Category Archives: stress

The Choices We Make

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I have a co-worker, a young millennial who has a loud vibrant personality. She is brash, unapologetic, and funny. I wouldn’t have her any other way. She recently moved offices and I miss the energy she brought to an otherwise mundane job.

Every day as she breezed out of the office, she would mockingly say over her shoulder, “Make good choices!” And we would all laugh.

Recently, I was part of a pilot group with my therapist. If I had  not written this before, I am seeing someone to help me with my binge eating. She is writing a book about how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

The group I was a part of has been reviewing her book and launching a kind of support group where we read chapters of her book and discuss the ideas in that chapter. We were her beta readers/guinea pigs. This past weekend, we all met in person to discuss what we thought of the book and make suggestions for the support system she wants to create. I am so glad to have been a part of that group.

The book is very interesting. The book is less about what we eat and more about why we eat what we eat. She really encouraged us to explore the reasons behind our eating habits.

Of course she thinks the best diet for weight loss is low carb, high protein focusing on eating fresh meats and fish, high protein vegetarian options, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Very similar to any good bariatric diet, right?

So, why can’t we stick to it? Why do we constantly sabotage our diet plans? Why do we make choices we know will not help us on our path to a healthy weight and relationship to food?

Those are the questions through both my sessions with her and the book she’s working to address.

For me, a lot of my bad choices have to do with my inability to deal with stress and toxic people. I get very stressed out when I think about the toxic people in my life, and there have been several who have entered and left my world. Some stay longer than others. It has taken me a long time to realize their behavior is about them and not me and to create a distance between me and them, even if that barrier is just a mental one.

I also suffer from a low self-image and self-confidence. Many people who know me would certainly be surprised to know this. I hide it well most of the time. It is hard for me to find good things about myself.

After I had lost about 130 pounds, a guy I am friends with complimented me on a shirt I was wearing. He said something like, “That green color looks very good on you.”

I immediately replied with how much more weight I needed to lose, my hair looked awful, pick any one of the myriad of negative thoughts inside my head.

A female friend standing nearby turned to me and said, “No! Stop, Colleen. He complimented you. Your answer is, ‘Thank you!'”

She knew what I was doing. I was not used to being complimented about my appearance. She knew this. And she put the brakes on my negative thought train. At least the verbalization of my negative thoughts.

So, I have been exploring my insecurities. My inability to deal with stress and toxic people. My negative thoughts. And why I look for solace in food.

It is hard to constantly stop myself before I make a bad food decision and analyze the why. In the past, I’ve made a decision about what I wanted to eat and then just ate it. Even if I did not eat it to excess, I still often made very bad food choices.

So, this is what I do when I want to eat the cheesy poofs or whatever food I am craving at the moment. I stop and ask myself some questions.

  • Do I need this to feel full and meet my nutritional goals? (Is this choice a need or a want?)
  • Why do I want to eat the cheesy poofs?
  • What is going on? Am I stressed out? I am feeling bad?
  • What happened today, last night, yesterday to make me feel this way?
  • Will eating this particular food help me achieve my weight loss/health goals?
  • What impact will this choice have on my calories, protein, carb intake for the day?
  • What can I eat that I like that will keep me on track?
  • What other choice can I make?

 

Sometimes I even stop and pull out my phone and enter the cheesy poofs into myfitnesspal.com just to see what that choice will do to my daily goals.

I am successful in making better choices probably 95% of the time. Do I slip? Sure. One example, I had an extra slice of toast one day. Normally, that is enough to send me into a tailspin and think the whole day is lost. But the next day, I entered everything into myfitnesspal.com, and I was only a couple of points high on my carbs. I met my protein goals and calorie goals.

So, great choice? No. Diet-killer? Not even close. I was still on track.

Another thing I do is I try not to think of my entire weight loss goal every time I eat. I do keep that goal in mind every day, yes. But for each meal or snack, I think only of that meal or snack. I might think of how it fits into my daily goals, but in the moment, I do not think too much beyond that.

I chose that approach because sometimes thinking of the entire goal is too overwhelming and seems unattainable. Today, this moment, this meal, that is a doable goal.

I get weighed every two weeks, and in that moment, I only think of my bi-monthly goals. I do sit down with the doctor afterwards and talk about long-term goals, but only a month out. Most importantly, I’m not weighing myself every day and stressing out about the numbers on the scale.

Biking and exercising also helps. I have been biking quite a bit, although the impending snow storm in our area has really put a damper on that recently. But biking takes my mind off the stress of the day, releases endorphins, and generally makes me feel better. Not to mention, it is great exercise for a weight loss plan.

