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.

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.

THANKFUL FOR ALL OF IT

This morning at beach yoga my teacher, Danell Dwaileebe, read an inspiring poem/prayer as we were in savasana.  I forget who wrote it, and I forgot to ask that she email it to me.  I was thinking I would post it here today in honor of Thanksgiving.  Then I thought, why not write my own prayer of thanksgiving?

Thank You for this gift of another beautiful day.  Thank You for all of the abundance and prosperity in my life right now and for all that You send each and every day.  Thank You for keeping me safe and strong and healthy.  Thank You for showing me the way, for keeping me on my path and for reminding me that everything is perfect, right here, right now.  Thank You for blessing my life with my amazing boyfriend, for the love we share and for the incredible life we are building together.  Thank You for my eyes that are able to see all the beauty that is right in front of me.  Thank You for my ears that are able to hear the birds, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the laughter of children.  Thank You for my heart that is able to love in spite of the challenges I’ve been through.  Thank You for my arms that are able to carry what is necessary and for being able to let go of that which is no longer needed.  Thank You for my feet that walk me many miles each day.  Thank You for my brain that allows me to continue to learn.  Thank You for my nose that is able to smell flowers, pink grapefruit and the ocean.  Thank You for my mouth that is able to speak words of love and compassion, for sweet kisses.  Thank You for a mind that is open and nonjudgmental, more often that not.  Thank You for the good, the not-so-good, the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful.  Thank You for laughter and for sadness.  Thank You for my life.  Thank You, thank You, thank You.

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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.

 

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN

If you read my posts on a regular basis you already know that I did a personal yoga challenge for the month of February.  Also, that I do yoga, when not challenging myself to do it every single day, usually 4-5 times a week.  In the various styles of yoga I have done, the very last pose of most classes, and the one pose that is considered the hardest, is called savasana.  This is pronounced either sha-va-sa-na or sa-va-sa-na.  It is a Sanskrit word that means corpse pose.  It is called that because you are lying on your back, not moving.  Personally, it is one of my favorites.  The idea behind it is to do absolutely nothing, which means you quiet your body and your mind.  The body, I really have no problem keeping still, at least not for the 5 or so minutes that usually constitute savasana; my mind, though I like to think it is quiet, the truth is, it probably isn’t.  Actually, I know it isn’t.

In what I will call ‘normal’ yoga, that is, all the different types of yoga that I have done, except Bikram, when you are in savanna, your eyes are closed.  And honestly, there are times when we are in, say, warrior two, and the instructor will encourage us to close our eyes, just to feel the pose.  Most poses on the back can be done with the eyes either open or closed, which to me means to have my eyes shut, and I like it that way.  Since most of the classes I do are outside, I wear sunglasses, whether it is sunny or overcast;  but even with my eyes protected, I prefer them shut.  Bikram, however, is a completely different story.  When I was going to Bikram yoga, my teacher would say, ‘This is a 90 minute meditation with your eyes open the entire time.’  I will admit that the first week or so, I had a really hard time keeping them open.  I got better as the month went on, but I still had to mentally and purposefully keep them open, especially when we are in the mini-savasanas between the poses on the floor that make up half of the class.  To me, yoga is as much about feeling the postures and poses as the actual position of my body.  And I feel things better with my eyes closed.

While my mind was supposed to be quiet, I was thinking about how keeping ones eyes open can be a metaphor for life.  When we do not keep our eyes open we can miss what is right in front of us.  Or conversely,  we shut our eyes to what is right in front of us.  We can choose to see or not see, and we can do that whether our eyes are open or shut.  How can one possibly stop to smell the roses if those roses haven’t been seen first?

When I lived in Europe, I walked more than I took the bus or taxis.  And when I walked, I frequently would look up, and I mean, way up, so that I could see the tops of the buildings, which were more often than not, even more beautiful than the view at street level.  I would never have known this had I not looked up.  At the same time, if you are always and only looking up, then it stands to reason you will miss whatever is on the ground in front of you.  It is a balancing thing; you kind of have to do both.  Of course, Mae West said that “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”  Personally, I do not think that you can ever see too much.

We’ve all had experiences where, even with our eyes open, we cannot remember how we got where we are, literally or figuratively.   So, eyes opened or eyes shut, it is up to us to see, or not see, where we are, and maybe even more importantly, where we are headed. Still, if you aren’t aware of what’s truly going on around you and are walking with your ‘head in the clouds,’ you just might get hit by a bus.  Awareness, then, seems to me to be the real key, whether your eyes are open or not.

