Who am I now?

I’ve watched the series finale of “Bones” more than once over the past week. It was a well-done end to a long running show, but that isn’t what made me want to watch it over and over again. The main character, Temperance Brennan (Bones) suffers a head injury during the first few minutes of the episode and what follows echoes so much of the last year and a half of my life that the words she spoke made me cry. Tears of understanding, tears of empathy, but most of all tears because the writers of the show were able to put into words what I’ve struggle with for so long – losing an ability that makes you you and the fear that it may never return.

I’ve had many times in my life when I’ve felt lost, like I wasn’t sure who I was or where I wanted to go next. Times when I struggled to find purpose and belonging, to feel as if the fight forward was too hard of a struggle. I’ve gone through pain, loss and utter despair. But until last year, I never realized what it is like to lose the person you were.

I won’t go into details, but I was in a car accident and hit my head. What went from people (doctors included) telling me that things should go back to normal within a couple weeks has now turned into more than a year and the phrase, “back to normal” being replaced by, “different than before, but still functional”. The fear that I will not return to myself is a real one.

I loved cooking. I loved coming up with new recipes and sharing them with you all. I loved being able to look through cookbooks and magazines to get ideas and knowing how to pare them down to single size servings. I miss being able to have two pots of the stove at once – stirring this while browning that. I miss being able to follow a recipe without having to check off steps. I miss knowing that what I am about to eat won’t taste disgusting because I added something twice. I miss cooking making sense.

Bones feels this same loss. While working with her team she says, 

“I remember the day each of you was hired. I remember the name of every victim I’ve ever identified. I remember just how meaningful this work can be. But I don’t remember how to do it.”

That’s how I feel about cooking these days – I can remember cooking a recipe, I can even tell you the steps I need to follow, but I when I go to actually do it. It is a weird feeling to know that you are able to do something but just can’t figure out how to do it. There was a day when I actually boiled broccoli dry (and burned it badly) because I was struggling to thicken a really simple pan sauce. It was something that I never would have given a second thought to before – it all just came naturally – but now I was stuck with the smell of burning broccoli and a really runny sauce.

It’s hard to feel like you have lost who you are. My crazy good memory is gone. I can no longer close my eyes and recount almost word for word a conversation from years ago – instead I struggle to repeat a sentence back to you or remember a list of 5 words. Along with losing my cooking skills, I’ve lost so much more of what made me me. This is another thing that Bones struggles with in this episode, and she puts it very well when she says,

“So much of my life, my intelligence is all I’ve had. I may not have had a family, but I understood things that nobody else could. My brain, the way I think, is who I am. Who I was… I mean, if the thing that made me me is gone, who am I?”

I still struggle with that question, “who am I?” and trying to figure out how to take that person back into the world. How I defined myself is no longer the person that I am and I’m not sure how long it will take to figure out the person that I am now. I hold out hope that I will regain some (I understand it won’t be all) of what I’ve lost and I hope that one day I can return to cooking great meals and sharing them with people, but for now, I find grace in knowing that even if I can’t be who I was, I can be who I am now.

I’m the healthiest i’ve been in 10 years, but there was a but….

I had a physical a couple weeks back along with all the yearly blood work to make sure that things are ok – or in my case (and the case of many women with PCOS) making sure that things are not getting considerably worse.

I walked out of the doctor’s office upset. I had gained weight. Not a surprise since lately i’ve been feeling like my PCOS is getting worse – odd food cravings, hair issues and many other PCOS issues that I’m sure most of you don’t want to hear about. I left her office sure that my cholesterol was probably up again, that my blood sugar and A1C were probably not great…was sure I must be on my way to type two diabetes. I WAS SURE.

Weight is something that most people with PCOS struggle with – not our faults, we have so much acting against us. I’ve managed to keep my weight normal over the past 5-6 years (went from overweight to underweight and struggled to find the right balance). The weight gain bothered me a lot. I was sure it was telling me I wasn’t trying hard enough, was giving into the cravings too often, wasn’t careful to manage my carb vs protein intake. It was telling me I failed. I WAS SURE.

I waited for my doctor to make that call I’ve always dreaded – she was going to call and say she needed to discuss my results. She was going to tell me my LDL cholesterol was up, my HDL cholesterol was down, my triglycerides were horrible and that my fasting blood sugar was borderline. There was no doubt in my mind. I WAS SURE.

