Taking vitamins is hard

I’m trying to create healthier habits in my life, I eat mostly vegetables (and cheese), I am finally to a place where I’m regularly exercising and not despising it. I wear sunscreen always, and I decided that it probably wouldn’t hurt if I started taking a multi-vitamin. So, I bought a bottle of vitamins formulated for women (it doesn’t really matter which one, honestly, I bought the bottle that was on clearance because that is how concerned I am, but hey, baby steps to start). I’m supposed to take this vitamin with a meal and because I always eat breakfast I decided that would be as good as any other time.

Yesterday I made myself healthy breakfast (omelet with spinach and tomatoes from the backyard) but by the time I remembered about the vitamin I was out of my drink (I ALWAYS drink filtered water in Arizona, and always with a squirt of flavoring because the water here is cringingly bad (Especially to someone like me who was literally raised on mountain spring water our town collected from a burbling fountain coming out of the bottom of a granite mountain.).). Ok, so, fresh drink. Doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, right?


I added a little orange-tangerine flavor to my 24 oz bottle and grabbed the Brita pitcher out of the fridge. When I started pouring water the little plastic flap that covers the spigot fell into my tangerine sauce. I sighed and went to fish it out, getting bright orangey sauce all over my fingers, turning my nails orange (that’s….probably not very healthy). I rinsed off the little flap thingie and when I went back to finish pouring I knocked the pitcher which bumped my bottle which fell to the tile and sprayed orange droplets everywhere.

I maybe cursed a little and reached for the Clorox wipes, I wiped up all the orange droplets on the tile, and then used a little elbow grease on some other spots that I probably should have paid more attention to the last time I mopped.

….when was the last time I mopped the kitchen? Two weeks ago? Three? Uh, it might be longer than that. Eeek, that’s gross.

Some of the orange drops landed on the kitchen mat by the sink, which as an indoor/outdoor mostly plasticy rug I can clean relatively easily. I started scrubbing the worst spots with more Clorox wipes using the last in the canister. To the laundry room for more wipes.

While I was there I changed a load and started folding the towels as I pulled them out of the dryer, I sorted the dirty pile of the floor into the right bins and cleared off the top of the dryer. Why was I in here again?

Oh. Clorox wipes. Right. I swear I’m losing my ever-loving mind.

Back to the kitchen, hmmm, that rug really probably needs a good bath from the hose, actually, the orange isn’t coming out very well. I take it to the patio and turn on the hose, there are still a few spots that are staying orange…hrrm…. Baking soda! I could use some baking soda on it to get this stain out!

I put the hose on a dry spot in the grass and go back to the kitchen to make a baking soda paste, which I also rub on my orange fingernails and am surprised at how quickly it removes the stain. I probably need a manicure sometime soon, or at least should deal with those cuticles, eeek.

I rinse the baking soda paste down the sink and then remember I needed it for the rug. Batch #2 of paste (good thing baking soda is cheap) and outside again to deal with the rug.

The stain comes off just like that and I start watering my little plants, the squash and tomatillos and strawberries and beans are looking really good and I’m glad I moved the basil to a spot where it will get a little more sun! I pick up some of the trash that is always blowing into the corners of our yard and tidy up the seating area of the patio. I should probably check on the new plants in front as well.

The field of peppers I put in a few weeks ago seem to be doing well (literally, it’s almost 30 pepper plants, I believe “field” is the right descriptor here) and the musk melons should cover that bare spot nicely when they start sending out trailing vines. Dah, the front yard is looking so good! I can’t believe how much of a difference adding plants to our formerly solid gravel yard has made! Hot pink bougainvillea, bright yellow daisies, and rosemary and aloe and marigolds and petunias! Swoon!

Some of the gravel is lumpy and mounding weird, so I grab a rake to smooth it out. Then I track down the big sweeper broom to brush all the little rocks off the driveway and sidewalk and back into the gravel pit, I hate stepping on those in my bare feet.

Which…also, I need a pedicure. Oops. That sounds like a great plan for later this afternoon, I have a new deep orange polish that would be perfect for summer.


