Anxiety’s Release

I didn’t know the name of it for a long time. I knew it afflicted my mother. I knew it likely afflicted most of that side of the family. Most of them covered it with all sorts of vices: smoking, drinking, eating, hoarding, obsessive fear. Some of those vices killed them. The rest cling to whatever coping mechanism they’ve found works best, ignoring whether experts say it is healthy. I saw the generation before me and saw a cautionary tale of what vortexing would do to you. Because that’s what the cousins called it when the crazy was strong: The Vortex. We’d joke that we’d have to stand back-to-back to defend against the Sisters Three during The Vortex. The Vortex defied logic and it was terribly destructive.

Crazy isn’t the PC term for it. I inherited crazy, but I’ve learned that now it is called anxiety.

Becoming an adult and becoming a mother have uncovered a lot of that anxiety within me. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what the trigger is, but it unleashes manic energy that subsides into the Dark Place. I used to think it was bipolar because of the swings. But the Dark Place isn’t as consuming for me as it is for others. Instead the Dark Place is more of the period of rest after getting all worked up over something.

This quarantine is the first time in my adult life that I’ve found relief.

I feel like I’ve broken free of all the expectations placed upon me. Not having that need to please has allowed me to breathe more deeply. I’ve been reading a book for pleasure for the first time since the kids were born. For the first time in nearly 11 years, I have the ability to simply sit and read. It is the first time I haven’t had that nagging voice in my head telling me all the places we are supposed to be or all the tasks I’m supposed to be accomplishing. I don’t have to make myself presentable to the public and talk to anyone other than those I choose to talk with. I’m finding time for the things I enjoy. I sew. I bake. I paint. I garden. I write. The kids are learning to entertain themselves.

I don’t know what re-entry looks like for our family. I know our calendars will quickly refill with all the social obligations and outings. I know Hubs will go back to the rat race that forces him to battle traffic each morning and evening and prevents him from grabbing a homemade lunch and an afternoon walk. But I’m already looking for how I can hold on to this feeling of relief once real life restarts.

Maybe it took being forced to say “no” to everything to realize that I can say “no” to quite a bit more than I considered before. All I know is I’ve tasted relief and I don’t want to lose it.

Quaran16: Day 1 Done

My first day of intermittent fasting is in the books. I woke up slightly later than usual and headed downstairs to start my day. Not starting with a cup of coffee was odd, since that’s been my daily habit for years. Instead I grabbed my big water cup and went to check emails.

It wasn’t until around 9 a.m. that the tummy was grumbling. It was mostly because I smelled the Nutter Butters I served Bubs for breakfast, but that last hour was definitely the hardest. Around 9:50 I started prepping the cooktop for my egg muffin sandwich: an English muffin topped with a fried egg, slice of cheese and some leftover pork tenderloin. It was the best tasting breakfast I’ve had in a loooong time.

There was something else of interest: When the kids were ready for lunch, I wasn’t hungry yet. I didn’t get hungry for lunch until around 2 p.m.

I have to admit I cheated a little last night. Dinner was ready and eaten by my 6 p.m. food curfew, but the most amazing peach cobbler still had 30 minutes in the oven until it was ready. I finished my bowl at 6:30 p.m.

 

But do I notice anything different yet?

Funny to throw that question out there. In fact, yes. For one, I’m drinking a ton more water so I’m peeing a lot more. Also I wanted to see if that low-grade fever was still around this morning. 98.6. Not sure if the two are related, but it is definitely a peculiar development.

I have a strategy for this new experiment. I asked my Facebook cohort for their feedback on the 16/8 fasting thing and many of them described a plateau after a short amount of time. My strategy is to first get in the routine of the 16-hour fast while eating whatever I would normally eat. Hopefully I’ll see some sort of results. If I do, and those results start to plateau, then my next step would be carb reduction (remember that 60g of carbs per day goal from the wayback beginning?). If there are results that then plateau at that point I’ll add in more exercise (more than the long, brisk walks I currently enjoy).

So here’s to Day 2. May the water be plentiful and breakfast come quickly. Three hours to go…

A closer look at fear

There’s a lot of talk about how there are likely many people walking around shedding this coronavirus without knowing it. They’re asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic or whatever other label they’ve created. 

The family has been in this house for 4 consecutive weeks. Hubs has ventured out twice: both for fast food drive-thru. Otherwise I’ve been designated as the tribute. I get groceries. I run errands. I am around people.

When this lockdown first started I was getting right into that favorite time of the month and with that came, I thought, a low-grade fever. It happens and I didn’t think much about it. Then I checked a week later. Still 99.6. Weird. Maybe the thermometer is broken? I checked the kids’ temperatures. 98.6. Hmm. A week later: 99.6. 

 In the back of my head I’m fighting back those thoughts that maybe I’m one of those people who have this virus and could be sharing it with my sheltered family. But there are no aches — other than that creaky knee and years worth of lower back pain. There are some boogers that are readily answered by pollen counts. No cough.

