Saturday, 15 March 2014

The New "Fast Food"

Before I became sick from the medication, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our "crap food nights".  Normally it was a Friday night, and sometimes even carried through till Saturday night.  It consisted of a choice of frozen chicken wings, frozen pizza, nachos or store-bought perogies.  If we were in a "healthier crap food night" kind of mood, then it was breaded chicken strips in a wraps with "some" veggies and cheese. 

Fast forward to the present and "post Sarah's medication disaster", and we have changed our diet drastically.  If I want to be free of medication and treat any underlying anxiety naturally, then it starts with making smart food choices...and understanding that healthy food choices doesn't mean cardboard or boring.  So after a long walk this afternoon with my husband, I came home famished.  And with no dinner plans, I decided to make my current favourite "crap food night" meal - though it's far from crap food.  It does, however, give me that "comfort food" satisfaction.  And knowing it is good for me just makes it better. 

First I start with cooking a pot of quinoa.  While that is cooking, I drain one can of low-sodium chickpeas and throw them in a pan with avocado oil (which can safely cook at a higher heat).  In a separate pan with avocado oil, I throw in some cauliflower (about the equivalent of one head, OR one bag of frozen cauliflower to make the meal even faster).  As the chickpeas begin to cook, I add some seasoning salt (we buy Spicy Herbamare which can normally be found in the health food section of your grocery store) and approximately 2-3 heaping tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast (I've mentioned this ingredient before...it is PACKED with B vitamins and is an amazing supplement for those who don't eat dairy).  The Nutritional Yeast creates a coating around the chickpeas and as they cook they become crunchy (and extra delicious). 

As my cauliflower cooks, I add about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and stir.  Once the cauliflower begins to brown (cook at a low to medium heat so you don't overcook), I add about 2 cups worth of edamame, and continue to cook (you can use fresh or frozen as well). 

Now, in a bowl, you can make an AMAZING avocado dressing to add on top of your quinoa creation.  I use 1-2 avocados, and mash them well.  Then I add a good splash of lemon juice (or the juice of 1 lemon), some plain Greek yogurt (around 1/3 cup), some crushed garlic (or garlic powder), and salt and pepper to taste.  I also add a good amount of cayenne pepper to ours as we like our food spicy.  I modified a recipe I found awhile back on Pinterest to suit our liking.

Once everything is cooked the way you like it, it's time to serve!  I first plate the quinoa, then add the cooked cauliflower (which tastes AMAZING when browned) and edamame, then the chickpeas and then add some dressing (which has a thick consistency to it).  I throw on some raisins as well, but I am the only one in my home who likes to throw in some sweetness. 

It takes about 20 minutes to fully prepare, so it's not "super" fast food, but it is worth it!  This is by far my favourite comfort food nowadays.  You can play around with it and use a variety of vegetables, but we have found our favourites to be the combination of cauliflower and edemame (which you could bake on a baking sheet instead of pan frying...I've done it both ways and it's equally delicious). 

Enjoy!


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Husband's Love


It was four years ago.  My husband and I were emotionally exhausted.  I was on Clonazepam to help combat anxiety, but my anxiety was worsening each week.  I was being prescribed the SSRI Cipralex, only to experience horrific and terrifying side effects, so I quickly came off of it.  We couldn’t figure it out.  Why was I getting worse? 

Then the day came when I sat behind our computer and typed in the search engine, “Clonazepam”.  Within ten minutes I had found page upon page of information regarding such things as “Tolerance Withdrawal”…and then came the sentence, “Makes coming off of heroine a walk in the park”…and my favourite, “Increased anxiety and paranoia when patient is put on LONG TERM”.  Only to find out that long-term was any period past 4 WEEKS!  I had been on it for a few years (prescribed by my GP)!

I called my husband that afternoon at his place of work, and excitedly (and through tears) said, “I figured it out…I have the answer…I know why I’m getting worse...It really isn't me!”

