No Hunger. No Thirst.

It took me about 4 years to realize, just this June, that I don’t experience hunger or thirst anymore. I remember that I did experience them, but I don’t remember what it was like.

When my boyfriend, or my parents, or my coworkers say they’re hungry, they mean they’re experiencing hunger. For me, it means I’m experiencing stomach growling, or I’m feeling faint and recognize I should eat. I have an appetite and can tell you which foods I could eat, but I have no motivating drive to eat immediately. I do, however, know when I’m full. It’s strange and to be honest I haven’t spoken with my doctor about it yet.

More documented globally, but also not discussed with my doctor personally, is my adipsia, or a lack of thirst. My body needs water, but I don’t feel the thirst. I’ve had to set alarms to drink water and often have to push myself to get up and drink.

If I get too dehydrated, I’ll have a panic attack not related to my mental state. I still won’t feel thirsty, and it took me a long time to figure out that drinking water, especially before bed, alleviated these. I was looking for something to take my mind off of it, chose to get some water, and voilà: relief.

I think (I can’t know for sure) that this is because of a medication I was asked to try in 2015 to help my symptoms. As it happens, I’m allergic to it. The first day, I dry heaved for hours and lay on my floor waiting to die. The second day, I realized I hadn’t had any food or water in 24 hours and I didn’t feel the desire (or appetite) for them. There was a weird hole where those feelings had been. Unless you’ve experienced this kind of absence of feeling in some way it’s difficult to explain. I immediately contacted my doctor then, and listed the medication as an allergy. She promptly asked me to try continuing it for 3 more days. No thank you.

I eventually started getting my appetite back, if I put food in my mouth it tasted good and I could eat until full, and I could basically chug water until I’d drank enough, but I still didn’t feel hungry or thirsty. So, I learned to watch the clock.

A weird thing: I craved sugar. Always. Science has shown us that sugar is extremely addictive. I can really only assume that in my case, I still have my addiction to processed sugar so I can reach for that any time. I have to work hard to remind myself that it doesn’t count as a meal.

I gained, I think, a very small feeling of hunger back since I do have an appetite, but thirst is another story. If I’m not active, I can literally sit there for 24 hours and never notice I need water. My dizzy spells tell me I’m thirsty.

It’s strange, and I’ve seen some people in chat threads say they’ve experienced the same thing. I wonder if there’s something they can do about it, but if not it’s pretty easy to manage and work around. If you’ve experienced this, leave me a comment about it!

Me and Food

As a Spoonie, my challenges are unique because no one’s life is the same. One aspect I know isn’t unique is the anxiety that comes with eating during or post-gastric illness. It’s pretty common for me to find people who relate to food avoidance due to illness.

When I had my first bout  of illness, I was really afraid to eat at all. I spent months in bed, fighting nausea and eating made me feel so much worse. One bite of food meant going from sitting upright, to curled up in the fetal position kinda wishing I could die. Literally. I would tell my mom a lot that I wanted the hospital to just give me sedatives so that I could sleep through everything, or I was really close to just giving up on life. Simple things like sitting up, or staying awake for more than a couple of hours became complicated and difficult. I took a lot of hot baths to soothe my stomach, and went days with minimal food.

Goldfish crackers probably saved my life.

They were easy to digest, so I didn’t get sick from eating them. I’d go through a large seal-able bag a day of the whole grain baked kind. The salt probably helped keep my electrolytes up too. Aside from those, I could eat a little bit of apple sauce, and white bread (wheat bread is still a no for me even though I used to eat it daily), plus juices and broths. Some days, I’d get so hungry I’d give in and ask for an Arby’s classic roast beef and a sprite, eat it all, and then regret it. But, I was really lucky to be born with a strong stomach, so I actually kept the nutrition from everything I ate instead of vomiting. That in itself was probably torturous just because if I had gotten sick I probably wouldn’t have felt nauseous anymore. The reality is, that torture meant I didn’t need to be hospitalized or need a feeding tube or TPN (basically IV food).

Processed food was the best for me, because I could actually digest it. Before my gastroparesis diagnosis, which came long after my Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia/POTS diagnosis, I was using trial and error to find foods I could eat. Afterwards I was able to use what I had found, plus some good advice from the doctor and other gastroparesis patients, to find a better diet. I got really lucky, when CBD was legal to use, it, plus other enzymes I bought on Amazon, helped me eat enough to train my system to digest better. My particular type of gastroparesis is actually reversible and CBD oil was a huge help. I was really disappointed to see it become illegal in my state and am hoping that in the future that might get reversed.

