The Paleo Answer and The 21-Day Sugar Detox

Yesterday morning a friend wrote to me via email and asked lots of questions about my recent sugar detox. I thought it made sense to answer in a blog post, because I’ve had interest from quite a few others throughout the three-week process – as well as before I started the detox – regarding my newfound Paleo lifestyle.

This post is meant to inform others who might be interested in making similar lifestyle changes, as well as to remind me of the progress I’ve made, and to keep myself on track mentally. One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give to anyone attempting major dietary or health changes is to figure out the answer to “why” before anything else. If you aren’t able to positively state your motivation, how can you stay motivated? Below, I’ll explain why I’ve made the changes that I have, what those changes are, what I’ve learned from it all, and what differences I’ve seen in my health as a result.

I’ve lived with frequent migraines and unexplainable fatigue for years. I’ve had every test done that you can imagine – thyroid, hormones, blood sugar, sonogram, MRI – and each more than once. My tests have always come back with normal and even “better than normal” results. I’ve been told that the cause of my symptoms is depression and/or chronic fatigue syndrome – neither of which I actually believed that I had, but that I agreed to take anti-depressants for because “the doctor knows best.” The medications never seemed to help, and most likely caused more problems each time I’d switch and start a new one. I’ve popped 3 Advil for everything from headache to joint pain to general feeling of unwell several times per week for as long as I can remember. It’s always made me so angry that I’m a perfectly healthy, young, active (okay, not so much in the past year or so, but I always had been!) woman but I have to feel like crap much of the time. Why? No one could answer that. I’ve had doctors tell me to take a vitamin, so I’ve tried that, along with other supplements. Even when I was 15 lbs lighter and running marathons – nothing ever changed.

Around January of 2013 I started experiencing additional, new symptoms. Bloating, painful stomach cramps, gas all day long, and rarely a “normal” bowel movement. I would go 2 or 3 days with diarrhea and then 1 or 2 days completely constipated. Some days, the pain was so severe I’d feel dizzy and nauseated. I couldn’t imagine what was causing it and started to fear that something was really wrong with me.

Last July I had a nine-day migraine that ended on July 5th. The very next day, I ordered The Paleo Answer by Dr. Loren Cordain. I had read a few articles about Paleo, and had seen photos of delicious meals prepared by a friend who follows the Paleo lifestyle on Facebook and Instagram. What really caught my attention was the focus on phrases like “whole” foods, “clean” eating, and the elimination of processed foods. I knew after years of hearing doctors tell me that I was perfectly healthy, the only other answer to my feeling lousy had to lie in the foods I eat. I’d just never been ready to cut out any of my favorite foods before then. It took those nine days of excruciating pain to finally push me to drastic (what I viewed at the time as drastic) measures. When the book arrived, I read it in one sitting, and for about six weeks, I barely strayed from the plan. It was somehow very easy for me to follow and maintain, and I experienced very few cravings. I lost 8 lbs over the course of 6-8 weeks, felt more energetic than usual (although not exactly bursting with energy), and the frequency and duration of my migraines decreased.

I thought for sure that switching to the Paleo diet should have cured my recent digestive issues, but it didn’t. By August, eating Paleo had reduced the frequency and severity of my migraines and given me noticeably more energy – but my gut was out of control – and it hasn’t stopped since.

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around in 2013, my gut symptoms were at their worst. I started falling off the Paleo wagon, mostly due to the holiday feasts all around, but also because I was discouraged about how poorly I was feeling with regard to digestion and intestinal discomfort. I finally decided to see a gastroenterologist in December. At the same time, I ordered Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox and decided to read it slowly, more than once, and seriously prepare mentally and materially to embark on this program after the holidays – and that’s what I did. I started the detox on Monday, 1/6 and ended it on Sunday, 1/26.

