It’s taken me decades to figure out how I work, body, mind, and emotions. What makes me a productive, functional, friendly person.
I’m anticipating having major jaw surgery in the next year, so I decided to start documenting what I’m experiencing and what I’m learning about being me.
Science & western medicine think in terms of percentages and averages. A study shows 75% of people with disease X respond favorably to medicine Y. Or 95% of people with symptom A have disease B, so you’re probably not one of the 5% of people who have Something Else Entirely, and even if you are, your doctor doesn’t know anything about that disease. There are studies about the number of women who are sent around in circles looking for a diagnosis of something relatively common like fibroids. (And don’t get me started on how hard it is to get a hysterectomy without your husband’s permission. 😠)
All of which is to say: for as much as science has discovered about how the human body works, each one of us has the responsibility to learn how our own unique system works. Reading stories of others with similar symptoms can help you figure out what might be going wrong. But it can also lead to random self-diagnosis and hypochondria1.
I’m starting this blog to keep a log about my changing self-knowledge. It’ll also be a place where friends and family can follow along. This is deeply personal, but we’re all just as similar as we are different. If one other person reads something I post and gains insight into their own wellbeing, then I’ll be happy.
If you do gain insights, let me know! I’d also love to hear if you’re facing any of the weird things I’m facing, and how you’re coping.
Here’s a quick overview of The State of Liza Olmsted, March 2019.
It’s really unclear if I’m Celiac or just gluten sensitive. They didn’t tell me, until I was in the office for the celiac blood test, that I needed to have eaten gluten in the last 24 hours for anything to show up. I know that gluten makes me miserable, so I had long since stopped eating it.
I’m sensitive enough that the wheat Rice Dream uses to polish their rice1 makes me react, despite the fact that they put a friendly red “gluten free”2 symbol on the box. It’s not certified gluten free3.
1 Don’t even get me started on how they polish their rice in order to make rice milk.
2 From here on out it’ll be GF rather than “gluten free”. Or as my boyfriend likes to call it, “girlfriend”. We talk about the “girlfriend crackers” and the “girlfriend flour”. 😆
3 Read the labels. Always read the labels. And if the label doesn’t say anything, there’s a good likelihood it’s not safe.
This was the first thing I discovered about myself. It took years, and lots of doctors telling me I’m lactose intolerant, or having no other explanation at all, despite me telling them I could drink skim milk fine, it was only full-fat, cheese, and butter that I had problems with. 🙄
Finally I searched the internet for “fat intolerance”, because that’s what it seemed like, and discovered that yes, it was a thing. It’s possible to have difficulty digesting fats. So then I thought… I wonder what makes digesting fats happen? Is there some way to fix that? (And went down a rabbit hole about bile…)
Finally I figured out: digestive enzymes. I take them with anything at all fatty. Actually, now I just take them with all food, ever.
The real question is: why can’t I digest fats well?
Dust mites are the bane of my existence. I hate mornings, I’m almost always grumpy.
As I start this blog, I’m about to start allergy drops1, which I hope will improve my quality of life immeasurably.
1 Aka sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT to allergists. I have rather more…off-color…associations with that word, so I prefer allergy drops. They’re just like allergy shots, but more convenient and not covered by health insurance.
I didn’t develop asthma until I was 34 years old. I didn’t think that was even a thing.
The asthma started after I came home from Israel with bronchitis (I don’t blame the country, it was lovely and had the best food), and the cough not only wouldn’t go away, but was keeping me awake all night and no cough suppressants would help. Doctors prescribed several drugs, one of which was an inhaler with literally no explanation, but just in case it might help. It did.
Eventually the asthma returned, and then I needed the inhaler every 40 minutes to manage my symptoms, which just seemed over the top. A new doctor prescribed me a steroid inhaler to use twice daily “until you forget to take it”, in other words until the symptoms have been gone for a while.
My triggers are coughing/post-nasal drip1 and cold air + exercise.
1 Oh hai allergies
There’s research showing that bringing your hands to your heart and focusing your attention on the movement in the center of your chest literally changes your emotions and brain chemistry. It’s good for you.
I’m also engaged in a course of study about spirituality, depth psychology (a la Jung), ancient mystery schools, religion, and manifestation. This means I occasionally do pieces of deep shadow work, which is another type of learning about how I uniquely ❅ work.
Speaking of the other 5%…
My migraines don’t include pain, nausea, or auras, which are the most common migraine symptoms. I have the deepest sympathy for folks who do have those symptoms.
My migraines include a fuzzy head, being unable to think quite coherently, and the world seems a bit spacey and unreal. Other symptoms can include sensitivity to sounds and smells, a strong inclination to rewatch favorite TV shows or video games, and a weird sensation in my ears. When the migraine passes, suddenly I’m motivated and interested in things again, I get a headache1, and it feels like refreshingly cool air is blowing through my ears.
