Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Tomorrow will be around two months and two weeks since I’ve eaten meat. I made it about two months vegan before deciding to ease into a more vegetarian diet, to give myself more flexibility. I ordered a veggie pizza with cheese from the grocery store and ate a few slices, then saved the rest for the next day. I felt no different that night, but the next day, no more than ten minutes after eating the leftover pizza, I had what my neurologist calls an “aura” seizure (feels like a long bout of lightheadedness followed by an hour or two of grumpiness, nausea, and a headache).

The cheese, I thought almost immediately. It had to be the cheese. After all, I hadn’t had a seizure in weeks. What also hadn’t I had in weeks?

It made sense. I have Catamenial epilepsy, which means I have seizures during hormonal changes–primarily when I ovulate, or have a period–and there are hormones in dairy products, even the kind made from cows which haven’t been injected with anything to help their production. Adding these hormones to my diet seems to affect my own hormonal balance.

It took a week or so before I worked up the nerve to try cheese again, just in case it might have been something else. But during a family emergency, I had no choice. I didn’t have a seizure–that I know of–but wound up with one of my “electrical headaches” (basically feels like someone is crumpling tinfoil in my head).

So I decided that was it, and have decided to give up dairy for good. Since then I haven’t had any issues.

Now I do still have the occasional egg, as some might have guessed from my recent recipe post: Tiny Vegetarian Quiches, and so far I haven’t had any issues from them. I make sure to buy the local Amish eggs, which are certified Humane, free range, hormone-free, etc., etc., which makes me feel better about eating eggs.

Now for the exhaustion

One of the reasons I decided to try switching to a vegetarian, or even a light meat clean-eating diet, was because of this sudden wave of fatigue which seems to be clouding up each and every day. Things have stopped getting done. I watch TV. I’m lazy. I hate it! I made a list of potential suspects:

  • Burnout (this stay-at-home momma might need a mini vacay)
  • Depression (not surprising, considering I’d weaned to a lower dose of Lexapro)
  • Cabin Fever (haven’t driven in 2.5 years! It does things to you!)
  • Nutrient Deficiency (though an extra B12 supplement gives me headaches)
  • Meds (Most likely, especially since I read Lexapro interacts with Klonopin and makes you more tired)
  • Allergies (Also likely)
  • Unknown

Once I had my list, I started to try a few remedies.

  • I called my doctor and talked to her about switching me from Lexapro to something else and she started me on Zoloft. So far, I’m getting more done, but the exhaustion hasn’t left me.
  • Maybe I was sleeping too much? Decided to stop the snooze button and just get out of bed. Didn’t seem to work.
  • Tried Yoga first thing in the morning. All it did was relax me, which made me more tired.
  • Instead of eating a breakfast on the run, or drinking my coffee in front of the TV, I sat at the table to write a morning blog with a bowl of oatmeal and my coffee. That seemed to work. It turned a few gears and got me moving. From there I began working on a list of things I needed to get done around the house, and even got some gardening done. It was refreshing!
  • I’ve started to have less “lazy” meals. For instance, instead of throwing a vegan TV dinner into the microwave, I’ll make a yummy chickpea salad sandwich with a ton of veggies and nutritional yeast for an added vitamin boost.
  • DRINKING MORE WATER. Apparently it doesn’t take much to get dehydrated and feel fatigued. Whenever I start to feel a little run down, I go drink a big glass of cold water and it seems to perk me up.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from having epilepsy, it’s that our bodies are a work in progress. We are always learning what works and what doesn’t. Although I’ve gained a deeper understanding about what makes my brain go haywire, I’ve run into a road block of exhaustion. Is it the meds? The pollen? Or is it something I’m not getting enough of, like water or B12?

Fingers crossed I find out soon!

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

When I was twenty-four, I sat across from my husband on Navy Pier and fed bread crumbs to the sparrows hopping between our feet. The morning fog still hadn’t lifted, and I admired the sailboats, mere black triangles on the horizon. We had been going to Chicago every year on Labor Day weekend and every year I fell in love with it even more.

Let’s move here.

I couldn’t believe what I’d just said, but at the time it totally made sense. I was a pretty impulsive person. I liked doing spur of the moment things, which was how we’d wound up in Chicago the first time. So I was dead serious. I wanted to move to Chi-Town, get a studio apartment, even transfer to UIC. I had it all planned out.

We could have breakfast on the pier every weekend. We could bike all over town. I wouldn’t have any transportation issues due to my epilepsy because there were plenty of cabs and buses and trains. And I could totally work at some quaint little bookstore and work on my novels at night to the lit buildings.

It sounded amazing.