The result is, of the 58 pounds of regain, I’m down 18 pounds. And my overall goal is now lower as well. So, now instead of needing to lose 94 pounds, I only need to lose 76 pounds.

So, good news all around. I am working on improving my mental health and making better choices. I’m also losing weight, exercising, and feeling better!

Will I always make good choices? No, definitely not. No one is perfect, and I know I am not. But I know that if I stay focused, I can make much better choices moving forward.

I’ll just keep my co-workers voice in my head every time I reach for those cheesy poofs reminding me to stop and “Make Good Choices!”

 

 

My Biggest Triggers – The Truth About Bullies

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Random picture of my cat for no particular reason.

I am going to begin today’s post with ad admission. Over the last two years, I regained 58 pounds. This is not something I’m very proud of or happy about. My binge eating returned and I went through a very busy and stressful two years. Bottom line, I was not paying attention to my health and weight the way I should.

The good news is, I have taken corrective action. I am seeing a doctor to help me get my weight loss back on track, and I am seeing a therapist to help me develop the necessary skills to deal with the crazy, eating disordered part of my brain. As a result, as of two weeks ago, I am down 10 pounds.  I see the doctor again this week where I will be weighed. I think I lost some more. I noticed my leggings felt looser this week. Not just one pair, but all of them. I am not weighing myself at home, though. I have a tendency to weigh myself every day, and every teeny movement of the scale makes me crazy. I am either delighted that I’m down a pound or two, or depressed because there was no discernible movement or a slight one pound regain. It helps me more to look at the bigger picture and get weighed less often.

This brings me to today’s topic. Triggers.

For me, my triggers are the events, emotions, etc. that cause me to lose control and find solace in food. In my case, that food is usually salty, crunch, and starchy. Sometimes, but not often, sugary foods will do. Cheetos are my standby. If I’m eating Cheetos, chances are there is something in my life that is causing me undo stress and causing me to feel out of control.

My two biggest triggers are yelling, and when people are saying negative, untrue things about me behind my back to the people I love and respect.

How Gossip Affects Me:

When people talk about me behind my back, that really cuts me to the quick. It hurts because someone thinks badly enough about me to gossip. And it hurts because I fear their words will affect how others see me.

In my head, I know that any true friend, and anyone who really knows me wouldn’t allow someone else’s thoughtless or mean words change their opinion of me. And anyone who does allow gossip to color how they see me, is not really a friend.

Maybe that is what truly hurts because in the past, I have had people I thought were my friends turn on me solely due to the untrue, or misrepresented words of another person. I start to think that someone I trusted and thought of as a friend really thought badly of me all along. I question my judgment. I question my own internal sense of self. And I begin to question if there really is something wrong with me. In short, it breaks my heart.

How Yelling Affects Me:

I cannot stand yelling. I never could. It is one thing to have a disagreement with someone, even if that sometimes gets loud. That’s different from what I mean.

Yelling, or screaming is irrational. Usually the screamer is using that tactic as a way to silence the person they are yelling at and to establish dominance. There is no talking to a screamer. There is no way to rationally discuss anything with a screamer. And there is no way to resolve a problem with a screamer. They are right, you are wrong, and they will use their physical and psychic power to shut you down.

I push back hard on screamers.

I recently had a guy I know vaguely scream at me about something. He screamed at me at the top of his lungs in a crowded room.

I did not even what he was screaming about. I just looked at him and calmly said, “I do not have a husband, and my father is dead. No man screams at me. You are no one to me. What gives you the right to think you can talk to me that way?”

I stood up for myself. I did not let him bully me. I walked away. Sounds strong right?

The truth is, I fretted about this incident for a very long time. I was shaking and very angry. I was emotionally distraught. How dare he? Who does he think he is? Why would he think it is OK to do that to me? This event happened nearly a year ago and I still bring it up. That is how much of an impact it made.

Recently, I became aware of a situation where someone has been bullying a person I love using these two tactics. Screaming irrationally, and gossiping about me. Why I was brought into the situation, I’ll never know, but there you have it. This situation has really made me kind of crazy. I did not even hear the yelling, but just knowing that it was going on started the wheels in the crazy, food addicted part of my brain cycling out of control.

It has taken every ounce of self-control inside me to stay focused. I have waffled between anger, sadness, frustration, rage, and feelings of worthlessness, and powerlessness.

It is true that I have no power over what this person says or does. I also have no control over the impact their words have not he people I love. But that does not make their words true, their behavior right, or me powerless.

Realizing that truth has taken me a long time. Too long.

The truth is, screaming and gossiping are forms of control and intimidation used by bullies. And that’s all people who use these tactic are…bullies.

