For those of you who don't know me well, or at all, I have a strange diet. People are puzzled when I talk about it. I try to be vague, so I don't have to go into all the details. This week I was dismantled by potato chips. You read that right; potato chips. I had not eaten a single solitary potato chip in three years. Three years! As a former carb addict, if you would have asked me three years ago if that was even possible I would have laughed in your face, probably while shoveling handfuls of cheese and butter covered popcorn in my mouth.
Last weekend I got cocky. I ate two lightly salted Better Made potato chips and they. were. incredible. I felt fine and was SO EXCITED. I waited a few more days, then I had a small handful of those same chips. After a few more days and I stood with the bag at the kitchen counter reveling in the fact that I had had them twice with no repercussions and I went for it. I ate three or four handfuls... an hour later I was folded up like a cheap suit. I was done for. Destroyed. For the rest of that day and the whole next day I was useless and angry. I’m still hurting, but I can at least think straight today.
I've written and rewritten this for the third time now and I feel like it's time I should just let it go. The purpose of this blog is to share experiences. I am a graphic artist, wife, mother, entrepreneur, and a human… I’m human. Do I really need to say that out loud? I think I do. People are inherently imperfect. Today I want to focus on where I came from, as a person, and as an artist; an origin story if you will... Here it is.
I’ve decided thirty four is going to be the best year yet. I’ve never been more comfortable in my skin as I am now. I’ve never been more confident in my skills and ability to speak my truth. I’m ready to push out of my comfort zone. I’m a very private person and an introvert, so writing a blog is scary. I’m also a bit of a control freak. I like to appear a certain way... Put together, even-keeled, on top of life. Some days I do have it all together, but other days I’m a hot mess. Those are the days I don’t like to talk about. I’ve discovered that my experiences are not unique and there’s no reason to hide away my imperfections and struggles, because we all have them. All of us.
They say all great art comes from pain… and though I don’t like to talk about it, I’ve been through kind of a lot, physically. It feels counter-intuitive to even type this because I have never really considered myself “sick” and I come from an amazingly loving, supportive family. I am not here to complain, but this is the truth about me. I don’t feel well a lot more than I care to admit. I was sick a lot as a child and have been riding this roller coaster of ups and downs what feels like all my life.
The reason this is important for me to share is that I have autoimmune issues; more specifically gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). I was diagnosed with GERD at ten years old, after months of traumatic searching for answers. I was diagnosed with HS around fourteen, before it had an actual name. I also have this undiagnosed chronic migrating joint pain, mainly in my hands, that I feel *fingers crossed* might be under control… for the moment. When I have flare ups I’m in pain. When I'm in pain I am crabby and have a hard time focusing. They usually last for a week, sometimes two or three. The worst part is I don’t know what causes them and I don’t know how to fix it. I also refuse to see a traditional doctor anymore. I’m done. I am a fortunate soul that I can survive this way, at this time. I am in no way criticizing anyone who seeks traditional medicine for relief. This is my way to deal, whatever yours is, more power to you.
About three years ago I started the autoimmune paleo elimination diet to see if I could pinpoint foods that cause flare ups. It was not fun, but I did learn a lot and have eliminated the things I know for sure cause flare ups for me. I’m still on that diet for the most part, but was able to add in quite a few more things without issue. I call it the “joy free diet.” I’m grain free, egg free, dairy free, soy free, pork/beef free, legume free… I basically eat chicken, fruits, veggies, nuts, and coconut/olive oil.
I’ve had numerous people comment, “Oh, I could never do that!” or, “I don’t know how you do it!” I’ll tell you right now it is not fun, but pain is the reason I do it. Pain is a great motivator! I reached a point where I hurt every day for weeks and weeks and I didn’t know what else to do. Most of my symptoms are now fairly rare, comparatively, but it’s very hard to travel or be social on any level, because so much revolves around food. It’s also something I hate talking about. I don’t really like talking about myself at all, as I dislike being put on the spot.
Picture being out at a company dinner with your husband and all you can order is a salad, hold the chicken (because cross-contamination is real!) bacon, egg, cheese, and dressing… and you forget your olive oil… Mmm, dry lettuce and some tomatoes that may or may not give you heartburn later! Aaaand cue the questions about my horrifying food choices while the people around me enjoy steak, bacon cheeseburgers, fries, fish tacos, and cocktails. *Sigh* Introvert level: should have stayed home.
So, how is all this relevant to me as an artist and a business owner? Think about how health and food affects you daily. It’s something most people don’t even have to consider. I cook all my meals from scratch and I have to plan ahead for everything. This lifelong journey of seeking better health does not define me, but it is a distinct facet of who I am. It made me feel like a misfit in my youth and it makes me want to opt out of a lot of social situations as an adult.
Beyond the health part of who I am, I’ve always felt like a walking contradiction. I’m really reserved, but also very passionate. I’m both innovative and reflective. I’m very creative and very organized. I’m a total introvert and I also care deeply about people. Art has always been the way I express myself. There is no right or wrong answer in art. It’s not an equation, it’s an emotion. I want to share a painting I did when I was sixteen or seventeen.
When I was a teenager this is what I needed to express. It wasn’t because a boy had broken my heart, or because I was denied the car I always wanted… I created this because this is how I felt. Incomplete, with unanswered questions, and pained. I’m not sharing this because its particularly good (I mean, that forearm is like twice as long as it should be and she hardly has a face…), but because it is an accurate depiction of the heaviness I felt in my teenage years. Art lets me let go of some of the things that weigh me down.
As an adult I don’t feel like this painting anymore. It reminds me of how uncomfortable those years were and I am so grateful for where I am today. I still have days where I feel like my chest is on fire, or I wake from a dead sleep shaking uncontrollably on the inside, or like there are razor blades in my hands, or I have painful cysts that make me not want to move a muscle, or like my mind is clouded by a dense fog… but those days are getting more and more rare. This, along with wanting to be more family focused, is why I started my design sabbatical. I'm not looking for sympathy. I feel like this is a part of me and I don't need to hide it anymore.
When every other part of your life feels like a gift, the bad parts become more tolerable. For now, I’ll keep eating like a crazy person and having intense gratitude for all the good in my life.