What Wellness Eating For CIC Sounds Like

Upon waking, consume a cup of hot tea with lemon on an empty stomach. Or warm water with lemon. Although the acupuncturist I saw recently said fuck lemon, it should be room temperature water with honey instead. But also, the Internet says you should be taking a tablespoon of olive oil/coconut oil/flaxseed oil/ blackstrap molasses on an empty stomach in the morning as well. But in what order? Oil first since it clearly takes up less space than the cup of liquid after? But also, you may/may not have SIBO even if the doctors told you that you did not, so eating a fresh clove of garlic on an empty stomach for 1-2 weeks can help. And then you have to wait at least 1/2 hour to an hour before eating anything else. And then after, it should probably be fruit because fruit should be eaten in the morning before anything else, separate from other food.

Don’t forget.

Eat like 6-9 servings of veggies a day, which sounds crazy to me because I can’t even eat that many servings of regular food I think. Don’t drink juice, even if it’s 100% fruit juice; you’re killing yourself, said the chiropractor. But you can have bacon, fatty bacon’s okay.

Eliminate gluten. But that didn’t help when I did it for a month. So while it gave others amazing results, it’s not the cause of my condition. But while on the subject of gluten, there’s a sect online that claim grains are the devil now as well. Say goodbye to soothing bowls of oatmeal, grits, Cream of Wheat, and rice. You already know sugar is a beast and a couple of cookies will absolutely destroy your body. An ice cream scoop on a hot day is treasonous. You are not allowed to eat anything that isn’t fully healthy and natural; you will set your health back 30 years. Also, you can’t just have any kind of fruit or veggies. They MUST be organic. If not, you may as well be eating poison. Sorry.

“But you just ordered a fruit salad; did you ask if they used organic fruit?”

Don’t eat meat and starch together at the same meal, says the naturopath. Your body wasn’t meant to digest them together. This means you shouldn’t be going out to eat at restaurants because they’re going to put it on the same plate.

So, fuck a Chipotle burrito I guess. :/

A tablespoon of flax or chia seeds a day will absolutely regulate you.

NOPE. My stomach has suddenly inflated like a balloon. Nope, not good. Same with those fruit/vegetable smoothies. It has worsened my condition. #FAIL

I don’t feel good.

Check your posture throughout the day, especially while eating. Mindful eating means cutting the television off and savoring your bites for proper and efficient digestion. No distractions. Also, don’t drink anything at least 20 minutes before your meal, or during it, including water, as this dilutes the digestive juices. Try to wait at least 20 minutes after as well. And make sure you’ve fully chewed your food to liquid. Should take about 30-50 chews per bite.

Also, back to the maybe-you-COULD-have-SIBO-and-your-doc-is-just-an-idiot line of thinking. Certain fruits can exacerbate SIBO, so you should probably limit fruits too. And try going low FODMAP. Apples and garlic are on the list of high FODMAPS.

PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GIVE UP GARLIC (which, ironically, is supposed to do wonders for gut health). But FODMAP fruits contain fructose, which is supposed to SPEED up digestive transit. Why don’t I want this?

“No, it helps for constipation too.”

The fructose that SPEEDS UP digestive transit can cause constipation? Okay… *Refers to special food list printed at the naturopath’s office.*

I strictly adhere to the morning empty-stomach drink routine.

I agonize over the timing of ingesting fruit.

I count my chews of organic product with a ramrod straight back, focusing on my breathing patterns while doing so, swallowing only when I’ve confirmed it’s become liquid form.

I question everything I consume.

This is healthy. This is moderately healthy. This is slightly healthy. This is not healthy. I’m cheating here. This is not healthy. This was a good stomach day; I should stay empty. It’s like fasting right? I don’t want to lose weight though. This is not healthy.

STOP IT.

This is not healthy.

This is not healing.

Kinesiology testing shows stress. Naturopath and acupuncturist question my erratic pulse. Some herbs have helped. Sudden conversations unloading held-back truths have sent me flying to the bathroom.

Stress.

And stressing about food, is not curing me. It’s only adding to the mysterious underlying emotional stress possibly causing this condition in the first place. My mind no longer WELCOMES food into my body.

Let’s shift the focus from food.

Today I ate an apple and a ham and cheese sandwich from the bodega. I didn’t question the potential harmfulness of the white bread, the health factors associated with processed deli meat and mayo, or whether possible SIBO critters that may/may not be living in my small intestine would feast on the apple fructans. I felt empowered.

I refuse to fear food any longer.

Or Judgment. Perception. Conflict. Accusation. Discomfort.

Truth.

*–Reformatting–*

Because the world is not always right.

~Tael

What I Learned From A 21-Day Elimination Diet

(Not that much)

In my efforts to get closer to the solution of the chronic idiopathic constipation that’s been plaguing me for the past year, I’ve done a lot of shit (unfortunately only figuratively >.<). I’ve loaded up on fiber, (both supplemental and in fresh whole fruit and veggie smoothie form) which only exacerbated the condition. I’ve experimented with 8 glasses of water a day, undergone laxative clean-outs, visited separate gastroenterologists and collectively undergone an ultrasound, MRI and colonoscopy. I’ve chugged salt water/baking soda solutions, cupped warm tea with lemon in the mornings, and fasted. I’ve added every Top 20 “Foods That Make You Poop” on the Google searches to my diet. I’ve also tried eliminating certain known “trigger” categories for a week or so. Gluten, dairy, sugar, etc…But never at the same time. And I was asked the question, “Well, what if you didn’t remove them for long enough?” My thought-process (and what I’ve read from most Internet accounts) is once you get rid of the thing hindering your digestive process, you start to see results pretty quickly. Not like you’re-better-in-a-day quickly, but you DO see a noticeable change.

Only time I noticed a significant digestive change was when I started a Manuka honey, black seed oil, mastic gum combo to fight what I THOUGHT might be H. Pylori, although I was later tested and confirmed to NOT have it. After the colonoscopy, which came back A-OK, and while waiting for the test results from my naturopath (doctors GALORE was my strategy) I thought, what next? My bestie had recently raved about the magical healing powers of celery juice, and urged me to give that a shot. Like for a month. And I’m like, where tf am I going to get celery juice every day for a month? Do I like…MAKE it? Do I have to buy a juicer?? The Internet (no connection to the band) told me you could simply blend the stuff and strain it through a nut-milk bag. Okay cool. Time to try this new thing to add to my exhaustive list of tried things. Especially since all these bloggers swore celery juice sent them stampeding to the bathroom with its diuretic effect. I needed that.

But then, since I can’t half-ass anything, I decided, what if I did something ELSE during this period to make it more effective? Since I’d tried eliminating one food one week, another food another week, in the past, why not do ’em ALL AT THE SAME TIME and  TORTURE MYSELF EVEN MORE?

Because true healing is rough, right? And most nutritionists will say everything you eat nowadays is bad if it’s not vegetables. Everything will cause cancer. White bread? Cancer. Meat? AWFUL. Whole grains? They’re bad now. Non-organic fruits and vegetables? How dare you. Sugar? The holy grail of unhealthiness. Hell they’re even suggesting that we limit fruit now. Foods not immediately shipped to you from the local farmer McGregor’s pastures can cause brain fog and people are really seeking out these functional medicine docs and paying the $800-initial-visit and $300-follow-up-visits (that aren’t covered by health insurance) because with the brain fog, they “just don’t feel quite right.”