Oh! I forgot to take my multi-vitamin! Dangit! It says “take with a meal” and breakfast was hours ago and I’ve been doing all this work since then….I guess it’s time for elevensies. I make myself a snack and retrieve my drink and settle down for another episode of The Great British Baking Show. And vitamins. Because, my health.

Yesterday morning was very much a “if you give a mouse a cookie” kind of morning. Being healthy is hard work, ya’ll.

Late Stage Adulting: Exercise, Nutrition, and Health

I have a number of health issues–ribs and back problems, a MULTITUDE of problems with my lady parts that range from “irritating” to “so painful I’d rather be unconscious.” I have been battling various degrees of anxiety and panic attacks following a brain injury a few years ago which, finally, seem to be mostly under control (thanks, Science). I have had cancer chopped out of my skin and will undoubtedly have to deal with that again. Up until a few months ago I adhered to mostly healthy eating habits (but, you know, with cheese and brownies on the regular) but was still 45 pounds overweight. However, for the most part, I consider myself quite healthy. I don’t know if that’s wishful thinking or denial, but it’s the truth.

Now, with the exception of my weight, an annual physical would confirm that my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol lower than average, and my heart and lungs are clear and doing just fine. Hey, I even grew an inch this year!

However. As my weight continued to creep higher and higher, as my life became more and more sedentary, and my psyche more stressed…I knew I was deliberately ignoring my health. In a larger sense of health I was doing fine–no smoking or drugs, diligent sunscreen application, regular dental check-ups, and take care of my mental health, as well as working with my doctor for years to try and figure out and treat my lady-part issues. But in my day-to-day activities, I was not a recognizable “healthy” person. A few months ago I stepped on the scale and audibly gasped. 198 pounds! On my 5’7″ 5’8″ frame that puts me in a size 14. I’d been buying 12-14 pants/leggings and XL skirts for months, but seeing that 198 pounds on the scale, that was the catalyst. I finally decided to make a permanent change, and promised myself I’d stick with it.

I started going to the gym several times a week. I hated it.

I started buying and then eating more vegetables than any other food, and I stopped buying or baking sweets. I sometimes still devoured just-purchased pastries in my car, in secret, feeling guilty and sick to my stomach.

I made a goal to drink more water and less Diet Dr. Pepper (this is my most difficult health goal, to date).

I kept going to the gym, running a little faster, moving a little bit longer.

I kept buying vegetables, I planned entire meals around zucchini or cauliflower. I instigated scheduled treats, for legit celebrations. I stopped feeling guilty or ashamed about a slice of cake for a birthday.

I added speed intervals to my time on the treadmill, running a little faster and a little longer every week. I figured out it takes 75 minutes of an elevated heart rate for my “runner’s high” to kick in.

I started tracking calories and made sure to burn several hundred more a day than I consumed. I loved knowing the numbers for my inputs and outputs, it turned into a little game.

Slowly, my fluffy parts got a little less fluffy. I stopped craving chocolate and Kraft mac and cheese.

In the last couple of months I have lost 25 pounds, and kept it off. I can run a 5k in less than 35 minutes without wanting to die. I can do this by running a consistent 11-minute mile, and I can ALSO do it by running speed intervals as well. I eat veggies and lean protein almost every meal, limit fruit to a few times a week, and for the most part skip bread and sugar completely.

I am 33 years old and working towards a regular day-to-day health that I have never once possessed. And most surprising to me? I actually like it. I am stubborn bossy particular about how I frame this new version of my health.

I refuse to give up cheese or dairy.

I don’t like dancing in front of anyone, so Zumba is out-out-out and nothing you can say will change that.

I don’t eat chia seeds, or oatmeal, or green smoothies because I cannot stand the taste or texture and would rather just eat a salad instead of ruining pineapple or a banana with liquid spinach juice.

Without 90 minutes at the gym, my work-from-home routine will net me about 700 steps throughout the day. So, I go to the gym for 90 minutes to hit my 10,000 steps (thanks, Fitbit, you creeper). It is sometimes inconvenient and makes me disgustingly sweaty, but I do it anyway.

