Selfish Mitch Starts Vegan Week with Hungryroot

I got my Hungryroot order today and did a quick unboxing for you to see. I’ll be posting some of the meals at @akmitch1975 and @mvdiz on Instagram as I go, mostly so I’ll remember what the hell I ate and how I liked it when I come back and do a review in a week.

Pardon my voice and my face. I’m sick (I think it’s just Muggle sick and not autoimmune related, so that’s good) but it’s not like one can put off an unboxing of temperature sensitive food. You get what you get.

However, this timing is really good, because I need to shock my body back to health and veganism will certainly switch things up. I got tired and sweaty (fever, I’m not that out of shape) just doing this unboxing video. That means pre-chopped, pre-cooked healthy food is exactly what I need right now. I keep saying I’m going to make tabouleh, which I intend to, but I’m hoping I can convince Mr. V to chop up my vegetable for me because I’m pathetic right now.

So here’s what’s in the box, as well as my word vomit that may or not apply to the topic at hand. As I’m sure you’ve come to expect if you’re not brand new here.

Love, light, health, and sorry you have to look at my face in this video,

-Sick Mitch

Oh, it’s not fine, Eczema Exposed.

By Selfish Mitch

Eczema Exposed “It’s Fine” Commercial

I’m linking to this commercial since they don’t have a share feature, probably because, as I’ve recently found, it’s being flamed on the internet. I’m not the only one that thinks it’s terrible.

It starts out with a young woman staring forlornly in a mirror in a tank top, scratching her red, patchy skin, cancelling plans on the phone and saying, “It’s just my eczema. It’s fine. It’s fine.”

Then we cut to a scene where she’s wearing a long sleeve shirt, maybe in her workplace or a library, itching again, and some dude looks at her with an expression that I read as “WTF,” but could be “Eww…” or “How you doin’, baby?” because I’m pretty bad at guessing what men are thinking. But she once again says, “Eczema, it’s fine.”

Then we transition to a scene at what appears to be an outdoor restaurant, and our sad skin sufferer is bundled up in a jean jacket. This is also where we realize Sis looks like a young Katherine Heigl but prettier (on the outside but I can assume on the inside as well).

Then her friend with a gorgeous complexion sits down at the table wearing a little tank top and asks Itchy Katherine Jr. if she’s hot, and of course we learn that it’s eczema and it’s fine. Of course. Well. The friend is NOT having it. She whips her tablet out before the server can even come by to see if they want wine. (I actually want wine just talking about this, FYI.)

The friend is all hyped about this commercial she saw for “Eczema Exposed,” and suggests that Hurting Heigl has a special kind of inflammatory dermatitis and she should go ask her doctor about this.

The patient in the commercial looks like, “Oh, wow! I’ve never heard of this before! I mean, I have to rearrange my personal life, my wardrobe, the co-workers who are willing to sit next to me, and everything else around this shitty disease, but it never occured to ask my doctor if there were any treatments around. I would have never thought to do any of my own research about my own condition. Thanks, Karen!” (You know that betch is named Karen.)

The complaints that most people have is that it’s annoying, that most people wouldn’t keep saying, “It’s fine (sigh.)” I have a different perspective. I am living with five different chronic illnesses. The ones that really keep me from living the life I’d love to have are Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. There were two days last week that I was essentially bedridden because of the swelling of my joints. Since I’m living this life, I have a different perspective.

I can’t tell you how many well meaning friends have said really stupid shit to me. I’m an intelligent, educated woman and I do research on random subjects for hours because it amuses me, so of course I’m always checking on new research and development relating to what’s going on in my body. I’m 42 years old, and I’ve been living with chronic illness for almost 1/4 of my life, and the thing about chronic illnesses is that there is no cure. There are remissions sometimes, but at this point, there is no cure. Therefore, when someone comes at me to tell me that I should try what their sister’s mom’s best friend’s dog sitter swears by, my gut reaction is to be hurt and a little bit offended. I don’t know everything about autoimmune; far from it, but I have a good grasp on the basics of diagnostic procedures and criteria, medications, and harmful and helpful holistic treatments, etc. The sad reality, though, is that doctors, while knowing 500 times more than what I know,don’t know what causes autoimmune disorders. They don’t even agree on how many different disorders there are, and they know that what works for one patient can send another into a severe flare. It’s just a frustrating situation all around, and as patients, we do a lot of research and trial and error (a shit-ton of error, TBH) both as prescribed by our doctors, and on our own.  Telling me that if I just tried probiotics I wouldn’t have this disease feels like you’re directly insulting my intelligence. I know you don’t mean it that way, but I can’t help the way I feel. And it’s not just you. Take your hurtful comment and add it to the ones we regularly receive from everyone else in our lives, and it gets old fast. Do you think that I haven’t done that research? Trust me, Babe, I could talk for over an hour about inflammatory foods, gut health, and give you a pretty well developed outline idea of some of the leading theories.

 

But have you tried..._ (2)

I also have my team of doctors; most of them specialists, who have completed at least 13 years of post-secondary education and different residencies and fellowships. I may do a great deal of research on my own, but what I know about the scientific aspects of my disorders will never come close what my specialists know. I doubt that the information you’re bringing me, even if it’s from a TV commercial for a new pill from a pharmaceutical company, isn’t going to be new information to me.

I’m fairly certain that at this point, you think I’m overreacting. I shouldn’t have my feelings hurt or be offended by people that are trying to help. If it only happened once in a while, it might not be so annoying. That’s simply not the case.

I’ve had friends tell me that marijuana cures Lupus. It doesn’t, but for some patients it can alleviate some of the symptoms. I’m all for legalization, but it’s not something that has been beneficial to me. Someone else told me that I need to do yoga. This falls under the, “Do you think that I have not tried that?” category. When I’m not in a flare, I actually love working out. It’s excellent therapy for me, mentally and physically. So yes, I’ve tried yoga. I do it on purpose when I’m able.

