Mental Health

My heart weighs heavy with thoughts of the terrible mass killing in Las Vegas this week. I’m still working on my 49 Random Acts of Kindness in honor of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings.

As always, the media and social media are quick to blame gun laws, asking for stricter rules and changes to the Constitution. It may not be a popular opinion, but I honestly think the issue is not about the number of guns the man owned. Did he need 42 firearms? I don’t think it matters. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used a rented truck and fertilizer-based bombs to kill 168. More and more we hear about people driving cars into crowds. Heck, September 11th was accomplished with box cutters. My point is that if someone wants to kill, they will find a way.

Yes, I know that access to guns may allow a person to kill more people, but the real issue, in my opinion, is mental health. We don’t do nearly enough in this country to help identify mental health issues and then to take care of them. I’m not talking about lock them away in some institution, but really help. There is still such a stigma around mental health issues that I think people are afraid to seek help. And I think that we are terrible at identifying them until it’s too late. We always hear “they were so nice” or “we never saw it coming”.

I don’t have an easy answer. I’m afraid that by focusing on taking away guns, we won’t focus on the real issue – what it is inside a person that allows them to think “I am going to kill people today”. I just know that all killers have one thing in common – something that is not a weapon. They have some sort of mental issue. And until we take care of that, I’m afraid we’re going to continue to see killings like those in Las Vegas.

 

Thoughts on Whole30

Just like that, my first Whole30 experience is over. I am so amazed at what this process has taught me. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

  • I actually like healthy food! Who knew Brussels sprouts could be yummy?
  • Until now, I was eating WAY too much sugar.
  • I’ve learned to pay better attention to labels. Is there any reason my blueberry Eggo waffles should have black carrot juice in them?
  • I don’t need Diet Coke nearly as much as I thought I did.
  • Real, restful sleep is amazing. So is not having the 2pm slump.
  • I’m a car snacker, especially on the way home from work. I don’t need to be.

I highly recommend this process to anyone looking to “reset” not only how they eat, but their relationship with food. I had two eye opening experiences – I came down with a cold at the end and when I took my first shot of DayQuil (I’ve always liked the liquid because it coats your throat and just feels like it’s working), all I could taste was sugar. Same thing when I had half a glass of Sprite with lunch – sugar.

Don’t get me wrong… I had a bowl of ice cream and it was wonderful. But I am going to be more mindful about what I eat and when I eat it. I plan on making decisions on when I choose to eat carbs and sugar, not assuming that every meal should include them.

Was it easy? Absolutely not. Was it worth it? For sure!!!

Whole 30

I decided to try something new. Today, I kicked off the Whole 30 program. My goal is not to use it as a weight loss tool (although, if a few pounds here or there go, I won’t complain), but rather to take a look at what and how I eat. The concept is simple – stick to meats, seafood (nope!), and vegetables. Don’t eat things like sugar or consume alcohol. The premise is that you take all of this out for 30 days and focus on how your body feels. Allegedly, I’m going to have more energy, feel less of that 2pm sugar craving, and feel less bloated.

The hardest part for me is going to be the no pasta thing – definitely not something I’m going to continue long-term (they pull grains to help people see if they have any sort of intolerance).

Another tough part for me is giving up Diet Coke… a staple in my life and something I suspect I will probably feel better without in the long term. Again, by no means am I saying I’ll never drink another one, but I’m trying to feel what impact it has on my day to day.

There are all sorts of really cool recipes out there – today I had scrambled eggs for breakfast with my black coffee (creamer is a no no), a chicken bacon salad for lunch, and taco salad for dinner. Below are some pics of how yummy everything looked!

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Chicken Bacon Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar
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Taco Salad

My first thought on the program is how hard it is to grocery shop. Instead of grabbing a box and some hamburger (Hamburger Helper anyone?) I spent 15 minutes on the salsa aisle looking for some sort of salsa that didn’t have sugar in the ingredients. My trip ended up being an hour and half of wandering the store wondering what the hell I’ve been eating for the last 36 years. My refrigerator is stuffed (think fresh stuff!) and my pantry is bare (no more processed foods!).

My only hangup today was a craving for something sweet after dinner. Dessert is normally my downfall (ice cream!), so instead, I had a glass of unsweetened iced tea. It hit the cold spot and the somewhat sweet spot and I got through it!

The even better news? Mike is on board, too. So for the next 30 days we’re committed to working on making healthier choices and paying more attention to what we put into our bodies. I can’t wait to see what the month brings! I’ll keep you posted and share recipes along the way!

ACL Surgery: Four Months Post Op

This coming Friday is officially the four month (16 weeks) post-surgery mark for me. At yesterday’s physical therapy session, I was cleared to run. Still no horseback riding (there’s too much of a chance of that twisting motion and/or an uncontrolled movement), but I’m happy with expanding my activities!

I ran today with my sister. We’ve got a little pond at work that has a soft track around it… We started doing a couple laps and ended up doing a mile, with one lap being walked. It was a great start and as the day went on, my knee actually felt looser than it has in a long time (good loose, not missing-the-ACL-loose). I am still having some pain – partially because my IT band and patellar tendon are tight and are pulling my kneecap to the left. Tonight I need to foam roll until I can’t take it and then ice a bit.

