Banished from Pemberley

I have banished myself from Pemberley.

I thought long and hard about what to give up for Lent, but all along I knew I needed to give up the thing that I most crave in the world: reading Jane Austen fan fiction.

It sounds silly, I am sure. It is silly, in fact, but I can’t help it. Reading about Darcy and Elizabeth is escapism at its best for me; it takes my mind off everything else in the world, and does it in such an easy fashion that it takes very little effort on my part. (I always say that I don’t read much fantasy because I don’t like being introduced to new worlds and having to learn about them. With my Darcy stories, I don’t have to learn anything at all; the characters and locations are already familiar.)

I have been going crazy for the past 24 hours, though. I have built some powerful habits around this addiction, so every time I sit down to eat a snack, for instance, I find myself reaching for my phone. It’s going to take some time to reach for something else — or nothing else, really. It would be much better for me to live in the present and heighten my awareness of the world around me.

This world, however, is much more difficult for me than the world of Regency England, of entails and suitors and Lady Catherine deBourgh, of balls and fine eyes and ten thousand a year. This world is challenging and messy and stressful, and for whatever reason I find myself less and less able to handle that stress.

My hope is that the time I would have spent reading on my phone will now be spent in doing healthier things. Perhaps that will go a long way toward enabling me to live in the here and now, and no longer in days of yore (and yesteryear.)

Lyme Park Snowdrops IMG_0083aBR by Brian Rogers / CC BY

Love is all you need

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

It’s Ash Wednesday, too, the beginning of Lent. Interestingly enough, the three pillars of Lent all relate to love relationships.

Prayer: strengthens your relationship with God and helps you to focus on how you can serve God through serving others.

Fasting: involves your relationship with yourself, as it helps you turn from selfish habits and things that disturb your inner peace.

Almsgiving: (not, as autocorrect wanted it to be, “skydiving”) lets you reach out and build relationships with others in need, whether they need something tangible, like food or shelter, or just need our compassion, concern, or forgiveness.

I love Lent. I don’t always do very well at those three important parts, but even making the effort makes a difference. It’s like a spring cleaning for your heart, a chance to look at whether you have been relating to God, to yourself, and to other people in the most loving way possible.

Some say that these three practices are like the three legs of a stool. I’m cool with making it a chair and adding skydiving back in.

Detective work, part II

When last we spoke, I was working with medical professionals to determine the cause of my ongoing fatigue. The neurologist tried many different medications; some worked to a degree, but all had side effects that seemed worse than the fatigue itself. The naturopath had many suggestions for healthier eating, but she was mostly concerned that my thyroid medication was not at an adequate level.

My primary care doctor decided to explore this possibility by checking not just TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone, the usual test used by Kaiser) but also T3 and T4, the separate thyroid hormones. She also grilled me on how I was taking the medication: Was I taking it first thing in the morning?  Yes. On an empty stomach with plenty of water?  Yes. With any other medications?  Why, yes… all of my morning meds were being taken together. Wait… you are taking thyroid medication with iron? That’s not good. Iron inhibits thyroid absorption. Take it at a different time of day. Why are you taking iron supplements, anyway?  I’ve done it for years, because I have always been anemic.

Fast forward one day. My primary care doctor frantically calls me to tell me to stop taking iron supplements immediately. Besides checking my hemoglobin level (which shows how much iron is in your blood; under 12.0 gm/dL, you are considered anemic, and mine came in at 12.9), she also ran a serum ferritin test, which shows how much iron is actually stored in your body. Normal serum ferritin levels for adult women, depending on whom you consult, are between 10 to 200 ng/mL. In the past, I’d had results ranging from 10 to 33.  This time, mine was 896.

This is bad. Iron is a heavy metal, and iron overload can basically damage all your major organs, and your body has NO mechanism to rid itself of extra iron, except blood loss. (This is exactly how I had poisoned myself with iron, by continuing to take a daily iron supplement for eight years after having a hysterectomy.)

And what, you may ask, are the most common early symptoms of iron overload? Fatigue and apathy.

I started giving blood the next day, and over the past three months, I’ve gotten my ferritin level down to about 600. At this rate, it will be months before I am back to normal. Will it be a cure for my apathy and lack of energy? It’s hard to say, but at least it will be one possible cause eliminated!

Public service announcement: Even with all this iron in my body, I am still borderline anemic. So if you are taking iron supplements because of anemia, make sure you get regular serum ferritin tests. Just because you don’t have iron in your blood does not mean you don’t have iron elsewhere in your body!

iron by Harald Link / CC BY