Since I haven’t posted in a while i thought i would veer off of my usual topic ( recovery ) and get into a bit more specific area of my life : Health & Fitness.
I don’t believe i have ever mentioned on here that, among other things, i used to be a personal trainer and was also training myself at the time to become a female body builder. Now, if you aren’t familiar with the various levels associated with women’s fitness, you can find more about it online -just type “types of women’s body building” in your search bar). Basically there are fitness, figure, bikini , physique and body building. My first goal was bodybuilding – which i later decided to switch to figure. The difference is basically a certain “look” ( more feminine for a figure style) and a body fat % – for body building ideal is 6-7% and figure is 8-12%- these being what one strives for on the day before a competition ( not as an everyday %). I gave up this idea however, about 2 years in, after realizing steroids would be required for the look i would need( NO WAY!) and just settled for a regular routine that kept me in shape and defined, but did not require the constant management of my fat %, muscle shape & size and multiple supplements.
Yes, i know that sounds horrid and probably pretty unhealthy but that’s what i wanted at the time. It was a tough, grueling workout 5 days a week minimum with “bulking up” season, “dieting down” season, supplements that gave me gas all the time( whey protein, creatine, DHEA, etc.) and way too much attention to my macros on the daily.
The above photos are me now at 8 weeks into my weight lifting goals. I tend to bulk up quick, especially in my upper body. Part of this is genetic, and part of it is muscle memory from decades of weight lifting experience. I have maintained my weight at 120 – 125 lbs. but have not stuck to any exercise routines for quite some time until now. Still , I always want more ( funny how that works!)The full body pic was meant to show my calf definition but the lousy laptop camera failed to achieve that. Mostly i took these for reference for the future. As i go i hope to gain more definition.
I would have included an old photo of me at my largest and most muscular from way back but that would require digging through boxes in the basement , scanning and uploading etc. They didn’t have home computers back then, much less cell phones with cameras. Actual photographs are all i have.
So, among the many other things i have been doing since my hospitalization in February and the heart issues that i have been addressing, this is what i’ve been up to. Everything is geared towards heart healthy these days.
Just wanted to drop a line to say hi to all:)
I hope everyone is doing well and getting back out there in the world — small steps at a time.
So after 8 weeks of recording everything from food intake to supplements to exercise to sleep hours, its come down to this:
Sleep is the biggest factor.
I normally only get between 2-4 hours of broken sleep per day. On my nights off, when i get to sleep during the night hours, i sleep like a baby for 8-10 hours. The next day i feel great- energetic, focused and NOT depressed or anxious. Since i cannot switch to dayshift for various reasons ( one being the huge hassle and length of time it takes to do so) i take full advantage of the few nights off i do get.
I have been off & on sleep medications for decades, sometimes going a2 years or more without them and trying all manner of other things. I have written before about some of them- sleeping on the floor, reducing or eliminating caffeine, black out curtains, white noise, routine before bedtime- all the usual ( and unusual stuff like binaural tones meditation) and while that stuff helps a little it never resolves the problem for very long.
So, i have finally made an appointment with my doctor to specifically ask if i can have a sleep study done.
Some of the other things though that i do notice have helped ( fractionally) are eating some something small before bed and eating sooner when i wake. Additionally changing my diet- eating salmon 2-3 times a week, 2-3 salads a week, a piece of fruit everyday, a serving of yogurt daily, and recently – a protein shake each day. Getting to the gym consistently and spending as much time outdoors as i can manage -whether i am walking or painting of some other activity helps with stress so also helps with sleep.
The St.Johns Wort , D3 vitamin and the 5 HTP supplement( adding it in slowly) seems to help a little also.
I continue to hope for more consistency during my work days as i go and pray that the doctor has some more answers for me. Fingers crossed..
