Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food Issues and Thinking Ahead

At my appointment yesterday, Dr. P and I spent most of the time talking about food, the unconscious-but-not-totally-unconscious restricting that has been happening, and some of the eating disordered tendencies I've still been having DESPITE doing pretty amazingly re food for the past 6 months to a year or so. While I was talking to her, I realized that I still have so many weird quirks about food—always eating at the same time, always eating the same things, only eating certain things at certain times, (usually) only eating things for which I know the nutritional content, eating a larger portion of my calories later in the day even though I'm usually starving between breakfast and lunch, and saving up calories in anticipation of....what? I don't even know. So yeah, still got some things to work on.

Something that kept coming up over and over again in therapy was that I HATE talking about food and calories and meal plans. HATE. IT. I am so freaking sick of food and eating disorders and all that, and I hate that it's taking up space in my head. Eating disorders are boring and exhausting and I just want to be done. Though of course, I can't be done with all these weird food rules and obsessions; I have to deal with them. You know? But I'm SICK OF IT. It doesn't help that I also despise cooking, baking, grocery shopping, preparing food, packing food, choosing name it. A housewife, I am not. (Hear that, future husband? You best brush up on your cooking skills, honey!) 

This has been on my mind because a friend and I were moaning and commiserating about schoolwork, and she said something like: "If I could drop out of school tomorrow and be married with kids, I'd do it." And part of me was all like YES I LOVE BABIES ME TOO! But then I realized, wait, no. There is so much I want to accomplish, and yes it is exhausting and overwhelming, but there is something so exciting and satisfying and fulfilling about working towards something that has nothing to do with food or weight or calories—or even about myself, really. It's all about the work, and it doesn't really matter what I look like or came from, and no one knows about my history, and I'm not responsible for anything except doing the work. And I feel like I need the chance to shed all this ED crap and experience that for a while before I pour myself into Wife and Mommy mode—but of course I can't do any of it unless I'm healthy and sane and reasonably happy.

Well sheesh, that was a word-puke for you! Hope everyone's having a great week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Perspective, Stress, and Updates

Thanks for everyone's comments about my therapy dilemma. I mean it's not really a dilemma—just more that I don't particularly feel like going to therapy much anymore, since it feels like I'm doing well most of the time. In fact, it almost feels kind of nice to be stressing about school and friends and errands and money—normal stuff instead of horrible freak medical stuff or sick twisted anorexic stuff. And I feel dumb going to therapy to talk about normal stuff, or trying to rack my brain for problems that feel worth talking about.

Speaking of this aforementioned normal stuff: ugh I am totally drowning in school work. Is it bad to be already counting down the weeks until winter break? A week of no responsibilities sounds like a little glimpse of heaven right about now. There's just no such thing as down-time anymore, you know? I'm either in class, at work, running from class to work or vice versa, in meetings,  in therapy,  in my car, or tutoring. And when I'm at home, I'm working. I had a really fun time going out with friends Thursday and Friday, but gosh the constant going is just exhausting. I can't even describe how nice it was to come home after a long day yesterday, curl up in my pajamas, make a pb&j, and watch the baseball game. (Anyone but Boston!!!)

I've been trying really really hard to keep it all in perspective and not let the little stuff get me down. It seems kind of pointless to get worked up about papers and exams when I'm just grateful to be alive and functioning and okay. But unfortunately I will probably always be one of those people who lives in a constant state of slight anxiety. I'm getting better about it, and I'm not entirely convinced that living with a sense of urgency is necessarily always a bad thing, but it would be nice to give my brain a break once in a while.

Um, what was my point? Oh yeah, that I'm stressed but not TOO stressed, and that I'm working on the Big Picture thing. I've started (meaning, I've done it once in the past two weeks but am planning to improve upon that) writing down things I am grateful for or happy about or whatever positive thing I feel like each night, just to keep my head in a good place. And the truth is, there are A LOT of things for me to be grateful for and happy about right now, and I think it's important to acknowledge them.

