Heart Stopping – a lesson in stress.

One year – and what a year it has been. One year ago, we found out we were pregnant with a baby we won’t meet this side of heaven. This marked the beginning of a full 12 months of chaos, upheaval, juggling, worrying, planning, celebrating, stretching and growing. Stress.

Stress can be a good thing. I thrive under pressure and a healthy dose of stress keeps me moving forward and focused. But after such a long period of intense, life-changing stress, it’s no longer a flame lit under me but a wildfire consuming my mind and body. Our bodies aren’t meant to endure long periods of adrenaline and eventually things begin to crack under pressure. Worst of all, I’d become so accustomed to feeling overwhelmed and overstretched that I no longer recognized these feels as abnormal or unhealthy. That season of life had become my life.

I couldn’t relax. Quieting my body made the chaos of my mind scream louder. I’d collapse into bed each night mentally drained and exhausted but would lie there for an hour before finally falling asleep, only to wake up several times a night after what I called “anxious dreams.” I’d wake up yelling at the caged dog for peeing on the carpet or calling out to my sound-asleep kids to stop before running into traffic. Until recently, this happened every single night, multiple times a night.

In the mean time, we’ve talked about how my health began to deteriorate. It becomes a game of chicken or the egg – was I ill because of stress or was the stress causing the illness? Truthfully, I have a hormone imbalance that caused the miscarriage. From there on, I truly believe much what I’ve dealt with has directly related to stress or at least greatly magnified.

Everything came to a head last Monday. During my routine – although there is nothing routine about the tribe at KadiFit – workout, my heart went a little berserk and my heart rate sky rocketed to the high 230s. No bueno. I walked around, drank some water, put my arms above my head but nothing brought it down. I felt fine – no pain, headache or dizziness. I made my way to the nearby fire station where they promptly called EMTs for my first – and hopefully last – ever ambulance ride to the emergency room. I was give three doses of a medication that actually paralyzes part of your heart so that the other part can pick up the slack and regulate the beating. In very layman’s terms, of course.

At the emergency room, I was observed for several hours and released with instructions to follow up with my primary care and a cardiologist. Everything looked great but it felt like my heart is beating so hard I can see my chest moving and my chest feels hollow. I go back to the cardiologist and they outfit me with a 48-hour monitor which, thankfully, comes back normal. If my heart is healthy, why did my heart feel like it was going to explode in my chest?

I’ve spent so much time reading, researching, praying and talking to those more educated and wise than I. I had recently gone off of the birth control that had been intended to balance those crazy hormones but was instead wreaking havoc on my body. I started a higher quality multi-vitamin and carefully tracked my iron and protein intake. All these things are good and right but because my house – mentally and physically – hasn’t been in order, I’ve been putting a bandaid on a broken bone.

I am stressed. I am so stressed that I the symptoms are physically manifesting. My hair is falling out. I can’t sleep. Dropping weight. The list goes on and on. I’ve had countless tests run and nothing seems horribly amiss. I am nearly certain I am suffering from adrenal fatigue, a condition that appears after periods of prolonged and intense stress. Adrenals play a roll in several other health conditions, as well.

So what do I do? Well, I’m currently operating under the assumption I have adrenal fatigue and am treating it accordingly. I am being selfish with my time – which isn’t always easy as mothers. I’m forgiving myself for the ways my body has failed me and for feeling like I am somehow responsible for that. I’m talking about it and acknowledging it.

I’m breathing. And sharing with you what little I’ve learned along the way. I’m not an expert on anything (yet) but I want to share what I learn with you. Okay?

Detox baths
The benefits of bathing in epsom salts are two fold – epsom salts work to draw out toxins while also supplementing your fatigued body with much needed magnesium. I like to add Young Living’s frankincense, lavender and/or bergamot. Frankincense is good for the skin and the soul and some research suggests it effects heart rate and stress levels. Meanwhile, the lavender is an adaptogen which are essential to the adrenal system and help during times of stress. Bergamot is citrusy and is good for the skin with an uplifting scent.

Magnesium
I’ve been reading a lot about the role of magnesium in our body processes. From anxiety to allergies and even hormones and arrhythmias – magnesium is necessary for so many functions. I had my magnesium levels checked and, surprise, they’re low. Magnesium also a recommended supplement for those dealing with adrenal fatigue.

Stress Away
I began using Young Living essential oils a few weeks ago and Stress Away is far and away becoming one of my most precious oils. I start each day with a drop on each wrist and the back of my neck. The scent is lightly citrusy without being overly feminine.

Give It Up
I wish this was as simple as taking a supplement or a relaxing bath but this has been the most crucial step for me. Why do I want to hold on to the craziness of the past year? Why do I internalize it? The problems of this world – my world – are not my own. I cannot control the world. After I was discharged from the emergency room, I was terrified that my heart was going to just stop beating. I realized there was no amount of force, not even a mother’s  will, that would keep it going. That’s a scary realization. I serve a God who is the Great Physician, the Creator of All and it is disobedient to assume my worry, my panic, my desire for control will affect His will and plan. And I know that going through this year has given me an amazing testimony.  When I let go and stop trying to carry a worry that was never mine from the start, the journey becomes far less burdened.

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Detoxing and Discoveries.