We acted on it, emailed college advisors, and I began tossing everything in our condo. Everything we didn’t use within the last thirty days was either getting donated or thrown out. Because studio apartments are small and there was no room for our end tables stuffed to the brim with old receipts and textbooks from my first semester of college. We planned on getting rid of all of our furniture and buying a futon and a small table. We gave away a flatscreen we weren’t using. We threw out our big Christmas tree and opted for one of those cute little three-footers.

This was my first taste of the minimalist life.

We didn’t wind up moving to Chicago. Once I began to de-clutter, I began to feel less and less like running away. Instead I fell in love with our condo all over again and gazed longingly into the empty room across the hall from ours. Something was missing. Someone was missing. We decided not to move to Chi-town and had a baby instead.

Fast-forward five years and my house is cluttered with toys and rock collections and cicada shells and dog fur and empty film canisters and movies we don’t watch and art projects gone wrong. Each day is spent cleaning and straightening for the next day. I clean and clean and do laundry and clean and it always seems like something has to be done.

It’s time. Time again to make those “toss” and “donate” piles and find myself at home in my own home again. It took several years to get to this point, so it might actually take a year or two to get to a point where I can sigh with relief.

So why would I want to embark on such a long and tedious journey? Why can’t I just buy a storage shed and dump it all in there? Outta sight, outta mind, right? Right….like that would solve the problem.

I actually wrote ten reasons today why I want to go minimalist, but these are the top five:

1. Less Laundry!

I hate laundry. With every fiber of my being I hate laundry. Sure, having less clothes will mean doing laundry more often, but I’d rather do it more often than fold a mountainous pile of clothes at the end of every streak of procrastination.

2. Cooking will be simpler

My tired brain might deny it sometimes, but I actually love to cook. It’s soothing to chop veggies in front of the window as I listen to Lia Ices and Agnes Obel on Pandora. I love smelling the seasonings and putting new meals together.

But right now my kitchen is stuffed with pots and pans I no longer use–we went green when we got our canary, Apple–and coffee mugs we haven’t touched in years and appliances we may have used only once or twice. I can’t count how many times I’ve been hit with an avalanche every time I was trying to find the strainer.

A minimalist kitchen would mean knowing where absolutely everything is, and having only what I really need.

3. I will appreciate my items more

Why don’t I use those white mugs in the cabinet? Because I like my mug with the pretty birds, and the other mug that looks like a beehive. They are like small artifacts that add flair to my day. Same goes for my cameras and my art easel, which is hiding somewhere in the art closet. Once I’ve de-cluttered, only what I love will remain. Which means everything I own will matter to me in some way, and will actually add something to my day. Even if it’s just a smile.

De-cluttering will also mean Goo will appreciate her toys more: a valuable lesson I think is super important for her to learn.

4. Clean-up will be super easy for Goo

I will knock on wood repeatedly after I write this: Goo is actually very good at cleaning up when told. But right now she has so many toys that one afternoon in her room results in some kind of post-apocalyptic explosion all over her floor. It takes her forever to get everything back to where it belongs.

Less toys will mean more organization, and less time to clean up. It will also mean less clutter all over the floor during the daytime hours.

5. More time for creating!

Clutter drains my creativity. It makes me tired just to look at it. Less junk would mean less time cleaning and more time to do the things I like doing. It might even clear out the room in the basement, currently our “storage area,” and give us a room dedicated solely to our hobbies. I would love to be able to one day sit at my table with my watercolor easel with a fresh breeze blowing in through the window, or develop film in a spider-free and roomy room. Perhaps I could even start to do my own printing. After all, having less means having more money, space, and time for things like film enlargers.

While I’m going through this process–and begging my husband and kid to go through their things–I know it will be important to remember that minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, it’s a way of life. So I will also have to pay close attention to how I see material objects, and work on not adding more to the mix as I try to remove. I will work on trying to find the positive in moments and with my family as opposed to things. After all it’s memories, not objects, that we hold dear to our heart when we’re lying on our death beds.

Though I might want to be buried with my Rolleiflex.

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

Going plant-based in the summer is tougher than I thought it would be!

Yesterday made one month vegan wooot!

It was also the first time I knowingly hopped off the plant-based wagon.

You see, the past week has been the most difficult for me. I’m not sure why, but I started to crave things like pepperoni pizza, cookie dough ice cream, cheese. My mouth watered when I made Goo a turkey hot dog for lunch one day. What was wrong with me? I’d never been a *huge* fan of meat, so I figured going vegan was going to be as simple as cutting out the things I didn’t care for. So why was I craving it? Ravenous for things like pepperoni when I barely gave it a second glance when it was “allowed?”

Was that it? Was it because I was telling myself “no”?

It got worse. I started to make mental lists of all the foods I would never eat again: ice cream on a cone at the fair, root beer floats, baked potato soup, marshmallows roasted over dying charcoals.

It doesn’t help that it’s summer, that fairs are in full-bloom, that a BBQ happens once a week, that every amusement park I go to–even just the pool–has nothing but cheese and fried meats on their snack menu.

