I travelled this weekend.  I had a blast, managed to keep the stress to a minimum, and ate carefully to reduce my chances of a flare-up.  I was doing great until…

… I got to Union Station, Los Angeles, and was told the bathrooms were closed.

I had checked ahead of time when I made my reservations.  I was supposed to have thirty minutes to use the bathroom before they closed up for three hours.  (I won’t even go into the idiocy of closing an entire major station for three hours just to clean.  Sectional cleaning, anyone?)

My bus arrived 35 minutes late.  This meant the bathrooms had been closed for five minutes and I was out of luck.  I needed a bathroom, but not desperately, so I thought I could manage.

UC doesn’t like it much when you hold off using the bathroom.

An hour later, I passed out.  When I came to, I’d had an accident and still felt awful.  Much as I hated to do it, I lay down on the floor of Union Station with my suitcase as my pillow until the bathroom would open.  Apparently, security didn’t like that and told me I couldn’t sleep on the floor.

“I’m not sleeping, I’m sick.”

“You can’t lie on the floor.”

“I need a bathroom.”

“Bathrooms are closed.”

“Then I’m lying on the floor.”

Apparently he eventually realized I was actually sick and found a way to get me into a bathroom.  I was able to change my clothing, but I was out of wet wipes, so I couldn’t even do a decent job of cleaning myself up.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so embarrassed to smell like one of the homeless people who live in and around the station, but I did.  I also felt awful… UC drains me.  Since I couldn’t lie down inside, I went out to a bench (security guard nearby) and went back to sleep until things got fixed.  Then I had to go home, rather than go to work, because I could barely stand up straight.

All of this would’ve been okay if I could have just used the bathroom when I needed to in the first place.  I can’t even think of a real solution to this one, since I had planned for the thirty minute window to use the bathroom “just in case”.  It’s just one more of the joys of having an “invisible” disease that people don’t know about.  Crohn’s, because of the gluten allergy, is more well-known.  Ulcerative colitis is like speaking Latin.

If nothing else, this incident definitely didn’t make me a fan of Union Station and reinforced for me the need to scout out bathrooms before I go places.

You know… like normal people.

 

 

I am generally what you’d call a high-energy person.  My boyfriend calls me the Energizer Bunny, for example.  I usually need a little less sleep (actually need less, not just run on less).  I wake up ready to go and full of energy.  I have to wind down to make myself sleep at night.

At least, that’s what my life is like when my ulcerative colitis doesn’t take center stage.

Most of the time, UC is about food choices, reducing stress, and dealing with urgent bathroom issues most people don’t need to stress over unless they overdid the Taco Bell the night before.  Sometimes, though, UC is about energy.

Because of my UC, I can’t eat as many things.  A good-sized salad, for example, is generally a bad idea.  Because of that, I sometimes lack nutrients even though I eat with a deliberate eye toward nutrition.  Lack of nutrients can add up… and tear down.

This last week, I have been exhausted.  Some of that I can attribute to monthly hormonal fluctuations; some of it to a hard training schedule for my first half-marathon.  But most of the lack of energy, I suspect, is from the UC flare-up I had the week before.

Being this tired makes me feel like a different person.  Rather than juggling multiple items, I struggle to keep one aloft.  Maintaining relationships is always a struggle for my introvert self; when I’m tired, it becomes an “I’ll get to it later” concept.  I feel a bit disconnected from the world at large.

There’s really nothing I can do about it but ride it out, but I feel less me while I do it.  That’s one of the hidden side effects of this chronic illness.

At least I can look forward to my better days as I work my way through these more low-key ones.  For that, I am grateful.

Hiatus

July 30, 2013

As I’ve mentioned, my kids are on summer break.  I also have a 3 1/2 hour commute each day… AND my coworkers have all been taking vacation.  Couple that with my first ulcerative colitis flare-up in six months and I just don’t have a lot of energy for blogging.

I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things next week.  For now, please be patient with me.

Here are a few articles about ulcerative colitis, for those who are curious about UC:

 

Proverbs 31:19

In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

It’s a sign of affluence that you don’t have to work hard.  Want something done?  Pay someone to do it.  Unfortunately, that’s not how we were created.

Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

From the very beginning, we were created to work and care for things.  We tend to forget that in our quest for the next technological marvel that will do the work for us.

A few examples:

  • It takes very little time or effort to wash most dishes if you do them immediately (or at least leave them to soak in water).  Better yet, you only need to have one full place-setting per person if you wash after each meal.  Instead, we buy multiple sets of dishes and silverware, fill the dishwasher to capacity, have to use heavy-duty cleansers because we don’t rinse, and waste far more water with each wash.
  • Having a “kitchen garden” is about as healthy as you can get.  You have your own produce, so it only has whatever pesticides and fertilizers you put on it.  Seeds and seedlings are relatively inexpensive.  The produce is fresh.  You can burn upwards of 272 calories per hour doing simple gardening.  Instead, however, we pay someone else to care for our highly fertilized, over-manicured lawns.  We buy produce from several continents away or used canned or frozen (although I’m a fan of frozen veggies as a secondary option) or we pay premium prices for organic.  Then we pay for gym membership so we can work off the calories from our poor diets.
  • Doing housework burns about 211 calories (more if you weigh more) per hour.  You use cleaners you’re comfortable with and your house is as clean as you make it.  Instead, we pay someone else to clean our house, they use heavy-duty industrial cleaners to get the job done faster, and then we work more hours so we can afford to pay for the housecleaner.

Per a recent Chinese study, a sedentary lifestyle is responsible for more deaths than smoking.  We’ve conquered a lot of the things that used to kill us when we were active, physical people: chicken pox, smallpox, and other diseases are nearly gone from our vocabulary.  Instead, we die of heart disease, diabetes, and not working.

The CDC recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of activity per day for a child and 2 hours 30 minutes per week for adults.  Sorry, but I think those numbers are way too low.  Study after study shows that sitting isn’t offset by a half-hour of activity.  Instead, you need activity (work) all day.  Then, at night, you need to not go home and plop yourself in front of the TV because you’re too exhausted to do anything else.

Here are some practical guidelines to help you not be a sedentary lifestyle statistic:

  • Look at any kind of work as a blessing, not a curse.  If you have to park further away from the grocery store, celebrate the extra couple of calories you’re burning.  Better yet, plan to park further away in the first place.  I currently bike 9 miles a day as part of my commute up to four days a week.  I consider this beneficial, since I get in a workout each of those days without doing anything extra.
  • Stand when you can, sit when you must.  If you are like the average American (or, worse, the average Southern California resident), you spend as much as 45 minutes a day average commuting.  That’s all sit-down time.  Then you get to a job where you work a minimum of an 8-hour day, sitting at a desk, even taking your lunch at your desk.  You may not be able to cut out your commute, but see if you can take a bus or train.  You save money, save gas, lower pollution, and you can stand up for at least part of the ride.  At work, make sure you get up and stretch or move around at least once an hour.  Take your breaks outside and use at least half your lunch for a healthy walk.  If you can, have a stand-up desk.
  • If you have to go home and watch TV, use it as impetus to exercise.  Stand up until the first commercial, then do a quick weight workout until the commercial ends.  Let yourself sit down for the next section (if you must), then go back to working out at the next commercial break.  If you don’t want to work out, at least stand, do housecleaning, or do weights from your seat.

Our bodies were made for work.  Don’t be surprised when it breaks down if you’re not using it properly.

 

Beauty tip:  If you’re doing a homemade pedicure, use the salicylic acid in Pepto Bismol to smooth rough patches.  Coat feet in a thin layer of Pepto and let set until dry, then soak or rinse thoroughly.  It also works as a face mask, unless you’re sensitive.  The product coats with a protective layer, keeping it fairly gentle; then the salicylic acid sloughs away dead skin cells, giving skin a glow and feet a fresh appearance.

Proverbs 31:17

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I really think, when it comes to beauty (or being obedient to God), we women forget this one the most often.  I know I did for a while.  As a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom with a part-time job that I took my kids to, I was always on the clock.  I volunteered extensively at church, wrote up curriculum, helped launch a homeschool group, and taught classes.  I also ran myself down, got bronchitis twice a year, and hovered just above a healthy weight range (only because my job was very active and I never sat down).

