Another month in.

It’s been a month since my last entry. It seems like as good a time as any to update.

Adam has lost 30 pounds in the 6 weeks since we started the keto diet. I have lost 10.  I’m not really sure why I have only lost 2 pounds in the last month. I’ve been doing all the things – food journalling, measuring everything, counting calories as well as macros, but I am at a personal plateau. I got stuck around 185 for months when I was losing this weight the first time. Besides, my shape is obviously changing, and I’m sure that I’m benefiting anyway.

How do I know? Because July 11th was my 10 year seizure-versary, and it came and went without me even thinking about it.

I am becoming accustomed to having energy and being able to think clearly.  And, despite having catamenial seizures, I did not cave and order sweet & sour chicken w/ fried rice… no matter how badly my mind thought I wanted it.

But What Are You Eating?

I’ve been getting this question a lot. It makes me think that folks who are considering the diet haven’t been able to really wrap their heads around how the diet works because it’s so different from the one that they’re used to.

For the curious, my day usually looks like this:

Breakfast

  • bulletproof coffee -or-
  • coffee & a mug cake -or-
  • coffee and scrambled eggs w/cheese

Lunch –

  • leftovers from dinner or
  • a big bowl of spinach and/or lettuces plus whatever I’d have on a sandwich (turkey, hard salami, a slice of cheese, 1 tbsp mayo, 1 tbsp mustard, and a diced pickle is a favorite, as is chicken, bacon, blue cheese, & avocado)

Dinner –

  • some kind of grilled meat (chicken, steak, lamb, pork chop) or fish (usually salmon, swordfish, or tuna) w/ a cooked green veggie (asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, artichokes, Brussels sprouts) -or-
  • a recipe I’ve grabbed off the internet or created from family favorites, like
    • Adam’s Hand Pies/Calzones
    • Baked Chicken & Cauliflower “Mac & Cheese” Casserole
    • Homemade Pizza with Fathead Dough crust
    • Zucchini Noodles w/Turkey Meatballs & Pesto
    • Keto Jambalaya

Dessert – almond butter or cheesecake “fat bombs”

Snacks – 

  • baked cheese “crackers”
  • string cheese
  • precooked breakfast meats (bacon, sausage links)
  • pork rinds
  • nuts & seeds

Wherein I whine about whining…

Oddly, friends of mine have been adding me to keto communities on FB, whether or not I have expressed any interest.  I mean, it never hurts to have more recipes, I guess… but I’m getting really tired of  the support aspect of many of these groups.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all about supporting one another in our journeys, but I’m sick to death of reading people whining about how hard this diet is.  I hear enough whining from my 3 year old and from my inner fat bitch who would prefer for me to subsist on pizza and donuts.  YES, the diet is a tough adjustment from the SAD, but whining is toxic.

I want to tell each of these people, “Listen, you don’t have to be on this diet. You’re making a powerful choice and powerful change. Change is the opposite of comfortable!”

I think part of the problem is that listening to other people complaining does nothing to strengthen my personal resolve. It only amplifies the voice in my head that encourages me to quit or purposefully slip up.

I am well past acknowledging that I have automatic negative thought-patterns whispering in my ear, telling me to harm myself. My full-time job is to tell those thoughts to fuck off.  And right now, one way I do that is by powerfully choosing what I do and don’t put in my mouth.

I think that when it comes to dieting/changing your lifestyle/way-of-eating or WHATEVER you want to call it, it all comes down to one question: What’s your motivation?

It’s okay to admit to yourself that you’re changing your lifestyle in order to lose weight and be healthier. It’s important to be honest with yourself. The real problems that cause yo-yo dieting and will whittle away at your self-esteem come in when your motivation for becoming healthier stems from a place of negativity.

If you’re trying to lose weight because you are sad about what you see in the mirror, it’s easier to get down on yourself along the way because you’re focusing on something that makes you sad.  Your weight loss journey then becomes one of escaping the pain of your own self-flagellation.