On the first day of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Clean” detox, I felt great. I loaded up with my morning smoothie and went off to exercise. I came home and had some chicken and roasted brussel sprouts for lunch – still feeling strong. But by 3 p.m., the headaches began. Oh, caffeine withdrawal, I loathe you. I don’t consider myself to be a coffee-addict but it’s incredible how much simple things affect the body. By 6 p.m., I went into Naked and Afraid mode. Have you ever seen the show on Discovery Channel? Basically, they lay around in the wilderness exhausted and hungry (and naked) and wait for their 21 days to pass. While I was fully clothed, my body was preserving calories and I was “mentally” hungry. That evening, Josh was running late and I still had to cook dinner, bathe and put the girls to bed. By the time it was all done, I passed out in bed too tired to brush the evening smoothie from my teeth.

My first day is exactly how you shouldn’t approach a detox.

Although I thought I had planned well, I wasn’t prepared for how tired I would be and the caloric deficit I would have because I was still exercising with my normal intensity.

This was my first and second mistake. I typically shoot for 300-400 calories for lunch each day but that is definitely not enough when it’s your primary meal. I should have added quinoa or rice for a starch. Secondly, Junger recommends lower impact exercise like walking and yoga while on the detox. He does mention that routine exercise can be continued if you add in an additional protein smoothie post workout. I didn’t do this and suffered for it. After burning upwards of 700 calories in an hour of boot camp and hip hop, my body was beyond exhausted and needed that extra energy.

As day two arrived, I went back to my Clean manual and approached it better prepared. I planned out my meals appropriately and significantly upped my fat intake in the morning. I’ve never gone through so much almond butter, raw nuts and coconut milk. I added a snack of apple slices and almond butter in the afternoon. I started adding protein powder to my evening smoothies.

Here are a few of my favorite Clean Detox meals:

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I began with the smoothie recipes provided on the Clean website but I began mixing and matching ingredients to create my own as the week progressed. Since the focus is on eliminating toxins, I made sure to use organic and local ingredients when possible.

Junger recommends getting plenty of sleep each night which is pretty easy . But I was surprised at the quality of sleep that week considering I’ve been dealing with insomnia and restless sleep for nearly a year. I woke up refreshed and awake – despite the lack of coffee. The caffeine headaches lasted until day 4 and then I felt great. I was still tired in the evenings because although I was giving my body a break on digestion and eliminated irritants, it is still working hard to detox which takes energy. Clean recommends Yerba Mate as a coffee substitute (coffee is eliminated because of it’s acidity, not necessarily because of the caffeine) so I had picked some up the weekend prior without really knowing much about it except that it’s tea-like and people used to drink it from gourds. I decided to brew a cup late one afternoon and much to my surprise, Yerba Mate is rather caffeinated. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal but when you’ve been off of caffeine for several days, the effects are much more obvious. Yowza. That was the only night I had trouble falling asleep.

When I started the detox, I decided to track my calories using MyFitnessPal for two reasons: 1. I wanted to make sure I was getting enough calories and 2. I was curious. I want to emphasize that although the Clean isn’t about caloric restriction, I’m sure most people end up eating less than they normally would because there’s no late night snacking, sugar, alcohol, convenience foods or packaged foods. On a normal day, I eat around 1,700 calories but was averaging around 1,300 while on the detox. This is hard for me. Having dealt with disordered eating most of my life, it’s a slippery slope for me to reduce calories. Because of this, I decided not to weigh myself during the detox. Most anyone gets a thrill when they see their weight decrease but this can be particularly dangerous for someone who used calorie restriction as a way to seek control. I had to frequently remind myself of why I was doing this detox – to discover why I have been feeling so miserable and find answers.

And I did.

While following the detox, my hives stopped. The burning sensation in my hand disappeared. My lip no longer tingled. My night sweats were gone. Despite being very tired and desperately wanting a glass of wine, I felt better than I had in many, many, many months.  The only reactions I had that week were after eating out and because both were stand-alone events, it helped me narrow down the offenders. The first was an apple pecan salad from Wendy’s with no cheese or dressing but I did eat the nuts. The second was when I ate a quinoa salad with chicken from Zoe’s Kitchen. I knew that both items were gluten and dairy free. I did, however, forget to check for other allergens…

When the detox ended, I had to reintroduce foods to determine if there was a particular food causing my reactions or if my liver just needed to detox. Junger recommends adding foods in slowly and tracking how you feel after each meal. Because the excluded list is extensive – eggs, strawberries, nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.), red meat, pork, shellfish, peanuts, pistachio and bananas to name just a few – it’s hard to not rush back into normal eating habits. So I went very slow. On Monday, I kept with a detox-friendly smoothie for breakfast and enjoyed a slice of gluten-free buckwheat bread from a local bakery. Soon, my hand began to burn. Interesting. Fortunately, the bread had an ingredient list. Rice flour, buckwheat flour, milk, cinnamon… soy lecithin. I went back and looked online for an ingredient list for the apple pecan salad – the salad itself was nothing more than lettuce and apples but the pecans – contains soy. Interesting. I checked out Zoe’s Kitchen’s allergen list and, sure enough, their chicken contains soy.

I’d say three makes a pattern, wouldn’t you?

I literally jumped out of my chair and ran to my kitchen and began pulling gluten free items out of my pantry. Glutino pretzels? Soy. My go-to Van’s gluten free waffles? Soy. Gluten free cinnamon thin cookies? Soy. Soy, soy, soy. It’s a common ingredient in gluten free items and considering I’d been eating them several times a day, it’s no wonder I felt worse since cutting out wheat. I’m embarrassed because prior to my wheat allergy, I was always aware of soy and avoided it when possible. Why? Some say soy can increase estrogen levels and I’m already estrogen dominant. Also, almost all soy is GMO. But when we began cutting out large food groups due to allergies, I relaxed because I could only cut out so much. Lesson learned.