There is no short cut to reading everything you can get your hands on before changing your diet. Understanding the science and history behind what you’re doing will make the difference in whether you ultimately quit or not. Knowing just what happens to your body as a result of eating the wrong foods is the best motivator for eating well. Also, each person is different. You may choose to continue to eat certain things that I won’t – it’s all about finding out what works for you and your optimal health. I suggest reading several books that appeal to you based on the various dietary guidelines and then pick and choose what makes the most sense for you, personally.

Everyone keeps asking how I did it, and whether or not it’s been easy. The truth is, there’s no magic answer to this. All I can do is share my experience and hope it helps in some way. If I had to put my main thoughts and findings into a few bullets or categories, here is what I’d come up with:

I’ve cut out from my diet entirely:

  • Cheese, yogurt (I still eat milk, cream, butter, eggs)
  • Peanut butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Refined Sugar
  • Packaged meals or any pre-made sauces, spreads etc. – some items like chicken sausage, broths, etc. are unavoidable, but I just read the ingredients and make the best choices.
  • Grains of any sort
  • Beans
  • Seeds

What I do daily:

  • Eat vegetables with every meal, and eat a wide variety in each meal
  • Eat more starchy vegetables like sweet potato, parsnips, yams
  • Eat fruit (I’d always hated fruit before going Paleo) – but be mindful of the amount
  • Eat healthy fats with every meal – coconut oil, olive oil, butter, avocado
  • Prepare on the weekends so that I’m not left starving and too tired to cook during the week
  • Avoid sugar!
  • Read ingredients – NOT labels!
  • I will not eat anything that has an unnatural or chemical ingredient on the packaging.
  • Buy organic whenever possible
  • Buy grass-fed whenever possible

I will allow myself to eat certain things on my “No” list from time to time, but I’ll always make the best attempt to limit these to special occasions. I’ve learned that I am completely capable of passing up my “favorites”, even during my period, which has always been a struggle.

My skin – over my face and entire body – has never, ever been so clear. I’ve always had cystic acne, and even when there were no visible zits, I could always feel bumps just below the skin waiting to come out. For the past two weeks however, I feel nothing under the skin – I’ve never had so many compliments on my complexion. This month, I had no PMS breakout (truly groundbreaking!), and I’ve stopped using my prescription topical medication for acne entirely.

I do not see this experience as over – I’ll be learning and making adjustments as time goes on. I’m now 4 lbs away from my first weight loss goal – a goal I haven’t been able to reach in at least 14 years, and which would put me just below my 2011 wedding day weight. I know I’ll continue to be strict until I’ve reached that goal, but as time passes, I find it easier to see myself making these changes permanently, rather than just steps I’m taking to reach a set goal.

Today I had a colonoscopy as the final test in a series run to determine the cause of my “gut” issues. Everything went very well. The doctor took a biopsy from two sections, but he feels confident that nothing will turn up. From what he could see today, I’m cancer, colitis and polyp free – which is all fantastic news. I’m convinced that staying on track with this diet, and finding better ways to deal with emotional or mental stress, are the keys to my digestive health.

Here are the answers to a few specific questions asked in the email from my friend yesterday:

  1. How hard was it?

It hasn’t been hard for me – not back in July when I started Paleo or since January 6th when I started this 21-day detox. The reason is simply because I was ready. I was sick of feeling tired and in pain, and sick of being 10-15 lbs overweight – just enough to not be comfortable wearing certain things I wanted to, and enough to keep me feeling consistently lethargic. You have to figure out what your motivation is and remind yourself of that. You have to prepare mentally by reading, and making sure that you have a good support system around you. I’ll be honest – I think this whole process was easier for me than it will be for others for several reasons:

a.)  I don’t have kids. I don’t think I need to explain to those of you with kids why it’s easier to be on a diet without kids around! The temptation to eat their snacks is the least of it.

b.)  My husband is fully supportive and eats the same diet.

c.)   I live in NYC where it’s very easy to find whole, organic, gluten-free, dairy free whatever…whenever.

d.)  I’m very happy in my life – I feel extremely satisfied and grounded, and have an amazing relationship with my husband. If you’re dieting because you think it will help you to reach some goal (find a partner, look good on vacation, etc.) other than living a more healthful life, you may have a tougher time staying motivated and may set yourself up for failure. If you have major sources of emotional pain or stress in your life, you might find something like this difficult to do. If that’s the case, I’d suggest taking steps toward mental and emotional health – therapy perhaps – along with the lifestyle changes.

