alee_grrl: Image of Miranda from Devil Wears Prada holding her glasses and looking pensive. (dwp think)
[personal profile] alee_grrl
So as I stated in my last update, surgery went really well. I had my first post-op check-up and the doc was super pleased with how I'm doing. The long and short of it is that I feel loads better than I did pre-surgery. I'm actually rather amazed by how much better I feel to be honest. It has been another one of those times where I have only realized how sick I truly was after the offending organ(s) have been removed (the other being post gallbladder removal). There is some pretty impressive bruising, but everything is healing up nicely and function is returning to various gut systems.

The other thing I've discovered is that I can (for now at least) tolerate certain amounts of sugars and carbs. I've been on a low yeast diet (low carbs; no sweeteners) for about five years as part of my lyme treatment. This is the first time in a long time that I've tried adding back in a substantial amount of carbs. While it has largely been a surprisingly good experience, it has brought up the many issues I have surrounding food.

The rest of this post is mostly going to be me ruminating on those issues and putting them in writing so I can use them as a reminder to myself later. Like other posts I'm sharing it publicly because others may find it helpful to feel not so alone if they have similar issues.

I realized pre-surgery (after having a long chat with some family members) that I was going to need to be a little less strict about following my low-carb/low yeast diet. Largely because a lot of what I do eat can be hard on the gut (heavier proteins, green leafy vegetables), not to mention not so great when your throat is hella sore. So I went out and got a few things that I normally wouldn't allow myself (frozen yogurt bars; popsicles; yogurt and frozen fruit to add to the yogurt; applesauce). I made a batch of relatively bland ginger chicken soup to put in the freezer. I generally keep a stock of eggs as an easy protein source. And I bought a couple of protein fruit smoothies for the night before surgery.

Now I've known for a while now that food is a major trigger for me and that I have a lot of issues around food. From not liking to eat because it is tiring and/or painful--usually because of dry mouth and dental issues though most of those have been resolved the general memory remains--to not trusting myself and thinking I don't have enough willpower to eat properly and that my heavier weight has always been my own fault.

Now I know intellectually that the later is a serious brain weasel and not a logical thought. One, I've learned that a large factor in my weight gain and retention has been Lyme and yeast overgrowth related. Genetics may play another part as well. Two, I've shown that I have the willpower by sticking to the diet that my Lyme doctor put me on, and sticking to it very well for five years. It helped that when I first started the diet any sugar and carb intake made me feel absolutely awful. So it was easier to see the negatives of eating it and avoid it as not being worth it. The other reason I found it easier to stick to was that my OCD traits kicked in. I dislike breaking bright line rules and so made a "sugar/carbs = horrible things" bright line rule in my head. Took some doing, but when it stuck, it stuck hard.

But being obsessive about my food was also a huge drawback. Because the foods I could eat generally took a lot of energy to prepare and/or eat, and because food is generally something labeled "pain in the ass but needed for functioning," I've often struggled to get enough calories. It wasn't until these past couple of years that I starting being a little less strict and adding some things (primarily nuts and the occasional plain white rice) back into my diet. Those additions helped a bit. But other than that I've stuck to the no sugars or sweeteners of any kind rule. It's been years since I even attempted to eat something that had fruit or sugar in it. When I picked out the popsicles and yogurt bars I went for the ones that had the fewest sugars and still felt weird about it. And I was nervous as hell to eat these things, worried that if I allowed myself to eat them even just for this short time I wouldn't be able to stop later on even if eating them made my health worse. But I also knew I was going to need calories and comfort food (food that would encourage me to eat so that I would have the calories, proteins, and vitamins needed to heal after major surgery). Arg.

You see I have a long history of disordered eating connected very tightly (as is most common) with body image issues and being overweight, much of which was passed onto me via my mother who also had disordered eating and body image issues. My mom had been thin in her youth and started gaining weight after she married my dad, possibly after the birth of my brother. She spent a lot of time and energy on chasing miracle cures for weight (including stomach stapling when it was still experimental, and loads of fad diets). Nothing was ever effective for very long. While she hated being overweight and commented on it all the time, I know from hindsight review of my own adolescent experiences that she also felt safer from sexual advances when she was heavier. Food choices were frequently commented on and criticized while I was growing up, yet sweets and unhealthy foods were also frequently pressed onto us particularly if folks were upset. Not finishing food, even junk food and soda, was a no-no. I distinctly remember hiding left over food and unfinished sodas by burying them in the trash can. I also remember doing the same with wrappers of things I had actually eaten so that I didn't have to hear the criticism. Mom was nosy, but she wouldn't dig through the trash, so if you piled some other stuff (especially grosser stuff) on top of it then it would go unnoticed.

