VERY MIXED FEELINGS TODAY

Five years ago, on Saturday the 24th of September, my life changed in ways I could never have predicted.  And though my life now, 5 years later, is amazing, the road to where I am now has been challenging.  Understatement of the year.  All in all, for the majority of the time, I am happy, healthy, newly married (in May) and ‘completely’ healed from my attack.  I have to put completely in quotation marks because I am not sure I will ever be completely over what happened.  That has been very apparent this last week.  Physically I have been a bit of a wreck.  My body seems to understand what my mind is incapable of grasping:  my attack is still stored in my cells, in the muscle memory of my physical self.  Well, crap.

On Monday I decided I needed to know exactly when DCD was being released from prison.  According to my calculations it should’ve been right around now.  He received a 6 year sentence and has to serve 85% of it, less time served at sentencing, which was 317 days.  When I put his name in the ‘who’s in jail’ web site, I got nothing.  I remembered he had used another name, looked through my files to find it, put that name in, and got the same result…not in the system.  I thought I had signed up to be notified when that happened, but, it turned out, I had not.  Crap, again.  So I called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to find out his status.  The officer I spoke with asked for his prisoner number, which I did not have.  He asked if I was the victim.  I told him I was.  He gave me the number I was lacking and told me where he is now housed and that he would not be getting out any time soon.  He also suggested I call the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to find out more information about his release date.  I did this and that’s when I found out I neglected to actually sign up to be notified when he would be released.  It’s not that I am afraid he will come after me once he is released.  I simply want to know when he is out.

Life does go on, and as much as I’d love to never have had this happen, it did.  The following quote pretty much sums up how I feel about it now:

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We all get to choose how we react to what happens to us.  I choose to see it as a blessing, and to share my ongoing, ever-changing story.  My hope is that I am making a “difference by being the difference.”

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A BETTER THIRD WEEK

Just a quick update…

I am definitely feeling better, though still haven’t had the burst of energy I’ve been waiting for.  I am still sleeping a ton more than normal, too.  It’s all good, though.  If I really think about it, it took me pretty much 55 years to get my body into the state it is currently in, no matter the reasons behind it, and realistically I cannot expect to be all better in just 2 or 3 or even 4 weeks.  Of course, that doesn’t stop me from expecting it.

I saw a friend yesterday I had not seen since we started The Whole30 and she noticed a difference.   Said my skin looked really good.  That must be the bone broth I drink every morning.  I also ‘convinced’ her that she should be doing it as well.  Since she was just diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome, eating clean on this program will most likely help her out tremendously.  Even if it doesn’t exactly cure her carpel tunnel, she will at least still be wheat, sugar and processed food free, and that’s a very good thing.

Because I am still having a lot of hip pain and wasn’t sure if I should really be walking/stretching/playing tennis/doing yoga or just resting, it finally occurred to me that my pain was probably being caused by my old walking shoes.  When I used to walk 60-90 miles a week, I was very good about replacing my shoes every six months.  Lately, I’ve not been so good.  Plus, I’ve been wearing the shoes that have absolutely no support.  So yesterday I went to Road Runner Sports and got myself analyzed on their ShoeDog machine.  I already knew I had high arches, but, dang, when I stood on the blue pad that records the bottom of your feet, the only thing that showed up was my toes, the pads that my toes are connected to and my heals…nothing in between.  I have an extremely high arch, which basically means any kind of non-supportive shoe is probably a bad idea.  It also explains the hip and IT band pain I’ve been suffering from.  So I got new shoes and custom molded arch supports.  I walked this morning and what a difference!

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As far as the eating goes, no cheats.  Sure I miss some particular foods, cheese and yogurt the most, but I see no point in eating them until we start the reintroducing process, which we may not even do.  I mean, why ‘gum’ up a clean system?   I can already tell that dairy is probably not my friend.  Bummer!  Really, nothing is off-limits expect the crap we shouldn’t be eating anyway, so I haven’t felt deprived in any way.

A CHALLENGING SECOND WEEK

And by challenging, I mean it SUCKED.  Not in the food sense, but when I thought that my nonsense (itty, bitty cold) was cured in one day with the cherry bark syrup, I was overly optimistic.  And while it is true that I spent the entire day Saturday in bed/resting before I got the cherry bark, and that I woke up Sunday morning feeling all better, after I wrote my update on Monday morning I started feeling worse.  As the day progressed, my nonsense came back with a vengeance.  I never felt horrible, just blah, like I needed a lot of sleep.  And don’t even get me started on the weather we’ve been having.  Okay, relatively speaking, it has not been terrible, but it has been much cooler than usual and we had (true, much-needed) rain.  None of that, though, is good for my mental heath, especially when I am feeling so crummy.

