Self-care: A love story for the new year

Self-care – This was the word I chose as my one-word resolution for the new year. I resolved that I would actually and truly take care of myself this year because I need it. It’s not that I just want it..nope…I truly need it.

So here it is, one month into the new year and it seems like the right time for an update on how my self-care has been going.

I have been doing self-care stuff that I am not particularly fond of that I have mentioned before…like quitting my jobs, getting a rolly backpack, a cushion to sit on during class, the Keto IC diet, migraine glasses, alkaline water and diet, and so on. I don’t love doing all of these things, but I am doing them because they are the right thing for me and my body at this time. I make sure to take time out to rest, even though I feel like I should be doing something productive like school work…because…grad school.

So while other people out in the world might be floundering and forgetting their New Year’s resolutions right about now… I am thriving with mine. I can only hope that will continue to thrive and hold true to mine, even if I feel resistant against some of the stuff I am doing. I have to remember that I am doing it because it is best for my health at this time.

So yes… I have resigned myself to this. I have not decided if I can resign myself to this forever. I have moments where I get stubborn about it and decide to resist my inner self-care voice. For example, one huge challenge I have is the steps in Aaron‘s apartment building…they are very steep and difficult for me to go up and down. The other day I arrived and wanted to take all my stuff up, my school stuff and my sleepover bag. So I did that. Huge mistake. The whole time this was going through my mind… I can do this. I am a normal person. Normal people can carry some bags up some stairs. I used to be able to carry these bags up these stairs. I am normal. I am normal. I was about one-fourth of the way up the stairs when I came to my senses and remembered….I’m not normal. But it was too late. I had to keep going. So I decided to power through.  My second huge mistake of the day. Which at that point was the only way I was getting up the stairs because if I stopped for even a second I wouldn’t be able to get moving again.

By the time I got to the top I was beyond exhausted. And was completely ready to drop to the ground. That was not a good or wise self-care moment. Usually, I do much better than that. But there are just some times when I try to forget I am chronically ill and try to remember what it’s like to be normal Rachel again. I have to learn to let go of that. Self-care is remembering that I am not that Rachel anymore. And some self-love would be telling myself it’s okay that you aren’t that Rachel anymore, you are still Rachel. You are growing and evolving. Love yourself. Self-love is a part of self-care but it’s much harder to do.

And yes, as the title of this blog post says, this is a love story. You have to love yourself when you are doing intensive self-care. And I am learning to love myself through self-care. -Rachel Bob

It’s very difficult to love my body when it is changing in ways that I cannot comprehend. It’s difficult to love my body when it pains me daily and honestly often leaves me feeling betrayed. But part of self-care is not focusing on that too much because I can’t harp on that self-hate/dislike/whatever it is or it will just hurt me further. That’s where priorities come in.

Part of self-care is prioritizing. I have to really look at my life and my priorities and see what is important and what is excess. Anything that is excess will basically be cut from the to do list because I don’t have the energy for it. I have very limited energy and therefore I have to prioritize my life. My number one priority right now? (you might be able to guess this one) myself. And then there is grad school, my family which includes my mom, my four cats, Aaron and Reid, my support system and my blog.

It isn’t easy to take care of yourself. Anyone with a cat (dog/other pet) or a child… or in my case both… knows the struggle of being able to get some self-care time when you have all of these little people who constantly want and need your attention. When I’m at home and try to take a bath. I have no less than two cats in the bathroom with me at all times…usually they are telling me how much they need to be in the tub and that I should drain the water so they can do that. Or they are telling me how badly they need me to pet them. When I’m at Aaron’s, Reid is in constant need of attention which is to be expected because he is six years old.

But despite all the road blocks, and that is all they are…road blocks. I have to persevere and keep trying until I find success with my self-care. So when I do get to take care of myself what kind of stuff am I trying to do?