One thing that helped me get through it was actually really problematic for my digestive system: laxatives. Because digesting food was difficult for me, emptying my system stopped me from being nauseous. This had obvious problems: I typically went to important events with zero food in my system and no water, and it wasn’t helping me heal. But, when it came down to helping me have some semblance of life, it was almost necessary for me at the time. Then I was introduced to CBD oil by a friend and I could actually live my life again. I could eat, and go out, and didn’t feel like I was half-living.

The one thing that stuck was that I still have go-to foods for days when I have plans. Goldfish crackers, Cheese-its, candy, processed food, soups, and Pop-Tarts. I eat a lot better now, but there are still times where I’m not getting proper nutrition, or enough fluids. When I do feel sick, I often make it worse by failing to eat or drink anything, just because I’m afraid of getting sicker like before. I also have a lot of anxiety about getting sick. When people say they’ve had the stomach flu, or even if someone totally random vomits and I don’t know why (could be a hangover, or food poisoning) I get a panic attack. I work around this a lot and am still in the process of getting through it so I can eat normally without worrying so much.

I was extremely lucky to have very mild, and reversible, gastroparesis. I’m lucky I even get the chance to eat again. I used to make big lists of foods I would eat if I could, and now I can eat most of them. Some I cannot because we found I have a lot more food allergies than I realized, but the list of things I can eat is still extensive. I learned a lot about myself and even reduced my instances of  IBS just by learning what foods irritate my gut. Moving forward I hope someday I can eat with zero nausea all the time, and not worry so much when others are sick.

Headache and My Daily Life

I haven’t been very active online lately, or at all really. This post is just to increase awareness of what daily life is like with chronic illness. Everyone is different, some people have a much harder time than others; I’m relatively lucky but I still think it’s important to share the minor problems too.

Lately I’ve been dealing with a near constant headache. I’m not sure what’s causing it, if it’s a migraine, a result of my blood pressure jumping around so much, or if I should see my doctor. If it continues much longer I’ll definitely be seeing someone. It’s been making it difficult to focus, think straight, or get things done.

My daily life has been focused on maintaining daily exercise – a light routine my cardiologist would like me to do to increase my body’s ability to respond to positional changes – going to work, and keeping our apartment clean.

If you follow my YouTube channel, you’ll notice all of my videos have been of me playing Witcher 3 on the PS4. It’s been easier to do that but lately looking at a screen has been painful.

I’ve tried increasing my fluid intake, acupressure, lowering my stress, etc… Nothing helps. I’m beginning to think that, just like pretty much all of my health issues, it’s just another annoying symptom I’ll have to learn to live with.

That’s the reality for most spoonies: can’t fix it, have to live with it for who knows how long, maybe forever. It’s frustrating to say the least, and depending on your situation and symptoms, it can be devastating to your goals or just your general wellbeing. Physical pain and discomfort has a negative affect on mental health as well. It’s hard to stay above the line where your symptoms create a steady decline in health.

I hope the symptoms I’ve been dealing with get better as I try to strengthen my body and endurance, but it’s definitely setting me back in my own personal progress in life. I’m just going to keep moving forward and tackling problems as they come. Hopefully I’ll have more content for everyone soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to update our cat’s Instagram @yurithechainchomp and soon I’ll be compiling a playlist of the best witcher videos with details as to where to find things. Good luck to anyone dealing with their illness more than usual lately, and best wishes as we move into spring!

Diamond Headache Clinic Slideshow

This post was requested by Diamond Headache Clinic. I recieved no payment to post it. I have read through the information and I think it would be a good resource for people who read this blog. I am not and have never been to the clinic and will always recommend anyone to look up reviews and research a medical facility before visiting them for treatment.

I hope this slideshow on types of headaches children may suffer from is a helpful resource!

Presentation courtesy of Diamond Headache Clinic

If the slideshow fails to embed, you can view it here

From Start to Finish

What’s the best way to manage time? How do you organize your own ambitions and interests? Do/did you just pick one to focus on and leave the rest behind? Do you do a little bit of each every day or week? Do you master one and move onto the next?

I think it’s safe to say I’m an organization fanatic. I love trying new ways of organizing my things and my time. I love filing at work. I love sorting out my things and folding clothes and arranging items. I love trying new time management apps and making lists; you get the picture. Anyway, my whole life, I’ve always made it my goal to improve in every aspect of my life. Lately, due to my graduation coming sooner than expected, and the added fact that I no longer attend classes, I’ve needed to rethink my time management. I’ve got to consider what I want to do for my future career-wise and with my hobbies.

