Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Happy Mental Health Awareness Month.

As a heads up, this post contains a lot of anxiety talk, which can sometimes be triggering for other anxious people, so avoid if that's the case for you. Instead make a cup of tea and watch Mind of a Chef on Netflix. Or Fixer Upper. That's good too.

I'm back! By now, most of you know a blog hiatus (especially an unannounced one) means I am in a giant pit of anxiety and am currently clawing out of it. I hate that this happens, and in less anxious times I try to backlog posts so I can fill any gaps, but it doesn't always work. Writing doesn't always work. In fact, the second I start feeling the yawning pit of anxiety somewhere in the distance, the desire to write, the ability to write...completely goes away. So there are gaps.

Here is what a "good" time is for me:

I wake up. I bathe and get dressed. I take medicine and eat breakfast and put on nice-ish clothes and go to work. I do work. I go to the gym. I go home. I watch cooking shows on Netflix and eat dinner. I get comfy in pajamas. I lie awake in mind-numbing panic that everything and everyone I love in the world will be snatched from me in the night and THERE IS NOTHING I CAN EVER DO TO KEEP THEM SAFE AND WHAT WILL I BE WITHOUT THE PEOPLE I LOVE, I WILL CEASE TO BE WITHOUT THEM. EVERYTHING IS MELTING.

Then I fall asleep.

Here's what a bad time is for me:

I wake up multiple times in the night, with raw, soul-crushing panic. I try to fall back asleep but can't manage that, so I lie in bed in a cold sweat wishing I could pass out from lack of oxygen, because yeah, I can't breathe. It feels like my heart has forgotten that beating thing it used to do, and that's probably not good, but the doctor did a test and everything is okay but everything is not okay EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

Then my alarm goes off and a new wave of panic floods my veins and I choke down breakfast and sometimes throw it up, then I get clean and dressed and cry and then try to use makeup to cover up the crying and then I feel sick and get in the car and want to dissolve into the seat cushions but instead I drive to work and sometimes I sit shaking in the car in the work parking lot thinking about how it would be so much easier if I didn't know anyone, because then no one would notice or care that I'd been crying. And then I do work. And sometimes I cry in the storage room and shake some more. And then I go to the gym and try to run away from what I'm terrified of, even if I don't know why I'm afraid in the first place. And then I eat dinner and go to bed and the cycle repeats itself.

I can't NOT do anxiety. It's something that just IS, and I share space with it. As far back as I could remember, I have been anxious. There are a few reasons, some of which have been circumstantial, like a death in the family or career-based stress. And this year, I found out I have sensory processing issues, which upon further study, has pretty massively shaped my life and development. Also it is probably why I'm so massively clumsy.

So, coping. It's a thing. I know I've talked about it before, but it never hurts to go through it again, just in case you didn't need it then but you do now. Here's how I do it:

Tea. I drink it. Caffeine-free because it doesn't make my anxiety even worse. Hot tea, because iced is not even the same thing. There's a reason why making tea is an actual ceremony in some cultures. The very act of making tea is soothing. Coffee isn't the same. Coffee wakes you up and makes you energized. That is not tea's job. Tea's job is to make you feel safe and loved and at peace. Drink tea.

Exercise. On a good day or a bad day, exercise. I run, I lift weights crappily because apparently my body doesn't understand muscle development. I go to barre class and fall on my face because my socks are too big. After I've gotten sweaty and worn myself out, I feel better. Sometimes only a little bit, sometimes a lot. But it helps.

Talking. I go to a therapist who is awesome, and I talk to Jennifer loads, usually during long car trips to and from places that have tasty food (or Target). Talking through what you're going through makes anxiety less isolating, and the last thing anxiety needs is a dark quiet place where it can grow like mold. Sometimes it means I write blog posts for you. Sometimes it means I tell the teens I work with that anxiety is a thing people feel and that it's okay to talk about it.

Audiobooks. I can sleep at night for one reason: I listen to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep. Usually to audiobook. One book. Howl's Moving Castle. I practically have it memorized, but it doesn't matter. It's soothing.

I turn off the news. One of the biggest anxieties I have is news-based. I cannot control the terrible things in the world. There are many terrible things in the world. When I watch the news, or too much of the news, depending on how bad off I am, all I can think of is the bad stuff. I forget that good things happen, and that people can be kind. Instead I think that everyone is terrible and that's why Donald Trump is going to end president, no matter how many people mobilize to vote for someone else.

