Friendly Reminder about Healing

Healing is.not.linear.

I have learned this with ups and downs of life with a chronic disease.
But this is especially difficult for me to remember with my mental health.

I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I’m currently wading through it with help from a number of healthcare professionals, people who support me, and the #1 role-player…myself!

I woke up a couple of days this week in a fog, sad, heavy…which is counter to my normal, healthy, chipper self. But I’m not apologizing for these bad days, and I’m taking them in stride, going to therapy, journaling, soul-searching, moving my body when I need to, being still when I need to, feeling all the feels, and not feeling bad for the bad days.

Growing up, I carried such guilt when I had a bad day, and my coping mechanism was pretending that everything was finnnnnne and grrrrrreat. I now know that I don’t owe anyone an apology for a bad day, not even myself.

I guess what I’m saying is- give yourself grace, because I’m working on giving myself grace:
-when I KNOW I’ve done everything to feel better; given myself the right amount of sleep, food, #self-care, and I still don’t feel better
-in the thick of it, in my lowest low, feeling like it will never pass. spoiler alert: it will- it’ll wash over
-when I’m panicked for no reason/ when I’m panicked for a real reason
-when I’m tired, weary, and downright depleated
-when I don’t accomplish everything…or anything on my to-do list

Healing is the ups, the downs, the peaks, valleys, rough parts, ins, outs, and all the in-between. But it’s the good stuff, too. I’d like to think the lowest lows help us feel the highest highs with even more intensity and gratitude.

I want to be a sure, steady shoreline that can take on storms, and allow them to wash over. I watch the tide take the storms away, and when they come back, I’m still the shoreline, only this time- I can stand in the storm from a different vantage point from before, because I’m still the shore.
Is that cheesy?
I’m a cheese-ball, yall. I don’t care- this works for me, okay?

And remember- you’re never alone. People are healing all around you, including me.



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Ulcerative Colitis: 5 Years Later

Happy November!

Is this the fastest year ever for anyone else? Just me? It’s flying by in a hurry!

I realized today that it has been five whole years since my ulcerative colitis diagnosis– woo! So much has changed in the last five years, and today I’m making a post about five obstacles that I have overcome and you can, too! But first, here’s a timeline of all the significant moments of life in and around an ulcerative colitis diagnosis:

-September 2012: Began experiencing severe symptoms (x-rated version: bloody stools 30x daily, loss of appetite, quick weight loss, fatigue, night sweats) 

-October 2012: Diagnosed with “moderate to severe ulcerative colitis”- began remicade infusions, pain medications, steroids, and mesalamines to get symptoms under control

-January 2013: Tried stopping all medications and healing with holistic approach (without doctor’s permission) Stupid, stupid, stupid

-April 2013: Hospital stay for dehydration due to symptoms; back on remicade infusions every 8 weeks with steroids. Decided to stop eating red meat, fried food, processed meats, and cheese

-December 2013: GRADUATED from The University of Texas at Austin, despite pleas from family to take a medical leave of absence. My GPA even improved after a diagnosis.

-March 2014: First post-grad job, a night shift at a Houston hospital. Here is where I learned that I did not want to be a nurse but instead decided to pursue dietetics. I declined my acceptance to a post-bachelor’s nursing program and began scoping out dietetics programs.

-June 2014: 2nd colonoscopy revealed active and increased inflammation; diagnosis modified to “Crohn’s disease”; removed from night shift schedule and increased dosage of steroids

-March 2015: Registered to run first half-marathon and fundraise for cures to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis; began talking publicly on social media about disease and realized that I could help encourage people through my journey with a challenging diagnosis. 

-July 2015: Completed first half-marathon in Sonoma, California after fundraising over $3,900 for Crohn’s and UC research

-February 2016: Completed second half-marathon in New Orleans after fundraising over $2,500 for Crohn’s and UC research

-May 2016: OFF STEROIDS! 

-July 2016: ENGAGED! 

-August-December 2016: “Is remicade working?”

-January 2017: WEDDING!

-February 2017: 3rd colonoscopy confirms “ulcerative colitis” diagnosis, but with significantly less inflammation

-May 2017: REMISSION! 

