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Happiness UpdateSeptember 16, 2013

Remember last November when I said I was suffering from depression? That was a brutally honest post, and I can't even tell you how big (and wonderful) a reaction I got from people. I just realized that some of you might wonder how I'm doing now. 

I'm doing great. 

Yep, I'm still on the medication at a low dose. I have absolutely zero side effects. And I still feel completely normal, like I finally did when I wrote that post. I have regular day-to-day highs and lows (I got a royalty check! The cat puked on the couch!) and I'm myself. I'm still singing along to songs in the car and in the kitchen. I laugh a lot. My productivity is high. 

Taking care of myself last year was really the best thing I could have done for myself. 

Other Health Areas 

(Sleeping is the most exciting part. Skip to the end if you want to get to that.) 

Food: I'm still eating almost as well as I have been for more than a year now: only meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit (a modified anti-inflammatory diet). I try to eat no grains, beans, dairy, or processed foods, although I've fallen off the sugar wagon since my gallbladder surgery. Augh. Such a hard wagon to get back up on. Speaking of wagons, my wine consumption is way down (I realized this was all sugar, and it was messing with my moods, big time). I've also given up caffeine again, but I don't expect this one to stick because I hella heart a great big coffee with cream. Oh, now I'm yearning. 

Migraines: (I knock wood when I write this) GONE. Gone! I haven't had a migraine I couldn't trace directly to gluten since the beginning of the year. Anytime I accidentally eat gluten? (Like when I was at a friend's house and ate her couscous because I thought it was rice-based?) I get smacked with a migraine within hours. If I stay away from it, I never even get the threat of a migraine. 

Confession: This makes me feel like a great big hipster tool. *Nose in the air in the bakery*  Do you have anything gluten-free? But avoiding gluten has changed my life and has removed an enormous amount of uncontrollable pain. So I do still go all hipster about it, and try not to mind the eye rolls sent my direction. 

Meditation: OH MY GOD, I'm SO going to be a hipster tool right now. Maybe I should just accept that's what I am. Deep breath. Okay, that's done. Adjusts fedora.

So, I found this meditation app. I warned you. It's AMAZING. It's called Headspace, and they have a free Take-10 ten day trial, and then you subscribe if you like it (which I did, immediately). The subscription gives you 365 daily meditations. They're led by a British guy called Andy Puddicombe, ex-monk and circus performer (his TED talk here), whose voice and attitude everyone universally loves.

I'm learning the basics, all over again. That meditation takes actual practice, and that you can't sit down and just be good at it (which is good because I was always so BAD at it). That you can't get upset about what your brain is doing, because that just ups your anxiety level. Andy gives you things to do, and you do them, and in the process, you find yourself in the moment and not-doing. I expect at the end of the year he'll tell me to rob a bank and send him the cash, but until he does, I'm going to listen to this guy. 

The best part so far? The free sleeping meditation I found on their site! 

Sleep: See, I have trouble sleeping because of my crazy shift work. Because of my job, my going-to-bed time varies from 6pm to 2am. Every single day it varies, and I can't change that. That's a lot of stress on the body. I try not to take sleeping aids other than valerian/melatonin, etc, but every once in a while I'll get a bottle of Ambien from my doctor and I GO TO TOWN. The two addictions that I will always struggle with are cigarettes (I haven't had even a puff in eleven years but I still want one) and Ambien. If that stuff's in the house, I can't not take it. I so desperately crave sleep, and that blessed pill knocks me out so deeply that the next night I MUST HAVE IT AGAIN SO GOOD YES PLEASE. 

So yeah. I asked for Ambien for the three nights I was at the hospital, and they gave it to me (helped wonders for sleeping in pain). Then I got my Rx filled and took it every night during my recovery. That's fine. It helped. The problem comes when I stop taking it. Usually I can't sleep for a week, and it's awful and painful and I always swear I won't get any more refills and then I dooooo, but that's another story. (I know it's scary stuff, I've read all the you-will-die reports -- they don't help. I want it.) 

The first night I was off Ambien this week, I didn't sleep. At all. 

The second night, I found the above linked meditation to listen to (and I've listened to LOTS of them, they never work). I'm going to spoil it a little for you, so stop reading if you want to be surprised (?), but first Andy walks you through turning off your muscles. I've tried this on my own approximately eleventy million times, and have never succeeding. In fact (this is true), last month when I couldn't sleep, I managed to pull a butt muscle trying to turn off my muscles. It hurt for a week. But when Andy explained it to me? I could do it. 

