I went to my yearly checkup today, and it happened for the same reason it always happens–I ran out of refills on my thyroid pills. I get a yearly supply at a time (monthly refills), and the clinic will approve one more refill, but then they insist that I come in and get checked before they’ll give me any more. It’s fair, but I hate going to the doctor. Still, it had to be done, and today was the day. I was in a car accident nearly six months ago, and I decided to talk about that with my doctor just to make sure everything was in working order. I also had a few other issues I wanted to discuss with her, so I made a mental note of them before I left.
The session went well. She listened to my concerns and alleviated them. She didn’t think they were serious enough to warrant anything other than keeping a close eye on them. She told me to call her if anything got worse, and she made one suggestion for one of the issues that I’ll try if it crops up again. She gave me my pap smear, and we talked about my car accident. I mentioned that people were saying I should get my back X-rayed just to make sure I didn’t hurt it. I said I wasn’t having any back pains, so I didn’t know if it was necessary and that I’d leave it in her hands. She said I would have felt it by now if the car accident had done something to my back. I was reassured, and I’m glad I have a doctor I can trust. She’s a PA, but I find her as knowledgeable as the last three doctors I’ve used.
I told her about Raven dying, and she was sympathetic. That’s one of the things I really like about her–she feels as if she’s on my team. Even when she’s telling me to do something I don’t want to do such as quitting smoking, it doesn’t feel judgmental. When she looked at my weight and saw I’d lost five pounds, she was enthusiastic and told me to keep up the good work. I like that she’s more the encouraging type than the scolding type–as was the last doctor I’d seen*. That doctor rubbed me completely the wrong way, saying that there’s no such thing as smoking a little. Really? Smoking one or two cigarettes a day is exactly the same as smoking a pack a day? She also had a superior attitude which I didn’t care for as all. My doctor listens when I mention the research I’ve done–she takes me seriously. I feel as if we’re working together, which is the best way to get me to respond.
The other thing is she gives me all the time I need. She doesn’t rush me or make me feel as if I need to hurry it along. I was able to talk about all my concerns, and the whole checkup took roughly half an hour. That included the drawing of my blood, which is always an interesting part of the checkup. I have really bad veins that make even the most experience of blood drawers tremble in their boots. The lab tech was feeling around my arms, and she had a frown on her face. I knew she was having difficulties finding a good vein, even though the one she was poking was the one they normally use. I told her sometimes they use the back of my hand, and that’s what she decided to do. She got it in one try, and soon, I was on my merry way.
I walked away feeling good about the checkup, which is unusual for me. It made me realize that I need a doctor who is personable, knowledgeable, open to suggestions, and patient. Someone who is sympathetic and positive. My doctor is all those things, and I’m glad I stumbled upon her.
In my last taiji class, one of my classmates was frustrated because he’s had a lot of aches and pains last year, both physical and mental. I mentioned that while I was practicing taiji that morning (at home, during my daily routine), I noted that almost six months after my car accident, I was ninety percent back to normal. Before my accident, I had started using wrist weights as I was doing sword in order to give it more heft. The accident was minor, and because I was able to relax, I walked away with only bruising and a feeling of fatigued. However, I couldn’t use the wrist weights any longer, until this week. A few days ago, I put them on for the first time in six months, and I did my sword routine. By the end, I was tired, but triumphant. It was a long way back to where I’d been, and it felt good to finally arrive. I’ve been using the wrist weights every day, and I’m slowly getting used to them again.
One of the hardest things for me is to not get frustrated when progress is slow. This is both with my physical health and with my emotional health as well. That was the point I was trying to make to my classmate–my car accident was minor, but it had long-lasting ramifications. Not only physically, but also mentally. I notice that I am much more reluctant to drive in inclement weather or at night. I’ve never liked anyone driving too closely to me, but now it makes me agitated. The teenage girl who ran into me was making a left turn, so now anyone who’s making a left turn as I’m going straight, I eye with suspicion. I’ve never liked driving, and now I almost hate it. I avoid it as much as possible, and when I can’t, I just grit my teeth and get through it.
There was snow on Monday as I was going to class. I knew we were getting snow, but I thought it was going to be later. It wasn’t too bad on the way there, but it started coming down more heavily during class. When it was time to drive home, I was nervous. It’s hard enough to drive in snow after it’s fallen, but it’s even worse when you’re driving as it’s falling. I needed to stop at the co-op on the way home to get my boys, er, my boy his food, so that made it even worse. I finished my shopping as quickly as possible, but it was still harrowing on my drive home. Once I got home, however, I was able to enjoy watching the fat, fluffy flakes fall to the ground. I love snow, and there’s something soothing about watching it snow.
