“Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to.”
After the last couple of posts about my health issues it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I’ve taken a break from the 6-week fat loss challenge. At some point last week I decided that being so strict with my food choices and having to post pictures of every meal and snack was more than I can handle right now. I’m exhausted and stressed all the time and I realized that I need to give myself a break in certain areas. There’s no use making myself crazy over something that’s not absolutely essential. Instead I’m going to focus on getting healthy and back to my normal, more energetic self. That doesn’t mean I’ve started hitting the Del Taco drive-thru on a regular basis again, though. I am endeavoring to stick to my new, healthier eating habits that I’ve been establishing over the last five weeks, with a small change here and there to make it more manageable. I did go to McDonald’s one day last week, but that was my weekly cheat meal. I’ve made enough progress (albeit minor) recently that I don’t want to revert back to my unhealthy ways and end up right back where I started. That would only add to my stress and make me feel terrible about myself again. Not worth it!
So for now, instead of worrying over the things I’m not doing, I’m trying to focus on some recent successes. They may be small, but they are most certainly steps in the right direction. Last week at boot camp one of our strength exercises was inverted rows, which have never been easy for me in the past. However, this time I was able to complete half of each set in a fully inverted position, with my back completely parallel to the floor. How’s that for progress! I was surprised, but super proud of myself. Obviously going to the gym three days a week consistently for the past six months has been paying off. I did have to take a step back, making the rows easier, in order to finish the set, but I’m OK with that. Also, I find myself reaching for heavier weights at the gym. In the same class as the inverted rows I was using an 88 lb kettlebell for deadlifts. I know that’s not a lot for most people, but it’s much more weight than I used to be able to comfortably deadlift. And I appreciate deadlifts because they have been strengthening my back, which makes just about every other exercise safer and easier. At a boot camp class later that week we did farmer carries (basically just walking across the room, slowly, with heavy weights in each hand) and I was able to hold a 53 lb kettlebell in each hand. It felt like my arms were about to pop out of their sockets, but I made it all the way across the gym floor and back! That’s a huge step up for me considering what I used to be capable of. I am certainly reaching for heavier weights almost every time I go to boot camp. I never thought I’d be able to use 20 lb dumbbells for chest presses, but I have done it more than once now, and I think I might actually try 25 lb weights next time! My running is also improving, albeit very gradually. In the spring I struggled to complete a 10-mile run (a distance that would have been easy for me at any point last year), but a few weeks ago I finished it with much less trouble. (And this was with the weather working against me. Summer in Los Angeles has been really miserable.) I have given up the idea of running a marathon this fall, mostly because I don’t want to train in the heat, but I have plenty of half marathons on my calendar to prepare for. My next one is in about three weeks. Yikes! While getting ready for a 10K last Sunday I had to tighten my hydration belt because my body shape has changed enough that it was too loose on my waist and hips. That certainly felt good! I don’t think I’ve lost much weight during this fat-loss challenge, but I am definitely seeing results in other areas. My final weigh-in is on Monday morning so I’ll find out the final verdict soon enough. I may not have lost the 20 lbs I wanted to, but I think I’m on the right path.