This is what we’re going to the doctor for now. Brain fog. Headaches. Dizziness. Although if you have all 3 of those on a regular basis, I’d be concerned if you didn’t get a CAT scan first for tumors before assuming it’s the pesticides on your apples from Key Food.

Negative bacteria is running rampant disrupting our gut microbiomes and we need to starve them out by abandoning anything delicious that we hold dear, and our bodies weren’t meant to process all the foods we eat now because Darwinian adaptation doesn’t really exist, and if you take antibiotics or eat one false thing you absolutely destroy your gut flora and all you’ve worked up to achieving it and set yourself back 1,000 steps. So no ice cream cones with your kiddies, slice of pizza with your sister, or a box of shared fries with your date. Even if it’s once in awhile.

Well then, let’s have it and see if it fixes me?

I cut out gluten, dairy and sugar for 21 days. Supposedly the 3 biggest inflammatory offenders. I had already been tested for Celiac’s, but had heard you could have a negative test and still be intolerant. Since I tend to be active (yeah, this ain’t no couch-potato constipation we’re talking about), I couldn’t COMPLETELY give up starch so I allowed for the two naturally non-gluten ones: rice and potatoes (which I’ve recently learned is actually a veggie!). Excluding rice, I gave up grains, because apparently there’s some belief going around that whole grains are now the devil. I gave up eggs because they’re kinda dairy, kinda not, and some people have problems with them. Some sites advocated giving up nightshades (which includes potatoes) but I don’t eat nightshades on the regular enough to have a need to eliminate them. No caffeine or alcohol (which induces a pretty good colon cleanout from my experience with liquor, but okay), but that was a non-issue. No processed foods or junk of any kind, which I don’t normally eat like that anyway. I skated the questionable line between beans/legumes vs no beans/legumes because they’re not part of my regular diet. I initially cut out nuts and seeds for the first week and a half or so as well, because the Internet says it’s good to, before remembering the last time I had nuts or seeds was years ago, so those definitely weren’t causing my issue. Also I was starving and needed something else to snack on besides fruit.

Yes. I was hungry. Sure there’s all these WONDERFUL VEGGIES TO INDULGE IN to replace the awful, terrible, no-good foods that you miss, but let’s get real. I ate and ate the safe foods, couldn’t tell if I was full or hungry or what for the first week. I determined that this was only because my body was craving the things I loved but couldn’t have. It cried out for more “yummies” even though it was full already. My cookies and snacks were stashed in a high cabinet where I couldn’t see them. My whey protein shakes went on hiatus. I eliminated fruit juice, and dutifully chopped up my celery stalks every morning. I added teaspoons of acacia fiber to ensure I was still getting soluble fiber.

“Breakfast” didn’t exist anymore, it became leftover-safe-foods-from-last-night. The entire first week I focused on foods not commonly in my rotation like lamb, ground turkey, sweet potatoes, applesauce, spinach. Weekends I stayed close to home because I couldn’t even eat at someone else’s house and I wouldn’t be able to grab something “quick” from outside. At one point my stove broke and needed to be replaced, so thank god for emergency Chipotle (burrito bowl without the burrito, rice, beans, chicken, COMPLIANT). I berated my boyfriend for attempting to surprise me with Japanese restaurant reservations during this period, because eating out was impossible, unless we were going to JustSalads, minus any dressing or toppings. And I hate salads.

Midway through the diet, results from my naturopath came in. No dysbiosis. No helicobactor pylori or other sinister bacteria. No candida overgrowth. No parasites. No heavy metals in my blood. Nothing to indicate that I had a leaky gut or disrupted microbiome or that my diet beforehand had contributed in any sense to my condition. Nothing to confirm these fancy new diagnoses that warrant giving up pleasurable eating. But I had started this elimination diet, so I was committed to finishing it.

Two weeks in I did notice my bloating was beginning to subside. I also decided to switch back off of Miralax to magnesium supplementation instead because I hate the concept of having to stay on Miralax indefinitely. Was it the diet? Or was it the incorporation of resistant starch, the celery juicing, or finally caving and using ab machines at the gym; something I’d avoided for all my years of gymming on the basis that if I did full body workouts, I didn’t need to isolate abs.

Once I got off the Miralax, shit did get harder again (every pun intended here).

My cravings did subside…all up until maybe 5 days before the impending diet’s end. Then they came back full force, as if they could tell I’d be able to indulge soon enough. Additionally, my stools returned to little rabbit balls, even WORSE than before I’d begun the diet. :/ Eliminating grains and relying strictly on increased veggies was not healing me.

For a colonoscopy, you’re required to have a clear liquid-only diet for the entire day before the procedure. Then the night before, you take a powerful laxative to clear out all the nothing you’ve been eating (drinking?), so you can waltz in zombified the next day, lay down on the cot, have the IV inserted, and….oh shit it’s over and the nurse is giving you popcorn and apple juice in the recovery room (god damn I miss popcorn and apple juice right now). I went home that day and ordered two large pasta dishes from Seamless. Because that is what restriction can do to you.

As I write this, I crave pizza, burgers, and bullshit bodega snacks I usually don’t even notice. Shit I never even give a passing THOUGHT on a normal basis because my diet doesn’t usually consist of these things. Bagels. Wendy’s Frostys and Checker’s shakes. Lays chips and a Coke like I used to have as an after-school snack in high school (cause characters in older YA novels always had that damn snack). An ice cream with sprinkles off the truck whose jingle New Yorkers are pretty much immune to at this point. I missed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and buttered toast. This diet prompted cravings in shit I’d eat once every few months if that. Chocolate bars that I can never finish in one sitting, and usually only encounter around Halloween. My dreams involved deli cold-cut sandwiches, tortilla chips, and waffles drenched in syrup.

They say when you do an elimination diet, it’s supposed to teach you about your relationship with food. I’ve learned nothing from it besides the reinforcement that my soul is much better suited to moderation than restriction. I like snacks. I get sugar cravings. But sometimes I can go days without cookies because I DON’T always crave them. I drink 100% juice but when I pour myself a cup I pour about 8 ounces maybe, and struggle to finish it. My cousins have always made fun of me for making a 16 oz bottle of soda last for 2 days. If I get an ice cream cup, it’s always a SMALL because I know what I can finish and what I can’t.

I also lost a good 7 pounds on this diet, an unfortunate side-effect that many would cheer for, but a lamentation for someone who has always had trouble putting on weight and whose main goal of gymming is gains. They say elimination diets are not meant to be long term (Thank GOD, but jeebus look at some of the lengths on SCD and GAPs), and there’s some interweb arguments against them. That it’s not good to just eat the same ish all the time since before the advent of Whole Foods, humans didn’t have access to fresh kale and asparagus year round and our diets rotated around what crops were in season, and what resources were available. That continuously eating the same foods can lead to food intolerances (even though that’s EXACTLY what you’re doing on an elimination diet, doubling down on the shit you CAN eat, which you’re not supposed to do, so Catch-22?), or that avoiding foods can LEAD to building intolerances based on its avoidance! That nutritional deficiencies can come into play if you’re not properly replacing things you’re giving up like grains with different sources of the same nutrients.

And then there’s the pyschological aspect, that plants (haha) the notion that you’ve messed up by eating a “bad food” like a Pavlovian response. It creates an unnecessary stress factor when really, food should be inviting and one of our basic human indulgences. Hell my chiropractor was even against oatmeal because he believes all carbs are awful.

