Heart of the matter

As a part of the process to get to the route cause of my recent high blood pressure, I’ve been having different tests and scans.

Blood tests are always a challenge, especially if I’ve had to fast first. My veins just disappear into my body and I end up looking like a bruised pincushion! Of course I bruise easily just to add insult to injury.

My high blood pressure was first apparent in April, my GP regularly monitors my blood pressure as I take the oral contraceptive pill. I put it down to stress caused by work. It didn’t improve and my readings over the course of 24 hours were sky high and so I started taking medication. My GP also referred me on to a consultant for further investigations.

So far, I’ve had blood tests done. This showed that my levels of renin and aldosterone were high. To investigate further, I had a CT scan with contrast dye of my kidneys. Thankfully, my veins behaved that day and although it took two radiographers to insert the canula, it was successful. Its an odd sensation having the dye injected. First there’s the metallic taste, then, much more bizarrely is the warm sensation and feeling that you have wet yourself. I’ve had a few CT scans in my time but that is still the weirdest feeling!

Today’s test was an ECG. This was to see how my heart is functioning and to check if the high blood pressure has caused the muscle of my heart to thicken. Thankfully my heart is normal size and there is no thickening of the muscle. Its quite something to see and hear your heart beating on the screen. I really realised how much I take it for granted. There it is, beating away countless times over my forty years keeping me alive.

It really does make e appreciate the work it does. I really do need to kickstart my weight loss, I haven’t quite got back on track after my birthday. Time to get back on the low carb lifestyle and exercise – my heart and I deserve it and I want to be as healthy as I can to start a family. No more excuses. ❤️

What DO I want to be when I grow up?

I’m starting to think that I’ve been settling. I’ve been off work for several months now, I’ve always said that I love my job and I don’t want to leave. I was asked how I feel about having been off and my honest reply was that I miss the people but not the work.

I’ve also come to realise that I’ve defined myself by my job. I’ve let it become who I am rather than the job I do. That’s not healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I’m good at what I do and I have more years of experience than I care to admit, but maybe I need a change.

Herein lies my question and if I’m honest, my difficulty. I know what I’d love to do – become a sommelier. My difficulty is that it is a complete change and it is scary. I had a light bulb moment when reading Laura Clery’s brilliant book IDIOT. (I read it in one sitting, I just could not put it down. I definitely recommend it. So does Dawn O’Porter, if my recommendation isn’t enough.) I realised that I too make decisions based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of taking a risk, fear of not knowing what will happen, fear of not being able to pay the bills. I could go on but you get my point.

I wasn’t always scared. Even if I was, I didn’t let it stop me. I’ve upped sticks and moved to a different country. I’ve moved to completely new places where I knew nobody and I’ve succeeded. I’ve even ended a long term relationship when I knew it wasn’t right for either of us. I’ve also taken some risks (I think that was more about my mental health signaling that I wasn’t well rather than a calculated risk though.) I’ve made those brave decisions in the past, so what is stopping me now?

I’ve exhausted my full sick pay entitlement and I’m managing. I do have the security of a permanent position and am very broody. (I’m very aware of my age when it comes to my desire to be a mother. I’ll be classed as a geriatric mother, which just sounds unbelievably awful.) I think it boils down to confidence. I am far from the most confident person but following my dream gave me the courage to do whatever it took. Move to a different city, not a bother. Need to drive for work, drop me off a hire car and I’ll drive there. (Back in the days when I hated driving and had no car.) I can’t quite figure out at what point I stopped dreaming.

There’s no doubt that my recent physical and mental health difficulties compounded by my work issues have knocked my confidence. Truth be told, it was on the floor. I had none. I was convinced that I was a failure. I’m not fully back to myself yet but I’m getting my confidence back. A wise woman once told me that “energy follows thought” and my friend is a big advocate of having a vision board so maybe it’s time I start to create my vision board, think those positive thoughts, create that positive energy…and start dreaming again.

Sassy 1 – 0 Anxiety

Its been quite a journey over the last few months, not always an easy one as I’ve battled my anxiety. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve always been a worrier and been anxious at different times of stress, e.g. exams, waiting for results but never to the extent that it has seriously impacted my ability to get on with my day to day life. That changed when things came to a head in April.

Now it’s September and I’m actually feeling like me again. That’s not to say that I’m not anxious, there are still some unresolved work issues that need to be tackled but I feel like I can cope with resolving them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still taking medication and will be for a while yet. (While I am feeling more like me, I’m not ready to give up my safety net just yet.)

