My Relationship with Food as a Tool to Keep Me Focused

This piece is more of a rambling narrative. The main ideas are about struggling to focus my mind and how being an intense kind of person can help, but with some complications. Multiple sclerosis can be either the center of my focus or the antagonist that keeps me scattered–sometimes both at once.

How intense am I?

So intense that when push comes to shove, I usually overshoot my target. Then, like Wile E. Coyote, I tumble a$$ over tea kettle across a mesa to land with a hollow thud and a puff of smoke at the bottom of a canyon. What I lack in judgment I make up for in zealous determination.

I was born intense

I was born intense. Imagine a fiercely focused two-and-half-year-old following a rabbit’s tracks in the snow until she becomes utterly lost and has to be carried back home by a policeman. Yep, I did that. And I recalled it to my stunned parents a decade or so ago–an authentic memory, not one they planted in my mind. “How could you possibly remember that,” my mother whispered, “you were two-and-a-half!” Deadly focus and a long memory to boot. If you want to freak out your parents, recall something from before you were school age.

Staying focused is an admirable quality. But I tend to be obsessive. It can take hold of my thoughts and put them on a hamster wheel, depriving me of a full night’s sleep. After several years of this, I gained weight from indulging an insatiable appetite and snoozing during every afternoon.

Eating helped me stay focused

I gained weight because I had to stay focused, and my brain has been very challenged to maintain that focus for extended periods. One way I kept my mind from wandering was to stuff my pie hole with food. It worked. I stayed single-minded and productive and now I’m up in the plus sizes. My bra cup size grew past Z so my sister brought me a sports bra. Now I’m trying to shrink myself back to last year’s size. That takes tremendous focus and self-discipline. Last night I ate an entire DiGiorno thin crust supreme pizza. All I wanted to do was focus on going to sleep. It took a while. Eating, as I’m discovering, is no longer a surefire way to focus.

Now I’m charged with the task of curing myself of those flawed approaches along with finding better ways to keep my thoughts on point. Did I just make extra work for myself? Yuh-huh.

Tapering off prednisone

I should point out (to myself, mostly) that MS has given me a lot of extra work lately, too. I’d been feeling poorly for many months and finally saw my neuro. Three weeks of prednisone and I’m off the taper completely now. After a nice little reprieve from all my MS symptoms in the higher doses, the symptoms have returned along with a new kid on the block: vasculitis, those red splotches on lower legs that appeared along with edema after finishing prednisone. My PCP put me on Lasix to flush out the rest of the fluid before going back to my regular dose of Hctz. The red splotches are fading away and healing on their own, so no treatment for vasculitis is necessary. Good old prednisone. It giveth, it taketh away, and it leaveth a little parting gift that only a prescription drug can treat.

Regular exercise and eating healthier

Where does this leave me? There are several areas that need my attention now. I’m happy to report that I’ve started regular exercise walking three days a week and will begin physical therapy for back pain very soon, too. I’ve cut my calories in half (okay, eating a whole pizza was an unplanned binge) and lost five pounds of water so far. Winter goals are to stay active and continue with calorie reduction.

How will I keep my eye on the ball? I’m not sure but I’ll think of something—right after I finish off this pot of turkey chili.

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