By the completion of the diet, my constipation wasn’t cured, my life wasn’t changed and I didn’t feel full of energy and superpowered like my chiro said I would be. My skin didn’t get clearer (although I had no real acne to begin with), I hadn’t been experiencing BRAIN FOG, or stomach pains, or headaches or dizziness or anything besides a slower gut before this to feel improvement for. My stomach did feel lighter, sure, but between Days 12-17, I felt bouts of lethargy which made me wonder if I was lacking in some nutrient I’d inadvertently cut out. By Day 18 I was so sick of potatoes and rice as a side that I started forgoing it, still bored with the meat and veggie options, but simply eating out of necessity just because my body needed it, and not out of any sense of satisfaction.

Food no longer made me happy.

My belief is that food needs some kind of balance. Being unable to eat at your mom’s house because the beans were cooked in butter or travel to far from your home-prepared safe food sources (guys, I didn’t even leave the borough of Manhattan) is a very militant and unhealthy relationship for myself to have with something that once gave me pleasure. And constant worrying over whether you’re consuming enough water if you’re not thirsty, to counterbalance your increased fiber definitely spiked my anxiety (I’m FULL but am I getting ENOUGH ahhhh!). I longed for the days where I didn’t have to THINK, but I also longed for a clear sign of improvement that I never got on this diet.

My reintroduction period has begun and it’s a bit more complicated than it seems. I haven’t binged through all the foods I’ve missed because you have to reintroduce just that eliminated group in its isolated form. So no pizza, because there’s gluten AND dairy, and same goes for other favorite delectables, like garlic bread, ice cream, cheeseburgers, cake, etc…For sugar i’ve reintroduced honey and juice, and dairy, milk, butter and cheese, to eliminate any possible reactions to these subsets before moving to gluten where I can have a bowl of cereal again, or a peanut butter sandwich….and COOKIES. When I reach dairy, since I had already done sugar, I was at least able to bring back Ensures (got a lotta weight recoup to work on), gluten free protein bars, ice cream, and chocolate milk. So the home stretch is even longer than one would think, but necessary to make sure you have no reactions to any “triggers” added back in from each group, which I fully expect to NOT have, as this diet has not revealed food intolerances. I ponder to at least take something away from this experience; some nuggets of acquired wisdom:

  1. I WILL continue to celery juice since I still think this can be beneficial.
  2. Resistant starch did seem to help out so i’ll continue to incorporate that one for awhile as well.
  3. I shouldn’t be afraid to eat more (chronic constipation can definitely subconsciously plant an avoidance to food, and less food is not the answer here).
  4. The Internet, with all its abundance of holistic/anecdotal/underground knowledge, can still get it wrong, and is rife with contradiction. Just like doctors.

I survived, and I’m glad I got this shit out the way before the delicious summertime scents take over. I proceed to move forward, this time with the exact opposite diet: low fiber, high calorie. I plan to compare how both make me feel.

Wonder which one will come out on top?

~Tael

 

P.S.A: Quit the Gimme, Gimme

Lying, spitting, and smoking make it to my Top 5 Pet Peeves list. There’s another that REALLY irks me, but I don’t hear too many others complaining about it.

Borrowing.

I got a lot of reasons to dislike this (and i’m fully aware I only listed 4 peeves). To the point where I’ve established a no-borrowing policy that I often re-iterate to those who ask me. Maybe you find this selfish. “But what’s wrong with helping others if you have it?”

I won’t say that I NEVER do it. I’ve grudgingly obliged at times when family members REALLY needed it. But I strongly believe against it and I don’t do it myself because I believe it’s a selfish thing to ask of somebody, ESPECIALLY since 99% of the time, they don’t REALLY need it.

Remember the current economic climate of our country, with the majority of us living paycheck-to-paycheck, and an overwhelming many collecting roommates and AirBnB-ing our extra spaces for additional income. A rich man likely won’t notice some missing funds; do they even online bank regularly? But if you ask the average American to borrow $100, it’s not exactly a small amount of money to temporarily part with. It’s exactly BECAUSE of our country’s economic climate that when emergency expenses pop up, we’re unprepared. Unexpected accidents, random government bills and unpredictable circumstances do arise, yes. And I get it; sometimes you just don’t have it and if your credit is also shot, you’re in a bad spot. Good financial responsibility dictates that one SHOULD have an emergency savings account for things like this, but understandably, it’s difficult to build one up. But I can count on one closed fist the amount of times people have asked to borrow money from me that were actual emergencies.

You’re going on a cruise and forgot to budget in your flight to the cruise so you can make it to your vacation? Not an emergency.

You want to visit some dude you’ve been seeing but don’t have enough money for the Metro North ride so you asking me? Not an emergency. (Why isn’t the guy paying for you??)

Your sister (who I never met) is asking to borrow money from YOU because she’s already borrowed too much from ya’lls parents and YOU don’t have it to lend her so you asking ME to lend to YOU to lend to HER? Helll nahhh, KEEP ME OUT THAT DAMN CIRCLE PLEASE.

When did we become so entitled to asking people to part with their hard-earned cash (and trust me, if you work in today’s world, it’s hard-earned) for our frivolities? And so selfish that we’re not even ashamed to do so?

Those who borrow like it’s nothing: How do you think the person who has the money you’re borrowing from, has it at all in the first place? Maybe they got this good ass job with an awesome salary so they have a cushy bank account. That could be it. But more than likely (since most of us DON’T have that), they’re practicing the good financial habits you’re not. They’ve put in the work to build up a savings account to have for emergencies. Their emergencies, not yours. They’ve cut back on the things you didn’t. They’ve stopped eating out as much or ordering take-out, made a conscious effort to buy less shoes and clothes, fancy lattes and liquor. They budgeted and went without some things they wanted to attain some non-paycheck-to-paycheck security for themselves.

THAT. SHIT. IS. NOT. EASY.

And this is why, when you come with your hand out after you bought all the shit we’ve restrained ourselves from buying, it’s a slap in the face. Because even though we know it’s easier to spend than save, we’ve done the hard part of sacrificing, not through magical superpowers but by exerting self-control, and you could damn well do the same too. But you choose not to because you’d rather have the things you want when you want them, without sacrifice.

Do you ever think that the person you’re borrowing $200 from now has $200 less to manage in their bank account even if they’re getting it back in a month or so? Probably not. But imagine someone came to you and borrowed $200. The fact that you have to borrow yourself, means you’d be in quite a jam and something essential probably ain’t getting paid that month. We all have the same bills. Rent, food, electricity, transportation. Some choose to have excess bills they can’t keep up with. Some WITHOUT these bills still find the need to borrow. The only person I’ve ever borrowed from really was my mom. And that was to help pay off my student loans. A decade ago.

I went through that struggling period that most of us do, where I was overworked on a $450/biweekly paycheck, making ends meet off a retail cashier’s paycheck. And not once did I ask to borrow some extra cash to “have a good time.” I saw coats I fell in love with that I couldn’t buy (damn you Hootenanny). Restaurants I couldn’t eat at. Events I could not go to. I sunk into a pit of depression, then worked my ASS off to crawl out it, because it was not someone else’s responsibility to make those things happen for me. And I didn’t WANT anyone to feel SORRY for me and give me a handout either.

Let’s not act not like we all don’t want to go on that vacation. Or get those shoes we really like. Or go out and be a baller one night on the town. We all deserve it. But we shouldn’t be asking people to fund that shit for us as a loan.