 

 

 

STUPID JELLY BEANS

I was doing so well.  I ate clean, didn’t drink alcohol and cut out processed sugar in January.  I did yoga for 28 straight days in February, while I continued to eat clean 80% of the time, maybe more; and though I did drink a couple of times, it was not a big deal.  Then March arrived and I didn’t have a planned challenge set up for myself.  Big mistake.  I fell off the sugar wagon in a HUGE way.  I know I’ve written about my addiction to sugar in the past, but for the life of me, I cannot find that post.  If I repeat myself, please forgive me.

So, the first week or so of March, I did okay.  Not doing yoga every single day meant that I could finally get more walking in, which I love and is necessary for my overall health and well-being.  I continued to do Bikram on Wednesdays, mainly because my Groupon was good for two months and I figured, why not use it?  I am definitely not crazy about the class, though the sweating is a good thing.  As it turned out, today was my last day at Coronado Hot Yoga,  unless I wish to buy a class card, which I don’t.  I have another class in mind for Wednesdays, starting next week.  But enough of what I did right.  It was the stupid sweet-tart jelly beans that knocked me off the sugar wagon, which resulted in me going waaay wrong.

Easter is a big problem for me.  Halloween I can get through without too much of a problem, simply because there are no jelly beans, at least not ones that call to me, to have to contend with.  Easter, though, is a whole other story.  And as I was innocently walking past Rite Aid, I went in and, lo and behold, Easter candy.  And not just any candy, but SWEET-TART JELLY BEANS.  So I accidentally bought a bag.  I took it home, opened it up and ate a handful.  ‘Yuck,’ I thought, ‘these aren’t even that good.’  I then proceeded to throw the rest of the bag into the garbage, and just for good measure, I made sure there was no way I could retrieve them from said garbage.  I then thought, ‘well, this is good.  I ate them, they didn’t taste good, so I’ll be fine.’  Wishful thinking!  A few days later, I bought another bag.  I went through the exact same process, ending with me dumping them into the garbage.  Again.  I did this, oh, three more times until I developed a taste for them again.  What a dumb thing to do!  And my hot flashes came back with a vengeance.  Lovely, just lovely.

So, I’d go through a bag in a few days.  I decided that maybe this wasn’t horrible, not great, but not so bad.  Oh, I wish this was the case.  Then the day came when I bought a bag and ate the ENTIRE thing in one day.  Well, crap!  Again, I told myself, NO MORE.  And I’d go, maybe a day or two, if I was really lucky, and then those stupid jelly beans would somehow get in my shopping cart and come home with me.  Not wanting to be impolite, I would, of course, eat them all, yet again.  Then I decided that I would just have to get through Easter.  At this point, it was less than a week away, and once Easter is finished, the stupid Easter candy in the stores is gone.  Thank God!  But wouldn’t you know it, the day after Easter, all Easter candy is half-price!  Are you kidding me?  How am I to resist half-price sweet-tart jelly beans?  I did my best to stay out of the store where they lay in wait for me.  You can guess how well that worked.  Not so well, unfortunately.

I will say that even though there were four bags of those pretty jelly beans, I only bought two of them.  I almost bought them all, but I somehow had some sense left and just got two bags.  In the end, I ate three-quarters of them before throwing the rest away.  Again, I made sure that fishing them out of the trash was not an option, because I’m pretty sure I would have otherwise.

Now, I have to get off sugar again.  Really?  Didn’t I just do this?  Why is it so hard for me to not eat processed sugar?  Why do I seem powerless over jelly beans?  Even when eating them makes me feel like crap?  Sugar truly is a drug to me, and my body reacts accordingly.  Maybe it’s like rehab, and how it sometimes takes more than one or two or three, or more, times for it to stick.  Dang!  I guess there are worse thing s to be addicted to, but, for me, this is pretty bad.  As I sit here writing this post, I keep having hot flashes.  They suck!  A lot!!

I have my work cut out for me, yet again.  I also realized that as much as I love yoga, and practicing it five days a week is much more doable than every day, I am still not getting the exercise I really need.  Other than my ashtanga class with the fabulous Steve Hubbard in Pacific Beach on Saturdays, I really do not get much of a workout.  I decided I need to give up my Tuesday and Thursday beach yoga classes so that I can walk more.  This means I will be cutting my yoga down to 3 days a week.  Hey, if I didn’t have to work, then I could do both.  The reality is I do have to work and the relatively late start times of these yoga classes is making it impossible for me to keep doing them.  I can leave to walk much earlier, which means I’ll be home earlier and can get to work before 10 or 11 each morning.

I know that these problems I am experiencing are, as my friend Stephanie Spence calls them, Prada problems.  Still, figuring out how to make my life work for me is an ongoing challenge.  Fortunately, I am up to it.