And here is the continuously most surprising thing: I have started to like this new routine. I like the veggie-heavy menu; I like spending 90 minutes at the gym (with an audiobook, I am not a robot). I do not miss cupcakes or sandwiches or nightly Netflix marathons. In fact, if I skip the treadmill for a few days I get antsy and irritable. Who am I?

I’m just me, but….healthier?

I am not sleeping better. My skin is not clearer or my hair shinier. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure that I feel better on a daily basis. But, I know that my  heart and lungs are healthier, my brain hamsters are running themselves to exhaustion on a treadmill instead of round and around my head. And my guts certainly appreciate my mostly-whole foods menu.

I still have 20 pounds to go, and I imagine they will be harder to lose than this first 25, but I am hoping to be back to my “fighting weight” sometime this fall. What will I do at that point? Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve thought of running a half marathon as a way to help me stay focused those last few pounds. But even if I don’t do that, I want to maintain this input (food) and output (burning calories) routine. And not because of my new pants size, and the section of “once upon a time” clothes in my closet I will be able to wear again. But mostly, because this daily change has brought about some more recognizable long-term health benefits that I have started to actually value.

I’ve been adulting for YEARS and am finally figuring out how to take care of myself. Hey, who knows what I’ll do next!

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Living with a pet volcano named Anxiety

Do you want to know what is the worst part of anxiety? It’s not the crippling sense of indecision, or cowering in the face of basic tasks, or cycling through all the horrible things everyone around you is thinking about you…nope, it’s feeling like any minute the other shoe will drop and what is currently leaving you a sobbing mess on the floor will suddenly become even worse. The fear of living: THAT is the worst part of anxiety.

Do I have anxiety? Yes. Do I have panic attacks? Also, yes. I take the meds and do the mental exercises and all the things I’m supposed to to minimize the effect of both anxiety and fear on my life. But I still have panic attacks, sudden bursts of heart-stopping fear that seem to come from nowhere, and also the long burning and deeply held suspicion that the worst to come is just around the corner. (Sometimes, fairly infrequently, I will have a panic attack and I know exactly what triggered the episode. Those kind of seem like blessings, really. Being able to name and identify the fear is a HUGE step in combatting it.)

I often feel trapped and claustrophobic in my own skin. I feel like this scary Thing is getting closer, circling around me like a monster hunting it’s prey. And sometimes I don’t know how to open a window, or turn on the light, and banish that fear to the back of my mind. I wish I knew how to do that. And I wish that when everything is The Worst I was able to remember the steps to bring back the light.

The last little while my panic and anxiety has been building, and some of it is coming from places I can identify, but in compounding itself the mountain of fear has become something so enormous I can hardly see it, I skirt around this Thing, careful not to poke it or irritate it, because I know if it wakes up it could destroy me. And I need it to NOT wake up right now. The damn giant needs to stay sleeping, gurgling and boiling just under it’s surface, but generally quiet, for just a little while longer. I am doing everything I know how to do to keep that scary mountain asleep, but I know that sometime soon it will explode like a volcano. I know it. I can’t control that part, I can MAYBE control when the explosion happens to a degree, but not if it explodes. The scary monster volcano mountain will always be there, it will always grow, and it will always–eventually–erupt into a fireball of ash and smoke and carnage. Anxiety volcanoes are never truly dead, just temporarily dormant.

Sigh. Living with anxiety is exhausting.

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Avoiding cancer by the hair of my skinny-skin-skin

I was nineteen years old the first time I was diagnosed with skin cancer, my dermatologist called me on Christmas Eve to give me the news and the day after Christmas I had two chunks of my forehead taken out, the larger leaving a small, round scar on my hairline. Since then I’ve had cancery spots cut out two more times, one biggish one from my armpit, the other from the ball of my foot. Every dermatologist I’ve seen has told me that the combination of my fair complexion and genetic make-up means I will most likely get melanoma again before I turn 40. If I’m careful we may find it early on, before it’s even a “stage,” and can treat it by biopsy without having to resort to major chemo or radiation.