I had an ex who asked to borrow money from me for everything: weed, liquor, cat food, groceries, a new $200 watch to look good on vacation, dinners out, a cabin rental for HIS friends to hang out, a new video game that he couldn’t wait until the end of the month to get. I even funded multiple trips for us where I picked up the tab on everything up front (Universal, Otakon, Boston) simply because he didn’t have it. He never did. God forbid if I hadn’t been on top of my money and an emergency had happened (and there were a few) we would have been up shit’s creek without a financial paddle, screwed on rent, screwed on trips, screwed on life. I had to budget for “twos” at all times, as if I was the sole provider of the household and not dating another adult with a higher salary than me. That kind a silent pressure builds up like you don’t even realize the more you get taken advantage of this way.

Now I may feel strongly about this, but I’m not a tyrant. There are innocent reasons to borrow. Maybe you’re out with a friend and they find this *Insert Rare Quest Item* they’ve been after for awhile now and don’t have the money for it on them but goddammit IT’S ON SALE NOW. Perhaps you’re a parent and you find the season’s sold-out “Tickle-Me-Elmo” that will make your kid’s Christmas day in an out-of-the-way store and you can pay your cousin back on the next paycheck if they spot you for it now (that is love). Maybe there’s a trip/event/experience coming up that someone would LOVE, but they didn’t budget for because they didn’t realize it was happening and you want them to join in on the fun too. Maybe your cousin is just having a rough time with life and you just wanna spot them for the night and help them feel better.

But if you’re someone who makes a HABIT of borrowing from others on a consistent basis, you need to re-evaluate your situation because you’re living above your means and counting on others to help support your lifestyle. It means you need to look back and see what you bought the past month that you really didn’t need (and trust me, you WILL find things you did NOT need). And if you’re not willing to do that, and would rather burden someone else with helping you out because it’s the easier route, you are lazy and selfish and unwilling to sacrifice as an adult should.

It annoyed me to no end that my ex would order clothes, indulge in all the world’s vices, insist on ordering lobster dinners and $80 meals on Seamless, then ask me to fill in the salary gaps until he could make it to the next check (why the fuck wouldn’t you budget properly??). Now it’s never my business what others do with their own money (so long as you’re not coming for handouts after you recklessly spent your shit on something stupid). As long as you can handle your business, go crazy; spend all your extra cash on Amiibos, sunglasses, Groupon experiences, premium Patreon packages, whatever. But don’t count on someone else to help you make it through life because of it.

I like where I am in life right now. I work for an awesome remote company. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford my own apartment in NYC without roommates (oh thank God). I’m trying and maybe failing to build up a Roth IRA for the future, a savings account for unexpected expenses, and a checking account cushion so that I don’t need to count the days till my next paycheck. I avoid fancy restaurants, try to cook at home as much as possible to save money, and leftovers are my life. I don’t buy expensive handbags or shoes, and shop at places mostly when the 50% off sales are going on, unless it’s Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Forever 21 (and I still go for the clearance sections there). I know when to NOT buy that $3 hot dog or soft drink off the cart vendors or at the gourmet deli because the cart or bodega two avenues down got it for $1-$2 less (Don’t buy sodas from 7-11 in New York, guys, it ain’t worth it!!).

I’m not jet-setting around the world (unless my job is sending me), but I try to plan a vacation on my own maybe once a year. And hell, that only started a year ago. And I’m not hitting the bars or clubs every Friday at the end of the week racking up $100 bar tabs. I’m frugal with my spending so that when I see something I REALLY want or something I would LOVE (or when the stupid medical bills come in from that thing you didn’t really need to go in for), the money is there for me. Not the person who wants to borrow it from me. I attained a level of independence for myself so I could remain self-sufficient and rely on no one; not so I could play the Monopoly banker making sure there’s enough for everyone else’s luxuries.

I never expect a standard from anybody that I don’t live up to myself. I live below my means so I don’t owe anybody shit.

Pun intended.

Remember that old line adults always told you growing up? “You can’t always have everything you want.”

We grew into adults and became borrowers and forgot.

~Tael

Pet Rescues? Or Militant Animal Gatekeepers?

Remember the days when you decided you wanted an animal companion in your life, so you strolled down to your local shelter, filled out some paperwork, gave an optional donation, and walked out the same day with the new pet of your choosing, ready to bond and share your space with them?

They gone.

I mean, you can still do this at the pet shop with hamsters I guess. But the way adoption processes for a cat or dog are structured nowadays, you may as well toss in an application for a chance at a black market immigrant child too. You’ll probably be cleared for the human before the animal enthusiasts deem your application worthy.

Those close to me know I was once the proud owner of a beautiful orange tabby who lived to the ripe old age of 19 years. Last April, he succumbed to a thyroid issue that robbed his ability to see, and finally, eat or walk. I syringe-fed him water during his last days and a final vet visit ended in euthanization.

I was devastated, yes, but I know it was probably time cause my cat was pretty damn old. I’d watched the rapid deterioration of both my grandparents (who’d been old forever because they’re grandparents) when their time was up. One minute they seem just fine, and the next, a simple cold or digestion issue destroys their weak immune system and results in their (timely, I guess) departure. It took until the end of the year for me to finally feel ready to adopt again, with the enlightenment one gains from being a previous pet owner. I wanted two this time. Kip had been a wonderful, vocal cat, who initially meow-meowed-meowed his way through the house, to the point where we wondered if he’d ever shut up and neighbors shoved meat under our door because they thought we housed a starving animal. Two companions would keep each other company and hopefully cut down on this, and I felt a bonded pair of litter-mates would do nicely! The idea of a dog crossed my mind (and I work from home so I’d be in the best position to have one), but two cats are still less work than one dog. I was READY.

Twenty years later though, the adoption game has severely changed with the millennium, and I was not ready for the evolved difficulty in the approval process. It seemed a bunch of self-righteous animal zealots now controlled a huge chunk of the adoptable animal population, only willing to release them to those considered deserving of an pet. Oh it SEEMS great on first thought; we all want what’s best for the animals and making sure potential adopters are responsible and bringing them into a healthy, non-abusive environment is a terrific idea. But it’s that arrogant zealousness to find the “perfect” match for animals that causes “Adopt, Don’t Shop” to fail. Slate actually has a superb article that wonderfully sums up how convoluted the process has become here.

Some rejections have nothing to do with how well you can take care of and provide for an animal. Take a look at one of mine here:

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So…ya’ll not tryna have some kittens go to forever homes cause ya’ll don’t FEEL like making the drive? THANKS LYNN. Great effort!

In my personal opinion, it’s pretty damn difficult to neglect a cat. Maybe because I’ve had pets all my life that I was responsible for (hamsters, mice, rabbits, turtles, cats) so it’s a little more ingrained in me that animals need taking care of. Dogs require a bit more effort, but at the bare minimum, you give a cat food and water, change its litter and play with it some. At the bare minimum, someone walking into a pet shelter or rescue organization looking to adopt knows they have to do this. An animal-hater is not going to walk into a pet shelter interested in adoption and pay the fees required, unless some really SICK individual wants to adopt a pet to secretly torture them, but sick individuals will always find ways to do their sick things and I’m pretty sure these guys are in the isolated minority. At the very least, with any adoption, an animal gets taken from a cage or enclosed space in a shelter (I understand foster situations are different, but still) and goes to a home where they get far more attention and room to roam. It is usually going to be a better situation for them to be in. Someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, scrounging for enough money to feed their children or keep the lights on this month, is likely not going to waltz into a shelter and add a new expense of caring for an animal, no matter how cute it is. But still, financials seem to be a huge part of the application process.