2. Was there a lot of prep each day?

No, not each day – but yes, on the weekends. On Sundays, I make a pot of soup or chili for the week, a big salad (“you know, like a regular salad, only bigger, with a lot of stuff in it”), and a breakfast quiche – these all take care of breakfast and lunches for 5 days or so. We try our best to cook dinner at home each night.  For the detox, we were strict about this. Now that it’s over, we’ll dine out again more often.

3. Are there enough recipes to keep you going? Interested?

Absolutely! There is no end to the amount of Paleo/Sugar free cookbooks out there, and the Internet has everything you could imagine. Just plug in “Paleo” before any recipe you’re missing, and I guarantee you’ll find a substitute that will satisfy.

4. How different was the food from what a normal person not eating the Paleo diet would eat?

That’s hard to say –everyone’s diet is so different. Saul and I started eating a diet very similar to the South Beach plan several years ago, so cutting back further on carbs wasn’t difficult. The reason Paleo is so much better for me than South Beach is that it allows you to eat a much higher number of carbs, so your energy remains higher. You can make loads of bread, cookies, muffins etc. with nut flours and get the same satisfaction, and you can have sweet potatoes and carrots galore…very high carb foods that provide energy but are not allowed on South Beach. The biggest challenges for me were cutting out cheese and mayo – two staples I used to literally eat with every meal. I don’t miss them. The more you eat whole, healthy foods, the less you crave things that you know aren’t doing you any good.

5. I assume you read the book – is it easy to understand?  Motivating?

I’ve read several books, and do not recommend that you try any of this until you read them too! They’re all very easy to follow and extremely motivating! The three essentials are the two I’ve linked above, and also Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. Read these three before even shopping for this plan!

I’ll be happy to answer any more questions you may have in the comments section below. Thanks for reading! 

Too funny - Saul snapped this as I was waking up from the sedation today. My bed head is awesome.

Too funny – Saul snapped this as I was waking up from the sedation today. My bed head is awesome – At NYU Langone Medical Center 1.29.14

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Hard Times in the Kitchen

Saturday afternoon I made slow-cooker chicken soup. I was really excited about it (if you know me, you understand how truly emotionally tied to food I can be!). Saul ventured out into the freezing temps & blowing snow to pick up the ingredients for me. We used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunky, meaty strips – plopped directly into the organic broth along with loads of colorful veggies to cook over low heat for six hours. I added a small amount of white wine and fresh lemon juice, along with fresh herbs and spices. When we left at 7 p.m. to see Larry Kirwan‘s Hard Times, our apartment smelled heavenly. I could hardly wait for Sunday afternoon lunch!

Saul had agreed to see Hard Times with me strictly in the spirit of date night. He is not a fan of musicals to say the least. He insisted that he didn’t mind coming along, but as he grudgingly walked along the slushy-slidy streets, I wondered if I should have just let him off the hook and gone alone.

We were both blown away by this production. Even I, a long time lover and supporter of Larry‘s work and talent, didn’t expect the show to be as smart, thought-provoking, entertaining and moving as it was. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have expected it – as I mentioned, I love Larry! But for some reason I had not looked into it much before last night, other than reading a few reviews, which were all glowing.

There were no weak links in the cast. Every single member shined and pulled you into his/her own story. I could see the audience members (my show-tune hating husband included) literally on the edge of their seats, leaning forward, drawn in and caring deeply about the message being conveyed. The talent was just over the top. I left feeling better informed about a part of my country’s history and culture (informed by a man who is not American born, by the way). I also left feeling relieved that when Black 47 disbands next November, Larry won’t be retiring. Who knows what gifts he’s still got in store for us…I can’t wait to see what comes next.

