The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Tag: PCOS

laundry on the line

When You’re Stressed About Stress

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently become aware that I show all the symptoms of low cortisol and adrenal fatigue, and in researching that I’ve learned that managing stress is just as important for low cortisol as it is for too much cortisol.

When I think about managing stress, I’ve always thought about emotional stress – the big, obvious kind that comes from dealing with people or work or circumstances or not sleeping enough. That’s a big part of it, but it turns out, that’s kind of the easy part.

And then there are the environmental stressors – the noise and clutter that unconsciously take up our attention and cause low-grade anxiety and stress. Digital clutter, physical clutter, background noises, the million little decisions we have to make each day – these things can add up and place a lot of stress on us. These are also relatively easy to deal with, albeit time-consuming. But we can all set aside time to tackle the clutter, use white noise or noise-cancelling headphones to block out the noise, and create routines and habits that cut down on our daily decisions.

laundry on the line

Doing things the slow way is one way I’ve been managing stress. Bonus: less exposure to chemicals!

The hardest category for me has been the hidden stressors – all of the exposure to chemicals and toxins and pollutants in our food, our water, the products we use and even the air we breathe that can disrupt our hormones and endocrine system and put stress on our organs, digestive system and immune system. It turns out that this stuff is everywhere, and we don’t need to be aware of it in order for it all to place stress on our bodies that impacts cortisol production and our overall health.

I find this group the hardest because it is so insidious, and because it also carries the biggest monetary cost. It gets expensive to always eat organic and pasture-fed, to take supplements that cancel or mitigate the effects of the toxins, to always drink filtered or purified water, etc. If you’re someone who loves to use makeup and beauty products, finding versions that don’t contain potentially harmful or disruptive chemicals is also difficult and expensive.

I’ve dealt with a lot of this by opting for a more natural approach to beauty and to cleaning. I make my own household cleaner out of vinegar, water and hydrogen peroxide. I’ve also substituted skin and hair care products with ACV and natural oils. I wear makeup rarely enough that I don’t need to worry about the occasional exposure when I do wear it, and I’ve really streamlined and minimized the amount I wear. (Sidenote: my skin has been so much healthier since I started doing all of this.)

Veggie garden

I even started trying to grow my own veggies to help cut down on food toxins and make it easier to eat healthy.

But there’s only so much I can do, and that’s where I’m often tempted to get anxious and let this stuff stress me out, and I realize the irony of getting stressed about trying to avoid stress. But I can’t avoid everything. It’s simply not possible, let alone practical.

So I have a choice. I can either fret about what all those unavoidable toxins are doing to me, thereby making the effects worse by letting it stress me out. Or I can remember and trust that God is sovereign over my health and my lifespan, that he is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord my Healer, and He can protect me from the effects of all that stuff I can’t avoid.

I have a responsibility to be a good steward of my body and my health, but we’re not called to be perfect stewards – only faithful ones. His grace will always be there to fill in the gaps and make up for our shortcomings. I try my best – and my best wavers from day to day – and that’s enough. I have nothing to fear.

This comes back to what has become one of my guiding philosophies for work and life — do the best you can with what you have, right where you are, and trust God to handle the rest. And it’s also a good reminder that when I start to get motivated by fear, I’ve let my gaze wander too far from the One whose perfect love casts out fear.

There’s no way I’ll ever eliminate every source of stress from my life. But as long as I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I’ll have perfect peace. And that’s better for my health than all the detox diets in the world.

Slowing My Roll

And I’m back!

I feel like a lot of things have happened since I announced my blog hiatus back in April, and yet also not much has happened at all. I didn’t get any of the things done that I said I was taking a hiatus to focus on. But a lot has taken place, nevertheless.