Back to my doctor’s visit. When my doctor mentioned that I’d lost five pounds, I told her I was trying to be more healthy in my eating and I’m finally exercising every day. That’s when she told me to keep up the good work, and I was thinking about it on the way home. Longtime readers of my blog know that I have a history of eating disorders. They’ll also know that I’m frustrated with how heavy I am, and that I want to lose weight, but without spiraling back into anorexia. That’s my dilemma every time I think about losing weight. I can’t do it the ‘normal’ way by counting calories or counting anything, really. That’s not the best way to do it, anyway, as I also mentioned in class. People go on diets, thinking, “I’ll drastically cut calories, go to the gym five days a week, and I’ll lose twenty pounds in two months.” Even if they’re able to do it, it’s a false victory because it’s not something they can do for the rest of their lives. That’s where most people on diets fail. They think a diet is something you can quit once you’ve reached your goal. That’s why most people who lose weight gain it back.
The best way to lose weight is to make lifestyle changes, and to do them one at a time so you can turn each one into a habit. This is actually the approach I’m taking to losing weight this time. I stopped buying chips as my first step. My second was to eschew bagels. My third was to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet. Side note: My mom used to make my brother and me eat fruits and vegetables a day. She was very strict about it, and as a result, I rebelled as I got older by not eating them–though I like fruits and some vegetables. Now, I tell myself I’m too old for simple rebellion, and I should eat the fruits and vegetables I like. Right now, I eat an orange a day for lactic build up (tip from my taiji teacher who got it from a weightlifter), a handful of grape tomatoes because they’re sweet like candy, two handful of spinach on my sandwich, and a banana. I tend to eat the same foods every day because it’s easier for me to manage. I get overwhelmed by too many choices, so not having to think about what I’m going to eat lessens my anxiety.
Anyway, I also added a half hour of taiji a day (some stretches, some sword, some solo, and a weight set three times a week), which has helped me both physically and emotionally. I’ve been frustrated in the last week with my progress in taiji, but I just remind myself that I have to look at the big picture. There are going to be ebbs and flows to my learning. It doesn’t help that I am pretty lazy about my practice. Wait, let me amend that. When I first started taiji, I was the laziest student on earth. I refused to practice at home, which is the reason I started going to class three times a week. I had to trick myself into practicing at home, and it started with maybe five minutes a day. Now, I’m up to thirty minutes, and I do it every morning without fail. I am trying to mix it up and not do the exercises in the same order every time because then it becomes too rote. “First I do this, then I do that, then I do this,” and before I know it, I’ve done the entire routine without remembering any of it.
I tend to rush through each exercise as well, which is not the optimal way to practice. For example, right now I’m working on the first section of the Solo Form, which is the easiest section of the entire form. It’s the part I know best because we’ve done it the most, and I feel as if I can do it in my sleep. It bores me, quite frankly, so I put my brain on automatic when I do it. I’m not getting any benefit that way, so it’s in my best interest to stay mindful as I practice. Any time I find my mind wandering–which is every three seconds or so–I bring it back to what I’m doing. I have to remind myself that I’m not just checking items off a list and that practicing at a slower pace is better than racing through it.
The next thing I want to do is cut back on deli food (food that is made in-store). It’s going to be difficult, though, because I don’t cook. I can cook, mind you, but I don’t enjoy doing it. In addition, I find it a waste for one person. Still. If I’m serious about becoming healthier, then I should find simple recipes to make. I used to do some cooking and baking, and one of my favorite recipes was a potato corn chowder. I remember making a big vat of it with tons of sour cream, and it was so tasty. Not very healthy, though, and too much dairy to boot. I’m lactose intolerant, and while I use Lactaid pills in order to mitigate the effects, I find I’m less able to handle it as I grow older. In addition, cheese is packed with calories, and a little should go a long way. I never eat just a little cheese, however, which is problematic.
I’m currently cutting back on the amount of Coke Zero I drink a day by replacing it with tea. I love tea, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of drinking it. I have a vanilla chai tea that is very tasty, and my backup is green tea with pomegranate. I’ve given up coffee because in the past several months, it’s wrecked my digestive system. Probably the milk I put in it, but I think it might also be the acidity. I’m trying to take the long view when it comes to my health, both physical and mental. I can’t undue all the bad habits I’ve accrued in the past forty-five years in a day, a month, or even a year. Probably not even in five or ten years. The worst thing I can do is be a defeatist and say I’ll never be able to do it because then I never will.
*My regular doc was on maternity leave which is why I couldn’t see her last year.