I’ve been feeling like my old method of doing a different hobby/endeavor each day is failing me in terms of my potential. So, here’s my new plan:

Start something. Finish it. Move on.

Whether that thing is beating a videogame, learning a language, getting my body into shape enough to do something specific, writing, knitting, sewing, etc…

The only added rule is I also have to maintain the cleanliness of our apartment, as well as keep up with daily responsibilities and maintain things I’ve learned or achieved already. What’s the point of learning a language if I forget it a month or two later?

This is the way I’m going to try things for a while. Recently I’ve been trying to beat Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for PS4. You can check out my YouTube channel for those broadcasts. Then I’ll do something else, finish it, and move on. I hope this new way proves to be more beneficial. The way I’ve been doing it seems to have downsides.

In K-12 school, the worst part of the way we do it in America, is there’s always a review time which ends up becoming a “we’re learning it all over again” time. We’re thrown so much information, and the focus pinned on testing so much so that students often do rote memorization just enough to remember information for exams and then it’s forgotten in a night. I can’t tell you how many times myself and students I know spent cram sessions trying to “learn” the material to ace the exam. It doesn’t work and our teachers know it, but the system is broken and that’s how we learn here.

My way of jumping between tasks feels a bit like that: I don’t finish learning as often and I have a lot of half started projects which I’ll just have to restart later because I’ve forgotten what I was doing. It’s my little experiment; I hope it works.

It’s about 4:00 AM at this exact moment and I’m being kept awake by my cardiovascular system. Since Christmas, possibly longer, I’ve been struggling with high diastolic blood pressure, and elevated systolic pressure. My diastolic, at least when we’ve managed to measure it, has reached 99 mm/hg and that one saw me in the ER on New Years Eve pretty much exactly in the window of 11:30-12:30. My arrhythmia and tachycardia have been severe as well.

Since then, I’ve been trying to rest and keep my pressure down. I’ll be seeing a cardiologist soon – the first one since I was asked to leave the disautonomia clinic I was in due to my refusal to complete a test that would’ve made me radioactive for a year and raise my cancer risk. I’m worried it’ll be a repeat of my past experiences: a doctor using me as a guinea pig instead of helping me live my life as comfortably as possible. But, I’ve heard good things, so I’m hopeful.

As I’m lying here, I’m wracking my brain for what else could possibly be wrong if it isn’t a genetic predisposition, stress, or my conditions causing the raise in blood pressure. Could be an infection, or maybe a virus, or an unusual imbalance in electrolytes…. but more likely than not, as usual for me, it’s probably just my body doing something new. And that’s frustrating.

I was born about 3 months early, and we’ve got this running hypothesis that being so early made my body and nervous system a bit different than most. A more hypersensitive, vulnerable system to outside stimuli – including stress and the normal passing of time. I have zero non-anecdotal evidence for it, but I don’t think we’re too off.

If we aren’t, is this just my body failing me? Did one day come along and my body decide “now we’re gonna do migraines” and then a few years pass and it’s “screw migraines, muscle twitches are the new thing” then “twitches out, gastroparesis in” on to “time for high blood pressure!”. I’ve dealt with a lot of random, and annoying problems, but none of them posed as much threat to my health as an extended time with high BP. It’s frustrating, and a little scary, to see how quickly things can change (and it’s not the first time).

I could lay down and be miserable about it, or I could spend all my time thinking about the good things in my life, but I don’t think either of those is healthy. They might work for some, but for me personally, I prefer the middle ground: Rest, and accept the negative feelings that show up, and remind myself that it could be so much worse.

I don’t want to tell anyone else how to handle their own personal health experiences; this is just how I do it.

Tomorrow, my body could decide to work in a way that doesn’t make me feel sick, or it could get worse. I’d prefer to just move forward and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Perspectives

Adulting is difficult. Especially when you get the feeling you’re half-in, half-out, of the whole adulting thing. Add in chronic illness that makes you want to curl up and sleep all day like you could when you were 10 and there’s a lot of mixed messages there.

It’s got me thinking about different perspectives – which can change depending on who you are, what you do, and your level of confidence.

This week has not been my week. Between issues with my health, studying for finals, difficult moments at both jobs, and some small problems with friends/family that add up, my perspective hasn’t been great. I’ve started doubting my ability to do things which, previously, I’ve felt extremely confident about. Mistakes are normal, but I’ve made enough this last week that it starts to add up to a lot of low-confidence moments.

I like thinking about human perspectives, and opinions. Everyone is different. Everyone has a different background. For example, if a person is told multiple times thay they’re doing a great job, they’re bound to be more confident and perhaps make more choices that continue to display their abilities. If a person is constantly given negative feedback, or none at all, they’re more likely to think they’re incapable and stop trying.