Thirty years ago a large research hospital did a longitudinal study to try and determine if there was a genetic marker for melanoma, both sides of my family were involved in that study, both with really high incidents of skin cancer diagnoses. For example: my oldest brother had melanoma cut out of his back when he was 13, my first spots came off when I was 19, my other brother was in his mid-twenties when he had pieces cut off his face. My grandfather died from melanoma, so did an aunt, and countless cousins have had questionable or even cancerous spots cut out. My dermatologist will re-measure and photograph every single mole during my visit, and then compare to last year’s size, color, and location. If anything has changed or looks at all iffy, he pulls out the scalpel and slices that stuff right off. At least I am aware of my inheritance and can take preventative measures.

Okay, so I am genetically predisposed to melanoma. Now what?

Casper the ghost_getting all tan

Well, for starters I make damn sure I don’t double down on an already shitty hand of genetic of cards. I haven’t had a real sunburn since I was in my teens, I haven’t had a tan line in more than a decade; not from a swimming suit, not a gradient on my arms, nothing. I am ridiculously careful with sunscreen application, but mostly, I just stay out of the sun. This does not make me a very popular candidate for a beachy vacation or a pool party, I won’t waltz around in tiny swimming suits, I won’t play beach volleyball, I won’t lounge pool side with giant sunglasses trying to perfect my tan. Instead I stay in the shade, I cower by the umbrellas, I cover up from neck to toes because that is easier than slathering on sunscreen every 2 hours. I keep track of the moles I can see and if anything changes I call my doc for a consult.

At this point I have a love-hate relationship with my skin. I mean, I am thirty-three and my super careful behavior is finally starting to have some visible benefits (besides, you know, the “no cancer this year” thing). I have really great skin, my wrinkles are almost nonexistent and I am routinely mistaken to be in my early twenties, sometimes, even a teenager. (I’m not sure if that is still a compliment, or at what age it no longer is a compliment, but I’ll take it.) I will probably always look younger than my actual age due to my vampire-like actions throughout my teens and twenties, and that’s kind of awesome. (My love of unicorns and Grumpy Cat and baby elephants does not in any way contribute to an adolescent persona. Promise. Ahem.) However, my skin is also really, really sensitive to the sun, I can’t walk (6 houses down the street) to the mailbox in the afternoon without sleeves or sunscreen because my skin literally starts to sting and itch. It’s like I’ve developed an actual allergy to the sun, it is uncomfortable for me to be exposed for more than two or three minutes. I’m sure my pal Darwin would have some Serious Evolutionary Thoughts about this, but for me it is just fascinating, and also a little annoying. I’m on my way to becoming one of those cave fish with bulgy white eyes and translucent skin. But hey, at least Harriet McCaveFish will look like a 22 year-old cave fish, not a 39 year-old one. Small victories, people. Small. Victories.

I’m a little fuzzy on how, exactly, I will be able to survive an Arizona summer, which stretches for eight or nine months of over-90-degree temperatures and nary a cloudy day in sight. (And, like, four months of 100+ degree temps…please kill me now, please!?) I guess I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done, stay inside during the day, stay in the shade if I absolutely must go outside, and spend a hefty percentage of my paycheck on sunscreen and linen pants. I’m such a barrel of fun, you guys. I mean, seriously. Come visit me! You can hang out by the pool, alone, while I work on my Cave Fish eyes. It’ll be grrreeaaaattt!!

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Talking about my uterus, again

First things first, if you do NOT want to read about my uterus or my blood, you should definitely skip this post. You heard me, move along. There is plenty of other crap on the internet you can read without having to hear all about my lady parts. Off you go.


Alright. So it is now fair to assume that anyone still here is well aware of any possible queasiness as I discuss my bits and I am not to be held responsible for thigh clenching, wincing, and general sympathy pains. Ok, good talk. Moving on.

