Anxiety · mental health · Neurodivergent

The Privilege Of Robyn the Weird

In my opinion, I am a strong and determined person. I see what looks to be true and right to me, and I go for it.

Is this nature or nurture or both? It’s impossible to know. But I can look back at my feelings. I can explore past reactions to my environment. For example, I cannot remember ever trying to dress for other people. As a child, I didn’t think I should have to blend in or to pretend to be like other people.

Autonomy has been an advantage of my upbringing. My parents had very flexible expectations. Clothing just had to be functional. Food was food. We were allowed to eat outside of mealtimes, in fact the kitchen was stocked with snacks we could choose for ourselves. As for entertainment, we were provided with instruments if we wanted to learn. I felt free to develop an interest in any music genre.

We were not pressured to attend church once we were old enough to stay home alone, nor to be baptized. One could argue that this was not guidance enough for children, but I do aknowledge the privilege of being raised by accepting parents.

Another privilege relates to both family and society. I had the privilege of choosing a lifestyle that was generally understood and accepted. I did not want more directionless schooling. I wanted to work. My boyfriend and I decided to marry and work and travel. We viewed the future as wide open! My parents offered to give us a wedding and made the whole experience very special for us.

I have been negatively impacted by society’s expectations of women at times. But thankfully, wonderfully, my family has never limited me by pressuring me to do the chronologically “normal” things. Although we got married at 20, nobody openly assumed that we would follow the common relationship path (destination parenthood, etc.). Now we’re in our 30s, my husband and I are just as happy and even more excited about our life together!

Fail

What I’m trying to say is that I feel grateful. And my gratitude conflicts with the despair I feel as I fail to fit in with a community. Fail. It’s a heavy word, full of trying and wanting and hoping and loss. With each job came a supervisor who looked bemused at my need for clarification. Were my questions so unusual? With each new acquaintance came the rollercoaster: make a plan, open up, answer with too much, answer with too little, go home to collapse from stress, wonder why everything was so hard.

Then, Neurodivergence. (Not the title of a sci-fi film, but the experience of being wired differently from the majority of people.) This was a type, a description, a way of being that fit me. Different forever, from birth to death. And I was not alone! There were adults worldwide living their neurodivergent lives, some with a label and others without. Perpetually anxious, perpetually explaining, often othered, often lonely.

What do you think I did with this realization? I asked myself, what is right and true to me?

No amount of joy in my true self could erase the grief over what could have been had I understood myself sooner. It was unfair! My unintentional mask had sapped my energies, only to barely succeed at appearing normal. And, now what? I had to re-learn what was real and what was forced? I know that many other neurodivergent folks have experienced more pressure and oppression and have much more to grieve than I do. But I am Robyn the Weird so I have to say she deserved much better!

Expectations

Learning is key to this whole “being alive” experience. The longer we’re alive, the more we relax our expectations. Compare a grandparent’s perspective to how that same person viewed the world as a young parent – time made a big difference! The truth is, we could fasttrack the lessons of time by cultivating acceptance. We would need to unite our families and communities with a shared vision that there is no normal. The goal: to foster communication between people who think differently.

Think what would change if employers were prepared to ask what the new hire needed to succeed. Think of the friendships that could grow from asking each other to be authentic, to share their uniqueness, up front.

When I learned to value my neurodivergent brain, my love for myself extended to others. I wanted to understand how others experience life. It is not enough to hit the local coffee chain wearing a plastic smile and exchange the usual social banter. That shouldn’t be enough for anyone.

Open My Eyes

Every time a neurodivergent voice rings out authentically, our world becomes a brighter place. That is, if the world is listening at all. As with any privilege, the neurotypical experience blinds most people to the dangers of social norms. But a disability points out how the world neglects those who are different. In communicating what they need, the neurodivergent population shines a light on what is wrong with society. However, solutions are not simple by any means.

For example, why are so many jobs dehumanizing? Why are so many laws made to benefit the non-disabled and the two-parent family structure? Whose fault is it that there aren’t flexible living arrangements and careers that accommodate health and wellness? Is poverty the default outcome for those who aren’t attaining full-time work with a spouse, children, and a community that understands them?

A person disadvantaged by society needs creative solutions, yet society makes it even more difficult to put those solutions into practice. (Ranty truth, here we go!)

Don’t you agree that flexible jobs and living arrangements that support mental health and wellness would benefit every human being? How could successful employment and improved health not benefit the entire community, the country, everyone?

(Cue the bemused neurotypical wondering what we just did to their perception of normal!)

A Beautiful Trainwreck

So I’m living in the now, unmasking, and processing old experiences anew to understand my truth. There’s pain and clarity. Privilege and disadvantage. It’s a beautiful trainwreck!

I’m looking with fresh eyes at the messages the world sends reeling through the atmosphere: labels are nothing, labels are everything. Change is crucial, change is dangerous. Corporations care and Capitalism keeps the world afloat. Different is wonderful, but not hirable. I could go on, but the overall message is one you all know intimately.

In my privilege, I write a blog for fun and I write emails full-time for one company or another. I have a loving, happy marriage partnership. I have fought for myself to get where I am now.

In my differences, I find strength, joy, humanity, creativity and a hunger for truth. You can find this, too. 1) Understand your disadvantages and your privilege. 2) Grow an interest in the uniqueness of each human’s experience. See, we all have pain in common. Pain leads to action which leads to bettering the world.

Is the world good enough now? If you answer yes, I might suggest you examine your privilege, too.