I had a follow up appointment scheduled with my allergist and I shared my discovery. The doctor seemed less than interested but agreed to do another allergy test with wheat and soy. Wheat positive, soy negative. Which means I have a soy sensitivity that is more severe than my wheat allergy. And with that, the allergist passed me off to the next doctor to try and navigate the rest of my health issues. I love traditional Western medicine. Regardless, I was pleased with myself.

My biggest take away from the detox?

You have to take control of your health.

You know your body. You need to find the answers. If five doctors dismiss you, find a sixth. Don’t be dismissed as paranoid or a hypochondriac. Don’t write off your symptoms as stress or anxiety. And? The simplest solution is usually the best.

I’ve gone off my allergy medicine and now only take it as needed. I wish this was the end of my health journey but, alas, the road to discovery continues on. I’ve eliminated one problem but am now working on sorting out others – I promise to keep you posted as things progress and I make new discoveries.

Xoxo.

Doctors and Detox Prep.

// I swear I didn’t intend to leave such a cliff hanger and then disappear for two weeks. In my defense, we had an unexpected death in the family and then Emery started kindergarten last week. Big sobs //

Back when life was simple and less about my myriad of health issues, the hardest part of moving was finding a new hair dresser. Don’t get me wrong – a girl has got to get her wig busted. But once we got settled, I had to find a pediatrician, an allergist, a chiropractor, a dentist, an OBGYN, an ENT and a basic primary care doctor. And a hair dresser, of course.

Seeing that we move every few years and knowing what I learned working with medical professionals back when I had a “real” job, I know that I prefer a primary care doctor who is a D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathy – versus an M.D. – Medical Doctor.

Wow, Liz, I never thought about the difference before – enlighten me! 

Of course. According to Mayo Clinic,

“A doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) is a fully trained and licensed doctor who has attended and graduated from a U.S. osteopathic medical school. A doctor of medicine (M.D.) has attended and graduated from a conventional (allopathic) medical school.”

That’s crystal clear, right? Basically, in my non-expertise experience, D.O.s tend to be more hands on, looking at the body as a whole and not just treating the most obvious symptom. They have additional training on the musculoskeletal system and can perform manipulations (like a chiropractor) to alleviate other medical issues. They are not as thorough as, say, and internist or a functional medicine doctor but D.O.s have always suited my needs. I’m sure there are M.D.s out there that are equally awesome but looking for a D.O. has always been a beneficial search parameter.

So, I had my first appointment with a D.O. who was part of a large hospital system. I told him my (lengthy) recent medical history and went over my questions. Could my allergies be effecting my hormones? Could my allergies be effecting my Meniere’s? Could he offer support for this anxiety? Was there anything else I should be doing to help my body work to the best of its abilities?

:::crickets:::

So, the first doctor was a bust. Obviously not all practitioners are created equal. I did some more research and scheduled an appointment with another doctor – also a D.O. – but she is part of an internal and integrative medicine practice. I could give or take the “internist” part but was intrigued by the integrative medicine portion. Given my interest in natural living and my previous work in public relations at a hospital, I was familiar with the use complimentary and alternative medicine but hadn’t tried any under the direction of a medical professional. Integrative medicine is, to me, the best of both worlds as it uses homeopathy, aromatherapy, essential oils, massage, herbs and acupuncture to treat conditions or compliment Western medicines. On a “crunchy” scale, they are not as far East as naturopaths (who don’t and can’t deal with prescription medicines) but still far from their traditional Western MD counterparts who are typically in with Big Pharma.

Still following?

I’d seen three doctors in three months for these same health conditions and everyone thought I should just deal with it. I know, people live with really awful, debilitating illnesses and symptoms every day because not everything has a clear cause and solution and by comparison, I was still living a pretty full life. But why did I go from nearly perfect health to constant hiving, itching, insomnia, burning sensations, hair loss, blurry vision and on and on and all anyone could label was “allergies”? When my appointment finally rolled around, I was incredibly nervous. Unlike with the previous doctor, I was no longer concerned with whether or not I seemed crazy – I know I sounded a little batty because I was. No, now I was more concerned about what I was going to do if this doctor didn’t listen to me and try to help because this was my last viable option.

When we began the appointment, she listened while I talked. A lot. I laid out all the issues, when they began, what I thought was going on, why I didn’t think previous answers were adequate. And she went through with me, one by one, and addressed it all. She spent 50 – fifty – minutes with me.

Could my allergies be effecting my hormones? Probably not but inflammation can effect all body systems and it’s worth considering. Could my allergies be effecting my Meniere’s? Effecting? Yes. Causing? No. Could she offer support for this anxiety? Yes, what I feel is real and justified. Here is a non-habit forming medication to take as needed. Was there anything else I should be doing to help my body work to the best of its abilities? Yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

She suggested I look into Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Clean” detox and diet. I picked up the book from library the next day and was a bit skeptical. Really, it sounded too good and too simple to solve the problem so many other doctors couldn’t. Regardless, I started reading the book that evening and Junger’s philosophy made sense. In a simplified layman’s nutshell, Dr. Junger’s 21-day detox concentrates on creating a balanced system within our body to help it heal itself. The liver is one of the body’s top organs for processing toxins but because our diets and environments are typically processed and contaminated, the liver has trouble functioning optimally and removing these toxins. This, in turn, spills over to other body systems creating a spectrum of issues like hives and allergies (hello!) to more serious conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Junger’s detox removes allergenic foods as well as foods that are harder for the body to digest. By giving the body a break on digestion and feeding it what it needs, there is more energy to dedicate toward healing. And because the detox follows an elimination diet, it is easier to recognize what foods your body is sensitive to as you add them back in.

