Victory Part Two

[20th June 2015]

Where was I?

Ah yes, bicycle, perfect timing, much enjoyed.

So this week was going to be epic! Until it rained, and rained, and rained. And spoilt my plans! I had my diary set: Tuesday ride from Strathmore, new one for me so that should be fun, Thursday repeat of an earlier ride from Maribyrnong to Williamstown, but hopefully no head wind on the way back this time and so a more enjoyable return! Then there was a ride on Saturday, to follow up our skills session with Bridie O’Donnell, along Beach Road for a road ride. That was a tentative. I haven’t done a road ride in years, and never in a bunch, and not since uni days, and was I really up for it? Definitely a query! In the end I read the updated description and it was for riders above my level so I let that one slide.

Tuesday I was up and at ‘em! This being the most recent morning after the night before when I missed my tablets! So I was firing on all cylinders! Chatty, energetic, ready to kill it on the ride! Etc! But it was cancelled. It wasn’t actually raining but it had been pouring with rain at 3am when I woke up for the day on a short amount of quetiapine-absent restless, fractured sleep! Our leader had been out to check the course and it was wet and slippery. And honestly, I’m having such a good time, and haven’t crashed since my chest infection-induced stupor in week 3 and I’d like to keep it that way. Don’t need any discouragement! So it was cancelled, but there’s always coffee and cake,Whee girls!! So I traipsed across town anyway for a good old catchup! And a divine cookie sandwich!!! I haven’t come across these till now, other than a Maxibon, but these are two yummy flaky bikkies with, in my case, vanilla bean cream in the middle! Very indulgent and just the best! Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington, people, opposite Newmarket Station! Wolf and Hound if I remember correctly! Worth the drive.

biscuit, latte, cafe

A Butterbing cookie sandwich and coffee at Wolf and Hound – not my coffee obviously

So that was all good, no ride for understandable reasons, and nothing could bring me down that day in any case, so a great day to bear with not getting to do what you hoped! When I say nothing could bring me down, I mean being too scatter brained to bring my phone charger, and my phone going flat from running GPS directed maps just as I got to the edge of my comfort zone and needed directions! But bipolar brain is super human and says, oh well, just drive up Flemington Road; you’re looking for an address in Flemington, you might get lucky! Well now we’re in Moonee Ponds so let’s turn around (not easy to accomplish!) and find a 7/11, surely they sell Melways. No you don’t? But I see a copy there, maybe I can just look up an address? Use your phone, are you sure, really I can look it up? Thanks, you’re a lifesaver, actually look it’s just nearby, 2 turns from here! Perfect, and I’m right on time! Thank you manic bipolar brain, you got through that mishap easy as pie. Of course, it is your fault about the charger…but everything else was great!

Cue Thursday. Restarted quetiapine on Tuesday night. There’s still some in my system, but miss a dose and boy, does the next dose feel like the first one! That first dose gives you the full side effect gammit: drowsiness like I’ve been dosed up with morphine, absolutely stupid after half an hour of taking it, cannot form words or walk anymore! Dry eyes makes them fully red which is just perfect for looking like a slurring, incoherent, stumbling lunatic if you happen to need the loo bad enough to get your eyes open and magically force yourself out of bed! Nose, eyes, mouth as dry as the desert, can’t pee or poop as much and boy is it hard to wake up the next day! Even if you wake it takes all morning for the sedation to wear off. Often I’ve just given up and gone back to bed at 9am, 10am, 11am. So Wednesday was not much of anything! In fact I sat in the same spot for the majority of the day once I finally got up at 11am to get breakfast. Think I did a load of laundry. Watched some Agents of Shield. Played Words with Friends. Ate lunch at 4pm. Tried to get my brain around our Wednesday bible study chapter. Started to think about dinner, then waited for my hubby to come home and make it. Bit of a washout day. But I knew that was coming, so yeah.

games, friends

Love this game! My husband isn’t such a fan, reckons I let him win so he’ll keep playing with me…so he stopped playing with me! Always happy to play with new people. This is one of the few activities that helps me feel like my brain isn’t rapidly shrinking!!

