When your world comes crashing down…

You know those times in life when things seem to go to shit… and not only that but it seems like people who you respect are making you feel unworthy. Before you were sure of yourself and your actions, you were pretty self-confident but now it seems you’re doubting everything. It’s like that golden achievement you had just shattered in front of you. How can your self-confidence be shook so easily?

A common occurrence for this feeling in my life has been when I have spent hours putting my heart and soul into an assignment to only get a less than satisfying grade in return. I can remember one particular time in my first year of university when I spent hours putting together an annotated bibliography. I couldn’t get the printer working in the school library so, with just minute to spare, I printed off my work in the wrong format but with good content. I figured I’d get at least partial marks. I was crushed when I got to class to find out the professor refused all assignments that were not in the proper format. I remember sobbing in my car in the parking lot on the phone with a classmate that was trying to coax me back to class. At that time my whole identity was being a good student. A zero on an assignment was crushing.

This feeling however has most commonly come by me when something comes up at work in which my integrity is in question (for example, getting a bad costumer review that your boss questions you about). I believe myself to have very good work ethic so when I get news of a performance review that is less than stellar I get pretty upset.

I think this type of feeling is pretty universal.

I’ve had quite a few wise counselors in my life who have recognized this in me and advised that these feelings are not healthy… Let me explain. Feeling disappointment, upset, sadness in itself is not unhealthy. These are just feelings that naturally come and go in a person’s life. What is unhealthy in this scenario is equating your worth to the things; achievements, papers, art work, work you have completed etc. because (like in these scenarios) when people criticize them, they inadvertently criticize you and take a notch out of your self-worth.

Well this is all fine and dandy but, what the hell!? What am I suppose to value myself on? At the moment I get my personal satisfaction from the work I do. What’s wrong with that? I do good work. I get criticized on occasion but I can take that with a grain of salt.  The question is however, what happens if I get sick and can’t work anymore? Then what? Do I loose value?

I’ve had a lot of really great counselors who have helped me through this conundrum. I am now transitioning into valuing myself based off my personal values. So instead of asking myself “Did I do a good job with that client?” “What would my boss say?” I now ask myself “Was I compassionate? Was I authentic? Did I use my integrity in terms of getting my work complete to the best of my ability?” Then when the shit hits the fan I’m not doubting my core self because I act in according to my values. (Well, I mean, I still do doubt myself but it’s not as disruptive). So now when I act I focus on my values and let them be my goal post.

I am currently in the midst of one of these situations. I decided to compose a list of my personal values to keep my focus in the right place. (Here is my current list : authenticity, being true to myself, listening to myself/my body, inner harmony, health, compassion, integrity, community, curiosity, openness, spirituality, synergy, fun, learning, meaningful activities, optimism, pleasure, responsibility to the earth.) So ideally, every action and thought that comes from my body has one of these values as its motive.

And, you’re always going to misstep- that’s life. I recently lost a piece of my integrity with someone very important. The worst part is that I got caught by them. Instead of cursing at myself and feeling awful, I chose to have compassion towards myself and start working towards my values towards integrity. I choose to see myself like a child who had made a mistake. A kind parent wouldn’t harshly reprimand a child who has broken a rule but instead would have understanding, have the child fix their mistake, and help them learn from it.

This perspective shift has had a huge impact on me. It’s kind of a game changer. If you’re even a tad bit interested I’d highly suggest compiling a list of your own personal values. I got the majority of my values off this website https://scottjeffrey.com/core-values-list/ which you might find helpful to get the ball rolling.

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My Life Has Been a Bit Upside Down

Well, my life has been a bit upside down. Just when my partner, Jake and I, started to get settled into our new home in British Columbia and I was beginning to establish somewhat of a routine. I was feeling good about work, I was feeling more comfortable with my communities when the unimaginable happened.

On July 7th Jake called me from work and asked me if I had looked outside. I was home from work that day but the only peculiar thing I had noticed was that my cat, Ham, had been clawing and whining at the window. I closed the curtains to quiet his incessant noise so I could get some peace. I ran to the window, pulled back the curtains and this is what I saw:

Forest Fire

“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t panicking. Our area of town is still okay.” My partner had informed me that several of his coworkers had, had to leave work to grab animals and valuables from their home as their neighbourhoods were under evacuation order because of the forest fires.

Jake and I are brand new to areas that are susceptible to forest fires (we’re real city slickers so heavily forested areas are quite a change for us). We weren’t really sure what to expect. At first, I wasn’t too worried despite the evacuation area only being about 8 kilometers (5 miles approx) from the town we were living in.

As the weekend progressed, we heard of more and more fires around the province sprouting up because of the dry weather and lightning that was sparking fires. At first there were 57 reported forest fires but then that number quickly increased to hundreds. The province declared a state of emergency.

On July 11th our area of town was put on evacuation alert as all the major roads leading out of town were being threatened by major fires. North bound roads were closed out of town and for anyone who chose to leave the area, authorities were not allowing re-entry.

There was so much misinformation, hearsay, and speculation coming from all directions- it was exhausting. I had been hearing from many people that an evacuation of town (approximately 10,000 people) was imminent. After a few days, I couldn’t deal with the stress of being in town. I tearfully packed all my sentimental items that would fit in our car (Jake and I had a farewell ceremony for all the items that wouldn’t fit), and we headed off.

Here’s a picture of our journey evacuating:

Forest Fire2
Driving to safety through ash.