Eating while on the detox meant a smoothie for breakfast, a full meal for lunch (a carbohydrate, protein and vegetable), and another liquid meal for dinner (either a smoothie or a pureed soup) – all from the detox-approved food list. Snacking and juicing throughout the day is encouraged as this isn’t about deprivation. The only stipulation is that you must fast for 12 hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal the next day. So if dinner was at 8 p.m., breakfast is at 8 a.m. This  window gives the body enough time to digest all food and then flush toxins.

I made a plan to start the following Monday. Although the full detox is 21 days, I decided to try it for seven since we had company coming to visit the following week. Truthfully, I thought the detox wouldn’t be that much of a transition since we’re already wheat and dairy-free. I roughly outlined a meal plan for the week and I did my grocery shopping and picked up Junger’s suggested supplements. I had read most of the book and had the best of intentions – that should count be as prepared, right? I knew that if I was going to figure out why I felt so awful, I was going to have to do my own detective work.

Things Fall Apart, Part II

//If you’re just popping in, check out Things Fall Apart, Part I. Or don’t and be sort of confused//

In the course of four months, I went from a pretty boring medical history to chart that included a miscarriage, a hormone imbalance, an MRI, a VNG and now suggested allergy testing. I know, these aren’t life threatening things. But when you’re typically in superb health, you start to feel like you’re falling apart. We were in the midst of the most stressful time in our lives and I just couldn’t add one more thing to my plate at that moment. So allergy testing had to wait.

From what I’ve learned, allergens cause inflammation and in folks with Meniere’s, that inflammation also occurs in the inner ear and can exacerbate their symptoms. I knew I was probably allergic to something but couldn’t find a pattern. In recent years, I developed a fun party trick where I would begin sneezing uncontrollably within moments of sipping certain craft beers – but not others. Sometimes my feet and hands would get warm and red after meals but it was inconsistent. And yet, I stuck my fingers in my ringing ears and played ignorant.

It was evident from the first time I visited our corporate rental that I was allergic to something in the apartment. With tenants moving in and out every few months, I’d wager the apartment hadn’t had a thorough, deep clean in…. ever. Both Emery and I developed itchy eyes and blurry vision along with sniffles and sneezing minutes after entering the apartment. The problems cleared when we returned to Savannah but would come back on our next visit. When we shifted toward living in North Carolina full time, the sinus pressure and infections, headaches, hives and itching arrived. Guys, this was miserable. As bad as I felt, it was so much worse seeing my sweet Emmie girl constantly blinking her eyes and complaining about her head hurting. So I scheduled appointments with an allergist.

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//Aside, do you know how much fun it is to have a million needles stuck in your back while your two children fight over an electronic device?//

It’s never reassuring when the doctor reads your results and says, “Wow, this is weird.”

I reacted positively to:

  • Barley
  • Dust mites
  • Malt
  • Cockroach dust
  • Mold (1 variety)
  • Maple trees
  • Grass (1 variety)
  • Wheat
  • Sunflower

Guys, I’ve never had so much as a seasonal sniffle prior to this.

But – that beer sneezing thing. Barley, malt, wheat. You guys. I love a creamy witbier and a dark kolsch. The carpet in our apartment? Dust mites, cockroach dust, mold. Our Savannah home had hardwood floors throughout. Hives and sneezing when I ran? Mold, trees, grass.

It was far past lunch when we finally left the doctors office so I stopped to get the girls a bite to eat. I was starving but completely at a loss as to what would be safe. When Blair was diagnosed with her dairy allergy years ago, I researched everything.  I was empowered to be her advocate. And there I was, sitting dumbfounded in the drive thru incapable of figuring out how to feed myself.  What do you do when you’re allergic to everything? If you are me, you do nothing. You don’t think, don’t process.  I was miserably allergic to things found in nearly all commercial food and environmental allergens that were all throughout my living space – indoor and out.

I was overwhelmed and had questions no one could answer. Was I allergic to all malt or just barley malt? Could gluten-free foods still contain other parts of the wheat and barley plant? Was the severity of my reaction due to our temporary apartment and would it improve somewhere with clean carpets and a better air filter? Would an air filter help or should I encase my pillow and mattress? What about clothes in my closet? Our fabric furniture? Would medication help? Was I a candidate for allergy shots?

We moved into our new rental and things improved until we began unpacking boxes. Moving materials are notorious for containing cockroach dust and dust mites and I broke out in hives every time I opened a box. My ears rang louder than ever and I had more vertigo attacks in two months than I’ve ever had before. I tried countless nasal sprays, antihistamines, different antihistamines, homepathic alternatives and herbal tinctures. I was needing medications to deal with the side effects of these medicines. I’d vacuum and dust and wash our sheets every other day. And I was continuing to hive and deal with red, burning sensations in my hands and face.