Maybe the reason screamers and gossipers affect me so badly is because I was bullied as a child. That bullying had a lasting impact on how I see myself. It was only well into my adulthood that I accepted the truth…that when someone bullies you, there is something wrong with them. Not you.

Knowing that intellectually is one thing. Really accepting it in your heart and soul is another.

The Challenges Of WLS – Keeping Inspired & Staying Focused Pt. 1

Someone asked me recently how I stay motivated and focused and asked that I write a post about it.  This has turned into quite a long post, so I am breaking it up into two parts.  This first part, I am going to write about some of the challenges and difficulties I have faced over the past year.

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I have to admit that staying motivated and focused is not easy, even with the surgery helping me out.  In some ways, my weight loss journey has been very easy.  Because I cannot eat a lot, thanks the gastric by-pass surgery, the pounds have come off seemingly effortlessly.  I cannot say completely effortlessly, because this whole process has had its own difficulties, but for the most part, losing the pounds, for the first time in my life, has been simple.  Granted, since March, the weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace, and I have to be more vigilant than ever, but it’s still coming off.

Nonetheless, I have had some real struggles that are sometimes difficult to deal with.  Some of them were kind of unexpected, some of them the surgeon’s office prepared me for.  All of them have had their toll on my progress in one way or another.

  • Dumping Syndrome – DS comes in many forms.  One of the forms I have struggled with is instant diarrhea.  I eat something my body cannot handle, and I cannot get to the bathroom quickly enough.  I have had a few really embarrassing events.  One, I was on a road trip and bought chicken wings at a gas station (I know you don’t have to tell me!) and I had to pull over a few exits later in hopes that I would make it to the bathroom in time.  I was not quite in the bathroom inside the McDonald’s when it started.  Fortunately, it wasn’t so bad that it was immediately noticeable to those around me and the bathroom was empty, thank goodness.  Took forever to clean myself up though.  And it was, of course, very humiliating.
  • Constipation – It’s not so bad anymore.  There were a few months early on where I felt that I had it 3-4 times a week, but it’s much better now. Whenever I am overly stressed, it does return.  It is very painful and can take a couple of days to clear up no matter how much medication I take.
  • Pain – The first six months after the surgery were difficult as far as pain goes.  Since then, I often have to deal with pain when I’m constipated.  Sometimes, I experience stomach pain after I eat, but not often.
  • Re-learning how to eat – I have drastically changed my diet.  High protein foods and vegetables.  Some of the changes have been very good – I can now have milk products and tomatoes.  Others have been difficult.  No junk foods, fried foods, and little to no bread.  Eating three meals a day and two – three snacks per day is new as well.  I have had to eat even when I’m not really hungry, just to stay on schedule.  With the small stomach, that is much harder than it used to be pre-surgery.
  • Discovering I still have compulsive eating issues – It is true.  I do.  I fight against them every day.  I still crave all the wrong things.  Not all of the time, mind you, but sometimes the urge to over indulge is there.  Of course, when I have over indulged, there have been consequences.  (See dumping syndrome)
  • Nausea – Yeah I get that sometimes.  It happened the other night when I was on the bus home.  I started feeling hot and sweaty and thought I was going to hurl right there on the bus.  I didn’t fortunately, but to be safe, I got off a stop early and sat at the bus station for a minute until I felt better and then I walked up the hill to my place.  I don’t know why this happens, but it does sometimes.
  • Excess skin – Yes, I have some.  I don’t like it, but it’s there.  It is unattractive and I do what I can to cover it up.  That said, however, I would rather deal with excess skin than 127 pounds of excess fat.  So, as unpleasant as it is, I’ll take it.
  • Fluctuating appetite – I don’t always feel hungry and I have sometimes had to force myself to eat or take my protein supplements (either drinking or yogurt) when I was not really hungry.  The doctor put me on a plan – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner – and they want me to follow it whether I’m hungry or not.  When I do get hungry, and I skip any part of the plan, I feel it.  In addition to tummy hunger, I feel dizzy and out of sorts.  It can really be awful.
  • Return of my appetite and feeling hungry – Yes, I can feel hunger.  Some people I know who have had the surgery have never had their hunger return.  Mine has.  It’s not the same as it was before the surgery, but it is there.  I do not feel absolutely ravenous, but I do start to feel hungry at meal times, the times I’ve trained my body to expect some nutrients.  I worry about this.  I am afraid that feeling hungry will cause me to make bad food choices, and I have a couple of times. I have paid for those choices, which helps keep me on track.  So, I have to stay ever vigilant that I make the right food choices.
  • Slow weight loss – I would say that since about March, my weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace compared to what it was the first 6 months post surgery.  It has been daunting to remain positive and hopeful when I’m losing 1-2 pounds every couple of weeks or even months instead of 3-5 pounds a week.  I lost 80 pounds just in the first 4 months after the surgery.  I have been tracking my weight loss on My Fitness Pal, and according to them, I have lost 67 pounds since January and 40 pounds since March.  That’s pretty good progress in anyone’s book.  So, while the weight loss has been slow, it has also been steadily moving down.  You know what they say, slow and steady wins the race!
  • Hair Loss – One of the side effects of bariatric surgery is hair loss due to lack of protein and mal-absorption of nutrients.  My hair loss started in March or April.  It freaked me out.  I immediately started increasing my protein intake, using biotin shampoo and conditioner, putting a biotin cream on my hair at night.  I increased my vitamins.  I was determined not to lose all of my hair.  I did lose a lot.  I did not develop any bald spots, thankfully, but people who know me noticed how thin my hair was getting.  It is growing back.  Every time I go to the hair dresser for a trim, they show me my “new growth” underneath all of my old hair.  So, there is some good news.  But I did fret quite a bit every time I combed my hair and pulled out handfuls of hair.
  • Dealing with people who do not understand – I don’t run into this often, but some of the people who are least understanding, are some of the people closest to me.  This has really surprised me.  I do not eat a lot with each meal or snack, but I sometimes feel that I eat constantly.  This is by design, I think, to make sure I get enough nutrients, train me to eat healthily, and to keep my blood sugar stable so that I don’t get cravings or the urge to overeat.  Some people think constantly eating small meals and snacks is a problem.  I get a lot of “Are you eating again?” like there’s something wrong with it.  I know they think they are helping because they fear that I will revert to my old patterns, but it’s very frustrating and kind of hurts my feelings.  I am trying really, really hard to change my life.  And this kind of judgmental comment makes me feel that they do not see how far I have come.  Part of me tries to understand, but part of me also wants to say, “Yes, I’m eating again.  I’m doing exactly what the doctor told me to do.  Following this plan, I have lost 127 pounds.  So, in the words of the inimitable Kathy Griffin, ‘Suck it!'”

