The background bits and pieces to trying new recipes and why I don’t strictly stick to one diet or the other. I just want what is possible. And simplicity to repeat daily, has the most positives for health and the least negatives for IBS.
Some things changed for me about four months ago that took me by surprise, and since then I’ve been working towards getting out of the season that seemed to engulf me for a bit, and by the grace of God I’ve seen that change, and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time.
I’ve been struggling with a low energy level for about 10 years, mentally and physically. Its always hard to convince myself to do things, but particularly lately I found myself in the middle of a dense brain fog. I was completely mentally depleted. The final straw was losing the ability to focus on reading and praying in my morning routine.
Over Christmas this year, hanging out with family and being separated from the normal gang I’m usually surrounded by, I got to flop into the comfort of being surrounded by some of my closest lifelong friends – my family. We talked about a lot of things but their faces would change when I told them about the way things were going for me at home in Sydney.
‘You’re tired ALL the time? Quit! Move! Change something! its not worth it!’
‘Can you do something about the constant pain?’
These were thoughts that hadn’t crossed my mind. I was just living, doing, carrying on like I always had, and in my head it was just the way things had changed into being, its just the way things were now.
As usual I processed these thoughts and comments pretty slowly and it wasn’t until at least a month or so later that it clicked – something needed to change. Start anywhere, but it can be different.
I started by considering possible places the all-consuming mental fatigue was coming from. My brain was so tired I couldn’t read or write full sentences, so a messy mind map was all I could manage. This mindmap was then helpful to communicate the mess to others, and it made possible to then take manageable baby step towards clarity and understanding, just for my own survival. When you’re mentally this fatigued its all so interconnected. I found a few big areas that were all tangled in together: Pain was demanding; diet was socially debilitating; and loosing exercise felt like a loss of freedom. But it’s slowly started to change.
It took me about about four plus years but I finally got sick of being in pain. I realised that constant pain in my neck, shoulders and back, was the biggest thing distracting me from concentrating and from having flowing thought – it was creating white noise in my head, and nothing was clear. I just couldn’t think straight, let alone have a conversation with someone without forgetting what I’d just said or understanding the words being spoken in english right to my face.
I some how summoned the energy to make an appointment with a physio, they gave me a few stretches, and I was determined to get out of pain, to prioritise the stretches and the effort towards getting out of pain. I did the stretches and I felt my body start to change, the pain changed and there was an unexpected relief. (cue angels singing).
One of the things I’m so thankful for is that the physio I saw was awesome (Peak Health Services in Surry Hils), they were completely on my side and against leaving me in pain. I get the feeling physio’s love it when you do the stretches and put their advice into practice, so the relationship with my physio became a really great asset to have this time round as we checked in semi-regularly and celebrated together the progress we were seeing in my daily life.
Another simple thing causing me daily stress and anxiety was my diet, its been another thing completely changing my life. I love food and I used to pity people who were gluten intolerant, “bread is the best – that sucks!” And now after feeling all the negative effects of different foods on my body, and my brain, I’ve tried to cut out wheat and all other grains. I’ve also cut out salicylates, and I’ve lowered dairy and fructose intake … Maybe they were on to something… To my credit, I was right – this is a tough gig and changing your diet is nuts!
Choosing a meal that would fit all those criteria at every meal caused me enormous amounts of social anxiety at least six times a day, every day. Finding things to cook at home was hard enough without thinking about going out to eat. One, I had to try to concentrate long enough to read a menu and two, it was rare to find a place to eat that served anything that my body wouldn’t receive as poison!
Eventually, while looking for recipes to cook that I could eat, I ran into the Paleo diet and the ‘clean eating’ movement. They were against using the ingredients I’d already cut out. Win!
The anxiety lessened and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Food was possible!
Also, one of the most exciting things, if I was consistent and worked hard with the things I cooked at home, then it didn’t matter so much if I splurged on a ham cheese croissant once in a while. I read when you’re changing your diet that it’s really helpful to give you and your self control a blowout meal, for me, it was Fridays. It made it so much easier knowing I only had to last 6 days at a time rather than a lifetime at time.
Note to self: The Paleo diet is great for people with IBS, and problems with energy levels. Combined with a few other energy booster solutions – it’s really been amazingly helpful! See also Whole30.
I started a Neways supplement at the insistence of my Dad. To his credit, it’s been really helpful. (Thanks Dad!) This stuff can be so expensive! I was anxious just thinking about the monthly numbers. Theres so many options and so many different results! But, I took Angie’s advice and started on a few supplements to try to heal my stomach and get it back to an injury free state, free from inflammation and secondly, to maintain good state of stomach health. I wanted to make sure if there were results, that I was going to see them. So I starting tracking a few things each day and eventually I put them into a symptom tracker, and then looking at the results I can see what symptoms are playing up at the same time, and if I change something I can see which ones go up and down… Ok I got a little too into this, it was just so great to see progress!