Another thing I do not require is your essential oils. Listen. I’m happy for you if essential oils work for you. I haven’t found them helpful beyond their pleasing aromas. Lavender smells quite nice and I do find it relaxing. However, I’ve had MLM oil salespeople tell me to ingest different oils or use them transdermally. Oils can actually be quite dangerous if you’re drinking them (yes, even just a drop or two) or letting them be absorbed through your skin, particularly if they have a bad reaction with pharmaceutical medications the patient is taking to literally save her life. Simply reading the pamphlet that came with your Young Living starter kit doesn’t qualify you to prescribe things to anyone.

I can’t believe that I haven’t gotten to multilevel marketing (MLM) friends yet. There are so many people who have told me that their upline’s friend was able to cure her thyroid condition with this miracle Arbonne or It Works! or Isagenix. I promise you…if an actual cure for a chronic disease was discovered, it would not be sold by a multi level marketing company. One of the most promising treatments that has come out recently to treat autoimmune disorders is a biologic, which runs up to $7500 per month. One thing you can take to the bank is that companies who create new, promising, life changing drugs for the chronically ill don’t sell them for $70 a month and make it a part time business opportunity for a soccer mom to reach #fianancialfreedom.

I can say that I personally feel better with the vitamin packets from Le-vel Thrive, but that’s purely anecdotal. Other vitamins, particularly those high in Vitamin C or containing echinacea can be harmful to me.  We don’t want to boost an immune system that is actively trying to kill me, thanks.

I had another friend tell me that I just need to get up at the same time every day, no matter how I feel, make my bed, and decide that it’s going to be a good day. Yes, let me give that a go after pain woke up up 8 times last night, my joints in my ankles, feet, and toes are so swollen and painful that I needed my husband to get me out of bed and let me hold on to him while I walked to the bathroom. My #1 concern on days like that should be throw pillows being perfectly placed. I get the power of positive thinking, and I listen to personal development videos and read books about mindset, but that’s not going to cut it with a disease that can make my immune system attack my joints, kidneys, liver, brain, or whatever else it feels like taking out.

I’m in a few facebook groups for people with chronic illnesses. It’s really helpful to have someone to talk to who gets it. We recently had a conversation about different things people have tried to sell us on. We call it “woo,” a general term for anecdotal evidence, old wives’ tales, hearsay, pseudoscience, and just plain crazy. Again, we understand that you mean well, but frankly, do better. Here are some of my favorites from that thread.

  • Do you really have a neurological disorder though? Aries tend to get headaches more than the other signs. (No comment necessary.)
  • There’s a parasite you can intentionally eat that will remove autoimmune disease. (The fuck?)
  • Bathing in malt vinegar once a week will cure celiac. (Again. What the fuck.)
  • The pain and muscle fatigue get better if you just push through it. (From a weightlifter friend. Our deep muscle fatigue has a different cause than yours, and requires different treatment. Taking this advice could land us in the hospital.”
  • If you accept Jesus into your heart you will be cured. (Funny, because there are lots of Christians, and people of every other faith, who die of chronic illness all the time.) The same person claimed that eating boiled cabbage would cure this patient. (So maybe it’s a combination of cabbage and Jesus? Is there a recipe?)
  • Prayer in general. If we are not religious people and you know this, this advice feels more like judgement than anything else.
  • Sleeping with onions in your socks. (OK but why?)
  • Juice Cleanses! (This can be dangerous for healthy people. It could put us in the hospital too.)
  • Reprogramming your brain with positive energy! You can walk on hot coals if you get your mind right! (Some of us can’t walk  across carpet.)
  • Going gluten free/dairy free/nightshade free/paleo etc. (Again. Works for some, but not for others. This is not really terrible advice, but if you think we haven’t tried it, you’re wrong. I personally do feel much better if I stay gluten free and limit dairy, sugar, and soy. That’s just me though.)
  • Just say NO to Big Pharma! All those pills you take are makig you sick! (Listen, we understand as well as anyone, if not better, how deeply problematic the pharmaceutical industry is. However, some of us are only alive because of Western medical science. If there were alternatives that worked as well as our prescriptions do,particularly without the expense and side effects, we’d be all over it.
  • You’d feel better if you lost some weight. (Yeah. We know. However, some of us are on medications that make us gain weight but keep us alive. Some of us aren’t ambulatory. Some of us have conditions like PCOS that make losing weight nearly impossible.)
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BRB I have to go eat some parasites to cure me. 

 

You can see how a constant stream of this could be annoying. Do you know what we’d love to hear though? Here are some ideas.

