YAY more health and marathon stuff. (But: I think I figured out the weirdness!)

Health stuff first. If this makes you squicky, skip ahead to the Marathon stuff below. (this is when I miss Livejournal and its cut-tags!)

Right. so: at last post in, um, June I was on inhalers after an “all-clear” signal from the cardiologist. I gave them two weeks, and they didn’t seem to be helping; I had a couple of panic attacks that they definitely didn’t help, so I called my PCP I guess about two weeks ago from this Wednesday (July 10, if you’re counting) and said “hey, these aren’t doing anything, so what next?” He steered me towards a pulmonary specialist to make sure it wasn’t a lung issue, and then he said “at the same time, you may want to consult psychological services (called CAPS here at school) to see if they can’t refer to you someone to help you manage the physical symptoms that I think are pointing towards panic disorder”. So, I did those two things; the pulmonary folks got me in for July 15, and CAPS – well, CAPS works a little differently because they do a screening phone call to help figure out where they should best send you. I’ve had some not-so-great experiences with CAPS in the past, both for me and with other people (as in, hearing about their experiences), so I was not entirely looking forward to the process. But, at the same time, these panic attacks had been starting to interfere with my daily activities – and especially running! – in a way that made me say “okay, it’s time to do something about this already because I cannot handle this on my own anymore”.

CAPS dude called me on July 11, and instantly he was fantastic. He asked good questions, and seemed genuinely interested in my situation, and at one point actually said to me “I am going to follow up with you – and I want you to follow up with me – every week, because I’m going to be with you until we get a solution to this problem”. This was huge, because no one at CAPS has ever said anything like that to me, and it was such a relief to know that – even though my issues aren’t life-threatening or even really that big of a thing – this guy had my back. He gave me one referral, and I called her and set up an appointment with her for last Thursday (July 18, again, if you’re counting).

Fast-forward to July 15. I went to the pulmonary folks, and we did a bunch of tests to see if I had asthma, all of which I passed – as in, no asthma, completely clear lungs, no clots or fluid or weirdness or anything. The doctor did suggest that it could be vocal cord dysfunction, in which the cords don’t fold or unfold properly during inhalation or exhalation and can cause blockage of the airflow into the trachea and lungs. Since I’ve been having trouble inhaling, she thought it would be more this than asthma, especially since I came out of the tests asthma-clear, and the inhalers didn’t do anything (they’re more for lungs than throat). But, we left it at that, and I told her I was going to pursue other possible leads in my quest to figure this all out.

Before my July 18 appointment with the licensed professional counselor (LPC), I – somewhat at Saint’s insistence – returned to the idea that all of this could very well have been caused by the birth-control switch. I had an IUD put in at the beginning of May, before our trip to London; specifically, it was the Mirena IUD, which had a long list of side effects and, I noted while reading and asking around for others’ experiences, was one of the most hotly divided between “love it/hate it” among those who’ve had it put in. The first couple of days after the insertion, I felt meh, but not awful, and within a week or two I felt more normal. Then London, then the weirdness. Saint kept saying that the timing was just right – three weeks after insertion – for it to have been something about the IUD that was the root cause of all this. I didn’t discount that theory, but I wanted to rule out everything else first. Now that I’d done that, well, there I was.

One side effect that isn’t anywhere in the mound of literature that comes with a Mirena insertion is “panic attacks”. A quick Google search will lead you to an apparent army of women who never had a single panic attack in their lives who started having them after getting Mirena put in. You know that feeling when something so blatantly obvious finally goes click in your brain and you wonder why you didn’t realize it sooner? That was what it felt like, reading about all of these women who were completely derailed by this device. Another thing I didn’t realize about Mirena is that it is partly made of silicone; I’ve recently – as in the past month – had a very bad reaction to something else containing silicone, so I’m wondering if there isn’t some silicone allergy I never I knew I had that would be causing my weirdness. In any event, every instinct in my body was telling me “get this thing out of you, so I decided to sleep on it and see if I still felt the same way the next day (which was July 18).