References are generally required now, which is fine, however, the world knows how references work. You pick the people who will paint you to be a shining star and say whatever required to make you glow. References are kinda one of society’s biggest B.S. schemes. Even shitty pedophiles have acquaintances who will vouch the high heavens for them if given as references. Mine were apparently asked if I was economically stable enough to own a cat. What, were they going to say NO?

But really, let’s look at the economic status of the nation as a whole. The majority of the U.S. currently lives paycheck to paycheck. :/ They find a way to manage, however, this does insinuate that only the small percentage of wealthy would fit the “perfect appliCAT” adoption (see what I did there?). Most applications ask if you’d be able to afford an animal’s vet bills, but let’s not act like in today’s times, finding affordable health care for HUMANS isn’t a large task in itself already, and many millennials simply go without it!

We’re living though.

Some applications specifically ask how much would be too much a vet’s bill for you. I started putting things like $3000 because I’m not sure what they were looking for. If you can’t afford a $3000 vet bill for your cat, does that mean you shouldn’t be allowed to have one? Because a $3000 doctor’s bill for a human would wipe most people’s savings. Does this mean we should be banned from caring for them? The richest person with an endless supply of fortune could adopt and give a cat a whole wing of their mansion, vet bills pre-paid, and still only be giving the bare minimum: food, litter, a home. Doesn’t mean they’re petting the cat on a regular basis or playing with them, or giving them love. Most hire nannies for their own children, so I’m sure said nanny or housekeeper would be caring for the pet as well. And let’s be real, the wealthy usually don’t saunter into the ASPCA looking to rescue; they find a pedigreed breeder and dole out a handsome sum for a certified, purebred, exotic prize.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t take my last cat in for yearly vet check-ups. I saw no need. He was an indoor cat, had all his shots, vaccinations, and got neutered within the first year of his life. I gave him good quality food and he was not only part of my immediate family, but my extended family too. Once in awhile he got sick, just as we humans do. But most of us know you don’t immediately run to the doctor when you get sick, unless it’s serious. In fact, 75% I’ve run to the doctor for a perceived ailment, I didn’t have to GO. It was something that would have passed and I ended up with a stupid bill, a prescription for some shit I could get from Duane Reade over the counter on my own, and a “This too, shall pass” diagnosis. When he had a REAL issue, I took him. The rest of the time, he got monumental love and support from all of us.

Let’s move from the financial aspect. Many applications ask if I have kids or plan to. Umm…shit, what if I did? It could happen in the future, as I am…an adult woman with working ovaries. Can cats and kids not live together? Do families not have pets? Okay, maybe they’re just screening so they can let you know which of their adoptables don’t do well with children. Understandable! But then they proceed to ask if you DID have a kid, what would you do with your cat? Umm I’d have my kid. And I’d have my cat? “What if you moved? Would you take your cat?” No, I’d leave it in the empty apartment and hope the super overheard the hungry yowls eventually. *Sarcasm alert.*

wallstreetcatguy“Will you ever let the cat outside?” I mean, in a carrier, unless I travel to a family or friend’s house that has an enclosed backyard maybe? What, you think I’m going to walk outside down a New York City block with my cat in my arms? Maybe someone who had a damn good trained cat could do that, like the one who used to show up around Wall Street. But most indoor cats would likely claw the shit out of you if you tried to take them outside in your arms amidst honking horns and barking dogs. Most owners know this. Why the hell would someone who lives in a New York City apartment let their cat outside unless it’s a bodega or apartment complex cat? Common sense. Sure, there’s the cat leash movement going on but I have only come across ONE urban cat-walker in my New York City life. Why are we asking this question like it’s a common thing lol.

“How many hours the cat will be left alone during the day?” Well that’s pretty easy to ascertain if the person has a standard fucking 9-5 job. That they’ll need to have in order to be financially stable enough to adopt the damn cat in the first place and afford those $3000 vet bills, right?

“We require a home visit.” This one may be the most invasive of them all. What’chu mean you wanna come to my HOUSE? And see if it’s SUITABLE for a cat? Some folk are sensitive about their small spaces, or day-to-day messies. What if the “inspector” is a Trump supporter wearing a red #MAGA cap and I have an Obama “Yes We Can” fleece throw on my couch? I’m probably not getting that damn cat.

One place tried to call my apartment management company to verify pets were allowed and ended up getting a new girl that gave her the runaround. I was surprised my management company even answered the phone. You know how hard it is for ME to get ahold of someone there? But trust me, I doubt most New Yorkers would be willing to take in an animal if they weren’t allowed. Especially when it’s rent-stabilized. We ain’t risking that. But what if someone rescued an animal off the street and hid it from their management company? More power to them! We can’t say it doesn’t help the rescue plight.

Through all this, you have the rescues and shelters posting desperate pleas for animal adopters and fosters NEEDED NOW, because the shelters are overflowing, and animals are getting euthanized or remaining unadopted for lengthy periods; all the while simultaneously calling for “A+ adopters ONLY and if you have to ask what it is, you’re not one” (because only the cream of the crop will do and we’re not really here to educate potential adopters >.>) or criticizing potential adopters for having preferences, such as color or age, which is RIDICULOUS! If someone wants an orange cat, let them hunt for an orange cat! If a person loves a certain breed and sees they’re available for adoption with you, what’s the issue? If they prefer a kitten over an adult cat like I do (because I prefer to raise them myself and have an earlier bond), are they less of an animal-lover because of this? And then the raging fan, and I’ll quite bluntly call them “dickriding” comments that back up these ridiculous critiques, solidify the existence of an entire Internet club of perceived cat activists, who must ALL be perfect adopters who take their cats (and they all BETTER have cats lol) for biyearly dental cleanings, consider Fancy Feast actual gourmet cat food, and live for putting down “B-” cat owners on social media.

“Adopt, Don’t Shop” is easier said then done, especially when potential adopters need to pass a figurative bar exam from the gatekeepers to adopt. They are looking for perfect adopters but “perfection” doesn’t exist. I was damn near ready to go through a back-alley CraigsList kitten transaction (because when you want an animal, you WILL get an animal) when a ray of light appeared in my path.

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I spotted this adorable little face on the ‘gram. And some brief reviewing revealed he had siblings! I DM-ed them to inquire and messaged with Holland, a sweet breath of fresh air who communicated with life and feeling and energy, unlike many of the of the short, brusque, almost exhausted-sounding responses from the other places I’d looked into. I was directed to their website, https://catcastlenyc.org where I filled out a simple, non-invasive application and saw that part of their goal is non-discriminatory adoption! She sent me pics of the little guy’s siblings and I decided I wanted his brother too, and within two days she showed up at my apartment to deliver the little darlings. While this could also be construed as a home visit, it wasn’t the same in my eyes, because I was already approved for the adoption, whereas other places use the home visit to further render judgment on your approval.

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Spike and Vash

I am now the proud owner of two rambunctious bonded brothers born with little bent tails, who I’ve spent the last week spoiling with holistic cat food, organic rotisserie chicken, more toys on the way, and that cat condo I’ve always wanted. For my cats. >.>’ We’re working on getting them comfortable being held while standing, but for now they crawl into my lap for cuddles, are no longer afraid when the front door opens, and tear around the house chasing and wrestling each other before falling asleep together in a kitty hug. I make them little aluminum foil balls to play with, tossed a blanket on the floor of my closet because I know they like to nap there sometimes, and now have to carefully roll my office chair out because they like to hang out under there while I’m sitting in it at my computer.