Note : this is an article i recently wrote and posted on our Tribal Page and thought i would also share it here
“This is a subject with which I have become very familiar this past year. Whereas previously I had only experienced it briefly , it has become a daily struggle. I know that many people have struggled with this all of their lives and having now experienced the depths of it I feel as though I can write with some knowledge and share some information based on personal experience , rather than simply using my browser to find information. There is nothing wrong with research however and I always encourage that. One thing I have come to realize however, is that everyone experience is different and most sites only offer the generic, bare bones solutions or explanations.
Major depression- everyday, most of the day. Does not depend on life situations or environment. Can last more than one year. This is what I have. I wake with a gut punch feeling in the morning which I have to fight all day. It is severe. It can be a one-time thing or recurring out of nowhere at various times in one’s life.
Persistant depression- lasts over 2 years, not as severe but can interfere with daily life. It can wax and wane and can last for years creating a feeling that this is just “normal”. I have not yet hit this mark so my fingers are crossed
Manic depression ( now called bipolar disorder). This is a type where a person is dramatically happy for about a week, then suddenly plunges into the opposite. The manic stage can be fatal or lead to devastating changes or circumstances. Sometimes hospitalization is required. The opposite stage is similar to major depression. I have many friends with this disorder and it isn’t pretty. Many are on heavy medications and also self medicate which leads to drastic consequences.
Depressive psychosis- Can go hand in hand with major depression. Symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. It may also include physical symptoms according to the above article
Perinatal depression- also called “baby Blues”, this occurs during and/or after pregnancy and is related to hormonal changes
PMDD- this is a severe form of PMS which can include physical and psychological and occurs around the woman’s monthly cycle. This can also occur even more severely with menopause. Also related to hormonal changes.
Seasonal Depression ( S.A.D.) Usually begins in the Fall and continues through Winter as the days get darker and shorter. It is a body response to lack of natural light. Usually lessons during spring and summer seasons.
Situational depression- Occurs in conjunction with a traumatic life event or chronic stress related to environment such as divorce , death of a loved one, financial ruin, or serious illness and occurs within 3 months of the event. If the factors creating the depression are removed or the situation changes(even if over time), the affected person can usually recover and regain normalcy.
Atypical depression- not rare or uncommon just difficult to predict or diagnosis with any consistency.
All of these can occur with the other forms of depression so can be difficult to treat and there are also subtypes.
Online you will find such suggestions to improve symptoms as :
3.Ask your doctor about medications ( usually SSRI’s are prescribed)
4.Therapy ( various types)
5.Increased social interaction
6.Meditation and yoga practice
7.Reduce or quit alcohol, nicotine, and/or caffeine intake
8.Get regular hours of sleep ( ideally 6-8 per day)
All of these suggestions are , in fact , good ones but they may not be viable or helpful to everyone. Personally, I do better with more exercise and getting outdoors, but it has been impossible to regulate my sleep so that is a moot point for me. I cannot take the usual prescribed medications due to severe reactions. The pandemic has reduced social activities. I could go on, but suffice it to say I have had to reach outside of the normal suggestions to survive. Mind you, I have not yet conquered the problem, but have found ways to get through each day, even if it’s by the skin of my teeth.
So I offer those to you here.
1.St. Johns Wort- although I was skeptical about this supplement it does seems to be helping after a few weeks of tweaking my dose and being consistent with use. Always ask your doctor before taking as it has several interactions with other medications.
2.Opening up as many curtains as possible in your home each day to allow in natural light.
3.Crystal therapy- many stones and gems have therapeutic properties. This does not work for everyone, it is mainly a belief in the idea to begin with. I figured it couldn’t hurt so I have purchased various stones to place around my home- in window sills etc. as well as in my personal medicine pouch.
4.Sage and cedar ritual- this entails purifying the negative energies within the body as well as environment. There is much info online about this- more than I can get into here. I usually sage my home twice per week and do a personal sage cleansing along with it. I recently purchased an abalone shell which is the traditional item to use for burning. Turtle shells can also be used.
5.Walking or sitting in nature- it important to calm ones spirit on a regular basis by feeling connected to Mother Earth and Father Sky. You may or may not meditate but try to be mindful of the sounds, smells and vibrations around you
6.Vitamin D3 and B12 have helped me as long as I take a quality brand and stick to it.