Just a few days later the rest of the town was evacuated. The evacuation for our town lasted two weeks in total. We were very lucky to have been housed by a lovely lady who was willing to take in our little hairball as well as us. A lot of evacuees however ended up staying in shelters and so did their pets. I’m so grateful I didn’t have to be separated from my little Ham. My heart really goes out to all the animals who had to evacuate and were separated from their owners.

As devastating as it was for me to be evacuated from a life I had just established and the only possessions I had, it was really amazing to see people come together and support each other. The first day we arrived at the evacuation centre we received this anonymous letter on our windshield:

Note
The note reads, “If plan ‘A’ didn’t work the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay cool.”   

Our house, and the core of our town was not effected which is a blessing. At the end of it all about 39,000 people were evacuated, 300 buildings were burnt and approximately 2,956,900 acres of land have been scorched. This is as of September 14th however, the fires are still burning. In fact, the fires remained so bad that the state of emergency in British Columbia was just lifted two days ago (September 15th).

As you can probably imagine blogging has not been my first priority during these times. I want to get back in the swing of things and have some great content ready to roll out. Hopefully my life will start to settle and I’ll be able to get back to my routine once again.

Here Goes Nothing

The Decision

I have chosen to go to a more plant-based diet. My attempt is to eliminate dairy, meat, and consume as little processed foods as possible. Meat won’t be an issue for me since I am already vegetarian (which for me means no red meat, white meat, or seafood- basically I don’t eat anything with a face). Why I choose to cut out meat and dairy has partly to do with the crap that’s put in it to preserve it for longer, partly because of the inhuman and unsanitary conditions that mass food production is processed it, and mainly because of the potential health benefits.

There are two main documentaries that inspired this change along with other research I have done.

In Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead the viewer follows Joe Cross’ story as a morbidly obese individual who seeks to change his life for the better. He, like me, has an autoimmune disease and he is told that if he continues to live how he has been he will certainly die. His journey is to only consume blended fruits and vegetables for 90 days while he (and a doctor) monitor how these changes transforms Joe’s health.  Spoiler alert: He loses weight and gets healthier. I admit after watching this documentary I did go out and get a juicer which was definitely under used. His second documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2 sends a message more focused on making healthy life choices and eating “junk” food in moderation. I was particularly inspired by how so many people with fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis, tendentious, etc. found relief or were even cured after doing a fruit and vegetable cleanse. There are similar findings in the documentary What the Health. This documentary promotes the healing effects of a plant-based diet as well but goes a step beyond and encourages viewers to cut out processed meat, eggs, and dairy because of the negative health correlations that the filmmakers had found in doing research on chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, their causes and treatment. Both are pretty interesting and worth a watch if only to make the viewer more conscious of what you are eating (both can be found on Netflix which is a bonus). I have also read research about patients who had fibromyalgia who ate 80% vegetable diet experienced less pain as well as research that indicated the same for fibromyalgia patients who increased their intake of magnesium (which is found in beans, nuts, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables).

None the less, do your own research. Talk to a naturopath, dietitian, doctor etc. Check out research (check to see who funded the research, how many people they surveyed, what their methods were, and possible limitations of research).  Ultimately, I am doing this because it makes sense to me and it’s a choice I am making for myself.

The Process

My approach will be to decrease dairy and processed foods slowly over time but to drastically increase my vegetables intake right away. I still have a block of cheese and some frozen pizza’s I’ll have to get through. In looking back at my diet as a vegetarian it is shocking how little vegetables I actually consume.  I am choosing to eat eggs for my diet as I have a local farmer that I get them from and I feel confident that the chickens are being treated well and aren’t being injected with growth hormones and all that. Maybe I should go visit them… Idea for a future blog perhaps?

One of the projects that are featured on What the Health is the website Plant Based on a Budget. I am lucky enough to have an income that gives me some wiggle room with my grocery choices.  I know not everyone has this luxury and this website addresses that potential hurtle. So far I have found this website very helpful. I especially appreciate the meal plans and recipes with minimal effort because that is inevitably always where healthy eating falls apart for me. Planning and precooking is not my forte. With the help of this website I have crafted a first week meal plan, I’ve gone grocery shopping, I have even purchased a fancy new book to write my recipes in.

 

My Plan

  • Planning out my meals a week in advance
  • Eating all the vegetables before they go bad
  • Having emergency sweet treats for my sugar cravings

 

Potential Drawbacks

  • Falling into (what I call) “Survival Mode” and being unable to plan for the future (blog to come about Survival Mode)
  • Not getting enough calories
  • Being overwhelmed by cooking, chopping and dishes
  • Lack of variety in my diet

 

I think that’s it for now. Post on my first week on a Plant-Based diet to come!

First Post- What’s this Blog all About?

Hello Blog Readers! 

My name is Melissa Astra. I am 29 years old. I love to craft, go for walks, travel, spend time with family and friends. What’s different about me? I suffer from several chronic illnesses most of which, I’ve been told by medical professionals, are autoimmune related. The illness that effects me the greatest at this time is fibromyalgia. This for me means I am in constant pain and the easiest tasks wear me right out.

Right now I am working full time in a field I love. I want to continue working but unfortunately many people with fibromyalgia end up on permanent disability. This is my blog to hopefully counter act that.

My goal is to eat foods, exercise, and live my life in a way that has been shown to improve or even heal fibromyalgia and other autoimmune illnesses.

I am also adding my crafts and projects. They are generally pretty easy (and often off Pintrest). I am including these projects to add to my sense of accomplishment when I feel tired, overwhelmed and defeated as often happens with fibromyalgia.

Please comment, share, tell me your story, post what is working for you, or send me a message if you learn about new research! I’ve created this blog in hopes that I don’t have to be alone in this journey. 🙂