How an AutoImmune Attack Can Really F You Up

I haven’t been writing  much about my Hashimoto’s disease lately.  (I think ya’ll have noticed that.)  It’s not because I didn’t want to, it’s really because there was nothing new to report.  For awhile there, things were going swimmingly.  I felt good, even great on some days. This is HUGE for me – I can’t really remember the last time I felt good on a consistent basis.  (Isn’t that sad?)

Well, the problem with autoimmune diseases is that you never really know when they’re going to say F YOU! (please say that with a Scottish accent like Charlie’s dad in So I Married an Axe Murderer.  It’s really more fun – and accurate – that way.)  They come out of nowhere.  I’ve been really good.  But what I’ve discovered is that one tiny little slip and it will take a week for it to hit, and then a week to recover.  This is no good.

Without going into specifics, let’s just say that gluten got on something I shouldn’t have been eating in the first place (ummm like cheesecake).  Then I got really stressed out at work.  My body probably could have recovered from the gluten or stress OK on their own, but the combination of the two was just too much.  And now I’ve been in crap-ville for a little over a week.  And it sucks.

I’ve discovered that stress is really the worst thing for Hashimoto’s. And of course, it’s a cycle that is so hard to break.  For example, you get stressed out at work.  Then you can’t sleep (more stress on your body).  Then you’re so tired you can’t even think of working out or even moving (more stress on your body).  Or cooking for yourself (more stress).

The next thing you know you’re in autoimmune attack mode and you can’t do much more than sit on the couch.  I thought I was coming down with something last week until my skin issues popped up again (yay for physical symptoms – I’m actually not being facetious here) and it was a reality check.

I think the hardest part of the autoimmune attack is that it’s so hard to climb back out of it again and not feel either guilty or sorry for yourself. I know the best thing for my body is rest.  I need to be gentle with myself.  But I’ve only made it to yoga once this week, and I haven’t seen my friends at all, and etc etc etc.  You get the idea.  The inner monologue is taking over.

I still find it so hard to give myself a BREAK, even though that’s what I really need to do.

So, I need some tips.  Even if you don’t have an autoimmune disease, what do you do for yourself when you’re feeling crappy?  (Physically, mentally, spiritually, whatever.  It’s all interconnected.)

Lucky for me, I have a really quiet weekend ahead and get to spend some time with good friends.  Even though drinking will be involved, I will take it easy, go to bed early, and sleep in.  I’ll be sure to get some sun, to smile as much as possible, and eat well.  Most importantly, I’ll try and remind myself as much as possible that these things happen – I haven’t fallen back on months of hard work just because of a little slip and a little stress at work.  (That, my friends, will be the hardest part.  If you happen to see me in person, please remind me when I’m being hard on myself!)

All In

This blog has altered so much from what my original intentions were.  I started it because people were curious about my 30 day elimination diet (I know you were all wondering how I did without booze for 30 days) and continued into my story of dealing with Hashimoto’s disease in the best way I can.  I thought I could help someone else make positive, healthy changes in their life and feel better. I know what it’s like to feel like shit and not know why.  I thought perhaps I could reach someone out there.

It’s changed again to my story of finding myself – a process that probably seems long and arduous to many of you.  But it’s changed because I’ve come to understand that my health is intrinsically connected to the way my feelings and thoughts about myself.  Dr. Wayne Dyer posted a great quote on Facebook today from Rumi, who happens to be one of my favorites.  I’m paraphrasing here, but it basically says that if you want to change the world, start with yourself.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I’m a crusader.  I find things that I’m passionate about and I want to fight for them.  I fight daily for my students’ lives as an educator for underserved urban high school students.  I fight nearly daily for my second cause, food justice and literacy.  Both of these causes are important to me – both I feel are necessary to a healthy culture, both literally and metaphorically.

But first, I must start with myself.  And I guess that’s what I’m doing here, although I didn’t realize it until I read that quote.  Thank you for reading, for supporting me on this journey.

