Tuesday, June 11, 2013

updates and a farewell of sorts (complete with obligatory sunset).

As you can tell from the last few posts, not much happenin' on this blog over the past couple of years. I'm happy to say I've been putting my time and energy into plenty of non-blog areas of my life. While I've made progress along the way, I guess I just didn't feel like writing about it because it still seemed too new.

So what am I talking about, exactly? Well:

-Last year, I started seeing a therapist. It's something I know I've needed to do for a long time, but a combination of fear of asking for professional help (and admitting I needed professional help) and limited funds always kept me from seeking it out.

Well, without going into too many details, I reached a point last October where I was finally willing to at least research some therapists and get some realistic estimates on how much it would cost me over several months. I found one in particular whose specialties met my needs and whose fees were much more affordable than I could have imagined. Of course I was skeptical and prepared to meet with a few other folks before finding "the one," but it turned out to be a great match, during the first visit and every visit after. Some might call it luck, but the fact that we're about the same age and both have curly hair probably didn't hurt either... Anywho.

The results? Soooo much better. Looking at yourself and your past and making all of those behavioral/emotional connections is messy and painful and exhausting, but I have zero regrets. I'm much more sure of myself and my abilities. The sessions have been incredibly productive; I finally feel a sense of recovery that I've never felt before.

-I had some weird digestive issues going on for a while, but now I'm better. A few months ago, my insides were off... Abdominal cramping, worst bloating ever (and seemingly all the time), nausea, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, you name it. Fucking horrible. Prior to the symptoms coming on, my diet wasn't perfect, but it was still pretty normal. I hadn't made any drastic changes though, so it was frustrating not knowing why it was happening. Here I was, going on about how great my 30s are gonna be (I just turned 30 prior to the symptoms setting in) and how I just keep getting better with age. That optimism was short-lived.

The digestive issues knocked me down a few pegs. I was irritable. Motivation to eat well and exercise went out the window some weeks, thanks to my appetite being out of whack and being bloated most of the time. Had to wait a couple of months between seeing my primary physician and getting final results from my specialist. Certainly not the longest wait in the history of the American health care system, though still two of the more frustrating months in my life.

The results? I'm perfectly healthy. "Great news, bro! So what the hell is wrong with you?!" Well, in the process of figuring out what was going on, I had to have both an endoscopy and colonoscopy. As some of you may/may not know, there's a certain, um, "cleansing" process involved with the colonoscopy prep. Since the scoping, I feel much better. Normal, even.

My specialist said while there's no science to back up what he was about to tell me, he had seen it in other patients. Basically, he suspects that the good/bad bacteria was out of balance in my gut. (Before having all of the tests done, I had tried taking probiotic supplements, but I think it was too little too late by that point, as there was no improvement.) This (possibly) caused the symptoms and the prep for the colonoscopy may have "reset" the environment in my gut.

Makes sense? Cool?

I'm feeling way better, so whatevs. My main concerns (colitis, IBS, celiac disease, ulcers or worse, colon cancer) were all tested and all results were negative. Even though I ended up spending some extra cash getting it all figured out, I am relieved that it was nothing serious. I do tend to worry about my digestive health because of my history with eating disorders. This experience has made it easier to get back into my healthy groove and instilled mad-respect for my gut.

-I'm sorta becoming a flexitarian. I say "sorta becoming" because this particular part of my life is still new. While prepping for colonoscopy day, I had to take a day off work and stay at home. This led to watching a ton of TED talks on Netflix, one of which I found myself particularly drawn to: Becoming a Weekday Vegetarian.

Prior to learning about this concept, Doug and I were already cutting back on our meat consumption and incorporating more vegetarian meals into our weekly fare. Becoming Weekday Vegetarians just seemed to be the next natural step. We both have NO intention of giving up meat on a permanent basis. It just ain't gonna happen. However, we also want to improve the overall health of our diets by eating more produce, beans, and lentils. And save money on the grocery bill. And do our part to be more sustainable. And eat better quality meat. And cook more (especially me; Doug does most of the cooking typically, but since we're both trying new recipes, I'm starting to get back in the kitchen more).

We're not 100% strict about it either; if free lunch at work means eating some chicken, no big deal. If we want a little bacon garnish with our split-pea soup, it's all good. Overall though, it's going pretty smooth. We both look up recipes online and I snagged a cheap subscription to Vegetarian Times. Each week, we take a few minutes to figure which meals we want to try during the next few days, make a shopping list and head to the store. Sounds like simple, weekly meal planning (and it is), but it's kind of a big deal that we've managed to do it three weeks in a row. Meal planning/recipe-specific shopping is always something we've talked about, but never actually did with any real consistency. Now, it's starting to feel like a good team effort, with more focused (and cheaper) shopping trips. Granted, we're going to the store every week, which isn't my favorite thing in the world, but we're spending less and using up more produce before it goes bad. Win-win, so far.

Since I used to rely a lot on protein to aid with muscle recovery and to help manage my hunger, I worried that I would be hungry all the time or feel weak. So far, I haven't noticed either of those things happening. Between the beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, grains and touches of dairy here and there, I've still been feeling strong and plenty satisfied.

I still love a good burger, but turns out I also love Zucchini-Walnut Pizza. Not too shabby for a Monday night when you're catching up on Mad Men.

-Still planning a wedding, still figuring out my future. September is quickly approaching, which means wrapping up wedding details. We're trying to keep things as simple as possible, but we're also expecting between 130-150 people, so it's still taking some work to make sure everyone has a good time. So far, I've managed not to have a major breakdown in a bridal store or during a cake tasting, so I view that as pretty successful.

That said, studying for my personal training certification has gone out the window, again. I swear, by the time I take the exam, there will probably be a new edition of the manual that I'll need to buy. Hopefully not though. It is still something I daydream about, so that's a good sign that I haven't completely given up on the idea. I still love am quite fond of working out and I would still love to help others realize their potential through fitness. It WILL happen, I'm just done putting a specific deadline on it for now. (Plus, dropping $400 on the test probably isn't the best idea when I still have a balance with a photographer...)

In addition to that, I think I may finally be ready to take advantage of the college credits I get at work and pursue a Masters in Health Promotion. I pondered this degree before a few years ago, but I needed to enjoy being out of school a little longer, as well as grow up some more before settling on serious career plans. This is something I'll also pursue post-wedding, once our budget is less strict and I can afford to take the GRE.

Aside from exam costs versus wedding costs, the other main reason I've put these two ideas on hold is because it's not particularly realistic or strategic for me transition into a new career or jump head first into grad school right this very second. While I'm still sucking in the good vibes from these semi-new ambitions, there are still other financial obligations to be met. Making that big jump into a new career might take me a few years, but I'm sure it will go by fast and will most definitely be worth the wait.

-Fin. As the title of this post suggests, The Stretch Jean Incident is coming to an end, but I would still like to keep it around; though I'm totally biased, I do think there are some good resources on here that I hope some folks can still benefit from. I'll likely continue to update my Facebook page. There's plenty of good health-related information circulating this world wide web, so I do like sharing those links when I can.

Thanks to those who took time to read and share your comments; I really am grateful and enjoyed the experience. The time has come to walk into the sunset.

(Proverbially of course, because, y'know, water, etc.)

Remember: Eat your veggies, don't be so hard on yourself (or others), lift some heavy things, walk, cook more, and laugh every chance you get.