It turns out that deciding to take a break from blogging was just the beginning of what turned out to be a long, unplanned sabbatical from all but my most necessary work. At first I began to feel creatively blocked — more like creatively spent, used up and depleted — and realized I needed a break from writing and editing altogether, and also from everything involved in marketing and promotion. Then, as if to confirm just how badly I needed a rest, my chronic health issues (PCOS, hypothyroidism and all the fun stuff interlinked with those) took a bad turn and I found myself struggling with fatigue and brain fog, along with headaches, body aches and digestive issues. Fun, fun times.

So I gave myself permission not to worry about writing, publishing, marketing, or any of the projects I had in the works, or any other type of work that didn’t directly earn income or relate to maintaining our home (and I let as much of that go as I could, too). I basically quit everything I could quit in order to focus on healing and getting better.

 

A lot of that freed up time was spent learning about my conditions. It’s maddening how little traditional Western medicine doctors actually know or care to know about both PCOS and Hashimoto’s/hypothyroidism. With both illnesses, the typical response is to simply prescribe a pill (birth control in first case, Synthroid in the second) and call it a day.

There’s no investigation of root cause. No discussion of the way these conditions impact the endocrine system, digestive system, reproductive system and overall health. With PCOS you also get told to lose weight, but there’s no education about how to do that, or that what you eat has the potential to either heal you or make you sicker, and that what you should eat and how much you should move changes depending on whether your root cause is insulin resistance, inflammation, or something else. And in my case, there was never one single mention that my lack of thyroid function might be due to autoimmunity, which can also be helped via nutrition, despite the fact that this is the cause of 90 percent of cases of hypothyroidism, and the other causes are really freaking rare in this country. I never even heard the word Hashimoto’s until I started doing my own research on PCOS and discovered that they’re linked.

I’m ranting now. But this stuff makes me angry. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

At any rate, the more I learned, and the more I heard stories from other women who’ve had similar experiences of being woefully uneducated, unhelped and brushed off by their doctors, the more appalled and angry I became, and the more I realized I needed to basically be my own doctor, thanks to insurance not covering functional medicine practitioners and naturopaths, i.e. the people who actually study up on these conditions and inform their patients and tailor treatment to individuals.

This post went somewhere I didn’t intend, but seriously: GAH!

Anyway. Thankfully, I was led to some posts and podcasts that described my exact issues and helped me pinpoint the problem. Of course, without blood tests, which I still need and plan to do once we find a local GP, I’m only making educated guesses, but I made changes based on those guesses, and I started feeling better. Specifically, I discovered that I met the criteria for adrenal fatigue and low cortisol, and that I needed to adjust my workouts, cut back on caffeine and make getting enough sleep a top priority. I also learned that women with PCOS tend to leak electrolytes and minerals and need to add them back throughout the day, which I started doing simply by adding a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to my water throughout the day. Those changes, particularly that last one, were total game changers. I started feeling better almost immediately.

Of course, I also got serious about my nutrition. I think a big part of what led to my flareup was eating too much sugary, gluteny junk during April, which included both my birthday and Easter. I had also eased up on my dairy restrictions and was eating more cheese than was good for me. So about six or seven weeks ago I eliminated gluten, all A1 dairy (I still eat small amounts of goat cheese, which doesn’t give me any trouble) and added sugar from my diet. But then a couple weeks in we had a cheat night and I ate some flautas and drank some beer, and immediately my chronic inflammation went through the roof. But I got back on the wagon the next day, and tomorrow will mark 30 days without any of that inflammatory junk in my diet, and I am feeling worlds better as a result.

My intention is to go another 30 days, which will run out just in time to celebrate with a slice of cake on my husband’s birthday. I generally subscribe to the 80/20 rule — eating strictly healthy 80 percent of the time, but leaving that small margin to mindfully enjoy my favorite foods with no guilt or worry. I think right now, as I heal, I need to be strict and stick to my protocol 100 percent, but when I’m in that healthy place, my body can handle the occasional treat. And I know if I head into fall and the Halloween season and then the holidays aiming to stick to 100 percent I’m going to be grumpy and resentful and set myself up to fail.