From that day forward my husband became my personal cheerleader.  He put everything on hold and put me first.  Our mission was to get me off of this medication and healthy again.  When I told him time and time again, “I can’t do this anymore, it’s not worth it”, he quickly shot back at me, “Yes you can, and you will…it’s hard now but it will get better.  I know it”. 

Almost every day, my husband would spend his lunch breaks at work searching through websites to educate us and help teach our family and friends.  He then wrote a heartfelt e-mail to all family and friends in regards to the withdrawal and what the coming months would be like for us, asking for everyone’s patience.  I still have a copy of it and I can’t begin to say how much it meant the day he did that.  The outpouring of love from those around us was incredible.  I had read so many horror stories about others coming off of Benzodiazepines and how family and friends made them out to be monsters.   

“It’s their own fault”. 

 It became very clear through my reading, that for some people, unless you have a “real” diagnosed disease, benzo withdrawal was just an excuse for being crazy or mentally ill.  Thankfully, the people nearest and dearest to me listened.  They reached out and understood the best they could with the information they had.  It was amazing, and I was very blessed.

My husband’s constant support was invaluable.  Stress – whether financial or emotional – can break marriages apart.  Some husbands would have said, “Just stay on the medication…maybe you’re better off staying on it”, or, “Just snap out of it!”  But my husband never said any of it.  He may have been exhausted at times, and certainly frustrated, but his love was undying.  Our marriage only strengthened through it all. 

There were nights of panic and pain, so intense my limbs would jerk involuntarily.  He’d hold me in his arms as I quietly cried and moaned in pain.  He’d stroke my hair and remind me, “It passes…remember it always goes away”. 

He sat with me as I dry heaved, rubbing my back as I cried and breathed through the intense nausea that lasted for months.

He sat with our daughter through her hour-long piano classes (something I was supposed to do with her but got too sick to stick with).  This was NOT a favourite of his, but he did it without complaint. 

He stayed in with me when he could have gone out to join a friend for the evening.  I felt guilty, but he’d always say, “You would do the same for me”.  It was as simple as that.  No questions.  It’s just what you do when you love someone.

He even opened up to his coworkers and bosses about my withdrawal.  Instead of being embarrassed or ashamed by my illness, he praised me for my hard work.  And in return I ended up receiving small gifts, letters of encouragement and personal Facebook messages from his coworkers, cheering me on. 

He helped create a circle of support SO big, that anywhere I turned I felt loved and cared for.  It was truly amazing. 

It’s been four years since the worst of it.  I am now 2.5 years (and one month) free of all medication.  I have anxiety at times, but not much worse than any other “normal/healthy” human.  I am very happy and with so many lifestyle changes, I am healthier than ever before. I've been able to prove to myself and others that anxiety and/or depression can be beat through exercise, meditation and healthy food choices. 

So thank you to my husband.  What a sweet reward for all the physical and emotional pain that circled us those 3-4 years.  We were already best friends the day we married, but I never knew a marriage come strengthen as much as ours did.  So I end this post with a quote I found the other day that reminded me so much of him, especially looking back at the day I met him in his parent’s garden in Amsterdam in 2000:

“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew”.  – Arrigo Boito



Tuesday, 7 January 2014

It's Cookie Time!

Every morning I prepare and pack my daughter's lunch for school.  Normally a sandwich or leftover dinner, a couple of veggies, some fruit and yogourt...and 1 treat.  I've made a point of baking a batch of homemade cookies OR muffins, placing them in freezer bags, and freezing them every couple of weeks.  That way I can take one cookie or one muffin out of the freezer and by lunchtime it will be defrosted and ready for consumption!  I enjoy baking her treats as I know i can control what goes in it.  This post is to help you get creative with your favourite cookie recipe and make it just that much better for your child (or yourself)!

One of the ways I create a "healthier" cookie, is to cut the sugar in half. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, I will use 1/2 cup of Coconut Palm Sugar OR Organic Cane Sugar. Sometimes I can get away with only 1/4 cup of sugar - especially with Banana muffins, where the bananas already create a sweeter muffin.  Now that I cut the sugar in half, I can't even imagine making a recipe with full sugar - sweetness overload!