So, back to the soup. We came home around 11:00 and turned off the crockpot to cool the soup. Just before 1:00 a.m. when I decided to sleep, I poured the soup into a large tupperware container, and …I know what you’re thinking comes next. I put in into the refrigerator, right? Wrong!! I left it, uncovered on the counter.

I’m so upset. Long story short, we had to dump the beloved soup!! Saul has to go back out to Whole Foods, spend another $20 or so for the ingredients, and we have to wait another six hours for it to cook. I’ve gone through every emotion imaginable this morning: shock, disbelief, grief, mourning, anger. I’m not laughing about it yet, but maybe that will come with time. I’m so angry with myself. What the heck? How did I leave it there? We considered eating it still, but after a quick Internet search regarding the dangers, we decided not to take the chance.

Today is the final day – day 21 – of my 21-day sugar detox. I did it! I never cheated at all, not even a bite. I feel great. It’s funny though, my weight is stubbornly sticking to the lowest number that I normally get to anytime I get on a healthful eating kick. It’s literally .1 lb over the number I’m trying to “break.” My body is used to operating at a certain weight, and it’s rebelling. That’s okay though, I don’t plan to stop what I’m doing or add back into my regular diet any foods that I feel are no good for me – except on rare or special occasions.

The main items I’ll say hello to again this week are wine, dark chocolate (both sparingly), sweet potatoes, and more fruit. I’ll also dine out again. What I really need to do is get myself to work out in the mornings. I’ve become so averse to exercise in the past year or so, and I’m not sure why. This week will be rough though. I have to have a colonoscopy done on Wednesday, and that involves fasting for the entire day on Tuesday. I’ve never fasted in my life, and really don’t know how I’ll get through an entire 24 hours without solid food! You know I’ll be blogging about that whole process. I can’t wait to have it over with, and hopefully as a result get some answers to some issues I’ve had over the past few months. More on that later.

So now I’m off to do laundry, cook soup, and hopefully crack down and write for at least an hour. Have a great Sunday!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Eating Fat Does NOT Make You Fat

One of the questions that people ask most often about the Paleo lifestyle centers around the high consumption of fat the diet promotes – bacon, butter, red meat. These items are not only “okay”, they’re actually prioritized, assuming that they’re free of chemicals, added sugar, the curing process etc.

So, isn’t that terrible for your cholesterol and heart health?

I won’t go into details that you can (and should) read about in books written by doctors about the Paleo lifestyle, but what I can tell you is this.

I’ve always had great numbers when it comes to my blood – blood sugar levels and cholesterol. When I had blood drawn about a year ago, my numbers were awesome, all on the lower end of the healthy range.

I started eating Paleo last July, so for five months until I had my most recent blood drawn, I was eating more of these “healthy” fats than you can imagine. I eat at least one avocado each day if not more, a few whole eggs every day, red meat etc. Here’s what my 12/11/13 blood tests uncovered:

Everything is still well within the healthy range. However, my bad cholesterol levels have gone up. Not to worry though, so have my good cholesterol levels – and most importantly, my ratio of good to bad has gone down (it’s 2.7!). My doc’s exact words were “fabulous, no complaints there!”

It will be interesting to see whether this changes over a longer period of time. My favorite snacks are now made from nut butter and nut flours (high fat), butter, coconut milk and oil etc. It’s my understanding though that if you stick with naturally occurring fats and of course use judgment in portion sizes (everything in moderation no matter what) – you can’t go wrong. It’s the processed/packaged foods and added refined sugar that will kill you!

I’ll be writing more about my personal Paleo experience, my recent 21-day sugar detox, and more, very soon!