I decided early on that eating gluten-free was the safest option but I was surprised at how few people took my request seriously. We’ve all seen the Jimmy Kimmel clip asking people about gluten. It’s funny, I know. Sure, some people are idiots and never educate themselves on why they make drastic health choices. But for some of us, it isn’t a choice. I wish I could tell you how many servers smirked when I asked for a gluten-free menu. Or, make suggestions that I knew were questionable. In fact, I had a bartender recommend Omission Pale Ale as a great gluten-free beer. After I drank half, I felt my feet started to itch and so I did some dinnertime research. It turns out Omission is a “gluten-removed” beer and is fermented with barley malt and may contain traces of wheat. I’m thankful every day that my reactions are not anaphylactic and I’ve never needed an Epi-Pen.

Allergy-related anxiety is a very real thing and yet so few people talk about it. Every time I developed a new hive, I went crazy. Did I eat something different? Use a new lotion? Did I touch anything unusual at the grocery store? I spent hours researching my make up and lotions.  Now I know why they mark these random products as gluten-free – because wheat is hidden every and people with allergies are insane.

I was a wreck by the time my follow up appointment with the allergist rolled around. I laid it all out on the table – patterns to the reactions, when and where the hives most commonly occurred, that I was waking up at night to itch, wondering if natural fibers could be allergens because I was sure I was reacting to my wool dryer balls and oh… by the way, do a lot of people with allergies have anxiety? By the look on her face, I know I sounded insane. She prescribed me two doses of 24-hour Allegra each day in addition to atarax as needed for hiving and anxiety. Last year, I hated to take ibuprofen for a headache and there I was taking enough antihistamines for a small army. And yet, I was still hiving and my hands showed no improvement. She ran blood work to rule out other conditions and everything came back normal with the exception of a high level of histamines hanging around my body – causing the hives – and that it was most likely due do high levels of stress for a duration of time.

What stress? Really. No Big Life Things happening here, at all.

I cried. I prayed. I medicated. I eliminated. I medicated more. I did everything I was supposed to do and I was more miserable than ever. I felt worse eating gluten-free than I did eating quality, homemade gluten-filled foods.

And then I saw a new doctor, who made a suggestion and empowered me to fix myself.

I know – what a cliffhanger! But this post is terribly long as it is and if you’ve made it to the end, you are a ROCKSTAR and probably a blood relative (hi, mom!). I’ll promise I’ll be back next week and will tell you all about the detox that has helped me solve the my most puzzling medical issue.

Things Fall Apart, Part I

The hardest part about coming back after a blogging hiatus is catching up one what has happened. Really, it’s emotionally exhausting. If I’m going to be genuine with you and myself, we need to recap the past 8 months. While I don’t typically share so much and in such a manner, I’ve been going through a lot of changes personally and with my health that I’m eager to share but they won’t carry much weight until you know what has happened.

I cannot even begin to cover most of these things at a length that does them justice. So I won’t try. But, being that they are Big Life Things, they need to be addressed. So, a super fun, bulleted list shall suffice.

Ready?

Our life, November to June – abbreviated:

  • We experienced a miscarriage.
  • We trudged our way through the holidays.
  • Josh’s grandfather died.
  • Josh accepted a position in Charlotte.
  • We spent weeks preparing to list our house. And finally listed it. 
  • Josh began working full-time in Charlotte, living in hotels, and driving back to Savannah on the weekends. During one trip home, the wheel fell off of his truck. While driving. On the highway. Traveling 75 mph. Thank you, Jesus, he was fine.
  • Blair’s hives, night terrors, GI issues and rashes return. Allergy testing shows that her milk allergy has returned. Who knew that could happen.
  • I kept the house constantly show-ready with two children and an anxiety-ridden dog.
  • I suffered through numerous showings, no shows, second showings, showings with no appointment, and offers with negotiations that couldn’t be met.
  • An unfathomable number of hours and miles spent driving back and forth between Savannah and Charlotte. Up and down 95. Over and over. With no Starbucks en route.
  • Realizing being apart was too hard on our family, we decided to lower the list price (therefore increasing the hit we were already taking on the house).
  • We went under contract with smooth negotiations.
  • We frantically searched for a new place to live in a place we could agree upon with a price we could afford. We considered renting, buying, living in our vehicles when God provided the exact house we needed.
  • We survived the week leading up to closing which included absolutely incompetent movers, several last minute inspections, a very sick child, one vehicle in the shop and uncertainty of when exactly our possessions would arrive to our new home.

Looking back on it all, I feel exhausted. How did we survive that? A mixture of pure adrenaline and faith. In the book of Joshua, God instructs him to build a pile of stones in the middle of the Jordan River to mark where He stopped the river so they could carry the Ark of the Covenant across. People like me don’t survive things like this on our own. It’s foolish of me to not stop and construct my own pile of rocks to remember how we made it through such an exhausting and stressful time.

::Break::

Congratulations if you made it this far! I know that was as engaging as the phone book so I’d like to reward you in some way. Unfortunately, all I have is a camera, so enjoy this complimentary selfie.

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Now, back to business.

Throughout all of this, I was dealing with some pretty significant health issues. I didn’t share it with many people because, really, I wasn’t dying and there wasn’t anything anyone could do. I’m fiercely private, probably to a fault. Which is weird, considering I’m putting all of this out into Internet-land.

