Monday, August 1, 2011

Give me my happy news, dammit! :)

 Hey guys, it's monday, the first day of my self-declared week-long celebration of my birth, and you know, I'm actually feeling pretty good. I spent a long time fighting the current there, and the flip side of getting stuck on The Dark Side of depression is that when you finally find that push, that new tweak, the drug that lets you feel more like yourself again, you feel pretty fucking good, maybe even triumphant. Hey, I beat it again, bitches! Let's celebrate!
  A not-insignificant part of getting my head above the water again was limiting my negativity, and my time around negative people and sources. I've been feeling almost as overwhelmed by the news that still gets through my negativity filter. How is North America's current money situation going to affect my disability claim? And then on top of that, the hateful and tragic event in Norway, perpetuated by a fundamentalist christian who "wanted another crusade." Oh, the schadenfreude! (Have you heard about the lesbian couple who rescued almost 40 teens? I love these inspiring stories, and hate that they don't get the media coverage they deserve.Here's the link to the coverage by Queerlandia. )The oldest-of-six inner peacemaker in me (she's a bit naive, I'll admit it) wants to say, can't we all agree that times are shitty, and what we need right now is to agree that we need to work together on this and help each other out. I love the "sharing culture" that some people are pushing towards. If you're not really sure what I mean, check out this story Shareable:Eating Rich, Living Poor, from the talented Melissa Welter, about the journey from being diagnosed with celiac disease and realizing just how difficult it is to eat well cheaply with a gluten intolerance, to eating well using fruits and veggies from her garden. Ms. Welter writes some sensual prose, and I have serious garden envy, I'll admit it. Check out the website afterwards, it's a cool resource.
 So as my title says, I'm craving some good news! Have you got something that you're excited about? Please share in comments!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fat acceptance, boobs, and developing your backbone (Really big trigger warning)

  So, yeah, I've been gone for a while. I was hospitalized for mental health issues (rather than the health issues that caused the suicidal thoughts) and I've been struggling to feel like me (and human) again. I felt like I lost my sense of humor for a while, and as many of you can probably relate, that's my last stand against all the crazy and the bullshit that everyone has to deal with in different ways in their life. I finally was able to see my doc, and we've changed some things, added two different insomnia meds, and switched out my anti-depressant for a mood stabilizer. (Bi-polar? Who knew?)  On top of that, my relationship is kinda rocky. He is not a bad guy, but I think that some of the things he deals with from childhood abuse triggers my own issues with abuse and everything that comes with that, and from my own broken brain. He finds offering compassion hard because of the tough-love way he was raised, and I have to accept that I'm soft and squishy inside too, and need lots of hugs and support in my relationship. We had a fight last night in which he said that I am financially irresponsible, and there's a ring of truth there-I have the tendency to want to stick my head in the sand when things get tough, and I have to take a hard look at a lot of things, including my relationship. There are so many questions-do I have the right to say that certain people trigger me too much to be in my life? (This goes for several of L's friends who have very triggery attitudes towards women.) Where do I draw the line in the sand? Where am I just blowing things out of proportion, and what can be compromised on? Oh, and there is something else in my life needing attention asap-my boobs.
  I have been a fat activist ever since I discovered that such a thing existed, and I have my moments of peace and clarity with it, and my moments of struggling with it, as everyone does. But I live with 38Fs that once a month expand to 38Gs, and they have really started to take a toll on the pain due to scoliosis between my shoulder blades, and even interfere with my sleep. I'm a side-sleeper, so I have to sleep with my arms straight out and over the tatas, old-school zombie style. Sometimes the effort it takes to roll/hurl these babies from one side to the other wakes me up! Straight up, carrying around 20 pounds of boob (yep, I weighed 'em) is interfering with my life, and I have been able to find two solutions. One of them, breast reduction surgery, scares the hell out of me. I don't know how well I'd do with the healing process, which I've heard can take months. This leaves weight loss, so far as I can figure out. Taking off 20 or 40 pounds should (one hopes) reduce the boobs down to a more livable-with (for me) size. But how does this fit in with my fat activism? How will I deal with the comments on my body, when people around me notice? Will it trigger my disordered eating? How will I adjust the perception of myself?
 Sorry, this seems to be a post of mostly questions. But I know that of anybody, the people reading this will be most likely to be able to relate, and that gives me strength. Sometimes watching others go through the same thing helps you to not feel like it's an endless tunnel with no good answers, which in turn helps you practice yer backbone. And goddess knows I need to start looking for mine, and practicing making healthy decisions for myself.
 Hope that you are also practicing yer backbone, and that all is well with you (or as damn close as it can be in the present situation.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sorry for the radio silence....