Then? He said to count backwards from one thousand. My brain stalled. One THOUSAND? I count backward from a hundred often, and it always PISSES ME OFF because I get to one and then I'm all like WHAT NOW BEEYOTCH? If I count sheep, they get all interesting and wooly, just like my thoughts. But counting backward from a thousand? I supposed I could give it a try. 

I fell asleep somewhere around 300. And stayed asleep. 

Last night, I only got to 829. (I remember because I kept drifting away. 830! Ooh, pleasant feeling... 830, 829... ooh, this feels nice! 829... 829, um, 829...)

And again, I stayed asleep. (When I say I stayed asleep, that means I only woke six or seven times before falling right back asleep. That great sleep for me.) 

You should try it. Now my darling chickens, this has been all about me. What about YOU? 

Comments

WAIT!!! I had to stop reading to ask this: is the fedora a hipster thing? It if is, I am cursing every hispter in NYC. I live on Staten Island where I don't think there are any hipsters and I haven't seen anyone wearing fedoras; however, for weeks now I have been looking for fedoras on the webz because I want to start wearing one. But not if it is a hispter thing. Insert angry face here.

OK, I am back. I am happy for all the good news about your health, especially the sleeping part. I suffered from insomnia all my life and know how great it is to finally be able to say "I am sleepy and now I am going to sleep." No big drama like it used to be.

Yay! I'm so glad things are going so well for you. I'll have to check into that meditation app. Right now I have one on the phone, and all it's done is make me feel guilty when it reminds me to meditate. I'm guessing that's not the point. :)

I'm so glad you're feeling better! :)

I'm glad things are working out for you! My husband if GF, and I've gotten over my fear of looking faddish. It's his health, I am a lioness when it comes to protecting my family.

I've started a meditation practice this year and it's amazing. I am not perfect but I love it and how it makes me feel and sleep! I'm glad it's helping you. Guided meditation is the BOMB! Now, if only I could get the baby on board with the sleep plan (up every ten minutes between 12:30AM and 2:00AM last night, just enough time to fall asleep and get woken up again).

If I avoided everything hipster, I'd be in a pickle and doing boring stuff so don't worry about the hipster leanings.

I'm in the middle of a "$30 for 30 days" special at a yoga studio, and I'm going when I can, about 4 days a week for yin classes. I feel all pure and relaxed--and wake up with a backache every single day, which I did not have before the intensive yoga-ing. It's p***ing me off but I'm not quitting because I want my money's worth and it mostly makes me feel good.

I usually sleep like the bomb so I'm extra-cranky when it takes me 30 minutes to fall asleep. (I know, I'm a baby) I need to figure out some food issues but I'm too lazy. Maybe in the winter...

Glad you're better.

Glad you are feeling better. I really need to get into Meditation. My other half strongly suggests (to me) the book - Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein. It is a Shambala publication. It might be of interest. I love Fedoras - not so sure about the "hipsters" - LOL Take care.

Ooh, thanks. I haven't had more than a few good nights' sleep in years. I'm going to try that Headspace tonight.

Oooh sleep sweet sleep... May you only get to 853 tonight!

Taking care of ourselves is a lot of work. You're working hard! Go you!

Me, I'm avoiding the dishes right this minute. Getting more walks in most weeks. Working up to making doctor appointments (why did my knees start hurting after that horrid traffic drive last week? And other things, small and large and mostly uncomfortable). Did I mention avoiding dishes?

I am so glad you are doing well. I worry about you and I have never met you! (It's the Jewish Mother in me.) I am so going to check out that sleep app for my husband. He has a heck of a time going to sleep and staying asleep. Then he is grouchy in the morning, wonder why?

Personally? 7 more work days. Then I retire. Then I continue with my new job as a field supervisor of special education student teachers. I might even learn what that exactly means. ;) Actually I love it. I hope to knit/crochet more. Lots more.

My doctor is pretty convinced that I will be off my blood pressure and anxiety meds with a couple of months of retiring. I think he might be right.

Dear Hipster, I use Headspace too. What a great app.

Glad you are doing well!

Are you knitting anything? I'm knitting an Inspira Cowl and crocheting a Bloomsbury Top.

My EMDR therapist taught me to breathe consciously when trying to fall asleep. I think (to myself), "Now I am breathing IN" and "Now I am breathing OUT." That helps me push out all the other thoughts that try and crowd my tired brain. And it works for me!

I count sheep but only up to 2. Breath in, one. Breath out, two. Start over. I think the point is not how many you count but how fast they are jumping over the fence. Make them jump slower.