Here’s what my knee looks like now. It’s healing up rather nicely! There are 3 “holes” (top right and then two towards the bottom) as well as the larger scar where the hamstring tendon was harvested from. Ignore the white scratch… I was just itchy.

I’m really pleased with my recovery so far!

ACL Surgery: One Month Post Op

May 22nd marked the one month point in my ACL reconstruction recovery.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had my first day back in the office (I had been working from home for the last two weeks) which was amazing… it was so nice to see all my friends again and to be back out in society! As fun as staying home for a month sounds, it really does get old, especially when you have very limited mobility.

I also had my second physical therapy session. Not to brag, but I’ve been exceptionally good about doing my exercises and it shows. If I can make one recommendation to anyone facing this surgery, it’s do your exercises before, during, and after your procedure! I reached 110 degrees of bend yesterday and was actually allowed to get on the bike and turn the pedals over. Sounds like a small thing, but it’s HUGE. Finally feeling like I can move my body is amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not riding the Tour yet, but I can move my legs for about 5 minutes a day at no resistance. Baby steps.

The last lagging “pain” I have is in two places: my hamstring and my incision. My hamstring is where they pulled the tendons from – it’s just a sort of sore, stretching feeling if I move to quickly. I was advised to chill on those exercises to let it continue to heal. The incision is the general byproduct of surgery – it’s numb right where the cut is, then the outer edges feel like they’re on fire if something (the bed sheets in the middle of the night, for example) brushes across them. Annoying, yes. Permanent, nope. Time heals all wounds.

I’m still not cleared to swim (something I’m really looking forward to) and I have another two weeks on crutches and with my brace. The graft is at it’s weakest right now, so I’m doing my best to remember to take it slow and not to stress it! I’m trying to be patient and keep my eye on the prize (getting back on my horse!) while pushing myself to continue to rebuild my missing muscle.

Here’s to continued healing!

The Dark Side of Surgery

I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer… while I generally try to be light and happy about life, I also want to use this blog to be real. This is definitely not one of those bright and shiny posts… if you’re looking for cute horse pictures or funny jokes, go ahead and skip this one.

I did a lot of research before I had my ACL reconstruction surgery. I mean A LOT. I learned all about allograft vs. autograft (cadaver vs. my own), the different types of autograft (hamstring, Achilles, or patellar tendon), and recovery times (8 months to a year).

It never even crossed my mind to research post-operative pain management. I hobbled out of the surgery center with 100 Norcos in my pocket and a numb leg. Fast forward three weeks. My knee was feeling pretty good and the broken toe was tolerable. I was finally to the point that Advil just about took care of any residual pain, so I tapered off the Norco with 12 pills left, feeling pretty strong and proud of myself.

Then came the unexpected. I went to bed Tuesday night and couldn’t sleep. Not even a little bit. I didn’t just have restless leg syndrome, I had restless everything. My stomach was upset, I was clammy, hot, and I was starting to get a headache. It was terrible. I finally fell asleep just after midnight, thinking I was coming down with some sort of flu.

Wednesday, the symptoms all continued and intensified. Thursday was even worse. I felt super emotional and anxious. I emailed my doctor who confirmed what my husband and I had begun to suspect – somehow, while I was busy healing, my body had become addicted and I was having withdrawals. Now, I’m sure on the scale of withdrawals it was minor, but I honestly felt terrible until about Sunday morning. I was blown away that in just under three weeks my body had developed such a strong dependence on something that would make me feel so terrible.

I am so, so, so lucky in that several people close to me have experience with addiction and were able to help talk me through what I was feeling (you know who you are and you know how much I love you!). Sometimes it helps infinitely to have someone tell you that you’re not crazy and you’re not going to die.

Let me be clear. At no point did I abuse the medication I was given and at no point did I “crave” more (thank goodness!). I simply stopped taking the pills once my pain was manageable. And became acutely aware of how so many people each day can very easily get hooked on opiates… because just one more pill would make the yucky symptoms go away. It was completely eye opening and terrifying.

The question at the end of the day: knowing what I know now, would I do it the same way? I honestly don’t know. I’m a firm believer that we can and are doing wonderful things with modern medicine and that no one should have to deal with major or chronic pain. I do wonder if there was something less strong, something less major that could have helped me without the terrible withdrawal symptoms.

So there you have it. My candid, not so pretty story of withdrawal. It’s not meant to scare you, but to just let you know if you’re facing surgery that it’s a very real consequence of taking pain medication, even prescribed, and to help you be prepared.

If you or someone you know need help with prescription or other drugs, please visit http://www.na.org. Talk to your doctor, find a meeting, take action.

 

ACL Surgery: 3 Weeks Post Op

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks (and one day) since my surgery! My knee has been healing really well – all of my incisions look great and I started physical therapy this week. I’m proud to say that I’m ahead of where they expected me to be at this point; something the therapist credits to my pre-surgery exercises. If you’re considering ACL reconstruction, DO YOUR PREWORK!

Even with a lot of up front work, I’m still amazed at how much my quad has atrophied in the last three weeks. In the picture below, I have both legs flexed as hard as I can. 


Seriously, in real life it looks worse than the picture. I’ve been lucky – I was able to do straight legged raises since the first day – a lot of people struggle with just that!

I’ve still got a long way to go, but am happy with where I am so far! More to come!