I don’t think I qualify as an “A+ adopter,” and I’m not sure I’d even want to. I’m much happier being the imperfect human I am that loves animals and takes damn good care of her pets, happily welcoming a saved life into my imperfect world. I love that Cat Castle NYC deviated from the drill sergeant adoption routine, and equally loved being able to support a warm, friendly, up-and-coming, humble rescue, who really just seem to want to sincerely help connect cats with homes, and not play militant adoption gods who collect multiple applications on single pets in their adoption arena to determine the winner. I highly recommend and encourage other potential adopters who know they’re responsible enough to take an animal under their wing without having a snotty judge referee with a static checklist whether they truly are to check them out!

~Tael

*See You Space Cowboy*

Christmas Gifts? Christmas Cheer? A Rant.

“It’s not about the gifts.”

Someone will say this every holiday season. That Christmas isn’t about the presents. That it’s about Jesus’ birthday (my family is Christian), time spent with loved ones, gratefulness to be alive and blessed and loved, appreciation blah blah blah and all those other sentiments we should already have every other day of the year anyway. Kinda like Thanksgiving, the holiday whose name implies that we should be spending the day testifying to what we are thankful for, but all anyone really cares about is where they gonna be eating. Really. I suggested this year for Thanksgiving that we all volunteer at a soup kitchen as a family and mom’s response was “Well, what are we gonna eat?”

But then, come Christmas, that line of thinking gets the 180.

For the past few years, my family has invaded Christmas tradition, attempting to unconvincingly downplay the gift-giving aspect, while continuing to request $100+ items or cash on their wish lists. We created a new tradition the past 8 years or so, where my mom and sister and I shlep out with my aunt and cousins to my godmother’s house on Christmas Eve, so that we can wake up Christmas morning as one big happy family and do all the Christmas things together like decorating the tree, watching Home Alone, wearing festive gear, fancy eating and liquor imbibing, general merriment, reading the Bible, taking a walk around town, napping, eating some more, then basically doing everything possible to avoid the gifts under the tree until 5 p.m. on Christmas Day…

Wait…

Somewhere along the way, this new tradition went awry.  Because the elders decided that since “Christmas is not about the gifts,” we should do everything in our power to pretend they aren’t in the next room over-appealingly packed under the tree like some sort of Home Christmas Special edition magazine cover, and act like some of us (not me of course, I finish shopping early) weren’t just maniacally racing around stores trying to find the perfect gifts for each other the week before, like we aren’t excited to see our loved ones open the shit we stressed out to buy for them.

Three “elders.” Three “somewhat” adult-children (because in our family they still call us “kids” at age 30), and one teenager whose Christmas rights are stripped away because even though we’re spending Christmas together as a family to make everyone happy, much of the the fun, happiness, and excitement is being sucked out of the deal by Holiday Dictatorship.

Sometimes my family will suggest not gift-exchanging at all, but instead donating the $$$ you would have spent on their gifts to a charity. Nice idea, although let’s remember this contribution still remains a GIFT, and something you are GIVING, so I’ll forever need elaboration that they’ll never give on what exactly about the GIVING aspect they’re against. In the most logical, Devil’s Advocate-sense, are they saying that since the people you love are better off than those who really need assistance, this means we are less-deserving of receiving ANYTHING from them? Why not just give both? Last year, after multiple years of someone always throwing this idea into the mix, I said fine. Let’s NOT get anyone anything. Give my gift to a donation instead. My cousins were not happy with my acceptance of this idea. I honestly was so tired of hearing it that I really did not give a shit at that point what happened. I ended up breaking the family tradition entirely, and instead spending Christmas with my ex-narcissist so that he wouldn’t be alone. What happened? My family ended up coming to my house later on Christmas Day, WITH gifts that we’d agreed not to buy! When I asked WTF happened to the plan, the answer was “Well we had to get SOMETHING to exchange on Christmas.” Well then WHY THE HELL DID YOU SUGGEST WE NOT IF IT’S NOT ABOUT THE GIFTS?

*Note to readers: My family is cray and their odd, illogical thought processes that don’t quite add up are the reason I can sometimes only take them in small doses.

My philosophy on gift-giving is I don’t like to give gifts out of obligation. Even if you’re receiving something small from me, I likely logged hours hunting online, recalling our past conversations, a joke we may have laughed about together, or something you may have mentioned in passing that you love (if you weren’t one of the few close ones who gave me a list) to apply to the purchase. I’m definitely one of those tailor-the-gift-to-the-individual kinda people who didn’t run to the mall the weekend before Christmas and scoop up some generic sweater/shower gift set/pajamas/hat-scarf-glove ensemble to hand out to everyone so as not to come empty-handed. I also despise gift cards, even if they’re asked for, because they lack that certain originality and creative thought that comes with gift-giving. It’s really just a I-didn’t-know-what-you-wanted-so-here gift.

And you know what? Because I truly do love to give, all that extra work doesn’t bother me. The stress of taking into account a person’s preferences and likes and dislikes and truly trying to incite a delighted reaction on Christmas Day from them makes me happy when I do find that magical side-quest item in the end. It does not make me scorn gift-giving. Scrambling to find gifts for my co-working team and smuggling them with me to Argentina so I could present them in person was a jolly challenge for me. Being counter-surprise-presented with a hand-designed t-shirt from my boss, who put hours and late nights hunched over her project crafting them for us before the same trip was a special reward to me. Shipping additional little gifts I found to friends in different states and paying extra shipment fees doesn’t bother me because I’m sending a bit of extra joy and thinking of them during this special season. When my current boyfriend suggested a gift he could get for his parents and slap my name on it so it would be from me, I childishly exclaimed “NO, I WANNA DO IT,” and dove into an interweb hunt for selections from my heart.

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And maybe that’s the reason why the gift-giving part holds a certain weight to me on Christmas. “It’s better to give than to receive” is another of your common Real-Meaning-Of-Christmas quotes. Well dammit, I like giving, and opening the things I was given. How often are we really given a chance to dive into a spirited gift exchange? It’s one day a year. I’m a freaking 32-year-old woman who wants to open the gifts she got from everyone on Christmas morning, or at least not after the damn sun has gone down, and in turn, watch everyone open what she spent the past month (yeah, I start on Black Friday) putting some real thought into. It’s EXCITING! Sue me!

I don’t forget the one Christmas a few years back where, come mid-afternoon, we “kids” literally sat on the couch doing nothing until we fell asleep out of boredom. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It felt like any other day; except more boring, because even on normal days when we see each other, we do shit and don’t just sit around waiting for the time to pass until the “elders” FEEL like it’s time to proceed with the main event. Meanwhile, I constantly received texts from friends and family asking “Did you open it yet? Did you like it?”

“Nah, we didn’t GET to them yet.”

“What the hell? What are ya’ll waiting for??”

Nothing. The answer is we’re waiting for absolutely nothing but an antiquated idea that suggests if you care about opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning, you’ve lost the meaning for the season. Maybe one day my family will stop vilifying gift-giving before our traditions crumble. Even the past couple of years, someone has thrown out a suggestion that we all travel to a tropical climate for Christmas instead. While in the past, I would have been vehemently opposed, this time I’ve said I was down. Instead it’s been my mom who’s screamed bloody murder that this would “break tradition” because there’d be no tree, gifts, celebration etc…

But…

I thought it wasn’t about the..