That call never happened. In fact, I heard nothing. I even knew a copy was faxed to my dietitian and I didn’t hear from her either. I grew suspicious. It must be bad..but I knew from my past that medications weren’t an option because of my liver not getting along with them….”my doctor and dietitian must have spoke about how to handle things….that’s it” I told myself. It’s so bad that they were coming up with a plan and my dietitian was going to talk to me when I saw her. I WAS SURE.

I gained weight – things must be bad. I WAS SURE.

I was scared to death to see my dietitian (and for the first time ever not because we were discussing coffee). I was scared she was going to think I lying on my food diaries. That I was secretly binging sugary carby things and not tell her. I was sure she was going to be questioning me on where I went wrong. I WAS SURE.

Then I had a shock. She told me how happy she was – how everything – EVERYTHING – was within normal range and some results were even picture-perfect-couldn’t-ask-for-more. I was confused. I had gained weight. I wasn’t sure…

I had to give this a lot of thought. I realized that being upset about gaining weight (my weight is still within normal range btw) had absolutely nothing to do with my health and that I had taken that one number, one factor that determines health and made it the only factor that mattered…and what made this worse. I know better. I know that my weight does not determine my health. I know that eating well, exercising and taking care of my body matters a whole lot more than a number on a scale.

I knew I had a choice to make. Do I want to fight to lose those couple pounds that really in the end don’t matter? Do I want to push knowing that there is a good chance I’m not going to lose those extra pounds and still stay healthy?

There is a whole lot I fight daily with my PCOS, but I think I’m ready to say, “I choose healthy over skinny” and that I AM SURE.

Things are almost back to normal, and a huge thank you

If you read my previous entry a couple months back (ok more like 6 months back), you know that life took a detour for a while. Things are getting back to normal now, my nephew is home from the hospital and doing well and now that it is over, i am realizing that i have people in my life that are so amazingly kind, generous and thoughtful….even people i barely know.

Our of respect for privacy, i won’t name names, but i wanted to say thank you and tell the stories of simple things that mattered a whole lot to me during this time.

I mentioned in my last post how important food became – or more to the point, how important the easy ability to get food was. Every new mom knows how hard it is to make a meal….now image being in a hospital…how do you even grocery shop? cook? find time to even remember you are hungry. I cooked a lot for my sister, her husband, and another mom, but a couple times when i was sick (so banned from the hospital…stupid colds) there were people who stepped up. A friend i mostly know from twitter (and a once a year pickle swap) messaged me that she was going to be at the hospital and offered to bring my sister and her husband dinner. Such a simple act, but it meant so much. Another time, we were having a bad day – everyone was stressed – baby was fussy…then appeared a bowl of soup. Another mom who noticed how stressed we were brought us dinner – again, so simple but meant to much.

During this time, i also won the Royal Winter Fair pickle competition for the second year in a row (it’s a big deal). The spice company that i use for pretty much everything i make, Dion Herbs & Spices, sent me a wonderful congratulations gift of bunches and bunches of spices and herbs. The best part, given the situation and me cooking so much, they came in really handy and saved me many trips to the grocery store. They also helped me make amazing food that people raved over. Plus, i tried things i never would have bought on my own (winter tip…freeze dried herbs…just believe me on that one)

The number of people on twitter who reached out when they heard whispers about the situation still amazes me – the number of different churches who prayed for the little guy warms my heart – the people who i’ve never met face to face that i can truly call my friends and who stayed up for chat with me until the early morning….i can never explain how much that meant to me. I even had a friend send me the most wonderful care package (and it involved filling out customs paperwork to do so) that made me smile and know that people were there.

To all of you – what you did for me and my family – it mattered, it was appreciated and it shows how wonderful people can be to each other. Thank you.

Two months later: when abnormal becomes normal

My freezer is more full than normal – not with frozen veggies and meat that i frequently keep in there, but with ready made meals. And to help you understand why this is abnormal – not one of those meals are made for one person – typically, they are meals for 3-4 people.

Some of you will know the back story, for the rest, long story short, i’m an aunt now, and although in the long run my nephew will be a perfectly healthy kid, he’s had a rough start to life and has spent the first two months of his life in the hospital.

It’s been a stressful time for all of us full of many emotions, frequent worry and lots of praying. Especially for my sister and her husband, there isn’t time to cook. Life is now the hospital, then home to sleep. All of there energy is on caring for my nephew, not caring for themselves. I’ve realized that this is the life of parents with a child in hospital.

