Pulling Away and Eating on the Road.

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Here we are in front of the moving truck. A friend is driving it to Virginia for us, and we are traveling by car.

Pulling out of town for the last time was difficult, but not as hellacious as I thought it would be. I think that was in part due to the fact I decided to drive and let my husband take the passenger seat. I had this strong sense that if I was driving it would be more like leaving vs. being taken away. It’s the same reason I walked myself down the aisle (which was actually a dock) when I married my husband. It was my second marriage and I had a child. By that point, I was my own person. Nobody was giving me away. I was entering my new life on my own.

It’s sort of the same with this move. I am leaving the only home I have ever known for my husband’s home town. In some way I need to carry my own identity with me, and for whatever reason I thought being behind the wheel would help.

My heart hurt and heaved a little as I drove down the ramp to 94 East for the last time. And then it cleaved a bit when we crossed into Wisconsin about 20 minutes later. There were tears. But I was not a sobbing mess, which I think was due to the fact I had to concentrate on the road. That was another reason I wanted to drive.

So that’s the leaving. Now on to the eating. Not easy on a road trip when you have my diet restrictions. I am on the Paleo diet, as it is anti-inflammatory, which helps fight lyme induced inflammation. I am restricted by the diet, but I also have intolerances. As a result, my food life looks like this: no gluten, dairy, added sugar sugar, grains, garlic or onions.

Interestingly, my daughter has GI issues that are completely different from mine, however, she shares my main food intolerances: gluten, dairy, garlic, onions. And she mostly avoids sugar. (FYI, the garlic and onion and the hardest to deal with — everything else is pretty easy to work around).

Food intolerances aside, neither my daughter or I are willing to eat fast food, which isn’t really food as far as I am concerned. Our sensitive GI tracts are used to high quality, “clean” food, and we’d probably require medical assistance if we ate at Taco Bell. BTW, my husband can eat anything and feel fine, so he balances us out.

Since I’m on a liquid diet for every meal except dinner, I only need to figure out one meal per day. But my daughter eats real food all day long, so we had to figure out a plan for her. We brought instant oatmeal cups for her breakfast.

My plan for lunch and dinner was to stop at Whole Foods. My thought was that even if we passed a Whole Foods at a non-meal time, we would just pick up stuff for lunch and dinner that day and keep it in the cooler until it was time to eat.

Well, that plan fell apart, as we never passed a Whole Foods that was even remotely close to our path, and we did not want to waste time veering off course.

Enter plan B.

The first night, we managed to track down a grocery co-op in a little town called Stoughton, Wisconsin. Honestly, it was pretty slim pickings, but we made it work. My husband found prepared food (remember he can eat anything), but none of the prepared options would work for my daughter or I. So, I went into assembly mode. I picked up some lettuce, tomatoes, an organic avocado, raw, organic goat cheese (we can do goat dairy), and Applegate all natural deli turkey (technically not on my diet, as it’s processed, but desperate times…..).

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Here I am cutting the avocado with a plastic knife while I assemble my salad. You can see my daughter’s meal in the bottom right. We had gluten free bread in the car, so she grabbed that, and I made her a sandwich version of my salad. You can see the fixings gathered around my salad container — the meat, cheese and lettuce. Doesn’t everyone buy a head of lettuce on a road trip?

(FYI, never mind the plywood. Apparently a truck drove through the window of the co-op).

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Here is my salad. Not the most beautiful thing I ever made, but it was good in a pinch.

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We finished our meal with organic raspberries and a spot of dark chocolate. I can usually tolerate a square, and it’s a nice treat.

So day one went pretty well on the food front.

Day two was more of a challenge.  Once again, no Whole Foods within reasonable proximity.

At lunch time fast food was literally the only option, so we went to Taco Bell… for my husband. I had my protein shake, and I assembled lunch for my daughter from food we were carrying with us. I had packed a loaf of gluten free bread and a jar of organic SunButter in the event this very situation arose. She rounded out her meal with grapes and baby carrots I had packed in the cooler.

