Were it not for overindulging on New Year's Eve (um, oops), I would probably still be having a migraine-free 2009. On the evening of the 31st, it'd been nine days since my last attack. As of 8 AM on the 1st, however, I was back at square one. That time I knew precisely who was the culprit: me and my re-found affection for white wine. Yes, it's true--I'm drinking that delicious nectar again, but with at LEAST 16 oz. of water with every glass of wine. Worked out well for me 'til NYE when I made the mistake of having a nightcap. Turns out wine is a bit more alcoholic than what I'm used to drinking.
But that's somewhat besides the point.
For the first time, I really, truly believe that I can get this disease under control. I'm following my doctor's orders, yes, but I'm not doing too much that's out of the ordinary. In general, I'm doing things I've always known to be good for me, things that I've let slip out of my life for one reason or another. As I've mentioned here before, the regular exercise has already proven to be quite the boon. It was nice to be validated by my new doctor, told that even long walks would give me a boost in serotonin. I don't need to swim at sprint-speed for an hour or even turn my walk into a run--I can just walk briskly five times a week and reap the benefits of exercise. It took some effort to let go of the notion that an "in shape" person should be able to jog or swim laps for much longer than I can without getting winded. Truth is, I'm not in the best shape. Another truth is that my body doesn't like it too much when I overexert myself (migraine trigger alert!), so why not take it easy and work my way up to some gentle exercise that fits the bill and makes me feel better?
A few days ago, I walked by the Habitat for Humanity parking lot on a walk. "Girl, you need to be runnin'!" a worker loading boxes called out to me. I do believe that a few months (or even years) ago I would have felt a bit bad after hearing this, simply knowing that I SHOULD be able to run and jump and do the activities a healthier person can. But this day was different. "Nah, I'm more of a walker," I called back, to which the man responded with a smile: "All right, all right!" I could have cited the arthritis in my knees, my bouts with sciatica, and my tendency to develop a migraine when I overexert myself. But I didn't. I just admitted that I'm more of a walker and kept on going. And you know what? I wasn't hard on myself afterward. I didn't spend too much time harping on the differences between my super-in-shape self of the early 90s (when I was a pre-teen, mind you!) and the 28-year-old I am today. I just kept going, and I felt great. There is a joy in being able to move and exercise without pain; you don't need to overdo it in order to feel accomplished. If there's one thing I've learned in these 2+ months of exercising healthily, it's that it's important to do what's right for you and not judge yourself by the standards set forth by fitness experts and marathon runners. Just do what you can. I do, and I hope to continue doing this.
Most of the other recommendations from the doctor were pretty simple, too. Eat well, treat my body well, and the like. J., my beau, pointed out the fact that many of the doctor's tips were tips he'd recommended for us long ago. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Try to cut out dairy. J. hadn't called the "weed out white and enriched flour" bit, but that wasn't surprising. White and enriched flour is rougher on your system if you're sensitive like me and have IBS.
I keep reflecting on my wonderful visit and wishing more people could meet with this same doctor and have success. Were I you, I'd be skeptical. All the same, I'm putting it out there: I'm convinced that this person could help many of the people reading this. No, I'm not going to post his name and information (though if you are convinced by my admiration you can email me for details). He diagnosed me with several diseases/disorders I'd long since guessed I'd had, but didn't diagnose in a way I perceived as threatening or upsetting. He just verified my suspicions: I have mild depression, chronic fatigue (but not necessarily chronic fatigue syndrome, mind you), arthritis, allodynia (which I suspected I had on my scalp but had no idea was related to the bruised feeling I often have on my arms, legs, and torso!), Migraine disease (duh), irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), hypersensitivity, and mucositis (inflammation of the mucus membranes--mine is chronic but should be helped with my new regimen). I felt vindicated and relieved--all of these seemingly disparate symptoms I've been suffering from for a long time were all named, and all of them were related to my naturally low serotonin levels. The doctor is convinced that regulating my serotonin levels will allow me to live a happier, more productive, and less painful life. He pointed out how much better I'd been feeling since I started exercising and said that the exercise, combined with a diet that's easier on my system and some other exercise and relaxation techniques, I could cut out the majority of my migraines.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Every day I make a smoothie chock full of good things for me--blueberries, pomegranate juice, tea, oatmeal soaked in rice milk, flaxseed, and some supplements. Each morning and night I take supplements/vitamins, a few of which I've been taking for a couple of years now. Five days a week I'm to engage in "gentle exercise" for 30-60 minutes, depending on how long it takes for me to reach the peak when I have the endorphin rush. I've been exercising 45-70 minutes when I go out and walk. Tomorrow I'll call and sign myself up for therapeutic yoga class (which I convinced Handicapped Twin to go to, too!); soon I'll buy a book on mindful meditation (the main form of meditation that has lots of good research behind it, hence the hospital being able to endorse it). The more I do for myself, the better and more hopeful I feel. I've already begun returning more to what I consider my "real" self--making calls to distant loved ones with more frequency, writing letters again (something I was once famous for but sort of dropped in recent times), and persuing creative activity. Hell, I even enrolled in the Sketchbook Project and am trying my hand at drawing, something I never thought I'd do.
I'm happy. I really hope you are, too. I hate the fact that I might sound as if I'm proselytizing, but it's hard to hold back when you've been hopeless for so long and suddenly see concrete evidence that your life is changing for the better. I dare any of you who've made it through this entire blog entry to start exercising a few days a week to the best of your ability and see if you don't feel better. I dare you!
Happy 2009. Love love love.