These are the most pressing problems I think I have faced over this last year.  It can sometimes feel daunting.  Sometimes stressful.  Sometimes discouraging.  How do I stay focused and remain positive?  How do I stay inspired?

Stay tuned for part two of this post and I will tell you!

Stress, Traveling, And Diet Plans

During times of stress, staying on any diet plan can be very difficult, especially someone who has to stay on a tight schedule such as a bariatric patient.  This week has been difficult for me.

First, I have to say that the people here do not eat.  Well, they do, but not frequently enough.  My mom will eat breakfast, maybe.  I made her eggs on Sunday around 830am.  Then at noon, she didn’t understand why I needed a snack.  My schedule is pretty tight.  I am supposed to have breakfast, protein snack, lunch protein snack, dinner.  I feel like I eat all of the time, and I guess I kind of do.  My body is now trained on this schedule.

At noon when I hadn’t eaten yet, I made my way into the kitchen and started rummaging for appropriate protein snacks, of which my mother has none.  Yes, I know.  I should have been better prepared.  I did try to think ahead and bring my own protein snacks, but I left it on the kitchen counter back in Arlington.  Good thinking, right.

My mom can have breakfast and then not eat again until dinner.  I’m not supposed to do that.  I do not eat a lot for each meal, so I have to eat frequently, plus take vitamins.  I know if I skip meals, forget my vitamins, or wait too long between meals, I feel it.  Not hunger pains so much as the other signs of not eating, irritability, dizziness, etc.  I had to explain this to my family and let them know that while they do not have to eat frequently, I do.

I feel a lot of pressure about this, I have to admit.  Most of it is stress that I am creating myself.  I am worried that every time I eat, they will think I am going back to my old ways and I so want them to see me as doing well.  I’m not saying that I do not occasionally struggle with food, addiction, beating myself up for falling off the wagon sometimes.  I just am doing a lot better and I would like for my family to know that.

Of course traveling, dealing with a death in the family, nursing my mom through surgery, looking through old paperwork to make sure she has what she needs to arrange the funeral, get her survivor benefits from social security, make sure she has everything she needs as far as her insurance paperwork, etc adds to the stress levels.

This has definitely been a very trying week, but it is almost over and I will be back home and back on schedule soon.  Granted, I know I will have to come up here several more times to help my mom out, but things will be much easier, I hope.

What? I Am Not The Center Of The Universe?

OK, maybe I’m the center of the Colleeniverse, and blogging about myself everyday certainly reaffirms that notion.  But I have conceded that I am not really the center of the rest of the universe. 

