Education

Hello! I’M BACK! Part 2

My experience as case study: 

My kids, now teens, were born at home in 2002 and 2004; I had (still have?) a high pain threshold. Gradually, I became more fatigued after the second child. I was 34, with two young kids, naturally, I presumed a reasonable amount of exhaustion was to be expected. 

When feeling well, I’ve got a lot of physical energy, and some. Even during these fatigue years I was still able to get a lot done, despite chronic pain. This year I’ve read 48 books since January —primarily because I was listless. I like to do things and so if the least I could do was check off ‘book read’ from my TBR stack, then I was accomplishing something.

Example: in the past, on this blog I’ve shared a breakdown of A Day in the Life of movement/activity and meals from my early 40’s (under Food Log), so you can see I was getting it done.

Example: In my early 20’s, 1990’s Toronto, a buddy introduced me to the new In-Line-Skating craze. On a scorching summer day, swimming in oversized borrowed skates and two pair of wool winter socks (to make the skates fit), he and I would barrel down University Avenue (having started out at Lawrence and Bayview), weaving through and around moving objects, jumping this and that all the way down to the Lakeshore, eventually coming across places to practice our jumps. I’d follow behind with no particular grace or skill but sheer excitement for the thrill (completely risky in hindsight). One particular spot, had piles of rotting timber and the occasional rusted nail jutted out; we’d build up speed and fly overtop. Then we’d skate all the way back home—up hill all the way.

In those days, I was into Body Building and Fitness Competitions. I’d spend two to three hours a day at the gym. Take a 20 minute recovery nap mid-day, work with my Personal Training clients and teach Cycle Reebok “Spinning” classes and sometimes take clients for a run. Often commuting across the city on my mountain bike, eventually, securing slick tires to make the ride more functional, meanwhile studying and eventually becoming certified in Pilates and Yoga.

Having learned that I’d won a Ms. Fitness Canada pageant in ’94, a new friend at the time named me: “Super-Power-Babe-of-the-Universe”. HAHAHAHA! 

Essentially, the picture I’m painting is to illustrate that by my nature, I move. And when I wasn’t on the go, I was eating food or reading anatomy books. Side note: I believe in moving the body for health…the body as a machine which requires maintenance and proper fuel vs. to actually be a machine. Difference.

I’m sharing all this to emphasize that I consider myself in a unique position to talk about what being healthy and active is, and likewise, to detail the shocking, contrasting decline to the rock bottom of torpidity…and back again. 

How #KatCameBack And what all my health providers missed.

Reminiscing on what I used to do back then surprises me now, I almost can’t wrap my head around it. And yet it was so natural. Even to conceive the amount of activity I was capable of only four years ago is startling to my present self, since mustering up the energy or inspiration to go for a simple stroll a few times per week was a huge accomplishment these last few months. I’d pretty much stopped preparing any food for my family. If I did supply anything it would be mostly store bought (Ma & Pop shops in my community were my lifeline where I’d bring in my reusable containers for soups, salads etc.). Creativity gone. Motivation gone. Zest for living…gone 😦

I stopped preparing food for my family. If I had enough energy to do a grocery shop, I then would be completely zapped of energy or desire to prepare any meals upon returning home.

If I could muster up the energy to make something, I’d plead for my husband to tell me what I should make. Most days I ate very minimally. I was no longer exercising (the most I could do was stretch in bed in the morning, a requirement to get out of bed, usually way after 9am) and on a good day I’d go for a twenty minute walk in the woods, often overtaken with emotion and weepy throughout the day.

Basically, I stopped being able to make decisions for myself. Rote memory was what got me through daily activities. I had become mechanical 😦

I needed to bring my husband with me to my doctor appointments to speak on my behalf and to make sense of the conversation FOR me.

WTF!?! What happened to me?

Takeaway: This is NOT about being nostalgic about my ‘glory days’, but rather, to clarify that there was a time when I had the drive to commit to showing up. Remember, I coined the term: Self-Discipline Is Born From Being Consistent. As a result of this downward spiral and rebirth, I now understand that no matter how much a person wants to be healthy there is much more going on here than positive self-talk and ‘showing up’ to achieve self-discipline. There’s a whole group of people who are unable to show up, and I don’t believe that it’s necessarily ‘mental illness’ or laziness/ lack of self-discipline. Within three days of figuring out what was causing my decline my energy stores started to fill up. Like a plant, restricted from water, after receiving a deep watering we actually see the plant, before our eyes, straighten up expressing its life-force. That’s exactly how I felt. My body was vibrating. I even went for a bike ride for the first time in years, down a steep hill and rode back up, with no delayed muscle soreness the next day! Prior to this, vertigo-like feelings, declining vision and spacial awareness type of sensations kept me from playing…I just didn’t feel right or safe to make judgements. But now my mood has lifted and the brain fog is not as bad (it’s still taken me four days to write this tho).

