happiness

SIBO and Anxiety

I have always been an anxious sort. I was a kid in the ‘70s and anxiety wasn’t really a thing back then – or if it was I certainly didn’t know about it. I just felt like I was always afraid of doing things – and then pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to prove to myself and the world that I wasn’t a total chicken.

But while I struggled, I didn’t really encounter debilitating anxiety until the beginning of 2007 when I discovered that my husband had been cheating (I found his online dating profile – actually I found the bill while going through our visa and then found the profile). I didn’t handle it well. If I could go back in time that’s the moment I would have walked out of the marriage. It would have saved me and the kids years of trauma and pain. But I didn’t – maybe I didn’t know how to. He dismissed it as nothing and blamed me for overreacting, and we were getting ready to move from Quebec to the States. So I put my feelings on the back burner and carried on.

SIBO can be caused by many things: antibiotics, low stomach acid, food poisoning – but also stress, anxiety and trauma. So being someone who has a history of pushing my feelings waaaay down deep really came back to kick me in the butt (or the small intestine in this case).

I went through the last years of my marriage often barely able to function because of the anxiety I was struggling with (which was also PTSD and trauma – it all kind of got mixed in together). Some days were better, some were terrible. I was not living an authentic life at all, in fact I had become completely disconnected from myself. I used to say that my superpower was my ability to disassociate completely from my body and my life as it was the only way I could handle my marriage. Unfortunately it’s a pretty shitty superpower to have and one that is taking me a long time to retrain myself from.

After I left my marriage, I still battled my anxiety (and trauma) demons on a constant basis. But I didn’t just dance away from an abusive relationship. I returned home to help care for both of my parents as they were dying, I almost lost both of my children to their own traumas, and I found myself in a very nasty divorce situation. So I continued to have reason to feel anxious to say the least.

Then I started studying psychology and slowly I felt my understand of myself beginning to change. I learned that there were ways to train my brain to think differently, and that I could change my perception of who I was. I began working diligently on my mental health and really saw some huge changes.

But that damn anxiety would just pop up out of nowhere. I would work and work, see massive improvements, and then BAM out of nowhere I would literally become debilitated by my anxiety. And for no reason. Nothing had to trigger me, I could be sitting at home happily watching a show on tv, out with friends laughing, or driving down the road singing along with some music. It left me feeling really frustrated. What was the point in working so hard on myself if this anxiety was just going to keep popping up and interfering in my ability to function?

Last summer (2021), I noticed that my joints became much more painful when I ate anything with gluten in it. At that time I had no idea that pretty much everything I liked had gluten in it. I cut out the obvious; bread, pasta, that kind of thing. Then I had sushi and got sick – so the discovery was made that of course gluten is in soy sauce. I slowly learned how to better avoid gluten and started feeling a bit better. I was still anxious, but the joint pain lessening made life a lot easier.

Then around Christmas time (2021) I discovered that certain foods I was eating gave me anxiety. Dairy was a big one (sob), but also weird things like mustard or anything with garlic in it. So I started cutting all of that out too. Essentially I was living on oatmeal, rice, chicken, ghee, and zucchini. Bleh. Still random bouts of anxiety, but not as bad.

So when I went to the naturopath and explained to him how I was feeling after eating certain foods he tested and diagnosed me with SIBO. Holy crap. What a revelation! So my constant battle with anxiety wasn’t just shitty mental health, it was a physical reaction to a physical issue (plus my regular anxiety).

It has been an up and down journey these last 5 months. But in general my anxiety is decreasing all the time. I’m still on a super restricted diet – but nothing like the one I was on before I started with my naturopath. Hardly any carbs, no grains, no dairy, no sugar. Lots of meat and certain vegetables, and egg yolks. Along with all my supplements. Not the most exciting diet, but I’m seeing so much improvement that it’s absolutely worth any sacrifice. Plus the hope is that it’s short term and eventually I’ll be able to enjoy a larger variety of foods.