7.Medicinal teas such as chamomile, lavender and various mints. Try not to just drink them in a hurry or as a matter of a quick boost. Take some time to prepare the tea traditionally if possible. Sit and sip leisurely and contemplatively. Relax as much as possible for the moments you are enjoying the tea. I like to add a splash of honey and creamer to mine as well.
8.Interacting with pets or animals always seems to lift my spirits . If I cannot make physical contact, I watch nature shows or short YouTube clips of funny or cute baby animals. The antics and laughter helps restore some balance .
9.Napping as much as possible, and making it a priority. It may not always work or be possible but even resting the body is helpful. Just be sure to set a time limit as over sleeping can increase depression
10.Probiotics – I get mine in yogurt, cabbage, pickles and sauerkraut as well as some other foods. Supplements are too harsh for me but some find them useful and more convenient .
11.Writing in any form- journaling, blogging, poetry, or a simple diary. You can also use a tape recorder as an alternative , which is easier to erase once you are done pouring out your soul.
12.Give yourself a break. Some days you just FEEL like lying in bed , watching your favorite shows. Just be sure this doesn’t come a habit . Limit it tom once per week or less.
13.That being said-keep moving, stay busy. The busier your body, the less busy your headspace. Force yourself 90% of the time. Household projects work for me, as well as getting out to the gym ,walking, working on my budget, planning my calendar, or going to a figure drawing session. Find what works for you to keep your thoughts from taking over.
14.Light scented candles around your home. Take time to watch the flame quietly and enjoy the aroma.
15.Buy something small for yourself. Indulge in one comfort food. Take a long hot bath. Treat yourself as often as you can without going overboard with spending or consuming. Free or low cost is best.
16..Look into mother natural supplements. While I don’t suggest spending a ton of money , trying a few won’t hurt. As I’ve said, some will work for some people and not for others. Again, check with your doctor before adding them to your regimen.
17. Music- different types of music affect each of us differently. Find a genre , artist or playlist that upliftsyou. It is one of my best go to solutions because it replaces the thoughts in my head with beats, sounds and happier words. Use it during bathing/showering, driving, doing chores or whenever you can.
18. Don’t rule out meditation. It can be a life saver. There are hundreds of forms including breath meditation, progressive relaxation, binaural tones, positive affirmation and guided meditation. All can be found on YouTube or in books, cds, etc. It isn’t just new age mumbo jumbo. Calming the mind and body for at least 15 minutes a day can only help.
19. If you have the means, there is evidence that Botox via the forehead helps. I Just tried this, though out of desperation and can honestly say I have felt no change.
20. Reduce processed foods such as lunchmeat, boxed pastas with included sauces, ramen soups, sugary sweets, pre sweetened fruit, etc. Add more fresh foods to you diet- slowly. Try a food log, cutting out one food per week to eliminate culprits. For instance, I have had to reduce bread consumption as it tends to bog me down-gut wise and mentally. Some people do a “cleanse”. I haven’t had any luck with that.
21.Reach out and connect with someone who will listen or at least has a positive attitude. Don’t take advantage though, as in calling every day, as you may drag tat person down too and they will soon avoid you.
22. Stretch often and take deep breaths, Drink lots of water.
Depression is a beast. It can make you dysfunctional and unmotivated. Dealing with it can seem like a full time job. Self- care is more important than even obligations, because if you can’t care for yourself, you can’t care effectively for others. You will soon crash and place that worry and burden on those who rely on you. Don’t take on more than you can deal with and learn to say no.”