  • “How have you been feeling lately? I’ve been thinking of you.” (I personally think it’s nice when a religious friend says they’ve been praying for me, even though I don’t believe in prayer. If they do, it’s meaningful to them, so I appreciate it. Just don’t try to convert me. Other non-believers can be offended if you know they’re not religious and you bring it up, so it’s probably a good idea to simply ask them if they’re comfortable with you praying for them.
  • “Would you mind telling me more about ___________ (their chronic illness)? I feel like a lot of the information I’ve found online is confusing or conflicting.” This can show us that you’ve tried to learn about what we’re going through without trying to push the remedy du jour at us. We’re not going to judge you for saying the information online is confusing or conflicting, especially if we’re dealing with autoimmune disorder, because theories are all over the place.
  • “Do you want to come over and watch a movie this weekend at my place? ”
    • or
  • “I was thinking it might be fun if I brought us some lunch and we hung out at your place and just relaxed.”  This is so lovely, really. Having a chronic illness can be really isolating. For me, personally, I am married, have a child, and two businesses. I miss going out and living it up with my friends, and just having that girl time connection or spending time with couples or groups of friends that my husband and I used to hang out with with, but my priorities have to be keeping a roof over my head. Going out on the town sounds fun, but it might be too draining for me right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss my friends. I have one girlfriend who invites me over to just hang out with her and her 2 year old daughter. We’ll talk, snack, watch movies, or play on Snapchat making videos with the kiddo. That kind of social interaction charges my batteries instead of draining them.
  • “Is there anything I can do to help? Can I bring you dinner one night, take your kids to the community pool when I take mine so you can get a break? Can I drive you to a doctor’s appointment for your next procedure?” Several of us have minor procedures fairly regularly that involve partial anesthesia and we need someone to drive us or we have to suck it up and deal with that 11″ needle in our spine unmedicated. Caveat to this: don’t offer unless you’re willing to do the thing and you actually want to. We don’t want you to resent us, and it’s perfectly OK if you can’t do anything to help us. We get it-you’re busy too. You have limits on your time, energy, and finances, and we totally understand.
  • “I saw a really annoying commercial about eczema the other day. The lady kept saying, “I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. Is that the kind of eczema you have? How do you treat yours? How does it affect you? Does it flare and go into remission, or is it pretty constant? Also, you shouldn’t have to sweat it out in a jacket because of a medical condition. I love you and I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide with me, but if you’re more comfortable covering up I understand that too. Just don’t feel that you need to do so on my behalf.
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Much like your toddler, I can entertain myself with Snapchat for an hour. Me+a toddler+Snapchat=you can clean out your closets, your gutters, whatever. I have this covered. Even better, I can have all the screen time I want because I’m a grown ass woman.

That last one is how Karen should have started the conversation in the restaurant, if you ask me. It would let blondie know that she cares about her and she wants to learn more.

The reality is, we just want to be treated like people. Intelligent, whole, educated people. We LOVE that you’re thinking of us and wanting to learn more about our conditions. I have friends I used to be really close to that have never asked me about my illnesses. That’s OK. Some people aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever. That’s just the way life goes, and I have nothing but love for them and wish them well. But for those of you who are loyal, loving badasses and are still in our lives and read through this whole thing, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my black, sarcastic heart, I love you for reading this and wanting to learn.

Love, light, and parasites,

-Selfish Mitch

 

Probiortics

Avoid Me For The Next Two Weeks. I Might Be a Monster

I might be a sugar monster, that is.

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I’m starting my second Whole 30 tomorrow. My plans were to do a prep week this week, gradually decreasing the amount of inflammatory foods I was putting into my body so the next 7-14 days would be mildly annoying as opposed to straight up hell. Wellllp, that didn’t happen. I got busy and I’ve been feeling like crap still. Plus, something about having a start date in mind made me really want to squeeze in those treats I love before they were forbidden for at least 45 days.

Yep, you read that right, 45 days. The Whole 30 book tells us that for people with autoimmune disorders, it may take our bodies longer to work all of the inflammation out so we should plan on at least 45 days. One thing I hate about diseases and side effects of medications to treat them is that they’re never good. You never hear, “Yeah, Lupus sucks, but it seriously improves your singing voice!” or “This medication might make you gain 30 pounds but it increases your coordination so you’ll become a talented dancer and high jumper.” it’s ALWAYS shitty. So, 45 days of what, exactly? What am I committing to?

Basically, I’m going cold turkey from foods that are known to be inflammatory to the human body. I know you’re going to read through this list and say, “Nah. I eat X or Y all the time and I feel fine.” You might be right, or you might have been feeling the effects of inflammatory foods for so long that you have a new “normal”. Some people, however, can eat legit garbage all the time and function at a really high level. Everyone’s body is different, and foods affect us differently.

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These betches never eat vegetables.

The Ferguson Twins from the Bachelor franchise come to mind. (I like garbage television as much as I like garbage food. I usually have it on in the background while I’m doing other things. I don’t think I’m capable of simply watching TV without reading a book, checking email, cleaning my house, etc, at the same time). These young ladies despise vegetables and live off of frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and french fries. They have tons of energy for appearing on reality TV shows, shilling products on Instagram, drinking wine on Instagram, and they say they do lots of outdoor sports for fun. They’re also hilariously inappropriate, so I can’t hate them even though they eat total crap all the time and still look bangin’ in bikinis. They just seem to be far more resistant to inflammation than I am.

The fact is, part of learning to be happy and live a fulfilled life for me, particularly, means letting go of being angry that life isn’t fair. Guess what? Nobody’s life is perfect. We ALL have our strengths and weaknesses. We ALL have our share of personal triumphs and deep tragedies. The difference in how these things affect our lives is simply how we respond to everything. That’s it.

So, back to the Whole 30. I did my first Whole 30 beginning January 1, 2017. I started last year at 236 lbs. I was wearing size 18 and those pants were tight. I had no energy, and I was in pain all the time from 2 failed back surgeries in the span of about 14 months. I’d had two different doctors, specialists, tell me that I should consider going on disability. I have a dumpster fire for a spine, Lupus, RA, and mental health conditions that could all qualify me on their own. I had decided to go a different route by going back into real estate. It’s a career that is a lot more work than people realize, but I do have flexibility with my schedule, and I have an incredible team to back me up. If I need to be hospitalized or run off to Australia with a Hemsworth brother, the team will make sure my clients don’t miss a beat.

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Liam, Chris, and Luke Hemsworth. Did you know there were THREE?

Sorry, I got off topic again. A facebook friend had been promoting her upcoming Whole 30 free group, and I felt pulled towards it. A lot of people I know had done really well with the Paleo diet and staying in ketosis, but I have decades of experience trying really strict fad diets and know they don’t work for me in the long term. I have no desire to have to permanently remove carbs from my diet, including healthy ones like potatoes and fruits. I also have no desire to regularly pee on a strip to make sure that my body is in ketosis. Hard pass from me.

The Whole 30 is different. For 30 days, or 45 in my case, you remove all known foods that can be inflammatory triggers. Here’s a list.