I went to see my naturopath about a month ago in tears. After a few weeks of much lessened anxiety I was really struggling again. I was really mad at my SIBO, and then even madder at my naturopath when he suggested that we needed to address my trauma so that we could help my body heal. Who wants to hear that? I didn’t want to go there at all. But he was right (he’s been right about everything so far). I’d described to him how when these feelings of intense anxiety bubble up in me from nowhere it reminds me of how afraid I was those last few years in my marriage – where the kids and I lived in constant fear that he’d make good on his threats. And how that would just push me right out of myself. I was really mad at the SIBO for making me feel that way and that’s when the naturopath gently suggested we address some of the trauma. And he was so right.

I’m still on some SIBO stuff. I’m taking iberogast (which some days I swear is nastier than the Tincture of Death, but it’s effective, Allimax, bio-break nasal spray, ashwagandha, and turmeric. But I’m also taking mimulus and oak flower remedy, and gaba-t sap. I noticed a huge change with the gaba I can feel the stress seeping out of my brain after I take it.

It’s funny. I have spent so long really resenting this SIBO condition – even before I knew I had it and could put a name to it I resented it. But in some really weird way it’s a gift. It has forced me to stop and address some really big issues. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life walking around anxious, scared, traumatized and angry. And I now realize that unless I seriously follow this new way of being that I will not only be all of those things but also so freaking sick with SIBO: all the brain fog, upset stomach, bloating, depression, anxiety, joint pain, and whatever else it brings. So I am grateful that I have the opportunity to really dig deep and change some fundamental things about myself and how I see the world.

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happiness

Days Gone By 2 (FGK 215)

Help me out if you know who anyone is!

Percy and I (Edna) and Margaret Rowland (A friend). Summer 1947. Grandma is closest to the barn, Grandpa beside her.
Granny’s grave.
Grandpa
Maybe grandma?
Grandma and her friend Jean, not sure who the man is – one of their fathers?
Grandpa, Jean, Grandma, George (I think? Jean’s husband?)
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happiness

Holding hands

The other day the girl and I had quite a disturbing experience as we were nearly mowed down crossing a small road in a parking lot in Cochrane. We were halfway across the street in front of Pet Valu heading towards Save On, walking in the cross walk, when a lady came flying down that road that cuts between the stores. It took me a second or so to realize that she wasn’t stopping or slowing down and was heading right towards us. Worse, the girl was the one who was going to be the “buffer” between me and the car when it hit us.

I screamed the girl’s name and grabbed her arm while we both looked towards the car with horrified expressions on our faces. Both our bodies tensed up like we were going to run, and at the same instant realized that we wouldn’t have time to make it.

As I was accepting that this would be how we would die, suddenly I felt the girl’s hand slip into mine. One small movement that in regular times wouldn’t perhaps mean much (although it’s been years since she’s wanted to hold my hand), but in this moment it meant the world. If that was when I was going to die, somehow the thought of holding her hand felt quite comforting.

At the last second the woman veered around us (didn’t slow down though) and threw her car in the parking spot that clearly had captured her attention making her unable to see anything besides that coveted spot.

Scary as crap, but what has stuck with me was that feeling of that little hand in mine as we stood there terrified. It was both her grown up hand, and the hand of the little girl who used to want to hold onto me every second of every day.

I remember when dad was dying, all he wanted was to spend time with us, his family, his loved ones. Nothing that he had accomplished or accumulated seemed to matter, all that did was the love he had in his life. That hand in mine reminded me how important it is to treasure and cherish my loved ones (well and to make sure that people in cars see us when we are crossing the road).

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happiness

Magic Carpet Ride (FGK-2)

I kind of thought maybe carpet bags were something that only Mary Poppins carried around. But I discovered this bag hidden in a closet, and it’s full of odd assortments of mom’s throughout the 1950s. There were lots of old newspapers, both clippings and full papers stuck in here (as an aside, no wonder Mary Poppins used one of these bags, I was beginning to think it was bottomless – it’s amazing how much stuff fit in there).

