Healing Sleep Finally

My body has all of a sudden been craving a lot of sleep lately, and I have been going to bed soon after my children, sleeping in as late as they will let me, and sleeping very deeply in the time I have. And in this deep sleep, I feel like my body is repairing itself in ways that I’ve been longing for.

I couldn’t understand why I was so achy, but I think I was getting minor readjustments all over because this morning I woke up feeling amazing. My psoriasis patches that I’ve had since December 2016 are finally shrinking up. I’ve started vividly dreaming again these past couple of weeks, which has been sorely lacking. And I feel more grounded than I have for a long time. The only downsides are that I’m having a really hard time focusing through this process and feeling achy last week was not fun. And I still struggle with feeling like I’m “wasting” time by going to bed early and not having that time to create or to spend with my husband or to clean the house. But it isn’t wasted. My body is doing what it needs to do to allow me to live my best life while I’m awake.

So, listen to your body. Don’t abuse it. All pieces of yourself should be working together as a team to achieve what you want out of life. This is a lesson I continually have to put into practice for myself.

The Importance of Listening to Your Body

So… I came down with a really bad bug over the weekend, almost exactly one year from the time I started getting sick and then pushed myself to keep overworking for a couple of weeks and then literally collapsed. I’m on the mend now, feeling much better today after spending most of yesterday sleeping, but I was silly and started trying to push through Saturday evening and Sunday morning, including taking it upon myself to deep clean my tub so I could take a bath later in the day, and my body just kind of said “nope” Sunday night and I was knocked off my feet for 36 hours. Feeling much better today, with just some lingering sinus fuzzyheadedness and drainage, so thank goodness.

What that means, though, is that last week’s loss of energy and creeping in of self-doubt was mostly due to the bug coming on. I’ve noticed this pattern for a long time now… any time I am in the early stages of getting sick, I get super down about life and really start laying into myself badly. Going forward, I need to pay attention to that and start taking care of myself immediately – get more sleep, eat “clean” (no inflammatory foods), limit caffeine, do some nurturing. Then maybe I won’t need to get knocked down entirely in order to heal.

Our bodies talk to us, and I think, for the most part, we ignore what they say because we want to continue doing what we want to do, regardless of whether it’s good for us. But if all the parts that make us up work together, we’re going to be at our best, which is the happiest way to live life. So duly noted, body, and I will be paying attention to you more closely. I do not ever want a repeat of last year.

Some Personal News and Reflection

I’ve inadvertently had another brief hiatus during January, haven’t I? Well, I have a good-ish excuse – I’m expecting my second child. I’m just at the end of the first trimester now, and for those of you have never experienced it, the first trimester is often accompanied by deep fatigue. Add to the mix an iron-deficiency that exhausted me even more (which I self-corrected with a diet change) and a very hectic schedule leading up to a big project at work (which finishes tomorrow), and also the stress of dealing with buying-a-house paperwork, and I’ve kind of let everything else fall by the wayside. I’m looking forward to a slight increase of energy during the 2nd trimester.

It’s strange, the differences between my two pregnancies. I feel much better with this one thus far. I’m far healthier than I was last time, my psoriasis has been under control for years, I’m very active at my job so even when I’m too tired to exercise I’m still getting some exercise daily. But my last one, I worked as a receptionist and so could just mentally check out during the day at work but still get my work done. It didn’t matter if I was exhausted, as long as I was awake enough to process paperwork and answer the phones. My position now involves actually being in charge of stuff that I can’t let slide. Which makes it difficult. Pregnancy brain is real! The other big difference is that for almost 6 weeks of the first trimester, I went into “robot-mode”, where I felt really flat about everything, no emotional highs or lows, which is the complete opposite of the emotional swings I felt the first time. It was strange, feeling almost numb, and probably was tied into the iron-deficiency because I feel much better now.