  • Remembering to breathe….2..3..4..
  • Sleep. I can’t emphasize enough how important sleep is to me (not just me), so I’ll say it again in all caps…SLEEP!!!  Sleep is the time for our bodies to rest and repair. It’s important. Getting a good 7-9 hours of sleep can be a challenge but it’s worthwhile if you’re on the self-care plan like me.
  • Taking long baths with Epsom salts and baking soda. I just bought Magnesium flakes which I haven’t used just yet but I am looking forward to trying.
  • Making time to see my friends who support me. Last semester I was so overwhelmed with school and pain that I never saw my friends and I think that was a huge mistake on my part. So now I am actively making sure to see my friends. Like my bestie, Becca…pre-grad school we hung out every Sunday. But once grad school hit we didn’t see each other for months and months. I think that only hurt my health more. So now I decided we will see each other at least every two weeks.
  • Learning how to cook for and feed myself in a healthy way that fits my needs and my diet
  • Taking a break and just resting – This can make all the difference between being in a lot of pain or being in more bearable pain.
  • Learning to tell people what I need – This is a big one. I think this is one that a lot of people with chronic illness struggle with. We don’t want to be seen as needy or a burden so we don’t tell people what we need. Or we think that by asking for something we are asking too much. Like when the lights go on and off suddenly that impacts my migraines. I get bright flashing lights in my eyes, it’s disorienting and I have trouble seeing. I have learned to ask people to let me know when they will turn the lights on and off. I didn’t used to do that because I thought it was bothersome and too much effort for the other person. I would just try to live with it, but why? It’s not that much extra work for them to be like Hey Rachel, close your eyes. Boom…done. And it saves me a lot of pain, which is always nice.

Self-care is so important for everyone, but especially those of us who are chronically ill. We need to take care of ourselves or we will not be able to function and participate in the daily life. Everything I do now is for the future. Is it hard? heck yea it is. Even with the label of self-care, it is still a challenge that I struggle with every day and sometimes I do it begrudgingly. But you know what… that’s okay. As long as I try to take care of myself …that’s all that matters.

 

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Keto IC diet: Week 1

***This diet is not for everyone. Everyone is different and may have different needs. I am trying this because I am going in with the hopes that it will improve my health (IC and migraines). I will keep track of what happens here on this blog. Please read this if you’re unsure what the Keto IC diet is and want to learn about it***

I kicked off the first day with a keto IC smoothie, which was easy enough to do because I love making green smoothies anyways. This one just had to be a bit different because it was Keto, so it wasn’t perfect but I’ll work on it. I have found it really difficult to eat enough food throughout the day because with keto I have to eat drastically more food than I am used to eating.

1550 calories. Although I am not counting calories, this is just to show how much food I need to eat. And this is the breakdown of what I need to eat throughout the day.

78g of protein.

19 carbs.

129g of fat

But the whole changeover is a process.

My whole body has been feeling acidic though out the week though. I have tried my go to regular alkaline helpers: Prelief (a dietary supplement to reduce acidity for heartburn and IC), tums and water. Those didn’t help like they usually. So I went and tried an IC tried and true method, of baking soda mixed in water. Which is incredibly disgusting but iimage- bottle of prelief. for heart burn or bladder symptoms caused by foods.jpgs very alkaline and can generally help the body calm down when acidic. And it has actually been helping, so that’s good. IC warriors often take baking soda baths, as well for similar relief for burning during urination.

Keeping to the new diet has been surprisingly easier than I originally thought it would be. It helps that I have such an amazing support system. Becca, Christine, Shelby, and Aaron have all been critical in helping me be able to keep up with this diet. Becca has been amazing, she took me grocery shopping last week and then today as an early birthday gift, she gave me some Keto IC friendly foods, which I am so grateful for. If I didn’t have a strong support system I would definitely fail. It’s hard starting such a diet around this time. My birthday is coming up and because… cake and ice cream and other yummy foods that I love on my birthday. Like spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna. But today Becca made me an amazing birthday lunch of NOodles (no-oodles) with kale, zucchini,  shrimp, cream, butter, olive oil and parmesan cheese. And then dessert was a delicious vanilla cream cheese frosting fat bomb.