My husband visualizes Venice Beach in LA. He sits on the beach, watches the waves and the sunset and he's out like a light in about 30 seconds.

You are awesome.

Well Rachel, another FABULOUS post! I am one of those near meditators. Meaning, have been to retreats, gone in and out of practicing...read about it. Agree with all the precepts. Understand that it is really really really good for me, (like quitting sugar....another nightmare) and find even though I KNOW all that....really truly know what is good for me, always find a way to not do it.

SO...long story short. I immediately followed your lead and link and went to Headspace. Have subscribed, and feel like...hey..yeah. I CAN do this.

I wonder if the difference is....you have this really nice soothing guys voice in your head while you are doing it? I wonder if it isn't just sort of scary to me, meditation being so lonely.

Anyway. Whatever. I'm in.

Thanks again,
Barbara

Thank You Dear Greatest Writer / Knitter & Greatest Worker Dear Rachael& Everyone Who Shares Your Home xxxx
So Pleased That You're Feeling Better !!!!!
Relived Is The Under statement Of All Honest Huns
It's Really Lovely To Read This Latest Posting
I Too Need To Learn Again To Relax So Ill Try The App On My I Pad 4
Promise !!!!!
We Send You All Our Loves !Hugs As Always Until Your Next Posting
Your Friends From Across The Pond
CAZ & Dave xxx
HOLYHEAD ,Anglesey U.k

So glad to hear you're doing so well! I too brace for eye-rolls when I ask if there are any gluten-free options . . .but like you, quitting gluten has made such a difference that I don't care. Let them call me a damn hipster if they want to! I feel great for the first time in a LONG time.

And thanks for the recommendation for Headspace, going to check it out right now.

I'm so, so, SO GLAD you found the cause of your migraines! Food allergies can do strange things, but eating healthier has multiple benefits (as you've discovered). Keep up the good work!

Really. Think about it.
How absolutely, truly amazing it is for life as you know it to be able to be bundled into a HAPPINESS report?
Lovely.
And a fairy godmother?
That special star you were born under is doing a twinkly happy dance.

I totally empathize with the sleep thing. I am a perpetual insomniac and I just know that if I start Ambien I will never let it go. It is so hard to not ask my doc for a prescription.

Also, think of it this way: if gluten causes migraines for you, you have a medical condition. Nothing hipster about that. I don't have a whole lot of tolerance for people who roll their eyes at those of us who can't eat gluten due to medical issues. Why the hell do they think our health issues worthy of their scorn? They clearly have way too much time on their hands. ;)

I so appreciate your honesty. Depression is not an easy thing to share about, although it is a common issue. At any rate, I think you have done a great service.

I'm starting a meditation class this week. I've dabbled a bit but feel like I need more guidance.

Your eating willpower is amazing! I've been trying to cut sugar out of my diet -- and it is HARD! Good for you for taking care of yourself.

That meditation app sounds fabulous. Must download. I get migraines (which I think are mainly triggered by doing stupid stuff with my body for prolonged periods of time, please see sitting with my neck craned forward for 4 hours while working on the computer or driving. Owie.) Yoga actually works at least as well as my meds do for fixing them, with the added bonus that I'm not stupid/unconscious for a few hours after doing yoga. I don't tend to have problems to start with if I am bright enough to break up my coding blocks with a 20-30 minute yoga break. (I have to set alarms for this, otherwise I will just sit in the chair for hours. And then I wonder why I feel like my body hates me....)

I also get insomnia and am dealing with it with a regimented bed time (not going to work for you, I know) and a pretty serious shut-down routine including a hot candlelit bath and reading fiction in the tub every night. Eschewing bright lights (including laptops and phones) for a couple hours before sleep seems to help me a lot.

I am thrilled you are feeling better. After reading your book, Life in Stitches, I feel like we've had cocktails so many times. I want to thank you for writing your memoirs and sharing them with the rest of us. I am at a weirder than average place in my life and I somehow found your book, or it found me. I read it in two nights and was (not in order of importance): 1. Inspired to knit a pair of socks, something I have dreaded for years. 2. Drawn to truly love myself as a knitter and get over that I am only half-way good and all-the-way neurotic about it. 3. So in love with my husband--and that explanation would take hours to explain, but if you want to know the drinks are on me. 4. Felt happy learning about you and being happy for you.
Not to get all religious on you, but God helped me find your book so you (and God) could speak to me with angel voices. Love it and you!

YES Gluten is the devil! It saved my life getting off that stuff!!!

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.

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