So picture this scene at a Taco Bell somewhere along the side of a highway. There is a man eating a burrito. There is a woman sipping from a thermal cup. Spread on the table are the following: a loaf of bread, a jar of SunButter, a bag of grapes, a bag of carrots. The woman makes a sandwich for the teenager sitting across from her. The man eats the burrito. The woman continues to sip, and the teenager eats the sandwich, fruit and carrots.

Just another day in our life. I don’t even get self-conscious about that stuff anymore. It’s just how we roll.

Which brings us to dinner. A complete disaster. Again, no Whole Foods. Nothing viable. We were in Charleston, West Virginia around dinner time, and I had located a farmer’s market that also had prepared food. It seemed like it would be a home run, but everything was closing up about the time we arrived.

Then I Googled “organic restaurant near me” and something came up that looked promising. We pulled up, and it was in a mostly boarded up neighborhood and did not seem to be open. Strike two. Third option — a grocery store. I thought we could get salad fixings and a cooked deli chicken we could pull apart with our hands. Kroger is the local brand, so I entered the nearest Kroger into the GPS, and we were brought to……the side of a river. No Kroger. No nothing. Crap.

By this point, we had wasted about an hour and we still had three hours to drive and just wanted to get on with it. So, we pulled out of Charleston and hoped for something better down the road. There was not much, so we decided my daughter and I would cobble something together from the food we had on hand, and my husband would eat whatever fast food he wanted.

Then I saw a sign for Wendy’s, and a memory from way back came to the surface. Wendy’s has baked potatoes. Technically, white potatoes are not Paleo, but we had to get real here. So, we stopped at Wendy’s. I gathered random things from the cooler — the rest of the avocado from the night before, the goat cheese, the carrots, the lettuce. My daughter and I ordered the plain baked potatoes, and I made myself a side salad with the lettuce, avocado and cheese. My daughter added the cheese to her potato and supplemented with baby carrots.

Before we ate, I said “let’s say a quick prayer over this lovely meal”. Without missing a beat my daughter added “and let’s hope it doesn’t kill us”. I laughed right out loud. It was the first time I’d been in a Wendy’s since I don’t know when, but it was fun and funny. Geezzz..

This morning, we are just three hours from our new home and food will not be an issue. I know for a fact there is a Whole Foods on the way, and we will definitely be loading up.

This might seem like a lot of work, and maybe even a little crazy. And if you think that, consider yourself lucky, because it means you’ve never had serious GI issues. Look, I can barely eat. Just one meal per day. And I if I don’t take care with that meal, I will feel very crappy. Not just for a few hours. But for a few days.

I didn’t enjoy the stress and hassle of the food gymnastics. But my daughter and I feel as well as we possibly can given the circumstances, and that is no small feat. We spent a lot of time talking about how “normal” people would take a road trip vs. how we take one. It wasn’t a sad or remorseful conversation. More wistful. We are both pretty accepting of our digestive situations.

And truly, there are so many people out there with much bigger problems. Everyone has their cross to bear, and this is mine. All things considered, it’s pretty manageable, and I can’t complain. I really can’t. It could be so much worse.

Onward.

 

 

It’s Moving Day.

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I have been dreading this day more than I could ever express in words.

The past few months have been filled with lasts, endings and goodbyes. It’s been heart wrenching and heart breaking. Some days I would shake from the inside out. Some nights I’d wake up in a panic. The tears have been free flowing and endless.

I am leaving the only place I have ever lived. I am leaving countless people and places I love dearly. At times my heart hasn’t felt big enough to contain the tremendous ache of it all.

My daughter is off to college in Virginia, where my husband is from, so that means we are all moving. It’s a new beginning for my daughter, and it’s a homecoming for my husband. But for me, it’s just……..leaving.

I knew it would be hard to go, but the process of shutting down my life here has been exponentially more difficult than I could ever have imagined.

But today is the day, and I woke up with a feeling that was 150% unexpected: calm. Don’t ask me where that came from, as the past few months have been anything but. Perhaps it’s that saying goodbye is harder than actually leaving. I don’t know.

In spite of my calm, my heart is still heavy. There’s no escaping that. However, before today my sadness was so all encompassing there wasn’t room for any other emotion.