All of my health adventures aside, that’s not even the point of this post, which is that in the midst of all of that, something else was happening inwardly. As I let go of so much to focus on health and self-care and doing things that are good for my mind and soul as well as my body, including spending a lot of time with my loved ones, I began to realize how little the things I let go of or set aside truly matter. For a while now, I’ve been kind of watching with curiosity and wonder as my values and priorities have been shifting, and things that seemed oh so important only three months ago are now barely on my radar.

I’m in a space right now where I’m not sure how my writing fits into that. I still identify as a writer. I’m still working on book revisions and edits, when I can make the time. I still have stories I want to tell. I still write online content for a living, even. But being an author — having my books widely read and adored, growing a fan base, being prolific, all that stuff — not only do I simply no longer care about any of that, but I’ve realized that it has actually sucked all of the joy out of writing. And right now I’m just sort of holding space for that realization and what it means for my career and all my plans. One thing I’m fairly certain of is that if letting go of my author identity and treating my writing as a hobby instead of a job will help me find joy in writing again, I’m really okay with that.

This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my planned book projects, only that I’m not going to hustle to get them done on a certain timeline, or produce a certain number of books a year, or try to make my books a dependable source of income.

Still, ironically, these last few weeks I’ve been feeling nudged to start blogging again. Not to fire up my author blog, but to start putting my story out there, to start using my words to minister again. I did that for awhile in a separate space, but that petered out because trying to run multiple blogs became exhausting. Years ago, when I first started dipping my toes into the author space, I was given advice to keep my personal blog, all my writing about my health and my faith and my life, separate. I took that advice to heart and I think it was a huge mistake. All these years, it’s made me feel a little schizoid, maintaining these separate identities, trying to compartmentalize parts of myself that are inextricably linked, and it’s also doubled my work. But I think the worst thing is that I felt like I couldn’t trust my audience to handle all of me, and I needed to hide parts of myself away and only reveal them in this safe space tucked away over here on this other blog.

Well, I’m not doing that anymore. As of today, this space is no longer my “author blog,” whatever that means. It’s just my blog, and it’s going to get a lot more honest and real. It’s taken me a lot of wrestling these last few weeks trying to decide whether to start my other blog back up, or start an entirely new blog to focus on these things I’m so passionate about these days, but when it occurred to me that I could just combine it all right here, under my own name, no separation, no hiding, that felt so right. And yet I continued to procrastinate because I kept blowing this first post up into something a lot bigger, harder and more complicated than it actually needed to be. But I finally realized that I needed to knock that off and just start. Just write something.

So here you go. This is my new start. I hope you’ll stick around for what’s to come, to see what this — and what I — will grow up to become.

Updates: On the book launch, the new WIP, the new diet, and new TV

I’m working backwards today. I had a light freelancing load today (though it’ll get heavier as the week goes on), so I knocked that stuff out first, and I’ll get my word count in after I’m done blogging.

Actually, the first thing I did was make a new Amazon listing for Midnight Snacks. Apparently I missed the deadline to get my final ebook file uploaded by a few hours, so they cancelled the pre-order listing and took the book down. It’s back up now, at a different URL, and available to purchase outright instead of pre-order, but it doesn’t officially launch until Wednesday, when the price will drop to .99 cents. But if you just can’t wait, you’re welcome to go grab your Kindle copy now.

I’ve settled on a tentative title for the Restless Spirits sequel: Ghost of a Chance. Or GoaC when I’m feeling too lazy to type that out. I’m hoping to make it to at least 10K words this week, although that might be a bit overambitious considering I’m looking at a full workload and a book launch this week. At any rate, you can read a rough excerpt here.

In PCOS-diet news, I’m at the start of Week 3 and still feeling great, despite cheating over the weekend (we had pizza and beer and Chex mix and Halloween candy. I may have also had a few slices of pumpkin bread and some ice cream). I could definitely feel the after-effects of all that gluten and dairy in my system yesterday, but today I’m back to feeling energetic and clear-headed. It’s pretty awesome.