I thought I would be feeling better doing The Whole30.  I do, however, realize my body is going through a major transformation, what with no sugar, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no sugar, no wheat or grains, no sugar and no processed foods of any kind, especially the kinds with added, you guessed it, sugar.  I just didn’t know it would be so difficult.  What is also even more clear to me is the fact that body has not been the same since my assault.  It’s nothing major, a lot of small things, but added altogether, it’s a lot to deal with and accept.  And this is with intense therapy and a huge desire and effort to not let my attack change me.  The best intentions, right?

As if to add insult to injury, Sunday morning at 3:02AM I was awakened with a shooting pain down my right leg.  Now I’ve had back issues for, well, ever, but I’ve never had anything like this before.  I got up and stretched and hung on the inversion table, but nothing was helping.  I got back in bed and tried to sleep.  No such luck.  I could only be on my back for a few minutes before I’d have to turn to my left side.  Then in a few minutes that would become unbearable and I’d have to turn on my back again, where I would only last for a few minutes…you get the picture.  So I got up to take a shower a little after 4AM.  The funny thing was, it did not really hurt to move around.  While in the shower I decided to wash my hair and shave my legs, just in case I ended up spending the next week in bed with my back out.  It did not really feel like it was going to go out, but never having experienced this kind of pain, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

When I got back in bed, I googled ‘sciatica’ on my phone, decided that it was probably that, and slept fitfully, in pain for the next several hours.  After consulting with a doctor (my mother, as it happens) and a couple of people who have had to deal with sciatica, we decided on the best course of action, which was really no action at all.  I was advised to take 3 ibuprofen and 1 Tylenol, move as much as the pain would allow, and basically, allow it to rest.  So I spent another entire weekend day resting.  I am sensing a pattern here.

This morning I woke up and realized I had had no pain in the night, at least not the shooting down my leg kind, and I slept half-way decently.  I am still in need of much more sleep than normal.  I guess that’s okay.  It is also dawning on me that I may need more than the 30 days to clean out all the built of whatever that has accumulated over the last 4 1/2 years.  And, really, I guess that is okay, too.  Just like with most everything, I want it now, I want the results yesterday and I don’t want to have to wait a minute longer than I think it should take.  Yeah, and how’s that working for me?  Clearly, it will take as long as it takes.

The good news is, as they say in The Whole30, I have been completely compliant for the last two weeks.  No slips, no forbidden foods;  only good, whole, real food.

 

DAY 3

Okay, so it’s only day three of the Whole30, but I want to share some of what’s happening so far.  Although we haven’t been following the 7-day meal plan exactly, nor are we really supposed to, we’ve been very compliant with what we should and we are not allowed to eat.  No dairy, no grains, no processed food of any kind, no alcohol, no sugar…does this seem harsh?  Really, it’s not.  There is so much real, whole food available, if you just take the time to look.  For example, this morning I had a mug of bone broth, which I made myself (!), and an omelet cooked in ghee (this is butter with the milk part removed) with chicken and spinach.  I had an orange and strawberries on the side.  It was yummy and filling.  If anything, I cannot really eat all the food they recommend in a day, but that’s another story.

One of my reasons for doing this ‘diet’* is I am in a lot of physical pain from inflammation.  I never understood what this meant before now.  And I still do not totally understand it, but I know I have it all over my body.  Enough is enough.  To me physical pain is far worse than emotional pain.  Once the emotional part of my healing from my sexual assault was complete, my back went completely out.  I spent 96 hours not moving at all.  When I was finally able to get out of bed and start the process of moving my body again, the pain was, at times, overwhelming.  I remember thinking at the time that as difficult as it was to go through, I’d rather spend another 14 months in intense (mental) therapy than to spend another 96 hours in physical pain.  And while my physical pain these days is not acute to the degree it was then, I am still in a lot of pain.