Exercise was at an all time low, and I knew it and I just felt so guilty. I love getting to that stage of fitness when you’re excited to get outside, and sweat is not you morphing into a puddle of death, it’s your glorious victory glow!
But four months ago that was not me. Moving off the couch was not even a consideration. Four months ago the fridge was out of reach.
I began to see past the guilt and validate all the factors that were making it hard for me to exercise: I didn’t have the energy to shop to to buy the new shoes that I needed to stop giving me blisters, and hurting my knees and hips; and every time I exercised I’d get headaches from the muscles in my neck and shoulders.
Eventually, I bought the things I needed to, I went on a few walks, and I congratulated myself for putting my running shoes on. I started to ask friends to come for walks with me and I reminded myself that gym classes are an awesome way to get back into exercise, and I found a friend to go to a weekly class with me.
Although I was still feeling so incredibly mentally tired and socially very drained, these beautiful friends were so good to me, and just walked beside me. You lovely friends are priceless!
I needed to find a way to do it – any way.
Its a necessary step to celebrate the success of getting to the point of tying up laces on running shoes as much as when you’d just learnt to tie up your very first joggers or strap up the velcro to your first shoes. A win is a win!
Then, after the initial physio appointments, the next step was maintenance massages, which have been great to keep highlighting the goal of getting out of pain and seeking more of the physical and mental relief I’d been feeling. During one of our first appointments together, Robyn, (best masseuse in the world) was telling me about a method of thinking she’s been introduced to, where you simply ask,
‘what is the benefit of what I have expected?
And, what is the benefit of my current reality?’
This continues to blow my mind.
It allows the guilt to slide off you without squashing the ability to see the benefits that have come when you do try something, and it gives you a greater appreciation and clarity of your current life. Its really freeing!
Moving house. Who would do this? Why. Why? I was already feeling anxious, out of energy and I was making some good progress on a permanent butt groove in the couch, to say ‘I was not interested in moving’ was a pretty big understatement. However, this change of environment was an easy way to gain the momentum I needed to start making the changes in the rest of my life as well, to shake me out of my routine, to force me to re-organise everything, and sort out some clutter.
Again, another appointment I made at someone else’s suggestion, was with a Psychologist. Although the first appointment was very confronting, it was important and I can see now the person sitting in that office staring at the lavender on the neatly organised desk, was a person who needed a bit of T.L.C.
After 5 appointments, one of two things that has really stuck in my head is asking the question
‘how is God asking you to learn and grow in this situation?’
This completely changed my attitude to every situation, again it was another place where I could see small steps to take that were possible.
The other really helpful suggestion was a guided meditation called Mindfulness. And wow. I can feel the stress leaving my body and I love it!
After it all
You can see there were a lot of things that were all tangled up and hard to see the other side of, and the craziest thing was that it was my life and I still couldn’t see how it needed to change. The Psychologist appointment was probably the most confronting and least socially acceptable. As things started to unravel in my head and then in my body with the other appointments and lifestyle changes, I was changing, but the psychologist appointments were the ones that brought the most relief.
The feeling I had, for at least 18 months, was a permanent state of just woke up. Things just didn’t get clearer throughout the day. This mental fatigue was impacting my life in far more ways than I realised possible. Mental health is just so important to your complete well being, and perhaps it should even be the motivation for seeking well being – it just affects so much!
Today its not completely concentration central, but I love food again, cooking is one of my favourite things, I’ve started a blog and I’m writing – its all very exciting! (that almost rhymes!)
Also, I now believe change is possible, I laugh more, and tea, I drink more tea.
So now my day looks fairly different – praise God!
Getting up is not as much of a struggle.
I don’t force myself to do things at a time when I’m not at my highest state of functioning, which then leaves me feeling like I’ve failed my day before I’ve even put feet to carpet, Im kinder to myself. Now, I take myself out for coffee and I’m able to get the task done.
Im exercising three times a week, without allowing myself to feel guilty if I miss one, or maybe all of them. And I’m maintaining friendships at the same time.
Im playing netball again. Hello cardio my old friend.
Im getting to yoga – this is awesome for city life stress!
Im meditating at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes.
Im doing the physio exercises and changing my body – I can feel it.
Im drinking more water.
Im getting enough good sleep.
Im getting monthly massages.
Im getting into reading again.
I have energy to clean the house.
Im budgeting and managing financial situations better.
Im communicating better in both personal and professional relationships.
Im doing my job better and Im starting to like it again.
Im half way through a mental health care plan – praise God for that part of the Australian Health System.
I’m eating a diet that actually nourishes my stomach and fuels my mind. Not being tired from processed foods means I have enough energy to be kind to myself and emotionally Im more stable.
I love cooking again!
And I’m helping others pick their heads up as well. Biggest perk ever!
All these things were individual unclimbable mountains before. Im not at the peak in Rocky pose, but I can see the peak.