 

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image: Bag of NO-oodles. All Natural. No Net Carbs. No Fat. No Net Carbs. No Gluten. No Preservatives. The Healthy Alternative to Pasta

 

 

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image: wine glass filled with white vanilla cream cheese frosting fat bomb with 5 blueberries on top

Almost every day this week I have been with Aaron and he has been making sure I eat enough. Which honestly, sometimes drives me insane because I’m not hungry. I’m never as hungry as he wants me to be. But I appreciate that he keeps trying. There was one day when I was craving sugar so badly, I think it was my third or fourth day in. I was like OMG NEEDSUGARCARBSS NOM NOM NOM!!! FEEDFACEE. He made me a vanilla fat bomb, which was delicious. And then he went out and found me some low carb high protein vanilla ice cream, a brand called Halo Top. And let me tell you, it is actually really good. If they wanted to pay me to write reviews for them…I would. But they don’t have to and I will still say it was really good. Their website lists all their flavors and all the ingredients. The only thing is…it can be hard to find. So on the website which I linked above, they have a where to buy feature so you can figure out where to buy it near you.

 

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Image: Pint of Halo Top ice cream Vanilla Bean 240 calories per pint. Good source of protein

Doing such a strict diet like Keto or the IC diet is hard enough. Granted the IC diet, is not like keto at all. The IC diet is specifically for people with IC, to cut out acidic foods that irritate and hurt the bladder. Whereas Keto is a much more stringent diet that is used for weight loss, other health issues (such as seizures) and general health. Combining the two diets is sort of like mixing oil and water. They don’t really go together. A lot of the stuff that people usually eat when on the Keto diet, I can’t eat because of IC. When doing Keto you need to eat a lot of sodium, a common food for that is pickles. But as per my IC diet, I don’t eat pickles. So my support system and I have had to brainstorm other salty creative ways for me to get more sodium into my diet.

The truth is that adding Keto to my already restricted IC diet is incredibly emotionally difficult for me. I am doing this because of my health. I am not doing this to lose weight. The majority of people of people who do Keto are doing it to lose weight. This whole process is emotionally, mentally and physically upsetting for me.  My world is being turned upside down… yet again… because of my health.

And I just keep sacrificing. That’s what those of us who have one or more chronic illnesses do. We sacrifice. The stuff that we sacrifice is limitless. And it tends to be stuff that most people don’t even think about. It always starts small and slowly gets bigger… food, more food, even more food, exercising, makeup, brushing hair, showers, clothes, more food, working, walking, sleeping, going out, even more food, friendships. This list goes on and on. And you can see how it started so simply with food.

I believe we do all of this because we do what we have to do to survive. 

 

I really do look forward to seeing what benefits will come of doing the Keto IC diet for my IC and migraines. I can only hope they will happen sooner rather than later.

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“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

 

 

Keto is neato…hopefully

 

***This diet is not for everyone. Everyone is different and may have different needs. I am trying this because I am going in with the hopes that it will improve my health (IC and migraines). I will keep track of what happens here on this blog. Please read this if you’re unsure what the Keto IC diet is and want to learn about it***

The Ketogenic Diet

“The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb style of eating that has powerful health benefits.” – Maria Emmerich, The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse

Keto was originally developed in the early 1920s to treat epileptic seizures, but once antiseizure meds became available the diet fell out of favor. But more than 70 years later, it was rediscovered as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Which is always interesting because that is never what the pharmaceutical companies want.

Not too long ago, I met a woman who had a DeafBlind son and he used to have over 500 seizures a month. He was placed on the ketogenic diet by his doctor and that number drastically dropped to less than one time a month. Wow! That’s impressive.

I won’t get into great detail of how keto works within in the body. But the goal is to get the body to metabolize fat rather than sugar.

The health benefits of keto are:

  • improves brain health and energy
  • eliminates migraines 
  • improves mood
  • controls epilepsy and Alzheimer’s
  • decreases risk of coronary artery disease
  • Eliminates chronic pain
  • Eliminate Candida (yeast overgrowth)
  • Eliminates acne, eczema, and dandruff
  • Eliminates rosacea
  • Eliminates asthma and sinus issues
  • Eliminates acid reflux
  • Starves cancer cells
  • improves fertility

Migraines, chronic pain, rosacea*, and asthma are all chronic illnesses I have. It does not specifically say IC, nor has there been any official research done on the impact of keto on IC. But from the research that I have done, Keto for IC warriors has been really hit or miss. Some people who have IC have great success with keto, while others do not. But that’s one of the caveats of having IC; everyone is different.

