Les Chiens: A Love Affair

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The pug on the left in the above picture is mine. My baby.

If someone were to ask my husband or one of my family members to name the top few things that define me, they would say that I love reading, that I love learning, that I love exercising, and that I love DOGS! They might mention dogs first, honestly.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved animals, especially dogs. I don’t really know why exactly. When I think about it, I think I love them most for their loyalty and the absolute love they give us. Also for the humor they bring to our lives. People say dogs relieve stress and anxiety. I don’t really believe that. All of the dogs I’ve ever had have added some amount of stress to my life, getting into trouble, being a responsibility when I have other things I want to do. However, people also say it that dogs relieve depression. That one I truly believe. They make me laugh. I love to take them on walks, which gets me outside and makes me happy. My dog cuddles me, truly believes I’m his mom, and follows me around everywhere. He eases my loneliness. Most importantly, he loves me unconditionally. He is my companion. He gets me a reason to keep going because I have to take care of him.

I believe that we, as humans, have a responsibility to take care of the other creatures that share planet Earth with us.

I’ve always believed this. I’m finally putting it into practice by buying only cage-free eggs, and trying almost always to buy organic chicken and organic beef. I believe it’s okay to do these things one at a time. Something is better than nothing.  Eventually, I want to move to also buying organic pork (which is for some reason hard to find – right now I just don’t eat a lot of it, but my husband does) and organic cheese/dairy products. Finally, after that, someday, organic fruit and vegetables. The real barrier to this is the cost. Hence the reason I’m doing it one at a time.

Helping animals gives me a real meaning to my life. The first dog I had that was my own (ie. not the family dog) was a Basset hound I got in college from an animal shelter. Boy was he a handful! But he became very beloved by my whole family. We still tell stories about him and his antics every time we get together. My mom was very supportive of me getting my own dog in college. I think because she knew it would help my depression. And it did. Ironically, my dad was very against it, saying he knew that eventually the dog would end up at my parents’ house (which he did when I moved to Tennessee!), yet my dad ended up being the dog’s biggest fan! They loved each other. Unfortunately, my Basset passed away in 2010, at the age of only five years old, from lymphoma. That was very hard, especially since it occurred during my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. When we put him to sleep, my dad cried, and he will still tear up whenever we talk about the Basset.

When my husband was deployed, I began working with a Golden Retriever rescue in Denver. I actually became right away the transportation volunteer coordinator. This group rescued breeder dogs from the Midwest, most of whom were kept in terrible conditions and then abandoned once they became too old to produce puppies. I would coordinate the transportation of these dogs to the Denver area, and then to their foster homes and veterinary appointments. Through this group, my mom adopted two golden retrievers that I picked out. They are the sweetest dogs. When they came to us, they were very damaged, too scared to even go outside, especially when it was windy. It is extremely gratifying to see them now. They will stay outside by themselves, wrestle each other in the grass, and just generally seem so happy and rehabilitated. I especially love the first one we got my mom adopted, because she was my companion after my Bassett died and while my husband was deployed. She still remembers me whenever I go home. She’s such a sweet girl. I did all of my work with the dog rescue remotely from home from home, calling and e-mailing to set up the transportation from a pool of volunteers. I would also make adoption packet and do paperwork, etc. I didn’t work and was home alone at my parents’ house all day, and I probably spent 15+ hours a week on this volunteer work. It was so good for me.

I am planning, soon, to start volunteering with the animal shelter here. That’s going to be hard for me, but worth it. The nice thing about working with the dog rescue is that they were all in foster homes, and you knew they were never going to be euthanized. At the animal shelter, that will not be the case, but I’m hoping to work with socializing the dogs, and getting them out of their cages for playtime. A very worthwhile endeavor.

My pug that we have now, we got as a puppy in June 2011. I am more about rescuing dogs than buying puppies, but everybody’s got to have a couple puppies in their lifetime! The reason we chose to get a puppy (which I made sure was from a reputable breeder), was because of my nerve disorder. Buying a puppy enabled me to train it to heel, etc. while it was still small. My pug is so special to me because he is something I share with my husband, and with him we feel like a little family.