Several years ago, I suffered an injury at the gym to my elbow, and ever since, I’ve had pain in it.  Your elbow is not exactly a part of your body that can be easily rested. You kind of use it every day, no matter what you are doing.  And my hips, boy, do my hips ache.  My legs, too.  The weird part is they do not hurt when I am using them, like walking or playing tennis, but at night, I wake up in pain more nights than not.  I try not to take ibuprofen all the time, for obvious reasons, but sometimes the pain is just too much and I have to take it.  When I was listening to IT STARTS WITH FOOD (by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig), it suddenly occurred to me that my body is full of inflammation, and that;s when I made the decision to do something about it.  I do not have to live like this and have no intention of living this way for the rest of my life.  Enter the Whole30 program.

According to WebMD,  “Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and substances they produce protect us from infection with foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.  However, in some diseases, like arthritis, the body’s defense system — the immune system — triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign invaders to fight off. In these diseases, called autoimmune diseases, the body’s normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal.”  It goes on to say, “When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection, and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.  The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within the joint cause irritation, swelling of the joint lining and, eventually, wearing down of cartilage (cushions at the end of bones).”

So what have I observed so far?  Because my body is healing and detoxing itself, I need a lot more sleep than normal.  I’ve been sleeping 10 hours a night, which is so unlike me.  I normally need just about 7 hours to feel good and be well-rested.  I am honoring and listening to what my body wants, though, and it is saying sleep more.  So more sleeping it is.  I’ve noticed I am crabby, too, with an underlying headache.  This is due to my withdrawal from sugar.  As I’ve said before, according to experts, getting off sugar is harder than getting off heroin.  I believe it. And it is just as hard not to relapse, which I’ve done more times than I like to admit.  Just to be clear here, I am addicted to sugar, not heroin.  But just as being addicted to an illicit, illegal drug can rule and ruin your life, sugar, in its own way is just as destructive.  Some of the problems with sugar are: it increases insulin and contributes to obesity and diabetes, it can deplete essential minerals from the body, it can lead to food allergies, it can weaken your immune system and it can increase your risk of cancer.  Do any of these possible effects of sugar sound like a good thing?  I don’t think so.  The time has come to break this habit once and for all.

Yes, it is still very early in this process, but I am very hopeful that, once I get over the hump, the benefits of eating clean and not putting poison into my body will override any desire I have to slip again.

Stay tuned…

 

 

AN ACCIDENTAL REWIRING

Turns out our brains are a lot more elastic or plastic than was originally thought.  The old thinking was once you reached a certain age, your brain was, for lack of a better way to say it, set in stone.  The neurons were thought to migrate to predetermined locations in the brain.  Once there, they performed only certain functions.  New research has shown that it is possible to change our brains.  This is good news.  No, really, this is great news. We are no longer necessarily stuck with a brain that does not work for us, and by this I mean that when I accidentally rewired my brain to crave sugar and carbs and other things that are not good for my overall health, I have the ability to change it, to rewire it again.

After my attack 4 1/2 years ago, to help me feel better, I started eating cupcakes and macaroni and cheese and soft pretzels and rolls and, well, you get the picture.  In 2010, for the most part, I stopped eating bread and pasta.  And even more importantly, I stopped eating most processes sugars.  No coke, no more of my beloved (sad, but true) slurpees, no sweet tarts or jelly beans.  Or if I did have a treat, it was not very often and I never went overboard.  When I was sexually assaulted in September of 2011, that all changed.  I was doing my best to heal and part of that, unfortunately, involved self-soothing, which took the form of eating comfort foods.  Over time, my brain changed, and through the long process of healing and reclaiming my life, I inadvertently created another problem, though it has taken several years for me to completely understand exactly what I did.

I’ve always been a huge reader and though I enjoy fiction tremendously, I also love inspirational, self-help-type books, too.  Since I am always working on improving myself and my life, I am pretty open to most books that encourage that.  I am also a life-long athlete and, as I’ve written about before, after my attack, I went from walking 60-90 miles a week to zero.  Luckily, I found yoga a couple of weeks before my attack and I was no longer able to walk outside alone.  Still, not having that outlet for stress release and staying in shape was a huge loss.  HUGE.  So, I was on the lookout for books to, perhaps, change my life.  I read (listened to, actually) Grain Brain and Brain Maker by Kristin Loberg and Dr. David Perlmutter, Wheat Belly by William Davis, Use Your Brain to Change Your Age by Dr. Daniel Amen, The Wisdom of Your Cells by Dr. Bruce Lipton, The New Sugar Busters by H. Leighton Steward, Morrison Bethea, Sam Andrews and Luis Balart, and countless others.  While all were good, and some I’ve even listened to more than once, and all had good advise and wisdom to pass along, I still was not ‘getting it.’  I might try out a few of the suggestions, but nothing stuck for long.