I spend time alone. Too much alone time can be a bad thing for me and so is too little. I'm an introvert. That and sensory issues mean people = anxiety trigger. But only SOMETIMES. When things are getting too big or too loud, I go to a quiet place. It makes things better.

Anyway. It's Mental Health Awareness Month, so now you're aware.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Great British Bake Off

I love watching cooking programs because I like food. I tend to gravitate toward food travel shows, where people go to different places and eat food I can't get in the middle of nowhere Indiana. I love watching Anthony Bourdain. I love America's Test Kitchen, and I recently fell in love with The Great British Bake Off.

I should also mention that I get obsessive about certain foods. I think a certain food looks good, I decide I want to go try it, make it, whatever, and then I spend hours finding a recipe or researching restaurants I probably won't end up going to. Then I order weird spices or herbs on the internet and make curries or fancy soup. And then I can move on.

If you haven't seen The Great British Bake Off, you should. In the states, it's called The Great British Baking Show, because Americans apparently could not understand that "bake off" means "baking competition" without them dumbing it down. It is brilliant. Basically, two judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, evaluate the baked goods produced by a number of contestants over a series of weekends in a tent set up in the garden of a lovely estate house. Each weekend, they take on a specific sort of dessert, cakes, pies, biscuits, puddings, pastry...you name it.

party online great off mirror

One week they made croissants. And I died a little inside when I saw how perfect the flaky layers were. We can't get croissants here. They do make "croissants" at grocery stores, but they aren't made with real butter, which basically means they aren't croissants at all. It's depressing. I dreamed of having proper French pastries, but when I was in France during my college years, it was for a few days right after New Year's and everything was closed. Everything. The only croissants we had came in sealed packages from convenience stores. It was like not being in France at all. I watched each contestant roll out dough and fold in butter and thought, "I could do that."

I was forgetting a few things:
  1. I am not a talented (or even practiced) baker
  2. Baking is hard.
  3. Seriously, though.
I went, as I always do, to America's Test Kitchen. There was a recipe, which I printed off. I'd had lunch and my afternoon was free, so I figured I could bang out a few croissants in a few hours and we'd be set for breakfast the next day. The recipe warned that the process would take 10 hours, but I thought, "No big deal, I can do that."

tv cake great london off
Mary knows the truth.

Except it was, and I couldn't.

Here are the problems with croissants:
  1. The dough is yeasted, so it rises as you're trying to work with it. 
  2. Every recipe assumes you can roll things out in a rectangle.
  3. Butter melts. 
You begin by making your dough, wrapping it, and chilling it. Then you beat a few sticks of butter to make them pliable, but still cold. Then you roll the butter into a square inside some parchment paper. Then you chill that, too. When you pull out the dough, you roll it into a rectangle (hysterical laughter), then slap the butter into it, fold the dough around it and seal it, Then you roll it out again, then fold it up again. Then roll, then fold. Then chill. Then roll and fold, roll and fold, and chill.

You keep doing that for hours. Then you allow it to rise in the fridge a bit. Then you freeze it. Then you roll it out and cut it into shapes. Then you roll the shapes into croissants. Then you let those rise some more. Then you cry in the corner of your kitchen because everything is melting (literally). Then you make an egg wash. Then you think you'll never sleep again because no way will you be done before midnight. Then you bake the croissants. And then you thank God and think, this will never happen again. 

tv cake great london off
The reaction Paul and Mary would have had to my croissants.

Then you have the croissants for breakfast and think, That wasn't so bad. I could do those again some time. Maybe over two days, but still.

Terrible shaping. Just awful. The baker leaving us today is Laura.

Monday, February 1, 2016

This Post Is Brought to You by Chronic Illness Cat (And Whinging)

Last week I woke up and I tried to take the brick off of my face, but there was no brick because it was actually just the normal, eternal sinus pain, massively worsened from the constant headache it normally is. So I went to the doctor at the walk-in clinic because it was the weekend, and I was given the kind of antibiotics they give people who are infected with bio-weapon sorts of diseases. I think every bacteria in my body cringed in fear the second I picked up the prescription.

