Moderation, part 2 (with footnotes)

Last week’s experimental overdose was not without consequences. There were a couple of days of the most astounding vacuousness, combined with a lethargy and inertia so profound that I find it hard even to remember… Also, record-setting levels of forgetfulness.

So that was the “overdoing on bad stuff” side of the question.

Because I don’t know when to quit, apparently, I did another experiment yesterday: allowed myself to run out of greens, and had a whole day without my Brain Food shakes. That was the “neglecting the good stuff” part, because of course //wide eyes// one must have both the yin and the yang.

Here’s how that went:

I was scheduled for a massage at one, but my massage therapist had (for once) forgotten to change it in his schedule, so he thought it was at noon. As I was leaving the house, I walked through a cell signal (few and far between here) and got the happy blurt that tells me I have a message. It was Ed, my massage therapist, calling to see if I was all right because it was 30 minutes into my session and I wasn’t there. (It’s not like me to be late.)

Here’s the fun part: I stood there, phone in hand, mentally cursing because now I had to go back in the house and look up his number.

While holding the cellphone he’d called me on.

I went back inside to where I keep my cell phone plugged in, looked at the empty space, realized my mistake, cursed inwardly, went back outside to make the call. Before I started dialing, I realized my vision was too bad to drive without my glasses. (It varies with my brain state.) Slightly panicked, I went back inside for my glasses. I didn’t want to forget and drive off without them, which I feared I might be capable of.

By the time I got there, I’d forgotten why I had gone inside, and was very annoyed with myself for wasting time. I stood there, staring into the blurry living room which I could not see across accurately, wondering what the hell I had come inside for and why it was important enough to keep me from driving off.

I went back outside, and was almost at the car…

when I realized, again, that I couldn’t possibly drive like that. Muttering, “Glasses, glasses, glasses,” so I wouldn’t forget again (which I was fully capable of), I went back inside and retrieved them.

I came back out, found my way to the phone zone, and made a slightly hysterical call to my massage therapist. I was now 15 min. late by my time, and an hour and a quarter by his. Bless his golden heart, he calmed me right down, and my day was considerably better soon after.

I’m preparing for a cross-country meander, meant to be conducted within my limits of capacity – mental, physical, and financial – which may be yet another fantasy, but at least it will be an interesting one.

I’ve taught myself 2 important lessons this week, though, and it’s good to be absolutely clear about them before I have so much else to think about:

1. Sugar in strictest moderation. It used to be a matter of avoiding pain, but this was a neurologic meltdown of a depth and duration best avoided in future.

2. Eat my damn Brain Food shake. I didn’t spend all these years figuring it out, just to dis my own discovery. Figuring out how to get them on the road just became the most important job of my life!

Is it just me? I sometimes wonder how many of us, who turn to sweets for comfort and let our distaste for kale exceed our longing to function (as I certainly did until very recently), could be doing so much better.

My pain levels rest very low, as long as I eat right and drink enough water. And my mental function — as, wow, I have reeeeeally demonstrated this week — is hugely affected by what I do, and don’t, get into my system.

  • If I still ate wheat, I’d be so thoroughly impaired I’d be in need of daily care to make sure I showered and ate and — literally — didn’t wander into traffic. 
  • If I still ate corn regularly, I’d be so sore, cranky and ill-behaved that it would be impossible to find an aide to help me. 
  • If I still ate rice I’d regularly be in so much pain I couldn’t think of anything else.
  • If I still ate grains in any amount (even of good quality, as I used to), I’d be nearly immobilized by the extra weight I’d be carrying, making that care even more necessary but even harder to get. 
  • If I ate sweets for comfort, I’d never really find it. But I’d keep trying, probably by eating more sweets! With insulin resistance, it’s a vicious cycle of longing with temporary and partial satisfaction overlaying a bottomless need.

How many undiagnosed food sensitivities and metabolic dysregulations are deepening the levels of Hell in which CRPSers live? Especially given that it’s a disease of the central nervous system, which most certainly does include the gut? It really makes me wonder.

The largest concentration of nerves outside the brain is in the gut, and there’s a breathtaking new field of science about that, called gastroneurology or neurogasteroenterology (it’s only been around for 20 years, so the name is not yet fixed).

Metabolically, I’m just not that weird,  that so many core, neuro-immunologic issues that show up in me could be all that unusual. It makes me wonder if my brain is really all that broken, or if it’s just signalling really hard…

I know how desperately hard it is to change the way you eat, because it means changing the way you have to respond to your most primitive longings at your most vulnerable and achingly needy times. (I have an extremely high tolerance for uncertainty and an extremely low one for needless stupidity, especially in myself, and that has been a great help in working this out.)

It helps to have a structure worked out and some sort of support: hence the success of Weight Watchers and clinician-approved eating patterns like the Stone Age diet or the South Beach Diet.

These dramatically different strategies coexist because … drumroll please … we aren’t all the same! Some will work on some, others will work for others.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the immunological component of digestion and assimilation (another key characteristic of gastroneurology), best addressed by the Blood Type bouquet of diets. The Type O eating pattern (with added wheat) was what I did naturally when I was fit and well, and guess what, I’m type O.

mmmmm, lunch!