Anyway, I need to get working on volunteering at that animal shelter, filling out the application and going to the orientation!

Besides that, right now I am becoming content with being a housewife, until I get better, especially because my husband and I have some exciting things coming up that will take up a lot of my time!

Well, that some of my dog history. It’s definitely springtime here in Southern California. I pulled a muscle in my neck somehow yesterday, so it’s really hurting and stiff, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to go swimming today, but I am going to do a lot of cleaning and go to the pharmacy.

If you are a dog lover, tell me why and tell me about your dog!

Lately

1.)    In February, we spent the first two weekends of the month in San Diego. From February 8-10, my dad and my youngest sister were there so we went down to see them. Then from February 15-17, B and I went down again for Valentine’s Day. That Saturday we visited San Diego’s Mission de Alcala, the oldest mission in California. It was beautiful and I definitely recommend visiting. On Sunday, B took me to the ballet in downtown San Diego as my Valentine’s Day present. I think it’s safe to say that neither of us would recommend this ballet. The theater was very tiny and the performance sub par to what I expected. But overall we had a really great weekend together.

Mission San Diego de Alcalá

2.)    This weekend we just went to the dog park and then put an offer in for a house we looked at yesterday. It’s definitely, of all the houses we looked at so far, the one that fits us the best.

3.)    I am feeling okay, but still not great due to a lot of changes with my medications, and trying to get off one of them. :( It’s really hard.

4.)    However, I am planning to take a French class again soon at a French language school. And I am so excited to say that I have started planning a trip to go to France with my mom in 2014!!! She has never been to Europe so I’m very excited to take her and show her around. :)

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Oscars 2013 Best Dressed

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried

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I enjoyed the Oscars last night. My two picks for best dressed are Amanda Seyfried (in both her outfits) and Naomi Watts (same). I also thought Sally Field looked beautiful.

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credit: nbc news

credit: nbc news

Some other dresses I enjoyed: Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Kerry Washington, Zoe Saldana, and Amy Adams’ after-party dress. I loved all of the late 120′s/1930′s looks this year (Amy Adams’ second dress is one great example).

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I liked Anne Hathway’s after-party dress but not her first dress.

I still haven’t seen any of the movies, but I am hoping to see Silver Linings Playbook, Les Mis, and Lincoln soon!

Career Choices

Thank you so much for the kind comments I got regarding my post yesterday.

I finally went swimming again today, for about 15 min., and I feel so much better. Exercise is essential to my life! I also went on a 15 min. walk with my dog. I can’t believe I am up to 15 min. now with walking. JSometimes I can even do a little more than that.

I am just committing to swim more. Since I feel too anxious riding the bus there and going by myself, I am getting up early to either go with my husband to the gym or to have him drop me off there on his way to work. Then I just ride the bus home in that case. I am getting more used to getting up early.

I am using lots of my DBT skills again. I am in a group right now for group therapy and I shared an introductory article about DBT with my group and encouraged them to buy this workbook that I am working through. I have read it before and it’s great. I would really recommend it. I am such a big proponent of DBT. My therapist keeps telling me that I should be a therapist, but that’s not really something I’m interested in, unless I could lead DBT classes. It’s something I’m really passionate about.

Skills that I’m using right now:

  • Opposite-Action: this involves forcing you to do the opposite of your natural inclination driven by a certain emotion. For instance, when we are sad, we have a tendency to want to rest and curl up in bed, but sometimes just making yourself get up and do something such as cleaning or going for a walk will improve your mood. You can also smile! Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling actually influences your brain to be happier. This is kind of the premise of DBT. Instead of traditional cognitive behavioral therapy which tells us that changing your thoughts will change your mood and actions, DBT focuses on changing your actions first and letting your thoughts and mood improve as a result. I have been using this skill a lot. Just forcing myself to get out of bed and clean, cook, or get outside and go on a walk helps me get through the day.
  • Mindfulness: trying to stay in the present moment and take it one day at a time
  • Prayer

