2014 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I am so pleased to announce that my little ol’ blog has been nominated for Best Health Blog of 2014 at Healthline.com!  If you have a spare minute, I’d greatly appreciate your vote.  Users can vote once per account (Facebook and Twitter) every 24 hours now through January 15, 2015…so vote now and vote often!

http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest

I’m Not Saying I’m Wonder Woman…

Well, faithful readers, here we are again.

“Why doesn’t she write?” you ask.  I like to imagine that my absence from the blogging world is noted and pondered.

Some days, I don’t write because the brain fog is thicker than Sofia Vergara’s accent.  Rather than sentences, my posts would contain such scintillating phrases as “Coffee good.  Coffee warm.”  While true, this doesn’t engage the reader and it simply tires me out with all the complex thinking.

Some days, I don’t write because my fingers ache and freeze into claw-like positions.  I’m pursuing the idea of standing near the exits at Wegmans, surrounded by stuffed animals while children beg to give me quarters.

Yet there are other days that I don’t write because I feel fan-fucking-tastic.  I shower.  I dress in pants without drawstrings or stretch and coat my lashes in 3D Fiber mascara.  I run errands, do household chores, attend roller derby practice, and hold entire conversations without pausing to wonder what I was talking about.  I am simply too busy living to bother with a blog post.

wonderwoman1Today was not one of any of those days.  My synapses are firing; my hands and joints, while sore, feel somewhat fluid for the first time in days; I feel like putting off the laundry for another twenty minutes.

So now you know why I haven’t written.  Here’s why I’m writing now: you must take your health seriously, always.

I say this because every time I feel I have a pretty good grasp on the war waging in my body, a new battle breaks out.  Epstein Barr?  I’ll take B12 injections.  It’s chronic?  I’ll take more supplements and change my diet.  Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis? I’ll take the medication journey until I find something that works, take more supplements, and change my diet more.  Pericarditis?  Well, shit.  What’s that?

Let me set the stage, if you will: I was feeling somewhat merry and seasonally joyful as I hung my snowflake shower curtain, imagining the actual shower I planned to take when it was in place.  As the second hook slid through its little hole, I thought, “Aaaaarrrggggh.”  Loosely translated, that means, “An evil demon is squeezing the bejesus out of my heart.”  When the pain didn’t subside, I relayed this turn of events to Hubby, who became appropriately concerned and convinced me the ER was in my immediate future.

Long story somewhat shorter, when my blood tests came back with differing results, I was admitted overnight for observation and more tests.  I was eventually released with orders to follow up with my regular doctor, as I most definitely was not experiencing a heart attack.  I came away from that appointment with the latest diagnosis: pericarditis.

What is it?  A side effect, if you will, of RA.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart. Pericarditis often causes chest pain and sometimes other symptoms. The sharp chest pain associated with pericarditis occurs when the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other.”

What does it mean for me?  Well, this time, it meant anti-inflammatories and rest.  If it happens again, it’ll be a round of steroids and more rest.  In the meantime, I am cleared for normal activity.  I can skate, do PiYo, begin training for my first distance race in two years (that’s an entirely other blog post), and whatever else I choose.

It took me nearly two weeks to actually push myself through a challenging workout.  I know it’s not actually my heart.  I know that activity only makes me feel better.  Yet I have that nagging anxiety that not even my beloved Zoloft can assuage.  Each twinge in my chest causes a millisecond of fear.  It just does.

Of course, my reaction to most fears is to meet them head on.  Fear of heights?  Jump out of a plane.  Fear of public speaking? Join a public speaking club and get back into group instruction.  Fear of falling?  Join a roller derby team.  You get the idea.

So today I began a second round of PiYo.  I am making plans for that half marathon and PiYo/TurboKick certification.  Guess what?  Heart is still beating.  It’s beating with purpose.

What I’m discovering is that everything thrown at me makes me stronger. 