I have also gained huge awareness of my mental health. Truth be told, I hadn’t realised just how unwell I actually was. I just kept on going and wondered why I wasn’t getting anywhere and why I was constantly chasing my tail? I was exhausted, not sleeping properly and it took all of my energy to get up and get through the day. The really scary thing is, if my physical health hadn’t declined I would have kept on going and ended up in an even bigger mess. It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.

I now know just how critical it is to listen to my body and really take care of myself. Nothing is worth risking my mental and physical health for. I am also incredibly lucky to have a supportive partner, family and friends as well as a GP that I can open up to and know that they will help and support me. I know that sadly this is not the case for everyone, GP’s are overstretched and don’t always have time to spend with their patients.

When I look back to Christmas 2018 that I spent with my family, I barely recognise myself. I was anxious about the smallest of things and kept my feelings to myself. I doubted myself. I felt stupid and like a failure. I felt like I let my family down. I did have an inkling that I wasn’t right but didn’t act upon it. I had recently had the dosage of my anti-depressant increased and figured that once it kicked in, I’d be fine! Now I see that there should have been major alarm bells ringing that all was not well. Hindsight really is a marvellous thing.

I can’t go back and change the past, I don’t have a time machine. I can definitely learn from it though. I feel I really have. I will do my damndest to ensure that I never go back to that dark place again. Nor will I ever let anyone take my power from me or allow them to make me feel that way. I am annoyed that it wasn’t picked up on, but that’s another issue and not one I have control of. I can however, control my actions and behaviour. I am only responsible for me and my choices.

I am proud of the choices that I have made and am continuing to make to get and stay healthy – both physically and mentally. I’m on a positive path and well on the way to getting my sass back. Long may it last. Look out world, Sassy is coming for you…

Autumn and Asthma

I love autumn, its my favourite season. I love the colours as the leaves change and fall. I love wearing boots, cosy jumpers and scrunching through the leaves. I love wearing scarves and feeling cosy. I love the crisp mornings and autumn sunshine too. I love knowing that when “Strictly Come Dancing” is back on TV that Hallowe’en and Christmas are coming.

There is one thing I don’t love. Catching a cold. My lungs don’t share my love of the change of season. The cooler air is not for them, nor is the return to school and the increase in coughs and colds. Congestion is my nemesis. My asthma hates it. Catching a simple cold earlier in the year led to real respiratory woes (https://sassyscot.blog/2019/04/28/adult-onset-asthma and https://sassyscot.blog/2019/05/16/your-health-is-your-wealth/)

Its early September and once again I’m congested…at least this time I’m better prepared. I’m stocked up on my inhalers and nasal sprays and I’ll continue to use them. I’m going to do my damndest to avoid a repeat of April. I’ll also have to nip this in the bud quickly and then get my flu jab. Its all glamour being asthmatic!! Better to be safe than sorry though, I’m in no hurry to let a sinus infection floor me again and there’s no way I’ll risk the flu.

In the meantime, I’ll look out my cosy jumpers get my boots on wrap my scarf round me making sure to cover my mouth and nose and enjoy the autumn.

This keto life

I decided to give the keto diet a go in my mission to shift the excess weight that I’ve been carrying. I’ve done my research and although not everything I’ve read is positive – ‘keto flu’ does not sound fun – people lose weight and keep it off.

I’m still trying to get my head around it if I’m honest; frying foods and using butter and cream feel alien. Its against everything we’re ever told. Conventional wisdom is always cut fat for weight loss. Well I’ve tried that so why not try the opposite?!

I will admit that I’m terrified of gaining weight and getting it wrong. Maybe that’s just because any of the diets I’ve done in my adult life (Slimming World, Weight Watchers, etc.) are about low fat. I’ve never been a huge fan of low fat products. If they’re removing fat (flavour) them they need to replace it with something. That something seems to me to be chemical sweeteners and I worry about putting that into my body. I know that sounds rich coming from a chocoholic sugar fan but there you go!

Sugar worries me too. Its definitely addictive. Its also empty calories. It gives your body a boost/ rush but then comes the crash and the craving for more. I know that genetically we are pre-disposed to prefer sweet fats as a throwback to our hunter- gather days. I also know that those days are long gone. Growing up, sweet treats were exactly that: treats. Over the years that I gained the weight, they ceased to be treats and became a more regular part of my diet.