There was a time, not so long ago, that I wasn’t taking any prescription drugs. It was fantastic. But then 2018 came crashing onto the scene and now I am picking up one refill or another at the pharmacy just about every week. I’ve been on five different medications at one point or another since January and I’m still searching for the right one(s). In my post about my health last week I mentioned that I’ve been taking 1 mg of Requip, a Parkinson’s and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) treatment, to calm my legs at night so that I can fall asleep. While I believe that it has been somewhat effective, meaning I can go to sleep without leg spasms now, I am still not feeling 100% like myself again. Not only do I still have twitchy legs sometimes during the day, but I’m so tired all the time. And some days I just can’t get out of bed at all. I can sleep all day, and it doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making. I just wake up in the afternoon/evening and feel depressed that I’ve lost yet another day to my poor health. And the kicker is that I never feel rested no matter how much I sleep. For example, the other day I opened my eyes and the clock on my nightstand said 5:30 PM! I managed to drag myself out of bed, get dressed and go to my boot camp class at 8 PM, and then went back to sleep at 11:30 PM. I was only awake for 6 hours that day and I was still tired when I got up to go to work the next morning! It’s beyond ridiculous. I can’t afford for this to continue, both monetarily (I need to work to support myself!) and mentally (I am at the end of my rope!). Fortunately I had my long-awaited appointment with the neurologist yesterday afternoon. I explained all of my symptoms to him, showed him copies of my blood work from December and my sleep study in May, and told him what pharmaceuticals I have tried so far. After laying it all out on the table the doctor was a bit baffled by the whole picture. It was frustrating, but understandable. All of the other medical professionals I have seen so far have been baffled too. My symptoms don’t all fit into one nice, easy, predefined diagnosis. Of course it isn’t that simple! Some things point to RLS, but others suggest Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), while a few could be signs of a more serious affliction. So while I don’t have any definitive answers, the neurologist did write me a prescription for another drug to try in combination with the Requip. So I will be adding Gabapentin to my nightly pill dosage to see if it makes a difference. On top of that, I have instructions to double the dose in one week if the initial amount doesn’t seem to be working at all. I also have another appointment in September to report back on the results, and perhaps conduct some further tests. (The doctor seemed concerned that I could visually see my muscles contract during the leg spasms, so he might order some electrical stimulation tests to see what’s going on in there.) I’m still encouraged by this progress, even if it is small. Finding the right combination of medications is the key to relief and the neurologist told me that it might take a while. After two and a half years of dealing with this issue I will try to be patient as we zero in on a solution!
“I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs!
6/8/18 webpage post
It’s been nearly two months since I last saw my doctor and I am now taking 1 mg of Requip every night, an hour or two before I go to bed. It doesn’t make me feel great – there is some nausea and risk of vomiting, especially if I take it on an empty stomach – but it does seem to calm my Periodic Leg Movement Disorder (PLMD). Hallelujah! However, I’m not sure it is helping me get the quality sleep that I desperately need. I still have days where I’m completely exhausted and can sleep way more hours than any normal person should. Waking up in the late afternoon is not a good feeling when you had a long list of things you needed to accomplish during the day. Fortunately I have a neurologist appointment on Thursday to hopefully make more progress on a treatment plan. I definitely have some non-negligible, although mostly minor, side effects from the Requip so I’m not sure if it is going to end up being the best option for me. My quality of life has most definitely improved since starting this medication, though. I can fall asleep at night without worrying about infuriating and insomia-inducing leg spasms for the first time in over two years, which is a miracle. Thank goodness for modern medicine and ever-evolving pharmaceuticals to assist everyone in living life to the fullest. You almost never find the right combination of drugs the first time, and I’ve tried a few that certainly didn’t work for me, but my Lexapro and Requip are working wonders at the moment. I’m concerned about the possibility that the Requip will become less effective over time or make my symptoms worse, as many RLS and Parkinson’s medications have a tendency to do, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I know that in the grand scheme of things my medical problems are not nearly as devastating as other have to deal with, and for that I am grateful. That doesn’t mean I’m not worried about the future, though. What if this is a symptom of a more serious affliction? This is another bridge to cross later, if needed. For now I’m trying to make up for some serious sleep deprivation!
Week 3 of this 6-week fat loss program has been rough. Due to work stress and crazy hormones I’ve been fighting a multitude of cravings, and losing those battles more often than I’d like to admit. This past week I’ve somehow justified impulsively purchasing a lot of unhealthy snack foods and then chowing down on them until the guilt finally sets in. It’s vicious cycle of self-indulgence and self-hate that I have to break or else I’ll be right back where I started a few weeks ago. (Not that it would be the worst thing to happen, but I’d rather not backslide if I can avoid it.) You’d think feeling crappy about myself would be motivation enough to stay away from junk food, but I guess not. Last Sunday I unwisely got on the scale (because my weight should not be my primary indication of success), but I surprisingly discovered that I had lost seven pounds! That was extremely encouraging, but it didn’t keep me from making poor choices. I’m pretty upset with myself, but I know there’s nothing I can do to change the past. All I can do right now is remember how good progress feels and focus on all of my short-term and long-term goals.