I wonder a lot about the differences between perspectives on self vs. perspectives on others. If you’re overly confident, do you believe everyone else is less capable than you? If you’re under confident, do you believe you couldn’t possibly do a better job than someone else?

I love my job, and I think I’m relatively good at it, especially for never having done something like it before. But, others might disagree, a little, or a lot. My bosses or coworkers might think I seem awkward, or full of myself, or completely inept. The same situation and facts looking different to different people.

A child who was raised to read, or play music, or do mathematics at a young age might believe they’re behind in their skills even when they’re ahead of their age group, while everyone else is sitting there wondering how they can’t see it. A child raised to focus on different things such as family care, and working, instead of topics often focused on in school, might think they’re awful at learning compared to the first child, when in reality they may learn just as, or even more, quickly.

Sometimes it’s hard to be sure whether we’re measuring up to expectations, simply because everyone may have a different opinion. When I think about it, especially when I’m feeling discouraged, I try to remind myself of that difference. Then I remember to focus on doing my best, because that’s all I can do. Asking questions, working hard, and learning from my mistakes is how I want to live my life. There will always be people who find flaws in me, just as much as there will be people who see how hard I’m trying, or maybe the potential they believe me to have.

In the end, if I stick to always trying my best, I’ll end up in a place where I’m appreciated and doing something I’m good at, or at the very least love enough to continue doing in spite of my mistakes. And that’s all I can really ask for.

Ambition

Every day for me with chronic illness is new. Every day as a person is new. I also feel like a circus juggler half the time: a ball for illness, four balls for four jobs, a ball for friends and family, a ball for hobbies, a ball for this blog, a ball for my YouTube channel, a ball for each Instagram page. So much to juggle. When I get overwhelmed, ultimately I have to throw some away. Recently I left two jobs, and I’ve decided to treat my social media as a secondary goal. Posts, and content will come at a much slower pace.

To me, those choices simultaneously lift a weight off of my shoulders, and break my heart. No matter what, I have some juggling balls I can’t drop, and that means giving up some that I love. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, it’s pretty normal. But it never fails to make me feel like a quitter.

I’m all together a perfectionist, ambitious, and a firm supporter of maintaining one’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, my body is insistent on me dialing back my ambitions a little.

I want to be that person, the one who can do all of her jobs on time and correctly. The one who can show up for all the social gatherings. The one who can do all the housework, errands, and cook all the meals. The who can ace all of her classes and never miss a school day. But, that isn’t reality, for anyone, and especially not me.

I make mistakes, I get tired, I lose motivation, and my body shuts down on me. Nothing goes as planned, and people are rarely as understanding, or as helpful, as the ideal. That’s life. That’s reality. It’s the way things are expected to be, by everyone. No one can do it all. No one is perfect. No one can do everything without help.

It’s hard, being ambitious and being sick. There’s the constant question of: “is this really my limit? If I didn’t have this illness how much more could I do? How much am I missing out on?” The answers are, it is right now, a lot, and more than I’d like, in that order.

Every missed party, every disappointed friend, every job left undone, is a crack in my confidence. I worry if I’m really going to be able to do the whole “adulting” thing.

Then I go out and actually do it.

And I realize, if I’m stressed, and sicker from the stress, and missing out because of that…. wouldn’t it be better to just do the things I know I have time and energy for? Adulting is just doing what you have to do. Pushing through the stress, being responsible, and planning your time wisely. And I can do, and have done, those things.

I don’t like to spend too much time away from some kind of work/hobby. I like keeping my hands busy because it makes me feel like I’m using my time wisely (and partly because that’s how I deal with being hypersensitive and avoid sensory overload). And time always feels like it’s moving too quickly. And it is, but that time passing is not unique to anyone:

“The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost.”

~Marcus Aurelius; Meditations

One thing about going through sudden illness is that it reminds you how quickly things can change. In an instant you can lose your ability to eat, walk, or breathe. In a moment you could lose large parts of your life. So I spend every moment trying my hardest to make the most of my time. Trying to avoid life’s bullshit and pettiness and just live my live. I don’t always succeed. But I always take a good memory from every experience, good or bad. Even if all it is, is a warm cup of tea, or a brief moment of silence in a shouting match, or a warm heater in a cold room. I try to remember that even when I’m doing nothing, I’m still appreciating my life.

