Saturday, March 27, 2010

Putting the "occasion" back in occasional

I have a serious sweet tooth. At this moment, there is ice cream, chocolate, cookies, and Mini Eggs (which are so tempting that they are their own category) lurking in my cupboards. Generally this isn’t a problem for me. I have willpower and can resist temptation. But lately I’ve been an emotional eating machine. I shovel junk food into my mouth so fast that I don’t even know what I’m eating. I certain don’t enjoy or even taste the sweet treats crossing my lips. What’s the point of Mini Eggs if you don’t taste them?

It doesn’t happen every day, but I’ve certainly noticed that lately the “occasion” has left my occasional treats. Instead of savouring a delicious “worth-it” treat at a special event, I’m consuming mass quantities of quasi-yummy treats on my couch, alone, when no one will see.

Obviously this type of eating has nothing to do with physical hunger. Clearly I’m using food as medication. Instead of dealing with what’s bothering me, I try to placate myself with sugar. The result? I feel guilty for overeating and I still haven’t dealt with the real problem.

The next time I’m on the verge of a binge, I’ll ask myself “am I physically hungry?” If the answer is no, I’ll follow up with “then why am I reaching for the mint chocolate chip ice cream?” The first question will be an easy answer. The second will hopefully force me to delve into what’s causing these out of character cravings.

SOTS wonders… how do you handle emotional eating?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I’m often met with skeptical looks when I tell people I’m recovering from a concussion five months after being hit in the head with a softball. Before the accident I thought a concussion wasn’t that big a deal. It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot, especially with sports injuries. I assumed that it took a couple of weeks to recover. I didn’t realize that “concussion” encompasses everything from a bump on the head to serious brain trauma. Apparently there’s quite a debate in the medical community about the term “concussion” and the need to better define the varying degrees of injury.

I also didn’t know about the long term effects of a concussion. I’ve been diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS), which can last for days, weeks, months, or even years. The symptoms of PCS include:

1. Headaches – I haven’t had a day in 5 months without one.
2. Dizziness – Usually when I stand up too fast.
3. Fatigue – I’d love to tell you about this, but I need to go take a nap.
4. Irritability – I can’t think of an example, but I’m sure Boyfriend can (sorry, Boyfriend).
5. Insomnia – I rarely sleep and when I do, I have nightmares.
6. Loss of concentration and memory – I have trouble following the plot of CSI. ‘nuff said.
7. Noise and light sensitivity – Quiet, dark rooms are my haven right now.

My doctor recently added a second acronym to my list – PTSD. Yup, that’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frankly, I was a bit taken aback by this. I felt uncomfy with this new diagnosis because, in my mind, PTSD is for survivors of car accidents, violent crimes, and war. I didn’t feel my accident was severe enough. My doctor quickly assured me that PTSD is quite common after any type of trauma. The symptoms of PTSD include:

1. Avoiding discussion about the event, especially feelings about the event – I hate talking about my feelings. I feel like I’m burdening people. This one is really tough for me. That said, the blog is helping; at least I’m writing about the accident.
2. Inability to remember aspects of the accident – I think I remember it, but there are some blurry bits and a few gaps in my memory.
3. Decreased feelings/emotions – I don’t laugh or smile as much.
4. Flashbacks to the incident – This usually comes in the form of nightmares for me.
5. Insomnia – Gah! This is a symptom of both PCS and PTSD. No wonder I’m so tired.

Okay, so this all sounds scary, but I’m making huge improvements. Concussions require time and lots of rest to heal. Since leaving my job to focus on my health, my recovery has been progressing very well. Yes, I still have headaches, but they’re less intense than they were. My speech is still slower than my usual gibber, but it is significantly faster than it was a few weeks ago. Slowly but surely, I’m getting back to me.

SOTS wonders…who do you talk to about your feelings?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Am I addicted to guilt?

Caitlin’s post yesterday about guilt really got my brain wheels turning. Am I addicted to guilt? How much of the day do I spent feeling guilty about things?

Part of my concussion recovery is tracking how I feel physically and emotionally. I have a symptoms journal where I note when I have a headache or dizzy spell and how bad it is on a scale of 1-10. After guilt came up a couple of times during my last doctor appointment, I also record when and why I feel guilty. Egad! Talk about opening a can of worms.

I have food related guilt: I ate too much; I didn’t eat enough; I could’ve made better choices. I have activity guilt: I didn’t do enough today; I did too much today. I have concussion guilt: I should be healing faster; I’m not a contributing member of society; I’m inconveniencing people. And a million other small things that add up to a whole lotta time wasted on feeling bad.

