Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Breakfast Adjustment

I've been avoiding solid food in the morning for about two months, and I'm finally back to feeling comfortable with reintroducing it. Not exclusively, but as an adjunct to the meal shake I've been drinking. I'm not sure if this change means that I'm experiencing a dip in IBS symptoms or if I've figured something out.

I had good results back in October with doing liquid breakfast for two weeks, and then I went right back to normal food because I was vacationing. And after the vacation, I didn't know what to do. Having a meal shake for breakfast makes me feel like I'm ill. I don't like it. I should be able to eat whatever for breakfast. Cereal. Sausage. Fruit. So drinking a meal shake is like admitting that this IBS stuff is real and something I actually have to deal with.

I really hope the pain I was feeling yesterday in my abdomen was not a result of reintroducing solid food at breakfast. I don't think it was, because I had some of it Monday as well, and I didn't start with the solid food until Tuesday. But the pain seems to get worse when I'm being active. Riding my bike home from work last night gave me little jolts of pain with each cycle of the pedals.

If the pain continues, I'll go back to liquid breakfast just to see if that helps, but I really hope I don't have to. I enjoy having a bit of meat with breakfast. And, yes, okay, I enjoy my morning Spam :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


My husband has been asking me how I feel on a scale of 1 to 5 every day for over a month now. It's his way of troubleshooting my illness(es). He isn't entirely convinced that IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is the correct diagnosis, and neither am I. We could be in denial, but one way to try and figure it out is to troubleshoot the system.

The system being, in this case, me.

So I've started to track symptoms on two tabs of a google spreadsheet. I tried using an app, but I just couldn't stick with it. I found it very discouraging to open an app and record every time that I had a bowel movement. And to make sure that every time I had a symptom that I open up the app and record what kind of symptom it was and the corresponding intensity. That's like a full time job right there, without getting paid.

So I've got one tab with a list of my common symptoms down one column and dates across the top row and I just mark when I have the symptom on the day. On the other tab, each date has a place for notes. The symptom columns should help me track cycles and patterns and the other tab allows me to get more specific with timing or mood or food.

I do feel like there are some general cycles that I'm experiencing, but having the data will be better. More data is always more better.

I've also signed up for an online forum for people with IBS. I haven't really started using it yet, but I signed up. I figure I can compare what I've experienced with what other people have experienced and see if there is some difference that would point to me not actually having IBS.

I think both my husband and I don't want it to be IBS because there really isn't a fix for it. You adjust your diet, reduce stress and basically deal with the symptoms as they come - and they come no matter how "good" you are at being chill and eating only foods that don't bother you.

I mean, I've cut out alcohol, coffee/tea and carbonated beverages (except for Alka Seltzer). I hardly eat dairy (except for kefir, which is chock full of probiotic goodness and low in lactose). I do yoga at least once a week and I get a massage once a month. I exercise a lot. I drink tons of water. And I still have symptoms. It's frustrating as all get out and I really just want to fix it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Guidebook for Sale

I've got the Chamberlain Basin guide book up for sale on Amazon in both ebook and paperback editions. For now, I'm leaving it exclusive to Amazon, though I'll probably put the ebook wide at some point. I don't really have a business plan with my writing at the moment. I create the content, including designing covers and interiors, which are simple, but adequate. I think. I'd rather leave the business part to my husband, but he is busy building computers and robots at the moment.

I guess, in a way, I'm afraid of trying harder to sell things. As long as I'm not trying to sell books, the small amount of sales that I do make feel just right. Less than a dollar a month, well, sure, it's not like I'm trying to sell books.

If I actually invested myself in trying to sell what I write, instead of just writing and publishing... then I'd have to figure out what to do if the efforts didn't work. If I invested $100 into advertising or marketing or whatever, and got nothing back, then I'd be really disappointed in $1 per month in sales.