At this rate, I will fully morph into Wonder Woman by the end of 2015.  wonderwoman

Lust And The Americone Dream

Two weeks ago, I started my first round of 21 Day Fix.  I had motivation, enthusiasm, all my “before” stats and photos.  I had the food.  I had the plan.  I was ready!

By Tuesday night, otherwise known as “Metho Day,” I was done.  I went down for nearly a week and stayed there as my children generously shared their stomach bug with me (so thoughtful, they are!)  One side effect of methotrexate: a weakened immune system.  I considered this a very reasonable excuse for discontinuing the Fix for a few days.

I had prepared for this program just as I prepared for any other and therein lay my problem.  I hadn’t begun any other program while taking methotrexate.  It’s different and I have to adjust.  I must learn to go with the proverbial flow, not necessarily an easy feat for this Type A gal.  (Remember that little anxiety issue?)

I began again this week.  First day went swimmingly.  Second day began much the same.  Though I was fatigued and had some minor joint pain during Upper Fix, I made it through and felt pretty great after.  I replenished with Shakeology and a Fix-approved lunch.  With my goals attained (workout, good food in my belly), I took my weekly dose of methotrexate, donned Hubby’s pj pants, and queued Buffy on Netflix.  I felt ready.

I wasn’t.

See, here’s the thing about methotrexate: the side effects can be killer for about 24 hours, give or take.  Nausea.  Fatigue (more than usual).  The spins.  Sore throat.  So my rule of thumb regarding nutrition during this time strays from 21 Day Fix nutrition: I eat whatever remotely appeals to me, because getting anything in my stomach feels like a major accomplishment.  So every week, I end up eating a pint of Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry’s over the course of those 24 hours.  It cools my throat; it needs no preparation; it’s easy to shove back into the freezer when I’ve hit my limit.  americone-dream-detail

And let’s be honest here, it tastes phenomenal.  In my medicated haze, I lust after the creamy vanilla, the crunchy waffle cone pieces, the smooth caramel.  The chocolate.  Oh yesssssss.  The chocolate.

Where was I?  Right.  My nutrition.

Is it remotely good for me?  Absolutely not.  Do I continue to eat it?  Absolutely.

Still, the dairy.  The gluten.  The mass quantities of sugar.  I know it has to stop.  At the very least, the frequency needs to be taken down a few notches.

So Hubby had a brilliant idea: sorbet.  No dairy.  No gluten.  It’s my next step.  Kind of like a nicotine patch, but for ice cream.  The step after my Haagen-Dazs lemon sorbet: make my own all-fruit sorbet from organic frozen fruit.  I just need a better blender.  Recommendations are welcome.

Did I mention my birthday is less than a week away?

Am I still following the Fix?  You betcha.  But it doesn’t mean I don’t have RA.  It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with medicinal side effects.  It merely means I am focusing on my nutrition again, rebuilding my physical strength and endurance, and reaching for my goals.  I slipped up.  I instituted a plan.  I am moving on.  With RA.  With methotrexate.  With my body as it is.

I like the ease of the 21 Day Fix, the simplicity of the container system, the 30-minute workouts.  While I indulged, it’s not difficult to jump right back in.  Planning a menu in advance and prepping my food will make it even simpler, and that’s on the agenda for next week.  However, for this week, I am going meal-by-meal and (other than the Americone Dream episode) finding it surprisingly easy.  Bonus: it’s easy to keep on the Paleo path with this nutrition plan.  Extra bonus: homemade sorbet will fit right in with my purple containers.

Look for extended bragging over the next three weeks.

Deep Breaths

Anxiety.

That’s the culprit behind my dizzy spells and myriad new symptoms.  At first, I was embarrassed.  After all, what do I have to be anxious about?  When the neurologist asked me what makes me anxious, I was unsure.  At that moment, the only answer that popped into my head was not knowing an answer.  That, and the fact that I had already dripped sweat onto the nice doctor while he tested my reflexes.  I was a virtual fountain of perspiration during my entire time in that office – yet another reason he was certain anxiety was behind what I have been experiencing.