Thursday. Plan: repeat ride to Williamstown, without the head wind on the way back, if it please the Weather Bureau! 28 kilometres, gorgeous scenery, good friends, what more could we ask for? The forecast was 13 or something, but I have my neck gator, my head scarf, my new arm warmers, gloves, and a vest and coat to layer over my jersey, so no worries, plus I’m always warm on the inside! Despite the hangover effect, when my alarm went off at 8am I jumped right out of bed! Miraculous! Truly miraculous. The joy of the ride, the pleasure of good company, the scenic delights awaiting; my brain is on full anticipation mode, waiting for the lovely things the day will bring, which will in turn deliver to me those much lauded blessings of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, etc. It’s the dopamine that has the upper hand if you ask me. Once I finally got to that place of enjoying in my riding, my dopaminergic system started its reward seeking behavior that drives addiction. There, I said it, my brain is starting a powerful connection between riding and good things, and it wants more!

I’d organized to car pool with a friend from the course, the first time Little Miss Independent has let someone else take the wheel and do the driving. A big moment of letting go the control, and making friends! So nice to be trusted to go to someone’s house, meet their family, share an experience together. I’ve always considered myself a bit awkward socially, a bit challenged at making friends and as a little kid especially this was true. I’ve had my own friends, my school friends, and work friends. But I’ve always had my own space, where no one else goes. I’m finding it’s different with riding, because you really share common experiences so we have something together that binds us, and no external person can really share in it because they weren’t there. It’s fascinating to me, to see how this works, and to be a part of it! We share our insecurities, our weaknesses, our doubts in a way probably none of us would fully own out loud in any other situation, and probably not with our partners or other friends. Because in this course it’s okay to be scared, to not know, to be worried. It’s ALWAYS okay to be how you really are and what you really feel and no judgement is even thought of, because this is a place of learning and building up skills and encouragement and doing it together. That’s why we love it!

boardwalk, pond, rushes, bike

One from the archives. Back when I could still fit into my wardrobe, barely, March 2014. Remember I told you my hubby took me for a ride and it wasn’t the best? This is it! A brave smile!

—RIDE CANCELLED— As I’m walking out the door, socks, runners, leggings, jersey, neck warmer, ear warmer, gloves, vest, coat, lights, ready to go to my friend’s house to car pool, my phone beeps. I’ve got my bag with helmet, bike computer, bike mechanic kit etc on my shoulder, I’ve grabbed breakfast, filled up my drink bottle, got the car keys in my hand, bike in the car…cancelled! Cancelled! Ohhhhh. Deflated! But I’m ready to go! But that was the last organized ride for the week that was at my level! But I’m up, and if it was any other day I’d be asleep til 10am while restarting quetiapine, but I’m up! I’m up! Okay, so it’s wet and slippery, but I’m up!

This is no criticism of Wheel Women ride organization! They do an amazing job many times each week, and absolutely made the right call! No disagreement. But I was up! And I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the anticipation of friends and bike riding. Which is obviously a powerful thing, more than I would have ever expected from myself! So what now? Honestly I was flummoxed, wind taken out of my sails, left without purpose! So I sat down at the kitchen table, stared blankly at the wall and tried to think of what to do! Called my husband cos I was all out of ideas! Couldn’t think what to do next! It really had hit me for six, even though I always knew it was weather dependent. But I was going to go out and tackle that ride anyway, and do better. And now I wasn’t going anywhere! Huh!

blue sky, silver gulls, court house

A stunning Williamstown day on another ride

That was a great lesson to me, to find how much I depended on going riding, and expected to go, and could go the extra mile to get to the rendezvous point on time and all organized, because I wanted to go! Here are some powerful abilities that I can harness and use!

So, what to do? Actually I had a pretty flat day, which is so interesting to me, and something I can work on for next time for whatever disappointment inevitably comes. How can I response differently, better, not let myself get so deflated? I was still in a pretty soggy condition when my hubby got home so he set me to think up rides that I could do the next day. It was a great idea, but I parked it on the shelf. Right now though, I’m inspired so I’m going to try to do that, write a to-do list of bike rides for the future so that I always have a backup plan.

Inspired. Me, right now. Why? Its two days on from Thursday, and today I went and did that ride that was planned and cancelled with my husband, and it was great! The weather was cold but sunny, the scenery is always spectacular on that route and we had fun! Then we went and checked out the cyclocross race nearby and I got my fix of bikes and I’m feeling fine! Better than, in fact. It’s 10.48pm and I’m still tap tapping these ideas that were floating in my head while riding. Turns out riding really gives your head space to process ideas!

cars, blue sky, silver gull

Silver gull parade!! These ‘rats of the sea’ are standing guard waiting for the woman to finish her meal and hopefully leave some chips so they can all swoop in and grab the scraps

And that’s not the end of the victory parade.