The sort of negative self talk that comes from this sort of motivation can sound like, “What’s more important to you? Looking good or tasting a cookie? Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.”  The problem there?  Being unkind to yourself becomes habitual, and habits are tough to break. When and if you reach goal weight, you’ll still have more practice at being unkind to yourself than you have practice at giving yourself credit for your achievements, and you’ll wonder why you still feel sad.

If you’re trying to lose weight because you want more time with the people you love, it’s a lot more difficult to shame yourself.  I mean how can you feel bad about wanting to spend time with people who make you smile? “Would you rather eat a cookie or have more time feeling well with your kid(s)?” makes the choice easier for me, at least.

Of course, it’s absolutely ideal for weight loss to be secondary. I’m extra lucky in that regard.  Seizure control matters to me far more than weight loss — but I’d be lying if I didn’t want to get back to a healthy BMI.   The thing is, I know that in order to achieve weight loss or lasting lifestyle change, I need a happy thought to focus on to get me there. The sad or angry ones don’t help as much, and plateaus are very real.

Anyway, I’ve been really appreciating that I learned in therapy that I can’t control my automatic thoughts, but I can always control my actions.  6 full weeks with no cheating is a big deal for me.

The trick to not cheating? Always have something on hand you can eat. Prepping ahead for grab-and-go eating is the name of the game.

Without further ado, here are more keto-friendly recipes that are worth the dishes they’ll create to make them.

Recipes That Are Totally Worth It

keto mug cake

Eat your heart out, Otis Spunkmeyer.

Here are some recipes that Adam and I have work-shopped and fallen in love with over the last month:

Keto Party Mix – This tastes JUST like Chex Mix. It’s the first time I’ve liked pork rinds. I strongly recommend a deluxe nut mix without peanuts, like the one we got by The Snack Artist.

Rae’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Mug Cake – I love to split this with Henry for breakfast! Best served with whipped cream and/or coffee.

Rae’s Lemon Blueberry Mug Cake – Another good one for breakfast or just as a treat. 🙂

Adam’s Keto Jambalalya – This one takes time, but yields plenty of delicious leftovers.

fathersdaynutsFather’s Day Trail Mix – This is what Henry and I made for Adam for Father’s Day 2018.  Which reminds me… he’s all out and I need to make him more today. 🙂

Anyway! I have taken a long time writing this out today, and I am frankly amazed that Henry let me get away with it.

I hope that you’re feeling well and are having a good day.

It’s time for me to go do chores, despite somehow being sick with a headcold yet again. (If only Keto also improved my immunoglobulin count!)

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or recipe requests for me and Adam to makeover!

 

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Diet and Still-Not-A-Dictatorship

Diet first. It’s easier.

Keto’s still going well. I stopped using MyFitnessPal and actually paid for Cronometer. I regret it, since Adam is happier with MFP, and I’ve had to input no fewer than 20 recipes just for myself in the last 2 weeks.

Part of me wants to switch back to MFP because y’all can see my food/activity diary there, but more of me is like, “Dammit, I paid $40 for this program! I’m gonna use it!”  The reason I paid the $40?  To be able to share recipes with Adam. 😐

As far as deciding which caloric/macro goals to go with, I opted for the goals that I originally had in MFP because I don’t want to lose muscle mass.

Calories 1490
Carbohydrates 19 g (5 %)
Fat 116 g (70 %)
Protein 93 g (25 %)

Weight as of yesterday morning: 188.1 (Whaaaaat?)

I’m down 8 pounds since the start!  It’s kind of crazy to think about, since I didn’t lose any weight on paleo, even with exercise, even when I stuck to it for months at a time. What’s even weirder is that losing weight was not really the point.   Seizure control, improvement in depression and anxiety, and more energy was.

Presently, I’ve got more energy than I used to have on a daily basis.  It’s especially significant since I’ve been really sick this week with an upper respiratory infection.  Like on-antibiotics, sleeping-next-to-a-vaporizer, needing-to-put-Vaseline-on-my-nose sick. I haven’t had an appetite, but I’ve made sure to take all my vitamins and everything.  I’m still in ketosis, according to the strips.  Adam even rocked my socks off yesterday by making 90 second keto mug bread and turning it into grilled cheese.