Thank you for reading! 💜

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Chronic illness · Hope · mental health

Pause For Mental Health

I’m thinking about mental health today. (I’m almost always thinking about mental health.) Anyway, I am almost certain that I have two separate identities: the one that adapts to fight illness, and the innate one.

The Fighter.

The Fighter lacks humor when anxious. Gets jumpy and clings to routine with ferocity. This identity worships efficiency. Stability.

The Fighter connects to specific music, listening on repeat, soothing and ruminating. When depressed, somehow the humor switch flicks and everything can be made funny!

Me.

I can be pretty goofy (understatement). I will always prefer deep, insightful discussions to small talk. (A curious question-asker!)

I care deeply, which is especially difficult when others don’t see that I care. Sensitive people can be strong. I tend to subvert expectations because society’s rules don’t make sense to me.

What does make sense? Being authentic. I never want to hide myself away. That’s why I talk about mental health. I’m a very hopeful person. Always, always trying for better.

Time.

Another entity in my life is Time. When illness flares, time is there too, amplifying loneliness, warping perspectives, until thoughts last decades and hope falls off the edge of the earth. (Wow. That’s dramatic!)

Where did I go?

I’m likely at home, on my couch. I’ve managed to wake, shower, dress, eat and drink. I’ll boot up the PC and take care of work emails. Breathe in, hold, breathe out.

I’m there but not there. It’s The Fighter, taking charge of routine. We’ve got this down to a science. Priorities lined up in a pretty row. Fun podcasts lined up to distract me from those thoughts while I shuffle through mundane tasks.

In the bathroom mirror, I still exist. But personality is a nonissue. We focus on immediate needs, water-drinking, email answering. I am here. (But not really.)

[Pause]

I have attained many strengths because of The Fighter. The stoic face I wear to the doctor’s office, for example. I like to think my innate strengths transfer, too, blending identities. Open and stoic. Strong and vulnerable.

I am introverted, but I hate when mental health takes relationships fully offline. Robyn is out of office, please direct all inquiries elsewhere. The Fighter has never been much into socializing. And I despair. Will friends wait for me?

I constantly apologize for The Fighter. How could anyone be expected to understand? I don’t even understand myself! But I am here, under it all. The anxiety. The stress. The discouragement. The coping mechanisms. The exhaustion.

Robyn The Fighter

Hi. I am here. I battle and I laugh, I nerd out over books and tv shows. And I love my routine!

I love traveling and trying new foods. Making lists and making the same meals. Coffee and Cheerios. Green tea and dark chocolate. Listening to rock music for hours.

I’m the friend who cares about your stresses and emotions, hopes and passions! I never gossip. Give me a break because I’m processing a lot. But I have so much to give.

Please remember me when I am silent. I haven’t forgotten anyone. My life is just on survival mode. Soon, we’ll unpause. We’ll go for a walk, drink coffee, play a board game! When we do, you might see two identities – both survivors, both hilarious, both kind and caring.

That’s where I hope to be. 🖤

Anxiety · Hope · music

The Grounding Of Robyn the Weird

Follow up to The Unmasking Of Robyn the Weird

When I was 4 years old, the kindergarten teacher Frank approached me on the playground. He gazed up, up, up. He smiled and said, “What are you doing up there, Robyn?”

It was a valid question. Why might a child abscond from the herd of children—the implied boundary of the play area—to ascend far above? I didn’t have the words to form a reason.

Was I scared, hiding? No. I wasn’t unhappy, perched like a monkey at the apex of a metal rainbow meant for bigger kids to swing upon. I had found distance there, softened sound. From a distance, the seeming chaos of running, swinging and shouting was reduced to an interesting, complex pattern.

Clumsy

A weakness is an opportunity to test and change oneself. Some say “I shouldn’t” but my favorite question is “why shouldn’t I?” Climb, try, stand up, speak up.

In middle school, I frequently isolated myself while recovering from—or preparing for—sensory overload. Why shouldn’t I be productive with that time? At the age of 13 my balance and coordination were lacking. I tripped – a lot! So, why not walk the wooden borders to the school grounds as practice? Those early mornings before the first bell, I chuckled softly when I could only manage a few steps before my feet slipped off the beam.

Eventually my balance had improved enough that the low beam was boring. Nearby, there was a sort of ladder made up of wooden beams, meant for climbing over. I thought, if I can walk a beam on the ground, I can walk one up there! Why shouldn’t I? So I did. The difficult part was standing upright once I reached the topmost beam. Slowly extending my legs, I took four momentous steps and sprung away to land evenly on my feet. And I thought with a smile, “There, that’s done.”

Head Down

Being looked down upon is incontestably stressful. As the smallest kid in kindergarten, I had had to look up at the faces of my peers. The tallest girl would pat my head and call me Fluffball. I didn’t care about being small, but somehow I knew I was missing something more important than stature—perspective.

A different perspective can be a good thing, however! I gradually realized that I was handling the ascent into adulthood differently, if not better, than some of my peers. Over the years, a handful of individuals would seek me out—vulnerable, heads hanging low—to tell me their fears and secrets. It was baffling. But I sensed I had been chosen, not for what I could say, but for what I wouldn’t say. I listened. In my world, everyone deserved notice. Somehow they knew I’d let them give voice to their pain.

There is a soothing power in removing oneself from the world. Gazing from my second story bedroom window seat, I could sway with the wind in the multitudinous branches, at home in my head.

