Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whole Grains, Vegetables and Stranger Things

Part of the thrill and chill of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is what we call "medication management," which is about a year and a half long period (sometimes more) of playing human guinea pig to any number of pharmaceutical substances. Does this help? No? Okay, we'll try that. Maybe we'll add some of this. If that doesn't work we'll add this to manage the side effects of that. Actually, it's less like being a human guinea pig and more like being a witch's brew. Eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog...

(In case you didn't know this, real witches [I live with one] don't make witch's brew. Sure, they whip up the occasional potion once in a while for sore muscles or whatever, but that's about as far as it goes. Sorry to disappoint.)

So anyway, at the moment I'm consuming about six of these pharmaceutical substances, not counting an asthma inhibitor, some vitamins and this over the counter stuff I take to manage my allergies. When you sit down and think about it, that's a lot of meds. It doesn't occur to me how much, though, until I'm sitting down on a Sunday morning to fill up my little day-of-the-week pill box with my multicolored assortment. Which I did this morning, of course, it being Sunday and all. Suddenly I had flashbacks to my mother-in-law, who died many years ago, and how every Sunday we'd go over there to clean her place, do her laundry and fill up her little pill box. Hers was a lot scarier than mine, though. She had two day-of-the-week pill boxes, one for morning and one for evening. I had a Garth Brooks moment; I'm much too young to feel this damn old. Yes, I'm bitching, a little, but I practically rattle when I walk.

Unfortunately, despite my bitching, the current medication cocktail appears to be working. I'm calmer, I focus better, my moods don't zoom up and down at the drop of a hat (or a sock), I've mostly stopped hearing my boss add the words "you idiot" to every single thing he asks me to do (he doesn't say it, I just hear it), I'm going to bed at night and getting some sleep even if it's not as much sleep as I'm supposed to have, and I was able to plow through the last six hellish weeks of that revision and line-edit with nary a single craving for excess chocolate or alcohol. There's only one thing; the current cocktail is making my hypoglycemia all kinds of worse.

In case you don't know what hypoglycemia is, click on the link. If you don't have time to click on the link, it's kind of like diabetes except you don't get all the meters and insulin shots and cool toys. In my case it's hereditary. It can also be a precursor to diabetes. Okay? Okay. Moving on:

Here's what happens. I'm at work, uh, working. It's about 10:30 in the morning, or some three-ish hours since I've eaten. I've been in my chair for an hour or more and I need to get up for some reason. I stand up, take a few steps, usually get out of my cube and sometimes halfway to the ladies' room. And then it happens. Wham! Instant vertigo. Suddenly I'm so dizzy I don't know up from down. I have to put my hand out to figure out where the wall is so I don't fall. A couple of times I was sure I was headed for the floor. It always lifts after a few seconds, but they're a few very unpleasant seconds. I make my way very carefully to the kitchen, get something to eat, sit down, eat it. After that I'm fine. But you could see how this might be a problem. I mean, a law firm needs a dizzy paralegal like a circus needs a dizzy trapeze artist (which is, let's face it, what I feel like half the time anyway.)

So I got on the Internet, that font of medical knowledge, and read up on a bunch of the drugs I'm on. There it was on one after another: "May cause hypoglycemia in diabetics. May mask symptoms of hypoglycemia. May cause dizziness. May cause vertigo." Great. Just lovely. Yes, I'm going to tell my psychiatrist about it and yes, maybe tweaking the doses or something can happen. Being a lot stricter about having my meals and snacks on time would no doubt also help. But in the meantime I don't wanna choose between brains and blood sugar, so once again I got on the Internet, that font of quick paperback book fixes, and ordered Hypoglycemia for Dummies side by side with The Dos and Dont's of Hypoglycemia.

