Thoughts on Remission

 

Each morning is a test.  Will I easily roll out of bed and begin my day or will the first step stop me in my tracks because my knee doesn’t quite bend this morning?  Will I brush my teeth with ease or will I find gripping my toothbrush to be a difficult and painful task?  I never know.  They never tell you that even in clinical remission the amount of relief and freedom varies from day to day. I can consider discontinuing my meds one week and think that I am at the beginning of a flare the next.

 

Sometimes for days or weeks I can easily put this disease out of my mind and forget that I have a chronic disease.  And then this veil is snatched from me.  Out of the blue my hands will swell and turn red.  My toes will ache and my elbow screams with each movement.  Other times I find myself stiff with low but constant pain for days at a time.  Then my body returns to “normal” like nothing ever happened.  The swelling and pain dissipates and again I am experiencing what I thought “remission” would be. 

 

I have some sort of low level discomfort daily now.  I have random swelling and pain 2 or 3 days a week.  Sometimes I feel the panic rising fearing my days in remission are over.  And then like magic it the pain disappears.  But the fear doesn’t.  It grows each day as the days I am completely asymptomatic continue to decrease.  I tell myself it is the spring time storms causing these mini-flares.  But it didn’t rain yesterday and it isn’t raining right now and my hands don’t want to open.

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Eat-Clean Diet

Eat-Clean Diet

I began my transition to a Clean Eating lifestyle on Sunday.  In a nutshell, clean eating is avoiding processed foods, eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, less sugar, and lots of water. You should eat when hungry and stop eating when satisfied-not full. Not really rocket science but it is presented in a clearer more concise way than many diet programs.  There are no cheats, no forbidden foods, or counting calories. The focus is on sustaining the changes in eating patterns for sustainable weight loss and health.

So far I am doing well with the lifestyle change.  I am easing into eating clean aiming for 60% of what I eat each day to line up with the clean eating guidelines.  My ultimate goal as of right now is eating 90% clean on most days. It has been both simpler and harder than I thought at the same time.  I really had no idea how many processed foods I ate each day.  From the muffin mixes for breakfast, to deli meats on a sandwich, and a couple of sodas for an afternoon pick- me -up I was used to eating processed foods all day long.  That is one of the reasons I knew that I couldn’t go 100% clean from day one.  I knew to make a true change in the way I approached food choices and make new habits I would need to ease into the lifestyle. On the other hand I have been eating a lot of good food and I have not felt deprived at all.  I even had 2 pieces of candy yesterday-part of my 40% of processed foods I allow myself as I ease into this lifestyle.

I made the decision to reduce my bread intake to no more than a ½ slice a day.  I have also reduced my consumption of sugar.  I do not plan to fully eliminate sugar from my diet but I do want to control and limit my intake.  The other major change in my diet has been to reduce the amount of meat.  I am aiming to eliminate red meats from my diet except for a few times a year and only eat chicken or turkey 1-2 times a week.  I am hoping to maximize the anti-inflammatory properties in many fruits and veggies. Because my ultimate goal is a return to health and not just weight loss I am not looking for a quick fix.  I am looking for a lifestyle that I think I can sustain long term.  It looks like clean eating may do this for me.

Anyone looking for more information on eating clean can find it http://eatcleandiet.com/

I’m Back!!!

I am back from vacation!

 

 I can’t believe how badly I needed to get away.  I think many of us (me included) tend to push ourselves to our breaking point before even considering it may be best to slow down.  I have been working almost full time and going to grad school full time for the last few years.  I had cut my sleep to 4 hours or less a night on average.  I won’t even try to calculate how many times dinner was something I grabbed through a drive-thru and how many days V8 was the only veggie I consumed.  I truly didn’t realize how bone tired I was until I stopped.

 

 I haven’t felt this rested in years.  Sleeping 8 hours a night is amazing!  I haven’t over-reacted to daily stressors since graduation.  I feel more centered after spending a couple of days in a hotel eating cheese cake and taking walks in the afternoon.  It’s good to know that all of my fatigue is not RA related.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have low level fatigue every day.  I just don’t feel the need to lie down on the floor in the middle of the grocery store anymore.

 

I have a long way to go before I fully recover from the neglect my body has been through.  Tomorrow I begin Weight Watchers combined with a clean diet. I will also go back to the gym aiming for 4 to 5 times a week.

 

It took me taking a break for me to realize just how much my body was truly suffering.  I started this blog with the intentions of chronically how I would become the healthiest person I could be despite being affected by a chronic illness. The huge changes in my attitude, outlook, and energy level I gained from just a few days away from everything have only reinforced my desire to return to health. 

Vacation

I am finally going on vacation.  I got hooded (MBA) yesterday.  Now that I am finally finished with graduate school I am taking a couple days off to relax.  Maybe I will have some interesting adventures to write about when I get back.