***Coconut Palm sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm.  It has a deep colour as well as a rich flavour - not unlike brown sugar.  Is it healthier?  Well, in the sense that is it very low in fructose compared to most sugars, then yes...but it is still sugar.  Many people like to use agave nectar, not realizing it is made up of 85% fructose.  Why is fructose bad for you?  Because our body doesn't produce it naturally.  Only our liver can metabolize fructose (whereas the entire body can metabolize glucose), so when we consume too much fructose, our liver becomes overworked and it will then begin to turn the sugars into fat.***




The only time I find you have to watch how much sugar you cut is when using a recipe with oats OR cocoa.  Cocoa is bitter, so you do need some sugar to balance out the bitterness, but if you enjoy dark chocolate, then I encourage you to try cutting the sugar - it gives a richer, deep chocolate taste.  Oats can also have a bitterness to them, but I find I am okay with cutting most of my recipes sugar content in half.  Realize that by cutting the sugar, you will end up with a different cookie than store-bought - but that is the point in making your own.

Flour.  I have yet to jump into the "gluten-free" lifestyle.  I've cut out dairy and meat, but I do still enjoy my whole wheat pasta or even some homemade garlic bread made with fresh ciabatta bread.  We have recently begun to cut back though - opting for a gluten-free pasta as well as cutting back on bread (I now enjoy my oats for breakfast instead of toast).  At this point, I normally use whole wheat flour with my baking.  Occasionally I will opt for unbleached all-purpose flour, but normally that is only for birthdays or Christmas baking. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, I will use 1 cup of whole wheat.  Sometimes I get a bit crafty and substitute some of the flour with oats.  You can also grind your oats to make an oat flour.

Butter and Oil.  When baking muffins for my daughter's lunch, I always use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil.  It gives the muffins a light and fluffy texture and tastes great!  For cookies, I normally use coconut oil instead of butter.  It gives the cookies a nice crunch around the edges, as well as adds a subtle coconut flavour.  Coconut oil will be solid when you open your container, so I often melt the amount needed to make it easier to work with. 

***The health benefits of coconut oil are endless.  It helps with digestion, boosts energy, makes you full longer, is high in lauric acid (which research is showing helps raise your HDL - good cholesterol - and lowers your LDL - bad cholesterol), and is good for your skin and hair.  There are many more benefits you can find by researching.  We purchase our cold-pressed, organic coconut oil at Costco, where we can buy a large tub of it for a fraction of the cost at most other retailers.***

The extras.  Most recipes call for chocolate chips.  All three of us love chocolate, so we do use semi-sweet chocolate chips - but I do cut back on what most recipes call for.  I will either replace some of the chocolate chips with unsweetened coconut, raisins, chia seeds OR my favourite, hemp hearts.  Walnuts are also a great addition - as are my new favourite, pumpkin seeds.


***Just like coconut oil, hemp hearts provide us with energy, as well as aiding in digestion and helping cholesterol levels.  They are also a sort of "super food" for diabetics as they help control blood sugar levels.  They are tasty as well with a mild nutty flavour - add them raw to your cereal or yogourt OR bake with them!  I even throw a couple of tablespoons in my homemade pancakes.***

And here is today's finished product.  Homemade Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies - whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, half the sugar (and coconut palm sugar), coconut oil instead of butter, reduced chocolate chips and added hemp hearts and an extra 1/4 cup of oatmeal.  DELICIOUS!  You can transform your favourite cookie or muffin recipe to suits your wants and needs!  It might not be exactly like that double chocolate chunk cookie from your favourite coffee shop, but I promise it will be better for you!  And even better, try one of your home baked cookies with a green tea!



Friday, 20 December 2013

Breakfast Time

I am not much of a "breakfast person".  Even as a teenager, I remember having very little interest in regular breakfast food - often opting for a small bowl of leftover spaghetti.