There are two events taking place today that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me, yet both are consuming every thought in my head and every ounce of my focus.  One is of a celebratory nature, the other more solemn. 

My niece, who is the actual center of the universe, is graduating from pre-K today and despite her request that I attend, I cannot be there to help her celebrate.  If I could choose to be anywhere today, it would be with her.  I will see her this weekend, and shower her with love, kisses, and presents, as aunties are wont to do, but I really wish I could be there today to cheer her on. 

The second, more solemn event…a good friend and fellow writer is having surgery.  He has been suffering from a horrible illness and today will determine if his treatment has been successful.  I hope that has been.

So, instead of thinking of me, my general health, my weight loss progress, my mental health, and all the petty problems that plague my life, I am asking that everyone cheer for my niece and send good wishes to my friend. 

Better yet, show your good wishes and buy one of his books or his music.

Writing About People, Places, & Things – Book

The Girl, The Drugs, & The Man Who Could Not Drink – Book

Cash & Carry – Music (also available on iTunes)

Wagon? What Wagon?

So, reading my blog might leave one feeling that for the most part, I am having a pretty easy time dealing with life after weight loss surgery.  For the most part, I’d say that is pretty true.  You wouldn’t know it from this weekend, however.

Somehow, I have managed to get myself upset over a situation that I created.  It is all in my head.  I know this, but still, I have allowed it to control my moods.  With a couple of exceptions, I pretty much moped around all weekend.  In the past when I would get like this, I would over eat.  I have not really been able to over eat since the surgery since my stomach is so small.  I have manged to get my diet up to about 1200 calories per day.  This means that my stomach pouch is a little bit bigger than it was shortly after the surgery.  This is as it should be and I am right where the doctor wants me to be.  That also means I can eat a little bit more.

Since the surgery, I have for the most part, been able to manage my stress level and keep my emotions in check.  I have been much better about dealing with life.  Friends have commented on the changes they see in me.  They say I am more confident, I speak with more authority, and I carry myself differently.  But for some reason, this weekend, I allowed something that has been bugging me to really get me down.  That and some poor meal planning really left me struggling last night.

I have a hard time when my meal schedule gets thrown off track.  Most of the time when it is time for me to eat, I do not actually feel hungry, or more to the point, my stomach doesn’t feel hungry.  I just start feeling the effects of not having eaten enough.  I get light-headed and cranky and eventually, my stomach starts to hurt.  This usually means it has been probably six hours since I have eaten something and I have missed my protein snack.  Bad Colleen.

I had been out yesterday and had not eaten for quite a while.  I stopped at the grocery store because I knew I did not have anything that I could just eat right away.  I was going to have to cook, which would mean another 30 minutes or more.  I could not wait that long.  I bought some food for the week and I bought a rotisserie chicken.  This was the beginning of my downfall.

Pre-surgery, rotisserie chicken was one of my trigger foods.  You can also include chips, pretzels, pizza, pretty much anything that was salty, crunchy, or savory would do the trick.  And I didn’t just eat a little bit of it.  I could eat almost an entire rotisserie chicken in one go.  Same thing with chips.  All or nothing.  The bigger the bag, the better.  Pizza, pretty much the whole pie. 

For anyone not familiar with the terminology, this is called bingeing.  Want to know what a binger looks like?  Look it up in the dictionary and you will see a picture of me.  Anyone who has suffered from bulimia is also familiar with bingeing, the difference is they follow it with some kind of “purge”.  Purging can take many forms, vomiting, exercise, or laxatives are a few.  I didn’t purge afterwards, unless you include tears of guilt.

The drive to binge is overwhelming and uncontrollable.  Sometimes the binge starts out as hunger, just a meal.  I tell myself I will buy the chicken and just have a little bit, combine it with a potato or rice and some veggies, bam – dinner.  What really happens after I have the chicken home is something else entirely. 

This is what happened to me last night.  I was hungry.  I was stressing out over my own self-created mellow-drama.  I bought a rotisserie chicken. 

Now, in my defense, I have bought rotisserie chickens since the surgery and had just a drumstick and some vegetables, put the rest in the refrigerator and was fine.  That is not what happened last night, however.  And it is really no excuse.

I put together my dinner, which was a piece of chicken and some fruit, and I sat down to eat in front of my computer.  I knew I was having a hard time dealing with my emotions, so I decided to write about them.  I started a word document and just started writing down everything that I was feeling.  What I was not paying attention to was my eating.  I just kept right on eating.  I ate until my stomach started to really hurt.  It hurt so much that I thought I was going to vomit.  Fortunately, I did not.

