I started this month with the intention of focusing wholly on my physical health. Long story short, it hasn’t been going well. Or maybe I should say that it hasn’t been going as I expected.
At the beginning of August, I went to see a nutritionist and began a series of physical therapy appointments. The nutritionist visit was an attempt to get my proverbial shit together when it comes to creating and sticking to a nutrition plan. The physical therapy is for my calves, bound, knotted, and neglected (in what it turns out was considerable pain and lack of mobility) for at least the last four years, if not longer.
My meeting with the nutritionist was pretty cool. It was more like a therapy session where I got to talk about food and only food – what I eat, how I eat, how I grew up eating, what I like and dislike, my attitude towards food, my social and emotional ties to eating, etc. I love food and food culture, so it was a really fun hour. That being said, when we got through talking, the nutritionist essentially told me that I didn’t need her help, I already had a really great diet, I knew what I needed to do and how to do it, and I’d be wasting money if we continued to see each other. It was refreshing and reassuring, but not exactly what I thought I’d be getting.
The nutritionist also set me up with a month-long trial run of a menu planning service that tells me what to eat for every meal, helps plan grocery runs, etc. Turns out that I hate it. It’s not that it’s too difficult, and I don’t mind the recipes. It offers a lot of choice, and I can easily swap out anything that’s too difficult or not suited to my mood or tastes. However, I’ve realized that while I always knew I was a creature of routine, and had absolutely no interest in meal planning or cooking for myself, I also kind of thought that I could change with enough effort. After being set up with all of the opportunities and training, I’m finally realizing that when it comes to cooking, I just don’t want to change. I want to eat simple, no (or little) cook meals of fresh vegetables and simple proteins, and call it a day. My life is so hectic and I have so little free time, and I am never going to be interested in spending 30 minutes prepping a meal I’ll eat in 5 minutes, alone. It’s just not fun or exciting. It’s not practical, and honestly, the simpler the meal, the more I enjoy it. So it’s back to square one with that.
Regarding physical therapy, that’s going very well. It’s a lot more painful than I’d thought it would be, but it’s making me reconsider how my body works, and what constitutes “working.” After an initial assessment, my primary PT determined that I don’t have Achilles tendonitis or tendonosis, which was a huge relief. My problem is simpler, but because I’ve lived with it for years now, it’s going to take a lot of effort to fix it. I’ve been seeing the PT twice a week for the last two weeks, and have another six weeks to go. I do exercises and foam rolling at home every day, then twice a week I go in to work with the PT. On one of those days, my primary PT works on the muscles of my calves, which it turns out were so muscle bound as to just be a series of huge, painful-to-the-touch knots. She either uses a scraper or suction cup to manipulate the muscles and stimulate blood flow, which should eventually contribute to getting the knots (also known as “trigger points“) to release.
On the other visit each week, I visit another PT who dry needles my calves, which is highly unpleasant, but effective. Dry needling uses the same type of needles as acupuncture, but they’re driven in deeper, and applied directly to wherever the knots/trigger points are, and attached to electric current to help stimulate the muscle into contracting, then releasing. I don’t like it, but them’s the breaks. It really works, so I’ll suck it up.
As it turns out, both of my ankles are dangerously weak, as well, so the exercises I do at home and at the PT take into account both ankles and calves. I definitely enjoy the last part of my visits the most – for the last 10 minutes at the office, they strap heating pads to my calves and I do very gentle leg presses. I can already tell a great difference in my legs. There’s a lot less pain when I go on long walks, and I can feel the different muscles in my left calf, which I could not before (it used to just feel like one rock-hard solid thing, which I thought was just being fit, but it turns out that’s not the case, lol).
With my legs being in much worse shape than I’d thought, the entirety of my exercise plan this month has consisted of stretching my calves and strengthening my ankles. I’ve also been working at toning my arms a little, but not nearly enough. One of the primary points of resistance for me thus far has been a lack of sleep, due nearly entirely to my youngest cat, Charlie.
Charlie’s always been a scaredy-cat, living mostly under the bed or couch, and coming out only to make biscuits on my arms or to play fetch. I didn’t connect this behavior to anxiety until earlier in the month, when he started keeping me awake every night with hours of yowling at the top of his lungs. He’d be quiet and well-behaved all night, until it was time to go to bed, when he’d start crying and wouldn’t let up until five or six in the morning. It got to the point where I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night. Ear plugs weren’t resilient enough to drown him out, and no amount of throwing things or yelling at him was helping.
After reading up in excessive meowing at night, and realizing that it was most likely an anxiety issue, rather than a health issue, or an issue of bad behavior, I made some changes in the household. After all, having been diagnosed with anxiety a few years ago, I totally get it. He’s not aiming to be a nuisance, he’s just stuck in a reactionary state, and that’s something we can work on together.
To begin with, based on basic guidelines for how to address excessive meowing, I ended free-feeding, and began setting food out at my bedtime, and picking it up first thing in the morning. Any meows from Charlie were completely ignored, and I’d either turn my head or walk away. No yelling or reacting allowed, ever. I also increased playtime, and bought a variety of new toys, to see if I could find new ways to keep him occupied and active. Most of my purchases have been duds, but my coworker has cats, so I’m just passing anything on that my kids don’t have interest in. So far, most motorized things were either boring (any kind of free-moving ball or things with feathers) or terrifying (Hexbug Scarab and another crawling bug toy, both of which sent Charlie under the bed to hide). The successes have been a basic feather wand, a treat ball, and the puzzle box that all of the cats like for different reasons. I also stuck a regular Hexbug Nano in the puzzle box last night, and that finally got Charlie interested in playing on his own, which I take as a major win.
I’m still waiting on some things to arrive in the mail – mostly a Thundershirt (figured it can’t hurt to try!) and a Feliway diffuser, even though the last time I tried Feliway, it made my middle cat, Munky, more aggressive, so I’m a little apprehensive of that approach. Maybe now that there are three cats in the house, the dynamic will be different, and Munky won’t be an ass. One can hope, anyway.
With all that said, a few days ago I had a great development. One of the things I thought I’d try is a pet anxiety supplement with valerian root, knowing that I have successfully taken valerian for my own anxiety on occasion, and hoping that it might be a good temporary solution for particularly tough nights. It turned out to be a solid option – not only did it help on the very first dose, but the second night, he voluntarily took the supplement without hesitation (by mouth, administered via syringe). I took this as a good sign that it didn’t taste terrible, and made him feel better. On the second night, I woke up in the middle of the night to see him on the bed next to me, cuddling with his brother and giving him kisses. Last night was Night 3, and he was quiet all night, without needing the supplement. This was awesome for me – I slept 10 hours, and felt pretty damn good when I woke up.