Emotional Eating

I have always been an emotional eater.  Growing up food was a major part of family celebrations. The menu for Christmas brunch or dinner was more important than the gifts. My entire family would spend hours in the kitchen carefully preparing scratch made rolls, casseroles, meats, and a wide array of puddings, cakes and pies.  We would spend hours in the kitchen enjoying each other’s company. We would use the time to reinforce our family bond.  For me, food is synonymous with comfort and care in my mind.

I never had a weight problem because I have always been active. My parents always coupled our feasting with long walks.  Food was social but only when paired with physical activity. This combination served me well- until long hours at work prevented me from countering my tendency to stress eat with exercise.  I watched my weight slowly creep up to an unacceptable level.  I decided to make some necessary life changes in order to get my weight back under control.  I knew that the toxic work environment was the source of my emotional eating.  I decided to look for a new job.  I also decided to join a gym.  The better work environment, weight watchers, and working out 4 days a week helped the weight to melt off.  I was feeling good!  I appreciated the way stress from work could be alleviated by an hour of high impact aerobics.  The left over tension from the day could be relaxed away through Pilates or yoga.  And most of all, I had exercise buddies that I looked forward to laughing and joking with while we waited for class to start.  The emotional connection I had associated with food was now associated with going to the gym.

One day I during Pilates I noticed how weak my wrist felt.  I then realized my fingers ached a lot.  Step aerobics became increasingly difficult because it was like my knees could no longer take the impact of my body weight.  I was stiff all day long and then the pain could no longer be controlled by Tylenol or Advil.  Then the doctors’ appointments, blood tests, and different drug combinations   became my life for more than a year.  During that time I turned to food for comfort.  I ate all the time. Even though I knew I was not hungry I would excuse my bad habit because I felt justified.  I believed that anything that lessened my feeling of helplessness was justified. The pain gave me permission to have fast food every day, to keep ice cream bars in the house, and trade in my health cereals for frosted flakes.

As the pain levels decreased I finally had the courage to step on the scale and see how much weight I had gained-25 lbs.  I began looking for ways to get back to my healthy weight only to be further derailed. I was still suffering from insomnia and the decision was made to place my on an antidepressant to help me sleep.  I promptly gained another 15 lbs.

Since January I have been able to lose the 15 lbs gained while I was on the antidepressant.  I am determined to be at my vanity weight by the end of the year.  But there is one problem.  I am symptomatic again.  My hands, wrists, and elbows are once again reminding me that I have a chronic illness. I have been symptomatic all day long-and in response I had 2 donuts.  I then went out and bought a candy bar.  I recognized the beginning of a familiar pattern and decided to give my candy bar away.

My healthy journey is about more than simply achieving my goal weight.  It is about dealing with the habits in my life that prevent me from being a healthy and whole person.  Eating in response to stress is unhealthy.  It prevents me from dealing with the situation that causes me stress.  I need to learn to deal with my high stress levels in a constructive manner.

I am going back on Weight Watchers.  I think being accountable for what I put in my mouth will be helpful to me.  I think knowing what a reasonable amount of food for me to consume during this stressful time will also help me control my reflexive emotional eating.  Because if I am indeed coming out of remission as I fear the stress levels will only increase.  I need to be healthy mind, body, and soul to continue to be a RA conqueror.  And I will conquer.  I will have a good life-a life where I laugh, smile, and love. Those things RA has no power over.

Coworkers

Sometimes people can be cruel.  As children we are taught to be tender and careful to those who have illnesses.  But it seems that as adults we are more inclined to react to how someone’s illness affects our plans rather than have compassion on the one who is in poor health.

This is definitely the case at my job.  We have several team members, besides me, who have chronic illnesses. Our teammates view the fact we have chronic illnesses as an additional burden them.  We have to endure the suggestions that we should not be allowed to work certain shifts because we are likely to call out.  Some have been bold enough to suggest that we use our illnesses to abuse the attendance policy.  God forbid you are sick on a Friday or Monday-they then tell everyone that we used our FMLA to get a 3 day weekend.  Other glorious sentiments being expressed by our teammates revolve the constant “complaining” they have to endure.  Even if we don’t say that we are having a bad day we are still not safe from the mean spirited gossip.  If you are moving slowly or in my case limping you are just acting pitiful.  It is a true no win situation.  If we stay home while we are sick our co-workers go to our supervisor and request that we not be allowed to work certain prime shifts.  If we come to work feeling ill we have to endure snide remarks.

I have always tried to give 110% on the days that I can.  When I am feeling well I take on extra shifts, volunteer to stay late, and try to help my team members as much as possible.  I do everything I know to do to apologize for the fact that my illness is an inconvenience on them.  But the truth is that I resent the way they respond to those of us with chronic illnesses.  I hate the fact that I feel that I have to apologize for something that is out of my control.  It’s not like I turned a paper in late or made an error in a report.  There and is nothing I can do to erase the hand life has dealt me.  I’d gladly trade in my FMLA, my prescriptions, my appointments with my rheumatologist, and my painful joints to be a better team player.  But I can’t. There will be times when I leave my team hanging-but there will be times when my team will leave me hanging also.  I am trying to make my peace with this.