Archive for the ‘health’ Category

(writing/health) Depression, and the continuing struggle

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I was going through my pictures the other day, and realized just how dark this one is. This is my street, during a snowstorm a few years ago. And it got me to thinking about how dark days, dark winters, really, really affect me. And my writing.

 

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that a lot of my Horseman books happen in the dark cold of a New Hampshire winter, or in the Shadow Lands. It’s a dark series, and for me, cold and dark have always gone hand in hand. I vaguely remember enjoying winter once, but now, it seems as soon as the days start getting shorter and it starts getting colder out, I start to shut down. I don’t want to do anything other than sleep. I hate being cold. I hate having to wear coats and gloves and YakTraks. I just don’t like winter.

 

But this winter seemed especially hard, even though it wasn’t that cold and snowy. My depression whispered to me during these long nights, taunting me, reminding me that I wasn’t writing when everyone around me was, I wasn’t doing much of anything, I was gaining weight and losing time, and didn’t I just feel awful about it? Never mind that pretty much NONE of that (except the feeling awful part) was true. Depression is like that – it’s a snake that whispers where no one else can hear, and it tells lies that sound like the truth, and it’s so hard not to believe it.

 

I can only imagine what winter was like before electric lights, before heated buildings, before cars to get to work. I luckily don’t lose power that often, so I don’t get to experience that. Even camping now seems less…rustic, and I know it’s because I chose to make it that way. And yet, winter isn’t just a dead time.

 

It’s a sleeping time. The earth doesn’t die – it sleeps, snug in a winter blanket, dreaming of the longer days and warmer sun that’s coming. Everything needs down time, and perhaps I’ve been looking at winter the wrong way. Perhaps, even though my depression is telling me lies, those lies are rooted in a truth that I’ve been ignoring: that even though technology insists we can go 24-7, all day, every day, that life doesn’t do well at full-throttle. That everything needs a break, a winter’s nap, and that I should see this time as hibernation, my body and my soul recovering from the stresses of life. I’m not hiding away from everyone – I’m recharging, waiting for the cold to roll back, and the soil to warm, so I can spread my leaves out to the sun again.

 

I’m not denying that I have depression. I will always have depression – there is no cure, at least not yet. But I can learn from it, use it, respect it and what it is trying to tell me. And realize that under the lies is a kernel of truth, and nurturing that truth is what I need to do.

(health) Making better choices

Waterfall.jpg

I love this picture. I love the feel of the greenery, of the moving water, of the sheer potential it represents. To me, running water and the outdoors is happiness.

 

I haven’t been able to do much in the outdoors over the past couple of years, due to a lot of weight gain, injuries (in large part due to that weight gain) and illness. For someone who grew up outside (and yes, I loved the outside when I was younger, although I admit I usually was curled up someplace in it reading), this has been a hard couple of years, and I’m almost positive that being inside and not able to hike and swim and walk the way I want to has contributed to my depression.

 

In August 2015, I finally admitted I needed real help. Not just nutritionally, but a coach who would administer the tough love and unconditional support I needed to get my life healthy again. I was lucky enough to find that in my friend Shannon, who is a coach for Herbalife. If you’ve ever met me, you know I LOVE food. Like, seriously, LOVE food. The taste, the smell, the mouthfeel – yeah, I’m a bonafide foodie, and for years, I was resistant to having anything to do with meal replacement shakes. Of course, it didn’t help that the ones on the commercial market like Ensure and Boost are full of chemicals and SMELL like chemicals as soon as you open the bottle. So I was skeptical.

 

Trust me, I’m not trying to sell anyone anything. For one thing, I know that my path isn’t everyone’s. We’re all different. But let me tell you, without Shannon, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am. I’m walking again. I’m down nearly 30 lbs since August. And the shakes – well, to be perfectly honest, they’re amazing. I love them. (And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that I can have cookies and cream cheesecake for breakfast. Okay, well, maybe a little.) And the best part? It doesn’t smell chemically. When I open my vanilla protein powder, it smells like vanilla. My hubby and roomie loved the waffles I made with them (reminder to self, make more waffles.).