But things have gotten weirder since then…

Now that I’ve finished my tea, it’s time for breakfast. Guess what that’ll be? 🙂

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What comes first, comes first

Hard lesson I keep re-learning: My very first priority is taking care of this bodymind complex. My very second priority is taking care of my relationships. Studying and writing about this disease and everything that relates to it … no better than third.

No matter how fascinating a line of inquiry is… no matter how badly I want to make that conference call… no matter how scintillatingly brilliant that blog post that’s unrolling in my head will be…

Something else has to come first.

If I haven’t had my brain-food shake, or it’s time for a massage, or the phone is ringing and it’s someone I haven’t connected with in awhile, then shake or massage or phone comes first, in that order.

And then, CRPS doing what it does to attention and memory, whatever I had on my mind beforehand is gone. Taking notes, unfortunately, doesn’t work — I’ve tried it. Notes work for those whose brains maintain networks of ideas, who can trigger a cascade of memories from the brief mnemonics. I’m working to get it back… which brings us back to the first priority.

And, I’ve found over the years, the second priority is inextricably linked to the first — directly and indirectly. But I think that’s a whole ‘nother post, all by itself.

I’ve been a Type A worker for about 24 years. Relaxing does not come naturally, but I’ve learned to manage it in reasonable doses. Losing work is bad enough, but losing it before I’ve even had a crack at doing it is, well, what those with pithier vocabularies call a mindf!ck.

Knowing that I’ll probably lose the work, and making the choice to go ahead anyway, takes more discipline than I always have. But — despite the learning difficulties — I’m getting better. Even I can learn to keep my priorities in order.

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Not even anger is wasted

I’ve been struggling with how to make certain changes when my mind and body are so intolerant of change. I’m not naturally intolerant to change — quite the opposite! — but CRPS makes changes cost me a whole lot more.

Selling my home of 6 years, moving twice in one month to different regions under difficult circumstances, starting a relationship (which quickly became long-distance), having a setback with CRPS, and getting a windfall, is a heck of a lot of change in less than two months.

Some of them are good changes (for a change, ha ha) and am I ever grateful for that! But they cause significant shifts in the mind, which causes significant shifts in the body. …With chronic CRPS, there’s simply no practical difference between physical shifts and mental or emotional shifts any more. The domino effect is complete.

I had malabsorption syndrome for a few weeks there, where all my food went whizzing through me and I couldn’t get much nutrition out of it. It has settled down, but I still have considerable endocrine weirdness and I’m gaining too much weight (more than my intake should cause.) This means my feet and knees are under still-heavier attack from CRPS and fibromyalgia.

I find this disturbing enough to be frightening — if my feet get wiped out, there goes my one good form of exercise — until I got reminded of one of those things I used to know, back when philosophy was easy, before this past decade’s descent into Hell: “Fear and sorrow inhibit action… anger generates it. When you learn to make proper use of your anger, you can transmute fear and sorrow to anger, and anger, to action.”

That’s from Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior, a book I couldn’t read for years because allegory’s contrived tone always put me off. One of the great advantages to getting my butt so severely kicked for so long is that I finally shed a lot of intellectual arrogance; I can now stomach the clumsiness of allegory, if there’s something worth gleaning from it.

That tip alone might be worth the effort. I’ve got plenty of anger, and rightly so. Rather than always managing it out of sight, I can dump my fear in there, where I can use it.

Chosen change is mine. Make way.

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Imp-possible

Healing this disease is supposed to be impossible. In my experience, the word “impossible” is relative.

Some things simply cannot be done: scaling Everest with flippers on your feet, for instance. Scaling Everest in a hot little bikini might be do-able, for all I know, although it hasn’t been done yet. I’ve met one or two people who seemed well suited (so to speak) for the job.

Many things that are widely considered impossible are simply heinously difficult, requiring extra time, diligence, and determination. They may be practically impossible, because most people are not willing to try that hard and can’t imagine that anyone else would be. I’ve met a few of those, too.

When facing the practically impossible, it helps to have a certain blithely F-U attitude, to be willing to flip a bird or two at the forces – or people – that seem to hold me from it. Not to hold resentment, but to detach from their limitations and clarify that they have no hold over me.

It helps to realize that those who tell me it’s impossible are really speaking for themselves, but that doesn’t mean they get to speak for me.

In short, it helps to have that inner steel spring that winds me up beyond any comfort zone and propels my willful butt over the heads of everyone who has failed before they began, and lets me look at them – not with contempt, because that has no place at this height – but with a cheerful bouyancy that holds the possibility that maybe there’s room for them up here, too.

This attitude is springy without being snappish, free-spirited without wasting time in rebellion, wild and fresh with only its own inner guidance for discipline.

It’s impish, in other words.

And this gives us a word we can use to describe things like scaling Everest in a skimpy swimsuit, or inviting cannibals to a linen-dressed tea, or curing CRPS:

Imp-possible.

I rather like that.

Curing CRPS is imp-possible. Excellent. Bring on the bikinis.

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