Here’s a recent article in support of my enthusiasm for this lifestyle.

http://mynorthwest.com/874/2428034/Eating-like-a-caveman-may-be-more-than-just-a-fad

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I don’t flatter; I just report…

This morning I had to wait 20 minutes on the platform at 34th Street-Herald Square for the Q train to Canal Street, hoping to make it to jury duty by 9am. The Zoloft must be working because normally I would be soaked in sweaty panic, rehearsing every worst-case scenario that might possibly happen if I showed up late. Instead, I sat on the bench, relaxed, assuming people must show up late all the time, and I’d deal with it when I got there.

To my left, a tall, thin man played Christmas carols and a few other tunes I didn’t recognize on the violin. His hair was greasy and long. Next to his feet lay a pile of clothes and his instrument case. I wondered how someone classically trained and able to produce such a beautiful sound could have ended up in his situation. Then, I chastised myself for assuming he was in a bad position; maybe he just enjoyed playing for morning rush hour travelers, and wasn’t very neat.

Across from me, on a bench waiting for the uptown Q, a homeless woman sat arguing passionately with someone only she could see. All of her belongings were situated around her, and commuters stood a requisite several feet away from her in all directions.

To my right, a well-dressed man of about 30 or so leaned over into a garbage can and heaved repeatedly. He hugged the can tightly, arms stretched full out over all of the filth that had spilled over onto its rim. In between gagging he moaned. His iPhone ear buds hung loosely from his pants pocket, and his backpack sat unattended nearby. A woman asked if he was all right, and he waved her off. Everyone stared; no one else asked if they could be of help. I wished that I at least had a bottle of water to offer.

Eventually, two MTA workers happened along, sweeping old newspapers and fast food wrappers from the floor. When one of them finally recognized what was happening at the trash receptacle, he said to his cohort, “This mother fucker is spitting up into the bin. He got to get the hell out of here.”

I was shocked at his complete disregard for this person’s well being. Will I become this insensitive some day once I’ve lived here long enough and seen enough? He had no idea what the cause of the vomiting was, or if the man actually needed help. Of course, my first impression was that the guy “tied one on” the night before and was making a completely honest attempt to show up at work on time. I felt for him. Who cares if it’s self-inflicted? He was suffering.

Just when I started to venture into Florence Nightingale mode, the sick guy sat down and started eating a breakfast bar.

Finally the train arrived, and it was packed, having been so late. At 14th Street, many passengers exited, so I sat down with loads of space around me. Suddenly, I was startled by a loud voice coming from my left.

A few benches over, a homeless, white-haired, bloated, and red-faced man with discolored, almost blue-gray hands, offered one of those hands to the girl next to him.

“I’m Ted. What’s your name?”

It was odd that the girl happened to be next to him because there was so much room around. Either it was bad luck for her, or she conscientiously decided to stay put, so as not to let him feel rejected. I immediately internalized the situation and felt lucky that it was she and not I. I imagined how I might get out of a tight spot like that, as she, instead, offered her hand kindly in response.

“I’m Emily, it’s nice to meet you, Ted,” she smiled.

Emily was gorgeous, maybe 28 or so. Her expression was sincere and unaffected.

Ted went on to explain to her that he was on the train all night. He didn’t need to tell anyone this, because his clothing and the smell of him for several feet surrounding him spoke volumes. Most people would have run from the sight of him, but Emily engaged.

Suddenly, Ted became agitated, angry.

“I told that bitch to get the hell out and take all her other kids with her. I said shove your shit up your ass where the sun don’t shine, and if it does shine up there…well you’re sure somethin’ special!”

He was screaming now, and everyone looked away nervously. Everyone, that is, but Emily. Emily laughed. She went on as though he were any one of her close friends, in the midst of a much-needed venting session. Ted had some things he needed to get off his chest.

I left the train at the next stop, so I can’t tell you how that situation ended, but I was humbled. I think that 20 years ago during my first stint living in NYC, I might have done the same. I used to stop on my way to work every morning back then, to buy this homeless guy coffee and a muffin. He sat outside my usual breakfast stop at 39th and Third, every single day, reading the paper. He was always overly grateful and seemed embarrassed.