Free picture (Christmas Candle) from https://torange.biz/christmas-candle-15000I give up, ya’ll. -.-‘ To all my Christmas buddies who ignore the nonsensical, judgmental rumination on Christmas-giving that my fam tries to bring to the table, thank you for keeping me sane, and keeping that old, little-girl, Christmas spirit flame alive and dancing.

Merry Christmas!!!

~Tael

The Tummy Troubles Tribe

You’re about to learn way more about my internal organs than you’d probably care to, and I apologize in advance for that, but I’ll try to “de-gross” it as much as possible. For the past few months I’ve been dealing with digestive trouble that has deeply affected my day-to-day life. I am no stranger to stomach issues. I was your typical problem-picky-eater child, which likely contributed to the constant stomachaches I had throughout grade school. I also found myself exceptionally prone to food poisoning, and motion sickness in cars, but not amusement park rides. Go figure. Once, in middle school, my stomach pains were so excruciating that I was sent to the nurse’s office. She correctly identified my lack of fiber and dehydration; I gulped down a few bananas and chugged water and felt welcome relief as I emptied myself in the school bathroom after.

Some time later, my tummy troubles evolved with enough severity to grant me my first trip to the ER. I couldn’t have been older than 14. A doctor probed my young, previously un-invaded anus with a gloved finger, to which I could not properly respond to his questions and prompts on whether the pain was exacerbated because there was a finger up my butt and I was 14, dammit. So he sent me to radiology for an ultrasound which showed…a whirlwind of gas? They explained that too much air was in my stomach; a combination of carbonated beverages, fried foods, and swallowing air while eating, most likely from talking at the same time. As a result, my bowels had become inflamed. Lesson learned. Even today, I find I still hold my breath sometimes while eating, in a subconscious act to ward off accidental air gulps.

HomerSimpsonStomach

For awhile after, it seemed to do better, and was well-behaved throughout high school and college. It seemed I was finally outgrowing my membership with the Tummy Troubles Tribe. I tried to reward its good behavior in turn. The more I ascended into adulthood, the more I realized I should take more accountability for my picky eating if I wanted to be somewhat MILF-like and still be a ninja at age 60 (shout-out to Aunt Sandra). I had started incorporating gym sessions into my lifestyle, and learned that fitness and eating better were two-fold, so I’d have to step up my nutrition game as well. At the ripe age of 27, I cautiously waded into the world of vegetables, beginning with sweet potatoes and asparagus (shout-out to NerdFitness for the gateway veggie suggestion), eventually added kale, spinach, brussel sprouts (shout-out to Jo-Jo for that introduction) and got reacquainted with beans and lentils. I severely diminished the amount of processed fast foods I ate, bade farewell to quick meals from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, etc… (although Sonic and Dairy Queen still get a pass once in awhile) cooked more basic meals at home, stopped buying 2L soda bottles for the house just because they were cheaper, and drank more water. Candy bars in the front of bodegas and drug stores became invisible to me. Junk cravings decreased. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cookies and cakes and I still indulge when the craving hits, but cleaner eating pulls me now.

Imagine my surprise when, after over a decade of smooth sailing and self-implemented gut improvements, my tummy troubles returned with a vengeance and landed me in the ER for the second time in my life. A debilitating cramp seized the lower right hand portion of my stomach after returning from a trip to Antigua. When it didn’t subside for 3 days, my ex-boyfriend pushed me to go to Urgent Care. After some gentle prodding and mounting concern that it might be appendicitis, Urgent Care referred me to the ER, a place I swear to never return to unless my limbs are dismembered or my intestines are spilling out. After 9 hours of unsympathetic nurses who hooked an IV to my hand because they couldn’t find the veins in my arms, inept doctors who couldn’t make a proper diagnosis, an ultrasound, CT scan, and physical examination by a surgeon later, I was told I had fibroids. While one of the earlier moron doctors had said that wouldn’t be the source of my pain, the surgeon confirmed that, yes, fibroids can absolutely hurt. And a quick Google search confirmed this, especially when they undergo degeneration. Millions of women suffer from fibroids and just as many of them experience symptoms as the ones who don’t even realize they’re there.

At that point, the ER felt like prison: they had not allowed me to eat all day, the hospital-grade pain meds through the IV hadn’t done shit so I had long since ordered them to disconnect it, and I wanted my real clothes again. I was relieved when they released me to go home with the diagnosis: fibroids + take ibuprofen. I was ready to suffer in the comfort of my own apartment. I medicated with Motrin and marijuana for the rest of the week until the symptoms drifted away. And all was well until a year later.

I first felt the crampy twinges in the same spot the brutal pains had occurred a year before, but on a much lesser scale. Instead, it was now accompanied by discomforting bloating and fullness. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to the bathroom as much anymore. Maybe once every 4-5 days and when I did, it was tiny pieces. My body wanted to release, but my booty wouldn’t. Google told me this was a constipation indicator. I tried all the recommended remedies. More apples, bananas and pears. More veggies. A spoonful of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach along with jumping jacks. Coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar ingestion daily. I already log numerous Pokemon Go hours of walking and 2.5 gym sessions a week, so it couldn’t have been a lack of exercise.

A month later, with no improvement, I shakily told my current boyfriend, who proved to be incredibly supportive of my situation. It was time to up the ante. First, I pulled out the big guns and tried a laxative just to make sure, you know, it worked. It worked all right. Then we began a regimen of fruit and veggie smoothies blended each day with chia seeds. I began adding things I never ate. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, carrots. I started drinking kombucha. Tried bone broth. Upped my probiotic count. Abdominal massages. Eight glasses of bottled water a day and I abandoned tap. I kept a food journal for a month and referred to the Bristol Stool Chart more than I’d ever had in life. Someone with a normal digestive system would have been glued to the toilet. I tried removing certain foods for testing purposes. One week I did away with dairy. Another week, seafood. Tried removing gluten for a week before realizing if you want to have a gluten test done to see if you have Celiac’s, you have to actually be ingesting it. Lame. But now it had been two months and I was still not consistently improving, so I scheduled an appointment with a gastroentologist to have my butthole probed again for the second time in my life. They did a bevy of bloodwork testing for food allergies, thyroid issues, diseases and imbalances. All negative. We scheduled an ultrasound to take a look at what was happening in there and make sure the fibroids discovered the previous year hadn’t become an issue. Unlike the last time I’d gotten an ultrasound in my childhood, this one didn’t produce much, except a growth on my liver that needed to be checked out via MRI. One MRI later, they said it was Focal Nodular Hyperplasia, a fancy term for a small, benign mass that doesn’t affect the function of its host. Along with the fibroids and the non-threatening lump discovered in my breast years ago, I’m accumulating quite the collection of benevolent tumors inside my body.

“So what’s wrong with me then?”

My gastro diagnosed me with chronic idiopathic constipation, which basically means, cause unknown. Over $1000 in doctor’s visit’s later (yeah, that’s WITH health coverage) and I get a diagnosis that says “We dunno why.” Her solution: go on Miralax long term. “It’s very gentle, you won’t get explosive diarrhea, and I even have babies on it.”

