Issue Twenty-Eight - Summer 2016

The Rash Diaries

By Lisa Regen

I wake up every morning and think that I am strong enough not to have coffee. But the truth is, I have coffee anyway. This is how it unfolds. I lie in bed thinking, I feel pretty good. The rash isn’t too bad at the moment. I should probably start a detox diet today. I’ll just wake up, have a little decaffeinated green tea, then something like fruit and brown rice, and I won’t need coffee with cream and sugar.

Next I get out of bed, go to the kitchen, see the coffee maker, and before I know what I’m doing, I’m making coffee and getting the half & half out of the fridge. This is exactly what my Chinese Medicine Practitioner told me not to do. Yet most days, I do it.

The next thing I do, is try to think of a healthy breakfast. But once I start drinking the coffee, I’m not really that hungry. I just love drinking coffee with cream and a little sugar. Two cups in, and it’s like I never need to eat again. But, after an hour or so, I realize I am maybe getting sort of hungry.

Once I’m hungry, I return to the kitchen. Am I avoiding gluten today? Well, I had some toast last night before bed. And I’ve been drinking beer lately. Is gluten the problem, or just alcohol? I don’t know. And I’m not ever going to know unless I get serious about one of these diets. Like, the elimination diet. But it’s too late, because I’m already having coffee, dairy, and sugar—three things most definitely not on the elimination diet. So, since I’m already breaking rules that I haven’t actually started to follow yet, I guess I can just have whatever. Oatmeal, maybe. With almond milk and raisins. But wait—almond milk is full of nuts and stabilizers, and raisins have a lot of sugar. I’ll skip those.

When the oatmeal is done, even with plentiful cinnamon for health and flavor, it tastes so bland that I find myself in the kitchen again to grab the raisins and milk. Normal milk might be better than almond milk. Plus, I’ve already had cream today. So at least I’m being consistent. I eat the oatmeal. The caffeine high from the coffee has left me shakily starving, and once I start eating, I eat way too much.

Once I’ve eaten way too much, why not have a piece of toast with peanut butter. I choose the Spelt toast because that might be better than wheat. I have gluten free bread in the freezer too, but that sounds gross right now. Some online articles say that peanut butter is less inflammatory than almond butter; some say it is more so. I hesitate for a moment in front of the open fridge but ultimately choose peanut butter. I’ve been hitting the almond butter really hard lately. Like, by the spoonful.

At work, I last about an hour before I feel hungry again. But then I realize. It’s not that I’m hungry. I’m THIRSTY! This is from an article I read recently in one of the fitness magazines (on the stairmaster at the gym, bonus points). Sometimes, our bodies mistake thirst for hunger. Here I am, having worked so hard all morning while drinking a diuretic, and not a single sip of water, and on top of that, a bunch of salty peanut butter. I vow to drink full pint glasses of water for the remainder of the day. I fill up the first one, drink it quickly, and then sit at my computer without filling it again until another hour has passed.

11 am. Hungry again, for real now. Too early for lunch. Should have packed healthy snacks – perhaps apples, pears, cooling foods? I am trying to remember what the cooling foods are. Bok Choy jumps into my mind. No Bok Choy available at the moment. No stove here, just microwave and tiny fridge. And trail mix. I head to cabinet, and load up on Craisins (sugary), and trail mix (nuts, chocolate, sugar).

What am I doing to myself?

I now experience a deep self loathing. While headed to the bathroom for the nine-hundredth time (too much coffee), I chastise myself for having no self control, no plan, no healthy way of eating, and worst of all—no excuse—I have more knowledge and more money than most people on the planet. Why can’t I just commit to the elimination diet for two weeks. Two weeks and maybe my problem would be solved.

In the bathroom, I lift my pant leg to ascertain the situation. Red, scaly patches cover my legs. It’s a form of psoriasis but nobody can tell me why I have it. I’ve tried the light therapy, the moisturizers, and the prescription ointment but it always comes back. My husband thinks it’s stress but I don’t feel that stressed. Maybe I am stressed. Here I am peeing while texting a babysitter about spring break next week (yikes, no school).

At lunch, not sure what to do. Co-worker, over-hungry, heads to grocery store to get sandwich. Sandwich has many items not on preferred eating list: processed meats, rich sauces, gluten-filled bread, and cheese. Plus token slice of lettuce, and questionable tomato. Sandwich looks so delicious that when offered half, I can’t say no.

So, I guess today is a free-for-all. I’ve broken all rules set for myself (well, never really committed to, but loosely set in a hypothetical way). But yet, I’m having a productive work day and so I tell myself, in the tone of a losing team’s half time coach, that there is nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong, with having this sort of an eating day. This is what America does.

If this is what everyone does, then fine. I go across the street for an afternoon coffee, with milk and sugar, and a giant chocolate chip cookie to share with my colleagues. Walking back I eat one third of it. Delicious. This is living, I tell myself, fully enjoying the serotonin flooding my system as I take a bite of the chewy, sweet, chocolaty thing. It’s OK to have treats, isn’t it? I work out, and I’m healthy. This just might, maybe possibly could, have something to do with my chronic skin rash.

Since the day is a wash, I drink a beer at five which leads to two more beers (total of three beers.) Also, I eat a healthy dinner, and while lubricated with beer, praise myself for eating vegetables. Is something wrong with my life? Is something stressful? Not at the moment. I step outside, sneak one cigarette. Could this be adding to the rash?

Seems not.

Next day, substitute mid-morning snack for granola bar stolen from kid-lunch food. Swap sandwich lunch for salad (but with questionable chicken and too much creamy dressing.) Sprinkle throughout day: handfuls of chocolate chips, girl scout cookies, sugary powdered Chai Tea beverage. Close day with wine instead of beer. Wake in night with incredibly dry hands and eyes. Could it be the tannins in the wine? I lie awake pondering this. And so, am exhausted the next morning. Need extra coffee to function.

Copyright Regen 2016