Brighter Days | Music Monday

Turbulence continues to rock the world and 2022 isn’t the fresh start many of us hoped for.  Added stress from persistent and escalating world events is the last thing those of us with chronic illness need to add to our lives.  Stress increases my inflammation and swelling so – as much as I care – I’ve unplugged from the news for the past month.  Work is tough, my personal life is tough, and the last thing I want to think about is global doom. 

To keep stress at bay, I stick to my self-care routine as much as possible.  In addition to standard lipedema protocols such as compression, exercise, and keto, I also meditate every day.  I use Headspace and I’ve been repeating the 10-day self-compassion series nonstop for the past six months.  It walks through offering love and compassion to yourself, to someone you love, and someone you are having difficulties with.  There is no doubt that it shifts something in my energy – within a few weeks my usually standoffish cat started curling up under my arm as soon as I started.  I never thought I’d be the kind of person who meditates, but I started two years ago around the same time I got my FlexiTouch pump. Pumping and meditation were a great pair.  Meditation made me want to crawl out of my skin and my pump kept me from being able to escape!

The other way I combat stress is with music and I usually find myself scrolling through songs either before or after I meditate.  That’s how I found today’s pick, Brighter Days by Emeli Sandé.  It’s the perfect, uplifting song for stressful days and is sure to set the mood for a good week.

We’ve seen it all
The tears have fallen
And every step is on the edge
And we’re so confused
We don’t understand
It feels like this night won’t end
But there’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter Days
I’ll keep you lifted when you’re losing faith
There’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter days
Though it seems distant, know the world will change

Emelie Sandé “Better Days”

How does stress impact your health and well being, Sturdy readers?  How do you keep it under control and stay present for your one beautiful life?  Drop me a note in the comments and let me know what works for you. I’ll try it out!

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Pillars of Self-Care

Walking is the foundation of my self-care routine and today is a rare day I’m not doing much of it. After a long streak of 60-70 degree weather, winter finally arrived in Washington, D.C. and the sidewalks are alternately covered with heavy wet snow or black ice. At the time I’d normally be heading out for my evening walk, here I am with you, Sturdy Women, snuggled under a blanket, reflecting on what has become one of the great joys in my life. Walking is my daily opportunity to celebrate what my body can do and how far I have come. Two years ago I would have shaken my head and said No, I don’t have mobility issues and No, I don’t have pain. Isn’t it amazing what you can normalize and learn to accept, even as your health slowly (or even rapidly) deteriorates?

Of course, gaslighting and fat shaming from doctors doesn’t help, but that’s another post…

My lipedema journey started in 2019 with a strange and persistent ache behind my knee. It didn’t feel like a sore muscle, but I didn’t know what else it could be. Massaging, stretching, and heating did nothing. It will go away. I’ll ‘walk it off.’ Within a month that knee became a “trick knee,” giving out without warning if, for example, I stepped onto a curb or stood up from a chair. Even though I taught and attended intense spinning classes several times a week, I labored to walk the half mile from my bus stop to my office and always took the elevator at work, even between floors. Spinning worked because I could do it sitting down. I guess this is old age, I told myself. I was 35 and had gained 100 pounds, mysteriously and rapidly.

Yet miraculously, here I am almost exactly two years after my diagnosis, sad that I can’t go for my 2-3 mile evening walk! That pesky 100 pounds? Almost all gone. The two flights of stairs outside my apartment? I take them at a run. Those are truly accomplishments to celebrate and things I’m grateful for each day. It hasn’t been an easy road, though, and I know you Sturdy Women understand. Managing lipedema (or any chronic health condition!) is hard work, but as one woman in my support group says, “you are worth it.”

Even if I’m not walking today, I’m still doing everything else on the self-care list. I try not to think about how much time it all takes, but I estimate it’s a least three hours a day.