A lot of it was about the royal family, and it seems mom had the same kind of obsession with Princess Elizabeth that I had with Lady Diana (who am I kidding, I’m still kind of obsessed with her, she was an amazing woman, but I digress).

The Magic Carpet Bag
I had to add this one in because I thought it was funny they had to mention Queen Mary was still alive.

As I said, it’s the most random bag of goodies. Here’s a photo of my aunt – I believe when she graduated from nursing school. There was also a letter from my uncle to my grandparents who were away on vacation somewhere. The letter was full of how much he’d fed the cows (down to the weight of both the feed and the cows), and how day to day things were going on the ranch.

You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep so much old junk around. But I think maybe it’s for moments like this. So we can go back through our past to figure out who we are.

Mom would have been 16 when this caricature was drawn. The same age my girl is now. It took me a long time to figure out how I felt about this picture. Part of me thinks mom would have hated it, but then she kept it for all of this time, and the tape on the sides tell me she probably even hung it up. I think it represents how she took on life after polio took her body. That brain of hers was amazing, she was a lifetime learner, and who she was… what was inside her… it was so impressive and took up so much space that it was usually what people noticed first before the chair.

Mom took her exercise routine seriously. She knew that the only way to have her body work for her was to work with her body.

I had to add these slippers in, it’s unfortunate that you can’t tell from the photo, but they are the MOST uncomfortable slippers that have ever been invented in the history of forever (maybe not, but they’re super uncomfortable). While the blue fuzz isn’t that bad, the outside is some sort of bristly, cable-like, woven threads of yuck. It makes me appreciate my comfy, warm, UGG slippers.

Mom did high school at a boarding school in Florida, and this menu must have come from there. I had to do a closeup of one of the dish write ups because it’s a story telling menu and I thought it was kind of fun.

But, my friends, I saved the best for last. My parents loved it out on Vancouver Island, they even had a home that was to be their retirement home (best laid plans and all) and we spent a great deal of time enjoying what Vancouver Island has to offer. After they sold the house in the 80s, they continued to vacation there regularly, and before Covid I was taking the kids out every year for Easter- it’s a place that holds a lot of love for me and my family.

Anyway, one year when I was about 10, my cousin came with us. Either Victoria was safe enough, or my parents were naive enough that we were allowed to run the streets by ourselves. We found a joke shop and thought it was the best thing we had ever discovered. Along with a whoopee cushion (that did not go over well at all with my parents but we found it hilarious), we bought several licenses that gave us permission to do things. Among them was a license to burp, which like the whoopee cushion we found hysterical but mom did not.

It is nice to see though, that at some point in her life she also decided she needed a sarcastic and sassy license.

Now, if you’ve ever driven with certain members of my family (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are), you’d understand the necessity of a license like this. So, perhaps it was less of a joke and more of a not so subtle hint 😉.

Along with the magic carpet bag, I found all of the letters and cards that were sent to Mom while she was in the hospital. I spent most of yesterday crying and reading them. There was so much love sent to mom, mixed in with details of ranch life in the 1950s which I’ll talk about later on.

But tomorrow I go back to the tape. I’ve got a few stories about Mom’s love of climbing things to share.

Thanks to everyone for the love and support, I hope you continue to enjoy these stories.

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happiness

Power of Friendships

I have to pick up my mail at a drug store in the city. At first this seemed like kind of a pain, but Mercatos West is right beside it, and now when I need to pick up a parcel I usually walk through their deli and grab some fresh pasta (or a slice of chocolate cake that is to die for, let’s be real, we all know I get the cake every time).

The other day I was standing in line at the drug store waiting my turn while two older ladies were paying for their items. One went without any issues. When it was the second lady’s turn she couldn’t remember which card she used, or where to find it in her wallet. She was laughing, her friend was laughing and grabbed her wallet, but leaned over and helped her friend find her cards. Then the lady couldn’t figure out how to tap her card and burst into laughter again and announced this is what happens when you don’t leave the house for a year.

They grabbed their bags and continued to giggle while they left the store.