So I'm just going to keep writing what I want to write and build up a catalog of things for sale. And maybe, in time, that will lead to $2 per month in sales. And by the time I retire from my day job, maybe it'll be up to $5. Which, by that point, probably won't even be enough to buy me a latte, but maybe I could save it up and start investing in marketing and business plans then.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Such a Pretty Guidebook

The proof copy of the guide book arrived on Friday - nearly a full week before the estimated arrival date. I have to say, I'm quite pleased with how it looks and I'm working on getting it up for sale right now. Both paper and ebook versions are pending review by Createspace and Amazon. In the meantime, I do have some lovely little pictures of the proof copy I ordered. 

Front cover

Back cover

Interior 1

Interior 2
I don't think I've missed a calling as a hand model, but the book sure does look nice.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Guidebookful and Coffeeless

Today is my fifth day without coffee. Not strictly without caffeine because I had a decaf on Sunday and some chocolate yesterday, but without that lovely full-flavored bomb of caffeinated alertness that I have been accustomed to starting my days with.

It's been painful. I've been tired and lethargic. I've had a headache from Sunday through Tuesday, though it's mostly gone by now. I really do like the taste of coffee at this point in my life and I don't like going without it. But I am going to try as many things as I can to try and make my stomach stop torturing me.

In other news, I have ordered the proof copy of my Chamberlain Basin guidebook. I really like how the cover turned out. It took a while to get it ready because I needed to figure out the entire template. The Hike with Me books are down to a science by now. I just need to pick out the photos I want to use for the front and the back and make changes on my template. For the guide, I needed to do something different and that took more time.

I'll be ready for the next one though. My experience in making the Hike with Me template has given me hints about what I'm going to want to remember for next time. In my Gimp file, I created a whole bunch of notes about what font I used and the sizes of the photos that I placed on the front. Even notes for the technique that I used to make the title and my name get a particular appearance.

I really don't use the Gimp often enough to remember how I did things the last time. That's probably something I should change. Working on covers once a month would probably be a good idea. And if I don't have a new project, I can always redesign an old one because some of my covers could use it. I need to figure out ways to look more professional with my fiction covers. Non-fiction-wise, I think my covers are good, but I struggle with the fiction ones. They require such different elements. I'm looking right now at the cover of a book by Michael Swanwick called Bones of the Earth. The cover is an illustration of dinosaurs, with a fossil foot in the foreground, all faded into darkness above where the title and author are presented in gold embossed lettering. I can see in it by comparison where my covers are lacking, but I don't know how to bring my skills and resources to the necessary level. And I can't outsource at the level of income I make off my books.

A problem for another day. I'm quite excited to see the proof of the guide book. I think it will be a fun little piece, and I've got at least one more I want to write this spring.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

IBS Flareup Ranting

I'm in a lot of pain right now. I've been in a lot of pain over the last couple weeks. It's kind of hard to tell when the intensity started to ratchet up.

Let's see. The period I shouldn't be having started last Saturday with some spotting that I recognized as a precursor to a true period. I kept taking the birth control pills so I'm going to get some break out bleeding later this week (fun!). The abdominal pain that is supposedly caused by IBS has been high for longer than that, because I started to change my diet in response the week of New Years.

For some reason, my stomach is not pleased with eating solid food before 11 am or so. And that's pushing it. Noon is better. If I eat solid food before my stomach is ready, then I get instant pain on top of the already existing pain. I mean, I wake up and there's a burning in my stomach. Or maybe not my stomach. There's a burning in my abdominal region. Midline a few inches above the belly button seems to be where it is centered.

The burning isn't going away throughout the day, but if I wait long enough, I can eat solid food without exacerbating it. Even eating Saltine crackers causes pain. I thought they would always be safe to eat! (I feel so betrayed.)

Chewing gum seems to help a bit. It either distracts me from the pain or provides some soothing effect with the flavor (strawberry, not mint. Never mint!). But the moment I stop, the pain is just there in my head, bubbling up insistently, refusing to be ignored. Monday night I had a hard time falling asleep because of pain. It wasn't burning this time, but a throbbing ache that spiked now and then in the lower right.

I frequently feel as if I'm going to vomit, but it's always just a burp. Sometimes the burp feels like it's going to be a vomit, to the point where I can feel stuff rising in my throat but it never comes out.