 

For another thing? It’s not cheap. Now, granted, in the long run, it’s cheaper than eating fast food all the time, and it’s cheaper than medical bills. But it does require some outlay of cash.

 

But for me, it’s been worth it. If you are interested in talking to my coach, you can hit Shannon up – her husband Tom is a coach as well, if you want a guy instead. I can personally vouch for both of them – they’re amazing, and I’m lucky to have them in my life. Because of them, I’m looking forward to hiking this summer, and maybe, just maybe, getting my bike out again.

 

 

(writing/personal) All the things

positive thinking

Life has been complicated lately. Some things have ended, others have started, and I’m not quite sure how I’m handling all of it. I’m not going to discuss that, or what’s really going on yet. I’m going to talk about writing.

 

I know, shocking. But I’ve not really been writing lately, and I’ve realized that how I deal with the stresses life gives me goes down in quality when I don’t write. The problem is giving myself permission to take some time for me, and write. I need to get myself into that headspace, and even if it’s only 250 words, or a blog post, or a character sketch for the new book I want to write, I need to do it. So hopefully, you’ll be seeing more here.

 

I’m still working on the rewrite of Winter Secrets, which should hopefully be done soon. Today, I’m editing for a friend, who has a new book coming out in May that I think you guys will like (think CSI meets Fern Gully). And I’ll have some new stuff coming along – I’m playing with redesigning the website, and adding some more links. Considering a Patreon site as well. Maybe some guest blogs? And some tea stuff, because, well, tea.

 

And writing. Always writing. Because first and foremost, I am a writer.

(personal/writing) Writing in the wind

writer

I’m currently sitting in a comfy chair in an infusion room at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester, with an IV in my arm, waiting for my next Remicade infusion. It’s raining outside, and as I’m on the 6th floor, I have a lovely view of the parking lot, and the rain. (Hey, at least it’s not snow. I don’t have to shovel rain.) Days like this, when I’m due for my medication and it’s grey, and I’ve had a very busy weekend, I’m usually NOT wanting to do anything. I want to just curl up in my chair and let the Benadryl take me away into dreams, but I’m still working on deadline, so no sleeping today.

I’ve also been re-reading The Artist’s Way – I am feeling…not blocked, precisely, but more unsatisfied. Like I know there is more I could be doing, but I’m stuck in the “don’t wanna” phase. I want to have this book done. I want to have the next book done. I just don’t want to write it.

At the same time, I don’t want to not write. I love writing. I love it when the words flow, and I love it when they don’t, and every page is a struggle, but it’s there and it’s blood and you can see it. It’s a tension within me, and the more days I go without writing, the more I hurt. And it’s a mental hurt, that slowly twists within me to a physical hurt. And I didn’t realize WHY, until I looked at The Artist’s Way and realized I haven’t been doing morning pages or artist dates or really anything other than slogging through life and work and BLEAH, as Snoopy would say. Not the way I want to live my life.

Part of this was what happened this weekend. Birka was this weekend, and it was a mixture of sad and happy things. The sad was going by the empty chair outside the merchant hall that someone had written “Uncle Olaf’s Chair” on, since Baron Olaf, who started the event and was almost always there, passed away suddenly in December. The happy was two-fold – I was feeling well enough that I didn’t need to “recover” so much from running around for two days straight, and I was inducted into the Order of the Silver Crescent, a service order in the Kingdom. My whole family showed up! It was awesome! And best of all, my mom passed along her medallion to me. I will cherish it.

But it showed me that life is fleeting, and that you can’t make excuses, or one day, there won’t be any more time. So morning pages are going to start again. I’m going to plan an artist’s date for myself, even if it’s something as simple as going to the library and browsing the books, or going to Gibson’s and coloring in one of my new coloring books by myself for an hour. It’s time to start refilling the well.

