Saturday, March 19, 2011

Managing Energy and Living Primal

The thing I struggle with the most since my diagnosis is my low energy level.  I'm not sure there is a way to convey how it feels to wake up every day for five years and feel exhausted, the whole time knowing you have a life that needs living.  Someone else has already explained this far better than I can hope to, so please, read this story before you continue.  The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino from

As a scientist, I wish I could lay out my spoons each morning, count them, and meticulously plan when I am going to use them throughout the day.  Ideally, I'd have the same number of spoons every day and I would know how to manage them.  No two days are exactly the same for me.  Sometimes the actions of the previous day weigh heavily on me the next day.  Sometimes I feel just fine.  Sometimes there are repercussions for a week.  The bottom line is, there are never enough spoons.

I have learned a lot recently about managing the energy I have.  Much of this knowledge has come to me from my therapist.  What I have found most helpful (surprise, surprise) is collecting data.  More specifically, taking stock of my energy levels on a daily basis.  Energy In/Energy Out.  Physical, mental, emotional and sprirtual.  If I'm consistent with my journaling, then it is easy for me to see where my energy has gone and, as a result, I don't get as frustrated when I am tired.

Even after I started tracking my energy levels, I still felt pretty tired.  I understood it better, but I didn't notice any overtly careless uses of my energy.  This left me with one option--increase my daily energy pool.  I needed more spoons!  There were ways to improve my "energy in" for each of the four groups I track.  I find spiritual connections in nature, so I have been spending more time outside admiring the world and its beauty.  I get a tremendous amount of emotional energy in from spending time with friends and family.  The fact that I live with my sister is amazingly helpful to me.  I was surprised to find through my data collection that I hadn't found a way to recharge mentally, even though all I do at work is expend mental energy.  I have started meditating and it has been surprisingly difficult, but wonderful.  

Finally, physical energy.  My exercise routine was fairly non-existent.  I walk occasionally when my friends take their dogs out, but other than that it is just standard everyday exertions.  I rarely feel that I have enough spoons left at the end of the day to ride my bike, go for a walk, or hop in the pool.  I was a competitive swimmer for almost 10 years and would love to get back to that.  I've tried a few times in the past five years, and I overdo it so badly that I can hardly get out of bed for a week.  It's hard to figure out where to put exercise when I often find myself trying to decide whether to use my last spoon of the day (or one of tomorrow's spoons) for doing laundry or eating dinner.  It seemed to me that I had two options for increasing my physical energy:  sleeping more/better and changing my diet.

I mentioned in my first post that I wanted to use this blog as a way to hold myself accountable as I start living primal.  If you're not familiar with that phrase, I get most of my information from two related sources: and  The simplest way to describe it is "eat like a caveman."  One of my friends told me about the websites.  I had shared a lot with her in the past about my disease, and since she suffers from a chronic illness as well, she knows a bit about where I'm coming from.  She went primal months and months before I did.  I kept getting emails from her about how much better she was feeling.  Her disease symptoms were reduced greatly.  She had more energy.  And when I saw her in December she looked happier and healthier than I had ever seen her--and I had worked with her for 4 and a half years.

I should have jumped on board right away, but I was hesitant.  How would I be able to manage this lifestyle with such limited energy?  It seemed worthwhile to me to invest some extra spoons (and money) in purchasing and preparing quality food.  I started living primal 2 weeks ago.  I think it is still too early to tell how it will affect me.  There is a phase called the "carb flu" that happens as the body goes through withdrawal from all of the sugar it is used to receiving from all of the processed foods that are part of the standard American diet.  Also, I've cheated a few times.  I have no willpower when the bad foods are sitting around the house.  Luckily, they're almost all gone.  Everything I have cooked so far has been delicious and I am beyond excited to continue eating this way.

I have a sleep study on Tuesday night to evaluate the quality of my sleep.  It will be interesting to go from the one doing the experiments to the one being experimented on.  If I do end up having a breathing issue, I welcome the cumbersome C-pap.  Anything to give me a little more energy.

T-minus 2 days until the endocrinology appointment.  I'm definitely getting nervous about it, which is nothing new.  What has changed from 6 months ago until now is that I have the tools to calm myself down.  I'll be meditating shortly :)

Until next time, Check Your Neck.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post. I checked out all the links and thought they were great. Thank you for another great post with truly helpful and informative links. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.