-October 2017: 5 years of ulcerative colitis diagnosis

Much has happened in the last five years, and I get bummed when I live through an experience and think, “why didn’t anyone tell me about this?!” which is why I [probably] tend to overshare on social media-you’re welcome. I believe that leaning into the vulnerability of real life challenges and sharing the experience with others helps create a community of empowerment. My life isn’t filled with bright, celestial light and like-it-to-know it worthy outfits (currently sporting dirty high-top converse and yoga pants); my life is peaks and valleys, a balancing act of chasing chocolate chip cookies with probiotic green juice and just trying to stay the eff in remission while I navigate life as a normal twenty-something year old newlywed while remaining a girl boss in organic chemistry. My life is far too much to pretend that it’s instaperfect.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling. Here’s five obstacles that I have overcome with ulcerative colitis:

1. Fear of pain. I remember freaking out as a child every time my mom would take me to the dentist, “Will it hurt?!” Grown adults still ask me this about colonoscopies

(No, Debra, you’ll be fine).

I honestly go into procedures/infusions now knowing that at some point I WILL feel discomfort, possibly even pain, and I don’t even care. Pain is temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way. P.S. The most painful part of the infusion is the end, when the nurse takes the tape off. Think of it as a nice little wax job.

 

2. Fear of needles. Before UC, I would get so nervous to have by blood drawn annually at my physical check-up. One time I almost passed out. But I realized quickly that I would be seeing a lot of needles after my diagnosis, and I needed to woman-up and get brave. Now I can look at needles all day long- no problem. I don’t even care if the nurse has to try four times before hitting a vein, that looks like hard work anyway.

Pro tip: If you ARE afraid of needles, don’t look at the needle when your nurse is trying to thread it, because this triggers a fight-or-fight response from your sympathetic nervous system and your veins vasoconstrict, making life more difficult for you AND your nurse. Also be sure to hydrate well the day BEFORE a procedure so your veins are happy, plump and hydrated.

3. Being my own advocate. If you know me, you know that I have a soft voice, AND I have a resting nice face which means that everyone smiles at me all.the.time. Strangers frequently strike up a conversation, like we’re old friends. My naturally semi-extroverted self is STOKED to have these encounters, but because I LOOK so.damn.friendly. it’s a real challenge for people to take me seriously. When the nurse says “let me check on the order for your medication” I take notes of who I spoke to, when I spoke to them, and then I call back later that day to make sure that homegirl actually checked on the order as promised. People get busy and forget, but my body isn’t going to forget that it needs an infusion to function. If I show up to an infusion appointment only to find out that an order had never been written and insurance had never been contacted for prior-authorization, I WILL craft an email to the head of the infusion center, call my doctor, or show up in person with an order ready for him to fill out and sign. Whatever it takes, I leave my dignity at the door, and I fight. It’s too easy to get lost in our American Healthcare System, so go to bat for yourself. Take good notes, talk to understanding people, and make your case sound.

4. Hair loss. Many, many people experience hair loss; it’s just part of life. I could write an entire post dedicated to “How to make your hair healthy after you’ve been REALLY nutrient depleted and it thins and falls out and breaks off in clumps and makes you cry really hard in the shower but it’s going to be okay, Stacey- IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY.” Honestly, hair loss was a tough little challenge for me, and friends and family members were so kind about it “I can hardly notice”. My older sister bought me expensive, old man hair growth shampoo- bless her. But to me, hair loss was an outward expression of how desperately unhealthy I was on the inside, and it was hard to wash my hair knowing that I had balding spots, and I could feel it thinning by the handful. In retrospect, it could’ve been so much worse. I wasn’t bald! Let’s review:

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Ten months before UC diagnosis

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One year after my diagnosis. I started parting my hair on the opposite side and got bangs to hide a bald spot. It worked!

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Three years post-diagnosis. I remember loving this picture because my hair looked like it was growing, even though it was wispy and thin compared to before my diagnosis, I knew I was getting much healthier!

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Five years post-diagnosis. I’ve never been this healthy, and I think my hair agrees. *flips hair*

5. Health is comprehensive. Being healthy has been another challenge, but I FINALLY feel like I’m getting it down. In college I stressed and slaved so hard over science courses to get into nursing school, and I sacrificed quality sleep and my diet suffered (but isn’t that the tale of so many college students?)

Post-grad I learned that I felt better when I was physically active, and I started sleeping more. I now feel like I’m balancing sleep, productivity, physical movement, spirituality, and time with people I love better, and each facet is an integral part of overall health. Taking care of myself is getting easier. Three cheers for adulting!