I hope someone finds these suggestions helpful and please feel free to comment, add to, or ask questions
i have only had alcohol 4 times since january..i’m not perfect but thats 101/105 days alcohol free since restarting my recovery. I miscalculated previously then realized i hadnt started again until the 25th. I had quit , then cut back on smokes for awhile, but ultimately some days i still fail. The only thing i can say is that one of my cigarettes rolled equals about 1/3 of a commercial one because i roll them very loose. What else? hmmm….
well i have been back at the gym consistently since March 21st 3 times a week. I had been doing more yoga but weightlifting sort of took over. I just enjoy it more. Have done more walking but not met my goal of twice weekly lately due to insanely changing weather. There have been weeks I’ve walked 2-3 times a week but then it gets too cold again or rainy( even snowed once last week) and so that cuts back on the days i can get out. Ive cut back on caffeine ( about 1/2 to 1 regular cup of coffee a day)- i couldn’t maintain the zero caffeine for more than a month. I hate the taste of decaf and i get headaches. I try tea sometimes but it also has an after taste i don’t like.
I am doing pretty well on the St. Johns Wort and CBD for depression/pain/anxiety. There are still days when i feel totally dysfunctional but they are getting less and less. The biggest factor i have ascertained is that my sleep issues have the MOST affect on everything. Its the one issue i cannot seem to get under control no matter what i try. My average is 3-4 hours of broken sleep per day. Some days i sleep less , sometimes more. On the more days i feel great, but they are truly rare.
I have been keeping track of my food intake as well. ive done pretty good by adding in salmon, avocado, yogurt and nuts. I try really hard to eat fruit but it’s a struggle. I am not a fan of fruit. i basically have to force it down. i do eat a good salad 2 or 3 times a week as well. My weight stays between 120-125 lbs. But i still have a muffin top and it drives me crazy.
Outside of that, life is getting busier. Have ben attending figure drawing sessions in town each week and getting out more in general. Not a LOT but more than i had been for a year.
I have posted about relapse, slips and other such things regarding recovery. Today i want to talk about triggers.
Most of us are aware of what they are and some of us even know most of our own. If you are new to recovery though there are some great articles online. It’s super important to be aware and continue to become aware of your triggers. That was something i didn’t know about when i first started getting sober in 2018.
One of my triggers was playing music and painting.I used to spend every Thursday night( my night off) drinking and painting. I looked forward to it, playing whatever music caught my fancy , as loud as i could for hours. Eventually, i would usually mess up said painting in my drunkenness and be upset about it the the next day. Over time, i just stopped caring and figured i was destined to waste a canvass or two every week. I planned it into my budget – another expense related to being an alcoholic.i had to stop painting for awhile until i got a handle on things. and when i did it wasn’t pretty. That blank canvass just stares at you.
Another trigger for me was being around others who were drinking. I realized i had to basically stop going anywhere socially for a long period of time. It was especially tough for me to isolate from former drinking buddies. Indeed, one i had distanced from died during my own recovery and i still grieve for the loss of time i could have had with her. But at the time , i knew in order to save myself i could not be around it.I had hoped the same for her.
I do remember the first time i went to an art event without my “buddy” alcohol. It was extremely hard. They had no coffee- just wine and water. I was SO sick of water by that point, even though previously i loved water ( and still do). I am not a fan of much else other than coffee. Anyway, i made it through an hour and came home. After that it wasn’t as hard but i was still careful not to go out too often. About 7 or 8 months in i decided to join a weekly figure drawing session. Baby steps. Mostly people didn’t drink, but there was always wine in the fridge for people and too, they often got together before or after for drinks. I did not participate and sometimes felt like the oddball. I continued going though, as i enjoyed the company of other artists in a small setting and was passionate about improving my skills.
So , a little research online states that the most common triggers are as follows:
increase monetary resources
I would have to say emotional distress ( depression/anxiety for me) and social situations ( peer pressure) would be my worst ones. I have to fight very very hard during these times, and haven’t always succeeded.
That being said, i am AF 116 days out of the last 120. And thats still something.
I am learning more and more about my triggers as i go and do my best to avoid them. It’s a tad rough to avoid depression though and i have found that when it hits me hard i really struggle. But in the end i usually make it through with exercise, fresh air, meditating and – i hate to say it- smoking. I still have not conquered that one.
I hope everyone is doing well. What are your triggers and how do you deal with them?