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True Life Feels

It will soon be 5 months since this new ailment has afflicted me and I am slowly learning to accept it. Something like chronic constipation may not seem like a big deal until it’s your body that’s not working the way it should, and until you need to rely on supplements and additives to be “normal,” you won’t know what it’s like to fear what will happen if their effectiveness fails. I am ridiculously thankful that I don’t have the pain or distention of severe sufferers; my liver is working fine, I don’t have the sort of fibroids that make me look 7 months pregnant, nor do they bleed when I work out. I’ve forgotten they’re there since my last ER trip. I’m blessed to be able to still live a relatively normal lifestyle, just one more centered around the bathroom. But at times I do feel like the universe has a very backwards way of rewarding me for attempting to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Currently I’m operating well enough on a daily dose of Miralax, magnesium supplement at night (shout-out to Amazon for the Natural Calm), an almost-daily home-blended fruit/veggie shake and a double dose of probiotics. When I vacayed in Mexico, I saw TSA workers examining the powders in my vitamin containers, questioning my potential to be a drug runner. Some days are better than others. Staying active helps take my mind off the feeling of internal fullness that varies on a regular basis.

It’s slightly annoying when those close to me downplay the situation, even when I know they are trying to help. When my mom off-handedly comments “You and your bestie love to create problems with yourselves that aren’t there,” I answer back, “Yes, because I shelled out hundreds of dollars in doctor’s visits and endured multiple needles because something isn’t REALLY wrong with my body.”

Or if someone says, “Oh, just drink coffee! That always helps me go!” I would think if it would have been that easy, the doctors would have suggested it. But I doubt the COFFEE will solve what the fruit, berries, spinach, kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and various fibrous additions cumulatively have not done, as well as hydration that makes my pee so clear, I could probably boil tea with it.

Google (as well as the doc) tells me CIC may vanish just as randomly as it crept in. But there is no way to know. Until then, I keep my stomach prepped for the day it might, by remaining active, increasingly choosing organic, maintaining increased fiber intake, continuing to drink probiotic drinks and include fresh garlic and ginger in my meals, as well as spices like turmeric and cayenne pepper. I practice stretches, abdominal massages, and even kegels, in the hopes that I can rebalance my body and guide my digestive motility back into submission at some point. Stressing about it multiplies the stress, so I try not to let it affect my day-to-day too much, pray over it and adapt to it, though it times it can get depressing.

I’m sharing my story because I’m not the only sufferer, and we need to talk about it. The docs don’t have a cure nor a reason for this condition, so it appears we are stuck in this tribe. If you know someone with similar symptoms, or if you have tips on how to manage CIC that have worked for you or another, please let me know, because the Internet is flooded with hopeless anecdotes on this condition. 😦 It is affecting more of us than you think.

~Tael

When The Towers Fell

How do I remember 9/11?

I was a freshman in high school. Sitting in history class. The teacher had left the room while we chatted amongst ourselves, taking advantage of her absence. When she returned, she mentioned that something had happened, maybe a bombing in the city, and that we were to sit tight. This was before the advent of smartphones; I didn’t even have my first Motorola flip handset yet. Laptops were barely a thing, and Facebook hadn’t been conceived so no one was rushing to check social media for news. Word of mouth was our link to the world.

More time passed and she returned and informed us that we were all being dismissed, released on our own pending parental permission. I found it a bit strange that our mommies had to call in to say it was okay for us to leave, after all, we were high schoolers now! But my mom was on the ball and had done so. Her job was only about 10 blocks away, so I made my way there to meet her with a group of downtown-bound students. All public transportation had been suspended, and the streets were teeming with pedestrians, even more so than normal New York standards, as if we were walking a marathon.

I met up with my mom at her job and we continued from 14th Street, down to Grand Street. I couldn’t see the smoke from where we walked. But at that point I’m not even sure I knew planes had crashed into the towers. The word currently going around was that the World Trade Center had been bombed. Again. I didn’t remember the first one, but that one hadn’t been SO crazy, right? The mood was cautious, yet spirited. With trains and buses halted, and an unknown looming threat to the city, New Yorkers stepped up in solidarity. As we walked through the streets I love, store owners offered bottled water to those journeying home. Apartment building doormen held their doors open, inviting folks to use their restroom facilities. Strangers exchanged friendly words of encouragement. I saw a long queue of bodies crossing each bridge in the distance. I felt for them, since I only had to walk to the bottom of Manhattan.

When we finally made it back home, we beelined for the television and the clarity it would bring. We didn’t even have to specifically turn to a news station. Every channel was broadcasting live and looping raw footage of the morning’s events. Two planes had flown into the Twin Towers, and our beloved buildings had crumbled.

We had just been there the weekend before. Stage Door Delicatessen had been across the street, with their confection-like pancakes. We’d discovered there was a little shopping center in one of the towers. In New York, you are always making new discoveries; you never truly know all the nooks and crannies of the entire city. I couldn’t believe those two towers, the icons of Manhattan that appeared in countless movies and that I’d always used as a directional compass, like the North Star, looking up in their direction to navigate, were gone.

Everything broadcasted was uncensored. The frustration, rife with profanity, the terror, the shock, the desperation, it was all there, unscripted. We watched as those trapped in the tower and resigned to their fate, soared from the windows to a guaranteed demise that was the lesser of two evils in their heads. The sticky web of stifling human emotion wrapped heavily around us, connecting the souls of all who watched. That day, we were all the same. We all felt the same things.

Back then, I was a chat room nerd, who went online every night at the same time to hang out with my Internet friends. That night, the mood was equal parts solemn and anger. There were no jokes and no discussing the latest episode of Gundam Wing.

“If they take the Empire State Building next, I swear to God…” someone typed.

It felt good to make empty threats against unknown (at the time) assailants as powerless teenagers. It felt good to simply expel the emotion we were feeling. Anyone who tried any troll-worthy comments that downplayed the massacre were punted out to the harshest degree. Methodus Toolz could do that.

The next day was a little less raw, but likely only for those like me who were less affected and less in the line of fire. I hadn’t lost a loved one or listened to a voicemail they left about how much they loved me and how they wouldn’t make it home tonight. I hadn’t thrown on my gear and dodged a barrage of concrete on foot to save anyone like the first responders did. My apartment building was far enough away from the debris and soot to affect me no more than some eye sensitivity for a few days after. But I still felt a deep bond with the people of my city, who had so often garnered a reputation for being rude, nasty and uncaring, who were embracing each other and offering helping hands or shoulders to cry on in the true spirit of support. For awhile after, we didn’t just pass each other in the streets. We checked on each other, gave smiles of encouragement and eye contacts of acknowledgement. We gave each other strength.

For months, even years after, I had the wildest dreams. Dreams of warmongers coming to assault our country on ships with motion-tracking explosive cannonballs. Dreams of terrorists hiding in plain view in bodegas launching rocket-launchers at my window. Dreams of an unknown threat eating away at our moon, threatening to plunge our world into eternal darkness because we didn’t have the resources to stop the source or save it. They prompted me to begin a dream journal to explore my subconscious. I hadn’t expected such an aftermath of rippling currents, expanding out to reach me with its tickling tremors.

When they first showed preview pictures of how they were going to turn the sites of the Twin Towers into deep waterfall reflection pools, I thought, “No way!” For some reason I didn’t think it was possible. But they did. They came through and I’ve visited the memorial multiple times and they are beautiful. When I go, I slowly meander through the site and never lose sight of the reason these pools are here in the first place. I touch a few names, gaze over the railings, and reflect. It’s important that I pay mental tribute when I visit, because I remember the collective trauma. Whatever the surrounding reasons behind it, so much human life was needlessly extinguished. I hope that fact remains respected, even over the passage of time.

My city is strong.

~Tael