It’s also strange how pregnancy forces you to slow down, both physically and mentally. Your body will let you know if you move in a “wrong” way, or if you start trying to go too fast, bringing you up short of breathe. Your thoughts just start to wander sometimes. As an example, I started working my way through Kant’s “Critique of Practical Reason” back in December as a good mental exercise for me. It is not a long work, but I’m barely able to read a few pages at a time on my Kindle. Granted it’s been a decade since I’ve read anything similar, so getting back into scholar mode would’ve been tough regardless, but the pregnancy brain is making it much more difficult. I’ve also let a lot of my creative and spiritual practices slide because of the exhaustion. Still being creative through my main source of income, but I just haven’t had the energy to do a lot on the personal side of things. Meditation has been difficult with the wandering mind, or I just tend to go inward to feel myself and the baby and do some self-healing. Which is maybe as it should be right now. I need to feel self-insulated and cocooned against the outside world slightly as a protective measure. Hopefully, though, with the close of this project and moving into the 2nd trimester, I will be better capable of keeping up with my practices.

Anyway, even though I will get back into regularly blogging here again, I won’t be posting a ton more about the pregnancy here. Maybe one describing the labor and delivery if I’m brave enough to share. I think it is important to share a little, though, because even though this will probably be our last biological child (replace ourselves), I really believe that having children is the ultimate creative project I can accomplish in life. Raising decent, whole human beings is a lofty goal, but a worthwhile one. And as this blog is about creativity, it’s important to me that I connect the two. Every creative process and period of growth for me is like the birthing process. I guess I’ve just always become the stand-in mother for any group I’ve been in. Nurturing and protecting and sometimes pushing people for their own good is an innate part of who I am. An incarnation of the Earth mother.

Non-Medical Sinus Remedies That Work! (For Me At Least)

I have been lax on several of my duties, including updating this blog, for the past week, and the main reason is that I’ve been battling some sinus issues. Every year in September, there is a 1 to 2 week period where I get an autumnal plague, just when I start wanting to kick into super-productive mode. I don’t know if it’s allergies, the weather shifting, or germs circulating more freely with children going back to school – maybe a combination of the three – but going back through my Morning Pages of recent years reads the same each time (“Ugh, my sinuses… I feel like crap… I’m so tired…”). I, of course, didn’t help matters this year by staying up really late to finish a project last Thursday and then staying up the two following nights for socializing (skanking at a wedding reception while snuffily didn’t help matters either, I’m sure).

I am someone who likes to keep my mind as sharp as possible, and I prefer to allow my body to fight off infections and bugs on it’s own whenever it can. Antibiotics are over-prescribed, allergy meds severely alter my mood and leave me feeling dizzy and “bubble-headed”, and even over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine have their effects. So I only rely on them as a last resort. So, slowly, in the past decade, I’ve developed a routine that works to get rid of my symptoms quickly and gets me back to full-productivity. I’ve decided to share my list with you, so maybe you can test them on yourselves.

Please note: I am not a medical doctor. I do not have any medical studies to back up my list, although they may exist if you decide to hunt for them. I’ve just tested various remedies on myself, and these are the ones that work for me. If they don’t work for you, don’t blame me.