The following Tuesday our ride was cancelled before the actual day. But I woke up that morning to a text from one of the lovely girls in our group asking if anyone wanted to do a replacement ride. What a genius, and what a great idea, and perfect for feeling like we haven’t missed out. Yes I did want to do a ride, so we met up really close to home and did an 18km ride together. It was a bit tougher than a lot of our other rides with a few challenging hills but we looked out for each other and I felt so satisfied by the time we got back. We had a nice coffee and cake at a cute new café, and I just loved it! Being independent, and able to tackle a decent ride on our own, and feeling like we’re capable and equipped; satisfaction! And it feels like a victory! I still want to do as many organized rides as I can, but what a feeling to be able to run our own ride if it falls through! Yay!!

So on Thursday, when the ride was ‘only’ 13km, we improvised and went the long way back to the cars together to draw the ride out to 24km. Imagine that! After such a slow, difficult start, I now feel a bit cheated if we don’t do 20km! I mention ‘only’ because the leaders would sometime say this to us, it’s only 6km, its only 13km etc. And I would think to myself, only, ONLY?? What are you talking about, only! I’m not at the only stage, every peddle stroke hurts. It was fascinating on Thursday because we rode the first ride we ever did to the bike store, which I thought would never end as I wheezed and sweating and burned my way along the ‘only’ 6km. And this time we got there in 10 minutes, before my legs had even warmed up, and suddenly we were there and I couldn’t believe how it didn’t hurt, or require much effort and we passed it like it was a kilometre from the car park!! That’s progress, and it’s so exciting!!

Recovery

 

“You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe, and be patient.” -unknown

 

Last Wednesday was an interesting day for me.

Another new start, another new pursuit, another new hobby, another new lifestyle angle.

I began a new journey, a new pathway towards I don’t know what exactly. I participated in my very first formal mindfulness class.

When I was in my first year of university and had my first panic attack, I went to see the campus counsellor. She was a really sweet lady and helped me through some difficulties, frustrations, emotional strain and odds and ends in our one-on-one sessions. She also got me involved in a lunchtime class where we tried meditation and mindfulness as stress reduction methods.

I don’t have a very clear memory of that time; I had a lot going on I guess. But I do remember one mindfulness exercise that we did with a mandarin and I’ve gone back to that a few times over the years since then.

This year and last year while I’ve been seeing a psychologist pretty frequently the idea of mindfulness has come up briefly a few times and the last time I was able to borrow a mindfulness CD from my counsellor by well known Dr Craig Hassad, lecturer at Monash University. That was a good reminder of what mindfulness is and how it can be used.

So now I’m doing this class for two and a half hours every Wednesday for eight weeks. So far, I’m very happy. The lovely group leader is a practical, kind lady who has made me feel very at home and the other members of the group all seem like they are very nice as well. I was a bit worried that it might be really alternative and other worldy, like rituals and incence and weird stuff; but thankfully its all very normal and logical and helpful.

We arrived on a freezing cold morning to a delightful old church done over for other uses. Not only was the heating on high but we were able to help ourselves to lovely fleece blankets that had been warming in front on one heater to keep ourselves soft and cozy! Plus cushions and pillows; how lovely! Off to a good start!

What I’ve been thinking about most is not the course so much, but how I introduced myself to the other ladies; no men in this particular course. My introduction of myself was that over the last year or so I’ve been progressively diagnosed with anxiety disorder, depression and now bipolar disorder. I told the other ladies that I’m now in the recovery phase of resting, starting medications, having doses changed and getting used to medicines.

Recovery phase.

Interesting.

When I got home that day I thought about that a bit more. And realised something. I tell other people that I’m in the recovery phase; resting, medications etc but I don’t let my brain get that memo. I’m telling myself a whole other message, which is hurry up and get your stuff together because your life is waiting for you and it won’t wait much longer!

See? A whole other message!! And quite a lot more stressful! So time to help myself out.

Danika, you are in the recovery phase.You can rest, you can allow time the healer of all things to have its place to work. You can allow medications to take their effect, you can attend your appointments with your doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist. You can go to your photography course, your mindfulness course, to free meditation class, on bird watching walks, on interesting day trips and excursions. You can take naps when you need them, rest when you are tired, socialise if you have the energy.

Can you take five minutes to realise how amazing this is? You have free rein to do whatever you feel like to help yourself and heal yourself!