While married men tend to live longer than their single counterparts, married women tend to live shorter, less healthy lives than their single counterparts.  Being wife, mother, employee, housekeeper, etc. wears women down… and then they’re too busy to take care of themselves, too.

Proverbs calls for women to be strong for their tasks; you can’t do that if you’re always worn down and exhausted.  There are five small steps you can take right now:

  • Guard your sleep.  If you have a late night one night and can’t sleep in a bit the next day, make sure the next evening has nothing scheduled so you can get back on track.
  • Eat the majority of your meals sitting down at the table.  Yep, this is a hard one for me, too.  Do it anyway.  Instead of eating while you drive, eating while you get lunches ready, or skipping meals altogether (only to binge later on something unhealthy), take the extra fifteen minutes to sit down and eat with family.
  • Get a minimum of thirty minutes of physical activity each day.  Can’t make it to the gym?  Do a bodyweight workout in small increments (10 minutes here and there).  Take a walk at lunch.  Get up every hour or so at work and just stretch.  This is the bare minimum for health.
  • Foster relationships with girlfriends, but don’t say yes to everything.  It’s hard; the more friends you have, the more obligations you must meet.  Figure out a few close friends and try to always make their plans a priority; for everyone else, be willing to say no unless your schedule is empty.
  • Take time to relax, meditate, pray… for me it’s prayer.  If I take the time to slow down and pray, I relax.  If you find yourself falling asleep everytime you slow down, then maybe you’re not getting enough sleep.

You will be stuck with this body for the rest of your life; if you don’t take care of it, some of the damage is hard to repair.  Just take care of it from the beginning and make your job easier in the future.

After spending so much time and effort on my health, I can’t end this series without focusing on how minimalism relates to my health.

There is a lot out there about how to best stay healthy.  There are costly creams, expensive supplements, and organic foods.  Gyms, exercise equipment, and workout DVDs are another expense.  It can be exhausting just to try to stay in shape.

Staying healthy shouldn’t be that complicated.  It just shouldn’t.

My workout is pretty simple.  I run 2-3 days a week.  I bike 9 miles commuting to and from work.  I try to do a weight workout for every part of my body two times a week.  Soon I’m adding swimming.  I still don’t love yoga, but am trying to use some of the moves for flexibility.  Okay, it sounds complicated, but it usually works out to two workouts in a day (usually back-to-back) and one day completely off each week.

I’m trying to simplify my food.  I stopped worrying about the Clean 15 and focused on the Dirty Dozen.  I cut a lot of meat out of my diet and put in quinoa (cheaper).  I drink less “milk” and most of it is almond milk.  More importantly, though, I cut out most baked goods and refined sugars, coffee, and soda.  Those things up my grocery bill without providing any health benefits.

My goals in minimalist health are as follows:

1.  Observe the Sabbath.  There is a rest day proscribed in the Bible for a reason.

2. Create a minimal menu, where I eat the same type of food at certain meals each week.  No need to recreate the wheel.  By this, I mean have meatless Monday, fish Friday, soup Sunday, etc.

3. I currently need my gym membership in order to swim (and I got a good deal), but I’m trying to buy very little.  I can use what I have, buy used, or do without.

4. Figure out what supplements I truly need, what I can get from food cheaply, and how to do t inexpensively.

Beyond this, I think worrying too much about health will actually be unhealthy, so I’m going to (try) to stop.

I think it can be done…

Well, it appears to be official.  I avoided gluten for most of my 30-day cleanse.  There were small amounts here and there, but nothing significant.

Thursday night I had one-half of a foot-long Subway sandwich, thinking I was making a fairly safe choice.  I was bloated, mildly crampy, and generally unhappy in less than two hours.  My body pretty much purged itself of everything I’d eaten.

I thought, at the time, that maybe I’d just tried to come off the cleanse too fast; I went ahead and had my second half for lunch on Friday.

This time, less than a full hour and I was crampy, in the bathroom, and feeling very “off”.  Even my sinuses seemed to be worse.

I’ve never been tested for a gluten sensitivity, but empirical evidence certainly seems to point toward a strong probability.

I’m going to take most gluten back out of my diet and see how I feel in a few days.