A year ago I wrote about the horrific and fairly regular lady parts pain I have experienced for YEARS as a result of at-the-time not yet diagnosed poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis (endo). Basically, I’d get these horrible cramps that would practically knock me out, my body regularly going into shock to deal with it. And then ON TOP OF THAT a few times a year I’d have a cyst on my ovary rupture, the only thing that helped relieve that particular flavor of hell is morphine, which they (wisely) keep locked up in the Emergency Room/Instacare. So, there I would go, sometimes of my own accord, others via friendly chauffeur (a friend, not an Uber driver), and once via ambulance because I honest-to-God thought I was going to die, alone, on the bathroom floor.

I have really great insurance and access to some fantastic doctors, that being said, for several years I had a new OB/GYN every six months through zero fault or initiative of my own. Same clinic, new doc. I finally threw a TREMENDOUS fit about it because the level of care I was receiving/not receiving was plummeting while my health concerns escalated. And, low and behold, I have had Dr. Mark ever since. He is smart and kind and slightly effeminate in a way that makes me feel comfortable around him, despite his being all up in my biznass. He is patient and takes his time to explain everything, he listens to me and fields all my questions. I trust him.

He’s the first one who diagnosed my PCOS and also the one who is pretty damn sure I also have endometriosis as well. I don’t have an official diagnosis on that because, in general, it requires going in and scraping out the affected parts for testing.

A quick summary: PCOS is when you have cysts growing on your ovaries or fallopian tubes, sometimes they just sit there doing nothing, sometimes they interfere with trying to get pregnant, and sometimes–my case–they rupture for NO GOOD REASON except that ovarian cysts are assholes.

Endometriosis is when you have the tissue that is supposed to only line your uterus growing outside your uterus. But it acts the same way in-your-uterus tissue acts. So, it thickens, preparing for a baby, and then tries to slough itself off…only, there’s no place for it to go (like, down your vagina and absorbed by a tampon/pad/whatever and then to the Great Beyond). So, it boils down to me having internal abdominal bleeding every month, and my body trying it’s hardest to absorb that tissue and blood. The best part? Endo can continue to spread onto the other organs it touches, like a fucking cancer, and everywhere endo touches will then most likely generate OTHER endo cells, the kind that cause internal abdominal bleeding every. single. month. There is no real cure. Doctors can go in and laproscopically scrape out all the offending tissue, whcih will slow the growth, but for most women it will eventually grow back. You can have a hysterectomy to eliminate the feeding ground,  but that is a pretty extreme step that I’m not quite ready for.

Ok, so Dr. Mark and I decided to try an IUD to see if that would help treat some of the most painful symptoms of both PCOS and endo. Now, I was pretty nervous about an IUD. I had tried a bunch of other kinds of birth control to reduce the cysts and the endo pain, and they all had pretty horrible side effects (the most traumatizing being 6 and 8-week long periods where I was soaking through two jumbo tampons an hour, every hour). I’m pretty sure I have some kind of PSTD from those months. My concern with an IUD was that it would generate the same kind of never-ending period, but that instead of just pulling off the patch, or removing the ring, or stopping the pills, I’d have to go to the hospital and have a procedure. It seemed a lot riskier to me.

But, Dr. Mark assured me that he could get me an appointment to have a “malfunctioning” IUD removed within 48 hours, so we decided to go for it. Prior to getting it put in, I had to have a few tests, you know, standard procedure, blah blah blah.

What was supposed to be something close to “we’ll just take a look and maybe need to take a sample” (for the uninitiated: that’s what a doc takes a little scrape of tissue from the inside of your vagina) ended up being a big, ole bloody mess. Instead of the “look-see” he ended up taking SEVEN significant samples from the inside of my vag. Seven! And the sample sites wouldn’t stop bleeding. He eventually sent the nurse running for some silver nitrate, which chemically cauterizes a wound, and it took multiple applications for me to stop bleeding. Ya’ll, there was blood everywhere. On my legs, on my doctor’s coat, I soaked through all the pads they brought AND the others in the room AND the ones he sent a frazzled nurse scurrying off to retrieve. There was blood on the floor and probably on their shoes. It was….it was a fucking war zone.