Upcoming things to look forward to:

  • My dad and my sister are coming to San Diego this weekend!
  • Valentine’s Day! Apparently my husband has something special planned for us
  • In March, hopefully, my youngest brother-in-law will be coming to visit
  • In early April my aunt and her family will be in San Diego. She’s my favorite aunt and she lives in Montana so I don’t get to see her very often.
  • In late April we are going to Northern California for my husband’s family’s reunion. I am very, very excited because we are going to drive up the coast and stopping in either Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo for a night!
  • In May, my other brother-in-law and some of my husband’s high school friends are coming to visit
  • In July, we will go to my in-laws annual Fourth of July party
  • In July also, my cousin is getting married in Montana so I will have my family’s reunion there

Lots of fun travels coming up! I am supposed to be taking this microbiology class online starting in March as well. The bill for it is due February 15. I’m still a little unsure about it because of the money aspect and not knowing my final career path. I might apply for a public health Master’s program this spring that would start in August. I just have this huge fear that I will enter a program and spend all this money and then still not be able to work. Because that has happened to me before, when I was pursuing a master’s degree in education. I had to drop out of school. And I still have the student loans to pay. But I guess I just have to go for it? The thought of never having a career of my own makes me very sad. I just know I want to work in healthcare again. I really want to be a nurse practitioner, but I get extremely frustrated about the competitiveness and picky prerequisites of the programs. It just seems so much easier to enter a Master’s program because they’re so much easier to get into. Like the application process is so much easier! I am just nervous about my ability to use the computer. I wish I had a diagnosis so that people would take it more seriously and view it as a disability and give me accommodations. That is the most frustrating part. I just can’t decide what to do! How many years have I been talking about these things, even on this blog?!?!

I just have to take it one day at a time, try to get well, and then just jump into something I think. Some days, like today I feel I could do it. Some days I feel terrible physically and doubt it. Doctors just throw so many things around: MS, fibromyalgia, some idiopathic nerve disorder, solely a mental health issue, etc. I am glad to have this hour-long appointment coming up with an MD. – just going to ask all my questions, and then I’m going to do what might psychiatrist said: just pursue alternative and lifestyle therapies, like nutrition and exercise, and do my best.

There are so many careers I’m interested in: high school teaching, clinical laboratory work again, nurse practitioner, public health (focused on mental health), even recently social work. I wonder what would work best for me: I think I should talk about this in therapy tomorrow and just pick something.

I’m supposed to start volunteering at the animal shelter, but the orientation is this weekend and I’m going to be out of town. I didn’t realize it was this weekend. Hopefully there will be another one in March. I am definitely feeling busier with all of these doctor appointments. I just want to sit down with someone and have them help me go through these career choices. How could I do that?

I sure do love my puppy!

You know what my new find is lately? Sunbutter! It’s delicious! Also, Swiss chard. I’m making that tonight. Only three weeks until this dietitian appointment.

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Hopefully you’re all well. How did you decide on your career?

Sharing My Story

Why I am sad… Why I am frustrated…

Some of my story:

3.5 years ago I developed multiple nerve entrapment syndromes and mono neuritis multiplex seemingly out of the blue. I went from being a former collegiate athlete and a daily runner to not being able to walk more than a couple of blocks, limping to the bathroom, not being able to lift weights or do sit-ups or any other exercise, and having trouble using a computer or doing fine movements with my hands. Fortunately, after many years of rest and carefully listening to my body, I can now walk for about 10 min. and swim using only my arms for about 20 min 4-5 days a week. I have a dictation program that helps me write posts such as this by talking to the computer.

Prior to developing the nerve disorder, I had for years had trouble with feeling extremely fatigued and dizzy after eating. I now know this is due to postprandial hypotension and reactive hypoglycemia. My neurologist thinks they have a genetically hypersensitive nervous system and trouble with my autonomic control mechanisms. However, not knowing this at the time, I would often avoid eating because I couldn’t get through my workday when I felt so exhausted (I worked in a clinical laboratory where I ran blood tests that required a lot of concentration).