  1. Added Sugar-including honey, maple syrup, stevia, and other sugar substitutes
  2. Gluten
  3. Legumes (think beans and peanuts)
  4. Dairy. The only exception here is Ghee, which is a clarified butter.
  5. Soy
  6. Alcohol
  7. Grains including: rice, corn, quinoa, millet, wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, etc.
  8. MSG, Carrageens, Sulfites, Nitrates
  9. Junk foods and processed foods

What CAN you eat on the Whole 30? Plenty of good stuff to keep you full and fuled.

  1. Vegetables. You can eat ANY vegetable with the exception of corn, which the body processes more like a grain, and legumes like chickpeas, soybeans, and lentils.
  2. Meat. You can eat any and all unprocessed meat. You need to be careful with lunchmeats and bacon, as they’re generally laden with sulfates, nitrates, and preservatives. There ARE W30 approved lunchmeats and sausage, but you need to know what to look for. That’s why you buy the book and don’t just rely on my blog.
  3. Fruit in moderation. Fruit saved my ass the first time I did the Whole 30. Apples with almond butter began to taste like a decadent dessert.
  4. Fish and Shellfish
  5. Eggs are perfectly OK with Whole 30! I like to make a fritatta with eggs, sweet potatoes, and other veggies I have on hand so I have an easy breakfast or snack when I’m hungry and don’t have a lot of time to prepare food. I freeze individual portions that can be quickly reheated.
  6. Tea. Soda is out, of course, because it has sugar or sugar substitutes, and almost every rational person knows that pop isn’t good for you. I imagine you can have seltzer or club soda, as long as it’s sulfate free. You can have coffee, too, but I’m not a coffee gal. People who are coffee addicts need to exercise caution, because if you’re used to coffee with cream and sugar every morning, straight black coffee might make you sad and tempt you to cheat.
  7. Nuts, excluding peanuts, which are legumes, and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. You need to read the labels to ensure that your nuts aren’t toasted in vegetable oil or a stew of chemicals you can’t pronounce or both.
  8. Oils and healthy fats! Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, and Coconut Oil are featured in a lot of W30 recipes. Just say no to “vegetable oil” because it’s made from corn and it’s terrible for you. Margarine is and always was hot garbage, so just say no to that as well.
  9. “Cheats” that replicate your favorite treats. This includes things like making “pancakes” from bananas and eggs or “pizza crust” out of cauliflower. The goal of Whole 30 is obviously to clear your body of inflammation, but there’s a psychological aspect of it that is meant to nudge you towards “food freedom.” It’s really easy to get addicted to sugar and crap that is bad for you. Americans in particular are conditioned to go on fad diets that are not sustainable. We get cravings for pizza, or cupcakes, or whatever your “thing” is, break the diet and binge, and then feel terrible about our self control. The goal of the Whole 30 is to make you realize that you feel better mentally and physically when you avoid food that is bad for you, and that it’s OK to treat yourself in moderation after the W30 is over. You learn to eat healthy food and like it, and you learn that eating a piece of birthday cake (after you’ve completed your W30) is perfectly fine. You just get right back on track afterwards. You realize that you have control over your food, and not vice versa. Eating protein-powder cake substitutes during your W30 can backfire because it doesn’t program your brain to stop seeing treats are rewards.

I’m really, really excited to be the person I’ll become 14 days ago. I just loathe the thought of the next two weeks. I will add, “I CAN DO HARD THINGS” to my daily affirmations, because this will be hard for me. I’ve been taking a new medication that tends to make my stomach upset, and popsicles seem to be the best way to calm it down. Popsicles have sugar, so they’re off the list. I suspect that simply eating fruit will have the same effects, so here’s hoping, but I have a lot of sugar to detox from this body. There have been a lot of recent studies where scientists have found that sugar can be as addictive as nicotine and cocaine, but it’s a lot harder to avoid. Think about it. If you quit smoking and overcome your addiction to nicotine, you don’t run the risk of accidentally drinking a glass of iced tea that happens to be infused with nicotine. You might, however, order a tea at Starbucks that seems like a fruit infused herbal tea, but you take a huge sip and realize it was sweetened with a few pumps of sugary syrup. Sugar is EVERYWHERE, but you can avoid it if you focus on it. However, popsicle faced Mitch is probably going to go through some mild withdrawals near the end of this week, but I can handle it. I remember days 6-8 as the absolute worst last time. Those days are known as the pure exhaustion phase, where you sleep 11 hours a night. Your body is used to relying on carbs and sugar for quick energy, and day 6-7 is when it revolts against you for taking that away. Your body needs to re-learn to operate as it’s designed to. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep 11 hours a night. I slept maybe 2 hours a night, for a few nights straight. I’m seriously hoping that I have better luck this time and can sleep. I’m not the nicest human in general, but no-sleep Mitch is not a creature you want to encounter. I should probably go buy my husband a suit of armor or get him a room at a nice resort so he can avoid me.

I’m going to blog here during my Whole 30 to share my experience with you, and honestly, as a type of therapy to get me through what I’m doing. If you’re interested in joining me on the journey, leave me a comment on my personal instagram @mvdiz, on this post, or through our contact page. I’m always happy to answer questions as well! Wish me luck and health! I can’t WAIT to start feeling the WHOLE 30 Tiger’s Blood! I also have about 20 more pounds or so to go until I hit my goal, and 45 days of W30 should get me really close.

Love, light, and popsicle sticks,

-Selfish Mitch

 

 

 

 

 

Lupus Is a Bitch but So Am I

Lupus. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. SLE.

If you’ve been reading my blog entries, you know that I’m a Lupus Warrior, but do you know what that means? Do you know what Lupus is? I’ve written about how I manage it, but most people don’t have any idea what it is, what it is, and what it can do to me, or to anyone living with it.