But for whatever reason, that changed today. In addition to calm, a wave of gratitude has swept in. These past few months, I have been focusing solely on everything I’m losing and leaving. But in the shower this morning, it occurred to me there was another way to look at my situation. It wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t been so happy here. It wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t experienced so much love here. And it wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t experienced so much healing here.

So today I’m focusing on all those who have loved me, helped me and stood by me in both good and bad times. I’m grateful for every person who has crossed my path and left a mark in some way. It’s a funny thing to say, but thank you for making it so darn hard to leave. I’m lucky that way.

At this moment, I’m sitting on the floor in the corner of my bedroom as the movers quickly, yet methodically remove our belongings. Every last thing is packed. Every box is closed, every piece of furniture is wrapped up. The fridge is empty. There is nothing for me to do now but wait. Wait for the movers to finish their job. Wait for my new beginning.

And as I wait my mind is relatively still, which is unusual for me.

 

This move is going to be difficult. There will be challenges and adjustments. I hope there will be happiness and laughter and joy too. But that’s all in the future. And I don’t know about that.

The only thing I know for sure as I sit here on the floor is that my heart is full. Full of love. Full of gratitude.

If I keep focusing on gratitude, I think I just might have the courage to walk out the door and drive away. I’m not looking forward to that moment. It feels so large and impossible and unfathomable. But it’s happening. Soon. In a couple of hours.

Please pray for me and wish me well. I will do the same for you.

XXOO

My Message To Anybody Suffering Physical or Mental Anguish: Never, Ever, Ever, Give Up. Never. Ever.

There is a story behind this photo. I am at my daughter’s rock climbing competition in another state. The previous week was absolutely hellacious. I was so sick from my lyme treatment I could barely function. But I wanted to make it to this climbing competition more than anything. Somehow, some way, I managed to rally just in time, and I was so grateful to be able to support my daughter, and be with my family. In the moment of the photo, I truly felt like a survivor. I wasn’t back to 100%, but I felt well enough to function, and I was there. I asked my husband to take this picture because I wanted to mark the moment in time. I wanted a tangible reminder that no matter how many times I get knocked down, I always find a way to get back up. As I look at that photo, I still can’t believe I’m sitting there, knowing what I had been through the week prior. 

But that hellacious week was about physical suffering, and as bad as it was, the emotional suffering I have endured is far worse.  I have suffered in ways I’d never be able to describe. I have endured the darkest of days. I’ve never considered suicide in any way, but so many times the thought I just can’t do this anymore tore through my mind and body. It hurt to be alive.

I was deep in the merciless, horrendous, soul sucking grip of severe anxiety. I’ve been a worrier since childhood, but the anxiety I have experienced in the last three years is like nothing I have ever known. I think it was the result of a perfect storm of the way I’m wired, things that happened in childhood, things that happened as an adult, and 8 years of lyme-induced physical distress.

Now I want you to notice something. I am talking about my debilitating anxiety in the past tense. That is not to say I am cured. Far from it. I still get anxious every day. But the anxiety is coming in at a lower volume. It’s speaking to me instead of shouting. It’s still unpleasant, but less so. And less debilitating.

To my fellow anxiety sufferers, especially those who have lost hope, please listen to this. Just. Keep. Trying. No matter how dark your days, no matter how hopeless you feel, no matter how small and afraid and alone you feel, keep trying. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else. If that doesn’t work, try yet another thing. Just never stop trying.

For three years I tried EVERYTHING, and NOTHING worked. I lost hope over and over again. I began to describe my anxiety as intractable. I was never suicidal, but I wasn’t taking much joy in being alive. It hurt too much. I was so scared. The world felt so big and I felt so small. 

But I kept on going. And somehow, some way, after three years of hard work, things finally began to turn for me. There was no big ah ha moment. Rather, it was a series of minor positive shifts that eventually started to add up to bigger shifts. It’s like building a rock pile and starting with a single, tiny pebble. Each pebble represents a victory over fear and anxiety. And one pebble at a time, one day at a time, my rock pile of victories began to grow. 