I don't wake up often with that feeling of "I have to eat NOW!".  I get up, make my daughter's breakfast, make her snack and lunch for school, have a quick shower, get dressed, and then out to door we go for our morning walk to school (thought I will often snack on a few bites of fruit as I cut some up for her lunch).  When I come home a half hour later, I stare into the opened fridge...then walk over to the pantry...then back to the fridge.  Nothing interests me, but I always have SOMETHING as I know it's important.

My husband on the other hand NEEDS food in the morning...and lunch...and dinner.  His body is like an alarm clock and if he doesn't stay on schedule, he becomes what I lovingly call "peckish".  The shakes begin, then comes the irritability...it's not pretty.   He also makes a point of SHOWING me his hands as they visibly tremble.  "See?", he says while turning pale right before my eyes...all with the look of desperation on his face.

His routine consists of the same breakfast everyday.  Even on the weekend he'd prefer his "routine breakfast" over scrambled eggs or pancakes.  So I recently decided that maybe that kind of routine would be good for me.  It would ensure that each morning I get something really wholesome in me.  I eat a healthy diet throughout the day, but was lacking nutrition at breakfast time.  My husband has oatmeal, but I've tried his oatmeal and find it just a tad too bland for my liking...it needed a bit of punch.  And my "punch" came in the form of organic frozen blueberries.  And now, my oatmeal is incredible. I LOVE it.  It's my kind of breakfast food.  My husband also adds flax to his oatmeal, whereas I've chosen to add hemp hearts.

In my Oatmeal:

1/3 cup of Organic quick oats (with boiled water - follow directions given)
1-2 tsp of Organic Coconut Oil
Snack size Organic Unsweetened Applesauce
1 tsp Organic Chia Seeds
1 tsp Organic Hemp Hearts
A sprinkle of Organic Cinnamon
1/3 cup of frozen blueberries (which I take out prior so they are defrosted by the time they go on my oatmeal

Once my oats and boiled water have sat for five minutes, I add my coconut oil and it will begin to melt.  I mix it in well and add the rest of my ingredients, et voila!  It is DELICIOUS and filling.  No added sugar is needed as the unsweetened applesauce and blueberries add enough sweetness to the oats.

***When using coconut oil for the first time, you might experience "the burn" which refers to the rise in your metabolism.  It can create a bit of an anxious feeling for some people.  My husband experienced this for quite awhile, but he didn't let it bother him.  I haven't had too many issues with it but he adds 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, whereas I'm starting with much less so my body can warm up to it.

Remember all of these ingredients contain FIBRE.  Make sure to get plenty of water in you.  I have upped my water intake, plus I tend to drink 1-2 cups of green tea day which I find helps as well.

I highly recommend this breakfast.  It keeps you full till lunch and really is delicious.  I actually get excited to eat it now...and I figure if I get a bit tired of it over time I can just switch to different berries.

 My oats with cinnamon
 Now comes the coconut oil, chia seeds, applesauce and hemp hearts
 Almost there...

 Now come the blueberries
Stir, and ready to consume!!!

Friday, 29 November 2013

An Update...Closer to the Finish Line



It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I needed a break to clear my head…taking some “me time” and family/friend time. 

I am now 2 years, 4 months and several days free of medication.  I am at a point in my recovery where I don’t think about the “anniversaries” anymore.  I used to count the months in my head, hoping that by month 10 I would be healed.  But then month 10 became month 14…which became month 18…then the 2 year mark.  And now at the 2+ year mark, am I healed?  No.  Am I doing well?  Yes. 

The biggest changes came after the 20 month mark.  I really began to see some solid progress.  The fear of falling asleep dissipated.  I was FINALLY able to sleep in my OWN bed with my husband, and not feel scared.  I slept solidly.  And for the first in about 3+ years, I was EXCITED to go to bed.  It's a feeling I wondered would ever return.  I remember sitting on the couch with my husband one night, watching a movie when this sudden “butterfly” feeling hit me.  It wasn’t a bad sensation though.  Instead it was a happy, content feeling that in an hour or so I’d crawl into my comfy bed, close my eyes and drift off to sleep.  After years of fearing bed (and not fully understanding why), I was welcoming bed time. (On a side note:  Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, can cause irrational fears - one of the common ones being a fear of going to bed/sleep, and it's not the bed itself but the act of falling asleep).