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Not my sandwich, but very similar looking.

What might be the most significant change, however, is that my constant inner negative chatter is conspicuously missing.  The ruminating suicidal thoughts? Gone after the first full week at or below 30g of carbs. The constant fear that I’m doing something wrong and that my whole world is going to crumble to nothing because I’m somehow woefully inadequate in a way that I cannot even grok? Only present when my PTSD has been triggered.

If my experience is normal, I can’t imagine why changing to this diet wouldn’t be part of any regular treatment plan for folks who are chronically depressed and/or suicidal.  Maybe we just don’t understand the brain or nutrition well enough yet. Maybe I’m an outlier. *shrug*

Anyway, I’ve had fewer mood swings, been more patient with Henry overall, and I’ve been more motivated in every area of my life, despite being sick-on-top-of-ill. Altogether bitchin.

But what’s really super cool? The lack of seizures. Don’t get me wrong — I had a harder time last night (at least 4 of them), but I also had a low grade fever. Pseudoexacerbations happen, yo.  This feels like it’s getting the job done.  I hope it is.

But Really Though…

TBH, no amount of food-obsession-to-help-me-feel-in-control can stop me from thinking about the insane shit happening at our border.

I can’t believe that I find myself wondering why the “good guys with guns” would let thousands of children languish in prison camps.

I can’t believe that I find myself wondering — with police, soldiers, and thousands of other government employees also taking oaths to protect the Constitution, why no one appears to be actively protecting it, aside from lawyers and judges — who are working their happy asses off, I might add. (Seriously, my hat’s off to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Lawyers for Good Government, KIND, and RAICES.)

I wonder how there can be so many millions of us deeply outraged at what is happening, and how we can organize marches that will undoubtedly be attended in record numbers — and yet, we march on peaceful streets rather than storm the camps and free the kids.

I wonder about how people can cheer over the President’s executive order when it doesn’t mandate that the children who have already been separated be returned to their families and specifically authorizes indefinite detention for all families in the future.  Nobody deserves “forever” in jail who isn’t a convicted murderer or serial rapist, whether they’re with their family or not. Innocent children should not grow up in jail. The mere thought of it sets me on fire.

I wonder what our lives are even for if we can’t protect infants from the horrors of the American prison-industrial system. Or from being trafficked by the government into illegal adoptions. (Many of the detained children have been sent to Michigan to be under the care of Bethany Christian Services. It is an adoption agency with ties to Betsy DeVos. The adoption system in America is a multi-billion dollar industry.)

Why are we asking #wherearethegirls? Why are we asking #wherearethebabies? Why are we accepting that the camps are demanding 2 weeks notice from government officials before they’ll allow them to even VIEW what’s happening on site with their own eyes? How can we bear witness to kidnapping and false imprisonment and not take direct action against it to make it stop?

Because these acts are being perpetrated by our government, under our watch, with our money, we, as citizens, have an affirmative duty to mitigate the damage and right this wrong as quickly as possible. We are not bystanders! We are part of this.

Are we, as citizens, really so desensitized, so tired, so weak, and comfortable that we can hear the screams of babies in detention, caused by our government, funded by our labor and wages, and not only not feel culpable, but believe there’s truly nothing we can do to make it stop other than giving money to fundraisers and complaining loudly to people who represent private interests (like the for-profit prisons who line Trump’s pockets) more than they do their constituency?

Can we be aware of rampant (1,224 complaints so far!), horrific abuse and still be too afraid of our government to rise up in any meaningful way?

Yeah, probably, until they start coming for us… which is pretty likely to happen since 2/3 of the population has no 4th Amendment rights when it comes to border security.

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The real kicker here, though, is that Congress is already gunning for us. They want to fund our concentration camps by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They want to pay to enslave people who wish they were citizens by killing actual citizens. The irony isn’t lost on me — especially since  our own government’s study showed that refugees don’t cost us money. They bring in money.  My strong suspicion is that Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are also bringing in money to America by propping up Big Pharma and the medical industry, but that’s just a guess.