First of all, in layman’s terms, Lupus is a disorder of the immune system. In a healthy person, your immune system is your best line of defense against a virus or an infection. It’s a pretty neat thing. It just kind of hangs out in your body until you need it. When you get a virus, for example, your immune system says, “Wait, what the hell is this? This isn’t supposed to be here!” It cranks up and those white blood cells go to work to chase that shit out of your body. When you get a cold or the flu, you feel like crap for a few days while your immune system does its job. Hopefully, whatever bug you’ve contracted is weak enough that your body can just drop kick it out, but sometimes you need antibiotics or other medical intervention to speed it along and not make you suffer too long. It’s really cool that your body knows what to do with foreign invaders. A little chicken soup, a bunch of vitamin C and echinacea to boost that immune system up, and a healthy person should be up and at ’em again pretty quickly.

Well, I’ve never been normal, but I’d give up most of my fun quirks that make me unique if I could have a normal ass immune system. In a person with Lupus (or other autoimmune disorder), our immune systems are confused assholes who cannot tell a cold or a flu from normal healthy tissue. Your immune system says, “Hey, look, a kidney! Let’s protect that!” Mine looks at my kidney and can say, “Fuck yeah! Dinner!” and attack it. You may have heard that Selena Gomez, who is not only pretty and talented like me, but also has Lupus like me, just had a kidney transplant. This is serious shit.

People with Lupus take immunosuppressant drugs regularly to weaken our immune systems. I’m lucky so far in that with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle, I get by with taking only one mild immunosuppressant, but that leaves me very susceptible to any kind of gunk that’s going around. Most of my mom friends stock up on Vitamin C and other immune system boosters when their kids get sick, in the hopes that they won’t catch it too. I can’t do that. Since my immune system is already working overtime since it shouldn’t, we don’t want to give it any extra ammo. My best defense is to rest and cross my fingers and bargain with the universe to just let this be a cold. Just let this be a flu. I have a much higher chance of a cold or flu turning into a serious sinus infection, or bronchitis, or pneumonia, or something even more serious. In fact, many people are moved further towards the diagnosis of autoimmune disorder when downing Emergen-C makes them worse.

When I tell you to cancel our plans if you or your children have minor illnesses, it’s not because I’m feeling overdramatic. It’s because your cold could become my cold, and that cold could easily turn into a hospitalization because of a nasty turn. When I tell you that I’m under the weather and need to rest, it’s because I’m trying to protect myself from being out of commission (since I’m in sales that’s literal and figurative) for weeks. I’m not avoiding you, I’m not trying to stay home with my dogs and read a book instead of what we were going to do (OK so I admit that the dogs and books are really the only perks here.)

There’s self care for the body and self care for the mind, and preventing Lupus flares is both. It’s really my first priority in my life, because like I’ve said, when I go down, everything around me goes down with me.

Have questions? ASK THEM. I’m clearly not shy. In fact, it kind of pisses me off that people who are rather close to me know I have Lupus and they don’t do so much as a cursory google to figure out what I’m dealing with. Lupus isn’t what I call a “Casserole Disease.” It knocks us out for weeks at a time or longer, but since we don’t get scary skeletally thin or lose our hair or anything, and in fact, LOOK FINE, people assume we are fine. In fact, the thing many autoimmune patients report hating the most is the refrain, “BUT YOU LOOK GREAT!” Like, sorry that I’m pretty and you can’t tell by looking at me that what I am telling you about a well documented disease is doing to my entire body, but it’s a true story. Nobody asks if they can come by and bring a meal or run an errand for us. Almost nobody asks me how I’m feeling unless I bring it up. Obviously I don’t want to be treated like I’m fragile, but maybe an ounce of compassion would be cool.

Signed,

Selfish Mitch, who thinks people could at least spend a 4 minutes on Google before they pretend to know my life.

Work Sick, Part 2

Self Care Isn't a Luxury.Self Care is aNecessity..pngI had goals. I had HUGE goals! I was going to crush it in real estate and start my own team. As I mentioned in my last blog, I even had the name of the team and my logo all picked out.

Then chronic illness happened. They say everything happens for a reason, but I disagree. Sometimes things just suck. They knock you down, turn you inside out, and drastically change your life for the worst. Have I gained perspective, knowledge, wisdom and other shit from all of my health problems? Yes. But it sure as hell doesn’t make up for a full, healthy, relatively pain free life. I want to feel normal. I want to do things other people my age do without having to carefully balance on a tightrope doing health equations in my head every single day, but that isn’t the life I have, and it’s not the life I’ll ever have unless medical science gets its shit together. I’m not holding my breath.

If you’re an entrepreneur who has recently been saddled with a diagnosis that you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life, I thought I’d share my strategies with you.