When The Night Feels My Song

Environmental changes are especially significant for a sensitive teen. Throughout six years of Elementary school, three years of Middle school, then four years of Secondary school, kids contend with all sorts of changes. By the time I was sixteen, my family had moved into town, I’d started at my new school, and my new retreat had become music. The opposite of emotionless silence. The opposite of wind in the trees. My new bedroom had a stereo and speakers, and a ground floor window without a view.

As I struggled to acclimate, I fixated on my radio. (We 90s kids didn’t have iPods.) Losing myself in lyrics helped me deal with the alternating numbness and pain from the seemingly constant stress that had me sinking, sinking, sinking.

I was sixteen, obsessed with rock music, and finding that several hours within school walls grounded me to an uncomfortable extent. Music between classes, before and after school, and into the night could never fully return me to myself before the next day’s assault would begin anew. Anxiety held me in its grasp.

I had always found a way around weakness. What was the way around it this time? As in kindergarten, I found once again I lacked an understanding that everyone else seemed to enjoy. Was I ill-equipped for life? Why was I swimming with sardines when I was not a fish? I was angry and awed by their unity. Meanwhile, I was dying for oxygen.

The Climb

The worst part of the whole experience was I had forgotten myself. Unfamiliar surroundings had distracted me so completely I forgot that I had eyes and feet and the strength to climb. I struggled in vain to follow the crowd. I forgot to ask, why shouldn’t I be happy?

To my horror, my brain could not keep up with the tenth grade classes I’d signed up for. In defeat, I met with the guidance counsellor to rework my schedule. I also quit drumming with the school band because the class had been a disorganized waste of time. I had no idea what I’d prefer to do. My options were limited, anyway. I grudgingly signed up for tenth grade Drama class.

From the raised seats of the auditorium I could survey the foreign environment. The mysteriousness of a tall-curtained stage, waxed to a gleam. A scattering of tenth graders, in various states of sociability. Maybe…maybe the next part of my story wouldn’t be so very bad.

Why shouldn’t I find friends? Why shouldn’t I perform a monologue? Why shouldn’t I enjoy ice breaking games with new people? None of the usual expectations mattered here, such as note-taking or writing tests. Unlike my teachers during their frantic lessons, an actor on the stage held the full attention of the room. That was the rule. A very good rule.

Why shouldn’t I take self-led courses through online learning? I guess if I’d never dropped courses, I’d never have been offered the option of the cool, quiet room lined with computers where I could study and take quizzes as soon as I was ready. I felt such control, and such relief that I wasn’t failing again!

The World I Love

I felt like I had suddenly woken up taller and sharper, able to see clearly how the current had nearly crushed me. As I traversed the swarming halls to the auditorium, warmth swelled in my chest. New friends grinned back at me. Here was my higher ground.

How much have I really changed since I was a tiny creature unafraid of height or weakness? In adulthood, every questioning voice triggers inevitable shame. The weight of self-doubt never fully vanishes. And yet, why shouldn’t I be true to myself?

My hope is that I—present day Robyn—have more in common with the girl on the playground than the teen drowning her pain. Unmasking my sensitive yet bold personality may turn out to be a lifelong process! Nevertheless, I realize that belonging feels different for each person. As I open up about my pain, there is a new hope. I find myself growing to trust, to allow others to trust me in return.

Why shouldn’t we find family in each other? Why shouldn’t I share my struggles, so others feel less alone? That’s why I am here right now. With me, you too can unmask. There are no expectations or pressures to be anything you don’t want to be. Can you feel that weight lift?

Thank you for reading! 💙 ~ Robyn the Weird

If you enjoyed this post let me know. You may also enjoy the playlist that helped inspire me. (If not, let me know which music represents your transformative experiences!) 🎶

  • Black Hole Sun ~ Soundgarden
  • Head Down ~ Soundgarden
  • When the Night Feels My Song ~ Bedouin Soundclash
  • Walls Fall Down ~ Bedouin Soundclash
  • Clumsy ~ Our Lady Peace
  • 4am ~ Our Lady Peace
  • Nothing to Lose ~ Billy Talent
  • River Below ~ Billy Talent
  • Pain ~ Jimmy Eat World
  • The World You Love ~ Jimmy Eat World
  • The Climb ~No Doubt
  • Different People ~ No Doubt
  • Hysteria ~ Muse
  • Time is Running Out ~ Muse
  • Gone Away ~ The Offspring
  • (Can’t Get My) Head Around You ~ The Offspring
  • Fall Back Down ~ Rancid
  • Timb Bomb ~ Rancid
  • Silver And Cold ~ AFI
  • Girl’s Not Grey ~ AFI
  • All Apologies ~ Nirvana
  • On A Plain ~ Nirvana
  • Little Sister ~ Queens of the Stone Age
  • No One Knows ~ Queens of the Stone Age
  • Dosed ~ The Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • The Zephyr Song ~ The Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Chop Suey! ~ System Of A Down
  • Toxicity ~ System Of A Down
  • Sugar, We’re Goin Down ~ Fall Out Boy
  • Dance, Dance ~ Fall Out Boy
  • Like a Stone ~ Audioslave
  • Get Free ~ The Vines
  • C’mon C’mon ~ The Von Bondies
  • Steady, As She Goes ~ The Raconteurs
  • Nothing Else Matters ~ Metallica
  • 1979 ~ The Smashing Pumpkins
  • The Diary of Jane ~ Breaking Benjamin
  • Motivation ~ Sum 41
  • Jaded ~ Aerosmith
  • Combat Baby ~ Metric
Health · Hope · Recipes

Eating, et cetera (Part 3)

Sugar or spice

I’m such a paradox. I happily eat the same breakfast almost every day (Cheerios and a banana). But I also adore new textures and flavors! The sense of taste is very connected to feeling safe. Comforted. Conversely, strange foods, whether subtle or strong, can draw us outside ourselves.

