I’ve been feeling pretty bad for over two years now.
This is kind of beyond “get well soon” territory. I had a stroke in spring of 2015, and every day since then has been a foggy, exhausted mess. Sometimes I do really awesome things despite the veil of grogginess that is my life, and I went back to school/got married/became a matchmaker/spoke at lots of cool events/continued a lot of my passions. It’s not like life isn’t worth living — it just requires a whole lot of naps and saying no to things I would really enjoy so that I can sleep or stare into space.
There’s a lot of annoying stroke stuff: my balance is terrible, I can’t feel more than half of my body, everything’s blurry in my right eye, I still have intermittent weakness on the right side of my body, I’m down one working vocal cord, so I can’t tear up karaoke anymore. You know, the little things! But I’m kind of used to that and I compensate like nobody’s business. Some might even say I’m overcompensating! The thing I can’t shake is the ol’ post-stroke fatigue.
Now, there are some complicating factors. Despite the stroke being totally unrelated to my health, I was working with hypothyroidism and what is now confirmed to be polycystic ovarian syndrome. Not great, but in hindsight, workable. I was able to be an over-extended type A monster with a dozen projects on the go despite those decidedly energy-zapping health issues.
One of my now-resolved stroke symptoms was about a month an a half of not being able to swallow properly. How did I live? A honey-thick diet of what was ostensibly pure sugar. Pair a strong genetic propensity with an abruptly sedentary lifestyle and I wound up developing type 2 diabetes before age thirty. That didn’t feel great. When I left the rehabilitation facility, I was contending with all sorts of substantial lifestyle changes, I had been let go of my long-term job, and I was finally able to eat food again. Needless to say, while I paid some attention to what I was eating, it definitely wasn’t my top priority.
Fast forward two years of eating frugally, indulging when I could, and generally feeling like crap all the time. Why? Well, the stroke is the lion’s share, but I can’t say that I’ve been doing myself any favours with my diet. I don’t feel bad for it, because I wasn’t ignoring my health; I just wasn’t being proactive and letting food be my medicine or whatever those fitspo Instagram posts would have you believe. I’m definitely more prone to anxiety and depression now, due to a heady mix of the location of the strokes in my brain and the fact that I had a stroke. Who wouldn’t get anxious and depressed about that? It means everything is just harder and I avoid things that might actually help.
Enter Bunz Trading Zone. A nutritionist posted a special rate for a few folks who could really benefit from some guidance and I pounced. I knew I couldn’t realistically do it on my own in any sustainable way. We set up a meeting, I filled out some forms and kept a log of what I ate for a week. She gave me extremely detailed information about how to get to her office, and I managed to find it okay!
Ruthie the nutritionist is really friendly, totally non-judgmental, and able to strike a good balance between science and woo, which I appreciate. I went to a very “food guide of Canada” dietitian once upon a time and it didn’t really do much for me, but Ruthie’s approach was very much centered on what fit with my life, what I enjoyed, and what made me feel good. We discussed a couple of things I need to reckon with (maybe less pasta and bread and more protein) and celebrated the fact that I am already way into vegetables and have a vegan past that makes me amenable to all sorts of quirky health food store ingredients.
She presented me with meal ideas and recipes. Nothing was that big of a change and she actually replicated a lot of my regular meals with minor adjustments, but her emphasis was on whole foods and prioritizing foods that may help with hypothyroidism, PCOS, diabetes, and brain fog.
Will turmeric, swiss chard, and almonds cure what ails me? Probably not, at least not completely, but they seem to be helping. It’s only been a few days, and already I’m feeling clearer. It may be predominantly a placebo effect, but I’m liking it and I know that putting a little more thought into the food I eat is a good thing in the long run.
Regardless of where it comes from, this newfound mental acuity has made me so emotional. Today was the first day in a long time that I’ve felt sustainable energy throughout the day. So much of my identity before the stroke was wrapped up in feeling dynamic and enthusiastic. It has been so hard to maintain enough energy to be that way anymore, which is depressing and makes me isolate myself. It’s a vicious cycle.
Feeling capable of having meetings, tidying the house, working on projects, reading a book, and writing this article is the outcome I didn’t really allow myself to imagine when I set up the appointment with Ruthie. I’m reticent about nutritionists because I have a history of disordered eating and a resulting discomfort with dieting, but Ruthie listened to me and didn’t discuss restriction, weight loss, or “good” vs. “bad” foods, which was so refreshing. Once we got over that initial hump, it made it so much easier to actually take in her advice and integrate it into my life.
Not everyone needs a nutritionist. A lot of people can handle their food on their own, and I totally commend them. As complications and stress mounted, however, I became less and less capable of balancing my “treat yourself” mentality and the very real things I could be doing to make my life easier. I didn’t know where to start, so I started with someone else. For now, I’m just going to keep on keeping on with my overnight oats and Brazil nuts. I’m sure I’ll still have my cloudy moments, but this is worth it for the possibility that the clouds will part at least once in a while. Plus, these cacao nibs are not half bad.
Claire AH is the LGBTQ+ matchmaker for Friend of a Friend Matchmaking in Toronto. She’s also a sex educator, public speaker, freelance writer, co-host on Sex City Radio on CIUT 89.5 FM, and co-host and producer of the Tell Me Something Good live sexy storytelling night.