Vitals Pre- and Post-Cardiac Rehab

Hahaha, remember my previous post here where I talked about all the crazy stuff I was able to do in 5 days and not die thanks to the exercise I was doing?! And then how I said, "Hopefully, it won't take me another two months before I sit down to write about [the program again]"?!

Well, at least I was right in that it didn't take me two months...

But, honestly, though I do feel a bit guilty about my slacking, I can say it's happened because I've been out like, doing stuff y'all. This summer... I'm honestly getting all verclempt just thinking about it. Aaah! Talk amongst yourselves! I'll give you a topic!

Oh geez, I just realized some of you may not even get this reference... #Imold

Oh geez, I just realized some of you may not even get this reference... #Imold

Seriously though, I'm sitting at my kitchen table almost in tears about it. I can't even begin to explain what this summer has meant to me. The fact that I've been able to play soccer three times a week in the heat of the South with people who have become like family to me... and the acceptance and understanding I've received... the growth I've gone through...

Ok, they are actual formed tears now so here's another Linda Richman/Mike Myers gif:

                                   Rhode Island. Neither a road nor an island... DISCUSS DISCUSS

                                   Rhode Island. Neither a road nor an island... DISCUSS DISCUSS

Sigh. I am just so grateful. It has been life-changing for me. It really has.

But, focus, Sarah! Give the people some concrete details! Because you know how it is! You've been on the other side listening to someone say X, Y, Z has helped them and you've laughed ruefully and bitterly!

So, yes, while experiences are important, the numbers I received when I visited my POTS doctor in August really kind of hit it home for me—that the exercise has been helping. Because while I had evidence of improvements (April wedding shenanigans, the glorious summer of soccer, etc.) it was still hard for me to believe/attribute it to the exercise. Like I said in earlier posts, I'm a bit jaded with "POTS treatments" because, hey, aren't we f'ing all at this point?

Anyhoo, when I saw my POTS doctor in January we were still trying to get me into the cardiac rehab program at the local center. At this time, I was taking Metoprolol to help control my heart-rate.

Here were my baselines (taken after lying down for three minutes, then taken after sitting for three minutes, etc.):


1/3/17

Heart-Rate
Supine to Sitting: heart-rate increased by 21 bpm.
Sitting to Standing: heart-rate increased by 24 bpm.

Blood-Pressure
Supine: 100/58
Sitting: 99/69
Standing: 95/65

Not too shabby, right? If I remember, I drank a crap ton of water that day, so the fact that my BP wasn't in the 80/50 region like usual was pretty freaking cool.

Fast forward seven months and two days, and keep in mind this is without Metoprolol as they wanted me off of it while completing the program:


8/1/17

Heart-Rate
Supine to Sitting: heart-rate increased by 4 bpm.......... FOUR.
Sitting to Standing: heart-rate increased by 17 bpm........... who are you and what have you done with my heart?!

Blood-Pressure
Supine: 118/55
Sitting: 109/59
Standing: 107/66

STANDING BLOOD-PRESSURE OF 107/66 AND ONLY 17 BPM INCREASE WITHOUT METOPROLOL AND WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE BODY SOME KIND OF ALMOST FUNCTIONING THING?! 

Needless to say, there was a bit of verclempt happening in the doctor's office that day, too.

Oh, and this. Lots of this:

                                                        Um... that... those numbers can't be right, can they?

                                                        Um... that... those numbers can't be right, can they?

So I don't know y'all. It's been a wild ride this year, for sure. Proceeded by 10 years of wild (mostly sedentary) rides. And it is still a fight, don't get me wrong. It's hard to get my three days a week of exercising in if I'm not chasing after a soccer ball like a rabbit after a carrot on a string. And there are still naps and brainfogs and tears but... I think... I this might be what it's like to be living again.

My (Radical?!) Guide to Eating Healthy For The Holidays!

Every year, without fail, I see articles talking about how to "eat healthy for the holidays". And, every year, I want to throw something at my computer because they only perpetuate dangerous ideals. Mainly that some foods are "good", some are "bad", and we all must carefully navigate through the forthcoming edible minefield OR ELSE.

So, I decided to come up with my own "guide" for eating healthy during the holidays. And it goes a little something...likeathis...