Leaving two of my jobs sucked, but the time and health I’ll gain from that choice will let me enjoy other things I like doing. Sometimes being ambitious is great, because I throw myself at certain kinds of experiences. Sometimes it’s not so great because most of my stress is pressure I put on myself, to succeed, to help, and to grow every day.

No matter what, I’m never going to stop being ambitious in my own way, and I’m never going to be able to do everything I want to. But, it would be pretty boring if I did everything I wanted as soon as I tried. Life is full of many brief moments, and we need things to fill them. And if I can grow in each moment, then I’ll feel like I’ve lived my moments to the fullest, illness or not. And if through my life I lose more of my health or abilities, then I’ll just have new goals, new juggling balls, and new moments.

Updates: Things to Come, YouTube, and Why the Delay

It’s been a bit since my last post here on WordPress. Lately my focus has been on work, school, and wrapping up some YouTube projects. I’ve got four jobs now, which has been an interesting juggling act with school.

What’s coming up:

  • A blog about what tattoos have meant for me and my roommate, especially in maintaining our mental health.
  • A blog about fibromyalgia and other chronic illness from the perspectives of people who have them. This particular blog may take some time since I’ve got to sort through surveys and statements.
  • Some YouTube videos of small holiday projects, sewing projects, and more videogames and puzzles.

What to do in the meantime:

If you’re looking for some things to do, there’s my own social media, as well as some channels I enjoy.

  • My Instagram: Lockstockandspoonies
  • My Facebook
  • My YouTube Channel
  • Our Cat’s Instagram for some cute kitty pictures: Yurithechainchomp
  • The podcast “Terrible, Thanks for Asking”
  • The Frey Life’s YouTube channel. Mary Frey lives with Cystic Fibrosis. Her and her husband document their lives and give motivation. They’re a Christian family and Mary says she finds much of her strength in God. Her posts have an uplifting tone.
  • Healthcare Triage. A good place to go if you’re looking for information on how testing and research works, different health risks, and financial information in terms of healthcare. They’re a good overall healthcare channel.
  • SuperKian13. Kian Lawley’s YouTube channel. Some good fun. Pranks, games, and other lighthearted stuff.

Thank you for your support, and I hope you all enjoy the upcoming content!

Walking Away

I saw a post on Facebook highlighting the importance of knowing that “it’s okay to leave”. I don’t know the OP but if you’ve seen it and know who it is please comment or email lockstockandspoonies@gmail.com so that I can cite them.

The post talked all about it being okay to leave uncomfortable situations. It’s okay to leave abusive or toxic relationships. It’s okay to leave a school or job that isn’t working out and is making you miserable. It’s okay to leave family dinners, friend gatherings, competitions, dates etc… if that thing is making you so uncomfortable or miserable it causes you to fear for your safety or causes damage to your mental or physical health. Hell… it’s okay to leave because you want to. It’s okay.

What I did want to talk about is what that means to me personally, and maybe you feel the same way or maybe you don’t. I want to hear other’s opinions:

My close friends and family know me as a “100% gamer”. I want to beat every level, side quest, and storyline. I want every prize. I want every costume change and trophy. They also know I rarely actually do that. Partly because I have limited time and am not always good enough. Partly because I’ve learned to walk away from things that expend more of my energy than they’re worth.

I’ve spent days on games that I no longer enjoyed, just to complete a goal. I’ve “gone down the rabbit hole” hundreds of times – failing to eat, drink, sleep, or take breaks. I’ve gotten so frustrated at a game that it’s eaten at me for days.

It took years for little (okay… younger little) me to learn that it was okay to go to bed at 1 AM, instead of 5 AM without a particular achievement earned in a game. It took countless uncomfortable meetings and miserable days before I learned it was okay to switch the direction my life was going in to a completely new one – to change my college major, decide to leave research, to start working at a job I love instead of one everyone approves of.

So far, I’ve never regretted leaving a situation when I wanted or needed to, but there are countless moments I regret enduring instead of doing what was best for me.

That said, I also believe in putting 100% in. I don’t leave something just because it’s a challenge, or I had one moment where I messed up, or because of one person whom I will rarely interact with. There’s this line in the sand that marks the territory between quitting, and wisely abandoning hopeless causes/physically or mentally harmful people and situations.

My goal is to figure out what my own personal line is, without judging someone else’s.

I may not have a problem with someone telling me that what I just did was stupid, but another person might be deeply affected by it and that would be their line. Everyone is different, have their own past experiences, and their own traumas. It’s a very personal decision to walk away from anything, and while others can give their advice and support, ultimately it’s the individual’s choice.

To me, the important thing is: your life is your own, and no one should ever have to put up with things in their life they’re not comfortable with.