Besides, we all know this isn’t about money.

There are members of the disability community who say that we’re literally fighting for our lives now.  I think our lives are already forfeit, and we should go out swinging if we’re not running, but I’m admittedly pessimistic.

My husband’s litmus test for whether or not we should try to leave the country is if there’s a registry that gets started.   But, let’s be real here: I don’t need a registry to be in danger.  I’m disabled and on SSDI and Medicare.  I’ve been on a registry since 2011, and I know how fascism works.

What I wonder is how long it’ll be before America relents and accepts these concentration camps as “normal” and forgets that the government has already “lost”  1500+ children? How long before another school shooting?

If Americans can’t or won’t stand up to make it safe for our children to go to school without fear  of of being shot — to the point that it’s actually more dangerous to go to school than it is to be a solider in an active war-zone, and they can’t stand up in a meaningful way to stop the literal torture of refugee children whose only crime was hoping for a better life in our country — then they’re sure as shit not going to stand up for their aging parents or disabled friends and family.

So, the question becomes “What can we actually do?”  And I think that the elderly and disabled can do a lot more than Congress supposes. We have a lot more value than most folks realize.

Immigrants do too.  Maybe we’ll all be lucky and Melania will save the world… but probably not.

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Ke(y)to Happiness?

The other day, I made a comparison chart for 7 diets that I had considered trying or had actually tried in an effort to improve my MS. It ended up getting featured on Modern Day MS, which is pretty cool.

dietcomparisonpt1

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I am almost certain that the diet that I need to be on is the traditional ketogenic diet. It’s ostensibly the best diet for overcoming NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease). This graphic outlines 7 ways that being in ketosis can help you, and I need help with all seven things!  

benefits-of-ketosis-min

Unfortunately, despite my logical brain knowing that this is a good idea, the most of me is absolutely dreading this shift. I will miss the convenience of restaurant food and delivery very much. I will miss comfort foods. I will miss the quiet calm of not having to justify my nutritional choices to others or to myself. (Because, let’s be real, the constant chatter and fretting of Anxiety will happen no matter what, and it’ll do its damnedest to make me question myself every bite along the way.)

friendseatthat

I think one of the hardest things about changing my way of eating at the moment is the fact that I have a precocious three-year-old who survives primarily on Goldfish crackers, peanut butter Ritz Bits, chicken nuggets, French fries, and various fruits. Honestly, reading that, I feel Shame. (“Big S” shame. Toxic shit.) Of course, like anyone seriously considering this diet, I watched The Magic Pill on Netflix, and felt like a terrible parent.

My boy is 39 inches tall and nearly 40 lb. I don’t know that changing his diet is the right thing to do – but, I do know that I will absentmindedly snack on Chex Mix if I’m serving it to him. If I’m genuinely convinced by the science surrounding the ketogenic diet — about it being the optimal way for humans to eat — why would I continue to feed my child a diet that is likely to set him up for type 2 diabetes in the future?

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My little ham.

Why am I so filled with anxiety over justifying these nutritional choices even to myself? Do I just like sugar that much? And, why is it so damn hard for me to just be part of normal society? Isn’t it enough that I’ve got a majillion chronic illnesses? Do I need more social isolation? Do I really have to make my life even more difficult? 

And will it just make life more difficult, or will it actually work?

If it works, it could make things so much better for us. I want to be able to imagine a future free from complications of NAFLD, hypertension, high cholesterol, and depression and anxiety. I’m honestly a little giddy over the thought of raising my seizure threshold. If I actually believe the science regarding how my physical health should improve, then it’s absolutely worth it…

Unfortunately, I have doubts. And it’s reasonable that I have doubts! Scientists sometimes lie for money. I did everything I was told by my doctors regarding diet for most of my life, which meant eating lots of low-fat, high complex carb food, which has, in part, led to the health that I am currently experiencing.