There is something about the older woman friendships that has always intrigued me. I want a circle of women with whom I can laugh and grow old – or perhaps laugh at how we are growing old – as we become adults there’s so much emphasis placed on “adulting” but not on how vitally important it is that we have fun and maintain happy and healthy friendships.

Maybe it’s because I was a teenager watching Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia eat cheesecake while supporting each other through life, but I always had a huge expectation that we would always have time to make for our friendships.

So, here’s to our old friends, our new friends, the dear ones, and the ones who drive us nuts. The older I get, the more I cherish the bonds I have with the amazing women in my life!

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happiness

Facing a bully

It should come to no surprise to those who know me that angry men intimidate me. I think as a single woman this would probably be true anyway, but I lived in a war zone with a man who raged at and threatened me on a regular basis, so there’s a lot of trauma that I’ve been working through since I left (thank goodness for therapy).

Yesterday when we were driving home we saw that there were tons of swans on the slough, and that there were tons of people stopped to watch them. It’s a happy sight for the most part, the swans have been missing the last few years, and since we have all been home more I know they bring joy to so many people.

As we drove by, there were a few people climbing the fence to go in the field to get closer to the swans. Trespassing isn’t really a great thing at the best of times, but there were two newborn calves right beside where everyone was climbing and it’s not a good idea to get between a mom and her baby.

So we stopped and asked the people to please stand on the outside of the field. They were super polite and apologetic – and like I said, I get it- seeing the swans is so exciting and we need a pick me up now more than ever.

But, as I was chatting with them, a man who was probably 10 years older than I am walked by us and started climbing the fence. I asked him politely to please not go into the field. He looked at me and kept climbing. I asked him again, and he said well, he was just going to walk along the road (in the field) then. I said no, the road was IN the field which made it trespassing, and pointed to the calves right beside him and explained that it wasn’t safe to be in the field with the calves.

He then asked me if I owned the land. I said yes (I don’t but it’s family land and I live right beside it). He said he didn’t believe me, and started yelling that he could do what he wanted because I was lying. I pointed to my house and said I lived right there and that he was welcome to follow me home if he didn’t believe me (while crapping my pants because who wants a crazy person following them home?). He said the only way he would stay out of the field is if he had proof it was my land. I responded by saying if it wasn’t my land why would I be standing here being an asshole? He stood there glaring at me for several more minutes before taking a quick photo and leaving.

As this was going down I heard the other people standing there laughing, and heard them comment what a rude person he was and how there was clearly a gender issue going on. I have to say, as things got deeper I was pretty glad I wasn’t there alone because that man was going out of his way to intimidate me.

So, here’s the happiness moment in this. First of all, I stood my ground to the man who was trying to intimidate and bully me. Secondly, I had some great conversations with the other people looking at the swans. Thirdly, the people besides “angry man” who were there were really kind and nice people who genuinely seemed to enjoy being out watching the swans. Finally, I got to see swans and calves which really along with crocuses (still haven’t seen this year) is my sure signs of spring.

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happiness

ICarly

When my kids were little they loved Drake and Josh, and then iCarly later on. I remember it was a huge event in our house when they showed the last episode of iCarly . We even entered into a draw to win some of the set furniture (didn’t win any though).

As the years have gone by, we’ve tried to find either DVDs or ways to stream these shows and have always come up empty.

Until now. Prime has iCarly on it and we started watching from the beginning last night.

I know the general theme of the show, I remember certain episodes. What I didn’t know was that my girl knows every single moment of every single episode. It was amazing and heart warming to watch her turn into this happy little kid watching one of her favourite shows.

I understand the feelings though. Through COVID, and before actually – when we had limited internet data, we’ve watched Family Ties, Facts of Life, Golden Girls, and (God help me) I sometimes secretly watch old episodes of the Love Boat when I’m all alone and there’s no one to witness my shame.

There’s something calming about watching shows you’ve known forever and you know how they’re going to turn out. I remember one time reading that a good way to calm your anxiety is to watch a happy type show that you’re familiar with because you know there won’t be any suspense or surprises as you go through.

