As a preamble to the following, I would like to say that I have been sitting on this post since late November. I meant to publish it in early December, but what with prepping for Ben’s birthday party and Christmas, blogging got lost in the shuffle. I didn’t want to post this during Christmas time, but January is a time for renewal and new beginnings, so the following is an appropriate way to start the New Year.
We have had a lovely snow day today, an unexpected gift, and I am currently holding an angelic sleeping little boy. Life is good, and I am thankful for this moment of quiet and the time and space to share about some of the challenges of the past year. But be assured, all is well.
This past year and a bit has been rather difficult. I’m not going to spread all the gory details over the interwebs, but suffice to say a variety of circumstances resulted in the elevation of my stress to unhealthy levels. Acute stress over a short period of time can be a good thing (you know, like running away from a rabid crow or something), but acute stress over several months tends to take a toll on your body.
It sure took a toll on me.
For the past year and a bit I have been grappling (to varying degrees) with headaches, body aches, depressive illness, sinus infections, muddled thinking, and a general inability to do more than one thing at a time. I don’t really want to go into much more detail. So I won’t. But it has been hard, and on occasion it has been really hard. I am blessed to have such a wonderful husband. Darren is so supportive and constantly takes up the slack when I am unable to do what I should be doing. My parents have also been really great. They come for a visit once a week to take care of the kids while I get stuff done. Or rest. Or whatever I need to do.
Darren doesn’t like seeing me sick, and neither does the rest of my family. He has been encouraging me to get help, and finally, after several long months, I have started to take care of myself.
It started with a trip to the doctor’s office. I have a great doctor, and I was very open about my circumstances. He had me do a couple of blood tests (nothing unusual showed up) and also put me on to a program called Bounce Back which uses cognitive behaviour therapy to help people who are dealing with mild forms of depression and anxiety, as well as other negative behaviours. It is run through the BC government and is free. The program isn’t a panacea to all my problems, but it certainly does provide a fresh perspective on some of the challenges that I have faced and am currently facing.
Next up was massage therapy. We are fortunate to have a good extended health plan, so finally, after months and months of putting it off, I went for a massage. It was wonderful and slightly painful. A few weeks after the massage my neck seized up, and so off I went to the chiropractor. I’m going for my fourth session next week and I feel much, much better. And guess what? My chiro could tell, based on how messed up my head, neck and shoulders were, just how bad my stress levels had been. It was so severe that my skull needed adjusting. Yep.
That brings us to the naturopath. Darren has been after me a while to go and visit the naturopath, just to see whether we could do anything about my headaches and sinus pain. (I have several family members who have really benefited from seeing a naturopath – they were able to identify areas of illness that “traditional” medicine wasn’t able to address.) I told the naturopath my story and she prescribed probiotics, adrenal support, and other homeopathic remedies. And she took me off of dairy. While going off dairy was a bit of a blow, it was nothing compared to what was coming.
Three weeks ago I did a Vega test – this is a test that measures your body’s electrical response to a variety of stimuli. They hook you up to a small electrical current and then touch different substances to that current (eggs, wheat, fruit, etc, etc). If the electrical current stays strong, your body likes the food. If the current wavers and fades, you have a sensitivity to that food.
Here is the list of foods that my body likes.
Here is a list of the foods that I am slightly sensitive to.
And these are the foods I cannot eat. For now.
Apparently these food sensitivities stem from an overgrowth of a yeast called candida. Candida naturally occurs in your body, but a variety of factors, such as stress and over-use of antibiotics (yay sinus infections), can kill the cells that normally keep the candida under control. Once the candida goes nuts your immune system is compromised and you start to develop all types of allergies and sensitivities. At the time of my first Vega test I was a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Candida feeds on “fun” things like sugar and yeast, so for the past six weeks I have been avoiding all the foods that are making me sick so that the probiotics and pathogens can do their work and kill the candida. This process is going to take about three months. I’m not sure whether I will be able to go back to my “normal” diet, but hopefully I will be able to eat mostly everything again. Thankfully, my candida levels were down to 6 on December 18th, so I was able to cheat a bit and have a mostly-traditional Christmas dinner. Exploring new foods and changing my eating habits has been kind of fun, but I still miss things like butter, potatoes, onions, and chocolate. Oh chocolate…
So what is the point of talking about all of this? I’m not looking for attention or for sympathy (heck, if that was the case you would have heard all about this a LONG time ago!) but I want to reflect on three things.
1. Human beings are complex creatures. In order to fix the broken parts of me, I am relying on no less than four different fields of medicine, multiple family members, and a lot of prayer. I have physical, mental, and emotional hurts that need to be healed, and are in the process of being healed. But there certainly isn’t any magic pill that makes this all go away, as much as I might wish there were.
2. I am SO blessed. I know there are thousand of people dealing with similar issues that do not have the same support networks that I do. I am so thankful for a loving husband, a wonderful family, a good healthcare plan, and attentive healthcare professionals.
3. I can’t do everything. I can’t fix all the problems that I see. I can’t tell you what a difficult lesson this is for me to learn. I have always been a planner, a fixer, a solution-finder. When I was in preschool my Mom overheard a group of girls discussing a particularly pressing conundrum. All of a sudden, one of the girls cried out, “I know, let’s ask Jenny, she’ll know what to do!” And honestly, I probably did know what to do.
I suppose it is mark of my real entry into adulthood that I am running up against situations where I cannot make the changes necessary to fix the problem. In some cases, I just plain don’t know what to do. Sometimes, even if I do think I know what is best, I am in no position to effect change. Or, I attempt to make changes but find myself trying to communicate with a brick wall. Or a brick wall topped with barbed wire.
Lately, I have found myself contemplating pride and humility. At what point does reasonable pride in your abilities become the altar on which you sacrifice your well-being? Sometimes we need to look objectively at our actions, put aside our pride, and conclude that we simply cannot influence a given situation. We need to admit that trying to carry on, despite the goodness of our intentions, is poisoning our lives.
I was there. That was me. Finding the humility to admit that I could not carry on really challenged my self-identity. And as much as I hate leaving work unfinished, it was a liberating choice and it was the right thing to do. And now I am free to remake myself into whatever I choose to be. I mean, I’m obviously not going to go and fly spaceships or anything, but at the very least I am free not to be that person who was consumed with frustration and illness. And that is an extremely good starting point.