Your relationship with food inevitably effects every other relationship in your life. Do you chase new experiences? Do you share openly? Are you contently set in your ways? Are you afraid? Or, worst of all, have you quit caring?

Today

I feel awful. I mean, I’m okay. But something is off in me today, and food won’t fix it. Sometimes that happens, you know? Caffeine doesn’t jolt. Breakfast won’t satiate. My head spins despite a full night of sleep. 😥

Enjoyment comes second to fuelling my lethargic legs and arms! It’s okay, on days like today, to eat what I can. In my head, I repeat: “You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t even need to stay awake. You can drive to the store and buy the things. Or not.”

I think about blending up some salsa, but “meh.”

I play some Harvest Moon in which I “bake” a “Legendary Peach Pie”.

Then I remember that scrambled eggs are a thing! I scramble up those eggs, stir and season, then throw some chopped avocado and hot sauce on top. That will do. 😂

This counts as baking, right?

A mild crisis 🌶

Eggs are a perfect example of how important spices are to food! Through my fragmented thoughts, I am 100% aware that without generously applied ground pepper and a light salting, these eggs will be nothing. A total non-experience! So, even though I just want my stomach to stop growling, I make that effort.

I’m 33 years old. Jordan and I were married about 13 years ago. I had my “safe foods”, of course. And Jordan had not been used to much variety, himself. One breakfast food we would both enjoy was scrambled eggs!

Only, we couldn’t cook them. In hindsight there were two problems: 1. No non-stick frying pan 2. and no idea how to season food.

Honestly, where was this lesson in home economics class? 😲

My attempts at ground beef were just as iffy. Do you know what beef tastes like without enough salt? Uh…feet. Seasoning matters!

I didn’t give up! 🌶🌶

Who needs spice?

Answer: everyone.

At many points over the years my cooking skills have taken dramatic leaps forward! For example, actually salting the beef and buying that non-stick skillet! And then, there was the realization that I could no longer depend on spice mixes from the grocery store. See, in many of those mixes, staple ingredients are garlic and onion powder. These are yikes for my IBS. No, thanks. 😑

So I invented my own “taco seasoning mix”, specifically established to enliven the taste of ground beef! I started with, yes, salt. Ground black pepper was also very important for the “bite” required! What else? I had recently discovered cumin, and I added paprika too, for good measure (and for the color!) Now, to concoct the perfect blend.

A miracle in a jar!

It was… delicious! On that very day I discovered an intuition in the kitchen I had never felt before. This was a few years before I progressed to hot sauce, but it was the very beginning of my true relationship with spice. ☺️

Jordan and I have both progressed over the years to appreciate new and exciting seasonings and sauces—but those are many other stories.

Handle your spice 🌶🌶🌶

We recently discovered air fryers, so chicken wings are now a crucial (and spicy) part of our lives! 😋

I’ve learned a lot about myself through day-to-day cooking. I’ve learned that avocados are frenemies. I’ve learned that all vegetables taste good if you don’t over-cook or under-season ‘em. And I’ve learned that I am willing to handle raw chicken…if the resulting dish packs a little heat!

Venturing into the unknown.

I feel this message about eating can’t be emphasized enough: we are meant to love food! Everything that matters is linked to eating: community and family, performance and endurance, adventure and culture.

Allow yourself to look for the spice in your life. You deserve more than bottled sweetness with a pithy brand name! Demand everything from food—and from life.

Thanks for reading Eating, et cetera (Part 3)! 🖤

You might also like Eating, et cetera Part 1, Part 2, or My non-illness: IBS.

Chronic illness · Health · Hope

Eating, et cetera (Part 2)

It’s Sunday morning and I want pancakes. With strawberries. Yum, and coffee! I can feel fireworks in my brain just thinking about breakfast! It is sweet, satisfying, stress-free deliciousness.

In the past I couldn’t always enjoy breakfast. I guess that’s why I appreciate it now more than any other meal! It has been a long road to where I am now.

Eating, or Not

I didn’t have many “safe foods” as a teenager. See, when most food bloats you up like a balloon, it’s just not in your best interest to eat before going out into public!

One option I could work with was plain oatmeal (with no milk). That’s about it. Sugary foods made me feel terrible on the long bus ride to school. So, as my siblings downed cereal or a meal replacement shake, I microwaved oats and forced them down.

Fast-forward ten years or so and I was still suffering. Worse, I was limited to a narrow diet called a “cleanse” to “detox the gut environment”. I hated food. I hated mornings. I hated being in my body.

Food that feels good should taste good

At least this horrible cleanse introduced me to a new concept: protein for breakfast. Specifically, eggs and vegetables. At this point I honestly didn’t much care about taste. Even so, I desperately needed a reprieve from the same old flavors.

My salvation was found in a quinoa and berry bowl! Some days this was my breakfast and lunch. I loved the berries. The quinoa could be made in batches and taken to work for lunch. Best of all, it seemed to appease my turbulent innards. The combination of fibre, protein, fat and a dash of cinnamon – well, it tasted like hope!

These days, “cleanses” and “diets” are long, long past. Good riddance! I no longer dread breakfast. Still, eggs and oatmeal can be a little dull. Enter my next new breakfast breakthrough!

