A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

Food & Health

I won’t lie.  Life has been difficult lately.  I’ve been sharing a bit of that recently.  I also shared that even though many of my maladies have been in my own imagination, I do have some things that are in need of being address.

We are currently on a journey toward total, holistic health.  As a part of this, we went for a health assessment.  Turns out that a lot of what concerned me was actually, you know, of concern.  Perhaps it wasn’t to the extent that I thought, but still, something to take care of.

She told me a lot about what was going on in our bodies.  Me, in particular.  I got a list of things to work on and some supplements (which I still haven’t started).  I was also told to go on a specific diet.  Like, really specific.  And really limiting.

I won’t lie.  Food is my weakness.  I love food.  I love cooking it.  I love eating it.  I love reading and studying and learning about it.  I read up on the histories of food!  It’s just something that fascinates me.  Plus, I think there’s something to the fact that we should know what nourishes us.  We’re all going to eat so we might as well eat well.

A few years ago, I was introduced to clean eating, which is basically eating as close to whole as possible.  No processed foods.  Some die hard clean eaters will also shun some foods that aren’t “clean.”  We were never die hard, but I loved the concept of eating whole foods.  Making as much from scratch as I could and limiting what we ate to things I could pronounce.

Since we’ve been living in a camper and money has been tight, we’ve gotten away from the clean eating.  It’s hard to store bread, much less make it from scratch.  We went one step away and then before we knew it, I’m buying canned everything and hot dogs have become a regular menu item.

I also began to start medicating my stress and anxiety with food.  Wouldn’t it be great if you got stressed and craved an apple?  For me, it was a cookies and cream milkshake from Chickfila.  I’d have a bad day at work – swing through the drive through.  Great day at work – swing through the drive through.  Accomplish everything on my to-do list?  You got it.  A shake would be in my hand.  It’s no wonder that I put on 20+ pounds.

With returning to work and working odd hours (mostly in the middle of mealtimes) with no planning because who can plan with all this going on?  I began to swing through the drive through and grab an 8-count nugget and some waffle fries to go with my shake.  Or I’d hit McDonald’s 2 for $5 (though not quite as often).  So of course, my health was on the decline.

And now I am where I am.  I’m completely off sugar, processed foods, and cow dairy (goat cheese is my new best friend).  There are a lot of restrictions.  So much that I actually bought a protein powder so that I can supplement at least one meal and still get enough calories.

I’m having to think about food in an entirely different way.  I no longer thing about what is going to be yummy or how delicious something might be.  I think about sustenance.  How can I get enough calories to nourish my body and have it function properly and also fit into these parameters so that my body can also heal from the damage I’ve done to it.

And it is hard, y’all.  I don’t like it.  I’ve started eating eggs.  Plain.  No ketchup.  No hot sauce.  How boring and disgusting is that!  I have to plan now.  If I want rice as a side for dinner, I can’t just dump it in a pot.  I have to soak it for 8 hours ahead of time (same for oatmeal and beans).  There are no quick dishes or grab and go things on this plan.  I’ve started eating things that I don’t love, but I know that it’s good for me.

But it isn’t all bad.  Thinking about food in a new way is good.  I need to change some of my ideas.  I need to stop feeding my emotions through food and go to Jesus when I’m stressed.  Or happy.  Or accomplished.  I need to learn to put food in its proper place.

Lord willing, I will only have to be on this strict diet for a couple months.  After that, I’ll get to add in more fun foods.  But hopefully, I won’t forget all that learned while going through it.  Also, I’m hoping that I’ll get to the point where I’m focusing more on what I can have and less on what I can’t.

Discipline, Compromise, & Grace

 

This is kind of how my life goes.  I get really pumped about something and I do it… for a time.  Then life happens or I lose interest.  I’ve done it with diets, bible reading plans, hobbies, and projects.  I even recently read a book to help me conquer this attitude (5 Habits of a Woman who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz – I highly recommend it).

For a good month, I’ve been doing well on watching what I eat, reading my bible, and turning off the tv (or actually the computer with DVD’s from the library) and reading something that won’t turn my brain to mush.  I was, dare I say, disciplined!  It’s something I strive for but rarely achieve.

Then I went to the grocery store while I was hungry.  I made it out with only a bag of gluten free chili lime crackers (that I ate in 2 days), but I’ve been growing undisciplined in my eating habits.  I’ve been placed on a special diet and I’ve been following it pretty well-ish.  But today after work I was hungry and EVERYTHING sounded so good.  Arby’s.  Dairy Queen.  Mexican restaurants.  Places that I haven’t been in years!

