Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Skinny Drawer

Today I went into the "skinny" drawer. Every woman has one - it is full of clothes that have been kept for that day in the future when she finally loses the weight and can get back into the clothes of the past.

I used to have three of them. One for clothes that will "hopefully fit soon", one for clothes that were a size down, and one for clothes that were two-three sizes down.

I purged those drawers about a year ago, thinking that I would never get down to those hopeful sizes, and condensed those three drawers down to one. That one drawer has some pants that I just didn't want to part with. I figured it wasn't too horrible to store those clothes, even thinking I would never be in them again.

During the time of the purge, I was an 18W. To be honest, I was larger than that, but refused to get rid of my worn jeans because I couldn't find ones anymore that fit me in that size, and I absolutely refused to go up yet another size; I told myself that "when I felt better" I could start working out, and wouldn't have to. This thought process continued for years as I battled through feeling ill all the time. Still I refused to go up a size, holding onto my thin, shabby jeans, and promising myself I could get more as soon as I could fit them again.

I have few pictures from that time that aren't taken from above the waist - I hated how I looked in pictures, because that wasn't the me I remembered. The me I remembered was fit, and played soccer, and enjoyed being outdoors; it wasn't this horribly out of shape blob. I do have a picture that Jason took, as I was trying to sneak up on some deer (this is why I can't live outside of California - while I recognize and know the danger wild animals pose, when I am in a situation where I get close to one, my excitement overcomes me and I apparently lose that respect! It's a good thing I've never seen baby bears up close in the wild - I'd be shredded by now!) This was me at my heaviest - only barely fitting into those 18Ws, and living in denial that I was any bigger than that.

Since being diagnosed and going gluten free, I've lost close to 30 pounds. I am not sure if it is my body letting go of all the inflammation, or that I have been able to become more active, or a combination of the two.

Today I saw the "skinny" drawer while putting away laundry and decided to see what was in there, and found these jeans, a size 14. Now, I am firmly in the size 16 category, something I am proud of; women's sizes go 18W, 18, 16W, 16, so I'm down 4 sizes since going gluten free. (It is really nice being able to go into a store, pick out a regular size, and know it will fit.)

Those 14s spoke to me though - they have sparkly bits on the back, and are the perfect dark jean, and I knew, as I pulled out the 16s from the skinny drawer to be added to the "jeans I can wear" in my closet, that I had to try them on.

(Please excuse the playroom mess, as there is no full length mirror in the master bedroom)

I have to say, I am super excited at the progress I am making. These are still a bit tight (in that they fit, but shouldn't go out for a huge dinner tight), but they can be added to the rotation, and not just shoved in a "skinny" drawer.  It's amazing to me that this time last year I was stubbornly refusing to go up to a 20W, wearing crappy threadbare jeans to get by, and donating a bunch of stuff because I would "never see that size again". Now I can wear that size. It's still not were I want to be, but progress is always so invigorating and inspiring. I can't wait to see where I will be a year from now, considering where I was a year ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Celiac and Kissing Frogs

Jason and I were having a conversation about marriage today when I made the analogy that sometimes marriage is more about kissing frogs than the frog becoming a prince, and you better make sure that the person you are in the marriage with is the person you want to be kissing frogs with.

He was a little offended (rightfully so!) until I explained myself. HE wasn't the frog. Life was.

I imagine life sometimes like a hologram. When things are going fantastic, that hologram is the prince - life is great, it is everything you ever wanted, everything is sunshine and rainbows and nothing bad can ever happen, ever. When life hits you with things like autoimmune disorders, the hologram becomes a frog. The frog is the work - you keep kissing it, hoping it will turn into the prince and you can live happily ever after. Too often, that frog just sits there, as you kiss and kiss and kiss and wonder why it isn't turning into a prince no matter what you do and what work you put in.

I can't really say for sure when I developed celiac. I don't know if I have always had autoimmune responses to gluten, or if the other autoimmune issues I have decided to band together to create another disease. Autoimmune is funky like that - it's almost like a snowball effect; the more autoimmune issues you have, the more likely you are to develop another. It's like a fucked up version of Captain Planet (shout-out to the 90s). With your autoimmune disorders combined, I am.... a tired exhausted mess is what I was....

I also can't really say for sure at what point the full exhaustion and illness hit. It seemed like such a slow progression, starting with infertility, into hypothyroidism (which was actually Hashimotos), into PCOS and finally into a place where I had three bad weeks in a month and maybe one good, if I was lucky and didn't "overdo it" (and by overdo it, that often meant just walking to get the mail).

I was always exhausted. It's hard to describe the level of exhaustion to those who have never felt it, but it was genuine effort just to get up to take the dogs downstairs. Those were my good days, forget it if I caught a cold, or had the flu, or had a flare up.

I felt like I was in a never-ending battle of kissing the frog and hoping to get the prince. I started taking birth control, as I noticed onset of symptoms after I stopped. This helped for a time, but I quickly was back to the norm of feeling horrible. It was like I had kissed that frog, and the hologram fritzed, and I got a glimpse of the prince before being smacked in the face with the frog again.

Every time there was a little bit of progress in dealing with the known autoimmune disorders, I got a glimpse of the prince through the frog. It was frustrating, and made things even more exhausting than they already were, because I could visualize how my life could be better if I could just get these autoimmune disorders under control. Eventually, for lack of a better term, I gave up. The frog was always going to be there, so I better learn to be happy with the frog, rather than continue the exhausting chase of the prince. I stayed in that place for longer than I would like to admit. People tried to help - suggesting trying this, or experimenting with that. I shut them all out. They didn't get it - how can you get it until you've faced that level of illness? Even my endocrinologist was telling me that sometimes there's not more you can do, and this is the "normal" of autoimmune. I took my medicines, I took my supplements, I was doing everything "right" and still getting the frog. 

Testing for celiac felt like another frog situation. I was already exhausted enough with the three known disorders, and piling on another only to have the metaphorical prince never show seemed like too much. To be honest, I only did it to have everyone off my back; "this is just another thing I am doing that won't help, and I will still be stuck with the frog, and nothing ever helps, and I am so exhausted already so why continue putting energy I don't have into trying to find something that does?"

Obviously, being diagnosed with celiac hasn't taken away the frog. I still have four autoimmune disorders, and they will and do still flare. Autoimmune diseases don't go away, they are simply managed.  I am learning to enjoy the prince while it is there, and to deal with the frog when it pops up, and with a more optimistic attitude than I've been able to afford in years. 

With all that said, I really feel like the celiac diagnosis has created this glimmer of hope that I haven't felt in a long time. I am getting sick less often. I am able to go for a walk with my husband and not be out of commission for the next week. I am hoping that as I continue to be gluten free, I will gain even better health, an even better life. What I was doing before wasn't living, it was surviving, and barely that. I have finally "kissed a frog" in life, and gotten less of the fritzing prince. While the celiac diagnosis means I don't get to splurge and eat out worry free, it does mean that I get to see a lot more of that prince than I have seen in years. And that is worth all the gluten in the world.