I cook because i can, i cook because i love them and most of all i cook because it’s necessary. i’ve come to realize that there is no better way to take care of someone than ensure that they have food.

So bear with me while i disappear for a while, and if you know someone who is spending a lot of time at a hospital lately, remember that there is no greater gift than food

A Tea to You

When i first moved into where i live now i found it really hard to get to know my neighbours. Most of them are seniors, and frankly, i would hear them talking about how a “young girl” like me “without a husband” could ever afford to live on her own (didn’t hold it against them, sign of their time i guess). But anyways, i didn’t want to be this strange girl that they barely said hi to in the elevator so when i hear that there was a knitting group on Tuesdays i thought it would be a great thing to join – i could knit and maybe that could be where we bonded (or they got to know me as me instead of the unmarried girl on the 15th floor).

They were a little slow to warm up to me, but eventually they  started to like me – i mean, i could knit so i must be somewhat normal, right? There was this one older lady, Victoria, who i really got along well with. She loved football (her husband used to play for the Montreal Alouettes way back in the day…being an Argos fan i didn’t hold that against her) and there was this one time we were watch a game and i almost spit out me tea when she said, “ummm there is something about a man’s ass in football pants” not exactly something that i was expecting out of an 80 year old’s mouth (there were also comments about certain men who could “put their shoes” under her bed that caught me off guard). She was great and i really liked talking to her. Although her husband had passed away years before i met her, she still loved him in a way that i found unbelievable in a way – they were true soul mates. We shared secrets – she was one of the first people who knew i was sick, one of the first people i shared my past with and i wasn’t afraid to tell her things – i knew she wouldn’t judge or try to tell me what to do – she knew how to listen and just be there.

Another one of my neighbour called me one day while i was at work – Victoria had a heart attack, but she was going to be ok…i guess ok at 80 is a relative term – as in “not dead”. Her health was anything but after that…her kidney’s weren’t working well, she couldn’t cook for herself anymore and had a home care nurse coming in during the day to help out. I went up to her place every day after work and we would have a cup of tea. I Met her sons and they told me how much she talked about me and our evening chats….I came home one day and the security guard at the front desk stopped me…she was gone. The nurse had found her the next morning, sitting in her chair where i had left her after our tea the night before. It’s funny to lose a friend and it not be an accident – i was 26 – i lost friends to accidents, not to normal causes.

Her son’s knocked on my door about a week later with boxes and boxes of her knitting and crafting supplies. I’ll be honest that it took me a long time to go through those boxes, but as i did i realized i was set for life when it came to knitting, crochet, and sewing needles. I also knew i had buttons and snaps in every size and colour. 

Last week that came in handy – i lost a button (seriously, lost, no clue where it is) on a pair of capris but i figured i must have one in Victoria’s stuff…it’s been 6 years since she passed away.

Going through the button container i found this little note – probably tucked in there as a cute saying, but after having a not so great week where i’ve felt very alone, it was a wonderful gift. So yes Victoria, as i drink this tea, i think of you.

it’s your choose, but i do not get to choose

this is a bit of a rant…ok more than a bit, but be forewarned, this is something that had me quite peeved this week. if you have read this blog before, you know i have allergies – big ones – own more than one epipen and am never without benedryl type allergies. there are things i cannot eat or there is a good chance i will die. plan. simple. fact. i will die.

so last week i was at the grocery store, and i was in the “special section” you know the one that has mostly organic and health food things – not because everything i eat is healthy or organic, but because it is a lot easier to read an ingredient list that has 4-5 items than one that has 10-15, plus very rarely is the wonderful most likely going to kill me ingredient of “natural flavour” or “food starch” listed. But anyways, i was there picking up some cereal (yes i know, ironic) and this guy beside me was looking at molasses. he put the molasses back and started ranting about how he couldn’t find one that didn’t say “may contain sulphites” me being slightly naive said, “oh you have a sulphite allergy?” but apparently that wasn’t true, apparently even the small chance that something could have a sulphite in it meant that the world was coming to an end and he didn’t care about his health. fine, he’s entitled to his opinion, and he can choose to go without something he really wants on the off chance that it may contain a trace of something he deems “bad”, but he didn’t stop there. instead he then starts to pick appart the cereal i had in my hand telling me that it has corn in it, and that corn is “bad” for me and if i cared about my health i would choose a product that had potato or tapioca in it instead. i politely told him i was allergic to both of those, but not corn so i would choose the corn product. he went off on me – literally turning red and getting all worked up, telling me that people like me buying “crap” in the health section was the reason that he had trouble finding products that weren’t going to “ruin” his health.

