of advice that unfortunately didn’t work.

All my doctors would give me was different creams. Other people suggested all sorts of different things. Apple Cider Vinegar was one, which stung like anything but did provide temporary relief from the itch. Fish oil was another, that I didn’t notice a difference with but couldn’t afford to keep taking anyway. Emu oil, tea tree oil, sun tanning, wheat oil, baths in bleach, baths in pink salt, calamine lotion, the list was endless and often bizzare. I did try most of these ideas, including the bleach bath and hypnosis of all things, but nothing helped.

I got a little annoyed. Every time I was given advice it was followed by “it’ll clear right up” and when it didn’t, I would get very frustrated, which would make me itch more, and basically start a vicious cycle where I would make it worse.  Stress certainly was a factor.

One thing that did help, was acrylic nails. Obviously they didn’t stop the itch, but because my nails were so blunt I couldn’t do so much damage anymore. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed these nails at some of my jobs and also, couldn’t afford the maintenance. And I needed something to stop the itch as well as heal my skin.

I took so many different vitamins and minerals, drank many weird concotions from health stores that the shop assistants assured me would clear up my eczema and give me a new lease on life and slathered my skin with countless ointments, lotions, moisturisers and steroid creams. I stopped using soap as directed by my doctor and changed laundry powders constantly in case it was something in those.

I would wake myself up because I’d been scratching so hard it would start to hurt. My sheets were constantly covered in blood because sometimes even small movements would open my wounds. I would spend on average 20-30 minutes after getting home from work just scratching because I hadn’t really been able to when I’d been at work.

You could tell where I’d been sitting because there would be a lot of white on the ground beneath my chairs. This was flakes of skin that I had scratched off, but also bits that had fallen off by themselves, or from rubbing up against my clothes.

I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve been told to stop scratching. And while I knew that the majority of these people were saying it because they cared, it just wasn’t that easy for me. It was a 24/7 itch. There was no relief from it and it was probably the thing that consumed my mind the most.

I cried a lot about it, partly because I was in pain and partly because it made me hate myself. I hated that it was so bad that I scratched in front of people, that can’t have been a good look. It was so bad that I stopped going swimming because I was embarrassed and because some people (not my friends thankfully) didn’t want to be in the same water as me. I always wore long pants, even on ridiculously hot days because I didn’t want to be seen as the monster I thought I was.

I was referred to a specialist in the public health sector. I was incredibly hopeful and mum went with me for support. But both our hopes were dashed as the doctor was more interested in his car that he had illegally parked in the drop off point to pay much attention to me. He gave me my first ever round of oral steroids and then sent me on my way.

The steroids helped in a big way and they made me feel amazing. I couldn’t sleep, and I was a little shaky, but I had energy to burn and my skin was clearing up drastically! But that can’t be a good thing. And sure enough as soon as the steroids were over, my eczema came back with a vengeance.

About 5 years ago it spread to my eyes. There was no hiding it then. At first I thought it was conjunctivitis and so did my doctor. My eyes were full of puss and would be hard to open at times. But the eye drops for this didn’t help at all and soon the skin around my eyes started scabbing up and cracking. It worsened so much that I ended up going to A and E while I was on holiday in Invercargill because I couldn’t cope with it anymore.

The hospital was great. They delivered antibiotics through an IV as a kick start and prescribed me plenty too. The next morning there was a massive improvement, but then when the antibiotics ran out, the eye issues came back. A friend suggested an elimination diet but I didn’t have the willpower at that point of my life.

For about a year I was off and on steroids and antibiotics with differing results until one day I could take it no more and I went to see my doctor in tears. I cried for the entire appointment, in my black work uniform that was absolutely covered in powdery bits of my skin. I was covered from the neck down in the rash and it was driving me absolutely mental.

My medical centre has a special fund that they donate specialty care to patients with extreme conditions which she recommended me for. Another dose of steroids was prescribed and I was able to get some relief for a few days, before I got the phone call that I would be going to a private specialist payed for by my medical center.

I went to the specialist and was proscribed more steroids, more creams and ointments and a medication called Azathioprine. I had to have weekly blood tests to check my liver function and I wasn’t allowed to spend much time in the sun because the medication increased my risk of skin cancer. There were a bunch of other things to watch out for too.

It worked. I felt awful for the first few days, but my skin started clearing. After a year I stopped using it completely and my skin was fine for a year. It was seriously an amazing year, to not feel like a monster for a entire year, when that’s all you’ve felt for over ten years is amazing.

Unfortunately, last year it came back. One thing I’ve noticed is every time it comes back its not a gradual process. It can go from mild to full blown in the space of a couple of days. And the emotional damage is just as fast. I was referred to the specialist again and given the same option as the previous time: Azathioprine.

This coincided with my panic attack and my attempts to start looking after myself instead of treating my body badly with junk food and a sedentary lifestyle. Finally, with the threat of more nasty medication I realised it was going to be a never ending battle and something that was going to cost me a lot of money. It already had cost me so much, financially and emotionally. It was time for a change.

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It wasn’t long after that, I started planning my elimination diet, which really did work and gave me the added bonus of healthy weight loss, better sleep patterns, more energy and all the other wonderful benefits I’ve had, simply from eating real food. I know now that as long as I keep up my healthy lifestyle I will not have to deal with my eczema anymore. And when my healthy lifestyle makes me feel as amazing as it has, its really easy to stick to it.

For anyone struggling with eczema as I did, my only advice would be to look at your diet, as you may potentially be eating something that causes it. There are so many triggers out there and everyone experiences them differently. While I still don’t know specifically what causes my eczema, I know that falling off track with my healthy eating flares it up. It’s not an easy way to heal eczema, but for me it has been 100% worth it.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie