“Write like a motherfucker.” -Cheryl Strayed
So today begins my guest blog post series! Since I feel like I have run out of things to say (on my blog, because all my creative energies are going towards my other writing projects) I have decided to highlight and share the stories of other chronic illness bloggers.
Here's my first Q & A interview with Doretta Lau, a journalist living in Canada who shares her writing and health and wellness journey on her blog and website. Hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better and check out her blog for more!
I got really severely sick in September 2015 to the point where I was afraid not to be near a toilet. Meanwhile, the migraines I’d been getting for the past seven years became more frequent. Then eczema started blooming all over my face, neck, hands, and back of my thighs and I had insomnia because I was so itchy. I had the flu and developed a cough that lasted for months. After many meals, I felt like I was going to pass out, which made me think I had diabetes, but I’d been tested several times so that wasn’t the culprit. Every time I went to the doctor I was given five kinds of pills and bottles of cough syrup, but I got the sense that suppressing the symptoms wasn’t helping me heal.
Regular blood work didn’t turn anything up. Finally, one of my colleagues referred me to her integrated health clinic, where my doctor listened to me talk about my health issues for an hour and gave me some treatment options to choose from. It was empowering to be able to listen to her advice and choose based on what I thought was best.
Why did you decide to start blogging about your illness journey? How has writing helped?
I was reading so much and learning so much I thought it might be helpful to share what I’d picked up along the way. Also, I hadn’t been writing and I wanted to reconnect with the craft in some way, even if I wasn’t producing fiction. The blogging has been incredible because so many people have reached out and offered support or shared their struggles with me. It’s really taught me that we get through illness with a community behind us.
What have been the top three challenges of living with chronic illness? How do you overcome these challenges?
I can’t eat out at most restaurants now, so that has limited a lot of social interactions. At the moment I’m a bit anxious about how to handle attending a wedding because I won’t be able to eat anything at the meal, but I still want to celebrate with my friends. To get around this, I started cooking a lot more and asking friends over for meals or to go out for picnics. At work I started a Slack group called #radddesklunch to gather people to eat lunch in the office with me. I now pack a lunch every day.
I also stopped drinking, so that has cut out many old interactions. This has proven to be amazing, because it has eliminated a lot of unhealthy patterns and friendships.
I’m also limiting the amount of time I’m at work. Before I was willing to stay late if there was an avalanche of tasks, but now I set firm boundaries and stick to the set office hours.
What’s one thing you used to eat/drink and/or do that you can’t anymore? How have you learned to cope with these dietary/lifestyle changes and what keeps you motivated to be consistent with it?
I discovered that I’m allergic to yeast, along with seven other foods that I used to eat pretty much on a daily basis. Just knowing what to avoid has made a huge difference in my quality of life. My hands are no longer oozing, I’m not having intense stomach pain, and I’m not suffering from the feeling that my heart has slowed down and I’m about to collapse if I don’t sit or lie down immediately.
What are your top three suggestions/advice/tips for self-care.
1. Establish a nighttime routine so you can fall asleep before midnight. I feel a lot better the next day if I’m asleep by ten p.m. the night before. I used to think I was a night person, but in reality I had terrible sleep hygiene and I probably drank too much. Once I figured out I need at least an hour to putter before going to bed, this helped me better plan my time.
2. Learn how to say no. (I realize that this is on your list too, Jasminne! But it is so important I’m including it.) I’ve become a hermit while I’m healing and the time for myself has been amazing.
3. Buy a set of airtight glass containers that can withstand the microwave and the freezer. This way you can cook one huge meal and freeze it into multiple portions, while not worrying about toxic chemicals leaking into your food. You can also chop up vegetables ahead of time and have them on hand as snacks.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is newly diagnosed (with you same illness or just any chronic illness)?
For me, it’s all about doing research and reading. I understand my body better than any expert does so I need to be able to talk about what’s going on so doctors can listen and help me. It’s good to keep a notebook to write down what your health practitioner tells you--it’s easy to misremember as you’re being told a lot of new information at once--and to track progress and note symptoms and how things shift.
I once worked as an admissions clerk for a university medical program so I know that if you don’t trust a doctor, it’s time to find a new one. There’s an old joke that goes: “Q: What do you call the person at the bottom of his medical school class? A: Doctor.”
Can you share one quick/easy recipe for our readers?(smoothie, salad, dish)
1 bunch kale
1 cup quinoa
1 sweet potato
raw pumpkin seeds
Soak the quinoa for two hours in water. Rinse and cook. Depending on what kind of quinoa you’ve purchased, this will take 12 to 15 minutes. Peel and cut sweet potato and boil for 10 minutes and let cool.
Remove kale from stalks into bite sized pieces. Drizzle olive oil onto kale and massage until kale is tender. Add a dash of sea salt.
Combine all ingredients and sprinkle raw pumpkin seeds on top.
Thank you Doretta for sharing your story with us and providing such great tips on self-advocacy and self love! Keep writing and keeping loving yourself we are excited to follow you on your journey back to health and wellness.