I've cut alcohol from my diet and I'm working on cutting caffeine (I get really bad caffeine withdrawal, so I'm slowly reducing so as to avoid the additional pain of a caffeine withdrawal headache). I spent some time this weekend looking up what else this pain could possibly be other than my useless Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) diagnosis.

I call it useless because there's nothing concrete I can do to truly treat it. The pills are a stopgap measure that have side effects I don't like. Diet changes don't seem to help. I exercise plenty and have great sleep hygiene (when the pain doesn't keep me awake). Given that the pain seemed to spike hard during the period (that I shouldn't have been having because I'm taking oral contraceptives to prevent that event), I considered endometriosis.

I've looked into that before, because I have tended to have issues with my bowels during my periods for a long time. In 2004-ish, I had a pelvic ultrasound to check for endometriosis and they said it was clear and I didn't have it. But, my searching over the weekend revealed that pelvic ultrasounds are no longer considered to be definitive in detecting endometriosis. The definitive test is a laparoscopy, which I probably won't be able to get because it's a surgical procedure and the condition was already ruled out.

The other thing I considered was chronic appendicitis, in which the appendix is partially blocked leading to the exact symptoms of IBS. I read a story about a guy who had that condition diagnosed after a colonoscopy revealed pus oozing from the appendix. My gastro offered to put me in for a colonoscopy when we were still trying to settle on what was wrong, but I was afraid.

I was afraid that it would just be another expensive test that revealed my body was perfectly normal and seemingly healthy like the endoscopy had. I was afraid and so I settled on the IBS diagnosis and took the pills with the bad side effects and then I spent some time taking mint oil pills that seemed to help for a while and then they started causing me pain so I stopped taking them.

I'm not taking anything for IBS right now. I'm trying to endure the pain and get through this bad time. I'm tired of hurting and I'm frustrated because I feel like I can't see a doctor about this. Because I already have a diagnosis and there's nothing more they can do.

I don't want to eat anything most of the time. I'm hungry but I don't want to eat. I like the idea of those other diagnoses because they have solutions. IBS doesn't have a solution.

You simply have to cope.

With pills that kinda work and cause side effects, with dietary changes that never work long term, with reducing stress and sleeping well and exercising and trying to be as healthy as possible. And with pain that comes and goes at unpredictable intervals, tends to stay for weeks or months at time, and leave again for no apparent reason.

Last October, I had a good experience after doing liquid breakfast for two weeks. It cleared the pain right up. Doing the same thing now, I'm getting different results. No change in the pain. I'd much prefer to have some insanity with these methods and start getting the same results from doing the same thing. And I've read that chewing gum is bad for IBS because of swallowing gas and I've read that drinking carbonated beverages is bad for IBS, but drinking sparkling water feels good. It soothes my burning tummy. So I'm not about to quit them.

And even though what I'm writing is a lot like one big complaint, I am trying to stay positive. I'm trying to go through my days without letting the pain dictate my mood. My husband pointed out to me last week that I've been down. I don't like being down. Being positive ultimately feels better, so I work on that.

And I know that googling symptoms isn't that healthy of a behavior either. According to webmd, everyone has something terribly wrong with them based on self-reported symptoms. I'm not so much looking for an alternative diagnosis as I am looking for new ways to cope.

I need to take action or I'm going to drive myself crazy. So I'm starting back up on drinking some fiber supplement in the mornings, since I'm only drinking my breakfast right now anyway. It may or may not help, but I'll be doing something and that will make me feel just a bit better.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sick. Again.

I can't believe I'm sick again. Or is it sick still? I don't know.

I'm pretty sure I've had chest congestion since coming back from Chicago in mid October. Feeling like I'm actually sick has been more of an intermittent thing, every two or three weeks.

But this latest had been the worst. I feel like I've been punched in the center of my chest. It aches. I ache all over. This really sucks.

However, I've got no fever and hardly any cough. So I'm trying to get through it with rest and fluids.

I really can't wait to stop getting sick this season.