You’ve probably noticed or figured out by now that I’m a self-help addict.  I think this has a lot to do with wanting to continue the path I started on with my life coach a little over a year ago.  I don’t want to stop learning about myself, and I don’t think I’m to the point where I can stop thinking about how I treat myself better and live the life I want to live. (And why would I want to?)

Anyway, I get sent a lot of stuff.  I read a lot of stuff.  For those of you who are actual real life Facebook friends with me you know I post a lot of it.  Two things hit my inbox this morning and I’ve been thinking about them all day.

The first was an email from TUT-The Universe.  I’m not sure how I found this thing, but “The Universe” emails you daily with little reminders.  It’s awesome.  It’s always a thought or a question that really makes you think.  So, here’s mine for today:

“Some of the coolest dreams that ever came true, Carmen, weren’t dreams at all, but standards that simply weren’t compromised. 

Oh yeah, we takin’ over… 
    The Universe”

Um, what?  So you’re telling me that my standards were too low all along?  Is that what’s going on?

And then there’s always a kicker after the little sign off:

“Carmen, always being your best, shining your brightest, and standing as tall as you can, pays far more dividends than one might ever imagine.”

WHAT??

I was having a tough time with this one today.  WTF does that mean?  At first, I was a little pissed (which generally means it stuck a chord).

It really made me think about what my “standards” are.  Do I even know?

And then I get this from Your Kick Ass Life:

“So what is something that is bugging the crap out of you, that you can simply ask for help in changing?”

So, you’re telling me that all I had to do all along was ask for it?

Shine your brightest, keep up your standards for yourself and then just ask for what I want to change?

Jesus, is it that simple?

And then I proceeded to freak out.

See, this is why I need self-help.

Here’s the thing.  I honestly believe that if I do these things, I will get what I want out of life.  This is an incredibly powerful thought.  It’s like a genie in a bottle.  It’s incredibly empowering, and incredibly fucking scary.

There’s no alternative though.  I have to do it.  Because if I don’t, I’ll always wonder.  So I’m going to take my chances, and jump.  I’m all in.

Lost

Eggs I

Eggs I (Photo credit: Keith Marshall)

I had no idea that when I started this process that the 30 day dietary clean up would be the easy part.  In so many ways it is easier to be more restrictive than less.  For whatever reason if you give me a relatively short period of time and tell me this is what I have to do and then it’s over, I’m fine.  I did well with that challenge.

What doesn’t work for me is the adding back in part.  I just started with eggs. I love eggs.  I’ve really missed them and they’re so easy.  Here’s how the process works — you eat the one food for three days and judge how your body is feeling.  If you feel good, the food is in.  If you feel bad, the food is out.

And then it gets confusing.  What is feeling good?  What is feeling bad?  And there are so many variables that have nothing to do with what you are eating.  So, so many.  Too many to list.  And I’m either over sensitive or under sensitive to the way my body is feeling all the time.

Yesterday I did great after my breakfast of eggs.  Today, I’m not feeling so hot.  I’m tired.  I got super sleepy around 10am today.  But was it the eggs?  I was working on a rather boring spreadsheet all morning.  It was way too warm in my office.  It’s overcast, which gives me a bit of a headache.  It’s Friday and I’m tired from the week.

My immediate response was to freak out – EGGS ARE BAD! But I think it’s worth more exploring.  Was it really the eggs?

I’m feeling a little lost right now, and luckily other bloggers are out there coping with similar feelings.  Here are two great pieces about playing the waiting game while you heal and figuring out what is truly wrong (or right!) with you.  Both include excellent recipes that I can’t wait to try once more foods are back.

From the Living Kitchen Wellness Group: What to do in the waiting?  How to relax instead of judging why aren’t getting what you want right now.

From Gluten Free Girl and the Chef:  The Light, How it Dances “The celiac had so sensitized me to food issues that it never occurred to me it could be something else.”

I’m worth it

James Darren, William Shatner, and Heather Loc...