The nausea also began to decrease.  That has led to some HEALTHY weight gain.  For close to 2 years, I was unable to enjoy food.  I ate because I had to.  I ate to keep some energy so I could keep up with my daughter and make meals for my family.  Dinner after dinner, I’d watch my family eat and scoop up their meals into their mouths.  And inside I’d cry.  I wanted so badly to eat and enjoy the nutritious meals, but I was unable to.  I had to breathe through my meals so not to throw them up.  I never once did throw up – dry heaved, yes…many times.  I also lost a lot of muscle mass during that time, so it’s nice to have my thigh muscles back.  And with the higher daily calorie intake, I am also able to workout without feeling faint.  I am taking it easy though.  I started working out daily and that was too much, so now I workout every other day for only ½ hour, and then stretch for at least 20 minutes a day and do some yoga poses that I find relaxing.  Getting my flexibility and some strength back are my main priorities right now. 

So, after YEARS of taking medication for anxiety (and anxiety-induced depression), how am I coping med-free?  Diet.  Diet is #1,and I truly believe that is the case with many health (physical or emotional) issues.  I have changed my diet drastically, and I love it.  Gone are the fried foods, sugary pop and processed foods.  Now I eat a lot of fruit, grains and vegetables.  I’ve also eliminated meat and poultry and most dairy (only eating plain Greek yogurt).  I do eat fish at least two times a week.  Cooking is exciting now – not that I ALWAYS feel like doing, but the outcome is worth it.  I am more adventurous with my cooking.  And a BIGGIE?  The condiments.  If you read the ingredients of your favourites dressings and bbq sauces, you’ll find they are loaded with sugar and often MSG.  Now I made my own dressing and bbq sauces.  They taste better and are FAR better for you.  It adds an extra 5-10 minutes of cooking time, but it’s well worth it. 

What other things that have helped me?  Being open and honest about my journey.  Whether people “get it” or not, I think it’s important not to shy away from telling the truth.  It doesn’t mean you have to stand on top of the roof and scream out, “I am suffering!!!  I feel horrible right now!!!”  It just means that sharing your story is OKAY.  People can choose not to understand or support you, but you’ll be pleasantly suprised by how many people DO stand by your side.  An incredible amount of people have reached out to me since I started this blog.  The best thing about being open is that when you share your story and others relate to it, THEIR story also helps YOU grow and heal in return.  It’s a win/win situation.  I recently met a woman at a party who began to tell me about her journey with SSRI medication (anti-depressants) and how it made her feel so sick.  It took her a good 2 years to feel better once OFF the medication.  As she continued to tell her story, my body felt like firecrackers were going off (good firecrackers).  A person, who barely knew me, was telling me HER story, that was SO similar to mine…and she didn’t apologize for her honesty.  It was refreshing.  I could totally relate to her.  I was EXCITED to tell her about my journey.  We shared our stories…we related to each other…and it was awesome.  The best part, was that the focus wasn’t on our “woes”…we shared our tastes in music, movies and television…we talked about our hobbies and relationships…but we had this one connection that neither of us needed to apologize for – we were just being ourselves.  No hiding needed.  Honesty, and even vulnerability, can be a wonderful and beautiful thing.