Every once and a while we try to treat my chronic sinus infection. Mostly we just make it bearable, because there is no way to actually treat it, only to manage the symptoms. I could do sinus surgery, but seriously, why? It would be a temporary fix. I am saving it for my

Here is a normal day of medication for just my sinuses: Morning: Allegra, Sudafed, Mucinex, Ibuprofen, Prevacid (to treat reflux from all the medicine). Midday: More Sudafed and Ibuprofen. Evening: Benadryl. Lots of it. Sudafed. Nasacort. *

Soon I will have no headache! I thought. I will have a blissful week of normal. I can't wait! Because literally I get one week of happy, then my sinuses remember they are really exclusive, so they close up and only hang out with each other.

I picked up my medicine plus more Sudafed.

Then I went home. I took the medicine. I even picked up some homeopathic thing the doctor lady said would make me catch less crap! And I thought, now I will feel better.

Then I woke up the next day and thought WHAT THE ACTUAL [REDACTED].

Because how do antibiotics make you WORSE. I was worse. I drug myself around that day. Then the next day I was even worse. And the next day I felt even WORSE. My lungs were turning themselves inside out. But I did not invite lungs to this party. I did not know lungs could just show up to a sinus infection after a person was taking antibiotics. I felt so horrible that I could not even call the doctor, and my family kept checking to see if I was dead. I think they were looking up burial plots and pricing caskets.

On Tuesday, Mum handed me the phone. It was the nurse at my doctor's office. The nurse said, "We need to see you." I was like, "What is happening?" and she said, "NOW."

I may have asked if I needed to put on real pants.

Then I made Mum drive me because I could not tell if up was still a thing and also could not hear words. And I went in to see the doctor only to find out that through Christmas, New Year's, and well, all month, I've been walking around with pneumonia. This would be why fitness got suddenly harder for some reason. Also why I discovered I needed my emergency inhaler more than usual. Also why I was feeling like death.

See, when I got the antibiotics they use to treat deadly deadly anthrax, they worked so well, they killed the pneumonia no one knew was there. I'd had pneumonia so long, my doctor said, that they couldn't hear it anymore because it had become one with my lungs. I was kind of proud of my lungs for having made pneumonia feel so welcome, because that was hospitable of them as organs, but seriously, lungs. Could you work?

So now I have steroids because I am allergic to being sick, and also I cannot sleep. And also I cannot sit still. And also I cannot stop eating. And also I am very happy because nothing makes me happier than steroids do, they are like the best mood stabilizers on the planet,** and also now I know I am straight-up NOT a wimp, because I was walking around dealing with crap and having pneumonia all at the same time, and I didn't even notice.

We will pretend not noticing had more to do with me being freaking awesome and tough and less to do with this.

* Before you freak out about dosages or NSAIDs, seriously, this is what my doctor says I'm supposed to do. If you can come up with a better way to keep me from being stuck in bed with sinus headache-induced migraines, I'd love to see your peer-reviewed published medical journal article about it.

** This is because when I take steroids, I know what non chronically-ill people feel like when they wake up, which is NOT like they are surprised to still have a pulse. I am always surprised.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Functional Fitness

You know what you deserve? A blog post. And you know what else you deserve? Stories of my misery, because those are always funny. So here is the story of the most horrible thing I've ever done to myself in a burst of ill-timed pride.

I was NOT the worst in gym at my high school. I know loads of people always say they were the most rubbish, they finished the mile last every time, and I was not that girl. I was usually not even picked last for sports. Why? Because I was the THIRD from the last. This meant I finished the mile and then there were a few other stragglers slightly behind me, meaning I wasn't the very last person so I was spared a minimal amount of embarrassment. I mean, I still ran a 14 minute mile. But I didn't run a 16 minute mile. I was usually picked for sports right before the other people no one wanted due to 1. asthma, 2. feuds, 3. refusal to participate, 4. physical inability to participate. I always got picked before the kids with broken limbs.

The Awkward Yeti makes comics that are my life. Go love them.

Of course, later, I found out why I sucked at gym. I had raging endometriosis and undiagnosed asthma. That hurts a person's athleticism quite a bit. I still suck at anything involving hand/eye coordination, but by darn, I can run a mile now. If I did the president's physical fitness test now, I would finish middle of the pack. Good for me.