In no time I had a cute little three-week program to follow to alleviate severe symptoms. (HFD, page 42; try this for 20 days, and if you feel lots better, you're probably hypoglycemic.) All I had to do was ditch practically everything I've been eating on a regular basis since, oh, birth, and replace it with some pretty strange characters known as vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and legumes. I mean I'm not kidding when I say this program is beyond strict. No refined sugar of any kind (which is not easy to do, considering it's in practically everything, either as itself or as its evil twin, high fructose corn syrup). No white flour and nothing that contains white flour (in short, if it's white, don't eat it). No caffeine. No alcohol. No fruit, for God's sake. Whoever heard of a diet plan that didn't include fruit?! Well, on caffeine I refused to bend; I get up at 4:30 most days, and I need that first cup of coffee. And for a quick breakfast on the way to the pool, there's nothing better than a slice of basically tasteless whole grain bread with old fashioned sugar free peanut butter. But seeing as one of these days I'm likely to pass out on the floor in front of my cow orkers, who would no doubt panic and call an ambulance or something equally embarrassing, I figured the rest of it was worth a shot.

Besides, I'm in OA. OAers believe we can figure out how we're supposed to eat and then ask our Higher Power to help us eat that way, every day, one day at a time. If we don't actually believe that, we can fake it till we make it. (I am a very cynical person. I would never put up with any of the smarmy sayings that get bantered about in OA if the program didn't work, which, unfortunately, it does.) So I told my sponsor I was embarking on this little venture, she was cool with it, she wished me luck, and off I went.

That was a week ago, and for the most part it hasn't been as hard as I thought. It requires a lot more planning than I'm used to (you have to cook whole grains in advance, for one thing; you can't just eat them out of the box). The list of stuff I used to grab for snacks and can't at the moment is getting longer every day; quesadillas, granola, pizza slices, bowl of blueberries with soy milk and a little Equal. On the other hand, I've met and am enjoying the company of several new vegetables; cucumbers from my garden, summer squash (which is not spaghetti squash; Joan and I had a little mixup about that, and it was pretty funny, but it's not exactly germane to the tale, if ya get mah drift), red bell peppers (you can eat 'em like they're apples if you avoid the ribs) and radishes. The people at my office think I have embarked upon some new and exciting diet to Lose Some Weight, and I'm just letting them think that because it's easier than explaining. (Remind me to do a blog post, or maybe a whole anthropological study, on Dieting as a National Sport in the American Office Environment.)

But here's the thing. It's working. I've gone from four or five dizzy spells in a day to one, maybe two, and yesterday I didn't have any at all. Which is, besides cool, utterly terrifying. If it's working, then it's probably what I should be doing. What if I have to eat this way forever, like the rest of my life forever? Because, seriously, the first thing I wanna do when the three weeks are up is head straight for Braum's and have myself a small Mix with chocolate and brownie bites. Course the book says instead that one should re-incorporate small amounts of other foods (which, in my case, would be fruit. Geez, what is wrong with these people? Fruit is vital for a healthy Jenster. I eat four or five pieces of fruit a day.)

I know, I know. One day at a time. Let go and let God. Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a vision, worry about today because today is a bitch. But seriously? No Braums mixes? That was not what I signed on for.


Cele said...

I've known for several decades that I am borderline Hypo-glycemic. My shock of shocks came when I found out everyone around me suffered from my PMS (sadly not male stupidity - that came later.) It is the diet (minus excluding the fruit) that you are on, but remove sodium, red meat, dairy products, and chocolate long with all the stuff you cut out. I lost 30 pounds, the only diet better was either of my divorces (but I dont' recommend that for anyone.)

Good luck, add back in the blueberries soon. Try keeping a baggie of carrots, blueberries, or dry roasted peanuts in your drawer. Kashi makes some whole grain cereals that in a baggie make a great muchie snack - they are low in sodium, sugar, and are whole grain heart healthy.

Good luck.

Jen said...

Awwww. Thank you, ma'am. I actually do keep a baggie of carrots in my drawer but that's a really good idea about the Kashi cereal.

Anonymous said...