Don’t think about how you can’t do everything that you want to, don’t worry about your limitations, don’t get put off by tiredness or weakness or feebleness. You can do whatever you feel like and are up to with whatever resources you have. That is amazing!

And make a new attempt at perspective, please. You have been on six different antidepressants on less than a year, each one taking a month to six weeks to show its full effect then needing to be washed out and a new one started. You have been on varying doses of a mood stabiliser since March and each dose or formulation change had its own issues. Remember that you started lithium not even eight weeks ago, and that the last dose change was just three weeks ago!

Three weeks. That’s not forever ago, you aren’t taking forever to get better, please remember that you are still taking step after step and every change takes some kind of toll, so you need time to roll through each new wave of turbulence.

 

 Don’t even think about work.

 

Those are the words from the psychologist provided with my insurance.

 

Don’t even think about it. Just relax, take it easy, take your time, get yourself better.

 

At my last psychiatrist visit we checked in again about my colossal weight gain and high cholesterol. He’s still thinking about putting me on a cholesterol lowering drug.

 

Its pointless trying to diet and exercise right now with all the changes in medication. You aren’t going to be able to do much about it until we get you stable.

 

Stable. We aren’t there yet. You are still in the figuring out what’s what and getting everything straightened out stage. You’re still adjusting to having this condition, and having to take medication twice every day and having to take life at a different pace.

But as always, instead of taking the psychiatrist’s words face value, I debated with myself and am still debating whether using that information is a cop out, and maybe I can do more about it than I think, and maybe I’m just being lazy and not trying etc. Typical!

But no, rest, relax, take advantage of this amazing time that you have. You’re young, you have time to fix your cholesterol, time to fix your weight, it doesn’t have to happen three weeks after changing doses of lithium! Sure, if you have the emotional and physical energy you can small changes now, but let’s resolve to postpone the big changes until 2015!

You’re in the recovery phase. You’re only job right now, is to recover. So off you go, recover. Rest, relax, enjoy, feast on this unexpected piece of time that’s been given to you, make the most of having very few responsibilities and hardly any “have to” claims on your time. Recovery.

Day One

swing, girl, book, 'Today your efforts will be rewarded'

My inspiration

I love this poster!!

It inspires me every time I walk past it at my local shopping centre.

It’s actually an advertisement for HSBC insurance, somehow, but I love the thought that the effort I put in will absolutely bring results. It keeps me feeling like there is a point to what I’m doing, and that the goal isn’t so far away.

Okay, time to get serious.

Yesterday I had an appointment with a dietician. Yes, a dietician. To discuss my diet.

Oh boy!!

My GP was lucky. He did some blood tests and found some nutritional deficiencies. Quite a few actually!!

So all he needed to say was that he wanted the deficiencies corrected through diet rather than by adding yet more tablets to my current regimen, and referred me to a dietician on that basis. This is why he didn’t want to add more tablets, and this is just the morning!!

capsules, tablets

My morning kickstart!

He escaped having to go through the process of telling me, ‘you’re fat”! Lucky him! Although we both knew that underneath the conversation that we were actually having was another silent conversation along the lines of “since we met 6 months ago you have gained a tonne of weight and you really have to do something about it, starting now!”

But coming at the subject from a less obvious angle made it a lot easier for him to bring it up, and for me to accept it. Clever!

I’ve seen a new side to being a health professional lately; the ‘getting patients to see things from your viewpoint without thinking they’re being forced there’ skill. It’s vital to successful relationships with patients, and to achieving the outcome that’s best for them. Even when they may not think so.

Kudos to the excellent health professionals that have cared for me over the last year! I respect and appreciate your negotiating and information-giving skills in hindsight, even if I was a difficult patient back when we met. Thank you!

So the dietician. A lovely softly spoken slim fit-looking girl who told me I was beautiful and had amazing eyes! Nice work!! Just like that she had me feeling flattered and accepting of everything she was about to say; well done. Seriously, I’m impressed! And I’m learning new skills in people-management.

So, what did she have to say? Nothing that I wasn’t expecting, to be honest. I knew the ‘what’ of the appointment, although maybe not quite the extent.

Here’s the facts:

1) On October 24th 2013 I weighed 77.65kg. I had spent 14 months from August 2012 to October 2013 losing weight, and had dropped 9kg which I was pretty proud of.