I left with a shiny new prescription for Zoloft and an uncertain understanding.  What was I anxious about?  I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past week and here’s what I’ve come up with: LIFE.

Our house does not resemble the organized photos I frequently pin.  For that matter, nothing in my life remotely matches anything on Pinterest.  It is a momentous occasion when I cook or craft or clean.  These are not my fortes.  I can work out and meal plan and read and discuss the nuances of Buffy like nobody’s business.  I am fabulous at finding fun family outings, cracking up my toddler with fart noises, and carrying on conversations with my pets.  You want to exchange sarcastic observations?  I’m your gal.  Need some encouragement to stick to your new workout plan?  Look no further.

Anxiety+GirlMy anxiety arises, I believe, from my life being messy.  It’s my natural state (just ask my mother).  My brain focuses obsessively on things that spark my interest to the point of bypassing those that don’t.  So when the laundry pile is even with the top of the washing machine and I know the requisite football jersey is somewhere in the center, I get anxious.  When I double book appointments despite carrying every reminder card in my wallet, I get anxious.  When someone pops in and our hardwood floors have a carpet-like appearance due to unswept dog hair, I get anxious.  When I meet the bus in my bandana and pajama pants instead of that casually adorable outfit I saw online, I get anxious.

Could the panic have been avoided?  Absolutely!  I could have taken a shower and put on actual clothes.  I could have kept up with my household chores or designated them if I’m in a flare.  But I was focused on fitness trends and The Giver (which I read straight through yesterday before finally getting out of bed).  And sometimes, I want to do everything I’m supposed to do.  Sometimes, I make great plans to tackle ALL THE THINGS that I feel need done around the house.  All at once.  All in one day.  All by myself.

Again, this makes me anxious.  Overwhelmed.  Often to the point of halting productivity entirely.  You see the pattern here, right?  At long last, so do I.  (Thanks, Zoloft!)

So, aside from the new medication, I am reinstating several practices I’ve allowed to slide: daily meditation and yoga, regular Reiki sessions, use of essential oils.  And reminding myself periodically to slow the fuck down and breathe.

I’m not alone.  Once I shared the diagnosis, I found quite a few friends dealing with anxiety.  Which had the somewhat ironic effect of easing a portion of my own worry.  This, too, I can work with.  Each obstacle in the past two years has uncovered new strengths.  CEBV and RA led me to newfound compassion, increased knowledge of natural treatments and the importance of nutrition.  Already, I am appreciating the lessons anxiety has to teach: to appreciate what is accomplished each day and understanding that everything doesn’t have to happen immediately.  Deep breaths and frequent grounding techniques come in handy.

Mental health is a key component of physical health.  They are linked so intrinsically, they cannot be fully separated.  Just as I am open about my autoimmune diseases, I will be open about my life with anxiety.  My biggest reward and lesson learned through this journey towards health and fitness has been this: that when I share, I help others.  There’s strength in numbers, my friends.

The Kind-Of-Walking Dead

Today was one of my favorite days: leg day.  I love working my lower body.  It is always strong.  I like having strength.  I mean, come on…who doesn’t?  I even like to zombie walk the day after leg day.  I like that good muscle soreness.  It is a positive sign that I worked hard and made my workout count.

Today is no different in that sense.  I will likely be sore tomorrow, but it won’t be necessary.  I know I pushed myself to my limits despite the many modifications I needed to make to Body Beast Build: Legs.  Just as I never leave my mat post-PiYo and wonder if could have given a little more, I know that today I gave that session everything I had.

And yet…

My modifications arise due to my often random but quick loss of balance due to what can best be described as massive headrushes and a pins-and-needles sensation in my calves and feet  I cannot complete one-legged deadlifts any easier than I can alternate lunges.  Three-point stances and Warrior 3 are only slightly less difficult.  So, I’m off to the neurologist next week for another round of tests and (sadly) off my methotrexate for two weeks.