I swear this picture makes sense later. And all blog posts are made better with William Shatner. Image via Wikipedia

You may have noticed my rant from yesterday.  I think I need to put in a little context, because I have much more to say about the subject and it deserves more than just me being pissed off about someone telling me I can’t cook in olive oil.

It seems to me, as I browse through the sites like the Paleo diet sites I’ve been running across that they are the same as every other diet website out there.  Everyone of them is promising them the same thing.  Choose this diet and you’ll lose 10-20-30 pounds!  It will change your life!  You’ll be sexy, happy, successful, desirable!

Here’s something I’ve learned through this insane crazy illness.  Losing the weight will not change the way you feel about yourself.  Happiness doesn’t come from being skinny.

All the stories sound the same.  There is always a testimonial about a woman (90% of the time it’s a woman) who’ve tried everything to lose weight.  Nothing worked until this miracle product!  This product could be Weight Watchers, it could be the gym down the road, it could be the Shake Weight, and yes, it could be a Paleo diet.

One story in particular talks about a woman who was very obese who lost a lot of weight though exercise and limiting calories.  After losing the weight she gained much of it back.  Her trainer said she had “issues”.

Well, DUH.  You don’t get to be well over 300 pounds without having issues of some sort!  Of course she needed to sort those out.  Why on earth would you just focus on the outside without addressing what happens in her mind, and in her heart?  The donuts and candy didn’t just hop in her body.  She made the choice to eat them.  She knew.

After a lifetime of up-and-down weight, I was probably at my most unhappy when I weighed the least.  I still didn’t think I was skinny enough.  (And I was skinny.  My mom tells me that I scared her a little.)  And do you want to know why I was unhappy?  Because it had absolutely nothing to do with my weight.

I am the same person no matter what I weigh. I have the same heart, the same soul.  I still love to travel.  I can probably still make you laugh (hopefully, anyway).  I am still smart.  I still work hard.  I still like to take long walks on the beach.  I still have curly hair.  I still talk too loud.  I still love yoga.  I still cry at Hallmark commercials.  I am still me.

Of course, I know that much of my weight issues, my depression, my energy issues, etc. stem from Hashimoto’s.  It’s impossible to say what I would weigh if I didn’t have this disease.  It would be impossible to say lots of things about myself if I didn’t have this disease.  It has become a part of me.  And while I don’t identify as being Hashimoto’s, it still defines much of my life and my relationship with my body.  But I can’t blame my all my issues on this disease.  And I can’t blame my weight on the fact that I just wasn’t following the trendy diet at the time.

I was drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, under too much stress, watching too much television, worried too much about what people thought about me, and frankly ignoring what was good and healthy for me.  Because I didn’t care.

There.  I said it.  I didn’t care.

When you don’t think you’re worthy you just don’t care.  You don’t care what you put into your body.  You don’t care how your body reacts.  You just don’t care.

Until I made the decision that I was worth it — that I was worth feeling good, strong,  healthy, happy, centered — I could never make the decision to change my diet.  I could never, ever, put myself first.  I couldn’t say, “Yes, I am SICK” (yes, that word again) “and yes, I am putting myself first and  yes, I’m not going to eat crap because it isn’t good for me.”  This sounds simple.  But I know that 99% of you reading this will agree that it’s not.

Now, I’m not perfect.  The last 19 days haven’t changed me that much.  But I’m working more on loving me, all of me.  I’m owning up to what choices I made to get myself to this point.  And I’m also acknowledging that some of it isn’t my fault because I am sick.  But it is now up to me, and only me, to take the steps necessary to improve my health.  To show the world that yes, I am worth it.

(You are totally allowed to repeat that last sentence in your best Heather Locklear voice and do a hair flip.)

So when someone asks me why I’m doing this crazy diet, I’m going to tell them that no, it’s not because it’s the newest health trend.  (Hello, gluten free is not a trend, people!)  It’s because I am finally taking responsibility for myself, my choices, and my diet.