Sweet Strawberry Life

It’s Sunday morning and I want pancakes. Wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pancakes. Impossible? Nope! I found this on Pinterest of all places! Pinterest pancakes. ❤️

When a dainty breakfast won’t cut it, this miracle of a meal takes under 10 minutes, smells amazing and pairs beautifully with every topping: fruit, nut butter, chocolate, cinnamon, or berries and vanilla!

Has anyone else out there had an epiphany about something so common as breakfast? Have you felt the excitement of discovering the perfect low-cost recipe? Ever been awakened to the lies of diet culture and felt truly free?

Freedom

As for me, it has been rare to scent sweetness in the air knowing that smell was for me. Bakeries? Not for me. Breakfast bars were never for me. Party food? No, again. This single recipe freed me. I became aware of hope and possibility!

Although self-care is a popular term these days, the road is long to freedom from all the ingrained beliefs about healthy living. It was only a few years ago I taught myself that I deserve deliciousness every single day. Who knows what I’ll be determined to deserve next!

How about you?

Thanks for reading! 🖤 If you enjoyed this post, check out Eating, et cetera or My Non-illness: IBS.

Health · Recipes · Tips

Eating, et cetera

A new series about my relationship with food, my experiences, and a dose of humor!

Do you know how to pinpoint your favorite food of all time? I’ll tell you. Live with IBS for most of your life. Once you fear eating anything beyond the most simple foods, take note which dish you’d actually risk horrible pain for! Mine is salsa and chips.

“Even now, I hold on to fears. I perseverate about what, when, and how to eat. The act of planning, preparing, then eating can be too much at times.”

Can I still…like food?

I’ve previously written about my discovery of ‘Low-FODMAP’ to manage my IBS symptoms, which led to my discovery of pain-free eating. From that first moment of freedom I was fully convinced eating certain “high-FODMAP foods” would never again be worth the pain!

Except, what about my favorite food? Chips and salsa! I’ve always loved tomato-based sauces. Salsa with tortilla chips was the absolute best snack, in my opinion! Unfortunately, do you know what most sauces have in common? Garlic and onion ingredients. (Which I would now prefer to wear around my neck rather than to consume!) 🧄🧅🧄

New mission: create a delicious salsa that adds spice to life and is quick to make! Do you see where I’m going with this? I made the salsa. 😋 I know, it’s awesome! Fresh salsa is always tastier than processed jars from the store, and this could be cheaper, even healthier! 👌

Tummy grumbles

I have three states: 1) not hungry, 2) grumbly tummy, or 3) hypoglycaemic! Haha, it’s silly…but also true. 😅

There is a reason that quick is key. Sometimes I feel suddenly snack-y! On a serious note, my history living with IBS has resulted in a turbulent relationship with food. The queues that should tell me I’m hungry are still difficult for me to decipher.

Even now, I hold on to fears. I perseverate about what, when, and how to eat. The act of planning, preparing, and then eating can be too much at times. This is why I accumulate quick, simple, delicious recipes – for those days when I am desperate for something wholesome. Here’s the very first one!

Snack-y Salsa 🌶

Makes 4 cups of low-FODMAP salsa, great for dipping chips, for tacos, or as a salad topping!

Ingredients

  • 28 oz canned whole tomatoes
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • (at least) 1 Cup chopped green onion (greens only)
  • (at least) 1/2 Cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Habanero pepper, chopped
  • (at least) 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • (at least) 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin

Important notes

  • Ensure canned tomatoes are unseasoned.
  • A smaller pepper will be spicier! Remove all seeds and the white from inside pepper, then add to mix in small amounts to achieve desired spiciness.
  • Sample freshly blended salsa using a chip, and wait a few moments to gauge the heat. You can always add more seeds and/or ground pepper spice it up.
  • Best if allowed to refrigerate for a day.
  • If you prefer thicker salsa, leave some tomato juice aside (however, salsa will thicken as it refrigerates).

Directions

  • Wash all ingredients
  • Add tomatoes to blender
  • Squeeze lime wedges, add juice to blender
  • Chop cilantro (include stems for a stronger flavour)
  • Add chopped cilantro to blender
  • Chop green onion
  • Add chopped green onion to blender
  • Cut habanero in half, removing whites and seeds
  • Dice habanero
  • Add habanero to blender (See note)
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching pepper and seeds
  • Add salt, ground pepper and cumin
  • Blend for 20-30 seconds, taste test for heat.
  • Pour into sealable container and refrigerate.

Tips

  • Cilantro won’t stay fresh for long. After washing, it can be frozen in containers (with a sprinkling of water).
  • To remove strong flavors from your blender: Chop a whole lemon. Add with a cup of water to your blender. Blend, then empty and wash blender.
  • Add fresh chopped ingredients before serving, such as avocado or bell pepper!

What do you think? Ready for a party (at home, in front of a great Gilmore Girls episode)? I thought so!

Life, et cetera

I am starting this blog series because too many people feel alone in dealing with their mistrust of food. No one should feel alone. We eat for fuel every single day! The way we eat should indicate a healthy view of ourselves: that we deserve what’s good for us. We deserve to feel great! 😊

I’m going to prove to you that you only need a few very simple steps to thrive. Start by figuring out what your very favorite food is, and make it work for you!

Thank you for reading! 💙

Anxiety · Hope · Thoughts

Checking In

It is the first week of September 2021 and I really want to write something! September is my favorite month of the year. I’m not a fan of summer, to be honest. Autumn is a glorious relief! 🍁

Problem: I have plenty of ideas for blog posts, but none that I really want to delve into right now. I poured a lot of myself into my last few blog posts and I might still be recovering emotionally.

Anxiety

Last week I caught a cold. I used my CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) toolkit to manage the anxiety over feeling ill (and getting worse). My doctor recommended a test for the COVID-19 virus and I tested negative a day and a half later. Whew!

I talked to my therapist on the phone for the first time in a couple years. I just needed to hear someone acknowledge all the internal work I’d been doing. I try to self-encourage, but there’s no replacement for the real thing: encouragement from someone who knows me well and can see how far I’ve come. 😊

Lifestyle

Currently, my favorite way to get out of the house is to download a podcast to fit my mood and take a walk around the block! If it’s cloudy, I’ll go out for sure. If it’s sunny… well, maybe with a little sunblock and baseball cap and sunglasses I’ll feel safe to venture out.

A little inspiration, a little fangirling, and a lot of comedy!

I’ve been working on expanding my ideas of nutrition and “safe” food. For example, I love Ketchup! But, anytime I eat it, a string of thoughts disparage my choice: “You don’t need Ketchup. You know it’s mostly sugar. And high fructose. If you get gut pain, it’s your fault for adding Ketchup!” Who could enjoy a meal with that voice in their head? 😝

I recently learned that it’s actually detrimental to cut a food type from the diet, especially if it’s a broad group like fructose (a FODMAP type). So, fructose-containing Ketchup, you are now an important and valued part of Robyn’s meal plan! I also like to mix Ketchup with hot sauce for a spicier hybrid, or with soy sauce for a saltier option.

Music

I hope that one day I will write poetry as powerful as Imagine Dragons! Their new album was released just in time to carry me through. Because I feel sad, I need music to remind me who I am at my core. Because I am preoccupied, I need to sit here and feel safe.

It’s okay to be not okay

It’s just fine to be out of your mind

Breathe in deep, just a day at a time

‘Cause it’s okay to be out of your mind

It’s Ok (Mercury Act 1) —Imagine Dragons

I have been thinking about getting my electronic drum kit back from my dad who borrowed it a while back, before we moved. Writing The Unmasking Of Robyn the Weird took me back to times when drumming was the only secure point in my universe. I want that again. Plus, Jordan has always loved that I’m a drummer! 🎶

The Future

Right now I am camped out on my cozy couch, with Spotify, Harvest Moon: Light Of Hope for Nintendo Switch, and Sweet Magnolias (that’s a great binge-watch, btw)! It is a safe space.

Three South Carolina women, best friends since high school, shepherd one another through the complexities of romance, career, and family.

However, from my current perspective, ideas for the future seem way too distant. My future looks like nature walks with my husband Jordan, visiting nieces and nephews, and trips to the movie theatre. How can we have faith that the future is on its way, when the present feels so very stagnant and dreary? I don’t know, friends. I don’t know.

Good News

Okay, first of all, I have set spiritual goals! I’m really excited to build a new prayer routine and read the bible, meditating on our loving creator. Nothing can warm my entire being like joining a Zoom call and recognizing that we’ve all shown up as a congregation to worship God and to support one another! ❤️

I’ve been reading just fantastic books lately! Young adult adventures, with happy(ish) endings, and imaginative fantasy worlds! The latest has been The Tethering by Megan O’Russell! Book two, The Siren’s Realm had the desperate sweetness of J.K. Rowling’s Prisoner Of Azkaban. I know, because I had to stop a while – you don’t move on to Goblet of Fire without a breather, am I right?

For autumn, I am excited about rainy days watching You’ve Got Mail and Gilmore Girls. Maybe taking walks with friends. Maybe new dinner recipes. The next book on my Kindle, the latest podcast episode, and the next Friday book club discussion!

I really, really want to be okay. I want you all—friends and family and anyone out there in Internet-land—to be okay. For now, okay could be enough. It’s not forever, and someday we’ll even be wonderful again!

Love,

Robyn the Weird 💙

Anxiety · Chronic illness · Health · Isolation

My Non-illness: IBS

2016 – a big year for health and hope!

Do you know what’s exciting? New advancements in health care for women! I have recently been listening to podcasts with a focus on mind and body wellness. It is fascinating to put my own experiences into the context of modern health care. 😃

Clearly, I’ve been inspired! A few weeks ago, I bravely decided to listen to an interview about IBS in women, and I was shook. It was the first time I had ever so thoroughly identified with a shared health experience. ❤️

From the beginning, my intention for this blog has been to speak authentically. It is terrifying to lay out my secrets. 😬 Yet, if a podcast about eating issues can unite hundreds of people, I am left wondering why we tend to be so secretive about such universal struggles!

IBS: The Surprising Long Game on Women’s Health Unplugged (April 17, 2020)

In this episode, two Naturopathic doctors speak about the struggle for treatment, management, and quality of life for IBS sufferers. While I listened I discovered terminology that changed everything that I had taken for granted about chronic illness. 😲

Here are five terms that have transformed my perspective on my own health situation: “Living with IBS”, “flare up”, “healing”, “self-advocacy”, and “gut-brain connection”.

Not Healthy

1 “Living with IBS”

What this means: We are not defined by our illness or our symptoms. We are not recovering, nor are we diseased. We are experiencing ongoing health issues. But IBS will not be allowed to engulf the whole person.

I had always hesitated to identify myself as someone living with IBS. Firstly, my symptoms had been downplayed and normalized for many years. Hiding them was a habit. Secondly, IBS wasn’t a treatable syndrome. It was a constant in my life, but with difficult to explain triggers and inconstant symptoms. It was an unruly, unmanageable non-diagnosis.

There are other reasons I fear sharing about this topic. My own symptoms are uncommon, or, shall I say, not stereotypical? I am in pain, but able to hide it. I suffer, but without necessarily experiencing a disability. I have had a constant, unspeakable struggle.

Description from Monash University FODMAP Diet APP

In my own experience, I‘m untreatable. Now, I am aware that 13-20% of Canadians are affected by IBS. Even so, no one I knew could relate to my experience. It was incredibly isolating.

“It’s just this vicious circle that keeps happening where food is terrifying.”—Women’s Health Unplugged, Dr. Jordan Robertson, ND

Not Hopeless

The trajectory of IBS is complex! In women, it usually manifests after puberty. Gut symptoms can fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. Unsurprisingly, allergists sent me away. My G.P. sent me away, as blood panels came back normal albeit iron deficient. A G.I. specialist sent me home with a page of IBS tips such as, “eat fibre” and “drink peppermint tea”. 🙄

It was my lowest point. I couldn’t trust my body’s pain signals. I couldn’t trust hunger signals, thirst signals, elimination signals. Most frighteningly of all, I couldn’t trust my doctor to earnestly listen to me.

It was my third doctor who would actually provide me with a possible solution. She never once accused me of unbalanced eating or exaggerating. Instead, she told me that her IBS patients had benefitted from the elimination of specific foods which feed bacteria, called FODMAPs. This process would be moderated by a local dietician.

In January of 2016, I was connected with a dietician for the first time. I was already feeling hopeless. But the results changed everything for me! The hospital dietician walked me through testing for food triggers, building a functional diet, and the use of resources that empowered me to support my health! 😊

While the elimination-challenge process was difficult, avoiding trigger foods resulted in radical relief from pain. But improved digestion was only half of my transformation. The other half was an emotional and mental recognition that the pain had never been my fault.

“I simply do not believe health means that you can’t eat food. I think that everyone should be able to eat food without pain.”—Dr. Kim Bretz, ND

Not Healing

2 “Flare up”

Definition: A sudden appearance, or increase in severity, of symptoms related to a known condition.

Why is this an encouraging term? It is liberating because it defies society’s expectation that illness has a beginning, middle and end!

A flare up could mean pain, exhaustion, or any symptom that is worsening. It could mean a series of events, such as recurring migraines. In discussing chronic illness, this language is key to avoid incorrectly attributing symptoms to lifestyle, foods or infections, rather than to the illness itself.

My visible suffering only offers the smallest glimpse into my life with an ever-present condition.

3 “Healing”

Let’s redefine healing! It should be a hopeful word, radiating positivity! But how can it be so if it only applies to illnesses with a cure?

Any illness can be devastating. But incurable (or chronic) illness is vastly overlooked and misunderstood. This is why it is crucial to look at healing differently.

“Healing is not linear.” Life is full of struggles for which there is no absolute solution or cure. Chronic illness is always present, to a smaller or a larger degree. We adapt and keep on going.

My definition of healing: The goal is to function, to eat normal foods without pain or social consequences. To have a good relationship with food. To better understand my body.

A note I wrote to remind myself that healing is about more than medicine.

Not Helpless

4 “Self-advocacy”

Definition: “The ability to articulate one’s needs and make informed decisions about the support necessary to meet those needs.”–NDC

I was born with digestive issues, so I never really had a normal state of health with which to compare pain or distress. To make the situation worse, IBS sufferers may have increased sensitivity to gut discomfort. Professionals often see no obvious cause of distress.

Healing is impracticable without a trusted medical professional. To find such support, we must self-advocate. Sadly, this can be challenging for many reasons, including a lack of resources and health knowledge.

Additionally, sexism has played a dangerous role in mismanagement of this relatively common syndrome. The Patriarchy (systemic sexism) perpetuates the myth that men do not complain about pain, and women are too easily overcome by pain. Women’s health has been under-researched due to the traditional belief that women function primarily to birth children. Both sexes have suffered under these pernicious untruths.

5 “Gut-brain connection”

Definition: “Your gut and brain are connected physically through millions of nerves, most importantly the vagus nerve. The gut and its microbes also control inflammation and make many different compounds that can affect brain health.”—Healthline.com

“We are in this symbiotic relationship with the bacteria, which means that we provide them with a house and food, and then they take that food and turn it into gases and chemicals that change how we function as human beings.”—Dr. Jordan Robertson, ND

You might have experienced, as I have, that a bacterial imbalance in the gut will coincide with anxiety and nerve sensitivity! There are also many ways that our lifestyle affects our gut health. Stress from overwork, illness, and dangerous dieting are just a few examples.

My aim is to become literate in the body’s interconnections. Lesson one: Symptoms are never “only in your head” – or your gut! 😁

With newfound understanding of IBS comes new hope, in the form of:

  • Sensitivity management (including stress and environmental factors)
  • Trigger management (meal planning)
  • Mental health support (already a part of my life and routine)
  • Lifestyle management (balance in everyday activities including employment)

In conclusion…

During a global pandemic (and my podcast binge), I have had a shocking epiphany! 😅 Here it is.

Others often see us through glasses tinted by their expectations, experiences and biases. But that doesn’t mean we should keep the truth to ourselves. The opposite is true: Sharing about a unique personal experience strengthens everyone around us!

Isolation weakens us. As a society, how else are we isolated in silence? For that matter, what else might we be taking for granted as just another painful part of life as a woman? Speaking up is essential to standing firm, against illness or any other obstacle.

How can you speak up?

I value the good days, I’m strong through the hard days.

Thank you for reading and commenting. ❤️

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like 5 Crucial Truths About Medical Care and The Unmasking Of Robyn The Weird.

Anxiety · Chronic illness · Health · Tips

5 Crucial Truths About Medical Care

I have had health issues from childhood. I’ve looked back many times, wondering how it could have been so difficult to be heard, treated, healed.

I lost respect for doctors, lost hope in medical treatment, and lost trust in myself. I even stopped self-advocating at times, and just survived day to day.

Healing

I’ve recently overcome some great hurdles! I have released my shame. It is not shameful to hurt, nor to seek help. I can say aloud: I live with IBS! I’ve hidden it, hated it, and even hated myself. The craziest part is knowing that mental health is intimately connected to gut health— no wonder I’ve had problems!

If the doctors failed me, my education failed me even more. It failed us all. There was no map to navigate the boundaries of medical care. I like to believe we’re trying to remedy this as a country by teaching the next generation self-care and health awareness!

So, to do my part for health education, here are my five biggest takeaways from my 32 years of experience. I hope someone out there finds this encouraging! ❤️

Health Matters

#1. No two people are the same!

How do I know? It’s even evident in children. Energy levels and appetites vary. It’s normal for kids to run at different speeds. Unfortunately, despite natural differences, kids are pitted against each other in the classroom to encourage obedience, performance and learning.

When is this a bad thing? When children don’t know to say: I hurt. I can’t focus. I can’t eat this. Being different is seen as a failure to fit in with peers. Communication and self-awareness have two strikes against them from the very beginning!

Medicine deals in averages, but in reality any course of treatment that works for one person may not work for another! This leads to my second lesson.

#2. Simple answers to health and wellness do not exist.

Most of us are so disconnected from what wellness feels and looks like that we are unlikely to recognize an issue when it first appears.

It always seemed to me that doctors were only there for the big questions. And they were presumed to have infallible scientific procedures to diagnose illnesses. The reality is that science and technology are constantly evolving, which means that medical care is complex and changeable.

Ideally, a healthy person should have a relationship with their physician wherein they consult on any change in life that affects their wellness. This is the only way to truly pursue health.

Tip: Everyone wants to exploit your need for health care. So move cautiously! If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Evidence-based medicine is the best bet.

#3. Everyone needs a health vocabulary.

There are plenty of words to describe healthy and unhealthy mental and physical states. Have you ever visited the doctor and not known how to describe why you were there? I’m sure it’s a common scenario! Unfortunately, educating the public is a low priority for the health care system, so we must educate ourselves.

For years I didn’t know anxiety was a normal feeling. I didn’t know how to describe stress, loneliness, or sadness when these became disruptive to my life. Mental health is a concept that changed my life for the better! Everyone should be taught to recognize signs of illness, and to talk about health.

Why didn’t our parents teach us how to talk about our health? Honestly, I doubt that our mothers and grandmothers were ever taught to listen to their own bodies, much less to talk about body functions. Most health questions were probably answered by unqualified family members!

#4. We know ourselves best.

Doctors know the medicine. We know what feels right in our bodies. We often believe we have no choice but to accept treatment offered by the first doctor we see. Fortunately, having access to the Internet means we can consult reputable web pages for treatment protocols and bring these up with our doctors.

Our lifestyle, our emotional state, and our investment in recovery all influence the treatment’s success. Sometimes, we may even say “no thank you” to a treatment. Why? Our concerns are just as important as the listing of symptoms when selecting a treatment options. We may wish to try alternative treatments prior to taking drastic steps such as surgery or medication. A good doctor takes our wishes into account—always.

Tip: Tell the doctor you’ll be back. When I was assigned to a new G.P., I had been waiting almost a year. When I began to explain my health situation, she immediately cut me off! I was choked. But I subsequently explained that I was ready to come back as many times as it took to find answers. After that, she always listened to me.

#5. Disability and illness are not inspirational stories.

We read so many stories about the cheerful perseverance of terminally ill patients, or about people living with disabilities. The reality is that suffering causes irritability, fear, loneliness and depression.

People living with disability might use a mobility device, but a disability can also be invisible. They may be healthy, or they may be living with illness. Either way, we all need to learn that disability is a way to be human! It certainly doesn’t exempt the person from the most human of experiences in life.

When a person strives for a balanced, fulfilling life they are not “being inspiring”—they are being human. Many people choose to share encouraging success stories, and that’s okay. But when health issues are viewed only as inspirational, we devalue the human experience.

As a kid with health issues, I thought to myself, “I’ll be kind and helpful, and have a fulfilling life.” But time spent on treatments got to me. I hated having to tell other people why I couldn’t do things. And when I couldn’t be an “inspiring” person, my self-esteem dipped low.

Self-advocacy is key.

Do you practice mindfulness? Children can learn this—in fact, the younger the better! We give ourselves a giant advantage in life when we habitually take stock of our emotions, our thought patterns and our body’s signals.

A deep knowledge of our personal traits can ground us during future struggles. We can then use our strong sense of identity to advocate and to defend our needs with medical professionals and with our own family!

Ultimately, the goal is a balanced life. Doctors should always be willing to help us get to the point where our lives are balanced. Even if we haven’t been balancing nutrition and exercise, this does not disqualify us from asking for medical assistance. Struggling to socialize, to get out of bed, to cook meals, to take even a short walk outdoors – these are legitimate health concerns.

I really wish I had known these things long ago, but I’m so glad to know them now! As a self-advocate, I believe we all deserve help from professionals who have studied human health and medicine. You deserve to ask for help and to receive it. 🖤