I did, so I went to see the LCP and told her immediately that I wanted to rule out the possibility of the IUD/silicone allergy being responsible for my panicky everythings, and she agreed, and we had a very nice hour together talking about ways for me to cope with weirdness for the time being. I told her that if it did turn out to not be the IUD or silicone allergy, that I’d prefer the mental coaching / cognitive therapy approach first, and then short-term medication second, if that didn’t work. I’m in no way saying that I attach a stigma to being on something like Xanax – which is what she said would be prescribed – and I can hear my sister saying “You voluntarily turned down Xanax? Are you nuts?!”, but because my other sister is a somewhat-functioning prescription drug addict, I’m quite leery of being on prescribed medication if it’s not absolutely necessary. (I get irritated enough at having to take 4 horse pills per day for my ulcerative colitis, and I won’t even take ibuprofen for a headache unless I can’t see straight. I may also be slightly overreacting to the idea of taking medicine, yes, but we’ll save that for another day.) I’ve even taken SSRIs before – Lexapro – with good results, and I know plenty of people for whom SSRIs and similar types of medicines have worked. I just want to emphasize that I don’t know if these medicines are right for me at the given moment, is all.

Anyway, LCP and I had a really lovely time together and I felt bad that we might possibly not see each other after the 18th – I told her I’d get back in touch with her at the beginning of August – and as soon as I left I called the folks who’d put in my IUD to talk about getting it taken out. Things escalated rather quickly, and I found myself with an appointment the next morning (this is Friday, the 19th)  to get it taken out after I told my doctor there what had been going on.

So, that happened, and just like that! it was out. I got a prescription to go back on the Pill, and went on my merry way. Now, I should explain here that the gynecologist I saw in January for my annual exam noted that the Pill and ulcerative colitis patients tend not to mix, because the danger of blood clots caused by the pill is elevated with UC. But, my UC has been pretty darn well held in check for a while, and I’m – at my GI doctor’s word – a rather low-risk patient at the moment, and managing well. I also never had a single panic attack when on the pill, and never had any other issues with it. It was working fine for me, so why not go back on it? I talked to both the doctor who put in and removed the IUD and the gynecologist about this – specifically, whether or not I should try a copper IUD (no hormones, just a copper device) or an implant, or just go back on the Pill – and we collectively agreed that the Pill was still the best option. I’m a bit gunshy about getting another IUD put in me, and the implant is something I’m still considering – though, my thinking is that if I’m going to get a form of birth control that lasts 10 years, why not just get my tubes tied? (I’ve known I don’t want kids since I was 12. No, I am not ever going to change my mind. Yes, I have met The One, and he doesn’t want kids either. So, hush. :)) So, the Pill it is again, and we’re back where we started.

So, where am I now with the weirdness? I feel like I need to wait a few weeks to be sure that I can conclusively say that it was, in fact, the IUD that was the cause of all of this. I’m also going to try as best I can to eliminate the source of the silicone that may have also been the culprit. I also have the vocal cord dysfunction in the back of my mind, so I’m not entirely prepared to rule that out as a possibility either. In the short term, however, I can say that – and I hope it’s not the placebo effect – I feel rather better already. I’ve gone on two runs since Friday, and cross-trained at the gym today, and didn’t get the dizziness or numbness in my hands and feet at any point during or after exercise. I did have some shortness of breath, though a good deal of that can be attributed to a) going uphill b) the fact that I was doing a pace run on Saturday and AUGH I HATE THOSE because I always feel like I’m going to puke but that’s how I know I’m hitting my pace and c) the fact that we’re still dealing with dew points above 70F at 6am when I run in 75-degree weather, which makes it really hard to breathe normally. My heart rate has been much better about going down and – more importantly – staying down when I’m done running or working out, and it’s not racing when I wake up in the morning or am sitting still. So, I will keep my fingers crossed for the next couple of weeks, and be vigilant about monitoring symptoms and whatnot.

BTW, I feel like I should just print out a copy of all that and hand it to my dissertation advisor and say “This. THIS is why I haven’t gotten any work done in the last two weeks!” It’s been frustrating and time-consuming, for sure, but I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’ll soon be able to put it all behind me.

Okay, health stuff done! On to Marathon stuff.

So, yes: I’ve finished week 4 of training, and am on to week 5. I like this part of the plan because it’s when I start hitting 30-mile weeks and can justify an extra snack or beer or two or three in my diet 🙂 Plus, I really enjoy the double-digit long runs; not to say that 9 miles is nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s a mental thing – simply because it’s double digits, 10 or 11 miles feel so much cooler than  9 miles. When I do a 9-mile cutback long run two Sundays from yesterday – at the end of week 6 – that will be my last single-digit long run of training. After that, shit gets real. Woohoo!