I wanted to give in and just eat something that sounded good.  It was difficult to find the willpower, desire, or faith to keep me from giving in.  Then I remembered what happened just a few days ago.  I was willing to “give-in” and indulged in a granola and yogurt parfait.  It was yummy!  And c’mon, it was yogurt – that’s healthy.  So, later that same day, I decided to treat myself to a Starbuck’s Frappuccino with cow’s milk.  And since I’d already blown it big time, I’ll just go ahead and eat some Monterrey jack cheese with dinner, too.

I’m sure you can guess what happened.  I’ll save you the details, but suffice it to say, my stomach wasn’t happy with me.  I tried to remember this as my husband and I debated on where and what to eat.  I tried to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing (to be the healthiest possible to serve God better).  And I’ll admit that it was tough.  I’m still struggling.  I ended up with a guacamole bacon burger with no cheese, no may, no bacon, no bun.  But I still got the steak fries (I’m not made of steel!).

The same is true with writing this blog and reading.  I’m doing my best to make myself do better especially on days when I’m struggling.  I’m writing today even though I don’t feel like it.  And I will admit that I haven’t picked up my book (When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper – SO good!) in a couple days and I didn’t do my Scripture reading today (yet!).

In the end, on your down days, you have to persevere.  Hold your feet to the fire even when you don’t want to.  Make compromises if you have to.  And give grace when you need to.

Confessions of a Hypochondriac

Hypochondria:  obsession with the idea of having a serious but undiagnosed medical condition.

 

Hypochondria was once called “morbid melancholy.”  It gets its name from the idea that the gut (liver, gall bladder, and spleen) was the cause of such a disposition.  It was believed to be a true medical condition.  Growing up, a hypochondriac was labeled a worrier and just dismissed.  Now, it is often joked about.  People kid about “web md-ing” symptoms and self-diagnosing cancer.

I’ve gone along with the joke my entire life, afraid to admit the truth:  I’m a hypochondriac.  I’ve seen people roll their eyes or crack a joke when you talk about it.  Most will say that they are, too, or recount a funny story of their mother-in-law/cousin/next door neighbor who thought they were dying of a rare disease but it turned out they just had ________ (insert common malady here).

Sometimes there are those who really do have a rare, or misdiagnosed ailment like Lyme’s or Fibromyalgia who are accused of hypochondria until they find that one doctor who will listen and truly find what’s wrong with them.  People like me are not a help to those.  We make it more difficult for them to get the help they need and I am truly sorry for that.  But it doesn’t take away from the belittling and brushing off that I have felt from those around me.

It’s hard when you know in your heart that there has to be a better way to live, but you can’t find any help because what is plaguing you is the punchline in so many jokes.

I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember.  When my husband was in Iraq, I can remember talking to a friend and telling her about a weird bump I had on my hand.  I had spent the last two hours thinking about this bump and stressing about it because, what if it was something really bad and I needed medical attention?  What if I didn’t get the medical attention and I died right there in the living room?  What would happen to my son and how would word get to my husband?  Now, once I made an off-hand reference to my friend (because I’ve learned not to speak seriously about such things), the worry dissipated.  I felt free.

That’s how it usually worked.  I’d get myself spun up in a tizzy about something but once I’d say it out loud, usually to my husband, he’d reassure me it was nothing and I would feel better.  Crisis averted.  But lately, that just hasn’t been the case.  I don’t know if it’s stress or just getting older and more aware of my mortality, but I have gotten much worse.  To the point where I spent almost a week completely sure that I was going to drop dead at any moment.  I was saying things like, “well, if I live to the weekend…”

It was trying to my family and it was trying to me.  I was so burdened for my own physical well-being that I had become hyper-aware of everything that was going on with my body.  I was also literally making myself sick.  The stress was unbearable.  What made things worse was that I know that I have some legitimate health problems, but I didn’t know how severe they were or what else may be wrong.  Yet, I had convinced myself that I was dying.  And that is no way to live.

With all these thoughts constantly on my mind, I could barely function.  I could barely work or serve my family.  I couldn’t maintain a relationship with anyone, even God, to whom I was praying constantly that He would heal me (from what, I didn’t really know).

I googled faith and hypochondria.  I tried to talk to people, but most people don’t really think you’re serious.  Or they just throw random Bible verses and platitudes at me.  I know that there are answers in God’s Word and that it will work, but simply quoting Philippians 4:6­-7 at me doesn’t really help that much.