I feel so hopeless and depressed.  Living in a post-fact society, I have no idea who is trustworthy.  I want to feel empowered and excited. I want to inspire you to come of a journey of health and rebirth with me, knowing that the outcome will be stellar and worth the emotional investment.

The truth, however, is that I’m having a really hard time even being motivated right now, and so I’m looking for as many credible studies as I can find. Like these… and these… and this. It’s easy to find pieces challenging it.

My therapist isn’t much help with my depression these days. She says I have all the tools in my tool box.  It’s all up to me.  Well, either it’s all up to me to take the best possible actions or it’s time to find a new therapist, which may also be one of those positive actions, depending on whether or not I’m able to continue to hold myself together. To be totally honest, the idea that I could have “beaten” my mental illnesses sort of cracks me up when I legit had to do EMDR butterfly hugs just this morning.  

Still, I know meditation and my actions are only part of the equation.  Major depression is a biological disease affected by MS and caused by brain inflammation. Oh, and btw, “[p]eople with depression who [experience] suicidal thoughts … exhibit significantly higher levels of TSPO, … indicating inflammation of the brain.” [source] I’ve only visited that thought pattern a few billion times. 

But, guys — guess what is decreased when you’re on a ketogenic diet? Brain inflammation. [source]

So, I will start this diet on Memorial Day whether I feel like it or not.

I am ready to feel better. I want to be happier and lighter-hearted and thinner and to live longer for my boy. I’m just not looking forward to the hard part.

I’m glad to be reading Barbara Applebaum’s book Be Your Own Superhero. It’s really helping me with motivation right now.

Also in a positive direction, I have logged out of Facebook in Chrome on my telephone, and I will not log back in. So, now I not only do not have the app, but I have to actively log in on Chrome or open up my laptop if I want to immerse myself in other people’s opinions, problems, and other random bullshit.

I decided I’m tired of putting myself in harm’s way, and with the knowledge that real life is triggering my PTSD on its own, (Thanks, Dominionists!) I don’t need to poke the bear. I want to use my time better.

So, I’m using that time to craft a month-long meal plan with recipes. I’ll have a plan for ~1400 calories/day for me and one for whatever Adam’s ideal calorie count happens to be. I’m guessing ~1800.

Let me know if you want to do it with us. 

It’s Not Cancer!!!

The tumors in my liver are benign, likely caused by ~20 years of hormonal birth control. My bone marrow looks good. Chromosomes look good. Doc thinks that the high LDH was caused by nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — a specific type of fatty liver disease, which we already knew I was dealing with.

So, amazingly enough, there’s nothing new to deal with here — just another situation where I’m being told to lose weight and increase activity. I’m on board. I’m eating less, thanks to gastritis, and I’m almost done meal planning for a month’s worth of AIP. Part of me is looking forward to it.  It’s gonna be my form of Lent.

One great side effect of genuinely believing that I was about to have to fight cancer is that I have a fucking long to-do list, filled with awesome things.  Stuff like, “Record all your original songs, even the ones that you think are mediocre.” and “Remember how to have fun by going on lots of adventures and writing about it.”

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I will try harder. This health bullshit is boring AF.

I think I’m going to need to hire someone to transcribe music for me. For too many years, I’ve let my distaste for transcription (read: knowledge that my skills are so weak that it’s painful, slow, and often inaccurate) stand in the way of my songwriting.  It’s actually the reason that I dropped out of Songwriting I at Berklee.  I rocked all available lyric writing classes and absolutely loved them, but when it came to actually writing out my own music, to be judged by a guy who has taught iconic songwriters, I cowered. There’s no other word for it.  I felt like I just couldn’t do it… so I couldn’t. And I haven’t. Add the facts that the class was at 9 a.m. and I’d just chosen music business as my major, and dropping the class seemed like a no-brainer at the time.  If ever I wished I had pushed myself harder while in college, it’s then.  Opportunities like Berklee songwriting classes don’t come around every day.