  • Sleep is the most important thing you can do when you are suffering sinus issues (or indeed, any kind of ailment). As you can imagine, this is difficult for me to succumb to, but it is necessary. A lot of the further steps on this list merely relieve the sniffle/drainage symptoms enough so that you can get the rest you need.
  • Fluids – lots of them, and good quality ones. Water. Herbal teas – I use nettle tea for my allergy symptoms normally and just up my consumption, adding in some echinacea when I think it might be a cold). Pure juices but you should limit these or water them down as excess sugar can inflame the sinuses and worsen the mucous. Bone broths, I cannot rave enough about bone broths, for the vitamin and mineral content and the fat. I also like apple cider vinegar tonics, mixing in either cool water or adding 1 tbsp to hot water with 1 tbsp of local honey if my throat is sore from the drainage. Yes, you will get bloated, but all of that liquid helps flush the gross stuff pouring down your throat and into your stomach.
  • Zinc lozenges – I use one that also has vitamin C in it, but primarily it’s the zinc that helps, and sucking on a lozenge over taking a pill allows it to absorb better. Just be careful of the kind you pick, you don’t need to be adding fake sugars like aspartame or sucrolose in your body at this time (or ever, really, but that’s another discussion).
  • Steam treatments – if you don’t have a fever, you can soak in as hot of a bath as you can stand and this will help relieve any aching muscles as well. If you do have a fever, boil water in a tea kettle and pour it in a large bowl that can stand the heat. Drape a bath towel over the bowl to trap the steam in, and put your head under the towel to breathe in the steam for as long as you can stand. Take a break when you have to, and repeat for about five minutes, or as long as you can stand it. Both in the tub and at the table, you can add a few drops of lavender and/or eucalyptus oil, which will help open the sinus passages more and allow drainage.
  • Hydrogen peroxide in the ears – this is one I have no idea why it works, but it does. Lay on your side and put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide (whatever strength you get at the pharmacy for normal cosmetic usage) in one ear. I wet a cotton ball with the peroxide and squeeze it over my ear until it feels like no air is really getting in. Now, the sensation is very strange. Depending on how congested you are, or how much build-up you have in the ear canal, you will hear/feel the peroxide start bubbling away. You can also occasionally get vertigo, as your body adjusts. You will, quite suddenly, feel massive drainage from your sinuses, and yes, it is gross and disgusting, but the relief is immense. After about five minutes, sit up and drain your ear by tilting your head, then repeat on the other side.
  • Neti pot – now, there is some controversy regarding the neti pot. I actually don’t use a real neti pot but instead use an infant nose bulb and a little glass bowl. I start with distilled water, boil it to kill any bacteria it might have picked up from sitting on the grocery store shelves, and add in salt right before use. Suck up some water in the nosebulb and squirt it up my sinuses. Since leaving my office job, I have only had to rely on this once (far fewer allergens and germs that I’m exposed to). But if you try this, definitely be careful. It is painful but cleans out the nasal passages really well if an infection has started.
  • For severe nighttime congestion, I like to mix a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil with coconut oil and smear it under my nose – homemade vaporub! Test a sample on your skin to make sure you can stand the tingling sensation, and if you’ve been blowing your nose a lot, the area may be too sensitive for heavy use. But this helps keep the nostrils clear.

I hope these help you in the coming cold season! I’m on the mend myself now, but the rest of my household has succumbed. So there’s a bit of misery still around here. I’m getting impatient to get back to my full energy levels, because I have so many things I want to be working on. As usual.

Edit: I thought these were homeopathic remedies (albeit not the sleeping part) but was pointed out the error of my ways, so I changed the title. I’ve been using the word wrong all these years. The more you know!

“How Do You Stay So Thin?!”

This past weekend, I was asked the dreaded question, the one that’s been plaguing me as I’ve slowly lost the weight gained from pregnancy (nearly 50 lbs) plus an additional 10 or so on top of that. “You are looking so skinny! How do you stay so thin?!”

It is a dreaded question for a lot of reasons. First, it has always bothered me that ‘thin’ is equal to ‘healthy’ in American society, but it isn’t always true. It is more important to me to be truly healthy, to manage my allergies and psoriasis issues non-medically, to have the energy to keep up with my son and pursue my goals, to be able to fight back should the end of our civilization come in our lifetime. And actually, the last few pounds I’ve lost recently are almost entirely due to stress and being too busy to feel as hungry as I probably should be. So I’ve been losing some muscle mass, and when my contracted jobs are done in a couple of weeks, I’ll probably gain a few pounds back. When someone asks me this question, though, I’m not getting complimented on my toned legs and my muscular structure. They sound wistful or a tad envious, and they ask in the hopes that I will tell them my secret diet or pill that I pop. They are looking for the magical solution, because in their mind, “thin” is “happy”, and they want the quick fix.