  • Clean, low carb nutrition. I went keto more than a year ago and never looked back. It has been a game changer for my swelling, inflammation, and energy level. I do less than 20g total carbs a day with some alternate day fasting. Gail and Kristin with Lipedema Simplified coaching have been amazing resources as have the group classes.
  • Compression! All day everyday. CZSalus is my favorite. Yes, you can get them on Amazon, but they ship really fast from their Italian website and – big bonus – their site offers more colors. Your closet deserves more than black and medical beige, Sturdy Woman. I’ll write a separate future post on compression, but I find both the K1 and K2 work well to control my swelling.
  • Whole body vibration is great to get lymph moving, especially on days like today when I can’t get outside. I have a LifePro Waver that I use on a low setting for 15 minutes each night before I use my pump. There is a great private Facebook group called Vibration for Fat Disorders if you need help figuring out how to use it. When in doubt, put on one of my Music Monday selections and dance it out, whatever that looks like for you!
  • Pneumatic pumping simulates manual lymph drainage (MLD) massage, but at home. I have used a Flexitouch Plus for almost two years. I started out doing it 2 hours a day – one leg at a time – in the extended size garments, but have since sized down twice and now do both legs in a single 1-hour session. There seems to be a sort of weird competition between the pump companies, but I have found Tactile super easy and accommodating as a company. With practice, I can also get suited up alone in about 5 minutes and out of it in about 30 seconds. If you are a frustrated newbie (like I once was) stick with it!
  • While I pump I elevate my legs on my Lounge Doctor wedge pillow. A lot of people seem to use a stack of regular throw pillows, but this has been a game changer for me. Not only does it get my feet nice and high, but there is no arranging, sliding, or toppling to deal with, which is great for those of us who suit up solo. The Tactile tech who visited me a few months ago was really impressed and said it was perfect. Bonus that it’s also a really comfy leg pillow. Even when I’m not pumping I like to use it while watching TV.

Those are my pillars of self-care that, in addition to walking, I do 95% of days. The 5% of time I have to cut something because of bad weather, a late night at work, or a friend in town? So what! That’s life. Consistency is key but so is flexibility.

What are your self-care pillars, Sturdy Women? Drop a note in the comments and let me know how you show up for yourself and what makes your life more joyful, comfy, and fun.

PS – There are no affiliate links in this post, just honest opinions.

You are OK

Here, roughly 28 hours before the New Year, I feel compelled to remind you that you are ok. Right now. As you are. Already bloggers and online news outlets are cuing up articles for January 1, 2022. Lose weight! Eat better! Look younger! Save more money! Everything is so negative, implying that what we look like, do, and have right now needs to be fixed. But what if it’s already pretty solid and just needs to be built upon?

The past couple years have been rough, Sturdy Women, but guess what? You’re still here, I’m still here, and I think we’re doing great. Could you, just maybe, think you’re doing great too?

We all have goals, dreams, and things we hope to ‘level up’ in the New Year, but that doesn’t mean your current operation isn’t pretty darn good. Managing a chronic illness during a pandemic, haven’t you been doing your best? Be honest. This stuff is hard, but I see you.

If you feel moved to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, by all means do that – I have already started mine – but I encourage you to also make a second list, a list of every bad ass thing you did in 2021. Take a few minutes to be proud and honor your awesome work. Here’s my list for inspiration.

Bad Ass Things I’m Proud of from 2021:

  • I flew on an airplane for the first time in 3 years. I asked for – and took up – the space my body needed to be comfortable.
  • For the first time in 10 years I bought a swimming suit, wore it, and swam in a pool. It was heaven!
  • I started sharing my experience with lipedema, lymphedema, and chronic disease publicly and, through that process, found my community.
  • I set boundaries with people close to me who weren’t giving me and my body the respect I deserve. If they didn’t listen, I trusted myself enough to tell them goodbye.
  • One flight of stairs used to be a struggle. Now, I take them at a run just to celebrate my strength and progress. (We all have a little inner Rocky, am I right?)
  • Two of my personal essays were accepted for publication in a forthcoming anthology.
  • I rocked my self-care on more days than I didn’t (compression, pumping, keto, exercise, meditation…)

That’s a list I’m pretty proud of! Now it’s your turn. How did you show up for yourself or others, even when it was hard? What did you dare to do even if it pushed you out of your comfort zone? Write your list in the comments or on a Post-It. It doesn’t matter where you do put it, but do yourself the honor of taking the time.

Start 2022 with the cup half full, you beautiful thing. You are doing so much more than ok.