Even last year from April to August 2017, I was a regular at a hot Yoga studio. My shoulder pain was at an all time high. I was hopeful that the heat of the yoga studio would allow me to move without pain or at least be able to move enough to correct whatever was going on, besides my Naturopath wanted me to sweat…but I’ll get to that later and explain why the heat may have been a contributing factor to my rapid decline.

Next up, I’ll share a list of all the symptoms and treatments I went through during these last thirteen years.

To be continued…

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HELLO! I’m BACK!

Not sure if you noticed my absence? I haven’t posted anything here since 2015.         Today is June 25, 2018. 

I’ve been unwell.

Despite doing all the “right” things, my decline has been gradual, not unlike the fable of the boiling frog. The only difference, is that I was able to hop out prior to boiling point.

The boiling frog is a fable which describes a frog being slowly boiled alive. If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, the frog will jump out. But if the frog is put into tepid water, which is gradually brought to a boil, it will not perceive any danger.

The result: being cooked to death.

Up until two weeks ago, I believed that the last thirteen years of early peri-menopausal onset was exclusively due to my gene expression. Having done the 23andme genetic test in 2016, it was confirmed that I have the gene which puts me through menopause ten years earlier than the average woman. Some will argue, that just because I have the gene doesn’t mean that it will be expressed. (I don’t know enough about genetics to debate this). Unfortunately, we will never know. Should we be open to speculation that something ELSE was going on which triggered these symptoms which over time gradually brought me to boiling point?

The first thing that came to mind when I read the report, was that it made sense: Mum had a very difficult and drawn out peri-menopause too, even though comparatively, my sisters seemed to have minimal and manageable symptoms at typical ages. And I was grateful for the ‘official’ explanation for my untimely symptoms, which began at age 34.

What has this got to do about you? Essentially, that’s why you’re reading this. We’re all looking for answers for our own well-being. You may find some details going forward that either resonate with your health or someone you know.

My vision has always been to die healthy, at a ripe OLD age! But I was barely holding on to life at 47 years of age. I know that sounds dramatic, I was not hospitalized, but I felt that my expiry date was rapidly approaching. This slow, gradual decline that I’d been trekking had suddenly accelerated in the last six months and avalanched as of April 2018. My life started crumbling under my feet, like loose gravel overtop a seemingly solid trail. Depression’s fists were strengthening their grasp on my shirt collar and pulling me down, and I went willingly — I was giving up.

I never knew what Darkness meant up until this year. Really, I didn’t truly understand what depression was — because I’d never experienced it. Like so many others who don’t understand, I couldn’t comprehend how a positive attitude or encouragement from well meaning supportive friends and family could not pull you up out from your depths. “Cheer up! Smile!”

So what happened that brought me back to life? How’d I escape boiling point?

What happened that made Darkness leave? I never said good-bye to Darkness, by the way– I didn’t work at convincing it to leave me alone. Darkness just vanished, POOF! and what I was left with is empirical understanding. 

I’m heartbroken that so many people are walking around with despair as an unwelcome shadow and living with chronic pain.

I’ll share my story with you. It’s long, but I’ll keep it short-ish. There’s thirteen years of decline to cover — although there’s no doubt the early years prior set the stage.

I’d rather be doing other things than write this out, so I’ll be brief, for your sake and mine…after all, I’ve got some lost years to restore 🙂 AND, I’m still not at one-hundred percent. However, I’m feeling pretty amazing in contrast to how I was feeling just two weeks ago. There are so many FIRSTS that I’d like to shout about. Like the fact that I am here typing away, so naturally, words are flowing. I went for a LONG walk yesterday, I wake up refreshed, my strength has returned without having done any type of workout to have ‘created’ strength, to name but a few of my firsts.

I’ll post a little something every day, or so, to describe what happened.

At the root of this story is the failure of the experts. Oops! I did it again! I listened to the experts instead of my own instincts. Surly they know better –> tongue firmly planted in cheek. Years ago, I wrote a cautionary post about not relinquishing too much to the experts.

Did I forget? NO. But this is what happens when brain fog kicks in. What you know and interpretation of information becomes clouded…hence the term.

I’m pissed about this. Thirteen years of physical pain and aging like I were 70+. So, yes, I’m pissed. But I was eloquently reminded, that it’s better to be pissed than pissed on…unless you’re into that.

Silver lining: There is no success without failure. 

BOTH, the natural and allopathic medical systems failed in preparing my various doctors, who in turn failed me. But this story wouldn’t reach you, had they not. I wouldn’t have learned some pretty significant information about depression and health, had they not.