  During my spring break I picked up an urgent care visit and a new (additional) diagnosis- dysautonomia. 
 I spent some time mourning, obsessively googling ways to save my spoons, and finally I've come to a new ease with  and acceptance of  my body. I was struggling with my illness before it laid me flat on monday. More and more, I feel that anything that's with me for life-my red hair, my belly, this syndrome that never fails to puzzle the doctors and throw me for a loop, I have to accept. Embrace. Welcome it, offer it a warm blanket and a cuppa tea. I can't sit at opposite ends of the ring with my illness, not if we're going to work together through life, school, and my relationship. So I've started up a wishlist of things to make my life easier for when I have the money for them, and some coping stuff to make the things I have to do easier on my body.

 Please know that any reaching out you do is really appreciated, even if I don't have the energy to respond right away. Hope all of you are doing good.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tattoos and chronic pain

 This is a research paper that I recently wrote, so it is full of references to other articles and such. If that is too dry for ya, you are forgiven if you move on to a fashion post, or, or whatever suits yer fancy after a long day.Consider coming back after Allie massages your brain with her incredible wit.

“Focus on the pain rather than on other things. Take it in, let it overwhelm me. Sink deep, keep my mind trained on the feeling of the they trace a line in blood and ink. I am the canvas; Ray is the channel for the Divine. Take another deep breath, sink to a lower level, and allow the sensation to envelop me, to swallow me up. ...Controlling pain, channeling pain, requires that you do not deny the ache, but experience it without holding onto it. Women in labor do much better if they do not fight the pain, but breathe their way through it and let go when it passes. When we are in pain, we tend to hold our breath and to breathe in shallow pants rather than in full, deep breaths. This tenses our bodies and makes it more difficult to let go. We trap it in our bodies with our tension. By learning to relax your body and breathe rhythmically with the ebb and flow of the pain, you can learn to release it. The ache becomes bearable, your body doesn't undergo as much stress, and your blood pressure will remain better. ”  (Yasmine Galenorn)

The use of tattoos for therapeutic practices is not a new one. A 5,300 year old mummy known as Oetzi the Iceman has tattooed dots and small crosses along areas of his body that were found to correspond with areas of arthritic degeneration, and, according to Frank Bahr of the German Academy of Acupuncture, to acupuncture points used to treat the diseases that Oetzi suffered from. Mr. Bahr told Discovery News that “Even today I would treat a patient with about 90 percent of the same points as on the iceman, if this patient were to have the same diseases.” 
   The therapeutic use of tattoos is something I discovered a few years after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  My tattoo artist is a woman who I have been friends with since before she started tattooing me. If she or I am having a bad day, we will reschedule. It is very important that we both go into the session relaxed and not tense, because the transfer of ink to skin is cathartic and personal for both of us. The designs and placement of my tattoos and the size of the needles are carefully considered, as in the stippling done by a fine needle in the moons design on my right shoulder. The stippling design is very similar to Oetzi's tattooed dots, and the finer needle gauge is more similar to the needles used by acupuncturists.  When I am tattooed, I usually feel the pain full-stop for the first ten minutes or so, and then the endorphins kick in, blooming in the back of my ribs and releasing old tensions built up there, courtesy of the fibromyalgia. I am lucky in the sense that my tattoo artist is herself a chronic pain sufferer who tattoos other fibromyalgics and is familiar with the pain ebb and flow. For days after I am tattooed, I feel a sense of release from the tension, I breathe deeper and more evenly, I ride the pain wave more effortlessly. This physiological effect of the tattoo process seems to increase with each tattoo, as if the experience of riding the wave of pain is etched more deeply in my brain with each session. Perhaps the answer lies in neuroplasticity, the “ability of neurons to forge new connections, to blaze new paths through the cortex, even to assume new roles. In shorthand, neuroplasticity means rewiring of the brain.”  Our unconscious actions, like breathing, standing, and walking are all ruled by our neurons, and in a chronic pain patient who experiences pain over and over again the brain is being wired to experience pain. Dante Chialvo, associate professor of physiology at the Feinberg School, Northwestern University says that “This constant firing of neurons in these areas of the brain could cause permanent damage. We know that when neurons fire too much they may change the connections with other neurons or even die because they can't sustain high activity for so long. If you are a chronic pain patient, you have pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every minute of your life. That permanent perception of pain in your brain makes these areas in your brain continuously active. This continuous dysfunction in the equilibrium of your brain can change the wiring forever and could hurt the brain.” There is good news, though; Laura S. Stone of the Alan Edwards Center for Research of Pain says that “We know that pain causes brain changes, and now we know that taking pain away reverses those changes.” In a study done by Dr. A. Vania Apkarian from the Feinberg School, acute pain stimuli was found to flip the switch on the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens in chronic pain patients, revealing that the acute pain relieved the chronic pain. This is something that tattooed chronic pain patients like myself have been discovering for years; we handle pain much differently than those around us. I handle the pain of being tattooed much better than my big, burly boyfriend; I have the dubious advantage of having my brain re-wired by the chronic pain. At a recent fibromyalgia event hosted by the Tamarack Center (Oregon), I met an herbalist who told me that in the past, healers were often women who experienced chronic pain themselves, and were frequently covered with tattoos. I like that idea; what better way to subvert the pain, than to turn it inside out and use it to heal others.

