Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parallel Lives: The Case for Illness

Sometimes I pause and think about what living with chronic coochie pain has taught me. But I know that I owe some of these present-day lessons -- the fact that I can learn them at all -- to having gone through the same thing with another invisible illness.

I have had bipolar disorder maybe my whole life. I know from dealing with it for so many years that despite the trials, I am better for having gone through it. I am a better person than I would've been otherwise, inside and out, and I wouldn't give it back if I could.

If I had been born without bipolar disorder, I would have had an easier time in college academically. If I had had an easier time, I would have, say, gone off to grad school immediately to study what I studied as an undergrad. I would have gotten a Ph.D. because becoming a professor would have seemed like the least of all possible evils, despite my obscene, undying hatred of academia. I would have set off on a rigid, narrow course through life, focusing on one specific subject when I have too many interests to number and can't, now, knowing myself, bear the thought of starving out all my other passions to serve a singular pursuit.

If I had had an easier time socially in my teens and early twenties, if I hadn't wanted to spend most of that time curled up in a deep dark hole, I wouldn't now understand the depths that people trudge through every day, often unbeknown to those around them. I wouldn't have learned that anyone and everyone everywhere has a reason why he is the way he is, and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt and the best of my empathy.

If I had been born without bipolar disorder, I wouldn't have spent all this time fighting to gain control of myself and learning how to live better. If life had been easier, there would have been no reason to raise all the questions I've raised, to make all the repairs, to change course a thousand times. I wouldn't have had to teach myself to live slowly, to go at my own pace, to ignore what others do and just do my own thing. I wouldn't have learned that delighting in my stupid cat as she plays with her stupid rubberband is the most important thing I can do on any given day.

And two years into vulvodynia, I can say that getting this disease was like striking gold. Yes, I am in pain all the time. Yes, I have no idea if I will ever be pain-free again. Yes, I can't have sex. Yes, I can't eat gluten or corn or sugar and on and on and on. Yes, yes, yes. And yes, sometimes I think I might go insane. But I know all the time that this experience has been, in a twisted way, one of the most rewarding of my life.

Because these past two years have really put my muscle to the test. What can I weather? What can I ignore? How strong is my self-discipline? How much hope can I have? Does it keep coming back setback after setback, day after day, the pain plain and sure as the rising sun?

Well, it does.

As I'm starting to put all the lessons together, those of both illnesses, I'm starting to learn what the best way is to live, for me. I'm learning how to keep myself on an even keel. I'm learning what I really want and what I really need. I'm learning to make sure I get it. I'm learning to get out of my own way.

If there is a case in favor of illness, this is it. I am so much better having trammels along the way. And certainly I will wake up pain-free tomorrow, or one of those tomorrows to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

VeganMoFo: What I've Been Eating

So I've been vegan for about 10 days now, maybe (don't remember when the last Reese's cup from Halloween went down), and the change has been really easy. But I guess I didn't really expect it to be hard given that I already have so much practice cutting things out of my diet.

I've had occasional non-vegan cravings, like the following:
  • See a play in which characters are eating scrambled eggs. Mmm, eggs... (one of my favorite foods)
  • Read randomly about wedding costs, wonder if bratwurst and kraut would be an acceptable meal. Mmm, bratwurst...
  • Tacos. Mmm, tacos...
But none of the cravings have approached being demands, and I'm so happy with peanut butter on a rice cake.

I haven't really eaten anything very exciting since going vegan, but it's been fun anyway. I've had Roman rice & beans (kidney beans, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, parsley, etc.), cauliflower soup (which should be called gruel and smells like grandma's kitchen), homemade hummus (my scrambled-egg replacement) with veggies, lots of green smoothies (currently 2 bananas plus a big grab of baby spinach in the blender), pear salad (pears, apples, spiced pecans, lettuce, at a restaurant -- delicious), and all that other stuff around the edges, the snacky things.

I think I've made Roman rice & beans twice in two weeks, which is kind of pathetic as it feeds me for like four days. But next I'm switching it up to quinoa, black-eyed peas, and veggies...a camouflaged rice & beans.

Within a few days of that last peanut-butter cup, I began peeing much more beautifully. I remember the first time it happened: it was after that pear salad, and it involved hardly any additional pain at all! That's how it used to feel on my "simple diet," and I was so frickin happy to see it return.

That lasted for a few days, but it took a down turn at some point and now it hurts again. I've had several interstitial cystitis no-nos that may have set it off: orange juice, wine, beer, vodka (shhhhh), and multivitamins.

I started the multivitamins because vegans can't get any B12 as it only comes from animal sources. So today I bought B12 alone in hopes that if there is any vitamin corrosion going on down there, it'll be lighter with only the one supplement. Plus I've read that at the supplement's dosage level, I can take it once a week and be okay.

I bought the wine, beer, and -- well, I had the vodka already -- because...yeah. I think I have to dump those for a while to see if they're affecting me. But I still have two-thirds of a six pack to get through! Aw, shucks.

I've spent some time on the World's Healthiest Foods website reading about nutrition. Their Food Advisor is really helpful -- you can plug in what you regularly eat and see where you might be nutritionally deficient.

I played around with it a while and figured out how I should be eating in order to get as much of the good stuff as I can. It's possible to get everything on a vegan diet, even on a raw diet -- except B12 and vitamin D. D we make from the sun, of course, at least during brighter months, so it's really only B12 that's impossible.

According to the Food Advisor, fruits are almost negligible compared to vegetables nutrition-wise, and seeds are really important too. I wrote out the most important foods on a piece of paper to take to the grocery store so I'd focus on them instead of on my standards. I just hope those guys did their research right :P

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Must be that one-third of a six pack doing its work. I tell you, these days, when I drink beer, it's a celebration of the fact that I CAN drink beer -- that there's gluten-free beer out there for me to buy and drink. Mmm, beer...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

You're Screwed: I Can't Screw

I went to a Halloween party this past weekend and came back with two phone numbers. Now, I'm lucky that my crotch doesn't precede me mentally in everything I do. I can start, at least, having a conversation with a guy without a giant va-jay-jay rising before my eyes. But eventually, the thought pops into my head: "You're screwed, buddy. By which I mean not screwed."

Because that's the end goal, isn't it, whenever people talk in that setting? Night, drinks, darkness? If not within the coming hours, then later, after a few dates. Eventually.

Except in my case eventually is an indefinitely long time from now. And no one can tell from just looking at me.

Maybe I'll start wearing a chastity belt to weed out the meat hunters. Outside my clothes, of course.

(Dammit, dammit, Halloween costume! Instead I was a unicorn. Dammit.)

Both guys asked me out on a date rather than making some more ambiguous advance. I told both I would go out with them because I'm trying to, like, be open to that, or something. I figure the more people I know the more likely I'll find someone I want to be with for more than one night in a past, pain-free body.

But I'm not really excited. I find dating frivolous. I know relationships have to start somewhere, but I usually get a quick idea of whether I want to spend a lot of time on someone, and after I'm sure I don't, I find no point in pursuing anything further. I like being alone more than I like being with someone who's okay.

I'm mentally at both extremes: give me really-like-him or give me sex. Except now I can't do the latter, and, on top of finding someone in general, the former has the Giant Va-jay-jay Hurdle -- i.e., who wants to date a girl who can't screw?

Yeah, yeah, reassurances, shmeassurances. I know there are guys out there who would understand. I also know that when a guy hits on me in the darkness of the night, it's not to talk about existentialism as presented in The Stranger. But if it smooths the transaction, sure, Camus all night long.