2) On May 23rd 2014 I weighed 95.4kg!! Nearly 18kg gained in 7 months!! Oh dear…

3) My cholesterol level has been borderline high since my first WorkSafe health check in 2010, at that point due to 4 years of chocolate bingeing. Unfortunately in the last 6 months it has gone from borderline high to do-something-now-before-you-have-a-heart-attack-or-stroke high!! At this point, it’s due to 8 years of chocolate bingeing!! My LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) is 7.5, and the upper level of the range is 5.5! So, quite high!!

Question from the dietician: “do you want to live a long life with your husband?”. Me: “yes, of course!”. Dietician: “then you really have to do something about your cholesterol”!!

4) My vitamin D level is getting progressively lower. It was normal last year and at the start of this year and low a couple of years ago so I guess it fluctuates. Spending the last 3 months at home and not getting out much has not helped my incidental sunshine exposure! So back on supplements.

5) My iron storage level (ferritin) is low. This one puzzles me and everyone else because there’s no obvious cause. So diet, you need some change. More meat, but no more fat…interesting conundrum!!

6) My waist measurement is 100cm!! The safe upper limit of waist circumference to prevent heart disease in women is 80cm…quite a bit of work to do there! Oh, and I look like I’m 5 months pregnant!!

7) Most relevant fact: I now have 3 skirts left that fit (ish)and 90% of my wardrobe no longer fits!!! Or it squishes my waist into weird shapes and bulges, or clings to wide parts of me – not nice for anybody!!

So we know the what. Now for the why.

I know this one too.

Binge eating, comfort eating, boredom eating, drug-induced craving eating, habit eating…are there any other kinds? Oh yeah, guilt eating, shame eating etc.

Food has always been a weakness with me. I love it, I enjoy it but it has gotten to be a habit and comfort to me.

While I’ve been really sick it was one of the only things that I could still get enjoyment from when I’d lost interest in everything else. It was nice to be able to enjoy the flavour, texture, taste when everything else had lost it’s interest and enjoyment.

In times of severe depression when I have lost all my energy, motivation, and was tired, flat and struggling to do anything, I would eat sugar after sugar after sugar to try to get just a little scrap of energy so that I could do SOMETHING!! Sour straps, chocolate, licorice, berries, frozen yoghurt…the list goes on!

The rest of the time, just having the food near was enough reason to reach out and eat.

Did it work? Did it give me energy? No. But it made me feel good for a little bit. And I kept doing it, because I like it!

But then it would make me feel bad. Guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, feeling over-full and gross.

The dietician gave me a diagram that perfectly describes how I’ve found over-eating:

a diagram of the cycle of emotional eating

The Vicious Cycle of Emotional Eating – perfectly described!

But it’s time to stop. Time to break the cycle, for once and for all.

I’m (hopefully!) past the worst mood swings and have a bit more energy and time to put into Project Danika. So here we are, Day ONE.

And here’s the plan.

My cholesterol is shocking so it’s the first thing to be addressed. I’m trying a radical new meal plan: eat breakfast, lunch and tea. That’s all.

Hmmm. It’s a long time since I’ve eaten 3 meals and nothing else in the day!! I’m allowed morning and afternoon tea but from today, no more mindless snacking, eating from boredom, for sugar hits, mood improvers or anything else along that line.

What I eat for my main meals is actually fine, no dietician amendments needed. It’s everything in between that needs to be eliminated. So here goes, no snacking!

A few things I learned yesterday: cravings last from 9 to 12 minutes therefore if I can keep my mind and body busy for 10 minutes whenever a craving hits I will be able to get through feeling the need for food to feeling satisfied for food. Such a great tip!! Now I feel like I have an active plan that I can work on to achieve my goals.

I now know the ‘how’ of the equation! I love it. I have strategies and goals and it feels achievable. I’ve been letting myself have a free run but no more. Time for the better me to have a go at life.

The next dietician strategy if I get as far as the fridge; start asking questions! Why am I eating? Will this snack make me feel healthy? Am I hungry? Should I have a glass of water instead?

And if I get as far as actually eating? Next lot of questions: am I enjoying this? can I stop? Did I really taste that?

Failing that, just finish what you’re eating, put it down to experience and try again from now on. I’m psyched!! Having someone give me all these plans and strategies makes the biggest difference to me. I guess it may seem obvious to others, but I really need to have it broken down for me.

So with a fruit bowl full of mandarins and kiwi fruit, some celery sticks and baked bean cans, and a new approach of not buying anything that has more than 2g of fat per serve, off I go. I’ll keep you posted along the way to the 3 week mark when I revisit the dietician.

Wish me luck!