Citation Page
Galenorn, Yasmine. Crafting the Body Divine;Ritual Movement and Body Art. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 2001. Print.
Vargas, Jennifer. "Oetzi Iceman's Tattoos came from Fireplace." Discovery News July 17, 2009: n. pag. Web. 23 May 2011.
Lineberry, Cate. "Tattoos; The Ancient and Mysterious History." Smithsonian January 01, 2007: n. pag. Web. 23 May 2011.
"fibromyalgia." Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 23 May. 2011. <>
Schwartz,MD, Jeffrey, and Sharon Begley. The Mind and the Brain;Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. New York, NY: Regan Books, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002. Print.
Northwestern University. "Chronic Pain Harms The Brain." ScienceDaily, 6 Feb. 2008. Web. 23 May 2011.
Sanders, Laura. "No Pain, Healthier Brain." Science News May 17th 2011: n. pag. Web. 23 May 2011.

Cell Press. "Hurts so good: Chronic pain changes brain response to acute pain." ScienceDaily, 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 23 May 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Monkey you don't need....and other ways to deal with this insanity we call life

  On this blog o' mine, I like to share things that have worked for me, and that includes spiritual concepts. Confession time: I am addicted to self-help books. They have helped me through many a long dark depression by challenging the thought-cycles that I get stuck in.  If this is not yer cup of joe, no worries. Come back in a couple days to a week and I'll have something different. If you are down, pour yourself your favorite beverage, load yer bowl if you're a spiritual toker, and settle in. Keep reading, and I offer ANOTHER recipe.
  My concepts of spirituality are just that-concepts. I don't believe in "one true way" or guilt or shoulds or any of that bullshit. My spirituality concepts and coping mechanisms are very similar to my mom's idea of putting together a soup- throw in what works, leave out what doesn't. If something resounds with me, I try it, and if it works, I keep it, and I share. Today I am sharing some concepts from some books that have helped me through  my recent explosion caused by going cold-turkey off Cymbalta and simultaneously starting on the Pill after being off it for a year. (For those of you who are wondering, REALLY not a good idea.)
  Getting to know your painbody.
 The painbody is a concept pulled from Eckhart Tolle's books The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to your Life's Purpose. The painbody is the monkey on your back that dwells on every bad thing done to you and why your life sucks. When you're irritated at your life-partner and you start thinking about all the things they've done to piss you off and you can feel yourself getting madder and your muscles tightening, that's the painbody on your back. When you're laying in your bed spooning your good friend insomnia, and you start thinking of all the things you need to do and pay for and how the time and money on hand don't match up, and how much you suck, and your life sucks, that's your painbody. Your painbody likes to wallow in the pain of the past, and the worry of the future. It's the spiritual vampire you carry around with you. The good news is that you can stop giving that bitch on your back cookies and get your hijacked brain back.
   Space and practicing non-attachment.
 Practicing non-attachment to your ego means that you are aware of the parts of your identity that don't work for you. When you start to feel a negative thought come up, don't identify with it. Just observe it. Create a space where you can breathe deeply, whether it is some jackass or yourself that just called you fat/ugly/stupid.
You will begin to see how practicing space and non-attachment to your ego helps you out in other parts of your life, like your relationship and your time at work or school. When your partner or boss criticizes you, you don't need to identify with the negative aspects-take the suggestion and move on. This practice is all about celebrating the sights and smells and people and experiences in your life RIGHT NOW. Be careful if you find yourself dwelling on the past or the future. The painbody can find their way in with all the worries that come with most people's pasts and futures. Part of practicing non-attachment is not judging yourself, your partner and the people you bump into. Respect the common humanity in everyone. Don't put labels on yourself or the people in your life, just appreciate them. This does not mean not standing up for yourself. Put on yer stompin' boots if you need to and hold yourself tall with the knowledge that whatever label they are putting on you, you do not need to try on. It's not your style. And as Tolle says, the quickest and cheapest getaway is making time for yourself to have a couple of deep breaths. Give yourself these mini-vacations as often as possible.