If you’re dealing with a diagnosis, managing a disease, or you just feel like you have a one-way ticket to Struggle City, USA, know that I’m here to help you feel like you’re doing a thing, and you’re doing it better than you think. Life is a continuum of learning, and if we can manage to learn together…well, I’d say we’re doing something right.

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5 years, 40 pounds, and a crap ton of life lessons in between. Pun intended…

Here’s to five years of learning and living! Hope your day is a good one! 🙂

-Stacey


Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Guys. I’m gonna be real.

For the past few weeks I have struggled with feeling inspired…more than just with my blog content (you may or may not have noticed that I slowed down from hammering out a post daily).

I started wondering, “Should I continue pursuing my degree in dietetics?” Graduation seems so far away at times since I’m working full time using my sociology degree (Yes, kids. You CAN get hired using that liberal arts degree after all!) and taking one/two classes at a time is DRAGGING.

So naturally, I started looking at other degrees career paths. Master’s in Pubic Health? Oh. I could do that! But as I was doing a case study for my nutrition class on Friday night I thought, “I love this crap. I’m just gonna have to suck it up and stick it out.” So that’s what I’m doing. Sticking it out- juggling work with school, and keepin’ on (even though TBH I wish my school wasn’t online and was in person- I LOVE THE CLASSROOM. But I’m thankful anyway).

And today on my run I was reminded of how I always struggle during the first mile and a half and forget why I love running. It’s not until I push through until miles two or three that I FEEL it. “THIS is why I run. Because I’m out here, when I could be anywhere else.” And it’s liberating, after the first mile and a half of clumsy feet/ gettin’ into my groove.

But I keep on.

And then suddenly my muscles remember what we’re doing. My breathing picks up and settles into a familiar pattern. My legs swing happily beneath me. I can feel the wind (on a good, breezy day anyway). There’s nothing like it. And there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of finishing a race after months of training hard. There’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of accomplishment.

So I’m keeping on.

Past this semester of “Ugh why am I doing this?” until I get my groove back. Because I will. Because nutrition is my ultimate jam, and I’m good with people.

So whatever you’re pursuing, keep on…past the mile/semester/time of being uncomfortable, because trials develop perseverance, and perseverance develops maturity. One day you’ll find joy in what seemed like suffering, because you’ll have accomplished your goals…and there’s nothin’ sweeter than that. (1)

Except this, maybe this:

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Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding

It’s gluten free. It’s dairy free. It’s pudding.

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-1 C coconut yogurt (I used vanilla)
-small splash of milk (sorry, I’m still working on the measuring thing
-1/4 C chia seeds
-1/2 C raspberries
-1/2 C blackberries
-1/2 C strawberries
-1/2 C kiwi, peeled and sliced

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-Mix kiwi, blackberries, and splash of almond milk (we’re talkin’ probably less than 1/4 cup of almond milk, guys. Jusssst a splash) in a medium-large mixing bowl.
-Once mixed(ish), stir 1 C coconut yogurt into mixture
-Add chia seeds and stir some more
-Pour in glass container and refrigerate overnight.
-Enjoy a serving for breakfast (about 1/2 cup), topped with favorite granola

When you wake up in the morning, this should be your view:

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I know it doesn’t look all that appetizing, but it is. Oh. It is. Promise.

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About chia seeds:
-not just for chia pets

 

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source: Target.com

-high in Omega-3 fatty acids (if you don’t like seafood, here’s your substitute!)
-high in protein (about 4g/serving in this pudding!- not including the protein from yogurt)
-an antioxidant! Healthful anti-inflammatory properties in these seeds

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Let me know what cha think if you give this recipe a shot! I’ve got a fun Workout Wednesday post in the works for mañana.

Hope you’re having a lovely week. Keep on keepin’ on!

-Stacey

Footnotes: (1) Romans 5:4


Bad Days; Good Life

Hi, friends!

It’s been a minute. To catch up:

I had my first dress fitting. I strategically selected matching underwear and even shaved my legs the night before because I was worried the seamstress would judge my prickly legs and mismatched undergarments (but really? who has time to match undergarments every day?). I packed my shoes that I’ll be wearing the day of the wedding, stuffed a pair of socks in the shoe box, and left work during the middle of the day drive to my fitting.

The seamstress fluffed my dress as I stood in front of a mirror, admiring my bridal self. I listened to time go by as the clock ticked away, my mom chatting away the background, and suddenly the room began ringing, my vision blurred, and I when I opened my eyes, I was on the cold tile floor.

