Going Paleo

I had an appointment with my fibromyalgia specialist last week. She really wants me to restrict my diet, to see if certain foods make my fibromyalgia symptoms worse. The easiest way to do this is to go on the “Paleo” diet, which is super trendy these days. Paleo means gluten free, mostly dairy free, low carb and low sugar. Typically, the goal is to cut out grains altogether, since they weren’t eaten in the paleolithic era. My diet is a bit different: Gluten free, dairy free (even ghee and goat’s milk), processed sugar free, lower my carbs, and try to lower my natural sugar intake. The thinking is that I have a sensitivity to some food or another, and that it causes joint pain and brain fog. Which both cause exhaustion and poor sleep. At the same time as the paleo diet, I’m also on a candida diet. Candida is a yeast in our bodies that can sometimes go nuts and multiply much more than it should, and can cause pain and brain fog. The candida diet is similar to paleo, with more of an emphasis on sugar free, both artificial and natural. Candida feeds off sugar (and sugar from carbs), so starving it helps kill it.

This diet is supposed to be for 6-8 weeks, if I’m hardcore at it. If I cheat on the gluten and dairy, it’ll add time to the end. She wants to get the effects of the dairy and gluten out of my system for a minimum of 6 weeks before I can start experimenting with adding it back in. I will do my best.

I can’t give up sugar. Or carbs. I’m finding that the hardest thing. I’ve cut processed sugar, that’s really not that hard, I don’t eat much processed food to begin with. But carbs? Like potatoes and rice? And sweet things in general, like raisins or carrots? Good lord, that’s hard. I am doing my best, but it just won’t be 100%. I just don’t know what to eat! I feel like I ate a ton of food yesterday, much more than I would on a non-diet, but I was still frustratingly hungry most of the day. So it’s a work in progress.

I went to the store today specifically for paleo approved foods. My cheats were for fake dairy products, which I know are full of soy (soy is NOT paleo, but at the same time, it’s not gluten or dairy, so…). I’ve been eating a lot more eggs, and eggs without cheese or sour cream or SOMETHING are just sad. So I bought fake cheese and fake sour cream. I haven’t tried them yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re downright terrible. I also caved and bought a loaf of gluten free bread. I don’t plan on eating as much of it, but it’s there if I need an instant fix–like a bacon and avocado sandwich. I’m also going to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread made with teff flour. It’s fermented, and makes a soft, spongy flatbread, like a thicker, bouncier crepe. That might be an awesome bread substitute, I could make sandwiches with it.

I am generally the sort of person who just doesn’t do diets. Food is a joy. Cooking is a happy time. Cooking with limits and restrictions is extremely frustrating. Not being able to walk into the kitchen and grab an instant snack is annoying. I’m trying to adjust though. And I’m struggling with how low carb to go. On one hand, I don’t need to cut carbs completely–my doctor mentioned that, but to really kick the candida, the lower the carbs the better. Can you tell, I don’t really know what I’m doing here?

However, I basically have free reign to eat as much bacon as I want. I was hungry yesterday afternoon, so I cooked up a pack of bacon, had a bunch in some salad, then munched on it all afternoon. I certainly liked that! I bought some smoked fish today that I’m excited to snack on, and toss into salads and eggs. I promised Dave I’d make some deviled eggs. He can down deviled eggs like Paul Newman with hard boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke.

Coffee is one of the worst challenges, but I think I’m even starting to solve that. I love coffee. It’s ritual more than food. I like my coffee freshly ground, made in a very specific fancy coffee maker, poured into a handmade coffee mug, with half and half. Quite a bit of half and half. Which I now can’t have. I have settled, for now at least, on hemp milk. The idea of hemp milk is a bit disturbing, but it doesn’t taste terrible. It’s certainly not coffee that I’m used to drinking, but hemp milk and a bit of honey tastes like a new coffee flavored beverage that I think I can get used to. Friends have suggested all sorts of cream alternatives, every variety of fake milk, and some people swear by adding coconut oil and butter to their coffee. I just can’t. It just seems too weird!

I’m getting there though. My head does feel clearer, like someone swept out all of the cobwebs. I feel like I’ve got a bit more energy as well. I do think I have an issue with dairy. I think that, in addition to being lactose intolerant, there’s something else in cow’s milk that upsets my gut. I don’t know about gluten. I was gluten free for a long time about 8 years ago, and I don’t think I really noticed a huge change. However, I didn’t have fibromyalgia at that point, so it could be gluten. If, in the end, I have to go dairy free, I am still going to experiment with the fattiest of dairy products: butter and heavy cream. If I can keep that in my diet, I’ll be ok. I know that my favorite ice cream doesn’t hurt my stomach. So maybe there’s hope? Going gluten free wouldn’t be super terrible, I’d mostly¬† be sad about store bought pastries, and eating my sister’s incredible breads and treats.

But I just can’t go low carb forever. No way, no how. Rice is a huge staple of our diet–Dave’s half Japanese after all. And I love potatoes. Mashed, roasted, anything. And pasta!! sheesh. How can anyone give up carbs!??

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A Saturday with Fibromyalgia

Dave (my fiance) woke me up around 10. I was grateful to be woken up, as I was in the middle of a bizarre nightmare. Since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve discovered that my body really does need at least 10 hours of sleep. It’s absurd, really. It’s not anything I chose, but on days when I sleep less, I feel like I’m swimming through a thick fog all day. It was a surprising realization that lack of sleep was seriously affecting my quality of life.