I had two drumsticks and was working on a wing.  I had also started to pick at the larger pieces of chicken.  I was sitting on the edge of my bed in pain and ready to cry.  I felt like I had really slipped up and felt guilty.  I could not believe I had done that.  I knew it was a mistake when I bought the chicken.  I could feel it.  But I thought that I had all of that under control.  Clearly, I do not.

I did not save the rest of the chicken.  I threw it into the trash can and then bagged up the trash, took it down the hall, and threw it into the garbage chute in my building.  I then went back into my apartment and put my shoes on, grabbed my sweater, and took a good long walk.  I had to leave the scene of the crime. 

I took a book with me.  I walked around my neighborhood for a very long time.  I thought about everything that had just happened.  I thought through my problem.  I analyzed why I had allow myself to fall down that pit again.  Then I stopped at the coffee shop and had a good hot cup of tea while I drowned my sorrows in the fantasy of a novel for a while.

When I finally returned home, I deleted the word document and cleaned up my mess.  I did not really come up with any good solution to my problem.  And there may not really be one other than to just let things be for a while. 

There are some things in life I just cannot control and I need to accept that.  What I can do is take charge of the things that I can control.  I can control what I eat, the food I buy, and whether or not I allow this one incident to completely throw me off track.

I have had small mishaps since the surgery, accidentally having too much sugar, eating a little bit too fast, eating protein bars that made me a little sick, etc.  I have paid the price for those mistakes, and I have learned how to handle them. 

This was the first time I have really fallen completely off the wagon since October.  I thought that I was beyond all of this, but I guess not.  I learned something about myself last night and it was not pretty.

WTF? Randomness

So, this is me today…

http://www.queenofwands.net/d/20050408.html

I guess you could say that I am a bit cranky.  It started off as a good day, so I’m not quite sure how I got here.  Well, no that’s not exactly true.  I kind of do.

I was up at about 7am and had breakfast, which consisted of a bit of leftover chicken saag from the Indian restaurant I went to the night before.  I was basically full after about four bites.  I turned the news on and then immediately fell back asleep.

Then I had the strangest dream about the house where I grew up.  My mother sold the house oh about 27 years ago, but it still lives large in my memory I guess.  We lived there from the time I was in first grade until after I graduated high school.  When my mom remarried, we moved and sold the house.

In my dream, my brother and sisters and I went through all of the empty rooms finding memories and keepsakes from our childhood.  It was almost as if we were saying goodbye to the house for the last time.  I awoke with the strangest feelings; a little bit of sadness; a little bit of relief; a sense of release and freedom.  It was a little bit unsettling.

I’m not sure what precipitated that dream.  Maybe it had something to do with the workshop I gave this week where I discussed how I use my real life events and create fictional stories out of them.  During the workshop, I discussed one of my stories and the true story on which it was based.  I also mentioned that I wrote a personal essay about the true story.  Someone asked me which helped explore my feelings about the incident, the fictional piece or the essay.  After thinking about it for a few seconds, I said that I found the personal essay to be a better vehicle for exploring my feelings because I could really tell the truth about the incident for the first time.  I felt a stronger sense of catharsis after writing the essay than the short story.  Of course, I wrote the story about 6 years ago and I wrote the essay about a month ago, so the feelings I explored in the essay are more immediate.  In truth, after writing the essay, I really felt as if I could let go of the incident for probably the first time in my life.

What is this incident you ask?  Well, when I was in high school, there was a boy who was in my circle of friends that I had a crush on.  Before I could really have a chance to find out if he felt the same or go through the normal teenage process of having a crush and getting over it when you find out that he does not feel the same, he died.  He was riding his bike and made an illegal turn the wrong way down a one way street and was hit by an oncoming van.

I can honestly say that I never really got over that.  While it has been many, many years since I actively thought about him every day, I know that the incident has affected me my entire life.  Somehow, writing all of my feelings down and sharing the essay with others seemed to lift this invisible cloud I have been living under.  I suddenly feel open to life and the possibilities that it holds.  I have not felt way in a very long time.

My friends have commented on the change in me too.  I know that losing 97 pounds has a lot to do with that change.  They know that I am writing more, walking more, getting out into the world, etc.  A friend of mine told me recently that it’s as if the extra weight was pushing me down, keeping me from living my life.  She talked about how I am much more confident and happy.

Also during the workshop, I share an embarrassing amount of personal information about myself.  I have felt a little bit self-conscious about that, I have to admit.  It could not be helped.  When one is discussing how they use their personal life to create fiction, one ends up talking about their personal life.  I talked about the bullying that I went through as a child in school.  I talked about the death of my friend.  I talked about changing schools.  I talked other childhood friends I have had.  So, I guess it’s not such a stretch that I would dream about my old house and about saying goodbye to old ghosts.