One thing that 2 weeks of wondering about my mortality was good for was recognizing areas where I’ve let myself down, and I’m kind of sick at my stomach over my level of cowardice. I’m gonna work a lot harder on feeling bad about myself for actually making mistakes instead of feeling bad about myself for not doing things that I’m afraid I’m going to fuck up. You can’t fail if you don’t try… but if you don’t try, you’re kinda failing at life.

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Challenges.

Earlier this week, a new friend challenged me, since I hadn’t yet really gotten into the Wahls Protocol, to go ahead and try AIP first for 90 days.

I said that I could do anything for 90 days in the interest of not having seizures… but to be honest, I’m not sure that I can. I mean, I can’t even get myself to eat 9 cups of veggies a day… and that’s on days when I can make good food decisions for myself.

Physical

Yesterday and today have been difficult for me, health-wise.  Bunches of seizures. (Like, so many I lost count.) Many ended in post-ictal confusion “time travel.”  Lots  of gastric pain. I even fasted for 24 hours because of the pain… It even hurt to drink water.

But you know what made the pain stop enough for me to be able to eat and return to being a mostly-productive member of this family today?  Cannabis. To be more thorough, it was a high CBD edible. Specifically, 2.5 mg of CBD and 1.25 of THC — or an 8th of a piece of 1 Strawberry Peach sour gummy.

Or, if you’re ignoring the medicine in it, and are only thinking about diet… an 8th of a piece of gummy candy that definitely contains sugar and probably contains artificial flavors and coloring.  *sigh* Heck, there’s even a sign at the dispensary making sure everyone’s aware that edibles are not being created in a sterile environment and that anyone with allergies is advised to forgo them.

So, I find myself wondering if that small amount of verboten food, (truly, about a cubic centimeter of candy that may have come into contact with gluten, dairy, etc.) taken almost daily, would make the rest of the diet, well, pointless.

If it were for weight loss alone, I would know that such a small indulgence wouldn’t matter in the long-term — but when the dietary objective is to decrease inflammation and improve symptoms, I’m not so sure.  Then there’s always the questions — “Is the CBD more anti-inflammatory than the sugar is inflammatory? And “How long do the effects last?  Is sugar inflammatory for a half hour and CBD anti-inflammatory for 4 hours?”  It’s really hard to science that shit when you have degrees in music and law and know diddly squat about chemistry.

And then there’s the whole “family planning” thing. Obviously, I’m not going to start trying to conceive while I’m still waiting for results from the hematologist and CT scan, but if I’m all clear in those areas, it’s time to make another Majka… and the last time I gave up paleo and cannabis was when I was in my first trimester with Henry, and the doctor stressed the importance of eating a “balanced” diet, including grains and dairy, and he dropped a whole bunch of pamphlets on me.

I honestly don’t know what the fuck to do.  It’s not the optimal time to make any decision at all, when I’m hurting, anyway… certainly not the time to thoughtfully consider something that will change the way I deal with life a minimum of 3 times per day.

Mental/Emotional

For anyone who is curious about the psychological gems that I mined for in the dungeon of yesterday’s seizures, I got to spend a surprisingly long amount of time yesterday (almost 15 minutes!) as my 2008 self.

She was absolutely furious with my lack of career, lack of discipline, and 50 lb weight gain. She cannot believe that I’m not only living in IL of all places (There’s fucking snow here! UGH.), but that I refuse to take the IL bar. (She accused me of being lazy! It’s only a 2 day test!)

2008 Rae believed I gave up on life, and that I am now pathetic and worthless and deserving of contempt. But, hey, at least my kid’s cute, and Adam’s still hot.

She was waaayyyyy more of an uncompromising cunt to me than I realized while I was going through the process of being her. She was proud of herself for standing up immediately and continuing to study for the bar exam after she had drop seizures. She thought it was proof that she was tough and “has what it takes.”

But then again, that was before almost a decade of therapy. Before self-compassion was even a term that I’d heard. Before EMDR. Before marrying Adam. Before becoming a mother. Before redefining what “success” means to me.

My favorite incorrect insult from her was when she accused me of being a boring, suburban housewife with nothing to add to society.  If I ever needed something else to rage against, it’s that.