My first goal when I started this program was to be able to wear an older dress for a big meeting at work. For the first six months of 2018 I’ve mostly been wearing a single dress when I have to give presentations and people are probably starting to wonder whether it’s the only one I own. My professional wardrobe needs more variety, even if that only means I can wear some of my old dresses rather than buying a bunch of new ones. I only had 16 days to slim down enough to squeeze into a dress that was way too tight beforehand so I had no idea if it was even possible. I usually wear some high-waisted Spanx under my work dresses to help even everything out, but they are horribly binding and have a tendency to roll down throughout the day. I’m always pulling on them to keep them in place and that’s not something you want to be doing in front of your co-workers. So the week before the meeting I went to Target to look for alternatives. I settled on a waist cincher with plastic boning that will circumvent the pesky rolling down while smoothing out the lumps and bumps around my waist. I was skeptical that it was going to be the right solution, but I actually loved it! Unfortunately the dress I was hoping to wear for my presentation last Tuesday ended up still being slightly too small, but I was able to comfortably wear another old dress so I was still pleased. I had made enough progress in 16 days to fit into an old dress and I had found a foundation garment that made it look fantastic on my body in its current state. The waist cincher has its downsides, namely the boning sometimes poking me when I sit down, but overall I’m optimistic about its prospects for future work meetings where I need to dress up.
My next big goal is to wear something fabulous to a wedding reception in Portland, OR in less than four weeks. The reception is for a couple of friends who got married last year in a small ceremony, but are now throwing a big party for all of their family and friends. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to Oregon before and going to this reception in Portland is a wonderful reason to visit for the first time. Also, I’m going to see a lot of my online friends (I wrote about them for the first time back in 2015) who are scattered all over the country. We love any excuse to be able to get together! We’ll see what dresses I can fit into before I head to Portland for the celebration.
That first week of the 6-week fat loss challenge I was 100% faithful to my plan and didn’t give in to even a single craving. (Except for my one allotted cheat meal, a turkey sub from Jersey Mike’s that I ate on Friday night as fuel for my Saturday morning 8-mile run.) I had almost no sugar at all, except for whatever amount that’s in my favorite salad dressing from the Greek restaurant that’s two blocks from my house. Their gyro salad is divine. This was undeniably a honeymoon period because the second week on the program I started to lose my resolve. I had some slip-ups in moments of weakness. My very first cheat was a pistachio-flavored Oreo Thin at work. Honestly, it wasn’t worth it. It was so overwhelmingly sweet that I didn’t enjoy it at all. It tasted like a mouthful of sugar and nothing else. At least I wasn’t tempted to have another one! The next day my diet transgression was a bit bigger. I was working late for a big event and we had dinner catered from Boudin Bakery. I had brought in food from home so I wasn’t tempted by the sandwiches, the tomato soup, or the underwhelming salad. However, when I made the mistake of glancing at the dessert tray I saw an iced shortbread cookie that was calling my name. It only took a split second for me to decide that I was absolutely going to eat it. And it was so perfect and delicious that I regret nothing. So by the time the end of the work week rolled around I had only had those two minor deviations, but then the weekend arrived and it didn’t go quite as smoothly.