In TV news, I’m caught up on everything from last week. I have not yet watched last night’s Once Upon a Time, Walking Dead or Downton Abbey. Avoiding Walking Dead spoilers is already proving to be a challenge, so hopefully I’ll be able to get that watched tonight.

Some quick thoughts…

I’m a bit miffed that Doctor Who has finally managed to make Clara so likeable and relatable just as it’s becoming clear that she’s about done. I’m still working out my feelings for Twelve, though. At this point I think I want to like him more than I actually do, although there are moments when I love him. I guess that’s pretty close to how Clara’s feeling.

I’m not sure I care if Dean Winchester is kind of evil if he can keep singing karaoke and being besties with Crowley. If “saving” him will put an end to all of that, I don’t think I want him to be saved. Also, I am so beyond caring anymore about angel politics, but I guess they have to give Castiel something to do.

Dean Winchester Karaoke

More of this, please. (Image via Pinterest)

Matt and I were talking the other day about Sleepy Hollow and how likeable that show is, and how it would be even more likeable if it realized it’s a character-driven show and not a plot-driven show. The crack-addled supernatural plots are fun and make for some neat visuals, but really, I’d watch this show if it’s just an hour of Ichabod throwing snit fits about the decline of Western culture and Abby trying to get him to wear skinny jeans. I wish they’d look to the Whedonverse — especially Buffy — for cues on how to put the main focus on characters and relationships while still having entertaining monster plots to drive the action.

Oh! Speaking of Buffy, another thing I’ve been doing on the weekends while I work on crafty things is listening to Dusted, a new BtVS podcast by Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens. They’re going through and recapping and analyzing each episode, beginning with the original movie, and it’s terrific. They’re only up to “Teacher’s Pet” so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up. It’s making me so nostalgic. I’m going to have to make time for a complete Buffy rewatch sometime in the near future.

And that’s it for me. It’s a lovely, rainy fall day, perfect for writing about haunted houses, so I’m going to go make some tea and get cracking on that word count goal. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about what you’re watching in the comments. Just remember if you spoil me on Walking Dead I’m going to have to send Liam Neeson over there.

PCOS diet update, Halloween craft explosion, TV ramblings & other blather

After a full week on the new PCOS-friendly diet (no gluten, no dairy, mostly low-glycemic carbs), I can report that all week long I was more energetic and more clear-headed. I was also less moody (which, considering it was a PMS week, is really saying a lot), and by the end of the week I was sleeping better. I haven’t yet noticed any lessening of my external PCOS symptoms, but I figure that will probably take considerably more time than just a week. But if I can just keep all this energy and eliminate the brain fog for good, then that will make it all worth it.

I didn’t stick to it as diligently over the weekend. On Saturday Matt made bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers with cream cheese filling (a little overpoweringly spicy, but SO delicious), and then on Sunday he made brats, which I suppose I could have enjoyed sans hot dog buns, but I chose not to. And then since I was already in for a penny, I had ice cream. Oh, and that morning I had pumpkin spice bread for breakfast. Mmm. But I’m back on track today, and finding that the weekend indulgences didn’t derail me from feeling good like I worried they would.

I finally got out all of the Halloween decorations over the weekend, and got crafty and made a few additional items. You can see how all that turned out:

Halloween decorations 2014

For closeups, take a gander at my Instagram feed.

While I got my crochet on, I also caught up on all my shows, including Once Upon a Time, which was better than I expected. I appreciate that they’re basically telling a sequel to Frozen with those characters and not re-hashing the movie (which I still haven’t seen), and also that they haven’t completely derailed Regina’s pseudo-redemption arc. Although that show can’t do a decent redemption arc to save its life, so my expectation bar is set pretty low.

As for Castle, they’re just being mean, although I do like that they’re trying something new with (what I’m assuming will be) a season-long mystery to solve (and now watch them have it all tied up by the end of the second ep. Which I won’t see till next weekend, so don’t spoil me if you watch it tonight).

