Scared to Health and Preparedness, by J.A.

This is my take on Surviving The World As We Know It (TWAWKI). After previously writing a brief article for SurvivalBlog, I found that I really enjoyed taking the time to sit down at a keyboard and bang away and put my scattered thoughts onto some semblance of organized digital ink. I found that I enjoyed it enough that after the first submission, I realized I wanted to write another article for submission. After pondering for a bit, I thought had a basic idea about what to write next, but I knew it was going to be deeply personal, and in addition, I wasn’t sure if the topic might be of interest to the general readership. So, being the spontaneous husband that I am, and likely much to my better half’s dismay, while on a video consulting call with Jim, I asked him if he thought the topic would be of interest to his readership. Concurrently, I also awkwardly asked my wife if she would be ok with the subject being shared with a few other folks on SurvivalBlog and subsequently saved on the internet for eternity (Author’s sidenote: Purchase the thumb drive of the SurvivalBlog archives when it is next available, I found them of great value.) I had a few ideas on how to structure the article, but my wife beat me to the punch and sent me what she described as some stream of conscious thoughts she jotted down. After reading what she wrote, I have determined that her stream of conscious is much better than my thought out words and as such, I am proudly relinquishing the following submittal to her, so you, the audience can read her own words.

Her Story

If one is going to survive TEOTWAWKI, one must first survive TWAWKI. That is hard to do when one is wildly out of shape, overweight, and under-exercised. Ask me how I know.

In June 2020 I had a stroke. I was a 50-year-old woman with no extraordinary medical history of anything other than mild high blood pressure, but I was about 80 pounds overweight, and my idea of exercise was doing the laundry. My husband and I like to be prepared for any eventuality, so we have a pretty good-sized garden, a few chickens, a good supply of short-, medium- and long-term food storage, storage of water as well as means of water purification, a healthy stockpile of first aid and medical supplies, fuel sources, etc. We can, freeze-dry, and dehydrate. We review resources available and we forage on the property (recently made ink from pokeweed) and tap our maple trees on occasion. We take courses in self-defense and medical training, and practice what we learn. We read books on any subject that we feel might make us more self-sufficient, from how to process wild game to how to make lip balm and cleaning products. What we have never prepared for is a debilitating illness that might make one of us not able to function as a true partner, to be unable to help our dearest ones if bad things happen to the world, or just to our little corner of it.

Full disclosure – I am fine now, and I was fine about 24 hours after the stroke, thank God. But if you want a true Come-to-Jesus moment, try being unable to speak clearly, unable to write clearly, and get checked into the hospital in the middle of a pandemic, alone because of COVID safety protocols. Thanks to this experience, I now have a cardiologist, a neurologist, a blood specialist, and another cardiologist who specializes in electronic devices, because I have an implanted heart monitor. I take five different medications, at least until my follow-up with my cardiologist. All of these additions to my world occurred because I was not in anything resembling a healthy condition. How am I supposed to survive a world crisis if I cannot even walk to the mailbox without becoming out of breath? The answer is, of course, I cannot.

I want to be around, enjoying my life, for a long time. After losing about 75 pounds over the course of 9 months, I have discovered that not carrying around the weight of an extra sack and a half of concrete on my body makes life more pleasant. My knees and my feet don’t hurt anymore. I can work in the garden all day instead of only for an hour. I can stand at the stove cooking and preserving food for hours. I cook food that is better for me, simply because I have the energy to spend more time cooking whole foods instead of easy to microwave, commercially prepared, ultra-processed meals. This extra energy has manifested in many other ways. I am being a better steward of my home and property, taking better care of it and being more proactive in the maintenance and appearance of it.

I am recycling the clothes that no longer fit, selling what I can on the Internet and donating the rest. When the mandates for limited gatherings are lifted, I will be able to participate in shooting competitions, master gardener classes, and all the kinds of classes I have dreamed of taking but could never motivate myself to take: building structures, clearing and maintaining land for agricultural purposes, Hügelkultur, advanced first aid and rescue. I live in a beautiful part of the country (politically not so much) and I finally feel good enough to go hiking in some truly magnificent parks and wildlife areas. I can get some instruction on shooting my bow, which I loved to do, but I couldn’t maintain the level of activity it required. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so energetic that I have washed the outside of my home’s windows, but I have done the inside.