Even the guilt journal makes me feel guilty because I don’t write everything down. You know things are out of hand when you feel guilty about your guilt journal. Fairly counterproductive, no?

I’ve always been a perfectionist who aims to exceed expectation. This begs the question: is guilt what drives me? I don’t think so, and yet there’s no denying that I spent a large portion of my day worrying that I could’ve done any number of things better.

I believe self-analysis is healthy; by examining our actions and choices we are better equipped for the future. That said, often times my self-reflection focuses on the negative instead of the positive, which leads to – you guessed it – guilt. It turns out I’m the biggest bully in my life! I need to stop beating myself up.

To get a handle on guilt, I’m going to try Caitlin’s four steps. It’s time to focus more energy on the positive!

SOTS wonders… what role does guilt play in your life?

Monday, March 22, 2010

SOTS facelift

Check it out! Stilettos on the Streetcar got a facelift courtesy of Nik at Milankov Marketing & Design. SOTS now boasts a proper colour scheme and some fancy new graphics. Very swanky. With the new look, I’m one step closer to feeling like a real blogger.

SOTS wonders… what do you think of the new look?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A girl's gotta eat

There’s no magic concussion pill that relieves symptoms. Plus, each brain heals differently, so it’s a bit of a trial and error adventure when it comes to treatment. There is rarely a moment I don’t have a headache, but I have found ways to relieve it: hydration, healthy eats, and sleep.

I noticed that when I eat certain foods my brain gets cloudy. It’s like walking through fog. I can still put together sentences and handle the day, but everything is a little fuzzy and confusing.

After observing the influence food has on my symptoms, my doctor and I discussed a few eating guidelines. None of these are revolutionary. Most of them are common sense. Basically it boils down to “give your body good fuel so your brain can heal.” Here are a few things I’m avoiding:

1. Heavily processed foods
2. White sugar and flour
3. Sucralose, aspartame, and high-fructose corn syrup
4. Alcohol
5. Caffeine

Like I said, it’s not rocket science but cutting these out (or at least cutting them down) has made a huge difference. I’m giving my brain what it needs to recover and I’m not experiencing the fogginess as often.

But here’s the kicker, it’s not just my brain that feels better. It’s my entire body! I have more energy. I rarely have an upset stomach. I’m more satisfied after I eat. Plus, I don’t get the raging cravings I used to. Don’t get me wrong, my sweet tooth is still thriving, but it’s not the same all-encompassing eat-an-entire-cake craving it used to be.

I’m going to take this couch time as an opportunity to learn more about what my body needs. With any luck, I can heal my brain and learn to properly care for my body at the same time.

SOTS wonders… how did you learn about nutrition? Any book recommendations?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Operation hydration

Although I drink a lot of water, I’ve recently noticed my symptoms get worse if I’m not hydrated. Carla’s Project Hydrate couldn’t have happened at a better time. I plan to drink 90 ounces of H2O each day. That’s approximately 11 glasses. My brain (and body) will be happy.

SOTS wonders… do you drink enough water?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Doctor's orders

I am a bad patient.

I often pretend I feel better than I do when the doctors ask about my symptoms. When reporting to friends and family, I downplay what the doctors have told me. I also tend to modify the doctor’s orders to suit my liking.

None of this is good, but what really makes me a bad patient is that I convinced my doctor to let me go back to work before I was ready. I actually went into my appointment with a pre-planned pitch to get her to sign-off on me returning to the office part time. I put on makeup so I didn’t look tired. I downplayed my symptoms. Truth be told, I probably flat out lied… to my doctor. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

This is just one example of me pushing myself too hard during recovery. There are a shameful number of examples I could share with you, but let’s leave it at this one since it is pretty bad. Now that I’m officially on sick leave, I have no excuse to focus on anything except healing (and healthy eating). To that end, here’s what my GP, concussion specialist, and physiotherapist have told me:

1. It was a serious concussion – they prefer I say that I suffered a brain injury because it clarifies the severity of the concussion.
2. The swelling is reduced, but my brain is still bruised.
3. Full recovery will take at least a year.
4. Recovery is slowed by asking too much of my brain too soon.