Comfort eating is a hard habit to curb when it’s been such a regular coping mechanism for so long. I was feeling hormonal over the weekend and not in the right frame of mind to make good choices. I decided to have my weekly cheat meal on Saturday night so I drove a half hour to Firehouse Subs and got my favorite sandwich. It’s always worth the extra time on the freeway. I enjoyed every bite of that Hook & Ladder sub (turkey and ham), but it wasn’t quite enough to curb my irrational cravings for junk food. On Friday afternoon at work someone left a bag of caramel M&M’s out and I foolishly tried a couple of them. Unfortunately they were delicious. I should have known better and avoided them altogether, but I just wasn’t thinking straight. So Saturday night, when I was slightly delirious and willing to do anything to get some sugar, I bought caramel M&M’s at Target. As it usually goes, I felt so happy and satisfied while eating the M&M’s, but I regretted my actions as soon as I was finished. I didn’t even make it through the whole bag before the guilt set in. I was mad at myself for being weak, especially since I felt like I’d been making progress already on this diet program. I vowed to do better on Sunday, but it ended up being another day of poor choices too. At the end of the weekend I was feeling pretty terrible, but I had to remind myself that a few slip-ups are not enough to undo two weeks of hard work. I have to remember to stop chastising myself because I’m an imperfect human with ups and downs just like everybody else. In the long-term these healthy changes I’ve been making will pay off!
“I’m calling it a clean-ish diet because I’m eating a wider variety of foods than Whole30 allows (like cheese and beans), while still keeping my focus on meat, fruit, and vegetables. And after two weeks I’m starting to see some real results. I wish I’d made this change sooner!”
4/15/18 webpage post
Remember in April when I said I had established a clean-ish eating routine? Well, I’m sorry to say that it only stuck for about three weeks. I was anticipating seeing the number on the scale drop dramatically while I was not only eating appropriately, but also exercising regularly. However, when I got on the scale after three weeks I had actually gained weight. It was infuriating. Shortly after that I went to Las Vegas with my running buddies for the Mt. Charleston Half Marathon and ate all sorts of unhealthy things while I was away from home. I had lost all motivation to continue my clean-ish eating and I went right back to my old ways, including fast food, sugary soda, and sweets. Comfort eating at its finest. Shockingly, this didn’t make me feel any better about myself. In hindsight it’s easy to see that only short-term satisfaction can be gained from comfort eating, being rational is not my strong suit when I have cravings. After falling off the wagon I wallowed for a couple of months, but then my workout buddy and I came up with a new plan of action. We decided to sign up for a 6-week fat loss challenge at our gym because both of us needed some structure to help us succeed. We had been working out very consistently since February, but the eating portion of our weight loss journey was much harder to figure out. We definitely needed both sides of the coin to make progress.
So I’ll be you’re wondering how it’s going so far, right? Well, the 6-week program started on July 9th. Today is July 22nd. That means I’ve been dieting for 14 days. Just 14 measly days, but it seems like much, much longer. This has already been a journey and a half and we’re only one third of the way through the program! I’ll write more about that later this week, but for now I’ll leave you with a few key points. On the plus side, I have significantly increased my protein and vegetable consumption which I know is good for my body. Also, I have ingested minimal sugar in the last two weeks and I feel pretty great about that. Unfortunately, my resolve fades a little with each passing day. Every evening I crave a dessert of some kind or another, and Larabars (my “healthy” sweet snack of choice) just aren’t cutting it on that front. Hopefully once I start seeing noticeable results of all this deprivation I will be more inclined to faithfully follow the rules. Until then I’ll continue doing my best (with a few stumbles here and there) and hope for the best!
I haven’t written about this before because it is such a difficult topic, but in light of recent events I think it needs to be said. I actually wrote an email to a podcast on this subject a while back because I was looking to spread the word about reaching out for help if you need it. Funny enough, I was willing to have this personal information read on a public podcast, but I wasn’t yet ready to publish it on my own blog. Things are different now. There have been a number of high visibility suicides that have left the world reeling. It is tremendously sad and we’re all left asking, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. Depression is a formidable foe. You never really know what someone is thinking or feeling, or how much they’re struggling – sometimes until it’s too late. Here is my story as I described it in my email in May.