Now a confession: when the nerve disorder hit, I developed full-fledged bulimia to deal with it. After years of binging and purging, I began to heal three months ago. Unfortunately, the bulimia only intensified the reactive hypoglycemia (which I was officially diagnosed through laboratory testing in early January), and it is now completely controlling and ruining my life. I learned to deal with the nerve disorder. I have not learned to deal with this reactive hypoglycemia, despite all of the positive changes I have made to my diet – no sugar, no simple carbs, higher protein, eating every three hours, and eating as many nutritious foods and balanced meals as I can.

Even now that I feel so much more healed from my eating disorder, I feel increasingly depressed and desperate about my general health. I am terrified that I’ve ruined my body forever and that I’m destined to deal with daily blood sugar crashes, brain fog, and panic attacks. It is hard to accept that there is absolutely no leeway in my diet to not follow a strict regimen. But it’s worth it to me to not have to experience those crashes which are hell on earth. I developed this disordered eating not as a technique for weight loss, but as a way to deal with how food feels like poison to me because it makes me feel so terrible. However, since my reduced activity level, I have definitely re-developed body image issues as well that I struggled with in high school and college.

Recently I had to make a choice to enter an eating disorder program for formality’s sake just so I can see a dietitian and an MD specializing in eating disorders. The intake therapist did not think my condition warranted entering the intensive outpatient program since I have not binged and purged in three months, am eating regular meals, get my period, and my heart/electrolytes/other stuff like that are fine, but I will be technically be part of the eating disorder department of my HMO. This means that I will have to give up my current psychiatrist that I finally found and that I so love working with. But hopefully I can go back to her in 1-2 months. I am very scared to give her up, but I am so desperate for help.

I just wanted to talk about today what is going on with me. I am trying to keep faith in God, but it’s getting really hard. I thought that when I started eating so well I would feel better, but I probably feel only 5% better. Maybe the dietitian can help me see what else I am still doing wrong. Even without the bulimia, I was so depressed about my nerve disorder that my diet was absolutely horrible, I would only eat sugar, crackers, etc. -stuff that made me feel soothed. Our bodies are not meant to eat like that. Although I am at the bottom of the healthy BMI range, my insulin control system is messed up as if I were an obese person. At first I was having fun eating more healthy foods and planning my meals, but in the last few days I randomly started feeling horrible again and I feel like I’ve given up. It’s going to be hard to get back on the wagon, but what else can I do?

So I might become one of those blogs, those that I hate, documenting my meals to keep myself motivated. I am not unique. My body needs proper nutrition. I am not some superhuman that survive eating whatever I want. I have to just accept this and move on. Something was wrong with my body to start out with because these problems developed even when I was at a healthy weight and eating much better, but my negative food coping mechanisms drove me into the ground.

Oh guys, any support would be so much appreciated.

I have a combined RD/MD appointment on February 20. I’m going to call today to tell the intake therapist that I’m going to officially enter the program. I am so motivated to get my life back. Nothing will stop me from trying. But I’m so sad because I’m losing faith that it will ever happen.

So sorry for such a depressing post. I just felt like sharing my heart today.

I hope any readers are doing well and God bless all of you.

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Finally got my dictation program working again! I had to buy a new microphone and reinstall it. I can’t believe it’s already February!

Updates:

  • I’m still really struggling with the reactive hypoglycemia. I think it’s having the most effect on my life right now than anything else. I know it is. I’m getting really depressed about it but trying to keep fighting on. I have the opportunity to see a more specialized doctor for it and a dietitian in a couple of weeks so I’m going to make it until then. The caveat with that is that I have to give up my current psychiatrist that I really like to be able to switch over to the other department. L But I have to do it and hopefully I will be able to switch back in a couple of months. I have to get all of that set up today.

To be honest, not much else is going on. My health problems are taking over my entire life. This is one of the very hardest times I’ve ever been through.

I’m reading “Shogun” by James Clavell. It’s really good.

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That is all I feel like talking about for now but I will be back soon.