There does seem to be something sensible to me about eating natural fats; olive oil, butter, cheeses, avocados rather than processed foods/ oils. So far I’m still eating all the fresh vegetables and salad ingredients that I was before. I’m still eating chicken, fish and eggs. The only difference is that I’m using butter more and cream is no longer the enemy.

I’m four days in and I don’t miss carbs or chocolate. I have no cravings and I feel satisfied. I’m eating till I’m full and being more mindful in my eating – no more hoovering my food. I’m taking time to taste it and enjoy it. I think I’ve found what will work for me long term, I’ve lost 2 pounds so far and I feel good.

I haven’t cut carbs for good, I’ll still enjoy roast potatoes as part of my Christmas dinner and order pasta as a main if I’m out for dinner. Dessert will also be on the menu, but they will be treats and I’ll enjoy them as such.

You are what you eat

I haven’t eaten great recently, there’s been far too many takeaways, bars of chocolate, baked treats and big portions. I’m aware that I’m not eating right and putting pressure on myself to lose weight as my big birthday approaches. This just makes things worse as I go into full on sabotage mode.

I’m also back at my consultant for my high blood pressure in the next few weeks too. I agreed to exercise much more regularly and keep up my healthy lifestyle at my last appointment. Last time I weighed myself I’d gained back all the weight I’d lost. My jeans are too tight and I feel very bloated and uncomfortable. It hasn’t stopped me eating though.

I’m risking my health. I’m already on medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My excess weight is doing nothing to help my asthma either. I’m quite an intelligent person, so what is going on with my food choices?!?

I was never overweight growing up, as a family we ate healthily and had sweets/ chocolate as a treat. All my bad food choices have been made as an adult. My weight gain started when I moved into my own flat after I finished at university. I ate well at university (we’ll ignore the terrible food in the catered halls of residence that led to the Tuesday chinese takeaway, Super noodles or the contents of the vending machine.)

I LOVE food. I think about food a lot. After breakfast I think about my lunch and after lunch I think about my dinner. I love trying new things and eating out. I can cook. I love cooking and love baking too. I get pleasure from food. I think my problem is that I don’t listen to my body. I get excited and I eat quickly. I don’t give my stomach time to signal to my brain that I’m full. I also eat mindlessly, I can easily eat biscuits/ chocolate/ cake whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and then have more biscuits/ chocolate/ cake with my cup of tea. I’m also very bad for nibbling while I’m cooking.

I have lost weight before, I lost 3 stones nearly 10 years ago doing WeightWatchers. Then I had 2 car accidents and would cheer myself up eating treats. I gained back all the weight that I lost. My weight has been pretty steady since then. I don’t see treat foods as treat foods, they’re part of my regular diet. I still turn to food to cheer me up. I have a very sweet tooth too. I know what all my pitfalls are and what I need to do. I just can’t seem to get my head into the right mindset to make the necessary changes.

I don’t want to die young. I don’t want to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What am I waiting for? I have to act. Tomorrow is another day. It will be the day that I start to lose weight for good. I have to. I want to live a healthy life. Time to put my money where my mouth is. If you are what you eat, starting tomorrow I’m going to be wholesome and healthy.

A work in progress

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. Sometimes I speak without thinking. Sometimes what I say comes out wrong. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, other days getting out of bed is a challenge. I try my best. I’m still learning.

My mental health is definitely a work in progress. I take it day by day. I’m getting better and am working hard to continue to get well. The stigma of mental health is still something I am battling. I know it is ok to not be ok, but saying that out loud to another person is something I don’t feel able to do. I don’t know why? Maybe it is because it feels like an admission of failure, like accepting that I’m not superwoman. I have long been battling against my superwoman complex….its a work in progress.

I spend my working life problem solving and helping people to solve their problems. Mental health and its impact features in my working life and I regularly encourage people to seek support from their GP’s. I have accepted that I am experiencing anxiety and take medication for this. So why don’t I say it out loud?

I am human. I have limits. I have skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses. I’m open to trying new things. I’m absent-minded and can be easily distracted. I went upstairs to get sellotape, I found it and came back downstairs where I then found myself battling with the ivy that is trying to take over my garden. It took me what felt like minutes to figure out why I was gardening and not wrapping the present I intended doing. Answer, I saw my roses needed deadheading and went from then to the ivy. I’m a daydreamer.

I’m also getting older, I got an appointment through for a cardiac assessment. It was a sobering moment. I know it’s all part of my head to toe health assessment, but it gave me a jolt nevertheless. It reminded me that life is fleeting. I’m human.

I’m perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. I’m me and there’s nobody in the world I’d rather be.