Now back to the link above and the strangeness of today…

I guess I have been sorting out all of these feelings all morning.  First, I realized that I left my iPhone charger at work.  So, I had to go out and get a new chord for the i5 because all of my i3 phone cords do not fit the i5.  Irritating.  I went to Target to see if they had any cords.  They claim to sell accessories for the i5.  Well, I should say that I went there against my better judgement.  I should have known better after their insult to fat people incident.  I had vowed never to shop there again after the manatee gray dress event.  I already hate their selection of plus sized clothes, did they really need to add further insult to injury?  Well, I should have stuck with my initial instinct, which was not to shop at Target for anything.

I walked over to the electronics section, where all of the sales people were all playing with a scaffold staircase thingy that moves up and down to allow them to reach stuff on higher shelves.  So, ten people standing around goofing off and not one of them came over to help me.   Finally, someone did.

When I asked him about cords for the i5, he proceeded to lecture me about being sure that I use only Apple products.  He then further explained how the i5 has a magnetic connection and why it is important to use their products on the phone.

Don’t care.  Not what I was asking.  I only wanted to know, did they have an Apple i5 cord to sell me.  I tried to interrupt him several times to find this out, but he was on a mission apparently.  Finally, I just talked over him, and said, “Fine! Fine! Do you have one?”  At which point he just laughed and said, “No, we’ve been sold out for weeks.”

Seriously?  Was the diatribe necessary?  Couldn’t he have just told me that upfront?  I was never asking about any other type of cord.  I really hate it when I ask for something, and the idiot guy working in the store feels he needs to explain to the stupid woman why she does not want what she came in for.  I was really irritated after that.  I was hoping to avoid going to the Apple store.  I did not want to go there.  The store is in Clarendon.  The traffic sucks and I usually have to pay for parking.  It’s a mess.  But, I did it.  I have my cord and can charge my phone.

In truth, I was probably still feeling the effects of my dream and the strange feelings I had when I got up this am.  But, now I have had some coffee, had my protein snack, and I am at my new favorite cafe writing.  I am already starting to feel better.

Health, Meditation, and Yoga

I think it was around January 2011 I really started having severe health problems.  I went to the urgent care center in my area because I was having pain.  I thought maybe I had a kidney infection.  I was thinking about waiting until Monday so that I could go to my primary care doctor, but my sister talked me into going to urgent care.

Well, when I arrived at the urgent care center they took my blood pressure during the “triage” phase of the visit.  My bp was something like 210/125.  If you are not familiar with what an average blood pressure rating is, a normal good bp should be about 110/70-ish.  My bp was in the heart attack/stroke range.  Scary stuff.  The worst part is, I knew I had high blood pressure and was on medication.  So medicated,  my bp was scary, potentially deadly high.

As it turns out, my sister was friends with the urgent care doctor who saw me and he told her to take me to the ER, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  He sent paperwork with me and forwarded his analysis on to the hospital.  I think I have written before on this blog about how badly they treated me at this hospital.  Bottom line, I did end up going back to my doctor and a heart doctor.  I was put on three different medications and we were finally able to get my bp somewhat under control.

About 9-10 months later, I decided to have the gastric by-pass surgery.  I saw a couple of different surgeons around November/December time frame.  January/February 2012, I was back in the hospital having pains in my right side.  Crippling, unable to get out of bed pains.  So, back to the hospital.  I had tests done to my pancreas, my digestive system, my liver, my spleen, my heart again, and my lungs.  One doctor thought I might have a clot in my lungs.  It was awful. 

They never really were able to find out what was going on exactly, but here is sort of what they found.  My liver was slightly enlarged.  As was my heart.  And I had so much weight on my stomach that the base of my lungs were crushed.  They did every blood test imaginable to make sure that everything was OK.  My liver functions were good, except my cholesterol, especially the bad cholesterol, was really bad.  My triglycerides were out of control.  Basically, I talked to my doctor and they were really concerned that I was beginning to show signs of heart disease, which runs in my family.  I saw the heart doctor again and had a stress test and another scan of my heart.  I will probably have to do annual visits with the heart doctor to make sure that my heart stays in pretty good condition.

Around March, I finally found a gastric by-pass surgeon that I liked and decided to go proceed with getting ready for the surgery.  I then had nearly every medical test known to man.  Or at least it felt that way.

Somewhere during all of this a friend of mine talked to me about transcendental meditation.  He told me that he meditated all of the time and has for years.  I was a little bit surprised.  He gave me some pointers, told me what he did, and how it helped him.  He was really sure that it would help me with some of my problems.