“At the beginning of the year I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t eat right and I didn’t exercise for a long time. Finally, at the end of January, I called my doctor and told her I was depressed and admitted that I needed help. To her practice’s credit they got me an appointment that same day and I started taking Lexapro immediately. A few weeks later I felt like a new person. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since then, and I have some other subsequent medical issues that I’m dealing with, but I am doing so much better now. After fighting this battle and finally finding myself on the path to recovery I wanted to send this message to your listeners – if any of you are feeling depressed and thinking that you might need help, DO IT! Call your doctor ASAP. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t have to feel this way. You can be happy again. I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling like I was.”
I waited longer than I should have before asking for help. Unfortunately society teaches women that we are supposed to be invulnerable. We must be strong, silent, efficient, and most of all, uncomplaining. I thought I needed to power through the sadness and hopelessness because that’s just what everyone else does. But when I started talking to my friends and colleagues about my difficulties I discovered that almost every one of them has been in the same situation at one point or another. Nearly every woman I know has experienced depression and benefited from medical intervention. But before I started this conversation I had no idea! This is why we need to have an open dialogue about mental health – to normalize it enough that people know that there are readily available resources when they’re fighting depression. So if you are reading this and you’re feeling low and contemplating hurting yourself, please reach out to someone, anyone for help. Also, do not hesitate to call your doctor. You don’t have to feel this way. The world is better with you happy, healthy, and still alive.
I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to review the results of my sleep study last month. My GP read through the report and said, “Basically you’re running a marathon every night!” This is not a surprise to me considering how much trouble I’ve had with my legs over the last couple of years, but it was a relief to have data to prove that my problems are real and not imagined. I had an astonishing 550 leg movements during the night I spent at the sleep center, and I was awakened 8 times during the night because of limb movements. Also, only 6.4% of the night was REM sleep, which is way too little. No wonder I’m tired all the time! I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m simply lazy which is why I am always drowsy and rarely have the energy or motivation to do anything. Now I know that’s absolutely not true. Even with Ambien helping me fall asleep quickly at night, lack of restful sleep is still causing problems in every area of my life. I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs! Unfortunately I have to work my way up to the maximum dose so it’s going to take me over a week to get to a level that might be effective. We’ll see how that goes. I also got a referral to a neurologist so if this particular pharmaceutical doesn’t work for me I will discuss other options with him at a future appointment.
Until I am able to get some restorative sleep I am trying to honor my body’s need for more down time, but it has been difficult. I’m already a homebody so it’s not that I mind staying home more, but lacking the energy to complete my day-to-day chores means that things can start to pile up. My sink fills up with dirty dishes because I don’t always wash them in a timely manner. Cooking takes a lot of effort so I don’t always have healthy, homemade lunches to take to work. And I avoid going out shopping so I don’t always have nutritious food or other essentials in the house when I need them. It’s frustrating. Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to. Just because I’m too tired to go to the movies or clean my house right now doesn’t mean I’ll always feel this way. I know this is a temporary state and I that I am strong enough to get through it. Life isn’t always easy, but I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. Let’s hope my new prescription is just what I need.
Last Friday I did a sleep study at a clinic. My doctor ordered the sleep study after I told her about my extreme daytime exhaustion, even after sleeping 8-9 hours at night. And that was with the help of prescription sleeping pills that I got in January when I was feeling so wretched. The pills were an absolute lifesaver because they helped me fall asleep easily, but I was still inexplicably tired the next morning. Also, there was another, much harder to describe symptom that I had to take to three doctors before I felt like I was getting any recognition at all. Basically, for more than two years I’ve been experiencing muscle spasms that start as soon as I get drowsy and cause involuntary movements in my legs. Naturally the periodic twitching and jolting (about every 10 seconds) made getting to sleep nearly impossible, probably prevented me from getting much restful sleep, and made me want to crawl out of my skin. But even after describing this sensation to the best of my ability, all of the doctors I saw seemed to be at a loss. They offered little insight into my symptoms or thoughts regarding a diagnosis or treatment. I was slowly going crazy. One doctor did mention the possibility of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), something in the family Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), but presenting differently and more severely. Unfortunately after some routine blood work this doctor sent me a letter (yes, a physical letter – not an email or even a phone call in this day and age) to tell me that all of my levels were normal and I should be fine. Thanks for nothing. Fortunately the next doctor I saw referred me to the sleep study clinic (for my exhaustion, not my crazy legs, but I wasn’t going to complain) where I was hopeful that answers might be more forthcoming.