What gives?

I picked the brain of my knowledgeable nurse mother-in-law. She thinks it is nothing. Some people just run hot, just like some people run cold. But I haven’t always been a degree warmer than normal. I look up psychogenic fevers. Basically being under stress can cause elevated body temperatures, but I’m not under stress. In fact I think this may be the least stressed I’ve ever been in my adult life. There are studies discussing low-grade chronic fevers associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That doesn’t make sense either. Then, on a whim, I research low-grade fevers in folks with PCOS.

BECAUSE IT IS ALWAYS PCOS, ISN’T IT?

Yep. PCOS causes chronic inflammation and that inflammation can result in a chronic low-grade fever.

It’s like every time I try to abandon my fighting corner against PCOS, the universe plops me right back in it. Today is the first day I’m attempting the 16-8 intermittent fasting experiment. I’m an hour away from breakfast and my daily cup of coffee. 

I guess I’m back in the game.

Quarantine 15

I keep seeing memes joking about how we are all sheet-caking and will gain 15 pounds when we get out of this Pandemic Life. I do love a good meme.

Until my knee started making that gross dog chew toy noise and my lower spine felt like it isn’t fully connected. So I did what any sane and totally logical person would do: I weighed myself.

5 pounds heavier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

5 pounds of eating cookies and cake and all the carbs that I know I need to avoid when possible. I literally sheet-caked myself into uncharted territory. That is scary because up until this point I’ve only struggled to take weight off. I’ve been able to maintain a weight fairly easily, just can’t make it lower.

It was a wake up call.

Until my Victory Garden is up and running, I know I won’t be able to go to the grocery store often enough to get the fresh fruits and vegetables I need to maintain a PCOS-friendly food habit. But since I’m sitting around the house (and often going for long walks or toiling in the garden) I may as well experiment with other ways that I can get my body back to the place where it doesn’t sound like a haunted house.

The first experiment will be Quarantine 16. AKA 16-hour fasting. Hubs had mentioned in a while back but I didn’t really pay attention because I had an entire life of things to do and places to go. Now that all those distractions are gone, I want to see what intermittent fasting can do for me. I’m sure that like every other experiment I’ve tried, I’ll likely see mediocre results for a week or so, then plateau and give up.

Let’s try it.

I get up early. Like 5:30 a.m. early. Usually I have coffee with heavy cream, then later in the morning (around 9 a.m.) I make some actual breakfast. Lunch around noon. Dinner around 5:30 p.m. So for a 16-hour fast to work around our family’s schedule, it will likely need to be a 6 p.m. – 10 a.m. fast.

I’m starting tomorrow, Monday, April 6.

Grieving our Losses

Quarantine. Am I right? HA!

In the stages of grief, I believe I’ve completed the course. I’m sure there will be continuing education credits I’ll be forced to endure, but here, in week 4, I have a solid grasp on the mood swing that is Pandemic Life. We’ve all heard of the stages of grief. It is often for big losses: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of fruit tray you dropped in the parking lot on the way to your graduate defense.

In mid-March 2020, AKA approximately 2 years ago, there was a lot of avoidance and fear. I even convinced a mom-friend that we should take our kids to IKEA one last time before we were trapped in the house with them for who knows how long. The next day parents had pulled their kids from preschool. Everything shut down. Then came the headlines. The toilet paper hoarding. The lack of fresh chicken. Fear.

Then came the anxiety and irritation. Working from home suddenly became feeding people who typically left the house during the day, entertaining those who have perfectly good friends and toys somewhere else. Don’t let them just sit on screens. Make sure they connect with their friends. Do enrichment activities with them. Don’t sabotage your marriage. Shield them from your fear. Shut the absolute hell up. From anger came bargaining.

OK so I’m stuck here, how am I going to survive. The younger kid can do some reading exercises then I can have a break while they have screen time. The older kid can complete e-learning then read for however long she wants. I’ll make sure everyone has dinner if no one gives me shit for hiding in my flower beds for an hour or so.

When these conditions aren’t met, boy howdy have I hit depression. I had a solid day where I didn’t want to get out of bed and I cried. A lot. I know depression. I call it the Dark Place. It makes me a not-nice person with a hair trigger. So I let myself have that day of darkness and the next morning I scraped my way out. Luckily I have a family that gave me the space I needed to fight that battle and get back into the light.

That’s where we are now. Acceptance

Acceptance that this may just be life for the next (literal) season. So I’ve grieved the lost vacations and trips. I’ve grieved the missing social interactions. I’ve grieved the planned outings to theater and birthday parties. We haven’t gotten this virus yet. We are doing what we have been told to help prevent the spread. Now we are looking at creating our New Normal.

I know this is a cycle. I know that a day will come soon where I’ll probably be hurled back into the Dark Place and need to fight my way out again. I’m going to lose my temper and I’m going to feel overwhelmed. But knowing that this is all natural human emotion means I can ride the waves without drowning. I may not be in control of the emotions, but they aren’t in control of me.