Eat What Sounds Good To You
I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I know this is a revolutionary idea for diet companies/food companies/basically everything. And I know the aforementioned are shitting themselves at my very suggestion of such a thing. But here's what I've learned in my years of pre-, during-, and post- eating disorder/recovery/whatever phrase suits ya best -- if something sounds good to your body, that's not a bad thing. Because, as I mentioned before, foods are not inherently good or bad. They're (oftentimes extremely delicious) things that help make our bodies go and jump and hug and throw large objects at our computers when we read frustrating articles. 

Eat a Variety of Stuff

Sure, no food is good or bad, but eating one type of food (even if it was on my "good" list during my disorder) doesn't do a great service to my body because I'm not getting all the nutrients I needed. In fact, I actually feel better and feel I am taking better care of my body when I eat a variety of foods, including foods that used to scare me. Bananas, pudding, soup, sandwiches, cookies, salad, apples with caramel dipping sauce, pizza, zucchini bread, fresh green beans, PIE and MOAR PIE, etc. Each has something to offer me. It's when I'm only eating one thing/denying myself other varieties, that makes it so my body *needs* something else (which often led to purging). 

Eat When You're Hungry, Stop When You're Full

Sounds simple, but it can be incredibly tough. The body is a pretty fantastical machine and can let you know what does/doesn't sound good, when its had enough/wants more, but I knowfirst handhow this sensation can often be lost in the throes of an eating disorder. And it took me a while to not only get it back, but also to trust it. I had to eat very slowly and very mindfullychecking in with myself after each bite. "Am I really full or is that my brain trying to tell me I am?" And then be proud of myself for stopping when I was full, and/or continue eating food if I was hungry. (Oftentimes, if I wasn't sure whether I was full or not, I would stop and remain mindful after the meal in order to see whether I was hungry still and, if so, head went back to fridge and honor that feeling.)

It's OK To Be Full

There is nothing wrong about eating to fullness. Nor is there anything wrong about having more food than you did the day before. Some days I'm more hungry and some days I'm not, so some days I eat more and some days I eat less. That's normal.

*

My list is pretty short compared to the many I've found, but I feel it covers some good basics. No part of this is easy, of course. Not for people who've struggled with eating disorders or some form of disordered eating, or anyone who has been led to think/feels that food is an enemy to struggle against. For me, getting anywhere near to these concepts came after a lot of practice and therapy, so if you aren't "there yet" that is OK! Every single step I took is what got me to this point, even the ones that didn't feel big at the time and especially the ones I wanted to skip over.

Each year I can't help but reflect upon all the Thanksgivings and Christmases that were torture, and how nice it would have been for mewithin the horrific repeats in my mind and self-hate in my heartif there was another "guide" that spoke of food so differently and showed that all the excruciating steps I was taking might lead to a completely radical (and freeing) relationship with food. Regardless of how far fetched it may have seemed at the time.

This makes me want to add one more thing to my list, actually:

Reach Out If You Need Support

There is nothing wrong with needing support through the holidays (or at any time)! For the past two years the hashtag #THX4SUPPORT has been used on social media (you can read about it here) for those who need some community on difficult days like Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if it is being "officially" run this year, but that doesn't mean people still can't use it and support each other if necessary. (Also, don't hesitate to tweet me (@SEtotheCarson) or drop me a line or whatever if you feel drawn to do so!).

And, no matter what, keep fighting to know that you deserve to be happy, to feel and know you have worth, and to be free.

Love,
s.e.c

Thoughts on Therapy

Sometimes, this is what recovery/being recovered looks like for me:

I have to take extra care that all the nutritional labels are either directed to the back of the pantry, or upsidown and against the cabinet shelves. 

I have to actively tell myself that my pants aren't smaller. And even if they are, I could stand to gain some weight. And even if I have gained weight, it's ok. 

I have to decipher whether I would normally have that FOOD if that part of my brain wasn't so heightened and, if so, still eat it if it sounds good.

***

I have always felt that when my mind kicks up, it's for a reason. Something going on in my life, feelings I haven't processed, etc. When it does, the first thing I always try to do is figure out where it's coming from.  

This is rarely easy or straight-forward. And I'm aware that, sometimes, it might just be chemical/brain-based— that, for whatever reason, that day everything-about-me-which-can-short-circuit does. These days days are very difficult for me to handle and accept, because there is little I can do. If I can't figure out a probable cause, I can't examine it and feel like I'm DOING something. I know I am not the only one who struggles with needing to "actively do something"; it is a large contributor to my actions and tendencies. And it requires continual practice on my part to understand that, sometimes, not doing anything is doing something.