I once asked him if he would prefer something else.

“You know, I don’t even know if you like coffee and muffins. Why don’t you tell me what you’d actually like to eat? You don’t have to suffer through coffee & a muffin if you don’t like it!”

“No, no. I can’t ask for anything,” he would tell me.

“But you didn’t ask! I asked you. You know I’m going to bring you something, why not tell me what you prefer?”

He wouldn’t hear of it though; he refused to make any sort of request, so I went on with the muffin and coffee until the day I stopped working at Kirin. I also brought him t-shirts and other promotional items that we had when they came in, and once I even brought him a coat. I don’t remember where I came upon this coat, but it was ugly, and seemed an unlikely match for this guy. I could see in his face that he wouldn’t wear it, but I figured he could use it as a blanket, or give it to one of his homeless buddies who may have had no shame.

Today though, I don’t think I’d do that. I’m far too jaded. It’s not that I don’t care about street homeless anymore, it’s just that I don’t believe that you’re really helping them if you just hand them things randomly. I don’t regret helping that guy. Perhaps I made some small difference in his everyday life, but in general, I don’t advocate handing out money to panhandlers.

Anyway, I digress. I was moved by this girl-on-the-train’s kindness to a stranger; a stranger who by anyone’s definition was highly offensive and scary. It helped to ease the discouragement I felt over the MTA workers’ insensitivity.

Jury duty was fabulous. It was the first time I’ve ever been called. I had no idea really what to expect, and went in there with visions of Investigation Discovery dancing in my head.

I wasn’t disappointed! I spent the entire day listening to the jury selection process for a murder in the 2nd degree trial in the NY State Supreme Court. I was excused, but not until about 10 minutes before 5pm. Others were complaining about having to wait all day, but I was relieved that I didn’t have to leave early!

What stood out most to me today was the absolute self-righteousness of some of the potential jurors. People get very emotional—with much smirking and head shaking. It seemed simple to me: my philosophy, my views, my emotions—are not relevant in this courtroom. There are laws, and there are facts. That’s all that matters. The question is, can you set aside your feelings and provide the accused with an impartial judgment regarding his actions? I see how hard it must be for attorneys and judges to find quality jurors.

I couldn’t believe how many people answered, “I don’t know” or “It would be difficult” when asked whether they could make a decision based on facts alone, forgetting any personal experience that might influence them. It’s good though that they’re honest.

I thought a lot about my niece Elisa today. She is considering (at the ripe old age of almost-11) becoming a prosecuting attorney. I imagined her there, on a crusade to see that justice is done. It was funny because one of the questions we had to answer was whether anyone in our family is an attorney. I answered “No” but thought to myself, “Not yet.”

Tomorrow I have to return and may possibly still be chosen for another trial. I’ll philosophize and empathize with both the victim and the perpetrator. It’s my nature, but I’m sure that I can separate my emotions from law and fact, in the courtroom, if not the subway.

Posted in Anxiety and Panic, Current Events, Entertainment, Government, memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We Even Had Hot Coffee!

My family has always used humor to cope with fear and tragedy. I can list countless times that I’ve laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes when it was completely inappropriate to do so, but it saved me.

For the past two days there have been some pretty hilarious photos, Tweets, and mock Twitter accounts to laugh at, while we anticipated the storm. There were also plenty of Tweets scolding those for having a sense of humor at such a serious time. I found this interesting. The line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t in situations like this is completely subjective, but it’s hard for us to accept that. We view these jokes within the context of our personal perspectives, considering what we’ve been through, what others have taught us is right, and which emotions the scene at hand brings out in us.