After our miscarriage in November, my body went a bit crazy. I don’t think the miscarriage caused it, nor do I think my miscarriage was caused by these issues. But when something life changing occurs, it becomes a marker in time – before miscarriage / after miscarriage.  So as we settled into our routine AM, I started noticing these weird things happening with my vision and balance. As I drove down the road, things in my peripheral vision seemed to be moving too quickly. When I turned to look at something across the room, it felt like it took my vision a millisecond longer to see what my eyes were focused on. Grocery shopping became unbearable with the shelves stocked with innumerable items of all different colors and sizes and I felt like I couldn’t actually see any of them. It felt like visual overload and I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack.

I talked with my primary care who prescribed Prozac. It felt defeated when I took the first dose and even more neurotic as the weeks passed by. We realized I wasn’t, in fact, having anxiety and something else was happening. He ordered an MRI. It was normal. I had my vision checked, normal.

I sat on the exam table, frustrated and angry that after going through such a traumatic loss, my body was continuing to betray me with some unknown illness that was not only impairing my daily life but also making me think I was losing my ever loving mind. And that I’d feel that way forever. I told the doctor it just felt like the world was a little off balance.

Aha.

Vertigo.

He asked if I had ringing in my ears. Constantly. Fullness feeling behind my ears. Yes.

I’ve had vertigo attacks in the past with the classic room-spinning, nausea-inducing dizziness. But this felt different and nearly constant. He referred me to an ENT and I went in mid-January for a videonystagmography (VNG) to test my balance, eye movement, and the nerve function of my inner ear – where balance originates. Results showed I have a 30% decreased nerve function in my right ear, causing the attacks. Paired with the tinnitus, I left with the diagnosis of Meniere’s Syndrome. Mostly because I’m not sure they know what else to call it.

Because my symptoms were relatively new and seem to be triggered by stress (HA! HA! or something else unknown, the ENT suggested I follow up with an allergist for testing to see if something else is causing the inflammation in my inner ear. Which is when things became really fun.

Next: Things Fall Apart: Part II – What To Do When You’re Allergic To Everything.

Precarious.

A normal Saturday morning. Rising a little later, moving a little slower, we gathered ourselves and our things and loaded up for a trip to the farmer’s market. Routine, uneventful, rather boring. We snaked through the narrow streets of the older part of town, turning between the old mill warehouses and remarking how crowded it was for a cool, drizzling morning. The girls chattered in the back seat and argued over Fancy Nancy books while Josh and I sat silently and waited for a parking spot to open.

At nearly 3 and a half, Blair is a cautious soul and continuously looks to her Momma for approval and encouragement. The truth is, I don’t worry about her. Aside from the typical parenting worries, of course. She listens. In the shadow of her older sister’s untamable energy and will, parenting Blair is, honestly, easy. So, when we eventually parked and began to unload across the street from the market, I helped Blair out of her seat and mindlessly told her to stay nearby while I gathered our bags.

She did not.

 

Blair ran behind the truck and out into the street from where she was hidden in between the parallel parked vehicles. She ran to her daddy and sister who we’re waiting on the other side of the single-lane street. Just as a large black suburban came down the street, lost in thought. The driver was probably running through her list for the market – cucumbers, zucchini – no, yellow squash, –  beef steak tomatoes, and a bouquet of flowers. But only if there were daisies. I can imagine her horror as a small tot with bunny ears sewn atop her hooded sweatshirt bolted in front of her vehicle.

I, still unaware that Blair left my side, heard my husband shout a deep bellowing command to Blair, telling her to stop immediately. She froze. Everyone heard him. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out why he was yelling. I never for a moment thought that Blair was anywhere but waiting behind me. She would never run off. Until she did. The driver slammed on her brakes and I’m sure 25 miles per hour never seemed like a barreling speed before.

In a second, it was over. Blair was fine. Josh ran onto the street and scooped her up, her face nuzzled deeply against in neck in embarrassment and fear. I apologized profusely to the driver the driver shook her head disapprovingly. I grabbed Emery’s hand and hustled into the safety of the market crowd and people went back to their tomatoes and melons.

Life dangles so precariously. We plan and prepare and preach and convince ourselves that we have ensured our safety and, in turn, happiness. But it takes only a second for it all to fall apart on such a grand scale. I’m sure onlookers were appalled and probably thought their children would never run into traffic, just as I once did. But they do. No one expects accidents – that’s what they are. As parents, the sad truth is we often feel superior when we see others’ fail. When awful things happen, we vilify parents and curse them for not doing or seeing better. Yes, there is negligence. But most often, there is just life and mistakes and sometimes just a crappy series of events. I am horrified at what happened. I replay it again and again, considering the what ifs and every which way it could have played out. What if Josh had his back to the street and wasn’t watching? What if the driver had been going faster? What if I had made Blair hold my pant leg while I gathered our things? Hindsight is clear but offers little comfort. 

I’m sensitive and truthfully, a bit anxious by nature. It’s taken me 29 years to realize it and begin to embrace it as a gift instead of something to apologize for. As much as I want to dwell on Saturday morning’s incident, I can’t let myself. It’s not reflective of who I am or my parenting abilities. But I can learn from it, remember it, and appreciate it. I take it as a lesson and am grateful.  

Gems.

“Oh, you’re new to the area! Where are you from?”

“Well, we move around every few years but most recently we lived in Savannah, Georgia.”

“Oh, Savannah! We just love it there. It’s so romantic. And the history – wow.”