And their orders (even the ones I don’t like):

1. Avoid all physical, mental, and emotional stress.
2. Avoid anything that causes anxiety.
3. Avoid activities requiring extended focus.
4. No physical exercise except walking and yoga.
5. No reading.
6. No big screen movies, concerts, sporting events, or theatre.
7. No drinking.
8. No driving.
9. No flying or extended travel time.
10. Limited blackberry and computer use.
11. If a headache develops, immediately stop any activity that may be causing it.

SOTS wonders… do you have any ideas to fill the days? Any good TV shows to watch? Movies to rent?

Monday, March 8, 2010

While I'm at it

While I’m divulging things, I have another confession. I joined Weight Watchers in January. I don’t know why I consider this a confession. Perhaps, it’s because I didn’t intend for this blog to be about my body. Having said that, I don’t want to ignore this aspect of my life or pretend it’s not something I’m working on, especially since one of my 2010 goals is maintaining a healthy body weight.

As a result of the concussion, I am acutely aware that my body is fragile and I need to take good care of it, which prompted me to join WW. This is the ideal time to get a handle on my body since I’m on sick leave and have doctor recommended eating guidelines. No more dieting. I’m looking for a lifestyle change. I want to put the best fuel into my body without feeling like I’m depriving myself.

Although I’m a new WW member, I’m actually at the end of my weight loss journey. I’ve treated my body very badly in the past. University was the first time I felt pressure to look a certain way and I responded by eating next to nothing – usually no more than a bowl of rice a day. I starved myself down to 110 pounds during first year. In the following years, I replaced starvation with overindulgence. My eating habits, combined with hypothyroidism, lead to 186 pounds.

Three years ago, a picture of me was posted on Facebook and I didn’t even recognize the girl in the photo. It shocked me into action. I began working out and made changes to my diet. I lost 24 pounds and felt like myself again. I hovered around that weight for a year before deciding that I could go a step further. I currently weigh 145 pounds and I’m happy with my body.

You may be wondering why I would join WW when I’m already at a healthy body weight. Well, I seem to know how to gain weight and how to lose it, but not how to maintain. I’m hoping WW will keep me on track and provide support during the times I’d like eat an entire vanilla cake.

SOTS wonders… do you tell people when you’re on a diet or making a lifestyle change? Are you afraid of being judged?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Full disclosure

The reason I started Stilettos on the Streetcar was to give myself an outlet as I recover from an injury. I knew it would be challenging to share my feelings (gah, I hate talking about my feelings), but I also realize it’s necessary for recovery. That said I’ve been procrastinating like a mad woman. For some reason, typing what happened makes it real. Posting it makes it even more real.

In an effort to get this recovery train rolling, I need to divulge the nature of my accident. In November, I was hit in the head with a softball while playing in a Sunday rec league. Amazing Boyfriend immediately took me to the hospital. My forehead was huge – think The Goonies. I didn’t see the initial swelling because Boyfriend and Sister thought it would freak me out. They know me so well.

Five hours of observation and a CT scan later, I was told that I’d suffered a concussion. Boyfriend had to wake me up every hour all night (poor Boyfriend. This was not a fun task. Love him).

For the first few days, I was a disaster. I was speaking at a snail’s pace; became easily confused; passed out; lost words; and had pounding headaches. Plus, there were nightmares and waking visions. Anything I saw or heard during the day would transform into frightening dreams as soon as I fell asleep. And yet, in my concussed stupor, I assumed I’d be back in the office the following week.

WOW – was I ever wrong. Turns out, “concussion” can mean anything from little bump on the noggin to serious brain trauma. After seeing my family doctor, I was told I’d suffered a serious concussion with significant swelling and bruising in my brain. I was put on sick leave for two months. This was a nightmare for a Type A career-driven person like me.

I was told to avoid all physical, mental, and emotional stress. Essentially, I sat on the couch and watched a tonne of television. Slowly but surely I got better. My speech improved. The headaches lessened. In the New Year, I went back to work part time. I tried this for a month, but many of my symptoms returned. Eventually I had to admit that I couldn’t do my high stress, high expectation job so I resigned my position. This was a very had decision for me, but I realize now that I was pushing myself way too hard. I was asking my brain to be 100% in three months. A broken ankle takes longer to heal than that.

And that brings us to now. I’m currently focusing on healing my body. It’s a struggle every day because there isn’t a visible injury. With no cast or bruise to remind me that I’m injured, I often push myself too far and then pay for it.

This post is my pledge to do a better job of taking care of me. I promise to listen to my body’s signals and focus on healing. And I will share that journey with you.

SOTS wonders… have you ever had a concussion? How long did your recovery take? Do you have any healing tips?