*Rosacea is a chronic (face) skin disorder that can form in redness on the cheeks/nose/chin/forehead, small visible blood vessels on face, bumps or pimples on face. It cannot be cured but it can be taken care of with proper treatment and non-irritating face products. So if you ever wonder why I, or other people you know, look so red that’s why. Or why I turn red so easily…that’s why.

“It’s true that IC is a condition that manifests differently in each person…even if a treatment works 95% of the time, some people won’t gain any benefit from it.”- Nicole Cozean, The Interstitial Cystitis Solution

So the biggest thing for me to think about is how to successfully merge my IC diet and the Keto diet. It’s complicated. There is only so much overlap. For example, I eat a very bland diet because of my IC… no spices, hot sauce, pepper or onions. Many people who do keto love those things because it helps them diversify their limited cuisine.

Switching to a limited diet, in general, is difficult. Giving up foods for IC was a challenge, but not impossible because it was for my health. Even after almost two years of this diet, there are still days when I just wish I could have a glass of orange juice or eat something with onions in it. I never really liked onions, but I didn’t realize how much stuff they were in until I couldn’t eat them anymore. I gave up a lot of acidic foods. But not the carbs, processed foods, and sugars which were IC friendly. I held on tight to them. I couldn’t eat chocolate chip cookies anymore, but gosh darn it I wasn’t about to give up sugar cookies. I might not be able to eat chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream but there was no way in heck  I was giving up vanilla ice cream. But now?

Now I’m ready to let go of carbs, sugar, and processed foods and make the change. The food I am eating is not worth the pain I feel…at all. I am too young to be in this much pain all the time. I want my life back.

And I am so fortunate to have my support system, standing right alongside me while I do this. Aaron, my boyfriend, already does keto, so that’s an easy sell. My mom and Becca support me no matter what I do. And Shelby and Christine will be doing keto with me because there is power in numbers.

Will keto magically make me better? Probably not. 

Will it improve my general well being? I hope so. Only time will tell. 

Having a support system

 

[Image description: from left to right: Becca, Rachel, Aaron and Shelby standing next to each other and smiling]
A strong support system is crucial for people with chronic illness to survive and thrive. A support system can include family, friends, support group, doctors, other medical or holistic professionals. My support system is coming together nicely. 

 

The players:

Rachel – The One with IC and more

Debbie – The Mother

Aaron – The Boyfriend

Becca – The Thoughtful One

Shelby – The Cautious Optimist

Christine – The No Funny Business-er

Blinken – The Fluffy Cat

Stanley – The Ninja Cat

Marzipan – The Biggest Little Baby Cat

Ziggy – The Not-So-Nice Cat

Now that we have met the players and their roles. It’s important to understand how all of them will work on a macro and micro level. I know my relationship with each of these people as individuals so on a micro level it’s easy. But on a macro level, the system as a whole should work together fluidly. 

It’s important to find people who you trust, will be there to support you, have your best interest in mind and can be part of a team effort. This can be a difficult task to find a group of people. And for me, as an introvert, I don’t love the idea of having a group of people discussing my well being. But I need a solid plan and a strong support system. Each person

Each person in the support system plays their own role. One or two of them might be better at emotional support. While one might be better at providing support through actions, like someone who comes to see you once a week and cooks you dinner. They are showing you they care about you by being there for you regularly, even if they might not be the best with emotional support. And that’s okay if you have a strong enough support system then it’s good to have a variety of people who can provide different kinds of support. 

I will be planning a huge lifestyle diet change coming up within the next week or so. On Saturday, January 7th, my support system will have a round table discussion of what my diet will look like so that we are all on the same page. So I can go hang out with Becca and she already knows that I can’t eat tomatoes because of my IC and there’s a good chance I’ll cut out sugar and processed foods and so on. Everyone who is in my life already knowing will make it easier for me to follow through and be held accountable for my actions. 

 

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[Image description: Real friends support you no matter what. If you want to be a tuna fish then it’s my job to encourage you to be the best damn tuna fish that you can be.]