  1. First and foremost, BE SELFISH. You need to put yourself first whenever possible. I feel almost lucky that I have always been a little selfish, but I really had to hone it in when I got sick. For women, in particular, we’re used to saying yes everytime someone asks something of us. Be it our partner, our boss, our coworker, the PTA, our friends, family, children, etc, you need to learn to say NO. You must put your health first. If that means you’re no longer available to network, don’t let people tell you that you that you MUST go to every happy hour a title company throws. If your spouse is a grown ass human being, don’t keep doing all of the housework yourself. If they need to learn how to cook, or do their own laundry, or sweep a floor, it’s about damn time anyway. Tweens and teens can start pulling their own weight as well. Putting some of that physical work on other people is very helpful. After all, if I go down, the whole ship goes down. If a relatively healthy person runs herself ragged and gets sick, a few days of rest generally return her to health. My last flare was pretty bad and it took a month to stabilize. During a flare, laundry doesn’t get done, nor do income producing activities. I must choose wisely every day.
  2. REEVALUATE YOUR GOALS. This one took me a while. I had dreamt about running my own team, because I’m the kind of woman who people call bossy, but I know that I just have leadership skills. It was a let down to realize that it probably wasn’t in my best interest especially in the hypothetical team members who would be relying on my guidance and commitment to their success for their income, or in my clients’ best interest for me to be on my own or running things. I’m lucky that I started on a team with an incredible mentor and was then recruited to the team where I still work today. I am still a kick ass agent, but if I happen to go down and require time off, my team mates will happily pick up where I left off with my clients and see that their needs are met at the highest level. Sure, I’ll have to split my income with them, but I don’t have to make the choice to either run myself totally into the ground to do a 5 star job or abandon them in the middle of the process of selling or finding a home, and lose my paycheck entirely. This ties into…
  3. FIND A SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR YOUR WORK. As an entrepreneur, I’m sure you’re used to doing everything on your own. That’s OK if your disability is something that’s pretty predictable. You should be able to figure out what you’re able to take on at any given time and what you’re not, and what you can realistically accomplish as long as nothing catastrophic occurs. Autoimmune illnesses are different. I can be feeling great and functioning for all intents and purposes like an adult with a bad back problem one day, and then go into a flare that basically feels like the worst flu you’ve ever had the very next. I’ve gotten fairly good at predicting flares, but they can still knock me for a serious loop. For me, as a Realtor, being a senior agent of a Top 50 Team in the USA as ranked by the Wall Street Journal is the best support system possible. They work with me on the balance I need of working from home or working in the office. Obviously I work with clients in their home and in the field, but when I’m prospecting and doing paperwork, I can get more accomplished in my home office where I experience less physical pain sometimes. I miss being in the office with my team, but I have support and the compromise works for everyone.
  4. EAT RIGHT AND EXERCISE. When the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve and 2016 became 2017, I was 236 lbs. I was ANGRY with my body. When you have a chronic illness, you feel like your body has betrayed you. Sometimes when someone asks me why I do or don’t do something, I simply say, “Oh, because my body is an asshole.” I still think that’s true, even though my body and I have come to something of an understanding this year. If I feed it right about 90% of the time, avoiding foods that are inflammatory (to find out what foods are inflammatory, just write down a list of everything that’s fucking delicious, like gluten and sugar) exercise regularly for 30-60 minutes a day, get enough rest, and don’t stress out too much, my body takes it easy on me and lets me live a “new normal” life. I’ve been treating it well enough that I now weigh 169 lbs at this moment. Weight loss, however, is a side effect of the health and fitness program I started at the beginning of the year. The main objective was to FEEL BETTER and keep flares at bay. I can’t freaking believe how much better I feel when I eat right. It does kind of suck that I can’t enjoy the donuts   the home warranty rep brings into the office in the morning, followed by the pizza the lender brings for our team lunch meeting, followed by happy hour at the bar in my office. Again, it’s about saying NO. I honestly feel like my life finally changed for the better once I got started with fitness, which is why I became an online health and fitness coach. I’m extremely passionate about helping anyone, especially people with chronic illness, change their bodies and their lives. Doctors throw pills at us and tell us to lose weight, but I’ve never had one suggest a nutritionist or a way to determine which foods specifically inflame my body. That’s life changing stuff.
  5. Discover who your true friends are. That’s a hell of a lesson to learn in your mid 30s. Your true friends are the ones who understand why you have to cancel hanging out yet again. They’re the ones who continue to invite you, even when you bail early if you show up at all. They’re the ones who are happy enough stopping by to chat when you’re in your pajamas, on your couch, in your messy house, because you can’t get up to clean, and they’d never want you to exert yourself by cleaning up on their behalf. They know that usually, your work takes priority when you only have the energy for work or play. Treat these friends like the rare, precious gems they are. Take their phone calls whenever possible. Be there for them emotionally if you can’t be there physically. Having strong friendships is actually big factor in longevity and in avoiding depression and other illnesses. Don’t let them go.

There’s no one size fits all guide to being an entrepreneur with a chronic illness, but this is what’s helped me. In these crazy times of escalating health care costs and the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act, it’s crucially important to arm ourselves with skills and strategies to manage our illnesses with nutrition and doing the right activities as much as humanly possible so we can continue working, making money, and contributing to our society and our families. As always, if you have questions or comments, I’m just a click of a mouse away.

Gentle Hugs,

-Selfish Mitch aka Michele Van Detti, Senior Partner, The Curtis Johnson Division of Revelation Real Estate

PS. The pin above is one I purchased from www.EmilyMcDowell.com I LOVE everything on their site, and don’t get paid a dime for linking to  them and they have no idea who I am. I just like to share stuff I love.

 

Work Sick

I have a few chronic illnesses. I have Lupus, RA, and degenerative disc disease. Due to a few failed back surgeries, I have been diagnosed with “failed back syndrome.” I also have ADHD, and most of these diagnoses happened prior to my 40th birthday. In fact, I spent #39 in post op from the spinal fusion surgery that ultimately failed to fuse, leaving me in more pain than before. The surgeon said that if he went in to try to fix it or remove the hardware, or to try to fuse it again, I’d have a 50% chance of some pain relief and a 50% chance that it would get worse or stay the same. I sure don’t like those odds. I later had a spinal fusion surgery, but that, too, failed to work. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, at first, I considered filing for disability, as a couple of doctors recommended. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around simply giving up at such a young age. I know that people younger than me have had to file for disability, and their reasons are sound. I’m not judging anyone for that choice, but I just KNEW it wasn’t for me.

I’ve always worked really hard and had big goals. I started babysitting at eight. That sounds ridiculous in today’s world, but I guess in small town Montana in 1983, when people knew my teacher parents (and the parents of the kids) were less than a mile away at all times, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I lied about my age on a job application to get a job waitressing at the age of 14. I worked 1 or 2 jobs at a time while going to college full time, which might be the reason I never finished a degree. I have about 170 credits that don’t form a degree, though, so that’s something. (ADHD was real in the 90s, even if we didn’t really know what it was or how to treat it, especially in adults.)