God forbid I be boring.

*jazz hands*

A Learning Machine

A Be-Bot!

WoebotRecently, I started using a chatbot that a friend of a friend programmed.  This chatbot works with Facebook Messenger and is clinically proven to help improve depression and anxiety in as little as 2 weeks. It’s called Woebot.

Since Henry is a big fan of robots, every time he sees my phone light up with the Woebot icon, he gets excited and shouts, “BE-BOT, MOMMY! BE-BOT!” For that reason alone, I’ll keep using it. 🙂

Anyway, I was initially drawn to Woebot because it only takes a few minutes of time per day, and it contacts you, at the same time every day, to keep you doing the work. I was already doing my own thing with Happiness is Homemade, and I’d been considering creating an app to do the same thing on my phone, since printing stuff up and writing things out is occasionally a pain in my butt. I thought I’d check out Woebot to see if creating an app was even worth my time.  (It is, but not because Woebot doesn’t fit the bill.)

Anyway, day before yesterday, Woebot brought up the topics of labels and mindsets.  I was aware that labeling is irrational. It’s an automatic negative thought. I just wasn’t aware of how frequently I still engage in it.  Mindsets, on the other hand, I was ignorant about. (And for a “smart” person, feeling ignorant is mighty uncomfortable.)

Here’s the 10 minute video that Woebot encouraged me to watch.  I strongly encourage you to watch it as well. It could change the way you think about yourself and life in general.

I lived with a fixed mindset most of my life. And, if I’m honest, I’m currently struggling to change to a growth mindset… but the struggle is good.

Fixed Mindsets Waste Gifts

When I was a freshman at Berklee and saw that there were so many musicians who I perceived to be better than me, I stopped trying in earnest to be a performer.

Seriously, the last time I performed music outside of a classroom setting–other than karaoke or singing along at Gymboree– was in high school.  That’s really fucked up for a person who was in all-state choir and regional honor bands all 4 years in percussion, if you think about it. Going to a world-renowned music school should mean you make more music, not less… but should statements are irrational garbage too.

Anyway — I had no idea that what I was butting up against was a fixed mindset. I believed I was “smart” and “a good musician.”  This meant that I couldn’t allow myself to be in positions that could prove otherwise.

When I didn’t do well in my Intro to Film Scoring class, I switched to a Music Business major. When I couldn’t do vocal sight-singing or ear training without playing everything at a piano, I learned every piece at the piano by myself so no one else would know that I couldn’t just sing the songs from looking at the page. My embarrassment was painful and intense.

I cheated myself out of so much growth there because I didn’t want anyone to know that I wasn’t good enough. Truth is: I couldn’t emotionally handle that I needed to struggle so much. I had always needed to work hard at improving my chops, but having to work hard to keep up with a class was foreign to me.  I had always excelled academically. It was part of my identity.

I thought that because music transcription and reading was so difficult for me, it was a sign that I just wasn’t meant for it. I allowed my mindset to close the door on something that I loved.  After seeing the talent that was all around me, all the time, I figured that music, no matter how much I loved making it, wasn’t for me.  And I didn’t even realize I was making a choice.

Music business was easy. It made sense, even if it could be misogynistic, cutthroat, and terribly ageist. So, I stopped making myself do the hard stuff, and I worked on a business plan… and on a ton of unpaid internships for internet radio dot coms that no longer exist. (When I think about how much I could have earned if I were given even minimum wage, it makes me sick at my stomach.)

Fast forward to adulthood and every time I had to face what I perceived to be an unforgivable failure — one that made me question my worth and identity — I became suicidal to the point of needing hospitalization.

The Gift Of Disability

Being diagnosed with seizure disorder caused by MS was a low point in my life, for sure. But I got used to having seizures. I got used to not being able to work a full-time job. I got used to my identity baseline being “not good enough.” And that was immensely freeing.

I decided that since I wasn’t living up to anyone’s expectations (least of all my own), I ought to change my expectations and try harder to make myself proud. And that’s what I’m doing now.