Inwardly, I groan, and I say “I eat as much real food as possible”. Most of the time, I am stared at blankly, but if there is a glimmer of interest, I explain further. “Over the past several years, I’ve completely changed how I view food. I don’t demonize fat. I eat limited processed foods which has drastically cut down on the sugar and refined wheat. I avoid fake sugar and chemical additives whenever possible. But I don’t deny myself at parties or if my husband’s grandmother sends us home with a package of Oreos – if I want to eat a little junk, I eat it. But I try not to keep it at home. I eat the best quality meat I can buy in smaller portion sizes and use all of it that I can (ie. rendering out the fat, making homemade bone broths, etc). I use full-fat pastured dairy products. I don’t count calories or weigh food but just eat until I feel full.” (I don’t list it like this – it is an actual back-and-forth conversation). Their eyes start to look a little glazed over at this point, so I inevitably scale it back. “But where I started, way back in 2008, is with what I drink. I slowly weaned off having sweetener in my coffee, and I took over a year to get rid of it entirely. So if you’re really interested in losing weight, I would recommend starting there for the first few months.” And usually I get some long-winded explanation about how they can never give up their diet coke or glass of juice or sugar-and-chemical laden non-dairy creamer for their coffee or their twice weekly bout of binge drinking, and they look at me like I’m crazy for eating the way I do.

And I am crazy, I guess. But if I can help myself ease my eventual arthritis and keep my brain and body active longer into life, then it’s worth being put into awkward situations and have people think I’m just an insane hippie.

Being thinner than I was does have some drawbacks. My stretchmarks from my son will never go entirely away. My laugh lines on my face show much more so I look older. And my boobs are no where near as magnificent as they were when I was 15-25 lbs heavier and nursing.

I do have a secret about the way I eat, though, and it’s this: once you cut out processed foods, everything else tastes so much better. Your taste buds just work better without the frankenfoods. My favorite snack is a crisp, in-season NY apple with a good size chunk (maybe 2-3 serving sizes) of NY or VT extra sharp cheddar. The flavor combination is amazing. Shhh… don’t tell anyone that I told you.

A New Meaning for Bleeding for Your Art

Last night, after an excruciating hour and twenty minutes of getting my son down to bed (a job that usually takes fifteen to twenty minutes), I settled in to work on my illustrations for my poetry collection.  I’ve tried to get these illustrations done for the past five months, so I was excited to finally pick up from where I had left off.  Unfortunately, my hands are badly cracked and dry right now with the weather shift, and I began bleeding slightly from a couple of the cracks, and because I was tired, my drawing hand kept grazing the illustration board.  It got so bad that I had to stop mid-way through my first penciling in frustration.  I tried too hard to remove the red stain (these are supposed to be black ink renderings only, after all) and wound up removing a few layers of paper in the process.  I think it will still be fine once all is said and done, but I was disgusted with myself, upset that my hands have gotten so bad (weather, stress, not taking care of myself, not getting sleep), and because I am an artist, my imagination immediately jumped to a place where I wouldn’t ever be able to be creative again because my hands are so bad.

Tonight, I’ll try again.  I have a pair of vintage kid leather gloves that I will wear and see if I can draw in them.  I may need to invest in several different pairs of gloves and experiment with all of my different creative endeavors if this keeps up because, let me tell you, graphite dust in open cracks hurts and probably doesn’t help the healing process that much.  I am going to buy petroleum jelly on my lunch break against my better judgement to hopefully trap in moisture and heal my cracks (I say “against my better judgement” because there can be long term issues using petroleum-based products, but short term it’s a much better alternative to steroid creams or tar products).  And I am going to take time over the next several months to take care of myself and lower my body’s inflammation response.  I refuse to be a victim to our modern day of life, and I will heal and live as healthily as I can.  There is too much creative work to be done to live any other way.