Monday, December 30, 2013

Hunger and Appetite

I had weight loss surgery seven years ago. Some parts of my life have gotten easier, other parts more complicated. My relationship with hunger and appetite has changed and these changes seem permanent.

I love and loathe food. I like the sensation of eating, of teasing out the specifics of texture and flavor, finding new spices and new ways to prepare food. I am the foodie who can't eat much.

I had my surgery to break my addiction to eating and over eating. I still fall into the assumption that eating less is better. And since my surgery appears to have permanently altered my sensations of hunger and appetite, it's hard to remember to eat much less eat enough. And, as is expected, when you aren't eating enough calories, you really do gain weight.

Most bodies won't allow you to thrive on less than 1,000 calories per day. For some, you can eat that amount and maintain. Most people seem to do better on 1,200 or more calories per day. Last year I tried tracking my calories and discovered I was lucky to eat 700 calories on any given day. Why did that happen? How did that happen?

I am not hungry nor do I have much of an appetite for specific foods. To a certain extent I got my wish in that I have a kind of separation between loving food and loving to eat. But there's a burden I hadn't expected in needing to keep track of when I eat, what I eat, and how much I eat. I certainly still love my food but I do not love to eat. I do not consider myself to have a positive relationship with food at all.

So how do I (or anyone else) manage to eat in a way that is health and whole/unscrewed with? Prepare in advance. When you're over tired and under caloried, preparing food is quite possibly the absolute last thing you want to do. The answer is not to power through the tired to eat heathily. No, the answer is to be smarter about what food choices will be available when you are over tired and under caloried. So make some healthy food when you do have time and energy and put it away for when you'll need it. Freeze it if you have to. Otherwise keep prepared food available in the fridge or cupboard so that you can just open it up and eat.

What does this look like? Make some one-dish meals that you can freeze. Make some salads that you can keep handy. Salads like tuna, ham, shrimp, lobster, salmon, chicken, beef. Whatever floats your boat. You can mix with mayonnaise or an oil/vinegar base. And guess what? Condiments are not evil. Just use them in a reasonable manner. If you need to tempt yourself to eat, mix in some more if that is going to help make sure you actually eat instead of just look at it.

Make egg-heavy breakfast burritos. You can purchase parboiled or frozen hashbrowns, salsa, chile, tortillas, and whatever meat you like. Make an assembly line with kids or friends or partners. Honestly, do what you have to in order to ensure food gets prepared. Have a party. Invite friends to help out and share in the cost and come away with something to show. Play with the idea. Who knows what ideas you might have?

What shouldn't you do?

Do not try to replace healthy food with convenient food. It may be possible but there's going to be a trade off. One trade off is nutritional value. Convenience foods are undeniably tasty, especially when flavored by fatigue, memory, or appetite. But think about it. Take some time to really taste convenience foods. Do they really taste good? If I take the time and really turn on my taste buds, I find that everything is too much of something: too salty, too sweet, maybe an underlying bitter taste. But when you're bolting food because your body is undernourished, things taste pretty good.

A second trade off is how long this convenience food keeps you satiated and feeling full. Most of the time I find that I'm wandering into the kitchen with an "urge" for something that I just can't quite identify within an hour or so. For me, a problem with processed food is that it isn't very dense and just doesn't stay with me as long as whole food does.

Finally there's the issue of economic cost. Healthy yet convenient food is expensive. And in a time of rising food costs, paying the premium price is simply impossible. And you know something? Even if this food is closer to being whole in spite of its convenience, it still isn't either whole or nutritious. There are simply a great deal of chemicals that must be added to food (for shelf stability and hygiene) that deplete it. Modern manufacturing methods strip foods of their nutrients in order to remain convenient.

So, do I do any of this? Sometimes. Sometimes I buy Hot Pockets and live to regret my decisions. Sometimes I live on stuff like greek yogurt, coffee with protein powder, and carrots with peanut butter. And when I feel bad, I have to remember the only person I have to blame for this is myself. Then I haul my butt into the kitchen and start all over again trying to be a little more healthy than I was.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pegging, part I

This post started out one thing and morphed into another so I've broken this up into two sections: one about the mechanics of pegging and the other about my observations about the psychology and acculturalization of sex. So, onto Part I.

Pegging. A fascinating practice I hadn't paid a lot of attention to in the past.

Yeah, the past. I might need to give some backstory here.

When I was a monogamous lesbian. 

Life is weird in that things you thought might never happen, do happen. Like becoming a non-monogamous bisexual with a libido, an imagination, and a limited life span. Oh, and that getting a second chance at life.

I like girls. I have for as long as I can remember. I like boys too. Just in a way that is different than liking girls. Coming to terms with being bi has been quite a journey. Add being a poly woman to the mix and now I'm really really, no REALLY, confused.

It's almost five years later and I'm still confused. What is my purpose? Why am I here? What am I going to be when I grow up. Okay, maybe my confusion is less about a purpose and more about wondering what “box” I fit into. But that's another blog post.

It seems as if there are no quick and easy answers to these questions. So let's move on to stuff I CAN discuss and feel like I have some kind of idea of what I'm doing.

Yeah, right. Pegging. Right?

I hope I'm gender fluid in the expression of my love. And if needs be I think I can wrap my mind around fucking my boyfriend with a strap on dildo. OK, it wasn't really that much of a stretch. Heck, it's a shorter list of what kink I DON'T embrace than what I do.

Closely tied in is being a service sub. Giving pleasure is pretty much hardwired into me. I can and have service topped and being the active partner instead of the receptive is a fun change of pace.

I am really suggestible and I possess an active imagination. The idea of being the one fucking is a turn on. I'll orgasm from seeing someone I love orgasm. Having them orgasm from something I actively did? Well now, pretty much everything is icing on a yummy cake for me.

Some people are straight in every aspect of their lives. They are also firmly entrenched in their concepts of gender and its expression. OK and no problem. I thank you for being as honest as possible and I'll keep that in mind in our future encounters. Is this a problem for me? No, it's not but again, that's a post for another time.

So anyway, after a major dust up in my life I got an amazing chance to restart prior loving relationships. For anyone who has never had this chance, if you ever get it, jump and do not waste the opportunity. Love is a gift not to be wasted. If someone loves you and you love them back, go for it.

One boyfriend asked me if I'd be interested in screwing him with a dildo, with or without a strap-on. We have an odd mix of mundane vanilla sex relationship with a fair amount of kinky fun thrown in when we each have the time and energy. He has a kid, I am rebuilding my life and learning to live with a chronic fatigue and pain syndrome as well as the odd case of end-stage liver disease with hepatic encephalopathy. Each eats into what free time we have. Sometimes I'd rather have a night in with a family than all the kinky sex in the world. Not because one is better than the other, but simply because one condition I can generally meet and the other takes some stamina, which is something I don't always have.

Did I mention there's a lot of stuff I need and want to write about? Yeah, that's on my to-do list. Stay tuned for more stuff as it bubbles up out of me.

And back to pegging my boyfriend. I suppose that there's something socially transgressive about a woman fucking a guy in the ass with a fake penis. My take is that if this is something that sounds like fun, why not try it? Give it a good try. You retain the option to say that this may not be for you.

Like a lot of new sensations, it takes time and patience to learn what does and doesn't feel good. One small suggestion is that even if something doesn't feel good, wait a bit. Things change. And so it's true for ass play. Stop what you're doing and just wait. Breathe. Explore the sensation. Think about what you're doing. Get the mind involved along with the body. If necessary, back off (slowly!) and go on to other fun things. You can always come back and start again later. We certainly did not go from zero to sixty without taking some breaks and figuring out what helped, what hindered, and what else might work.

Sphincters needs some help opening up. Everyone knows the pain associated with being constipated or needing to pass an exceptionally large poop. There's pain associated with opening up. There's also a pretty amazing sense of well-being that comes after the pain. This process isn't much different, except that it's happening because you want it to and it might end up feeling pretty darn good.

So, what worked?

The mind set. Getting the mind involved is probably the biggest element to turning sensation into fun. Read about it. Think about how it might feel even before you try it. Ask others about their experiences. Stay open minded when it seems that pain stops your play. The thing about stretching is that each experience builds on the last. Yes, it might have hurt tonight. That's not true for tomorrow or the next time you try.

Erotic play. Yeah, do what works. Mix the pleasurable with the less-so. If sucking on a nipple helps, then add it in! There's no one true way to do anything so forget your preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to work and focus on what does work.

Be patient and persistent. You didn't learn to walk overnight, you didn't learn your alphabet immediately, and you won't learn this the first time out of the gate. If you do, count yourself as lucky but remember to be patient and slow with others.

Vibrators. This works surprisingly well. Having a vibrating toy that is safe for anal play is important. If it also variable in the speed and intensity of vibrations, so much the better. The vibration of toy can reduce pain-induced muscle (and sphincter) tightening. It can also redirect your mind away from discomfort and help focus on stuff that feels good. And vibration helps relax muscles.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I've wanted to write about this for a while but, in all honestly, writing may be something I do well but it isn't always an enjoyable experience. At the same time, I haven't wanted to write this because reading what I write just makes me cry and despair that this nightmare will never end. And that is what it seems like: a bad dream and I can't wake up. Except this really is my life and I never thought this is how life would turn out.

Some people know exactly how life with a chronic condition works. Others have no idea and no frame of reference to understand. That's true for just about all of human life. I am writing this to try to give a description of how my life works now to those that love me.

First, what are my conditions? There are a few. I have a disease called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC). It, in turn, spawned hepatic encephalopathy. I have residual neuropathy from a severely herniated disc in my cervical spine as well as older nerve damage from herniations in my lumbar spine. So what does that all mean? I have a failing liver, a fuzzy brain, chronic fatigue, and chronic pain/hyperattenuation of nerve impulses (when it's not severely reduced sensation).

So what is this thing called PBC? It isn't necessarily an autoimmune disorder (it doesn't fit all of the established criteria for an autoimmune disorder in that this doesn't affect kids, is not only nonresponsive to steroid bursts, it is strongly contraindicated). This disease is a genetic disorder with an environmental trigger. There is a statistically significant correlation between this disease and Type I (often called juvenile onset) diabetes. Both of my sisters have Type I diabetes and I have PBC. No, no irony here.

Whatever, this disease caused the bile ducts in my liver to slowly harden which reduced how effectively the liver delivers bile to the digestive tract. And, go figure, liver bile is actually toxic to the liver. The disease causes severe and often intractable fatigue. It also causes severe itching throughout the body but, given the nerve damage I have, this isn't as big an issue for me as it might be for others. And another joy of the disease is that I have hepatic encephalopathy, which is brain dysfunction especially in the areas of memory, executive function, and decision making. As if liver disease wasn't bad enough, I get to have a melting brain as well.

I don't have much of a short-term memory. If I don't write something down, I probably won't remember. That's a problem if I agree to an appointment or to do something and didn't write it down, because I usually forget and then am quite embarrassed and often ashamed of my forgetfulness. I always had problems remembering names of people I've met. Now I forget the names of my lovers and friends. I cannot go to the store without a shopping list. I usually have to make lists of household chores I need to do because I forget what I'm doing.

Oh joy. Oh rapture. Oh bliss.

What does the nerve damage mean? By and large I have reduced sensation throughout most of my body. In most cases I retain protective sensation but I usually can't feel my feet, sometimes can't feel my fingers. As a result I have a hard time staying warm or cool and find the experience of warming up or cooling down to be uncomfortable to downright painful.

My legs have had the most damage and the most reduction in sensation. By and large they are numbish to numb and I sometimes have problems with walking and falling because I can't always lift my left foot up enough for a normal gait and sometimes I trip over the smallest bump. I find it's bad enough when little kids fall, it's downright freaky when adults fall and falling is something I worry about and hate when it happens. I've also discovered my legs and lower buttocks can easily be overstimulated and go from dull sensation to hideous reverberating pain with one smack. Stubbed toes and banging my shins on anything are hell in my world. The pain becomes bright, fiery, and seems to get stuck in a feedback loop. It takes me several minutes to recover from simple bumps. And impact play in areas other than my back and upper buttocks just cannot happen. The pain is simply too overwhelming to process during play. It stopped being play and has become something to try to live through. Much to my despair.

My balance and strength has suffered too. I don't always have effective proprioception (knowledge of where my body is in relation to up, down, left, right. Some days I can maintain my balance when I close my eyes. Other days I fall over. I am grateful that I don't always need a cane to help me keep balance or remind me which way is up or down. And I no longer fall every day (which was the case before surgery). I still have problems if I stand up too fast upon getting out of bed (yep, get up and then fall right over). Going on a walk is not very fun for me because I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I walk in a straight line and not trip over anything that might be on the ground/floor

Then there's the fatigue. It is pernicious and invasive. I used to have some days where I felt very good. Normal. Effective. Capable of doing what needed to be done. Those days are over.

I am always tired. Even when I get up, I still feel tired. The days where I feel near normal happen very rarely now. I have ridiculously reduced stamina. Seemingly easy things, like taking a shower can either invigorate me or send me to bed out of sheer exhaustion. I find I don't like large supermarkets because they are just too big, too much to process, and too exhausting to walk through.

I can work, but there isn't much more that I can do than work, if I'm trying to work a 40-hour work week. I can get up, get dressed, and go out the door to work, but what I can't do is maintain basic cleaning, cooking, or any social activities. I work and I sleep. That's about it. Color my hair? Unless I can summon the energy to do it the night before going back to work, it's not going to happen that week because I simply do not have the stamina to stand in front of the mirror making sure the color distribution is even.

I work less than 40 hours a week so that there's a fighting chance I'll be able to clean the kitty boxes, sweep and mop the floors, cook for for me as well as the kitties, and do laundry (which includes folding and/or hanging up clothes, not just washing and drying them), cook, and clean dishes. It's much harder than you'd think to find a part time job. Many jobs require a lot of standing, which isn't something I can do well. Or there's a lot of lifting, which is also another thing I cannot do well. Lifting kitty litter just once is hard enough and wipes me out; lifting isn't something I can do on any kind of sustained basis.

What do I do to make sure I function? I take my painkillers as religiously as possible. I may not actively feel pain, but my body knows something's wrong and controlling pain, even pain I don't feel, gives me more energy. Yep, I take painkillers and get a kind of energy boost from it. I also use stimulants to keep me going. That's a very tricky balance to try to maintain. Too much stimulant and I forget to take painkillers or eat, both of which will cause a flare that puts me in bed for days trying to recover. If anything, the stimulants cause a slight increase in my forgetfulness so I have to make lists for the days I use something more than coffee or soda to boost me.

I hoard my energy. I keep waiting for days when I feel “good” to do stuff. Sometimes I choose poorly and do too much in one day or sometimes I miss out on stuff because I just can't quite get everything in gear in time to go out. I cancel stuff at the last minute.

I cry. A lot. I wish things were different and they're not. I want things to get better and they don't. Medication is both a blessing and curse. It can fix some things but damage others. And sometimes all my meds can do is keep things from getting worse.

It's a lonely and often scary experience and I don't wish this on anyone else.