Okay, some other random updates:
— Even with all the school stress, I had a really nice weekend. For several hours yesterday, I volunteered with a research group in College City that was administering surveys in a low-income neighborhood. Kind of amazing how gracious and resilient people can be. It was nice to get off campus and meet people, plus hang out with a couple guys from my program outside the classroom. The beautiful weather didn't hurt either!!
— Still working on eating more regularly, not cutting snacks, etc. I gave myself a stern talking-to the other day about how not eating is not okay and not worth it. My goal of the week is to hit a certain calorie minimum every day, even if that means chowing on poptarts at midnight to get the numbers in. You guys can hold me to that.
— I've only used the capsaicin once so far and it wasn't nearly as painful as I had expected. We'll see how it goes from here...

Take care everyone, hope you all had a great weekend.

UPDATE: Okay I spoke too soon because the capsaicin cream was majorly painful on Night #2. Hopefully this means it's working....

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mental Health/ED Ramblings

Hi there,

Sorry for the inconsistent posting lately. I am totally swamped as per usual and sometimes feel like there isn't a whole lot to say beyond 1) school 2) work. I've also had a lot of unexpected outings/social things over the past couple of weeks, plus traveling last week, so I am pretty much going all the time. As mentioned, I skipped therapy this week...I still don't have a good reason for why, other than that I just didn't really feel like going. I am doing pretty well mentally/emotionally lately, and part of me feels like therapy forces me to dredge up problems that aren't really there. Anyway. I should talk about this with Dr. P.

I've been thinking a lot about my "mental health" lately - specifically, is anything even wrong with me anymore? What should I be "fixing" in therapy? I eat pretty well (not perfectly, but pretty well); my body image is fine (not great, but fine), and I am no longer depressed/angry/frustrated/miserable. I'm not sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I'm fine. I go to work and school and hang out with my friends and eat in restaurants and all that. It doesn't really feel like the eating disorder, anxiety, or depression interfere with my overall health or daily lifestyle in any significant way. Eating out still makes me anxious and I probably still worry about food and exercise more than the average person, but overall I think I'm going well. So. I don't know - do I continue to identify myself as a sick person and go to therapy indefinitely? Or do I take a break and go back when I need it? Is therapy something that confers cumulative benefits over time, or something that I should only use on an as-needed basis?

I've got a good-enough handle on my everyday life that hashing out the same old hard parts week after week in therapy just seems to bring me down. Can anyone relate? I still adore my therapist and would like to maintain a relationship with her, but I'm not sure how to proceed.

In related news, I've been doing way better with spontaneous eating lately. I've been out to eat with a friend of mine twice in the past two weeks. Last night, he found this crazy Brazilian restaurant (I did NOT know where we were going ahead of time) that served samples of about 10 different cuts of meat: lamb, pork, filet mignon, sirloin, chicken, turkey, etc. Impossible to know how many calories I ate (of course I still tried to estimate) but I was absolutely fine with tasting everything. Then again, I had cut way down on my snack earlier in the day, soo... Yeah. I guess I'm still in a weird limbo-place regarding food. I am going out with another friend tonight, and the plan is to NOT restrict my snack beforehand. Will see how that goes.

Okay, this was all over the place. More coherence coming soon.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back to the Daily Grind

Back in College City after a great weekend at home. After the doctor's appointment, my mom and I got lunch with my brother and spent the rest of the day in Big City. On Saturday, my mom and I walked over to see a new nature preserve that opened up by my parents' house, went shopping, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon doing work. That night, we went back into Big City to get dinner with my brother. Sunday, I went for a run, packed, finished some schoolwork, and then my dad took me to the airport. I had the typical post-trip blues last night, which was spent unpacking, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and finishing homework. Ugh.

Now I'm sitting in my office at work after three hours of class this morning, wishing this damn school sold Starbucks instead of that crap they call coffee. SUE ME I'M A COFFEE SNOB. Also my period is late and my uterus hurts.

I cancelled my appointment with Dr. P tomorrow; just feeling kind of apathetic about therapy lately, and needed a break. Also, I am still processing how I feel about my appointment with Dr. A (the evil hot pepper cream hasn't come yet, so I can't say for sure how that will go), and don't feel up to rehashing it just yet.

Thinking positive, thinking positive...

Food went pretty well at home, in that I ate lots of delicious healthy things that are usually outside of my comfort zone (white bread, anyone?? Rice? Chocolate cake? Well, just a bite). BUT in reality when I sat down and added things up, it turned out that I ate fewer calories than normal, so hmph. My appetite has been pretty sucky lately - not sure what's up with that.