This is not an article about how to lose weight, although that was surprisingly simple once I was sufficiently motivated. There is nothing like the potential of becoming a serious burden on the person you love more than anything in life to get you to walk around the block. I will tell you about the radical methods I took

  1. Stop drinking alcohol – not for moral reasons, but alcohol has a lot of calories,
  2. Portion control – the kitchen scale is your friend,
  3. Eat fewer calories than you expend – read the labels,
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip. You’re trying, and every little bit helps.

I know that sounds simplistic, but it really is. No intermittent fasting, no cheat days, no complicated matrix of what you can and can’t eat. Yes, I used a meal tracking app on my phone which helped with the calorie content of food, but that is the most complicated thing I did. It took about 2 weeks of using the app, and now it is second nature. I walk and ride a bike for cardio, and use resistance bands for strength. That’s it. And I started by putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, and for short distances.

Yes, I go over my calorie budget occasionally. But I also sometimes have enough calories at the end of the day that I can have nice glass of single malt. I had chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and cream gravy for dinner the other day. I knew I wanted to splurge a little, so I budgeted for it during the day, and I ate a normal-sized portion, not enough to feed a lumberjack. It’s not depriving yourself. It is simply the food equivalent of your checkbook. Only, if you overextend your calorie budget often enough you wind up in the back of an ambulance wondering if you will ever be able to speak clearly again. My goal is to get off the meds and get the heart monitor out. In the event of some kind of world calamity or even short-term shutdowns, I need to not be reliant on a medication to live and I need to be off of them in a controlled manner before TSHTF.

I still have those pesky last 10 pounds that every woman over the age of 20 seems to be fighting and I will never want to put on a bikini, but I’ve committed to running a 5k soon. The 5k is three days before my next cardiologist appointment, and I’m really looking forward to telling her that I ran it. I’m back jogging for extended periods of time which is something I haven’t done in years (like, when I was in college.) And I built 5 huge new garden boxes with my husband, who has also lost about 70 pounds while helping me get fit. We’ve put up hundreds of pounds of food storage since all this started. We have started to organize the house and make some improvements. We talk more about the future, both short-term and long-term. We plan meals together, we have plans for hiking together, we tried jackfruit as a meat replacement last night. And it made some mighty fine tacos.

Your health is so vitally important to preparing for the future. If the future is going to be difficult to navigate, for national, worldwide, or even local catastrophes, you need your health even more than ever. You need the stamina to be able to work hard, physically. You need the brain power to think and make decisions clearly. You need to know that you can depend on your body to function at its highest level to carry you, and your loved ones, through the troubles. And for me, that was the kicker. I couldn’t leave my husband to do it all. Yes, there’s that whole “sickness and health” promise, but “in health” is so much easier to manage. I want to spend our time enjoying life, not just existing. To be a good partner, I need to be healthy.

My Thoughts

I really can not add much to what my wife described, with a few brief additions. I won’t go into how helpless I felt was when she was in the hospital and I was sitting in my truck in the adjacent parking lot just praying for an update on her condition and I couldn’t be at her side, nor the numerous negotiations I was going through while speaking with a higher power. I think that most people could imagine what that would be like and I do not wish the experience either she or I had on anyone.

What I will add is a bit about myself as I’m not innocent in this matter. I was previously an athlete who played two sports at the collegiate level. Those days were long behind me and if this horrific experience did not happen to my wife, it very easily could (and likely would) have happened to me. For the last decade or so, I over-ate, was overweight, would find myself short of breath after a few flights of stairs and found myself on a couple of blood pressure medications. Based on this previous sentence, the reader can thusly deduce that I was not the pillar of health.

Like my wife, I also took this opportunity as a wake-up call to get my house in order so to speak. I was fully on board with the dietary adjustments as well as starting to get exercise back in my life. I despise running and have frequently told folks around me that if they see me running, please shoot whatever is behind me. While I still dislike running, I prefer spending more time on this side of the ground and I have started to work myself back into shape with the near-term goal of also running in a 5k and also biking a 40k race. For some, these goals may be just a typical Saturday, but for me, it is a huge step in the right direction.

Since getting back on the wagon a relatively short time ago, I have discontinued taking one blood pressure medicine and so far, reduced the strength of the remaining one in half. During my next follow-up physical, the plan is to get the okay from the sawbones to come off of the meds entirely.

I guess in summary, if one were to make lemonade out of lemons, this life-changing experience was truly that, and we were honestly Blessed that good came out of it. I pray that this submission will allow even just one of the readers out there to avoid going through what our family did just a relatively short time ago.