For instance, one woman became offended and demanded the “Internet stop!” when a parody account of the dangling crane showed up on Twitter. She said it was wrong to joke because someone might be killed by it. But what if no one was killed by it? So far, no one has been hurt by it at all. I surely hope no one is, but is joking about it going to make the situation worse? Or will it calm fears? If you follow and laugh at the dangling crane account, are you a bad person with poor judgment about what’s appropriate behavior in a time like this? (Sorry, I’m usually one to criticize a piece of writing with a lot of questions in it, but I really am interested in what people think about all of this). Apparently someone agreed with this woman because the crane account was suspended.

I need humor at all times to counter the doom and gloom that goes on in my mind every day. It doesn’t take an impending hurricane for me to imagine terrible things happening to people, so I welcomed the jokes and sarcasm on Twitter as a distraction. (By the way, I highly recommend Jay Black’s account, Neil Kramer’s, and Harold Itzkowitz’s- these are three guys that make me laugh!) With everything that’s been going on lately—killer nannies, cannibalistic cops, and face-eaters—this hurricane was just one more item in a long list of items I needed not to dwell on.

It’s easy for many of us to relax today. I cleaned my apartment, which took all of about 45 minutes because it’s small, but was a complete mess with all of our balcony furniture piled in, and the debris that had blown in while we were moving it.

I had the nerve at one point though, to have a fit because I spilled a full glass of seltzer all over my back and the carpet as I reached under the coffee table for my flip-flops. Then, as I vacuumed leaves from my living room floor, I thought about how lucky I was that this was all I had to clean up. My poor brother in Cleveland has an entire basement full of water, about two inches deep throughout. He can’t empty that water or dry things out because he has no power. I felt so bad for getting upset about the stupid spilled water when he’s going to have to clean up that nasty mess for possibly weeks. He and the rest of my family called several times to check on Saul and me last night, and for us, it’s like nothing ever happened. More friends and family in Cleveland have downed wires and trees, flooding, loss of power…and we were barely inconvenienced.

We have no damage, our power never went out, and we have tons of food and water. We even had hot coffee this morning! We’re so very fortunate. We live in an ideal area of the city at a time like this-on high ground and inland. I think about how horrible it must be to have to evacuate and leave all of your belongings behind. What about the people who lived in that Chelsea apartment? Were they watching TV and just happened to see their bedrooms exposed at the same time as the rest of us? I can’t imagine!

One off duty officer lost his life, saving his family from his flooded home. More than eighty homes burned to the ground. What about the nurses who had to carry newborn babies down 9 flights of stairs to evacuate NYU Medical Center? So many are still dealing with this event today…and it will be weeks before they can relax and begin to heal.

My usual MO is to dwell on how horrible all of this is, and wonder how long I have until something horrible happens to me. That’s been my pattern for basically, always, but I’m working on changing that and making some real headway. One way that I’m doing this is through therapy. Now that I’m not working, I go twice each week. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful this is. There is so much in my past that can be related to my current behaviors and thought patterns, and referenced in order to change.

The other way is through writing my memoir. I’m making real progress on it, and with every day that I work on it, the theme expands and grows. I’m already far ahead of what I used to believe I could accomplish with it.

I’m also going to physical therapy three times each week, for a total of five hours. In addition to the herniated discs in my lower back, I have carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. The PT is helping so much; I wish I had gone years ago. I’m learning so much about bad habits that I’ve had for many years, and already see progress. I believe that if I don’t take care of my physical shortcomings, I’ll never achieve the other things that I want.

It’s a gift that I’m able to focus on all of this, healing, creativity, and personal growth. So, when I sit here thinking about the horror that people are going through whether as a result of this hurricane, or some other tragedy, the only thing I see that I can do is work harder on myself. I think the worst thing I can do is waste time—that’s time that these people will never have. If I weren’t in such bad shape physically, I’d find a way to volunteer to help with the disaster recovery, but I can’t, so I’ll work on me. In the meantime, I’ll keep laughing at all of your inappropriate Tweets and Facebook posts, so keep writing!