And then one night I was driving to work and I was stressing out about… everything, really, and I had an epiphany.  Philippians 1:21 came into my mind:  To live is Christ, to die is gain.  I realized that if I live then I need to spend my time glorifying Jesus.  If I died, then I guess He was done with me and I get to be with Him.  It was a beautiful thought.  And it carried me through that evening and then next.

I wish I could say that that is the end and that I’m all better.  No more worry.  No more hypochondria.  No more of the anxiety or depression that follow.  No more fear or shame.  However, it is all still there.  I am constantly fighting it.  I am constantly trying to overcome those thoughts in my head that lead me to those bad places.  I’m fighting to renew my mind (Romans 12:2) daily.

It is difficult.  I wish I had help.  I wish that there was someone else who could shout, “Me, too!”  I wish that I could just come out and explain to people that I am not merely telling a joke when I say that I’m struggling because I think I may have an aneurism.   However, I know that I can still manage because I’m not really alone.  Jesus has this one.  I just have to work on the faith that allows me to see it.

Fear & Words

Right.  So, it’s been a while.  I have always proclaimed myself a lover of words.  I love to read them.  I love to write them.  I love to speak to others about them.  I was the kid that for fun read the dictionary and odd books and loved the vocab list.

So, why have I stepped away from my primary outlet for expressing my own words?  Well, it’s somewhat complicated.  I think the main reason is because I have been struggling so much in several areas of my life and that has produced a bit of a “word block.”  Also, there have been many questions floating around in my head about why I want to share my words and what words I really want to share.

Life has been hard lately, y’all.  I mean, I know that life, in general, is just tough, but I have gone through a serious bout of being knocked flat on my behind.  And I’ve let myself stay there.  Most of that has been out of fear.  I haven’t wanted to get back up.  I haven’t wanted to give life the opportunity to knock me back down.  It’s safe down here.

I’ve largely tried to withdraw from life.  I’ve gotten near panic attacks when I need to leave home and actually engage with others.  I’ve even withdrawn from social media.  It seems as though even virtual friendships were too much for me to manage.  I also realized that I have gone numb to my family.  Sure, I’m still here and still talking and cooking and cleaning and driving them around.  But I haven’t really taken the time to really be with them.

And why did all of this happen?  What was the singularity event that catapulted all of this?  The short answer is fear.  The longer answer has to do with a road trip, my ankles swelling, and a debilitating bout of hypochondria.

There are three great motivators in the world:  Fear, Anger, and Love.  Sure, we may do things for other reasons, but you can almost always boil it down to one of these.  If you think back to teachers, coaches, or other influential people in your life, you’ll probably realize that the way they inspired you will come back to one of these three motivators.

What I’ve known for a long time and finally has come to a head is that the main motivator in my life is fear.  It is amazing how much of my day revolves around it.  It has become second nature to me to the point that I don’t even think about it much anymore.  There are things I don’t say because I fear that my husband may get angry.  There are things that I don’t do because I fear how it may be perceived by others.  I fear that God may get angry with me.  I fear that I may have a stroke or heart attack.  I fear that I am failing as a parent.

Now, I want to be clear that I am not talking about worries or concerns or passing thoughts.  I am talking about the fear that is so real that I will completely shut down.  It has affected my health (I’ve pulled ribs out of place because of tension due to worry).  It has affected my family.  It has affected my relationship with God.  No one wants to be around the paranoid, worrying person who’s fear has gotten to the point that she has a meltdown while trying to order lunch at Panera (yes, this did happen).

And most importantly, God doesn’t want this for my life.  He doesn’t want me to serve Him out of fear.  There is something to be said about fearing the Lord, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.  I don’t mean the healthy, awe-inspiring respect.  I’m talking about the idea of the “Big Stick God” – where you view God as having a big stick and just waiting to pound you on the head with it when you step out of line.

God is all about love.  He loves us and desires for us to love Him back.  That is what He desires my great motivator to be in following Him.  That is what I should be focusing on instead of all the fear that has quite literally consumed me.  I should be basking in the love of my Heavenly Father and Sovereign Savior instead of huddled in a corner and fearing my own pulse.  I should be reflecting that love to back those around me, first to those in my own home and then to those I come into contact with – in real life and virtually.

I have neglected this practice.  I have not just sat and let my Jesus love me and truly spent time with Him with no other agenda than to experience His all-consuming love.  Because if I had, I wouldn’t be in the mess that I’m in right now.  I would be full of His love and light and I wouldn’t be able to help what spills over from my life into the lives of those around me.  I want that.  Or, I’m learning to want that.

So, I may still be huddled in a corner and distant.  I’m still struggling with both some very real issues and some that just feel real.  But the words are starting to come back.  And I can only hope that with the return of my words will also be the Word.

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