Jeanette’s Blog: The only way is up, baby!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018 and all it will bring. The year that so many of us thought of as a “dumpster fire” has gone and new things and adventures await us. Are you excited, or are you just tired? To quote the catchy 1988 pop anthem by Yazz (that I danced to many a time at night clubs), The Only Way is Up  (listen and dance, my friends).

I’m excited and tired, and hopeful. I’m not a New Year’s resolution kinda girl, but after last year, I have resolved that 2018 is going to be a year of self-care without feeling selfish or guilty. I had ended the last year feeling exhausted, stressed and like crapola and learned a few lessons along the way (which is good, right?). This is the face of a combination of stress and bad eating. I hope that by the end of the month, I can post a photo that looks completely different! I am at the stage where I can relate my past couple of months with a sense of humour, and thus, hope to encourage and inspire others who are facing obstacles right now.

Let me explain. In October, there I was, at work, happily going about my business of selling insurance, when I get some texts from the ever-loving hubs who, after seeing his doc, had trotted along to Capital Cardiology for some tests as he’d been having some chest pains, especially after eating. He suspected it was muscle pains due to some meds he’d had to take earlier this year.

The texts went a little like this:

“Blood pressure great!” (yay!)

“All set up for the EKG”

“EKGs perfect!!” (double yay!)

“Blood work good!” (I’m doing a little dance at my desk).

“CAT scan shows main artery to heart completely blocked. I have to go to hospital tomorrow to get a stent put in.” (what? WHAT?!)

Incidentally, he ended up with three stents, and I ended up at New World Bistro with two of his sisters and a couple of Cosmopolitans the evening after his op.

Thankfully, he is feeling so much better and is back to work and I thank the doctors at Albany Family Medicine and Capital Cardiology, both of whom acted on their hunches and ensured that Dan is still alive and kicking! To say it was a bit of a shock AND a wake-up call is like saying that the temperature in the North East is a little nippy right now…a big understatement.

How did I cope with this? Food. And wine. And sugar. You’d think that by now, I would have learned my lesson that self-medicating like this never ends well, but no. I pushed my feelings down and didn’t really want to talk about how I was feeling about it all. After all, this wasn’t about me. I talked about Dan and how he was doing, but didn’t think that talking about how I was feeling was going to be of help to anyone. I cooked healthy food for us both at home, but during the day ate badly and at night, drank a lot of wine.

A couple of weeks after his operation, I found myself feeling on “high alert” all the time. My heart constantly pounded, I was getting chest pains, my blood pressure was through the roof. Everything I had pushed down inside came crashing over me in a huge wave. I burst into tears at the weirdest moments. Eating breakfast…tears. Can’t find the lid to the yogurt…an Indian Ocean of tears. On my computer at work…tears. Having coffee with a friend…a veritable tsunami. Doing housework…tears. Grocery shopping…you get the idea. I went to our doctor…used up a whole box of Kleenex. Bless him, he sent me for tests to reassure me that my heart was fine. I went back to him. Another waterworks fest. I believe my doctor has now bought shares in Kleenex because of me.

So the upshot is, I finished the year on anxiety meds, but the GOOD news is I have stopped crying so much. I’m going to take my doctor’s advice and let my British Stiff Upper Lip relax. (He actually said that to me!) I have come to the realisation that self-care is important. I always knew in my head that it is vital but my inner me deep down felt self-care as being a bit selfish…you know like, “I’m going to a day spa”, “I’m having a mani-pedi”, “I want ME time”. None of those are wrong, but I felt like, as a woman, it’s kind of ingrained in us to be the carers, the nurturers. If I take a day off, I still do housework, or laundry because I feel guilty if I sit around reading and doing nothing or do stuff for ME. If Dan takes a day off to relax, he relaxes and does stuff that he wants to do. Who do you think has the right idea?

Self-care takes many forms. It’s about nourishing your body, mind, spirit in healthy ways. Yes, a pint of Coffee Haagen Dazs may feel good at first, but it’s not what’s going to help you/me in the long run. This is my list of things to do this year: Move, live, breathe (I’m fast becoming a fan of deep, deliberate breathing),pray (if it’s something that helps you), eat well, exercise in ways I enjoy and because I can, read new books, re-read the books I love, laugh with friends, be creative in so many different ways, go to the hair stylist, take a mental health day and meet a friend for coffee. Put things in place that I know will help, not hinder my well-being. I’ve stopped watching the news and reading a certain person’s twitter account. Some may say that’s burying my head in the sand. I say, at the moment it’s self-preservation.

I started back at The Kettlebell Fitness Center on Saturday. I had been staying away, for fear I would burst into tears mid-swing or mid-lunge. It was so good to be back, not just for the exercise, but to see all my strong friends there again. I love Saturday morning open gym. We swing heavy bits of cast iron, we chat, we laugh, we encourage and we get stronger. What a community. And what a mistake in staying away. The rhythm of the swing, and the correct breathing calms me. The ability to do things I couldn’t do before encourages me. The heavier weights ground me and the people around me sustain me. Yes, I’m aware that I may be waxing poetic here, but I’m in my happy place when I’m at the Kettlebell Fitness Center and when I’m feeling strong.

January has also seen a group of us at TKFC and some of our friends start another Whole 30. The hardest thing for me the first week has been giving up the glass or two of red wine I’ve been accustomed to. However, even in the first week, I’ve felt a lot better. After months of eating badly, Day 2 felt a little like a hangover, as eating food that didn’t contain sugar, grains, dairy or legumes and drinking mainly water and lightly flavoured seltzer seemed like an affront to my body used to alcohol, shortbread, M&Ms, Cheetos, bread, chocolate etc.

Dan has gone back to eating mostly plant based diet which has been interesting for me as I’m the one who cooks most nights. I’ve found that it’s been easier than I thought it would be. I make the base ingredients the same, but then add beans or grains to his half, and then whatever meat I want to mine. For example, I made chili on Friday. The base consisted of sauteed peppers, onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and cayenne. I then divided it and added kidney beans and vegetarian soy crumbles to his, and organic grass fed ground beef to mine. Topped with Hannaford’s delicious Taste of Inspirations Medium Pico De Gallo and some guacamole, it’s delicious, comforting and healthy.

So there you have it my friends. Welcome to 2018.  I leave you with the chorus lyrics of the 90’s Chumbawumba opus; “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you’re never gonna keep me down.”

Stay strong, look after yourself, and stay warm!  – J

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