The other big problem is that I have learned that I am by nature a grazer. I'd rather eat a lot of small meals throughout the day than eat big meals. This was not acceptable behavior in my house. I cannot tell you how many times I heard "are you eating again? no wonder you're so fat." from my mother's mouth. Didn't matter if I'd eaten only a small amount at the last meal time. It is fair to say that I didn't make a lot of great choices about food (I lived primarily on pop-tarts one summer), but when I tried to change my eating habits it was not only not supported but usually actively undermined. The best and most horrific example is that when I was diagnosed with Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in my 20s, a diagnosis that comes with a diagnosis of insulin resistance/pre-diabetic, my doctor referred me to a nutritionist. Now my mother insisted on going with me to see the nutritionist and sitting through the whole spiel with me. We went over what a diabetic diet looked like, what I should focus on food wise and what I should avoid. I was nervous about it, but willing to give it a go. My mother assured me she would be supportive and made a big deal of being supportive in front of the nutritionist. But what does my mother do the very next day? Brings home regular Coke and Ding-Dongs for me because those are my favorites. Now keep in mind that these are things she herself didn't care that much for. If I avoided them I would be asked why I hadn't eaten them. If I ate them I would be lectured for not following my diet. As with many other situations involving my mother, there was absolutely no way to win. It really is no wonder that I have whole subscriptions worth of issues surrounding food.

The crux of this is that it lead to some extra anxiety and a whole lot of brain weasels both before and after surgery. I was really nervous about drinking two incredibly sweet (any sugar after five years of pretty much no sugar is incredibly sweet) the night before my surgery, but also knew I needed to have something or I would be starving and nauseated by the lack of food in the morning. So I followed the doctor's instructions and bought a couple of protein shakes and drank them for dinner, and got a rather large (and positive) surprise.

What came as a huge surprise though was how I felt after downing two of the Naked brand fruit and protein smoothies for dinner the night before surgery. I was not surprised by the "OMG! This is super sweet! What is this glorious taste!" I fully expected the wide-eyed "Whee!" feeling of the sugar rush. What I did not expect was the absolute lack of a post sugar rush crash. I figured by the time my wonderful nurse friend arrived to help me with the enema I would be half asleep and achy as hell. But it didn't happen. Instead I found myself feeling good, optimistic about life, and energetic in a normal sense (not hyper or manic just healthy).

My chosen family have very gently pointed out that this is a very clear indication that I have not been getting enough calories and quietly observed that my recent gain in weight may be because my body had entered starvation/food hoarding mode. Since the surgery I have been eating pretty much what I want within reason. I haven't started eating donuts, candy, or cakes, but I've had frozen yogurt, popsicles, applesauce, fruit, yogurt, cranberry and other fruit juice blends, cream of tomato soup, saltines, and even the occasional bit of bread or oatmeal. And I have yet to feel truly awful. In fact I generally feel better than I've felt in ages, despite the whole recovering from major surgery thing. I've even felt a bit restless a few times, which is not something I've really noticed in quite some time. This has not been easy for my poor brain with its weasels and obsessive tendencies around food, but I've been working on reminding myself that how I feel is the most important part. If I start feeling shitty at some point I can try restructuring my diet some more, but that right now what my body seems to need is calories, along with protein and fiber.

I'm also taking the time to once again acknowledge that my childhood was pretty screwed up and toxic. That my mother often acted in ways that would increase my likelihood of illness and poor health, most likely so that I would feel dependent on her to be my caretaker and savior. And that while I may not remember large swathes of my childhood or even early adulthood, what I do remember does indicate that my parents were abusive, neglectful, and generally toxic during those years. I am able to remind myself that I am not making things up in order to gain attention, but am merely speaking my truth and acknowledging the experiences I do remember. Such flairs in my ptsd and the resultant brain weasels also serve as a nice reminder that I stopped speaking to my mother for many reasons and since it is fairly clear from conversations with my brother that she hasn't changed in the slightest I am far safer health-wise not to have her in my life.

And hey, I'll also celebrate the fact that despite the flair in brain weasels I'm still doing pretty darn well emotionally. I've been able to acknowledge they are brain weasels and talk myself down from some dark thought spirals, and I've used my resources (friends and outside confirmation) to help me deal with them. So yay! \o/

tldr; post surgery diet triggered some brain weasels, which resulted in many thinky thoughts and ponderings (as seen above in the long post under the cut). But despite the weasels and all the thinking I am doing surprisingly well emotionally and healing from surgery quite nicely. I'm also resting like I am supposed to be doing. So go me! Hope everyone else is doing alright. <3
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