A walk with a friend a couple of weeks ago ended up supplying the missing link, so to speak.  Just in passing he mentioned It Starts With Food by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig.  I cannot tell you now what it was he said that made me go home and check if the book was available on audible.com.  It was, and I got it.  From practically the first sentence I realized this was the book that was going to literally change my life.  I finally got it.  I also knew that I needed the actual book to refer to.  At the bookstore, however, I ended up with their followup book, The Whole30, subtitled The 30-Day Guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM, which is the one I really needed.  This book explains the entire program and how to accomplish it.  It contains recipes, tips, hints and, basically, a blueprint for (my words) a new life!  And today starts that 30-day trip.

I will be chronicling my journey here, partly so that I am accountable and partly so that others may, hopefully, be helped, as well.  I keep hearing from people who have done the Whole30 that it is hard, that you always end up ‘falling off the wagon’ at some point.  While this may be true, I am confident that I am truly ready for the changes that eating clean will bring about.  I am so ready to be clean of my sugar habit.  I’ve spoken about it before and the trouble I’ve had with kicking the habit.  Like I just said, I AM READY, and this, I think, will make all the difference.  Will I never eat something that is less than perfectly healthy again?  In all likelihood, I probably will, but once I have rewired my brain to crave healthy, whole foods again, a slip or, rather, a conscious choice to eat something that is less than ‘good’ will not result in disaster.  It took a long time to wire my brain to want a cupcake once a week.  Likewise, once I am where I want to be with regard to food, one soft pretzel or martini will not create a new, unwanted neural pathway in my brain.

We all always have a choice.  My choice is to eat clean to reset my brain and hormones.

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If you would like, please join me on this journey.  We can help each other along the way.

A CLEAR MESSAGE?

I attended an orientation yesterday afternoon for people who think they may be interested in becoming an advocate for victims of sexual assault. This is something I’ve contemplated off and on since my attack, and when I was recently telling my story, it was suggested that, perhaps, the time had come to think more seriously about it. At the time, my first response was “I’m not ready yet.” The more I thought about it though, the more the idea grew on me.

First up, I had to google sexual assault advocacy to find out what, if anything, was even available. I immediately found an organization that sounded really good. The more I read, the better it sounded. Then I realized they were located in New Jersey. As good as they seemed, I figure that’s a bit too far away to do me any good. So it was back to google with San Diego added to my search. I finally got to where I needed to be, which in this area is CCS, Center for Community Solutions.  The mission of CCS is “to end relationship and sexual violence by being a catalyst for caring communities and social justice.”  And its vision is “for all people to live full, free, expressive and empowered loves in a safe, healthy, vibrant and peaceful community.”

“CCS was first established in 1969 as the Center for Women’s Studies and Services(CWSS), a grassroots feminist organization that helped women overcome obstacles preventing them from achieving independence, economic stability and growth, and self-sufficiency.  Over the years, in response to community needs, CWWS narrowed its focus to address three core issues—relationship violence, sexual assault and the prevention of both.  In the mid 1990s, CWSS adopted a new name, Center for Community Solutions, to acknowledge that the elimination of sexual assault and relationship violence will occur only if everyone in the community becomes a part of the solution.”  This all sounded good and once I was able to read about all the volunteer opportunities, I thought, “Yes, now is the right time. It has been a little over four years and I think I’d be able to use my experience to help others in a similar situation.”

The times I had to choose from were 3-4:30p or 5-6:30p at their Escondido office.  From where I live, neither of these was a great option, mainly because of traffic.  I decided on the earlier time (less traffic getting there) and planned on dinner at Fatburger, which would be a huge treat since it is the only one left in this area and I particularly love their milkshakes!  I thought by the time I finished with dinner that traffic would have let up.  Ha!

While there are many volunteer opportunities with CCS, the only one I was/am interested in is SART, Sexual Assault Response Team.  “SART volunteers provide immediate, in-person support for sexual assault victims during the forensic exam process.  All SART volunteers must complete a 60-hour Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Training and a Live Scan criminal background.  A twelve-month commitment of 4 six-hour shifts per month is required.”  Again, all this sounded fine with me, so the next step was to attend the orientation, which I did yesterday.