But now is not high school, so I mostly compete with myself, and I have a good time going to the YMCA and running on the treadmill or lifting weights. I think, "Look at me, I did a thing!" and always leave the gym with a happier disposition than when I arrived. One thing still I wish I had was a fitness buddy. A person who goes to the gym when I go, who likes the same machine or wants to talk while we gasp for air in spin class. That was why I was vulnerable to this sort of problem in the first place.

I was planning on going right to the stationary bikes one evening, since I had missed spin class and figured, what the heck, I ran yesterday, I won't crush my shin bones again after giving them no rest. And then I saw a friend. Kelsey is Athletic. She does things like run in races and do well plus also volunteer to help during the races, while I mostly just sweat while trying to tie my shoes. Kelsey asked me if I was here for the class.

"What class?" I asked innocently.

"Functional Fitness!" Kelsey said cheerily. I automatically assumed that Functional Fitness was for the elderly and the infirm, because it is the sort of fitness designed to help you stay functional, right? Plus Kelsey had to be teaching it, because she works at the Y. Except then I found out that she doesn't anymore and she wasn't teaching, this was actually a HIIT class, much like my Jillian Michael's DVDs. Except unlike the Jillian DVDs, this was not thirty-five minutes long. It was more like an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Of the most. Insane. Exercises. Of all TIME.

Let's go back to the part where I had come to ride on the stationary bike that day.

On the bike, I don't need my inhaler. I'm fine without it. So I didn't use it. And I didn't bring it upstairs. And I had actually left it in the car.

First we warmed up by running and doing jumping jacks and lunges other smallish things. Then we started doing stair runs down a stairway connecting the upstairs with the pool, meaning the hallway was crazy humid and also over 80 degrees. Then we did step ups on boxes and froggies and squats and sumo squats and glute bridges and...honestly I can't remember because I've blocked most of it out. We had to do four circuits of this. I thought, finally, as I finished my last squat, that we were done. Nope.

Then we had another batch of exercises, including mountain climbers, push-ups, sit ups, planking...and I thought we were done. But no. Another batch.

Now, if I'd remembered my inhaler I'd probably remember more of this class. But I forgot it and that meant my brain was getting less oxygen and so were my muscles, which responded by not working. I was having that weird jelly-shake-legs thing I had at the beginning of 30 Day Shred, but I thought no way was I going to give up because...


Already a respiratory therapist who just-so-happened to be in the class had alerted me to the fact that she could tell I was asthmatic and could save me if I needed it. I said, "Cool, my car keys are in my pocket, grab my inhaler from the trunk!" She stared at me, concerned at my level of sanity. "Why would anyone leave their inhaler in the car?" I imagined her thinking. "This chick must have a death wish."

The instructor, noticing my distress, had given me alternate tasks, so I ran on the track instead of on the stairs of death, but it was too late. I had destroyed my body and there was no coming back, all because I didn't want these people, who were clearly fit and healthy, to think I was less fit and healthy and therefore less worthy of their friendship. I wanted gym buddies, and there was no quitting, no backing down. For once, I was the Nike slogan from the 1990's, I just did it. I tried very hard not to say anything, even whimpers. I kept my form as good as possible, and even when my brain stopped, I still tried to keep count and do the exact number of each exercise I was supposed to do. Basically this happened inside me:

Seriously, you must go love The Awkward Yeti, genius of comics.

Then I went home.

I was broken. I could barely get out of the car, because when I bent my knees, they could not support my weight and I wiped out. I tried to run a bath, to help myself relax, and well, act this out for me:

  • Stand up. Okay. Good.
  • Now, bend over at the waist and bend your knees a bit, as if to touch the stopper at the bottom of your tub.
  • Done? Now try standing back up without using your legs, arms, or core.

Yep. I got stuck. The Brother had to rescue me. Fortunately, the idea of taking off my clothes and the pain it would cause me had frightened me enough that I was still fully dressed, but he did get a hilarious video of me stuck, crying out for help as one foot began to slip out from underneath me. I could easily have become a household injury statistic, but no. I lived.

And I went back. I went back to the class with my inhaler and did better because my inhaler made a giant difference.

Also it turns out I had pneumonia through all of that, so maybe current Laura would actually LEAD the crowd in high school gym, because I seem to have upped my fitness game. BIG TIME.