When I started in real estate in 2005, I knew I’d found IT. My career path, what I was supposed to do. It was all so clear. I’d start as a buyer’s agent on a team at Keller Williams to learn all I could. From there, I’d try to move up to the listing agent on a team, and then go out on my own, and then I’d build my own team. The path laid in front of me was so clear, that about a year into my career, I had my team name and logo designed in my head, and I was certain that nothing could stop me. Hahaha. Doesn’t life always have other plans?

First, the market crashed, and it crashed HARD. Luckily, I’d been recruited over to another, larger team that allowed agents to handle buyers and sellers, and continuously found ways to be successful, even with the median price of homes dropping about $200,000 over a couple of years. However, there was stress all around at that time in my life. My husband’s job changed, making him unhappy. It seemed like we were working harder and harder and making less money. I think just about everyone felt that way during that time, but as a married couple who both worked on commission, it was a BAD TIME.

I started feeling terrible. I have had issues with my shoulders ever since I worked my ass off in restaurants and bars, but this was all over my body. The exhaustion was horrible. The foggy mind and the unpredictable symptoms made working a serious hell on earth. It made LIVING a serious hell on earth. All along, I looked fine. That’s what everyone told me. My weight ballooned due to medications for what they diagnosed as fibromyalgia, and from the emotional eating I reverted to when I had no other way to cope with what was happening to me. I’d never learned healthy coping skills. It was food or booze for me, and at that time, I turned to both.

In 2012, my husband got a great job out of state and we moved. I didn’t work for a while and I focused on my health. I worked out as much as I could, ate well, and got my weight down from 230 something to 184, and I felt better.  Still, mystery symptoms reared their head. Finally, finally, I got a diagnosis. It’s autoimmune disease. It’s here forever, but it can be managed. My doctor gave me an antidepressant for pain, even though I was not depressed at the time. Turns out, my brain processes antidepressants as depressants. I was sunk into depression, anxiety, and misery like I’d never felt, but was assured that it was the result of a scary diagnosis and the realization my life would never be the same. I tried working part time from 2012-2015 but, honestly, that depression and the wacky medications made it nearly impossible. Steroids, low does chemo, biologics, etc. I felt like a chemical shitstorm and felt worse. We moved back to Arizona, which greatly helped my joint pain, but I was still depressed, and still taking Effexor. If I missed a dose by about 3 hours, Effexor withdrawal happened. It was like nothing I’d ever felt. It’s like you have electric shocks from your brains to your limbs. Still, I didn’t connect my depresseion with Effexor until I had what was basically a manic breakdown and started researching.

happy

 

I weaned myself off of it, so a lot of the cloud of misery disappeared, but it left my life in chaos anyway. I was back up to over 240 lbs at that point, and in a great deal of pain still. What in the hell was I going to do? Plus, I needed to contribute to my family, and as someone who has ALWAYS worked, except for a dismal failure of a stint as a housewife when my husband and I got together, and I needed the mental stimulation.

Then came the back surgeries and the recoveries, and an office job that I really liked, but was constantly taking time off from for doctor’s appointments and pain. It really didn’t pay enough to make a huge difference in our finances either. So. What now?

 

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

Love and Health

-Mitch

Selfish Mitch of the House of Disparity, First of Her Name

“Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”

As I was watching Game of Thrones when it (finally) returned to my TV screen this summer, I was thinking how cool it woulddragon be to have a bunch of titles and someone to walk in front of me to introduce me like the badass I am, like Dany. If I could somehow get her costume budget too, that would be aces.

But as the thought lingered and finally took hold, I realized that I have a LOT of titles. Most women do, if you think of it. I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of one human and two dogs, a friend, a Realtor, a fashion lover, a selfie aficionado, an inappropriate joke teller, a person with several chronic illnesses, and an online health and fitness coach.

OK, hold up. If you don’t know me, those last two probably struck you as odd. Chronic illness patient and fitness coach? Yep. Stick with me here.

In 2008, I started feeling terrible. I was exhausted, I had major stress, I had severe pain in several areas of my body. I was super stressed out and had no idea how to manage it. I’d recently married my current husband, who was SUCH an upgrade from the last one, made a great career move to the real estate company I work at today, my son was thriving, and I had great friends. Luckily, a sweet benefit of my marriage was health insurance, so I started using it to go see doctors to find out what the fuck was happening with my body. I had so many tests done, and nothing was conclusive. I felt like I just continued to deteriorate, and I was certain the doctors didn’t believe me; that they thought this was all in my head. Finally, I had a doctor diagnose me with fibromyalgia, which I’ve come to discover is often just a long word for, “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you, but we do believe something is up.” I even got a referral to a Rheumatologist who said, “OK, your bloodwork is low positive for autoimmune disease, but you don’t check enough boxes to be diagnosed with one of them, so we need to wait and see what symptoms develop, and here’s some pills called Lyrica so I hope that works.”

If you’re a doctor who happens to be reading this, DO NOT TELL A PERSON SHE’S GOING TO GET ONE OF 16 TERRIBLE FUCKING DISEASES AND SEND HER TO WEB MD. Also? All of them sound terrible, because they all can be.

So, here I was, just 33 years old with a 9 year old kid, in pain, exhausted, miserable, with what looked like a pretty shitty life sentence. I went back to my old standby, emotional eating. When you combine emotional eating with a drug like Lyrica and a less than ideal genetic predisposition to gaining weight, it’s a perfect recipe for gaining 25 pounds in three weeks. Super. The doctor who prescribed the pills kind of shrugged when I told him they added to the size of my ass and didn’t help any of my pain, but told me to keep taking them and try to lose the weight. He said, “Eat less and move more.” I stopped taking Lyrica, because the side effects were worse than the problem they were supposed to treat. I’m glad I did, since recent research shows that it can kill new brain synapses.