All day yesterday I had a stomach ache.  I attributed it nerves more than anything else.  The actual orientation was no big deal, much to my relief.  After listening to all the available positions for volunteers, I realized a few things:  first of all, they really do not need help in my area of town, and because one must be a 20-minute (ideally, but no more than 30 minutes) commute away, even if I wanted to help out in North or East County, I really cannot; secondly, my experience of being sexually assaulted really isn’t an asset in their minds; and lastly, the way the system currently operates there does not seem to even be a place for me.  What I think is important, what would have been incredibly helpful to me, is an advocate who is there every step of the process…from the forensic exam all the way through the court and sentencing phase, someone who will go with the victim to each and every court date, who can help explain what is going on and what is likely to happen, someone who has actually been through it and knows firsthand, not just in theory.   This type of volunteer position does not exist, at least not at CSS.

When I got home last night after my yummy dinner and one hour of traffic, I still had a stomach ache.  (I thought it might have been the giant milkshake that was so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.)  J and I talked about it for a long time and at the end my questions were, “What am I supposed to be doing to help other women who have been sexually assaulted?  Why did I go through it if not to help others?  How can I make a difference if no one wants my help?”  J wisely said that the answer would come to me, maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week, but it will come.  So I went to sleep, not feeling that great about it, but not as upset as I had been.  This morning, though, I woke up with a knot in the right side of my upper back.  This is a place that I’ve never had an issue with before.  As soon as I felt it, I knew.  You cannot get a much clearer message than that.  I know, with certainty, that CCS, though a wonderful agency, doing important work, is not for me and I am not for them.  I also now understand, clearly, that as ready as I’d like to be, my body has other ideas.  The body really does keep the score and it was/is telling me loud and clear that now is not the time.

To be completely honest here, I feel like I’ve failed.  I thought I was ready.  I told everyone in my (amazing!) women’s group and my Thursday morning beach yoga class (also pretty amazing, I might add) what I was doing and every single woman was so supportive and so encouraging, and now I have to go back and tell them all that it isn’t the right time yet and I was not received with the open arms I kind of thought I would be welcomed with.  So for now I will continue my journey and helping process by writing on this site and will keep my ears open for the kind of opportunity I am seeking.

FOUR YEARS AND A DAY

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day my life changed forever.  But, really, every single day is an opportunity for our lives to be changed forever.  It’s not so much the events of our lives that determine what happens next, but, rather, it is what we do with those events, how we respond to them.  And how we ultimately deal with and grow from them.  While it would have been far easier to not actually deal with what happened to me on 24 September 2011, for me at least, this was not even a remote option.

 

I wrote the above paragraph on Wednesday, which was actually the day before the anniversary.  It was as far as I got because I thought I should wait and see how the day unfolded.  Let’s just say it rather sucked.  The following is what I wrote in my journal yesterday afternoon:

I thought, mistakenly as it turned out, that the discomfort and sadness I felt at the end of last week and into this week, up to today, which I attributed to the 4th anniversary of my sexual assault, might be all I had to deal with this 24th of September.  No such luck.  The good news, I suppose, is no nightmares/flashbacks have come up today.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  Every time I close my eyes I feel DCD’s weight on me.  You better believe I snap them open as soon as I can.  I was okay in savasana this morning, I think because I was mentally chanting I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.  My neck and back are killing me.  This is all muscle memory.  There is no physical reason that I should be having pain in either place today.  I guess this whole week has been a build up to today.  I am ever hopeful that tomorrow I will awaken feeling back to my normal self.  Right now, though, I have splitting headache.  ///J was so loving and patient with me this morning.  When I got home from beach yoga, I was pretty much covered with sand, which meant I had to shower.  After my shower, I laid down on the bed and just stared into space.  He came and laid behind me and simply held me, not saying anything.  Eventually, I was able to talk about what I was feeling.  The first thing I said was, “I just wish he {he being DCD} knew the effect of what he did to me, and how it continues to impact my life.”  Not that it would make a difference if he did know, but maybe, just maybe, it would in a tiny way.  I cannot imagine that he won’t do it again once he gets out of prison, and because he must register for the rest of his life as a sexual predator/offender, he’s pretty much screwed.

 

At the end of each day, for the last 2+ years, before I go to bed, I write down 5 things I am grateful for.  Yesterday all I managed to write was, ” I am grateful I made it through.”

And by the way, I do feel a lot better today.