Regardless, lately I've been starting to dig into some deep down stuff. Therapy can be such a process; I've had to start at the top of the muck and keep digging away and away, like an archaeologist. And only recently have I started to get to some things that are ingrained. Things that didn't happen and I needed them to. I have had an inkling of an understanding regarding these Things for a while, but had never determined what looking more closely at it all would do. I am aware of it enough, I'd think. And nothing now could change it. But I don't know. I suppose if I poke at it, like I'm beginning to do, and it still bleeds, then it's still something I need examine. If it's not scarred over, or fully healed, and it still can turn on that part of my brain, then it's still unresolved. And it's just like anything else I've ever done in all this—no promise that rummaging through painful self-reflection will feed any benefits, that nothing will come from it other than more pain and more days where I have to be even more careful with nutritional labels than usual. That I could very well slip after nine years of steadiness. 

But there has never been any promise, has there? Just the closing of my eyes and sheer god damn stubbornness.

And yet here I am— in all my fight and floundering— and I will keep doing that which scares me.

Why I Love St. Patrick's Day

For many a'year I've been wanting to try to explain why St. Patrick's Day is my favorite holiday (note: this title is often shared with Christmas), but knew I couldn't do it justice.

This year is no exception, but I figured what the hell; I would try it anyway.

People who don't know me well usually react one way when I freak out about St. Patrick's Day every March: a joking elbow to my ribs and eyebrows raised while giving me a slightly obnoxious grin, "You like to 'celebrate', huh?" And while I'm not entirely sure I've ever refused a shot of whiskey in my life, this couldn't be further from the real reasons, which are threefold.

Aon! I don't have an exact date when I started recovery from my eating disorder, but I mark it by this month. The first March, when I had decided to get better and was seeking some intense treatment, I (while walking into the grocery store, no less) was suddenly struck with the nearness of everything. It was like I had gone through so many years where I didn't even realize how awesome March was and then suddenly, here it was in front of me. Fresh air, vigor, and hope.

Nine years later and every time March rolls around, I feel the exact same way. Rejuvenated and unstoppable.

Dó! There was a long, long time where I didn’t like myself (understatement), a number of traits in particular. But as I began working through things, I was able to see that a lot of those traits aligned with those from this really beautiful, charming, and magical heritage of mine. And maybe that meant parts of me were beautiful, charming and a bit magical, too.

For instance, I’ve always been a bit loud and I can’t remember a time (unless I was a wee lass) where that didn’t bother me. It always seemed to happen without my noticing it and I could never understand why I couldn’t keep my voice at a normal human decimal range. Most of my life was spent overcompensating and becoming perfectly and acceptably quiet. But now I realize my loudness always comes from an exuberance of being around people I love, of being wholly happy in the moment, of being so overcome with joyous contentment that I have to get it out some way or another or I would just break apart. Of giving back, I guess. So, while it’s not necessarily the ‘gift of gab’, there are very few quiet Irishmen I’ve come across…

My temper was another thing. Anger was one of the “Bad” emotions: it was scary, it could make me say things that were unmeasured that maybe no one could love me for, it was often explosive, uncontrollable, and powerful. All of which can be frightening to me. And yet, I still happily remember the first time I let myself be angry for the first time after 10 years of my disorder: I was playing hockey, something pissed me off and, rather than stewing on the bench like usual, I skated over and all of the sudden I just broke the shit out of my stick across the boards. This huge flare of emotion and it startled me, and it startled everyone on the bench, too. But no body thought of me any differently and I still have that broken stick saved as a reminder.

Regardless, my temper can still get me into trouble and I try to keep it in check but, usually, when I am all Irish fire it’s because I’m passionate about something. And passion in life is very important to me— even if it’s about beer league hockey.

Stubbornness is a big one. I am irritatingly stubborn. After one of the daily occurrences where I had done something that prompted someone to comment on it, I responded with “I’m not stubborn, I’m just capable.” Regardless, I think I’ve always liked this about me. I know this trait directly saved me from my eating disorder because I dug my heels in and just decided I was going to get better.

I think this is why I catch myself saying, “I’m Irish” a lot these days. Because I’ve not only been able to accept the aforementioned, but because they also have become some my favorite things about myself. And that’s really really cool to me. To now love things I used to hate. To think that a bit of me might belong to this island of magical, charming, spirited people.