Remember from childhood school plays when the sweet music teacher would kindly remind you, “Don’t lock your knees!” Homegirl knew what she was talking about, because I locked my knees too long and actually fainted during a dress fitting. My friends say “that’s the most Stacey thing I’ve ever heard.” Struggle City, USA.

So there’s that.

In other news
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My sister, my childhood friend Chazley, and I raised $1000 toward curing Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s fun, new event called Spin4. This was also my very first time attending a spin class, and I LOVED IT. Infectious high energy and an incredible sweat session (honestly, my favorite things) with fun music and a lot of fun = party on a bike for cures.
If you gave to our fundraiser, THANK YOU. I hope you know that you’re making such a big difference in making Crohn’s and colitis less crappy for our future, with more possibilities  than ever and maybe even cures one day. THANK YOU ❤

I excitedly drove to Cyclebar Katy this afternoon. I left my office an hour and a half early because I wasn’t about to miss a Throwback Thursday-themed spin class that was FREE!

But, Houston happened. I didn’t make it there in time, even though it’s only a 20 something mile drive and I left AN HOUR AND A HALF EARLY.

So I turned around and drove back to downtown. Then I had and x-rated Crohn’s moment known to human kind in the middle of I-10  traffic (oh, and infusion day was last week, so that’s not really a thing that’s allowed to happen, but Stacey’s body does whatever the eff it wants).

Then I got home, sanitized myself, my clothes, my bathroom, my car, and drove to Kroger where I happened upon the loudest shopping cart known to man and cried my way to the Cheerios, my comfort food.

I thank God for Zack, because I had mega feel-sorry-and-woeful-for-myself moments while in the produce section, but he reminded me that I’m going to do the things I set out to do. I have crazy goals, but I also have ridiculously strong will-power and even though Crohn’s can cause speed bumps and detours and make me sad, life outside of Crohn’s can still be conquered, one step at a time.
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In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t always handle bad days gracefully. Sometimes I cry and worry about if I’m capable of accomplishing all that I want. “Does this mean I can’t be a registered dietitian and will need to quit school so that I can live a life sentenced to house arrest?” No. You’re just having a bad day, Stacey. It isn’t a life sentence.

You don’t need to be reminded of your limitations- you just need to be reminded that you can push back on them.

I hope you know that too. Bad days can trick you into thinking life is harder or worse than it actually is. There’s always a silver lining. Mine, today, was Zack. He’s a realist, so if he’s reminding me of how capable I am then…I guess it’s time that I get busy!

Find your good life in your bad day! Keep moving forward, even if you have to roll through the produce section in your lousy, noisy cart and snotty tears. You’re still moving 😉

-Stacey


Warrior Wednesdays

Hope everyone had a great Wednesday. I like to call these days, “Warrior Wednesdays”. They only come every six weeks/ every time the Crohn’s starts knocking at the door, and they’re infusion days.

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How I make Warrior Wednesdays not suck even though I’m strapped to an IV pole for hours: Naps. OH. And Pizza. Specifically, Pink’s (In Austin it was HomeSlice) or the cheap frozen kind from Trader Jo’s which is surprisingly delicious. I’m gonna feel gross and sleepy after the infusion anyway, so I may as well eat some greasy, bad comfort food. Warrior Wednesdays have been dubbed, “Pizza Day” by my close friends and family. Today I added cupcakes while I watched Usain Bolt and the Canadian guy blaze right into the finals. Normally I binge watch Gilmore Girls before/after napping. No shame.

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Also, friendly reminder to be kind to yourself. Less weight often isn’t equivalent to greater health. When I’m running a lot, I also eat a lot. I have muscle, which weighs much more than fat. I was 124 lbs at this infusion, down nine pounds since my last infusion-no bueno. What changed? I basically stopped physical activity and slowed eating. When I do eat, I haven’t been fueling with sufficient protein, healthy fats, or carbs. I eat whatever doesn’t nauseate me, e.g. plain cheerios (my inner dietetics student is cringing at myself). I’ve allowed myself to be consumed by stress. BUT I am really, really working on stress management. Oh-I hear actions speak louder, so. Here we go, life.
Stay tuned.

Keep moving forward 🙂 (even if you have to take some time to slow down and work through stress and life. That’s cool. But pick yourself up, get it togetha’. And then, one foot in front of the other. The world needs ya bad)