The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is living with a chronic illness.
Meaning, I have to be aware of my triggers, the things that make me sick, at all times. Excess busyness, excess activity, excess inflammatory foods and alcohol… all those things are difficult to escape in December… but they take a toll on me in ways most people don’t have to worry about.
I go big. I love parties. I love people. I love LIVING life. Until it all becomes too much, and I crash.
This last week I felt a crash. Minimal crash compared to the destructive collisions of the past. I have an excellent support system, I am self-aware, and I am learning to communicate when I need help. So to be clear, I am OKAY. But I knew something was off. I thought I was getting sick. My chest felt tight like I couldn’t breathe, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t get through my typical yoga practice without taking multiple child poses to rest. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to read my new nutrition book (big sign something was off). I was negative with my husband and my kids, who I love more than the world.
They told me I’d need medication the rest of my life.
4 years ago this week, I was weaned off my last medication, 10 milligrams of Celexa. I had vertigo for 3 weeks. Some days I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. After 18 years of being medicated, it wasn’t an easy transition for my body.
My doctor said I was ready. I was eating healthier, working out regularly, and sleeping consistently. I would never have done this without her support. This wasn’t the typical bipolar action of, “Hey, I’m going off all my meds!” It was something that took years in the making. It wasn’t a decision anyone took lightly.
It took time to adjust. I needed to actively monitor my stress levels. I needed to remember to slow down and rest. I took my supplements diligently. I ran. A year and a half later, I found yoga.
Stress. We hear about it all the time. It’s in our daily vocabulary. We feel the weight of it constantly.
What if I told you that the food you consume is stressing your body out and making things worse?
It sounds crazy, right? When I think of stress, I think of a busy schedule, too many commitments, big life events or tragedies, etc. I don’t think of an internal response. However, the food you eat has a major impact on your stress hormone: cortisol.
Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone. The purpose of it is actually a good thing! It is supposed to protect your body during times of stress. Imagine living in the wild and a mountain lion is approaching. Cortisol shoots through your body through the adrenals (hello, adrenaline!) in order to increase glucose for energy to ward off the attacker. Your heart rate increases thanks to epinephrine and you’re able to store fat needed for the fight. After the mountain lion has been killed and the situation is resolved, your body returns back to its normal state. All is well.
Here’s the problem with our current diet. When we eat lots of sugar and refined or simple carbs, our blood sugar is frequently crashing, signaling to the body that we’re under attack and need an increase of cortisol. So glucose is increased and fat is stored. This is super taxing on the adrenals, because due to the carb-sugar cycle we are always in, our adrenal glands are ALWAYS shooting out extra cortisol, way more than was intended in human design. Our cells soon become resistant to cortisol. What does this lead to? Inflammation, a poor-functioning immune system, type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, inability to lose weight, cancer, thyroid problems, depression, chronic fatigue…the list goes on. Continue reading “Is What You’re Eating Stressing You Out?”→
I taught public school for 11 years, and every spring we received a special training in “active monitoring.” Nobody looks forward to active monitoring. It is the job teachers take on during the end of year state assessments. All certified teachers must stay on their feet during the majority of the test, walking up and down the aisles, making sure nobody is looking at another test, or marking in another section, or eating, or ANYTHING that would cause them to get marked up as a “state testing irregularity.” I dreaded these days every year, because I knew if I lost focus for one second, something could happen and I would get marked up and have my state teaching certificate questioned or revoked or torn up or SOMETHING horrible would happen.
Living with a mental illness requires active monitoring. Much like how I used to roam the aisles of my classroom, eyes alert for any misconduct or twitch of movement, I constantly roam my brain and my body for signs of disorder.
The day started like any other. Kids woke up, ate breakfast, fought a bit, then we headed to the gym (free childcare!) to get some energy out. It’s 500 degrees outside right now and I needed me time. I came home with a recharged battery, but that’s when it all hit the fan.
The soon-to-be-freshman talked back one too many times, so I took away her EVERYTHING. No phone, no technology, no (gasp) music. The 4 year old and 21 month old decided that was a great time to start terrorizing each other. One thing after another. All. Day. Long.
By the afternoon, I was done. My yoga breaths failed me, and my emotional capability to deal with ANY MORE nonsense plummeted. I needed a way to cope, to self-soothe. I could raid my pantry, I could tune everyone out and hop on my phone to scroll other people’s lives that looked so much more fulfilling, or… I could open up some wine. Continue reading “Wine Not?”→
I remember that day at the Social Security office when I went from Brandenburg to Kerry. I wrote my name in the blanks so carefully, the name that I chose to be my legal name for the REST OF MY LIFE. So permanent. To go from 11 letters to 5 was a relief, but to lose the name that connected me to my mom and dad and all my “German” people? It’s a famous gate in the fatherland! It’s a concerto! Not to mention, it’s how I identified myself for 28 years.
I played with the idea of making Brandenburg my middle name, but that’s a mouthful as a middle name even more so than it was as a last name. As hippy-ish as I am in some aspects, I’m traditional when it comes to names. And I chose to go all in and take on the name of Kerry. Continue reading “What’s In a Name?”→
This little girl didn’t know that in 10 years she would wish for death. She loved her family, her new siblings, and Jesus, too. Much like the Tom Petty song, she was about to take a free fall – down the path of a broken brain.
She was a preacher’s daughter with a genetic disposition to mental illness. Add on to that various health issues like chronic ear infections, asthma, allergy shots, antibiotics and steroids… and a budding sugar addiction, due to poor gut health. She was all energy and filled with curiosity, wanting to know the how and why of everything. So one day, when the darkness closed in, she would questions why she couldn’t just pray it away.