We hung out in our pjs for several hours, watching old Simpsons episodes and knitting. Eventually, around 3, I decided to go out driving for Uber/Lyft. I didn’t expect to be especially busy, but I figured I’d get some rides at least.

In about 2 hours, I got 5 rides. That’s not that great. Before Christmas, when there were visitors in town and people going to the airport, I would be incredibly busy. Regardless, it was nice to get out and earn some money.

I drove a young guy who had recently moved here from Mississippi, from a hipster laundromat (I guess that’s a thing) back to his apartment. He had the thickest southern accent I’ve ever heard. Very deep voice, too. I kept him talking to hear it.

I had several couples visiting Portland for the first time. I drove all the way up to Pittock Mansion to pick up a couple who wanted to go to the Portland Saturday Market. I didn’t know that their specific destination was the market, I only knew that they wanted to go down to Waterfront Park. We got down there, and they were suddenly very disappointed. The Saturday Market only runs through Christmas Eve. I parked for a minute, then drove them to a brewery instead.

A typical, uninteresting few hours of driving. On my way out of downtown, I had decided that I’d drive up SE Hawthorne Street, which is a fun shopping/eating neighborhood, before heading home. However, just as I was about to cross the Willamette River at the Broadway Bridge, the drawbridge went up. I sat there for about 20 minutes as a huge freighter was tugged under the bridge.

I gave up on the idea of driving anyone else. I stopped at the market, then came home. I tidied up the kitchen and started dinner. While the meat was marinating (you’ve got to use this marinade on flank steaks or flatirons, it’s the best), I walked back into the living room and basically collapsed. I was done. My shoulders felt heavy. My feet hurt, my hips ached. I feel like I had slammed into a brick wall. The fatigue slapped me upside the head.

And that’s the thing. I really didn’t do anything. It was a mellow day, plenty of sleep, I ate well, a bit of chill driving, and dinner. And I was so utterly exhausted, the right words wouldn’t come out of my mouth when I tried to speak.

I feel like my body betrays me. As if my body doesn’t actually belong to me. It’s its own entity, with a mind and gas tank all it’s own. And man, it runs out of gas so quickly! It’s the most frustrating thing about having fibromyalgia. I can’t rely on my body. I can’t go to a museum or to wander around town, and assume that I’ll be ok walking around for a few hours. I have to take a cane, and expect to stop and rest, or to give up altogether. And if it’s not the fatigue that gets me, it’s the pain. My flat feet can’t keep me up, my hips try to dislocate, my back aches. Even if I have the energy to do something active, my body gives up, and exhausts me into pain.

I’m not writing all of this to complain. It’s simply that I often get questions from people about what fibromyalgia is, what it does to me, how I react. It’s shit. That’s really what it is. It saps my energy, my attention, my ability to function. I spend way more time in my little corner of the couch than just about anywhere else, other than my bed.

I’m done. Yesterday, in a fit of energy, I made a double batch of cookie dough (light chocolate chips and raisins for Dave, tons of chocolate chips for me). I’ll get Dave to cook up a handful of cookies in a bit and call it a night.

Finally, I’m Blogging Again

I haven’t had a blog since 2013, when I stopped working on the Wheatland Ferry. If you’ve never seen that blog, feel free to check it out.¬†For two and a half years, I operated a ferry that crossed the Willamette River. I had lost my job as a land use planner due to the recession, and managed to hang onto my benefits and longevity at the County by running a ferry. It was quite an adventure, both wonderful and terrible, often in the same day. I’m glad I’m done with that part of my life though.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early 2014. Fibromyalgia is a neurological disorder that causes widespread muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue, and a confusion that’s often called “brain fog.” This condition has seriously affected my last three planning jobs.

I lost my most recent job the week of Thanksgiving, 2016. I loved that job. I was working as a planner for a local County, working mostly rural planning, with a good helping of code compliance, which is the enforcement of land use and zoning regulations. It was a really great job, however the fatigue and brain fog meant that I just wasn’t working to their expectations. I couldn’t meet deadlines, I would come to work and just stare at the computer screen, unable to get my brain to engage in my work.

Since I lost my job, the big question is, What’s Next? I don’t think I’m going to look for a full-time job. I think it’s just too stressful for my body. I have started driving for Uber and Lyft, which is quite fun. I’ve met some hilarious people, which I know I’ll be writing about. I picked up passengers in the middle of a snowstorm, I drove on New Year’s Eve, I’ve driven strippers home while they count all of their one dollar bills. It is a job that is ripe with storytelling opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been looking into freelance land use planning and freelance writing/editing jobs. I feel like I’m a decent writer, I try to write as if I’m talking to someone right in front of me. At the same time, as a government employee, I have taught myself to write in the dry monotonous government-speak, the stuff required for planning documents. Things such as, “The applicant states the building will be located more than ten feet from the north (side) property line. This criterion has been met.” I swear I’ve written almost that exact sentence at least 20 times in my career.

Knowing me, you’ll also read me when I gossip on about my knitting escapades. I’m a voracious knitter. I knit like I read–swallowing whole books at a time, skeins of yarn turning into sweaters, socks and shawls in a heartbeat. Right now, I’m working on bright purple socks for my fiance, Dave, and a new sweater for me. I try to knit at least one sweater per winter, and it’s already February, so I better hurry up!

So welcome to my new blog! My chronic illness, knitting, job hunting, uber-driving blog.