i was taken back, figured he didn’t understand, so i said “it’s not that i am making a choice, i don’t have a choice – tapioca and potato make me have anaphylaxis, i could die” and he actually said, “your choice if you don’t care about your health, but i would still eat the tapioca product”. i probably got a little more angry than i should have, and said “so do i use my epipen before, during or after i eat the product that will kill me? i guess i call the ambulance before, since i won’t be able to speak after, huh?”

he called me something i will not repeat here, and walked away.

i don’t get it. i really don’t. why be that uptight about eating something? i’m not saying that everything is something people should be eating – but really, if it literally isn’t going to kill you the second it hits your lips – why be that angry about it?

i hear this from my friends who have celiacs as well – people who choose not to eat gluten but really don’t have to. i’ve heard my celiac friends mention how if they could eat that really crusty piece of bread and not get super sick they would in a heart beat. but they, like i, know better and stay away, forever jealous of people who can eat without having to ask a million questions, get eyes rolled at them like they are a pain, and still hope and pray that what comes to the table doesn’t have a hidden danger in it.

we do not have a choice, most of you do, and fine, it’s your choice, but know next time you judge someone, know that not all of us have the luxury of that choice and will never understand your judgement of those of us who can not choose.

food for thought

ever since my life took an interesting turn 5 years ago, i’ve been a big believer in intuitive eating. you can google it if you want to learn more, but the premise is, pay attention to your body when you eat, if you listen you will know what and how much you should be eating. it is something that has helped me get past many many hard times – helped me stay healthy. it is eating without “food rules”, diets or other odd made up concepts that just don’t work. it is eating because you are hungry, because food is enjoyable, and stopping when you’ve had enough. the “eat like your grandparents diet”? it’s that – pay attention to how you feel and you will know what’s right.

this week i had an interesting conversation – one that has left me thinking a whole lot about the concept and brought up things that i’ve mentioned in this blog before – how hard it is to eat intuitively without rules when my allergies and health problems sometimes dictate rules. i’ve written about my allergies before and i’ve written about my struggles with eating on other blogs but i’ve never really written about the fact that i have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and this is where the idea of eating without rules get confusing and complicated. there are many things that PCOS affect health wise, but the big one that most of us deal with is insulin resistance – it causes weight gain, weird blood sugar swings and really strong cravings for carbs – and i mean REALLY strong (crying because i want a cookie and don’t have access to one happens, a lot). there are times when even if i listen to my body, it tells me lies. it tells me that it wants sugar, large amounts of glorious sugar that will in turn make me sick when my blood sugar skyrockets then drops like a ton of bricks. we have arguments sometimes. i know i’ve eaten enough but it wants more. sometimes i win by trying to tell it that it’s just confused, and sometimes i lose when it decides to drop my blood sugar (and therefore dropping me onto the floor). it’s hard to tell when it is telling the truth and when it lies….and it’s frustrating. somedays i can eat almost exactly the same time, exercise the same amount and still one day i will be fine and the next day not. my body lies, my body plays games and sometimes, just sometimes, i am sure it hates me. 

i’m struggling right now. it’s scary to know that you’ve worked so hard to become healthy again after being so ill for so long and know that there is a possibility that even if you try really really hard that sometimes it won’t matter. that even on days you are “perfect” it isn’t enough.

so many of us suffer silently…”female problems” are not something that is acceptable public conversation, but the truth is, i wish i could scream about it, scream about how someone making a comment and losing or gaining weight makes me want to go off the deep end. how someone questioning the fact that i eat 5 or 6 times a day and how if they “did that” they surely “would be fat” makes me feel as if i’m going to gain weight at any minute now ballooning up into just another “statistically confirmed risk group” i want to scream that i just want to eat like everyone else, i don’t want to watch my protein to carb ratio, i don’t want to have to check my blood sugar sometimes and i really don’t want to have to remember to bring candy with my when i go for a walk with my dog “just incase” my blood sugar drops.

i want my body and i to call a truce…