Okay, my boss is back from lunch and I should probably pretend to be doing something. Peace, everyone.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chile Pepper Cure

Hey everyone—I'm hanging out doing homework (well, now blogging...) in my parents house on a cloudy, cozy fall afternoon. Feeling pretty good at the moment. My appointment with Dr. A went okay yesterday; I was a little put off because he was super behind schedule (who gets that behind by 10:00 in the morning??) although I think it was partly because he was trying to juggle two patients at once for the first part, and we could overhear him having a heart-to-heart with the person in the next room. The other patient sounded pretty upset, so I'll forgive him.

Anyway, he was kind of flustered and kept coming in and out of the room to talk, then find the right records since his secretary had printed the wrong ones, and then to let me change into a gown, and then to let me change back, etc. But the great thing about him is that no matter how off-schedule he is, Dr. A NEVER rushes and lets me have as much time with him as I need. I think he must get a ton of miserable, desperate patients in his office and knows they need that. So, it's nice to feel respected in that way.

On to the actual appointment—if you recall from last time, he was kind of stumped about why I was having pain despite everything looking pretty healed. He had predicted that the pain would ease off after a few months, but it's been about six with no real significant change. So he did another exam where he checked all the muscles and trigger points, and concluded that it is most likely neuropathic pain at this point—in other words, surface pain caused by the nervous system for no real physiological reason. I had been on drugs for this before (gabapentin and amitriptyline) but couldn't get up to a high enough dose for them to be effective due to side effects (dry eyes, tiredness, weight gain, etc.). So the new treatment is—wait for it—capsaicin cream. For those of you who don't know, capsaicin comes from chile peppers. In fact, it is the compound that makes chile peppers spicy. So as you can imagine, I am thrilled to be rubbing it on my skin.

It comes OTC, but mine's prescription because it's
stronger and has a different base or something

The idea is that it somehow deactivates nerves by depleting Substance P, which is a neuropeptide of some sort that you can research on your own because this is about where my understanding of the mechanism ends. Anyway, you rub the capsaicin cream into the skin wherever you have pain—for me, my lower back, space where my hipbones meet my legs, and someplace else that I don't want to write on the Internet. Over time, as the Substance P is depleted from the hyper-reactive areas, the nerves are desensitized and the pain decreases.

As you can probably imagine, the cream is supposed to burn like crazy when first applied. You rub it in, leave it on for 20 minutes, wash it off, and repeat nightly. I am supposed to do this for six weeks, and then call Dr. A back to let him know how I'm doing. I'm nervous as heck for it, but the success rate is supposed to be enormous. Apparently capsaicin is quite commonly used for diabetic neuropathy, various neuralgias, and arthritis. Which makes me feel a little better about rubbing fire cream onto my poor skin. A LITTLE. Still waiting for my script to come in the mail, so let's hope this thing works.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Appointment Anticipation

Eek, probably should have started packing for my trip home yesterday, or over the weekend, or anytime...I'm not getting home until about 10pm tonight, and am leaving for the airport by about 8am tomorrow morning. So, that was wise on my part.

I am both excited for and dreading my appointment with Dr. A on Friday. Still kind of wishing he has some magical treatment up his sleeve that will cure me once and for all. At the same time, I'm bracing myself for the worst—bad news, no news, no cure, live with it, etc.

I was just telling Alie about this in an e-mail, but what the heck, let's share the indignity with everyone! Dr. P asked me yesterday about how I've been doing pain-wise and how I'm feeling about the upcoming appointment, and instead of answering with, you know, words—I promptly burst into tears. This stuff is still incredibly hard for me to talk about without getting emotional because I am SO frustrated and SO OVER being in pain all the time. I'm just so damn sick of it, you know? Dr. P reminded me to plan for all the questions I need to ask Dr. A and make sure I cover all my bases, but I just know that it will be hard in the moment for me to think of everything and be articulate. But, I'll try. Good thing Mama Bear is coming with.

In other news, we had a great lab meeting earlier today. I am super excited about my research, and my first ever research article will be ready for publication in a couple of weeks. My advisor (Have I given him a letter yet? I have zero recollection, sorry) is aiming for Big Journal, so we'll see if that happens. Additionally, we watched an hour-long movie in class this morning so really, how could it be anything but a great day?

