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28 Days Later

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
7 min read

Thanks to a long-scheduled and non-negotiable two week vacation, followed by the accommodation of my as-of-tomorrow employer and co-workers, I haven’t gotten up and gone to work in the last 28 days.

This is what a sunset looks like at Big Sur.

I spent the first two weeks of that on real “vacation” covering over 3,700 miles spread across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California with my sweetie.  I spent the last almost-two weeks nesting… getting settled in to my new home with said sweetie in a new part of town, taking care of logistics and myself, catching up on long-overdue medical appointments and other self-care during a period of relative “down time” that also gave me a really unique chance to rest.

I think, for the first time in years (or maybe ever in my adult life) I now know what “rested” feels like for me.  I’m also getting quite close to knowing what “healthy” feels like for me, having spend the last few months trying to get to the bottom of a couple of health issues that I’ll dish about a little here today, and more another time.

Long story short, I’m feeling better than I have in years, and while it is a little melancholy to say goodbye to days of doing whatever my instincts tell me when I wake up in the morning I haven’t yet figured out how to actually put food on the table by doing so, so back to work I go, tomorrow.  And the change is so very much for the better that I don’t have a case of the “Sundays” today at all.  I’ve established some good habits during this break that I want to hang on to, and I’m looking forward to getting to work again.

What I’ve been reading this week…

The Busy Trap from the New York Times:
You’ve probably seen this in your Facebook feed about 53 times already, but it’s worth a read if you haven’t.  There’s nothing really new here … in fact, I kinda had deja vu reading it, since I swear I read something very similar earlier this year, but a lot of the author’s actual bottom lines resonated with me.  And this line:

My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

is the pointy little island sticking up out of the ocean that I paddle my little boat around and gaze at often.  Even during this period of time off, I’ve missed the opportunity to do what I know is most important:  spend time with friends and family as much as I would like to.  My last job was brilliant for meeting and spending time with new friends, but it was — for some reason — terrible for me in terms of making time and energy for old friends and my family.  Aside from the many incredibly wonderful new friends I made while there, it was a strangely isolating year and a half, and I’m excited to be able to close the door on that feeling of isolation.  My new job affords me the opportunity for the total opposite, and I feel really thankful for that.

WTF Wednesday:  I have a brain tumor.  I’ve named it Steve.
So, my friend Geraldine kept popping into my head during our vacation… we got together for sushi and caught up a couple of months ago, but with all the job transition chaos I hadn’t gotten in touch with her for awhile.  When we got home, we had a last minute, late notice, impromptu BBQ night, and she and her husband were among the folks that, in the vision of perfection in my own head, would be able to join us.  Before I text-bombed her, I pulled up her Facebook page to see if they were traveling (which is often the case) and saw a photo of the top of her head stapled shut with the caption:  “Grooooosss … but better than tumor.”

Um… did I miss something?

A flurry of blog-stalkings and text messages later and Geraldine is home and recovering and the post-surgical news has been good.  Geraldine and Rand:  love you guys, and let’s get together SOON (and I mean that in the least Seattle way possible) and if you’re totally over cupcakes I can bring the sauteed greens and coconut-curry lentils or something else that’s straight out of the Anti-Cancer Cookbook (since praise all that’s good and holy Steve wasn’t cancerous, but heck, we can all use all the insurance we can get, right)?

Getting Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis:
Elana Amsterdam is an author and blogger who landed on my blog reader based on a number of gluten-free recipes I’d bookmarked from her site,  Her post about MS is short and sweet (and not brand new, but I just found it for the first time) and in it, she talks about her “personalized MS treatment plan,” which may not be what you assume when reading that title.  Most of us think about a potentially life-changing health diagnoses as a series of lab tests and visits to doctors and specialists and then the pharmacy or other treatment providers … pills to pop, rest to get, most of it doled out by people in white coats.  I did that version for the first year and a half of my arthritis diagnosis, and made unmistakable progress but did not achieve the remission I hoped for.  Even though my (best) rheumatologist (in the world) encouraged an anti-inflammatory diet as one of her first recommendations, I stopped THAT reading when I got to “no nightshades” which would exclude my favorite medicinal food:  Tater Tots and other forms of fried potatoes.

After months of conventional medicine, which got me back to about 75% of my regular activities (with a number of unpalatable side effects and risks), the decision was either increase my meds (which I’m loathe to do) or take a few months to try some alternative therapies and then increase my meds if I hadn’t improved.  If it’s add another immune-suppressing, hair loss triggering (did I mention that methotrexate seems to have made my formerly curly hair straight?), iron-diminishing drug to my regimen, I figured I could try an experiment in Tater Tot reduction, if that’s what it takes.

I started care with a “Holistic Family Medicine” primary care doc, for an open-minded take on managing the side-effects from my arthritis meds, and she prescribed acupuncture (which worked wonders) and a visit with a nutritionist who specializes in (among other things) auto-immune and inflammatory disorders.

Fast forward four months and tomorrow I’m going to see my rheumatologist for the first time in years with no noticeable arthritis inflammation in my joints (at least to my eye — she’s the expert, so we’ll see what she says).  I’ve been symptom-free (save for a couple of weather- or food-triggered flare-ups) since mid-May.  Wheat, nightshade vegetables (including my beloved potatoes) and possibly eggs seem to be the biggest culprits in my inflammation — and if the joint symptoms weren’t enough, my apparently Teflon-coated digestive system has actually started absorbing iron and vitamin D again (which is a huge deal, after years of diminishing iron stores and a long stretch of anemia).

So — Elana’s “personalized MS treatment plan” was pretty much a template for my own “personalized inflammation treatment plan:”

  1. Sleep – 8 hours minimum per night, more on weekends
  2. Diet – Whole-food based, mostly plants, 100% wheat free (unless the Celiac test we’re waiting on results for comes back unexpectedly positive, in which case that will be 100% gluten-free).  I’ll be avoiding eggs and nightshades, and limiting other potentially inflammation-triggering foods (dairy, soy, sugar, corn, sweeteners, caffeine, most meats, and ingredients I can’t pronounce).  It’s easier than it sounds, and compared to increasing my pharmaceuticals, it’s a walk in the park.
  3. Exercise – walking, running, or bike-riding daily
  4. Healing Movement – yoga or climbing, three times a week
  5. Boundaries – keep interactions as brief as possible with people, places and things that do not impact me in a positive manner
What relaxed looks like, in a wide angle lens.

The hard parts for me are making time for exercise (in part, because it takes away from the time I have to sleep, work, and spend time with my friends and family, that’s always the part that seems to suffer — so maybe I can incorporate friends and family into that part and have a double-win)… and boundaries.  Working from home gives me back at least an hour of my day that I would previously have spent commuting, so that’s where the exercise is going to go.  And boundaries — that’s what Buddhist clinical psychotherapy is for, right?

What is YOUR short list for a personalized treatment plan for whatever you’re needing a little healing from?  Please share in the comments!

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.