Having the most supportive family and friends has been incredibly AWESOME, and not everyone is blessed with that unfortunately.  Friends I’ve had since childhood have been constant cheerleaders.  Friends I’ve made through my daughter’s schoolmates (and others around town), have been there to pick me up and offer a hand whenever needed...or have just been ears that listen...or shoulders to cry on...and especially friends who have offered a "congrats" or a BIG hug to celebrate.  My parents have been there 100% - thank you SO much.  My husband – instead of seeing me as a hindrance – has praised me for taking this journey on.  He has LITERALLY picked me up off the floor as I cried out in pain or dry heaved over the toilet.  He reassured me EVERY single day that I was going to heal…that this was not my fault…and that what I was doing was giving myself, my daughter and himself a better future.  We were going to shine through this as a family – and boy did we ever.  I am SO incredibly grateful for his love and support and if I think about it too long I will cry.  He made me feel like his hero - and he is mine.  And I can't forget our daughter, who is now 10 years old.  Has this experience weakened her?  Or has it hindered her in some way?  Absolutely not.  She never really talks about "those days" but when she does she speaks of it as though I did something important for US.  She is proud of me as I am of her.  She is as happy as happy can be, and one insanely empathetic girl.  I still have her notes and pictures of encouragement she made for me when I was sick.  She makes me extremely proud and I do believe that what my old counsellor said is 100% true:  "Sarah, you are teaching your daughter more life lessons (by being open and honest) than she'll EVER learn from a text book.  You are teaching her empathy.  She will be the kid in the class that picks up on others emotions and can help them.  She is going to be full of love".  And she was right.  My daughter is everything I hoped she'd be, and more.  

So, 2+ years later.  Not healed yet, but getting there!  After feeling 95% better for a few months, I have to be honest and say I’ve had a setback since the end of September.  Every few days, another old symptom returns.  One week it’s nausea, then the rib pain, maybe headaches, followed by the shingles-feeling…and I’d say that for 2 months, I’ve had approximately 2-3 nights a week of solid sleep…the other nights I am up unable to sleep well.  However, despite the setback, I am HAPPY.  I am more confident that this will one day fully pass.  Even on my worst days now, I am living life happily.  I will go help out at my daughter’s school…maybe minutes before leaving bent over the sink with the feeling of having to vomit…but I get there, and the distraction works amazing miracles.  I have solid friendships in my life as well that keep me from dwelling on things.  I am in a good place with good people – I am lucky.  I also know that these setbacks can happen for upwards of 3 years…even up to 5 for some people.  As my husband drills in my head, “don’t feel scared or discouraged…see these symptoms as your body healing...you ARE going to fully heal”.  Thank you, Husband.

I will continue to update my blog from time to time.  I don’t know what direction I want to go with it, but my thought is to focus on the healthier choices we’ve made as a family to help not only with my anxiety, but also my husband’s journey with healthy lifestyle changes to regulate his blood pressure and lower his cholesterol.  He has lost 22 pounds over the past couple of years from his already fit body, and feels great.  He LOVES the new sugar-free baked goods and nutritious meals – as does our daughter. They have both made the healthier transition SO easy. 

Thank you to all of you who have left supportive comments on the blog, and to those who know me personally:  thank you for the personal messages of love and light – it means so much.  And finally, a big “Hooray” to 2+ years free of medication and knowing I’ve got this one beat!  No more meds for this girl.   It can be done. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

2 Years Later...

Today marks 2 years and 2 days since I became free of all medication.  Specifically Benzodiazepines.  As an overview, I'll list all symptoms I experienced (and can remember) while tapering off of Clonazepam (which I later crossed over to Diazepam instead).

Nausea, dry-heaving
Abdominal cramps
Pelvis fullness and pain
Legs ached
Headaches
Flu-like feelings, knows as "Benzo Flu"
Benzo Rage (a type of irritability and anger, often let out by self harm)
Crying spells
Waves of depression
Sore throat
Acid Reflux sensation
Burning eyes
Heavy head (felt like my head would fall off even when laying down)
Bones ached when in cold temperatures (Winter was not pleasant)
Pain and throbbing in the Gallbladder area
Ribs and chest pain - so severe I thought I was having a heart attack
Panic attacks that lasted up to 7+ hours
Constant anxiety
Insomnia (went days at a time with sometimes zero to little sleep)
Excessive salivation
Metallic taste
Skin itched for hours
Shingles-sensation (painful/prickly/itchy skin with no visible signs of rash or irritation)
Lack of motivation
Fatigue
Muscle wasting
Lack of appetite due to constant nausea
Loss of taste
Diarrhea
Constipation
Paranoia
Heightened sense...sound, sight, taste
Inner restlessness that would last hours at a time
Fear
OCD-like tendencies