I didn’t get any writing done over the weekend, but I did meet my word count this morning, bringing the total on the untitled Restless Spirits sequel to 3,885.

I’ve (so far) got a fairly light week ahead of me as far as my freelance workload goes, so that should work out to give me the time I need to do the final edits on Midnight Snacks and get it ready for next week’s launch (you can pre-order it now for your Kindle, if you’re so inclined). I’m also hoping to get an official website up for my editing and self-publishing services.

So that’s how my week (and weekend) went. What about you? Did you watch anything that made you want to scream, or squee? Has Halloween exploded all over your house? How did you spend your weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Goal Setting and an A-ha Moment

Since my last post, I’ve cut back some on bread and dairy, and I’m already feeling quite a bit better. Today I picked up some almond milk to see how I like it. We’ve still got bread and cheese in the house that we need to eat up so it doesn’t go to waste, then I’m going to do my very best to limit that stuff to the odd weekend cheat night and special occasions.

I’ve been working my way through Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb — a book I HIGHLY recommend to any authors — any creatives, for that matter — in need of an effective audience-building platform. The first exercise is to take the time to write out your goals — 6-month goals, 1 year goals, 5 year, 10 year, etc. When you do this, you are encouraged to dream big and be specific. I found it to be an incredibly helpful exercise, not only for helping me to clarify what I want, what needs to happen with my career, and what I need to do to get there, but also for helping me realize that it’s not too late to achieve my biggest dreams. There’s still plenty of time, as long as I can stay focused and not let myself get sidetracked.

It also showed me how closely my dream of motherhood is linked to my dream of being a successful novelist. That might sound strange, but in my mind, our best bet for being able to afford the necessary medical treatments (and/or adoption fees, if it ever comes to that) — not to mention being able to afford to provide for a growing kid, letting me stay home and be a full-time mom, being able to home school and all that jazz — is me selling lots and lots of books.

This brings us back around to the dietary changes. And last night I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that I’m never going to achieve either dream if I don’t want it more than I want the temporary satisfaction of a cookie or a slice of pizza, or the convenience of a slice of toast. I have to want to succeed more than I want delicious food. If I don’t, my health issues will never improve and I’ll never be able to sustain the energy I need to accomplish my goals. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the realization that I’ve been giving food a higher priority than not only my health, but also my biggest lifelong dreams, was kind of astonishing to me. And also shaming.

I guess this is what some people might call one of those “A-ha moments.”

So tomorrow I’m going to make time to sit down and make a menu plan for the following week that doesn’t include any dairy, gluten or high-glycemic food. The biggest thing I’m stumbling over right now is a replacement for the toast I usually eat with my tuna or egg salad for lunch during the week. I checked out crackers at the health food store today, but couldn’t find any that were both gluten free AND low glycemic. I may compromise and try some rye bread. I think when it comes down to either/or, low-glycemic should probably win out. At any rate, maybe Pinterest will show me some decent alternatives. If you have any recommendations, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments!

PCOS, goal interference, and reluctant diet changes

Last week was just a bad week. I have those from time to time, and I’m growing more accepting of that fact — and better at extending grace to myself — now that I’m past 40. Still, it’s really annoying to have stuff that needs to get done and lack the energy or mental clarity to do it. On the bright side, spending last week feeling vaguely ill has finally helped to convince/motivate me to get my diet back under control, since probably at least 99% of what was wrong with me could be traced to not eating healthy enough.

Seriously, I’ve been doing some research on my various chronic ailments and diet, and basically I’m not supposed to be eating any of the stuff I’ve been living on lately. I already knew that PCOS causes issues with insulin resistance and that I should be eating a low glycemic-index diet and not nearly so much bread (I’ve been eating a ton of bread, y’all) or sugar (hello, Halloween candy!). But apparently the fact that I have both PCOS and hypothyroid means it’s highly likely that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that’s been linked to gluten intolerance. Yet more reasons for me to avoid bread. Excuse me while I cry into my pumpkin spice flavored English muffin.