It’s not easy being a mother. It’s not easy sounding like shit on guitar or piano every time I play. It’s not easy learning Japanese on my cell phone or going to the gym 3-5 times a week whether I’m having seizures or not. It’s not easy to play make-believe with my son when I’m as pragmatic as I am. It’s certainly not easy to make myself proud.

But I’m doing the work… so someday, the things that are hard right now might be easy.

If I don’t, it’s like telling myself that it’s okay to be bitter and sad and unhappy with my appearance and life forever. And that’s bullshit. I’d rather choose struggle than familiar misery.

Besides, I won’t have any good stories to tell if I don’t choose worthy conflicts.

What are YOU struggling with today?

Well, duh.

You know, there are days when I realize that for however smart I was in grade school, that may well be how completely clueless I am as an adult about common sense things.

smart-vs-dumb

Gorgeous, either way, though, right?

See, I’ve been living in Orland Hills, IL for a little over a year now.  The town is so small that in order to use public transportation, you actually have to call a phone number more than 24 hours in advance and set up your ride.  It’s like paratransit, but for everybody.

When we moved here, I walked over to the town hall to get all of our paperwork in order, and I was told by some of the ladies who work there that I couldn’t bring my baby on the bus because they don’t allow car seats.  Thus began my year of walking everywhere and having absolutely crushing stir-craziness in the winter, wondering how I would make it until my son turned 8.

Well, today, I had enough of it.  It’s gorgeous outside (but -5 degrees wind chill), and despite having time travel seizures yesterday, I decided I was tired of feeling like a middle schooler who was impatiently waiting for one of her friends to get a drivers license. I decided to ask the hivemind — my friends on FB and the folks in one of the local parenting groups on there.

And do you know what they suggested? A taxi service.

benny

I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me earlier, and I feel totally dumb for not thinking of it. It’s so simple and straightforward that it makes my head hurt.

For some reason, I thought that since we’re living in the suburbs, we wouldn’t have access to taxis out here… but we do! I even thought, “Hey! Uber might work!” but riding in an Uber with a baby and his car seat only works if the Uber driver is cool with it — and most of them aren’t. (Who can blame them? If my baby pukes, Uber’s not gonna clean it up for them, and if we are in an accident, the liability for them is too great.)

So, one of the ladies in the parenting group suggested a specific driver who works with her elderly mom, and I’m going to be giving him a call tomorrow.

I’m tired of feeling like less than an adult, simply because I can’t get where I want to go when I want to go. Henry deserves to go to the library, regularly. He deserves to go on playdates. He deserves a life outside of this house, and a mommy who has more self-esteem than I do right now.

Cabbing it might seem kinda costly, but I’m going to do everything I can to remind myself, when I’m feeling too cheap to give us freedom, that if I had a car, I’d be paying more for gas, maintenance, licensing, and insurance. Not to mention how much we’ll save on psychological therapy in the coming years for me and Henry. (No agoraphobia allowed!)

So, I’m now looking very forward to going to pilates or yoga classes during the day at our gym like I’ve wanted to for so long. I’m going to make friends here and be a functional member of this community. I’m going to stop using my inability to drive as a reason to feel sorry for myself. I’m taking back at least some of the freedom I’ve unconsciously given to seizure disorder.


On a completely different note, I was approached by an employee of Earnest a few weeks ago who asked me to write an entry on holiday budgeting. Over the course of our emails it appeared that they wanted me to suggest to my readers that they refinance their student loans. They didn’t offer me any compensation to promote them, so my link above exists out of nothing more than goodwill towards someone who may have read one of my entries, but who definitely has a tough job if they’re trying to get sporadic writers like me to pimp their product.

Anyway, I have a ton of tips that I would be happy to share about how I personally save money, but I also have a massive amount of respect for my small and dedicated group of readers. I don’t believe that y’all care one iota about reading about that sort of thing here.  If I’m wrong, let me know, and I’ll happily write it up for you.

Hope everyone’s feeling well, and that 2017 isn’t half the shitshow that the Great Dumpster Fire of 2016 was.

2016dumpsterfire