Everybody’s anxiety story is unique, and therefore, what helped me might not be helpful to somebody else. But in the event there is any chance my experience can lessen the suffering of even one person, here are a few of things that have been most helpful to me:

  • Switching therapists. My previous therapist was extremely helpful, but she retired. I was devastated when she told me, but I tried to tell myself it was happening for a reason, and that somebody else was meant to drop into my life to help me on the next leg of my journey.
  • Thank goodness I was right about that, but it took some patience. After about about three months, of “dating” other therapists, I was eventually led to Dr. Z (he’s Serbian, his name is difficult to pronounce, everyone calls him Dr. Z). I am profoundly grateful to have found Dr. Z, as he has changed my life immeasurably. He’s brilliant, and helps me more than I could ever describe. 
  • Here is the first life changing nugget he gave me. After I detailed everything I was doing to try to control my anxiety, he told me I was looking at it the wrong way. He said if I’m trying to get rid of my anxiety, I’m being a destroyer. Instead, he encouraged me to be a builder. A builder of my life. A builder of my happiness. He told me to focus on doing things I enjoy simply because I enjoy them. Not because I think it will make me less anxious. I spent the last three years doing things because I hoped they would make me less anxious. But they didn’t. When I do things because they bring me joy, I end up being less anxious as a consequence. So, when I find myself getting anxious, I work on being a builder instead of being a destroyer. That’s part of what this blog is about. I’m trying to help others while also helping myself.
  • I realized I don’t need to get my anxiety under control. I need to live my life. Sometimes that might include anxiety and sometimes it might not. In that light, I work on controlling my response to anxiety when and if it arises, but I no longer spend every waking moment thinking I need to get my anxiety under control. Because I don’t. What a relief.
  • I exercise most days. Dawn is my time. The silence of that hour when the world is still largely asleep is sacred to me. It speaks to me and heals me more than any anxiety medication. I walk every day and do weights and stretching every other day.
  • I meditate. Nothing better than silence for a brain that’s often very loud.  
  • I practice mindfulness. When I notice my brain moving into unhelpful thought patterns (i.e. irrational fears), I calmly re-direct it to something more useful. Sometimes I need to send a particularly nagging thought pattern away many, many times before it finally retreats. The goal is to notice the thought pattern without taking the bait. Sometimes I still get tricked and take the bait, but I try to pull up as soon as I notice what’s happening.
  • I take a pinch of anxiety medication every afternoon. I tend to shy away from pharmaceuticals because I am extremely sensitive to medication. I tend to try natural remedies first. But when I got to the point where I could no longer leave the house, I knew it was time to get out of my comfort zone, pharmacologically speaking. I used to take meds twice a day, and now I’m down to just one small dose. One day I won’t need that, but I do now, and I’m OK with it.
  • I began to accept fear as part of my equation. Certain situations that are entirely non-threatening to the general population, are fully threatening to me. I love church. I stopped being able to go because it was too threatening to sit among so many people. Logically, I knew I was safe and that nobody would hurt me, but anxiety knows no logic. At a certain point, I realized I needed to make peace with fear. This doesn’t mean I have conquered my fears or that I’m no longer afraid. It just means I  accept that fear is going to be along for the ride sometimes. My challenge is to acknowledge the fear without being overly reactive to it.  But here’s where resilience comes in. Often, I’m just as afraid of something the third, fourth or fifth time I do it, so each time is sort of like starting over. But more often than not, when I confront a situation I’m afraid of, everything turns out, and I end up building positive associations. I believe that if I continue to build positive associations around things that are difficult for me, eventually they will become less difficult. 
  • I pray. A lot. Many times per day. Prayer brings me the most incredible sense of comfort and serenity. Stopping to pray throughout the day helps me slow down, check in with myself, and recognize and re-set any emotions or thought patterns that may be headed off the rails. Praying also gives me the opportunity to feel God’s indescribable love and healing power.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough for now. And I’d like to end where I began, which is to encourage anybody who is suffering to keep hanging on. Keep believing. Keep trying. My days were so very dark, but I am finding the light now. It took a long, long time and tremendous effort, but it was worth it. I still have a long way to go, but as long as I continue to move away from darkness and towards light, I will have the fortitude to keep going.

And I wish the same for you.