“Yea, it’s a gem.”

“You must miss it so much!”

“….sometimes.”

 

Without exaggeration, I have this conversation at least three times a week.  Everyone knows and loves Savannah. And we do, too. But many folks fail to realize that living in Savannah is much different than visiting Savannah. Not better, not worse – it just isn’t the same city. Residents don’t typically take trolley tours or peddle around with friends on the Slow Ride. Well, we do, but not often as we’d like since we’re usually at home battling spanish moss and fire ants. But for all of the less than charming parts that come with living in Savannah, there are an equal or greater number of gems that are only appreciated with time. It’s the food. The farmers. The markets. The restaurants. The collard greens. Mmmmm. It’s the music. The artists. The energy from the thousands and thousands of feet that passed through a historic building before you. The cherished and preserved and appreciated. 

So when we agreed to moved to the Charlotte ‘burbs, I was terrified I’d be in a cultural wasteland.  There’s something in my soul that needs to be around people with passion for music, art, musings and community and I was certain my heart would never be settled among subdivisions and minivans. Instead, we’re discovering excellent farmer’s markets and locally sourced restaurants.  We stumble across food truck rallies and historic mills converted into art spaces and shops. Yes, it will be hard to find replacements for our Savannah favorites. But slowly, we’re finding new gems in our new home and with a new appreciation for what they do.  

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New life.

One month ago, we said goodbye. Goodbye to our first house, goodbye to our neighbors and friends, goodbye to our church, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. After so many months of preparations and planning and waiting and waiting, the final goodbye was rather anticlimactic.

We had a week to get our things packed and loaded – with the “help” of a moving company – and the house cleaned and thought we’d have a few days leftover to enjoy the city we called home for over four years and say goodbye to friends who became like family. As usual, things became increasingly complicated as the movers took two days longer than planned to pack the house and our sweet Blair fought a high fever for over five days. And so, the week involved little fun and lots of tears and many prayers.

Timing is a strange thing and as it happened, as we were settling into our new home in a new city, we should have been welcoming a new life into our family. Mid-June would have been the due date to the sweet baby we lost last November and I’d be a horrible liar if I said the timing of our move and the what would have been wasn’t a heavy weight. Miscarriages are an awful, heart-crushing experience and with one heartbeat, you want to scream to the world, “this enormous, life-changing, emotionally and physically retching thing has happened – recognize this!,” while with the next you want nothing else but to hold this precious, private thing so close that the outside world can’t claim it and taint it. With the due date passed, I feel closure. Paired with our move, June turned a page in our family’s story and while I recognize and honor that chapter in our lives, I’m ready to write a new story about a new life. 

We’re more or less settled in our new house in Charlotte. We fought the trek to suburbia both tooth and nail but as the truth of family-friendly and convenience spoke, we ended up with a mini-mansion situated squarely in the middle of a subdivision with a pool, playground and sidewalks. Sidewalks that randomly end. For all I hate about the cookie cutter lifestyle, there is something to be said for neatly kept lawns and the type of community where kids leave their bikes strewn across the driveway without worry. So, I’ve resigned myself that this is our – for now – new normal. But I still hum “Tiny Boxes” as I chase my kids down the sidewalk on their new bicycles.

We have lots of catching up to do, don’t we?

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Neither here nor there.

There is this really awkward stage when you’re newish-ly pregnant that I fondly call the “pregnancy pudge.” People look twice and say, “…Is she? No, maybe it’s just the shirt she’s wearing. Well, maybe…?” You walk a fine line between insatiable hunger and spontaneously hurling your breakfast when you walk past Starbucks. Conversations with your non-pregnant friends are different because you’re no longer interested in running races or trying the new wine bar in town. Your pregnant friends acknowledge you as a member of their procreating club but, alas, you aren’t in the midst of swollen ankles and sciatic pain so you aren’t quite one of them yet. You fit neither here nor there.

I’m in the moving equivalent of the pregnancy pudge. I no longer feel like I belong in Savannah but haven’t yet moved to Charlotte to start our lives. I still have dear friends in Savannah to meet up with but the conversations are abbreviated and focus only on the present. Topics that were once relevant – kindergarten plans, summer birthday parties, new restaurants – hold little interest for me. We won’t be here. When we leave the playground and share goodbyes with acquaintances, there is the awkward, “See you soon! Or maybe not. If not, uh, goodbye and it was nice knowing you.” Until you see them again the next week and have the same uncomfortable exchange again.

The girls and I visited Charlotte last week and had a chance to scope out some of the neighborhoods I’ve spent the past few months researching. I was the creepy driver who looped the same block three times in search of the rental. We took some time to visit a museum and I was naively hopeful I’d meet some incredibly friendly Charlotte mommies who would take me under their welcoming wings and tell me all their secrets about the best neighborhoods, schools and initiate me into their awesome Charlotte mommy group. Yes, I may be a bit crazy. While the moms I talked to were all really friendly, it’s evident I’m not one of them yet.

Charlotte Mom: “What part of Charlotte are you moving to?”

Desperate Liz: “Oh, we aren’t sure… maybe insert neighborhood or other neighborhood. But we don’t really know where my husband is going to be working, so commute times will be an issue. So…. yea.”

CM: “…Right. Well, uh, good luck with the move.”

DL: “Oh, uh, yea, thanks.”

awkward pause.