I start editing a new piece for a friend this week too, which I am SUPER excited about. And I’m putting together a website for another favorite project that I’ll be able to link to soon, I hope. I need to finish the Winter’s Secrets rewrite, and then it’s on to working on launching a Patreon project. I have plans, and I don’t intend to not work on them.

(personal) Tea, and the quitting of soda

tea

I love tea. It’s no secret that I love tea, and that I am a wee bit of a tea snob (yes, Molly totally gets it from me, except that I can’t afford to buy my personal blends all the time, so I do occasionally buy tea from the grocery store. But even then, it’s still the speciality teas. I just don’t like plain black tea anymore.) – but I used to have another habit as well. I used to live on soda.

 

It started in college, when I was on my own (yay!) and could make my own decisions about what to put in my body. It turns out I was woefully unprepared for such authority, which led to me living on caffeine, sugar, and about 4 hours of sleep a night. It was not a pretty sight.

 

In December this past year, I decided I was quitting soda again. Cold turkey. I’ve tried and failed to do this before – I’ve always cheated and then given up because “well, I’m just addicted and that’s it.” But this time, for whatever reason, it stuck.

 

I haven’t had a soda (barring mixed drinks) since December 3, really. I do not count ginger ale as soda, because I only drink it when I’m really not feeling well. But for those who used to know how to find me by following the trail of Pepsi cans, this is a huge thing. I’ve replaced the soda with iced tea and hot tea, and even occasionally with water. I still like bubbles, but I can get those with seltzer.

 

It hasn’t been easy. I still crave them, but I remind myself that tea is better (I drink mine unsweetened, so the savings in calories alone has been huge), and that soda bothers my stomach. That soda has a ton of processed garbage in it. That I have better things to drink.

 

That said, you will pry my rum and Coke with lime out of my cold, dead fingers. So if you see me with a soda, rest assured, there’s probably booze in it.

(personal/writing/advent) New Year brings new opportunities

Happy-new-Year-cool-Clipart-pictures-free-Download2

 

It’s the beginning of a new year, and one I’m hoping is better than last year. No, one I will MAKE better than next year.

 

I’m recommitting to several things – my goal to get healthy; my writing; and myself. Yes, I’m going to be enforcing my time to get better. I can’t take care of others at the expense of myself. I need to remember that.

 

Work is going to be VERY busy in the next month – my day job is in the financial sector, and it’s the tax season. Which means I need to be healthy, so I can work the hours I need to. In addition, I’m getting ready to publish Winter Secrets, which means I’ll be writing a lot, because well, I need to finish the rewrite by January 31. I’m also going to be doing at least weekly updates here (more if I can, but I’m only committing to weekly) so that I can keep all you lovely folks in the loop!

 

I’m not doing resolutions this year, but I have made out my business plan for the year, and I have three books to write:

  • The rewrite of Winter Secrets, which will be published in May
  • The first draft of Deep Waters, the first Pendragon novel
  • The first draft of Resonant Frequencies

I’ll have more on that later. I’m also going to be at ConCarolinas and Balticon in the early summer, and some others maybe later in the year.

(weekly update) It’s Sunday again – a day of rest, right? No.

Well, in a way it is. I’m in my favorite sweat pants and my DKP teeshirt, and I have no intention of changing. I’m going to move at a pace that still gets things done, but doesn’t wear me out. I’m getting my next Remicade treatment on Wednesday, and I’m still nurturing a cold (which needs to get the fuck out, because they won’t give me my meds if I have a cold), so it’s going to be a slow, steady mosey all day. And I can do a lot of it sitting down.

 

In writing news, I have the edits back from the lovely Sue Baiman for Winter’s Secret, so I can get working on those this week. Yay, this book is getting closer to being real! I also need to get cracking on the last of my beta read for Ripley Patton and get those back to her (omg, you guys, this book is SOOOOO good and she is amazing and you should go buy Ghost Hand now so you can start catching up). And of course, NaNoWriMo is coming, and I need to get moving on the outline for Advent #5.

 

In non-writing news, I’m holding on to an 18-lb weight loss in two months, and looking forward to doing more. I’ve gotten rid of my YMCA membership and started a membership at my work’s gym. No excuses! Also, Herbalife is awesome.