Another thing that’s neat is that it feels a bit like a reset on my brain. Things I’ve been struggling with for days will suddenly look different and I’ll have insights about what to do about them.
My triggers include the aftermath of stress, PMS, and some combination of dehydration/heat/sunshine.
1 A common symptom of migraines is that you get a normalheadache when the migraine passes. That just seems so rude to me. I don’t mind my headaches so much, they’re nowhere near as bad as a migraine-with-pain would be.
Who doesn’t want to have their jaws (upper and lower, thank you) cut apart and put back together again?
Er, right. Everyone. Everyone doesn’t1. Including me.
Long story short: My mandibular condyles didn’t grow properly, so my lower jaw sits at a weird angle to my upper jaw, and my back teeth meet, but not in the most efficient way. My front teeth don’t meet at all.
We learned that the only real solution is surgery when I was 16, and I nope-nope-noped all over that. It’s been 20 years, technology has improved2, and I really don’t want to lose my teeth within the next couple of decades.
So! I’m going to have a consultation with a new oral surgeon. Then in the next couple of months I’m going to have braces put in3. Then about a year later is surgery.
Honestly, there are two parts I’m struggling with the most. First, the surgery will be seriously traumatic, and my jaw will be wired shut during the healing, and healing will take months4. Second, my face is going to look completely different. I’m used to my face. 😞
1 This is shockingly inaccurate. People choose to have orthognathic surgery for cosmetic reasons. I can’t even.
2 Now they’re talking about bone grafts instead of replacing the joints with teflon-coated fake ones.
3 Again. Woo.
4 Hmm, maybe that counts as three things right there. 🤔
Aka that thing that isn’t a medical symptom because they can’t pinpoint it, and yet it’s a clear indication to me that Something Is Wrong.
When I eat gluten, 18 hours later I’ll have a brain fog, mood swings, and find focusing my eyes uncomfortable. My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton.
When I get a migraine, I get a brain fog, but it’s a totally different feeling from gluten. It’s more like my brain is made of jello, and I don’t get any mood swings at all (except to sudden or loud noises, which upset me).
And sometimes I just have a mild brain fog that I can’t explain the source of, and I sure wish I could because I’m not productive when I have them.
There’s a lot of scientific study now (finally) going into the gut microbiome, which shows that what you eat influences what bacteria grow in your gut, which influences how you feel emotionally and how well your brain functions. This isn’t woo-woo, this is science. There’s also a
Oh yeah, and because my jaw didn’t grow right, my airway is smaller than usual, so I have sleep apnea while being underweight, and I’m supposed to wear a CPAP at night. I also just sleep poorly, which may be the sleep apnea, may be the dust mite allergy, may be related to ADHD, or might be something else entirely. The CPAP seems to wake me up as much as it helps me sleep. 😒 And everyone says that the most important thing for your health is to get your sleep solid. Thanks, folks, I’m trying.
Bee-tee-dubs, when my brain won’t stop hamstering and I’m trying to go to sleep, I take a GABA pill. It’s related to valerian root, it does something calming to my brain, and within half an hour I can actually rest. And yet I forget to take this helpful substance more often than I’d like to admit.
There are probably other topics. Like the fact that I have congenitally high cholesterol, and a funny bump on my finger, and also 1-4 days of depression every month when I ovulate, unless I take an herbal supplement every day. I’m more consistent about that than I ever was about taking birth control1. 🤔
I’ve also been vegetarian my whole life, I’m following the Plant Paradox diet right now, my BMI has been <18 since I left college despite my best attempts to eat all the fat, I have three parents, and three sisters who are all less than half my age.
And maybe I have ADHD but wasn’t ever diagnosed. And probably a mild case of dyslexia, both of which no one noticed because I could fake it so well. I feel hesitant to claim mental issues that I don’t have a diagnosis for. Like people who are obsessively clean calling themselves “OCD”, when they’re missing the whole compulsively-bad-thoughts part of the definition. So, I take my self-diagnosis cautiously, but having done a bit of study I don’t feel completely inaccurate claiming it.
Final note, spoons. I don’t have one of the “common” chronic illnesses, like lupus or fibromyalgia or ME, so I worry that I’m misusing the term. However, my gluten reactions and other sensitivities hit me hard enough to disrupt my productivity at work, and make me less likely to go see friends. I acknowledge that others have it worse; I also know that I have more than my share of times when I just can’t, so I will stare at something mindless. 😓
1 And I hate how hormones impact me. And I can’t have more than ~6 oz of coffee without getting heart palpitations anymore. Decaf is my friend.
That’s a legitimately long list. 😓
1 I sometimes check with my boyfriend about whether I’m just inventing that this new disease I discovered sounds just like what I have.
P.S. I 💖 footnotes. And emoji. And punctuation.
P.P.S. Remind me someday to go back and add links to All The Things in this post.