Ready for that zombie walk.
Ready for that zombie walk.

Already, I can feel my hands seizing up in the evenings.  My mornings are stiff and awkward; I don’t necessarily need a good leg day to give me that zombie walk.  In addition to my regular RA calling cards, I am also experiencing intense muscle pain everywhere from my neck to my lovely bottom (I can say that after two months of PiYo).  The fatigue has been crushing.  Until nightfall, that is, when I am on high alert.  Bonus: I am all caught up and ready for the next season of Pretty Little Liars.

I contemplated skipping my workout today.  No, really.  I thought about that long and hard.  And then I remembered how much better I feel when I’m done.  How much better my body feels overall when I exercise regularly.  I remembered that autoimmune diseases are not my excuse, but rather my reason.  I want to be better.  I want to be stronger.  Someday, I would even like to run again.  I won’t reach those goals by looking at my weights.  I won’t get there by walking right by my mat.

My epiphany has even stretched to my renewed commitment to nutrition.  I am back on MyFitnessPal thanks to a fellow GrokStar from my long-enduring GrokItOut challenge group.  It helped me more than I expected it to on my first day back.  I’m looking forward to expanding my nutrition base in a few weeks when I begin 21-Day Fix and force Hubby to do it with me (he’s gotta be healthy, too; I need him around to hold my purse).

Again, I have learned that my mother didn’t raise a quitter.  Her stubbornness is strong in me and that’s a mighty fine thing.  I refuse to go down without a fight.  Actually, I just refuse to go down.  Unless I’m in Warrior 3, at which point, you’ll just have to give me a little nudge to topple me over.

But I’ll get right back up.  😉

Making The Cut

Note: This post isn’t about fitness or nutrition whatsoever.  It’s totally about my hair.

I knew there was a chance this would happen.  That’s why I take my folic acid, my biotin, my gelatin in my tea.  I was hoping to at least slow it down.  And hey – maybe I did.  Maybe if I hadn’t taken those supplements, I’d be worse off than I am now.  I’ll spare you the photos I contemplated sharing (my purple-filled drain and full hairbrush) because that’s just plain nasty.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The side effects of the methotrexate have made their grand entrance.  I’ve already experienced those that follow the day of and the day after: nausea, dizziness, fatigue.  Plus side: I used to experience that daily prior to starting the methotrexate.  Now I’m adding the one side effect I’d taken pains to avoid: hair loss.

I’m pretty vain.  I like to look pretty.  I like to play around with hair styles and colors.  Call me shallow, but I want to keep my hair.  I enjoy oddshaving it around to flip in dramatic fashion or twirl when I’m fidgety.  Know what I enjoy even more?  Energy.  Serious pain reduction.  The ability to get out of bed in the morning.  That’s a real thing, folks, and I know my fellow Spoonies can empathize.  Pre-methotrexate, it wasn’t always a guarantee.  And to be completely honest, it’s not even a guarantee now.  It’s just the odds are much better.

I am experiencing a swirling kaleidoscope of emotions regarding the hair loss, ranging all the way from sadness to apathy to anger.  In the end, my warrior self wins out.  This is but a bump in the road.  Especially because at this point, my hair is merely thinning and I have a superhero fairy godmother in my corner (her name is Gwen and she’s my hairstylist and she’s pretty freakin’ amazing).  No bald spots have set up residence on my noggin yet.

I’m scouring Pinterest for shorter styles and even-shorter-than-short styles.  Reconsidering the return of my badass Mohawk days.  Debating crazy colors.  I mean, if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it big, right?  This first cut will likely be mild as I ease into the realm of the short-haired.  I don’t know how long my hair will last, so I’d like to get the most out of it while I have it, ya know?

So what I’d like from you, Loyal Readers, is your opinion: which of the following cuts do you like best?

hair7 hair6 hair5 hair4 hair3 hair2 hair1hair8