Recommended Books
The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
How to be Sick:A Buddhist-inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard
Meditation Secrets for Women by Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche

 And the recipe! These were pronounced "pimpalicious" by my partner, which is a word he rarely uses, so you know these are good.

                                             Pimpalicious Granola Bars (feel free to rename :)

 3 cups quick-cooking oats (be sure they're gluten-free if you're oat-sensitive)
1 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of any kind of nuts you want. (I used about half and half walnuts and hazelnuts, with some slivered almonds.)
1/2 cup or so of chocolate chips. This would also be good with peanut butter chips, or dried cranberries...well, you get the idea.

 Preheat yer oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan. Dump everything into a large bowl and use your WET hands to mush and blend it together. You may have to lick your fingers at the end. Such is life. Now use your hands to squish it into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. These are fabulous right out of the oven, but still good cool, of course. Enjoy!

That's all from me, you guys. Be good to yourself and each other. Remember to breathe.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bad-ass Gluten-free Banana Bread

 This is the best version I have come up with so far. Some of you may favor some other gluten-free all-purpose flour. I'm a fan of Gluten-free Bisquick because it's light enough to adapt to a lot of recipes, and just freakin' convenient. Here ya go, banana bread fans!

 You will need:
1/2 cup greek yogurt (I prefer Zoi)
1 cup brown sugar plus 1 tbsp
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 very ripe bananas
2 cups gluten-free bisquick
1/2 cup walnuts plus about two tbsp
1 tablespoon quick-cooking oats

  Heat oven to 350 F. Generously grease sides and bottom of 9x5 pan with butter. Sprinkle the oats, 2 tbsp walnuts and 1 tbsp brown sugar across bottom of pan. Blend 1 cup brown sugar and greek yogurt in large bowl. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla and bananas in chunks. Gradually add bisquick, blend briefly, just until mixed, add walnuts. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool for a few minutes. They say 10 but really, who can wait that long?
Banana bread heaven.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Pleasure List

  My fibro and insomnia has me feeling a little befuddled, so for my first post I'll talk about the pleasure list. This falls under self-care, which everybody, chronic pain or not,  needs a little more of, I think.

I went to a fibromyalgia seminar yesterday that was held at my college, where the speaker talked about GABA in the brain and fibro people. (I have to throw a little disclaimer at ya and say that I'm not medically trained, so I can't attest to how accurate this is. But a lot of you will kinda nod your heads and say, "Yeah, I get that. It makes sense.") GABA, which affects the nervous system, is activated by the experience of pleasure. So anything that you do that gives you pleasure, from petting your cat to eating a really good dinner, activates a shower of GABA in the brain. Doing this over time helps re-train the chronic pain brain. Our speaker advised us to picture the GABA showering our brain with pleasure when we do these things we love. Over time you can try just sitting quietly, breathing deeply, and thinking about the brain pleasure shower.  It helps to make a Pleasure List. Here's mine:

1. Yoga and stretching. I just lay my mat out and stretch whatever hurts. I don't worry about poses or how fast I'm moving. You could call it snail yoga.

2. Baths with lavender epsom salt. I have two bath pillows, and sometimes I take a packed bowl with me. Books and magazines are good too. I take a giant Instyle magazine (straight girly, they don't bullshit ya) and prop it on my belly. Someday, I will have a jacuzzi tub....

3. Touch. Petting the Synester Nynester, cuddling with my dude, going to a store that has really nice fabrics and stroking them all....I'm a touch junkie.

4. Self-massage. Another lady I met at the fibro seminar recommended the Merry Hempsters Hot Hemp Muscle Rub Balm, and I found it at my college bookstore. Feels and smells amazing! And made locally, always a plus.

5. Medical Green. I recently discovered Beeline Hemp Wick, and it really cuts down on the coughing and helps it taste better. Put some ice in your piece, set some nag champa burning, turn on some Ben Harper, and chill.

6. The distraction. I can set my watercolors out, prop my board in my lap, and lose an hour or two, just painting in broad strokes, which is easier when I'm hurting than drawing.  Yours might be video games or surfing tumblr. Sometimes you just need to jump off the hamster wheel in your head...

    ....Aaaaand that's it for my first post. Take care of yourself my loves. Whatever it is that rubs you wrong about yourself, try letting it just be, and have its space. Maybe the most important thing I learned from counseling is that its okay to feel whatever you feel. No need to judge. Depending on where you are, this can be incredibly freeing.

 Hugs to you all,