DL: “WAIT! Where do you live? Do you like it? How are the schools? Tax rates? Tell me everything you know.”

I’m a stray cat meowing to be fed. They smile politely and provide informative but brief answers. Because, honestly, we aren’t going to be friends – I don’t live there. And the odds of us crossing paths again are very slim. Charlotte is a big city. We likely won’t live in the same part of town, school district, subdivision or neighborhood. I can’t identify with their laments about traffic and commute times.  I can envision what life will be like but I’m not actively living it. I will be one of them soon but until then, we won’t be friends.

We’ve found a few houses we’re interested in renting but we can’t pursue them until we get an offer on our house. I’ve found jobs I’m interested in but I can’t apply until we get even our short-term living situation squared away. The Savannah weather has been uncharacteristically cold and wet and real estate activity across town is slow as a result. I’m still practicing my patience and keeping the end goal in sight.  Life in transition is hard – especially for the girls – so I’m trying to keep things as calm and pleasant as our current situation allows. In a few months, this will (hopefully) be a distant, mildly uncomfortable memory.

Oh, and to be clear – I’m not pregnant. Not even the tiniest bit. So let there be no confusion as a result of my pregnancy/moving analogy. Just a crazy momma with too much time to think.

The 8 Stages of Listing Your Home.

Selling our house has been an exercise in patience. A whole lot of hurry up and wait. Questioning our sanity, God’s plan, our realtor’s opinion, our decision to procreate and so on. A house is such an enormous emotional and financial decision, it’s a wonder that anyone actually survives the buying and selling process. With Josh starting his new job next week, we’ve been anxious to get our house on the market and sold. Fast. We’re priced competitively (ouch), staged to perfection, and nary a toy is out of place – which likely contributes to my insanity.

We’re finally listed but the journey to actually getting that “For Sale” sign in our yard has been a doozy. If you ever want to test the strength of your triceps and marriage, try selling your house. Whew. It ain’t for the faint of heart. In a brief moment of clarity, here are my 8 Stages of Listing Your House.

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1. We’re selling our house! Weeee! The excitement of what selling the house represents – a new home, a new city, new neighbors – overwhelms every other logical thought. “Our house is awesome! Everyone is going to want to buy it. Lets start packing!” Time is equally spent scouring Pinterest for the best home staging tips and searching Zillow for your next home.

2. Oh my goodness, we’re selling our house. Still in a romantic haze, you begin to pen the to-do list. All the projects you intended to do since moving in appear before you on lined sheets. Undeterred, you rally with your partner and agree you’ll be able to get most everything done in one weekend. Ha. You meet with a realtor and realize that, like most everyone who bought a home in the past 5 years (except those crazy souls with the time, energy and money to invest in seriously updating a home) you’re going to either break even or take a hit once you factor in closing costs. The realtor brings in a stager and you wonder a.) who can live in a house with only two items allowed on the kitchen counter and b.) if potential home buyers really think you only own four pairs of shoes. Regardless, you heed her advice and relegate the paper towels, bananas, toaster, junk mail, and soap dispenser to the cabinets and wear running shoes to church on Sunday morning.

3. House, house, everything house. Weekends once spent at brunch and the farmer’s market become occupied with trips to Lowe’s, painting, scraping, more painting, back to Lowe’s, patching and trying to keep the children from drinking turpentine while you dislocate your shoulders painting fascia and soffits. Your first thought upon waking is wondering when you’ll rest your paint spattered head upon the pillow once more.

4. The weary spirit. Remember when life was fun? Remember when we used to smile? I think we used to like each other. On revision number 5 of the ever-growing to-do list, you stop with the specificity of “sort through seed packets, clear out compost bin, put seed spreader into storage” and start generalizing items like “clear out the crap in the garden shed” because you realize that otherwise, you will use every single page in your daughter’s Princess Sofia notebook. Your list now includes a “MUST-DO” column and a “Meh, it’d be nice” column of tasks. Your husband sets down his Superman cape and agrees to hire a handyman to tackle the remaining big items on the to-do list. You stop showering and convince yourself white paint streaks in your hair are sexy.

5. The second wind. Okay, we’re listing in three days. It’s the sprint to the finish line – well, the first of many finish lines. You begin to wipe base boards and door frames and scold yourself for neglecting to clean while you were busy caulking showers and pulling rogue weeds from the flower beds. You lay pine straw and sweep porches and then a crazy thing happens…

6. You fall in love with your house again. It’s amazing what some fresh paint and marathon cleaning sessions can do to a house. You remember all the little things that made you love this house in the first place and have a stirring of pride when you see the results of the hard work you’ve invested. You vow that when you buy your next house, you’ll put in the time and money in the beginning so you can really enjoy the results.

7. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Listed. Followed by more waiting. Waiting and cleaning and peeking between the blinds to stare cars creeping past your newly listed house. Stalking page views on Trulia. This is an exercise in extreme patience and trust that your realtor is legit and doing her job.

8. Show time! Your first showing. Squeeeee! You’re certain that they will walk into your house and instantly fall in love. You try not to think about strangers rifling through your belongings while you circle the block with the dog and kids, listening to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat. You compulsively check your email for feedback and feel both crushed and amused to learn that the prospective buyer won’t be putting in an offer because he doesn’t like something completely arbitrary and uncontrollable like trees or the type of grass growing in the yard. Repeat every Saturday from now until eternity.

Patience, patience, patience. It has never been my strongest trait.