But I also thought back to when I was pregnant. I was told that when you crave something, it’s your body telling you that you need something. That you’re deficient.

I thought about all of the foods I wanted, and I began to see a pattern. They were loaded with fat, grease, calories.

While craving these things, I had also begun to notice a constant “woozy” feeling. Plant-based food had begun to nauseate me. All food had begun to nauseate me. Which made me eat even fewer calories. It was a vicious cycle.

That had to be it. I simply needed more fat in my diet.

I listened to my body. I ate gobs of peanut butter on crackers and added oil and butter to foods to get more fat. But it just didn’t seem like enough. Was this diet really better for me? After all, the evidence on both sides of the argument is contradicting. Is there anyone I can trust to tell me the truth?

Yesterday, I wrote in my journal:

It’s a tough diet, full of foods I don’t know how to cook, and it takes a lot of work to make sure you’re getting enough of everything…I could just go vegetarian, but the whole reason I gave up milk and cheese was because I don’t agree with the practices to obtain those things. My morality, can I handle it? Can I push aside that feeling and go back to using eggs and cheese, even when I know I’m harming others to do so?

After a short talk with my husband, and a discussion on Twitter, and after reading this blog article, I began to see that vegan is only a title. A label. A word. Removing the title would free me to listen to my body, to say “I could, but I don’t want to.”

And then I did it. I pouted and said “I want baked potato soup.” So that’s what I had. Baked potato soup with a bit of cheese, and a salad, also with cheese, and ranch dressing.

I thought I would feel better afterward physically. I thought I would be able to handle it mentally. After all, I was taking care of me and that’s what’s really important, right?

But I didn’t feel like I was taking care of me. In fact, after I ate it, I just felt gross. The food wasn’t as great as I remember it tasting. Certainly not as fresh as the foods we’ve been eating. There was nothing “rewarding” about it.

And because of it, I doubled my sodium intake for the day. I just felt bleh.

I went vegetarian for a meal, and I hated it.

While I am annoyed at myself for letting the weakness get to me, I am glad I did it. I know now that plant-based is exactly where I want to be right now. I don’t really want cheese or pepperoni, I just want the freedom of knowing I could if I wanted to, but that I don’t want it. I also need to get a little more salt and fat content into my diet. Time to buy some trail mix and chow down!

And seriously, Lina, they do make vegan marshmallows. I could totally roast some on our if-it-ever-happens camping trip.

So I made it one month vegan and gave myself the ultimate test. I won’t beat myself up over it. All I can do is accept what I’ve learned and move on.

And I’ve got to remember my initial goal. It wasn’t to be a “perfect” vegan, but to be a better me than I was yesterday.

A Trip to the ER

A Trip to the ER

Yesterday morning, at around 10:30am, I had an aura seizure. The best way I can explain what these feel like, for me, is kind of like a tunnel vision-y thing that only lasts a second. Though I’ve had weirder auras, like strong deja vu and moments when the world is bright and colorful and I’m momentarily euphoric.

Anyway, these things are only about a second long and most of the time I just move on with my life. I figured I was staring at my phone too long, or that I was hungry or something.

About five minutes later I had another one.

Then the dizziness started, and I was lightheaded throughout much of my morning/afternoon. I decided to turn on the TV for Goo and take a short nap. I woke an hour later not feeling much better. In fact, I wound up on my bedroom floor because I was certain I was going to faint.

Was this a postictal state? Possible. Did it have something to do with cutting my Lexapro in half? Maybe.

Oh no…Did it have something to do with this new vegan diet? Had I messed up somewhere? Read more

Making Sure I Get Enough B12

Making Sure I Get Enough B12

I hit three weeks vegan on Monday! Wooo! Unfortunately, last week I didn’t feel as amazing as one expects when switching over to a plant-based diet. In fact, I felt pretty bleh most of the time.

Reason number one was my Lexapro. Even just going from 20mg to 10mg made me feel awful, with the brain *shocks* and the headaches and the nausea.

Reason number two was B12, which is a vitamin not many think about when worrying over my lack of meat intake. Most talk about the protein. How you getting protein? Protein protein protein. But there are more important vitamins. Like B12.

So…what happened?

I lost my appetite. Entirely. I was no longer excited to eat fruits and veggies and quinoa. Nothing looked good. In fact, the whole idea of food kind of grossed me out. Read more

Why Go Vegan?

Why Go Vegan?

I think last year if someone told me I would be going Vegan in July 2017, I’d be pretty startled. I mean, I haven’t always been a carnivore, and my anxiety disallows me to ever really enjoy meat, but I do like my hard-boiled eggs, my cheese, and my yogurt.

I would have wondered if future Lina was doing the right thing. Was she being healthy? How was she not starving? Was she eating weird stuff like tofu and tempeh and seaweed? Read more