Take care everyone, and keep your fingers crossed for me this Friday!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Insomnia Part II and Teensy Tiny Confession

I mentioned in my last post that I've been having trouble sleeping, which I think I can safely attribute to the following three factors:

1) horrible sleep hygiene
2) stress
3) poor eating

The first couple are pretty straightforward; I often stay on my computer or phone until the wee hours, and I've heard over and over again that the artificial backlight can mess with your natural sleep rhythms of whatever. Plus I have a teeny bladder but guzzle water pretty much up until I get into bed, which means that I not-infrequently have to get up to pee a couple times before I actually fall asleep. PLUS I am a worrier, and use my me-time after I turn the lights out to contemplate all the possible scenarios in which things might go wrong in the near or distant future.

But the eating thing has stayed under my radar because it's pretty subtle, and it wasn't until the wise, wise JS reminded me that under-eating wreaks havoc on my sleep that I realized, huh. I haven't been eating that well lately.

It's little stuff, like skipping a snack here and there. Actually, that has happened at least three or four times in the past couple weeks that I can remember - where my afternoon snack got delayed for some reason (work, meetings, etc.) and by the time I remembered it, my brain latched onto that old habit of: How about I just don't? And as soon as that thought crosses my mind, it's pretty much guaranteed that I'm going to skip it.

This is a weird position for me because on the surface, I am completely uninterested in active restriction and going all hard core Weight Loss. And when I do skip the snack, I'm STARVING. My body is used to getting fed regularly these days, and going without those XXX calories between lunch and dinner (usually a LONG time due to my class schedule) is rough. But even when my stomach is twisting and aching with hunger, the old compulsion still wins out.

I cannot emphasize how irrational this is. I'm not trying to restrict. I have a target number of calories that I aim to eat per day, and skipping the snack puts me significantly under. I repeat all those reasons that Food is Good and Restricting is Bad over and over again, but that doesn't seem to change much in the moment.

Anyway, I suppose it's a good thing that I find this unintentional restriction to be frustrating rather than satisfying, although that's really no excuse for continuing to let it happen. I know better.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Short Post, Random Updates

Whoopsies, another week got away from me. Hope everyone is doing fantastically. College City is having some uncharacteristically lovely weather (e.g. it is neither 95 degrees with 95% humidity, nor is it 20 degrees with a layer of ice coating the streets, nor is it raining) which definitely has a positive effect on my mood.

Tonight, I am heading out to see one of my best friends from college - dinner with her family, watching a baseball game, playing with her puppy, etc. I realized when we made the plans that I still got pretty worked up about anticipating the food her credit, my friend knows I have Issues and asked if I had any preferences, but I couldn't really think of what to say. So basically I just said "No! I'm fine! I eat anything! Yay food!" or something like that. Still feeling a little anxious, but also happy to be seeing her and breaking out of my boring food routine. I try to motivate myself in these situations by reminding myself how healthy variety is, and that my usual diet is SO unvaried that any change is good.

I wrote sometime last week about how my sleep habits were totally out of whack. It was becoming a major issue, so I finally caved and bought some Tylenol PM - it's a miracle for my insomnia, which has been a problem on and off for as long as I can remember. Anyways, I've slept like a baby (drugged) the past two nights, and as usual I'm reluctant to stop taking the sleep aid because it always takes several nights of tossing and turning to get back to normal. Any ideas for sleep problems?

And finally:  here's a kind of interesting article, although I'm not really sure how I feel about the way EDs are presented: Fat and Thin Find Common Ground. I have zero experience with binge eating or bulimia, so it's hard for me to say how much they have in common with anorexia, and whether or not all eating disorders are just simply different forms of the same beast. I am interested to hear any thoughts.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No Jealousy

I've gotten friendly with this girl from school. She is very thin. I try not to notice/pay attention to that kind of thing, but unfortunately it still stands out to me. I also try not to project my own neuroses onto other people, but I had suspected from early on that this girl was not, um, naturally that thin. It's hard to describe or articulate, but she just has that kind of sick, sunken-in look, you know?

Anyways, she recently friended me on Facebook and I just got around to gettin' my creep on and looking through her old pictures this morning and......yeah. Up until about 2010 or so, she looks like a completely different person. Full face, bright eyes, glowing skin, curvy, and healthy. Sometime that year she took up running—lots of pictures of her posing in a singlet, number clipped to her chest, Nike shorts, hair pulled back. And then her body starts melting away.