Desperate, I started seeing other doctors. At one point, I saw a chiropractor who is also a naturopath. He’s amazing and put me on a 30 day elimination diet and ran a bunch of tests to see which foods were inflammatory and caused leaky gut syndrome, which he knew irritated every autoimmune and thyroid disorder, plus some other diseases as well. It was HARD. I was a vegetarian at the time, working diligently towards becoming a vegan, having done my own research on food as medicine. Plus, I’ve never liked meat. Dr Kan’s diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, and meat, mostly red meat, preferably organ meat, and lots and lots of supplements. I made a deal that I’d add seafood into my diet, but not meat. He wasn’t happy with me, probably because he knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for the long term. He was right. I did the diet, and his testing showed that I was VERY sensitive to gluten and should avoid it at all costs, and I should limit dairy and soy. Great. I’m a pizza and beer girl at heart, but I stuck to it for a while. Eventually, I’d let myself slip. It didn’t take long for a slip to become an avalanche, and I was able to sort of rationalize it to myself. None of the other doctors told me what to eat! Maybe this guy is a quack. (Spoiler alert: he is not.)

Years went by, and I was diagnosed with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease. The medications I was on for Lupus and RA, particularly, were nasty. I gained 40 lbs in 6 months on Prednisone. I mean, it’s pretty cool that it kept me alive, but being 80 lbs overweight, as I was at that point, wasn’t great for my joints or my back. All of my doctors said I should lose weight, but nobody recommended a nutritionist, natural or otherwise. I was talked into a spinal fusion surgery that failed and caused more pain than I was in to start with. Then they recommended a spinal cord stimulator that also didn’t help and caused more problems. I’d been on and off of so many medications that my side effects had side effects. Try running a career and a life with all of that going on. It. Sucks. It’s honestly not possible. I even gave up on vegetarianism because it clearly wasn’t working either.

In December of 2016 I had a surgery to revise the spinal cord stimulator. It didn’t “fix” me, but it took my pain levels back to where I was at the time of the failed fusion. I now have the diagnosis of “failed back syndrome.” For several months, a friend of a friend of mine who was an online coach had asking me to join a challenge group. I’m not even sure why I stayed Facebook friends with this tall, thin, pretty, positive human. Honestly, with where I was mentally and physically, the workouts she posted sometimes made me sad that I’d never be able to get fit like that. I turned her down politely many times, but she started promoting a free Whole 30 group beginning in January of 2017. I remembered that Dr. Kan’s elimination diet did, in fact work for me, even though I talked myself out of believing it. This group Katie was running was free. It was just the diet, no burpees or cross jacks. I could do that, right? I had to try.

The first two weeks of eating veggies, lean meats, fruits and nuts were hell. My body did NOT enjoy all that detoxing. Once I got through the hell though, I was pretty amazed and how GOOD I felt. The book said that people with autoimmune issues could take longer to get the full benefit, because of leaky gut syndrome, which IS A THING, so I stayed on it for an additional 60 days. I’d lost over 20 lbs at that point. I was at a stage in my life that I’d hit rock bottom so low with my terrible relationship with food and with myself that I was open and ready for change. Katie had believed in me that I could do this Whole 30, so when she told me that I could buy a 30 Day Challenge Pack from her and join her accountability group full time, staying on track with my eating and doing the low impact exercise routines at home, I chose to believe her. Money back guarantee and all, right? I would be stupid not to try. I started with a country line dancing program for 45 days or so. I’m super uncoordinated but I started getting hooked on those endorphins and how great I felt when I avoided my inflammation trigger foods and took care of my body.

To date, I’ve lost over 60 lbs this year. I became a coach in early summer because I KNOW there are women out there right now who are in a similar mental/or physical health decline. They’re where I was last year. It’s an ugly, lonely, and horrible place, and if I have a way to help someone help themselves out of it, I will. I’ve stumbled a bit emotionally and physically after a Lupus flare knocked me on my ass in September. I’d been busy as hell at work and had some pretty severe stress, which lead to a lack of sleep and me giving myself excuses that I didn’t have time to meal prep, so I started eating more sugar and splurging on gluten too often. It resulted in the Lupus flare. Amazing how it all happened almost like clockwork.

I will tell you that I am PISSED still. I’m so angry that I had to experience almost a decade of straight hell because the traditional doctors and specialists I trusted gave me pills to deal with everything. Obviously I was desperate for ANY kind of relief, so I took them. I took the steroids, the low dose chemo, the pain pills, the $2600a month biologic shots that insurance covered until they didn’t and the antidepressants (even though I wasn’t depressed and nobody bothered to check to see what kind of havoc they could wreak on my brain, that apparently had an underlying chronic illness of its own that came raging on in full force because antidepressants are a trigger). I went through HELL for so long, and it almost cost me everything I care about, and not one of those doctors said, “Hey, why don’t you try eating whole foods, and whole foods only. Eat lean meat that’s grilled or baked, and nothing out of a deep fryer. No processed shit, no grains, no sugar. Just food that grows out of the earth except for grains and legumes. Give that a shot for like a month or so, and then add back in those other foods we all like so much one at a time and see how you feel.

Why don’t they do that? It’s fucking magical when you find the right foods to fill your body and learn which ones make you miserable. Do they not know? One would think that spending 13 years or so in post-secondary training and schooling would somehow cover it. Either the way medical schools, teaching hospitals or clinics, or however specialists like rheumatologists are trained are sorely lacking on information and evidence on how the common American diet keeps us fat, sick and nearly dead, or they’re giant fans of the kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies when they give me drugs that destroy my life. Fun stuff, America. If you’ve never had to see a specialist on a long term basis, consider yourself lucky and take what I’m saying as information from someone who has been through it. I’ve sat for two hours in a waiting room in a great deal of pain while I watch the pharma girls bring in catered lunches for the staff, balancing bags of gluten and fat (lots of bagels in the mornings, Applebees and other garbage in the afternoon) on their stiletto heels that look great with the pencil skirts on their 25 year old perfectly healthy bodies. It happens everywhere.

SO this is why I coach. This is why I care. This is why everything I do seems really incongruent.  Someone has to do it, and why not me?

Gentle Hugs, Selfish Mitch