 

Well, the laundry isn’t going to fold itself, sadly. Time to get moving!

(health) Personal updates

Usually, fall is the time I start going into hibernation mode. By this, I mean that I start craving tons of carbs, bundling up in every blanket I can find, parking myself on my couch and refusing to move until spring. Yes, I’m probably more than part bear. Or cat.

 

Not this year. In August, I met up with one of my friends, who is an Herbalife coach, and it changed my entire outlook. I’m not normally a shake person. I don’t like the idea of not eating real food, and the chemical smells of most commercial shakes make me nauseous. But I agreed to try a 3-day trial, figuring at the worst, I’d make my way through it and then be done.

 

It was amazing. World-changing. When I got on Shannon’s scale that day in August, I was shocked to see the scale read 321 lbs. Yeah, that’s not a typo. I’d known it was bad, so I’d been avoiding my scale, but not that bad. No wonder my hips and knees were killing me, and I could barely walk 2000 steps a day. I knew I had to do something.

 

Before trying the shakes, I’d reached out to my gastroenterologist, to make sure this wasn’t going to be bad for my Crohn’s disease. To my surprise, he told me that Herbalife was actually one of the companies they suggested when folks were going through a flare, or had to give up solid food for a while (yeah, that happens. It sucks). So with his blessing, I started the trial.

 

I’ve been on Herbalife now for almost 2 months. I stepped on my scale this morning, and it said 303 lbs. My hips and knees don’t hurt much. I’m up to an average of 3500 steps a day, and steadily working my way towards 5000 (my first goal) every day. I don’t just use the elevator at work anymore – I take the stairs, about half the time. I’m starting to park farther away, because I can.

 

Best of all, when I’m having a flare, I know I can make myself a shake with protein and complex carbs that WON’T aggravate my symptoms, instead of filling up on white rice or applesauce.  I’m definitely a work in process, but it’s finally going the right way.

Trials and Tribulations, or why can’t Val update a blog on a regular basis?

Of course, this could be titled “Why can’t Val do anything on a regular basis?” I seem to have issues with regularity, and I wonder why.

 

It could be that somewhere in my dim, distant past, something linked “a regular routine” with “boring” and I HATE boring with a fiery passion. And yes, I know that routine doesn’t have to be boring. I just don’t seem to be able to stick with it.

 

However, I am not a quitter, and so I’m trying again. With some differences, of course – if it hasn’t worked before, why would I try the same thing? Also, see boring, above. This time, I’m leaving my laptop at the studio, forcing myself to go in. And I’ll be doing my blog updates at the same time as my writing – they may not be long, but dammit, I’m going to update! Starting today.

 

I’m on the tail-end of pneumonia (yeah, in the summer. I’m talented, what can I say?), and I’m coming off a low that is partly sickness, partly sadness, and partly frustration. My new goal is 250 words a day. I’m on the Magic Spreadsheet again, and I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m working on. I have an editor for Winter’s Secrets, and one of the projects in the queue is the wedding of the summer – Molly and Drew are getting married on July 25, and they hope you’ll be there for it! There’s a 6-day Summer Advent story that will be going on, and there will be at least one prize (come on, you want one of their wedding favors, don’t you?), so keep a look out for that!

 

Okay, I’ve got a lot to do today, so off to the word mines!

(health/personal) First goal met!

goal crushed

 

 

On March 1, I said I wanted to lose 6 lbs by the end of the month.  In the first week, I went to my Remicade treatment, and the scale read 310 lbs.  So I needed 10 lbs to get under 300, which was my first weight loss goal of the season.

 

Today, I stepped on the scale and it said 298.8 lbs.  Goal achieved.

 

Now, time for the next goal.  I’ve decided that I’m doing 10 lbs at a time, and giving myself a month to do so.  So by April 30, 2015, I want to lose 10 more lbs, which would put me under 290 for the first time in a long time.

 

I can do it.  I WILL do it.