This weekend I had a 6-mile pace run on Saturday and an 11-mile slooooow long run on Sunday. I’d done a 5-mile pace run last weekend in much cooler and less humid temperatures on a much flatter route (I was in Saint’s city), so I was a bit worried and irritated at the idea of doing a 6-mile pace run in warmer and much more humid temperatures and on a rather more hilly route in my own town. I even thought for a hot second about taking indoors to a treadmill, but then I remembered how much I absolutely hated every second of every pace run I ever did on a treadmill last year while training for my first marathon (plus, it’s too easy to bitch out and start slowing down on a treadmill). I also got mad at the humidity and decided that I was not going to let it take over my life like that. Armed with an abundance of caution – I was ready to take the necessary measures to slow down and cool off only if absolutely necessary – I set out early Saturday morning to get going.

Happily, it was overcast, so at least there wasn’t going to be any sun for my run. It was still grossly humid, so that by the time I was done I was completely covered in sweat (yes, even in those places). My time wasn’t as fast as I’d wanted – I was able to hit a 9:12/mile pace last weekend in the cool/flat run, and here I managed about a 10:10/mile pace – but, all things considered like hills and humidity, I was pleased. I was tired, sweaty, hot, but happy, and knew I’d set myself up well to have a nice slow long run the next day.

Sunday (hey, yesterday!) dawned with rather a lot more sun than Saturday, which I thought unfair because I had to run nearly twice as long and thus be outside for nearly twice as long. Happily, I accidentally mostly picked roads in the shade, and the first hour of my run was completely shaded because the sun hadn’t completely risen and I ran about 3 miles in a park down by a river 2 miles away. So, that was pretty awesome. I did hit some sun later, but it wasn’t too bad, and was never bearing down on me for more than .2/mile at a time. (No, I did not put on sunscreen or wear a visor. Why do you ask? :))

I did two things differently with this run than I normally would, and that was: 1) stop for water twice; 2) take 2 gels with me to consume. I’m at the point where I could probably slowly run a half-marathon without either water or food; I can do 9-10 miles without and still maintain a reasonable pace, but since it’s summer and I hemorrhage water and electrolytes like it’s my job, I decided to be smarter about replenishing stores during instead of afterwards. I also have an idea that I might need to take in more food-fuel during the actual marathon, because I’m not sure I ate enough last year. So, I’m going to start eating and drinking more on my long runs to get my body used to this idea. It worked like a charm on Sunday; I timed my consumption well, and I’d already been feeling pretty good prior to said consumptions. (Heh, that sounds like I had a really good experience with a medieval disease… not quite!) By the end, I was having to hold back a bit, because I was tempted to sprint the last half-mile home on my tired-but-feeling-gooood legs. I resisted, though I did accelerate somewhat ridiculously through the traffic light intersection closest to my house because I really just wanted to not have to wait to go the last 0.1 mile to get home. I actually laughed after that and thought, where the hell did that come from? And I was smiling like a good a couple of minutes later when I slowed down and ended my run. My average pace ended up being an embarrassingly slow 11:47/mile pace, but whatever – that’s what these long runs are for, to teach me to run long on tired legs. On fresh legs, that would have been at least 90 seconds faster; in less humid conditions, at least 2 minutes faster. So I like where I am now, but I know I have room for improvement, and plenty of time in which to get it done.

Long story short, MCM training is going well and I am pleased with my higher mileage and excited for the summer heat to eventually cool off and make things a bit less temperaturely-excruciating.

And hey! Bonus Food stuff.

I don’t have nearly as much to say here, but I had some absolutely amazing barbecue on Saturday from a local hole-in-the-wall that I am still thinking about and drooling over, and I also made some pretty awesome banana pudding (yes, the kind with Nilla wafers and whipped cream) on Saturday that I have tried very hard to not completely consume before today. I don’t think it’ll see Wednesday, but we’ll see. I swapped out Greek yogurt for the whipped cream and you can’t tell the difference, which is great, because it somewhat curbs my guilt at consuming all that sugar in one go.

Non-food stuff, but still fun.

I hiked to a swimming hole with some friends yesterday (sure, why not an easy 4-mile hike to jump-start the long run recovery?) and it was hot and humid and gross and then we got in the water which was deliciously cold and then it started clouding over and THEN we got torrentially thunderstormed upon as we were hurriedly packing up to leave. Normally I’d be irritated at getting completely soaked for a second time in one day (first time was after my run, yum!), but when you’re already swimming-hole wet, it just doesn’t matter. I did have to lay out my wallet, its contents, and my spare clothes to dry them out afterwards, but there was delicious beer and a hot shower afterwards so it was all good. A well-spent summer Sunday if ever I saw one, I say.

Thus ends the stuff! Carry on, friends, and be well.



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