That is the bulk of it.  Most of these symptoms were a daily battle and made it difficult to face each day.  Somehow - with the help of amazingly support family and friends - I made it to the finish line after a 10 month long taper.  In the end, I feel I lost the support of a few friends, but most stood by me through the worst of it and never seemed to doubt my sanity - even though it felt like I was far from sane during the journey.  Some friends drove my daughter to school in the morning when I simply couldn't leave the house.  Some listened to me on the other end of the phone for what could be hours of repeating, "I'm so scared...is this just me???...am I just sick???...is this going to end???...what if if doesn't end???...what if we're wrong and it's not the medication causing this???".  To which they would simple offer guidance and words of encouragement.  My husband would tell me, "you weren't like this before the medication, so eventually this will all pass".  He was right.  What meant the most was the INTEREST people took in my journey.  Friends and acquaintances took the time to read the material that's at our fingertips if you just simply type 2 words in Google:  Benzo Withdrawal.  I was able to support SO many people through my own experience.  It made me a far more empathetic person.  A lot of amazing things came out of something so dreadful and painful. 

2 years and 2 days later, where am I?  The worst symptoms that remain but are not a daily occurrence are:

Nausea
Abdominal pain
Pelvic pain and fullness
Burning eyes
Anxiety
Benzo Flu

 The nausea can go away for many days at time and then will return for a day...or a week.  It makes it hard to enjoy eating, but I continue to eat 3 healthy meals a day because the nausea I get with this recovery isn't the same as "the flu".  I feel like dry heaving, but my stomach isn't actually upset.  Sometimes, if I can manage a good cry, the nausea will pass - which is why I used to refer to it as "emotional nausea".  It's bizarre, and if you can't cry it can take hours to pass.

The abdominal pain and pelvic pain/fullness are probably the most prevalent.  Most days I have problems with this and it is nothing more than irritating and frustrating...and painful.  But I can handle it.  I hide it well - I think.  I do have to rub out the muscles from time to time when it's really bad.  The massaging makes the pain subside momentarily.

The anxiety is MUCH better than many moons ago.  I haven't had a full panic attack in many weeks, and I don't even remember the details of it.  I do get hit abruptly with anxiety from time to time in public places which is never nice.  I have ways to deal with it.  Sometimes just focusing on my breathing makes it pass.  Other times I need to do more.  As an example, yesterday I accompanied my husband to a tattoo sitting of his.  I was 100% fine when we arrived but slowly felt the anxiety build as he was being tattooed.  Suddenly my stomach began to gurgle.  My pelvis began to feel full and swollen and in pain.  My heart rate rose and I could feel my breathing was off.  I stepped outside to call a friend. I spoke with him for about 20 minutes, walking in circles around the neighbourhood.  The more we talked and the more I walked, the more it passed.  This friend has been a friend since childhood and was a witness to my years of anxiety/depression/medication issues in high school - so I never feel "silly" speaking with him.  Eventually it subsided enough I could return to the shop.  It wasn't gone, but much more manageable.  No tears, no extreme fear...just anxiety that ALWAYS passes.  If you struggle with any kind of anxiety, remind yourself over and over and OVER again...it will never last forever - there is always an end to it. 

Nowadays the waves can be a day long or a few weeks.  They aren't as intense as they once were and the good news is that I now know they ALWAYS end.  Eventually there will be no waves at all.  I'm sure I'll always deal with some anxiety - along with 90% (or more) of the world's population.   It's not strange.  It doesn't make you weak...in fact, I believe it's quite the opposite!  To live with anxiety and to learn the tools you need to work through it takes a strong individual!  It can take years to "master" and we probably never fully master it.  But we can become good at it. 