Trí. I love St. Patrick’s Day because it’s like a gift. It’s like a day just for me. Where my mind is quiet. And this one is the hardest to describe of three. No matter how many ways I’ve written it down, worked it out in my head, or tried to phrase it, it is falls frustratingly short. But here goes: the rest of my love for it is about being alive. Because, when you shake off all the other shit, what a glorious thing it is. To be alive. And some days I run and run across the earth as fast as I can, not caring how far or fast I go. And some days I sit on the back porch during a thunderstorm and watch how lightning can be different colors. Some days I breathe in this great, big earth and myself and the people and creatures and things I love so dearly in the world.

But then there’s this one day—this one really special day—where I turn up Irish music really, really loud and dance and dance, and I look around the room at, or think about, my most favorite people. And I am the loudest I have ever been; in laughter and in words and in spirit. And yes, usually then I will pour myself a shot of whiskey and say my favorite Irish prayer because… God… isn’t it a wonder just to be alive.

A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

It wasn't you, it was me.

I know it sounds cliché, but I guess cliché doesn't necessarily make things less true. So, really, in complete seriousness:

It wasn't you, it was me.

All you have ever done was love me. Protect me. Aid me in self-expression and spirit. Without you I wouldn't have spent years on the soccer pitch feeling invincible. I wouldn't have gotten the closest I can to flying with gymnastics. I wouldn't have kicked Jared's ass in jousting in 5th grade. I wouldn't have been able to discover a new love for snowboarding, laugh properly using my whole self, run just to see how fast I could go. I wouldn't have been able to hug Joe before he died or take Niyadog on so many walks and adventures after waiting for her for 21 years.

It is not like we haven't had our struggles. Our other chronic illnesses are a daily battle now, I still often wrestle with my mind, and I know I get angry with you sometimes, but none of it is your fault. I think I pushed you too hard for too long when the only thing you have ever done is tried give me everything—and so much of what I asked for was so unfair.

It wasn't you. It was me. There were things about myself I didn't like, fears and feelings I couldn't handle. I wanted to be so much—everything and nothing at all. And the depression didn't help. My mind and it's miswiring. There was just so much I didn't understandbright and heavy colors or feelings or pains that built up and soon expanded or melted (I don't really know) into hatred. I was mad at you for not being what I wanted you to be, for what I thought I needed you to be. And I didn't know how else to deal with it. I thought if you and I could just do a little bit more—on the inside and the outside—things would get fixed. I thought that because I felt so ugly on the inside, that if I could be beautiful on the outside, some of that would seep through. That I would be happy.

And you tried. You tried so hard because you remembered all those summers we spent running through sprinklers and playing tennis against the chipped garage door. You tried because you loved the hike we took to the top of a 14,000 ft mountain, the boys we made swear during hockey. You tried because when we spent those nights in the backyard, kicking the soccerball against the wall, it felt like the universe had shrunk. That the culmination of time and stardust was this simple and beautiful moment: late afternoons (some laden with crickets, some heavy with the Colorado winter) dropping into dusk, dusk fading further until house-corner floodlights popped on, the constant often-rhythmic snap of grass beneath feet after a chip, or a particularly sound kick echoing against the mountains. The stars and the night and a girl and her dreams.

You tried so hard because you wanted it back. You wanted me back. But I hated you. You had done nothing but help me chase my ambitions, love me, and yet I hated you because I was in so much pain.

Even more, you tried to tell me. So many times in so many different ways, and I didn't listen. At first, gently prodding me about our limitations, how they aren't bad—how heeding them would mean we could do more together. That if we took care of each other we could take on the world. You tried so hard, prodding giving way to pleading, but I didn't listen; I didn't want to hear it. So you continued on as best as you could. Struggling to give me everything when I gave you nothing.

I am sorry.

It is a love I didn't completely understand. One I still don't. Especially considering how I spent so much of my life destroying you. And even though I have tried my best to remedy this, some days I still find myself saying things I think I mean. I still get angry or hurt or I am overwhelmed with feeling. And you wait patiently, knowing I will find my way back. Because the truth is you are powerful and so strong and maybe that scares me a little sometimes.

So, no matter what, I will fight. I have fought for 9 years and I will keep fighting just as you have fought for me. And I promise I will keep trying to listen, even if it's hard for me to hear at times, because all of my favorite memories exist because of you. As are, I know, all my favorite memories to come.

Love,
Sarah