But mostly we watch because we love them. Even I love iCarly, Sam, Freddy, Spencer, Gibby, and the rest of them. I loved that in their teen years they still want to spend time with me watching tv (granted being home 24/7 for a year probably helps that lol).

I’m so excited that we’ve started our iCarly binge. I still haven’t found Drake and Josh, but I’m hopeful that one will be next!!!

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happiness

Opportunities for mindfulness

This week I am co-leading a group on mindfulness for my master’s program. Although the intention of mindfulness is to bring peace to your soul, I have been so stressed about leading this group!!!

My partner lives in China which is a challenge because of the 13 hour time difference, and so far I’ve been pretty much flying solo (although we did most of the prep work together).

Here’s what I’m discovering. The last 10 years of working on myself, including developing a (fairly inconsistent lately) meditation practice are really helping me. I know a lot more about mindfulness than I give myself credit for.

Also, I’m much more comfortable in the role of leader than I thought I would be. My years as a substitute teacher help me to be able to change lesson plans on the fly to meet the needs of the participants.

While preparing for these sessions, I’ve recommitted to my meditation practice and I’m noticing a huge decrease in stress over the last couple of weeks.

I feel that meditation and mindfulness helps me kind of reset my soul, which is a game changer when the anxiety or whirling thoughts kicks in.

I do a good job of talking to God, but not so much of listening. Meditation is my time to listen.

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happiness

Step into mindfulness

I’m co-facilitating a mindfulness group this week for one of my classes. I’m feeling thankful it’s on mindfulness as the closer we get to the start date the more anxious I get.

This preparation work has helped me appreciate how far I’ve come since the first time I attempted meditation about 9 years ago. I was so anxious, so stressed, and trying to calm my nervous system actually made more anxious. It was something I really struggled with for a long time, and still do in many ways. It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of practicing, when it really is essential for me to meditate every single day.

I can feel the benefits, it starts to create more space in my head, and in that space, there’s less room for anxious thoughts to roam. Learning to train my brain has been probably the most challenging task I’ve ever attempted, but the rewards in even doing it imperfectly are worth it.

For me, the number one tool in my mindfulness kit is my meditation practice. I know there are countless other methods to mindfulness, and I fully embrace many of them. But I need the moments of meditation to bring me to a quiet place so I can hear God talk. I do a really good job of telling God how I want things to be, but not such a great one of listening (mostly because I have an idea of how I want the answer to come and it very rarely shows up exactly how I want).

I’m both excited and nervous for this upcoming week. I’ve learned so much in the last year and a half and come so far – I had no idea how much this process would change me and I am incredibly grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to get to understand how my brain works a bit better.

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happiness

Mini spa day

The mountains called us yesterday and we answered. I can’t remember the last time we actually went out and did something, the weather was nice, and the highway was empty. It was the perfect day to head to Banff.

I love Banff, but it does have a tendency to get a bit busy – the price of a resort town – and the busy is sometimes what makes it fun for people. I, however, love the days when I manage to get there and it’s quiet like it was yesterday. The sun was out, people were smiling, it was just what we needed.

I’d run out of hand sanitizer, so we went into the Rocky Mountain Soap Company because it’s one of my favourite stores, but also because it’s their hand sanitizer that many of the shops use in Banff and I already knew my hands liked their product.

Because of COVID rules, only a few people are allowed in the store at a time, and we were there when we were the only ones (lucky us). The lady working brought us over to the sinks, showed us their hand cleaning products, and allowed us to spend some time giving ourselves a little hand scrub that ended up feeling like a mini spa day.

There was something about the wonderful smells in the store, and the quiet moment we had of washing our hands that was so soothing and relaxing. The lady working there provided us with such a calm environment it made me remember why it’s one of my favourite stores.

Then we wandered the streets of Banff, just enjoying being out of the house, seeing people smiling, the blue sky, and the mountains – I love our mountains.

It really was a perfect day. I’m so grateful for this life.

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