I recently visited my family doctor for a yearly check-up.  I listed my existing symptoms and was thoroughly checked.  Her only explanation for my nausea and pain is the benzodiazepines.  My central nervous system needs time to heal and eventually it will settle again.  It's well on it's way...it just needs to sort out a few kinks.

With the help and support of an incredible husband and daughter, as well as amazing family and friends, I have (for the most part) beaten the "benzo beast". Never again will I have to deal with this...


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

What To Make For Lunch...

My daughter is 9 years old and almost finished grade 4.  She has adapted extremely well to our "healthier lifestyle" and she has her favourites and lets us know with enthusiasm when a new meal makes her happy.  You can't go wrong with anything "avocado" with her.  She LOVES them.  Whether they are used for guacamole, as a sauce for pasta, or stuffed in her sushi - avocados make her happy. 

As any Mom knows, packing a school lunch for 10 months can become tedious.  Coming up with new ideas, keeping it interesting as well as healthy can be difficult.  My daughter is very much like her Dad, in that she can eat the same thing EVERY day for a LONG time without getting bored.  For over 2 years, my husband eats the exact same thing for lunch every work day:  2 sandwiches on Stonemill Bread, made with sliced cucumber and homemade hummus that is made with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, dill, cayenne, salt/pepper to taste, olive oil AND crushed walnuts.  He LOVES his lunch and looks forward to it every day.  For dessert he packs an unsweetened applesauce with pomegranate. 

I will say that I have NOT made the same thing every day for my daughter for the past 2 years...but there are a couple of "staples" that she always asks for.  One is an unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon.  It's her favourite kind.  If you were to give her "sweetened", she'll tell you it makes her feel sick to her tummy.  She finds it far too sweet.  The other is Liberte Greek Yogurt with Vanilla.  She WILL eat plain unsweetened Greek Yogurt by the spoonful.  She gets excited when I serve it on the side with tuna patties and likes to lick the spoon the way you would with cookie batter.  But in her lunch for school she prefers some flavour, and Vanilla is by far her favourite.  So those 2 are a given.  Otherwise, it's always 1 treat that is preferably homemade, 1 "main dish" and 2 other healthy choices (veggies and/or fruit).  My daughter likes 6 items in her lunch as they have 2 nutrition breaks at school so she divides her lunch in 1/2.  3 items for first break and 3 items for second break.  She also brings 1 litre of water to school (no juice/milk).  She drinks most of it during the day and what she doesn't finish she'll drink on our walk home from school.

I'd say the lunches I pack for my daughter are all and all fairly healthy.  Some might say the yogurt has too much sugar, but it's something she enjoys and with us not drinking cows milk, it gives her some calcium. 

Here are examples of 3 lunches/snacks I made in the past week:

 "Rudolph's" bread (HIGHLY recommend) with Gouda Cheese and grainy Dijon mustard, fresh raspberries and blueberries, cucumber with Herbamare Sea Salt, homemade banana bread, and of course yogurt and applesauce.
 Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta with homemade Avocado/Lemon sauce, cucumber, strawberries, homemade banana muffin, yogurt and applesauce
Whole Wheat Spaghettini with Parmesan, cucumber, 2 kiwis sliced, homemade banana muffin, yogurt and applesauce.

I will also note that once a month or so I try to bake a large batch of homemade muffins and/or cookies.  that way I can control the amount of sugar (I use organic cane sugar most times) I use (I normally cut at least 1/2 if not 3/4 of the sugar), and I can add things like ground flax to them.  I then let them cool and pack in freezer bags to freeze.  By the time she eats it, it's defrosted.  

I will try to take photos of other lunch ideas I come up with...although there are only a few weeks left of the school year (woo hoo!!!).  I hope you enjoyed this topic!  I'm going to try to mix things up a bit on the blog as I begin to focus less on my healing, and more on the healthy changes my family has made over the past few years.  More to come...