I was a sobbing mess, Blue Eyes nearly lost it, and Dr. Mark felt truly horrible about the entire ordeal, but explained that what he saw did not look normal and he had to make sure, which, frankly, I agree with. A few days later my test results came back as “not cancer, which is good, but these aren’t normal cells either, so we definitely need to keep a close watch on them.” Um, yay? At any rate, that sort-of All Clear meant I could schedule a day to get the IUD.

Dr. Mark, bless his heart, wanted to make sure I was well drugged for this next procedure. I am unnaturally small in my lady bits, especially when you think that I’m not petite in any other way. I often require the pediatric duck-bill clamp thing during a pelvic exam. To insert an IUD I’d have to be jacked open farther than I’d ever been before, and for quite a bit longer so he could get the thing placed correctly. We were both nervous about it, rightfully so. I took Pitocin (drug often used to promote labor) for a couple of hours prior to my appointment, in order to soften the insides of my lady bits and allow that damn clamp thing to do it’s gruesome job. I also took a doctor-recommended double dose of Valium to help control my anxiety and reduce muscle tension. No, I did not drive myself to the hospital, I was all sorts of loopy and still had a few more pills for the actual procedure. I took Percoset when I arrived and then it was Go Time. Even through my drug-induced haze I was super nervous, the last time I’d been in that room had been HELL and I was having flashbacks of ALL THE BLOODY THINGS.

Ya’ll, modern pharmaceuticals are freaking amaze-balls. I took more Pitocin and Valium during the procedure, which lasted about 20 minutes. It hurt, don’t get me wrong. I could still feel pain and all sorts of hurtiness. There were actual tears and I probably squeezed the hand off my poor Dad* but this procedure did not cause nearly the trauma the one a month before had, IUD was placed, clamps removed, and I got to lay there for as long as I wanted before shuffling out of the hospital and back home to bed.

*My Dad drove me to the hospital and sat with me while the doc did his thing. Blue Eyes had an out-of-state work thing he couldn’t change, I’m not on speaking terms with my Mom, and I figured my Dad would be able to keep it together even if I totally lost it, and he’s the best candidate for helping me get BACK up the stairs into my apartment. Weird? Maybe. But I was really glad he was there with me, despite the very strange looks we got from nurses and waiting room people. He’s 6’6″ with a full head of impressive white hair. Without business attire/makeup/demeanor I am usually mistaken for someone in my early 20’s…I’m sure people assumed he was the father of my unborn child and not, you know, my actual father. Whatever, it certainly isn’t the first time that assumption has been made, and probably won’t be the last. People are the worst.

For three months after my IUD I had horrible cramping almost every day and a lot of bleeding…I sent a report to Dr. Mark every two weeks. It’s not unheard of for someone to have those symptoms for the first three months, but it’s kind of unusual. After about 8 weeks Dr. Mark asked me to come in to just make sure the IUD hadn’t come loose and was poking around in my uterus, willy nilly. Nope, it was there, right where it was supposed to be. Dr. Mark offered to take it out if it was too uncomfortable, but I really really wanted this to be the last thing I’d have to try for a couple of years, so I opted to stick it out for at least three months, he refilled my pain pill prescription and sent me on my way.

At exactly three and a half months the pain suddenly stopped. Completely. Gone.  No more bleeding, no more cramping, just…nothing. I had finally triumphed over my damn uterus. While trying other birth control options I had these horrible six and eight-week long periods where I was using two-at-a-time jumbo tampons and changing them out every hour. My regular periods pre-IUD were five or six days of jumbo tampons changed out every two hours. For both of those I would routinely lose pretty large blood clots (like, several inches long and thicker than two of my fingers), periods have been traumatizing for me for as long as I can remember.

Enter: IUD. Currently, my periods require one of those ridiculously tiny pale yellow tampons that I can wear all day or all night without any messes. I honestly feel like I’m using doll-sized tampons. “This is the size of my PINKY finger! Are you sure it has enough oomph to do the job!?” Time and time again, it does. Amazing. Fucking amazing. Nine months after getting an IUD I still have some cramping every so often but my periods are almost non-existent. Now, if I could only find a similar magical device for my ribs and back, I might start to feel like a real person!!

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