I was starting to drive myself crazy by looking at her pictures, so I decided to head out for a short run to clear my mind. And guess who I passed doing her own run? Yeah.

Not very long ago, I would have been sick with jealousy over this girl. I would have spent the morning sobbing in front of the mirror, swearing to start restricting again, trying on and ripping off clothes, agonizing over how the hell I let myself get so fat. I would have thought: If she can do it, I can too.

But instead, today, it didn't make me jealous at all. It made me incredibly depressed. This poor girl. She is beautiful and smart and sweet, and she must be absolutely miserable. She has been obviously struggling for about three years, but who knows how long before then, before it showed up in her appearance? She is a couple of years older than me, and I wonder how long she will be stuck in this thing. I feel myself pulled in two directions: wanting to give her a hug and tell her that it's okay, and that it's not worth it, and that she can beat this; and on the other hand, wanting to run as far away from her as possible.

I find myself thinking: If I could get better, she can too. Why won't she?

Knowing me, I'll just continue to be friendly with her and not go near the ED stuff with a 10-foot pole. Not my style to insert myself like that. I don't talk about it, especially with people I've just met, and I wouldn't know what to say anyway.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Geeking Out, Lacking Sleep, and Hopping Back on the Medication Train

I am going cross-eyed from staring at spreadsheets, so...time for a blogging break. Things are going relatively well these days; my life currently revolves around class, work, and research. I've decided that I only officially hate one of my classes, meaning four out of five are pretty darn good! And the one hateful class isn't straight-up awful so much as it just doesn't really apply to my interests or future goals, but is just one of those required core classes that I have to survive until December. LET THE COUNTDOWN COMMENCE.

Aside from that, my research is going swimmingly and my advisor is superb. I sent him a bunch of work last weekend and he took a few days to get back to me (he almost always answers within hours), which of course sent me into a tailspin of ohmygod what did I do wrong he must be speechless at my stupidity but then he finally e-mailed back and explained that the delay was due to him having a two-week-old baby at home. And then he basically just lavished me with praise and made me feel like a million bucks. So, that made my week. We had our first lab meeting with another research team that is working on similar material just to share results and talk about academic-y things, and my advisor let me take the lead in presenting our stuff. So from now on, how about you guys just call me DOCTA K, EXPERT.

Today was kind of crazy—gym and meetings in the morning, lecture, class, tutoring. Even with all the scheduled stuff I have going on, it's surprising how often I find myself wrapped up in looooong chit-chats with other students. Everyone is just super smart and motivated and grateful to be here, which is nice. However, I am totally wiped and probably need to figure out a way to catch up on sleep, because the 6-7 hours per night (down from about 11-12 per night plus naps over the summer) is NOT cutting it. Still scratching my head on how to make that one work. I don't feel super stressed out or spent or anything, but I have a feeling that the pace of the past six weeks might start catching up with me.

I almost didn't bring up my recent freak-out with Dr. P at therapy this week, but I'm glad that I did. She helped to put a lot of things in perspective for me, and to point out that shit happens and life goes on. I mean, she said it more eloquently, but that was the gist. Anxiety sucks A LOT, but I almost think this most recent episode might have been a good wake-up call for me, since I've been toying with the idea of cutting down on my meds and have even been skipping my pill on and off for the past few weeks. I've gotten this idea into my head that the drug might be causing the tiredness and weight gain, and just want to be off of it. Plus, anxiety hasn't really been a major problem for me at all for over a year so I started thinking: "All better!"

Obviously not. Clearly, my brain still tips over the edge into crazy-Kaylee-mode pretty easily. And even though I'm not on a very high dose, I can still tell if I skip more than one day in a row because I get that spinning, groggy, withdrawal feeling. So maybe I'll stick to taking my meds as prescribed for now.

Final funny anecdote: We were talking about the government shutdown in one of my classes yesterday. There are a few international students in that class, so the professor was trying to explain how our inane system works (I know, I know, checks and balances whatever) and how we ended up in this mess. One of the girls from Beijing was just sitting there shaking her head, totally horrified, and blurted out: "This would NEVER happen in China."