And so maybe, this will reach you or someone you love, in time to help. Despite doing all the seemingly right things for a healthy life, there are too many people slipping into darkness, suffering pain, premature ageing and dying.  

To be continued…

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Genuine Transformation

Genuine Transformation
My cousin Justin Kalef is currently teaching Logic at Rutgers University. I had a chance to chat with him briefly at a family dinner over the 2012 winter holidays. It was around the same time that I was mulling over the contents for the article I was composing on belief. Justin was the perfect person to ask some of the questions that I was working on. He told me what he tells his students on their first day of class, because from his experience teaching, it is inevitable that at some point during the course, one or some students will come to him completely overwhelmed.

We were talking about belief and how our beliefs can affect our ability to make long lasting change in our lives. When he said the following phrase:

“…but it’s only difficult for who you are now.

For the person you will become, 

it won’t be difficult at all.”

How great is this sentence? I think we could all do well to repeat this to ourselves daily. I asked him if I could use it for my belief article, and then I thought better of it…let’s tell the entire speech. So here you are, sit back and soak up these wise words.

“One of the things I do at the start of all my courses

is tell my students to think of the course like thinking of a physical training program (weight lifting or running). Suppose, I say, your goal is to run a 10k run in four months, but you can’t even run down the block now. Or suppose that you want to be able to do a shoulder press with fifty-pound weights in four months, but right now you can only do it with five-pound weights and you can barely lift ten-pound weights.

50 pound weights

These things are possible to achieve in four months’ time. If you go through a training program and are able to reach your goals by the end, you’ll be able to look back down the mountain when it’s all over and say:

‘Wow, I started out that far down and look where I am now!’

Looking down the mountain.

Look How Far You’ve Come!

Ideally, you’ll be able to do that at several points: each month, you should be able to look back to where you were the previous month and be impressed with how far you’ve come. If you can’t do that — if at the end you’re exactly where you were at the start — then that’s a sign that it didn’t work.  If you haven’t progressed in a month, then something went wrong. You didn’t commit enough or your guide didn’t find a way to climb the mountain — maybe both.

So my promise (I tell them) is this: I have worked out a path that you will be able to follow with me to the top of the mountain. There are some things you’ll be able to do at the end that you just can’t do now: here they are (and I set them out plainly). The mountain is high, but my path will allow you to get there a little at a time. If you need to go slower at some points, there are other paths for those times. And if you’re committed to it, you’ll see each month that you’re far in advance of what you could do the month before. That’ll be proof of your progress, and I make the promise to you now that you can make it if you follow my plan.

However, there’s a flipside to that. Logically speaking, if there’s something you’ll be able to do a month from now that you can’t do today, that same something must be out of your range today. And the things you’ll be able to do at the very end are way out of your range today. That comes with the course being a worthwhile one for you, but some people can find it scary.

They say, ‘I can’t do that!’

And they’re completely right:

They can’t.

If they could already do it, there would be no point in their taking the course!

Think of it this way (I tell them): if you can only shoulder-press with five-pound dumbbells and can barely lift the ten-pound ones out of the rack, then of course you can’t shoulder-press the fifty-pound ones. You might resolve to do it anyway, but you’d fail. You just can’t do it. That’s why you’re training toward that goal.

Going in circles

So: if there’s something you want to be able to do and already can do, then any training program designed to get you there is a waste of time and will only take you in a circle. So any reasonable goal must be something you can’t do yet.

And that means that any reasonable goal you have must be something that’s impossible for you to do!

Still, the situation isn’t hopeless. There’s one — and only one — reasonable way to see your training: your training takes something that’s currently impossible for you to do and makes it possible by changing you from someone who can’t into someone who can. So today, you can say ‘I can’t do this — but I can transform myself into someone who can.’ And that’s the key to training: transforming yourself into someone with more powers than you have today.

This is literal transformation: mentally or physically, you’ll be a different person with different abilities. You’ll even have different desires and values: things you find frustrating now won’t be to your future self, and things you find tempting now will be less so.

Genuine self-transformation can be very difficult in the short term,

but it’s only difficult for who you are now.

For the person you will become,

it won’t be difficult at all.

Today, you say to yourself “Living by this routine is so difficult — when will I be able to do the things that I want?” But perhaps you’re only thinking of what the present version of you wants: not the future you. If your self-transformation is to be successful, the routine will not remain difficult. You’ll miss it if you don’t  follow it.

So instead of saying: “This is difficult for me,”

say: “This is difficult for me now,

but I’m transforming myself into a person for whom it isn’t difficult.”

Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving it up to your present desires to choose the values and habits of your future.”

-Justin Kalef