So last Friday, in a very crude hostel-like room, my body was loaded up with sensors and I was told to go to sleep so that the necessary data about my slumber, or lack of it, could be compiled. I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable than I was lying on my back (not my preferred sleeping position) on the barely adequate mattress in that facility. I had wires coming off my scalp, my face, my chest, and my legs. The woman I spoke with when I made the appointment painted a much rosier picture of the sleep study than what I experienced upon arrival. I wanted to be a good patient, but even taking my usual Ambien wasn’t enough to overcome the anxiety of being in a strange place and needing to sleep on command for the purpose of science. The insomnia was strong that night. But for better or for worse, staying awake longer than usual gave my legs an opportunity to perform their little dance and provide proof to my doctor that some part of my body isn’t functioning as it should. At first I was nervous that my symptoms wouldn’t present themselves while I was at the clinic, but that fear turned out to be unfounded. That was the only bright spot of the night. I was miserable for more than an hour after lights out due to the leg spasms and even the sleep technician came in to check on me because I was moving around so much – and not all of those movements were intentional. I finally did fall asleep after much tossing and turning, but it was only for a few hours before the technician was knocking on my door at 5:45 AM to get me ready to leave. Hopefully that short amount of sleep was enough to help my doctor draw some conclusions regarding a plan of action. Heck, even the technician told me that he observed that I have a pretty serious case of PLMD. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I’m going back to my doctor with some new information. I have an appointment to see her early next month to review the sleep study results, but I am almost certain that my next stop will be a neurologist’s office. In fact I’m so certain that I might try to make an appointment even before going back to my GP. Here’s hoping that it won’t be too much longer before I find a solution!
P.S. I did a quick search of my webpage to see if I’ve written about this topic before, but it seems that I haven’t. I find that hard to believe since I’ve been suffering with this medical condition for over two years now. We all have our inward and outward struggles, but we don’t always share them with the world. I’m going to try and be more transparent with from now on.
Item: Philips Sonicare 2 electric toothbrush
Purchased: January 26, 2018
Brushing my teeth has always been an activity that I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was something I was obligated to do when I was groggy first thing in the morning, and then again at night when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. Fortunately, my dentist has always told me that my teeth look great, but I’ve never really taken my daily dental care very seriously until recently. While I was feeling so terrible back in January I spent a lot of time reading inane Buzzfeed articles, and one of them was titled something like, “Amazon Products People Swear By.” One of the items on that list was the Philips Sonicare 2 electric toothbrush. I’ve been debating an electric toothbrush for many years now, but never did much research, much less pull the trigger on actually purchasing one. But in my somewhat compromised and easily influenced state last month the toothbrush caught my attention. So I did some comparisons on Amazon and ended up ordering the Philips Sonicare 2. The good news was that it cost less than $40 so I wasn’t making a huge commitment if I ended up hating it. I figured it was going to be one of those impulse buys that you kinda regret, but use anyway because you spent money on it. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I love this thing. For the first time brushing my teeth is fun! That sounds silly, but it’s true. There’s been a bit of a learning curve since I’ve never used an electric toothbrush before, but my teeth have never felt so clean. Hopefully my dentist agrees when I see him in May. So if you’re still waffling about purchasing an electric toothbrush, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. You’ll thank me later!