Posted in Anxiety and Panic, Current Events, health, memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

I Have a Question(s)…

If Republicans succeed in overturning Roe v. Wade, and abortion becomes illegal in all cases except rape, incest or life of the mother, how would one prove rape?

Who will define rape? If a woman is date raped and too ashamed to tell anyone, then finds herself pregnant later on, does she just walk into a clinic and they take her word for it? Is she told “You were on a date with him, so it isn’t rape.” ? Does the accused have any say in it?

What’s to stop any pregnant woman from entering a clinic and stating “I was raped,” in order to have an abortion? How will this be proven? Who gets to decide how this will be proven?

Are we going to put the added burden of proving the rape onto the victim? Many victims do not report the crime out of fear, shame, shock, etc. They wouldn’t know at first that they’re pregnant. When they finally find out and there is no record of it, will authorities take her word for it?

This would be an incredibly horrific step backwards in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and equality. Please vote to make sure this nightmare does not become a reality.

Posted in Current Events, Government, health, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Back! (Sort of…)

At breakfast this morning, a woman at the table next to me leaned over and said, “I hope that our talking won’t disturb you.” She sat with three other women and it looked as though they might be there for a work-related meeting.

I was surprised! It’s usually chaotic in the cafes I like to sit in, and I’ve gotten used to reading or writing above all the noise. I told her not at all, and thanked her for being so considerate.

Not that anyone should have worried about disturbing me. Right now I’m obsessed with Stephen King’s “Hearts in Atlantis” and that’s what I was working on this morning. I just needed to get out of the apartment for a bit—partly because our house cleaner is here doing her thing—and partly because I’m going stir crazy after being holed up for almost two weeks.

On Monday the 17th my ever-present threat of lower back disaster became reality when I sneezed and threw out two herniated discs. They’d been killing me for weeks, and I knew it was coming. Sitting at the last job I had for four months, 10 to 12 hours, four days each week, really did a number on me. Not only did that aggravate my back, but it also caused some sort of problem with my left hip joint. I’ve had pain there as well, especially when I walk, since July.

When I finished that job on August 24th, I started working out like mad. I was up to an hour walk in the park and 30 to 40 minutes of strength training videos almost daily. I think Jillian Michaels’ plank poses were the final straw. I was so proud that I had worked up to being able to do the full sets, and just starting to feel a slight change in my body, when I had to suddenly lie flat in excruciating pain for a week.

That week I missed my free memoir writing class, a day with my Kirin girls that I see only once or twice each year, and a visit with a former Columbia classmate visiting from Canada. I wasn’t able to write (and never thought of a dictation app until after I was able to sit up again) so the book progress was halted-but I’m back at it now. I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been concentrating on the book.

I’ve had these herniated discs since 1990 when I experienced the third of six car accidents I’ve had in my life, between 1975 and 1999. In this particular case, after our car was hit, I was actually personally hit by the car as I stood on the road and thrown several feet onto the embankment along the highway. If you want more details, you’ll have to wait for the book. The point I’m making here is simply that my back is a hot mess.

I’m going to look into surgery. The doctors wanted to do surgery in the 90s, but I said no way. It terrified me, and still does. I think the technology is much better now though, and have heard that they can do it without an incision. We’ll see. I have a lot of research to do. If any of you reading have had this surgery please feel free to comment.

I’m not getting any younger, and I’m tired of having to limit my exercise and even daily activities just because it might throw my back out. If I’m in this much pain at 42, what will my quality of life be like at 62? I’ve got to do something-and now while I’m not working is the perfect time.

By the way, you might remember a few weeks ago when I fell in my apartment? Well something is definitely still wrong with my big toe joint too…lots of pain there to go with the hip and back. It’s ridiculous. I have an appointment next Tuesday to get the referrals to check all of this out.

I probably won’t blog again for a while. I’m on a mission to really make headway with my memoir. In the meantime, please subscribe to me on Instagram or Twitter: @Teeteeinthecity.

Posted in health, memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments