Sat with Nat

Ah yes, there it is, the melancholy!

People who don’t know me well are often surprised to learn I have a history of depression and struggle with anxiety. I’m so friendly! I do lots of things and appear to others as fearless, brave…all kind of qualities I don’t actually have but no one seems to notice.

It’s been a grey week with a near constant drizzle and snow mix. Ugh. I’m not sleeping great these days and my partner is on the road 25-50% of the time. Wha-wha-whaaaaaa

Ah yes, there it is, my late fall melancholy. It’s not snowy enough to do winter activities and not warm enough to do other things. Everything is damp. Bleck.

I know the solution is rest, some exercise, some hobby stuff and spending time with friends and family.

So I’m continuing to walk to work, go to yoga once a week and occasionally spin on my bike.

I’ve been stretching and rolling my legs and feet as I deal with plantar fasciitis. I joking posted this picture of rollers and balls for massaging body parts quipping “I use to spend my money on sex toys!”

The picture is looking down at a hardwood floor that displays a large knobby foam roller, a thin rollin pin style roller, and a couple spikey balls

Ah yes, the joys of keeping flexible can help keep the melancholy at bay.

My partner has stopped drinking coffee so we’ve gotten a little cast iron teapot and fancy loose teas. We take a moment and sit on the couch facing each other, legs intertwined and talk about our day while sipping tea.

One of the more ridiculous things I did was get this silly Santa duvet cover for my bed. I’m sure his little open mouth is supposed to say “Ho, ho, ho!” But to me he’s saying OH!

A thin white fabric has stylized trees and Santa’s with red, teal, green and brown tress, presents and sleighs. It looks cheap and tacky and that makes Natalie love it more.

The other usual stressors are in my life: paid work, my last university course and parenting.

However, as one of my friends reminded me, I am doing great despite it all because I have a wonderful support network.

I know my impulse is to withdraw when I’m feeling low but I can always rely on friends replying to plans to get together.

Here’s to a December I hope to remember as a positive one.

injury · Sat with Nat · weight stigma

Nat grapples with plantar fasciitis

It started as a dull ache in the summer around the rim of my left heel. It culminated in me limping home 2 weeks ago from work. Did I take the bus? Oh heck no!

So, first, this is a self diagnoses as I am actively avoiding my family doctor after my last visit. Why? I had gone in to talk about my hay fever and how it has aggravated my snoring.

The doctor recommended gastric bypass surgery. I’d never heard of that to treat hay fever before!

I spoke with my Gran, who weighs 80lbs, and she laughed. Apparently she, as her father before her, is a very loud snoring human. As is my dad (her son).

Anyway, no way am I going to see my family doctor about anything correlated to weight gain unless it’s drastic.

So after much research on the Internet and speaking with many friends I’m quite confident self-help options are going to help me recover.

I really liked the detail and approach in this article about stretching, yoga and things that help & aggravate symptoms.

  • Things that have definitely helped:
    • Over the counter insoles
      Calf stretches
      Rolling a hard ball on the bottom of my foot
      Commuting in running shoes
      Yoga postures that flex & stretch my calves & feet
      Cycling inside on my trainer
    You can see Natalie’s legs stretched out in front of her. She has a yoga belt around the balls of her feet pulling her foot up to 90 degrees, stretching her calves and feet.
    Couch time is a great time to stretch those calves & get!

    It’s taken me a while to get in this much pain so I know it will be a while to recover. Thinking back over the past year I have had a few changes that would exacerbate plantar fasciitis:

    • started commuting with a full backpack
    • stopped doing other activities
    • wore older footwear even when my feet started bothering me
    • Ignored my early symptoms
    • Doubled my walking distances by canvassing
    • Gained some weight

    So, if you start to get that ring of fire around your heel, please, don’t be a Nat! Get checked out by a healthcare provider, try some self help options and talk to friends & family. You may not need to wince in agony for long.

    Sat with Nat · walking

    Fitness & Politics

    I’m finishing up my very last course in my BA. FINALLY!

    It’s a 3rd year course on women & politics that looks at many aspects of women’s participation. I’ve dabbled in politics over the past 15 years, as a campaign volunteer and even once tried to be a federal candidate.

    It’s municipal election time in Ontario, Canada and I was helping a friend on his campaign with door to door canvassing. Yes, folks still walk around knocking on doors and dropping off information about candidates.

    Four smiling humans wearing bright green t shirts standing on a sidewalk
    Nat takes a moment with John, Nancy and her son Olivier to document the fun we are having.

    I have to admit getting a chance to hang out regularly with my oldest son Olivier as well as John & Nancy has been pretty fantastic.

    It’s been 4 years since the last campaign and this time around I was struck by how physically demanding campaigning can be.

    If you stick to a schedule of canvassing 6 days a week the walking, stairs, holding clipboards and even knocking doors start to wear on your body.

    Of course you are squeezing that all in around the other things you do in your day.

    I sat reading my course and popping ibuprofen and realized that we don’t talk much about the ableist approach to politics. Most traditional ways of contacting potential voters rely on being physically present, at the door, debates and community events. But those doors are spread out and have many stairs.

    Locally there is a Women in Politics group that seeks to support women to enter into politics at all levels of government but I’m not aware of much in the realm of analyzing where ableist assumptions and approaches are barriers to more folks running for office.

    I’m glad I can occasionally participate in political organizing & activities and am thinking more about accessibility.

    If I come up with any great ideas I’ll let you know 🙂

    cycling · Sat with Nat

    Nat thinks back on re-learning to bicycle as a grownup

    A couple weeks ago my Facebook memories showed me a post from 5 years ago. It was a sad moment, I had planned on biking down to a festival but at the 5 km mark I had to stop. I ended up going home defeated with a sore backside.

    It was a rough start to re-learning to cycle. To be fair to my 5 year ago self I had made some classic mistakes. I wasn’t wearing chamois shorts and got blisters in my groin. My 20 year old mountain bike wasn’t fit to me. I also had no idea how to effectively use my gears as I mistakenly thought I should mash my pedals in the highest gear I could use.

    After that experience Sam reached out to offer riding with her and that was the first step to me re-learning to cycle as an adult.

    Since then I’ve thought a lot about things I would tell that past me. If you are looking at cycling more or trying it for the first time you may find these thoughts helpful too.

    So, my dear past self, I wish you knew:

    1. Wear cycling bottoms commando (no underwear). Be nice to your body parts that come in contact with your saddle and don’t worry about how it looks so much!
    2. Accept the offer to ride with experienced cyclists sooner. They will coach & cajole you into a sport that you can continue a very long time.
    3. Buy the big bicycle tire pump right away. Don’t run to the gas station every time you need to ride your bike! Air in road tires is VERY IMPORTANT.
    4. Wear a cycling jersey. It keeps you from getting a sunburn on your lower back/upper butt and is more comfortable than anything else. Honest.
    5. Buy the gloves. Your hands will go numb and that is no fun. You are working hard on your bike so being comfortable is super important.
    6. Listen to advice, try it. Not all of it will work for you so keep the ideas that do and dump the rest.

    I would never have thought it possible to go from being destroyed by a 10 km ride to doing 100 km in the same year. It really is about time on the saddle and I was pleasantly surprised how much I’ve taken to riding my bike.

    Sam has written before about how the fall is a great time to get into cycling and I’d have to agree. It’s beautiful in Canada this time of year. I hope to see you on your bike!

    Nat takes a selfie in her bike helmet smiling.

    cycling · Sat with Nat

    Nat enjoyed a pretty awesome MS Bike Tour

    For the second year in a row I got to ride in the Grand Bend MS Bike Tour. This year my cycling was sparse and I was nervous about completing the ride.

    My team, London Lifecycles, is packed with colleagues and friends. I get a lot of joy from hanging out with them.

    Natalie faces the camera smiling. Behind her is a group of people chatting animatedly wearing orange cycling jerseys

    This year I started Day 1 with my friend Tracy & her 7 year old son Tyler. We rode the first 40km together. The Sweeps were lovely but I hoped I wouldn’t see them again. I hopped on my bike and gave my best effort.

    Day 2 I decided to ride on my own. I had a great time seeing friends pass me or chat at the checkpoints. The weather was ideal, 25C with light wind. I finished the route nearly an hour faster than last year. I’m 99% sure that was due to the weather.

    It was still hot though.

     Natalie looks at the camera with a rye face. Her hair is wet and standing on end

    It was a great weekend and the perfect way to kick off my vacation.

    body image · Sat with Nat · sex

    Nat gets a night guard and contemplates ableist ideas about sex appeal

    Last month I shared some of my experience encountering sexism while accessing medical care.

    Nat gets her hearing checked…

    I’ve since seen my dentist, who I just love as we’ve had the most amazing discussions over the years, and gotten a night guard (aka bite plate aka mouth guard). I’m very privileged that my extended dental benefits covered the multiple visits and the appliance.

    A selfie of Nat making the “ah” face revealing a clear mouth guard on her bottom teeth. She is inside her car and wearing a super cute pink blouse.

    I immediately thought about how unsexy I felt. This was echoed by many folks who decided that this alone was enough to not wear a dental appliance.

    That sat really poorly with me. This night guard is a minor thing, easily removed when needed. My muscles are relaxing as the appliance does its job. But yet it felt like such a big thing to myself and other people because of concerns around losing sex appeal.

    Not rational and, for myself, not terribly examined.

    The night guard is to alleviate numbness in my face caused my clenching of my jaw. Scarring on the inside of my cheeks and scalloping along the edges of my tongue were signs I was indeed a clencher. So is my sister Anj and my father. It’s likely gotten worse because of a change in my paid work that has increased my stress.

    The benefits of wearing this little clear appliance are less headaches and a return of feeling to my face.

    I think, at the heart of all this sex appeal talk, is a nugget of ableism. The idea that only bodies that don’t need assistive devices, dental appliances or any other supports are less sexy than able/unassisted bodies is deeply problematic and I need to fight that impulse.

    The other part is our old frenemy, sexism and the idea that women must constantly strive to be sexy to all people, especially men, at all times.

    You know what is sexy? Someone who has had a good night’s sleep instead of clenching their jaw into spasms. Self care is sexy AF.

    Basically if someone dares tell you or me that our self care, dental appliances, accessibility supports or anything else we need to be well are somehow making us less sexy we need to flip those people the bird.

    Sat with Nat

    Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism.

    Recently I have been having trouble understanding what people are saying when there is background noise as well as some numbness on the left side of my face. I had been putting it off when a Deaf colleague asked me why I didn’t do something about my hearing.

    Unwilling to stay stuck in my ableist bullshit I was sure to discuss it with my doctor.

    My family doctor then referred me to an audiologist and an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist.

    I got the appointments within a few weeks. Fast. Very fast in a public health care system known for long waits.

    The trip for the hearing test was typical and I walked out being told I did not have hearing loss. I felt stupid for wasting people’s time and money and even worse for then having an appointment with a ENT doctor.

    The doctor’s office was another thing altogether. I mentioned my military service and flying off and on for 12 years. He then asked if I was a “housewife”. I awkwardly laughed and clarified that I was leading a team in a quiet office environment.

    When we talked about noise exposure he noted that my vacuum and hairdryer could damage my hearing. So. One thing. I do own both of those appliances and my sons use them way more than I do.

    Short hair and no make up, Natalie inadvertently looks like a high maintenance person

    I wasn’t loving his gendered assumptions. I found myself questioning how I was presenting myself.

    There were several moments of great information exchange, including a very detailed discussion about my hearing tests. I do have “notches” in my hearing that are typical of noise induced hearing loss. It’s sufficient enough that I will eventually need hearing aids. That type of hearing loss is usually accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My hearing loss is asymptomatic and I can still distinguish between all the word sounds. All good news.

    It turns out the most troubling symptom was the numbness. The ENT palpated my face and neck looking for lumps and bumps. That’s when I realized my speedy appointment was to see if I had signs of cancer. Yikes. He assured me no lumps & bumps were found and to ask my dentist about my jaw clenching. Nerve fatigue may be the culprit. Here’s hoping I get that figured out soon. It’s weird.

    I’m glad for the good information and very bummed out about the sexism I encountered. It won’t keep me from accessing services but it certainly adds a layer of stress to a moment.