And then this short podcast offered compelling reasons why dairy is also horrible for anyone with PCOS. The gist of it is that any animal-based milk contains natural growth hormones that stimulate androgen production and make PCOS symptoms worse. Also, despite the fact that dairy is considered a low-glycemic source of protein, it actually causes blood sugar to spike about as much as bread or sugar.

So lately, this is what my diet has looked like: for breakfast, an English muffin with peanut butter and a glass of milk; for lunch, tuna salad with cottage cheese mixed in on two slices of toast; a cup of yogurt in the afternoon; and something involving meat, veggies and some form of cheese for dinner.

Can you see a few problems there? No wonder I feel like crap half the time.

Of course, this is the worst time of year to try and start a new healthy eating regimen, with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner. And I’m actually dealing somewhat better with the idea of cutting out bread and sugar than I am with giving up cheese. But I’m really tired of not feeling well and it would be nice to actually have the energy to go after my goals.

I like that the podcast I linked above pointed out that it’s not like I have celiac disease or anything, so the occasional indulgence won’t kill me. That’s good to remember, because so many of my favorite things have either gluten or dairy or both. Off the top of my head, that list includes pizza, egg rolls, cookies, breakfast toast, beer, grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. Sure, there are gluten-free alternatives to all that stuff, but it tends to cost twice as much and often tastes half as good as the real thing.

At any rate, I’m going to need to do some more researching and planning on all of this. If you follow me on Pinterest, don’t be surprised to see an influx of PCOS and health food related pins showing up on your home page.

Around and About

Sorry for the blog slowdown, folks. It’s been a general writing slowdown, really, while I’ve been taking care of business re: my health. I hesitate to go into detail here, since that’s not really what this space is for, but since a lot of women deal with this and don’t even know it, because it’s grossly underdiagnosed (seriously, I told probably five different doctors about my symptoms before one of them pinged on the right diagnosis), and someone might actually be helped with this info, I will mention that part of what’s been keeping me busy-distracted-busy is developing a plan to manage my PCOS. I blog in detail about that and other health issues at my personal blog, which is rapidly evolving into a PCOS-management blog (Livejournal followers, you can find it syndicated here).

And as long as I’m telling you about other places you can find me, here are a few more:

– I created a Facebook page for commissioning knit/crochet hats. For a few years now I’ve been making cute novelty hats for my nieces and nephews for their birthdays, and every time one of these hat presents gets opened, somebody invariably tells me that I need to be selling that stuff on Etsy. The problem with that is that I lack the budget to buy enough yarn and materials to build up inventory, and my yarn stash has been whittled down to really impractical novelty yarns that are terrible for hat-making. Also, I failed to take decent pictures of each hat I made before giving it away. So the hope here is that I’ll get enough commissions for made-to-order hats to be able to build my stash back up and make a lot of hats and open a proper shop on Etsy, eventually. And it’s not just novelty hats on the menu. I can do regular grown-up pretty hats, too. And bags. And fingerless mitts, and scarves and blankets and… basically, when you see something on Pinterest that makes you wish you could knit or crochet so you could make it for yourself? You can hire me to make it for you. So check that out.

– I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this or not, but my Tumblr is active again after lying inert for over a year. It’s basically a catch-all that includes the feed for this blog, my Instagram pics and whatever I feel compelled to reblog from my Tumblr dashboard, usually geeky and fannish sorts of things, and occasionally inspiring things about writing. And of course the odd cute animal GIF.

– Due to an increase in activity from both trolls and creepers on my personal Facebook profile, I finally made that friends-only, and I’m only accepting friend-requests from people I know or with whom I have some degree of connection.  I have an official author page specifically for interaction with my readers, and I’m doing my very best to be more active there. So if we don’t actually know each other but you’d like to talk to me or ask me questions, either that page or this blog is probably the best place to reach out. You can also chat with me on my Twitter, but I’m not on there very consistently so I might be slow (like, taking days)  to respond.

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