Well, as I am wont to do, I put off taking his advice for months.  I finally did start meditating off and on for a few months sometime in 2011.  I meditated off and on throughout 2012 as well, but not nearly enough as I should have.  Since the surgery, I have not really meditated at all, until just a few weeks ago.  I should back up a little before I continue though.

About 15-20 years ago, I really got into Yoga.  I was never very flexible, but I enjoyed the exercises and the meditating that came with it.  After my father died in ’96, the meditating became too hard for me.  I was really a mess, and the yoga/meditation just seemed to bring everything to the fore.  I quit and never went back.   I always regretted that decision.

A couple of months ago, after I started feeling better, I occasionally started doing some of my old yoga stretches.  Not regularly, but sometimes.  This eventually led to me trying to meditate again.

I have done some guided meditations using a website a friend gave to me.  When I get home, I will add a link here.  My mother also sent me some tapes that I have been listening to.  I also started trying to meditate on my own without guidance.  The guided meditations are easier because you can focus the person speaking and just relax. 

Meditating and trying to clear my head on my own is very difficult, but I find it to be much more satisfying.  It is very interesting.  When I do not have someone else’s voice to focus on, I focus on a thousand other things.  My nose is itchy, my foot twitches, I have to flex my hands or arms, if I could just sit straight.  Also, everything that has been bugging me all day seems to run through my head.  I think about writing.  I think about blogging.  I forgot to send someone an email.  I can hear the refrigerator clicking on and off.  Someone is knocking on another apartment door down the hall.  It is very distracting. 

Here is what I do.  I turn down the lights.  Turn off the tv.  Turn off the cell phone.  Turn off my google pad.  Turn off both laptops.  I sit in the center of my bed.  I do not lay down.  I close my eyes and breathe.  I dismiss all of my distracting thoughts one by one by saying now is not the time and I vow to get back to it later.  I concentrate on letting them go.  I focus on the positive things I want to bring into my life.  I focus on calm, peace, good health, love, etc, whatever it is that is going to get me to relax and just let go of everything I have been holding onto all day.  I focus on being open to all of the good that I want in my life and the lives of those I care about and focus on letting go of the negative.

If I can shove all my distractions aside, clear my mind and relax even if it is just for a moment, it feels like a miracle.  I feel a thousand times better.  Usually, once I am done meditating, I do actually turn in for the night.  I have been sleeping like a baby.

I would not say that meditating has opened a third eye into the universe for me, but I do feel different afterwards.  Of course, I have not been doing it for very long.  There’s something to it though.  I come away from the experience feeling something.  Right now, it’s kind of an intangible feeling that is difficult for me to put into words, but if feels like I’m connecting to a part of myself that I did not know that I had.  I also experienced a couple of interesting things that have me thinking.  Maybe I’ll be able to talk about it more precisely in the future after I have had time to contemplate my emotions and thoughts, but I am curious to know more.

Today, I signed up for Yoga classes.  When I did Yoga years ago, I went to Unity Woods over in Tenleytown, which is in DC.  Turns out they have a branch in Arlington.  All in all, I did enjoy doing Yoga there and I cannot imagine doing it anywhere else.  I am glad to be getting back into Yoga.  My body definitely needs the stretching and the strength building after what it has been though.  Plus, it would be great to continue with meditating.

I do not know what health benefits all of this will have, if any, but it certainly could not hurt.  Even if all this does is help me relax to take the strain off of my heart and liver or to keep me from developing full-blown heart disease, I will consider the foray into yoga and meditation a wild success.

Oh and for the record.  My blood pressure is in somewhat normal range.  Occasionally it tends to trend a teeny-tiny bit high, like 135/80 max.  I have not taken any medication for three months.

Just One Of Those Days

I am just not feeling it today.  It has been cold and snowy or rainy here all week.  Today the sun is shining and it looks beautiful outside, but as the day progresses, I’m feeling more and more blah.  I would love to put my head down on my desk or crawl back under the blankets in bed and sleep for the rest of the day.  I’m not usually like this.  I normally have a very cheery disposition and try to stay positive, but today I am having a bad day.

Part of the problem is I am suffering from some digestive problems today.  I’ve written about this particular problem before and I just do not feel like discussing it again.  I am going to have to go to the drugstore at lunch and instead of eating, get something to help my system out.  This just ticks me off.  I had been doing so well for a little over a week, and now here I am again.  I’m in pain and I feel like crap.

I have also hit another weight loss plateau.  My weight loss has slowed down considerably from the first few months.  Of course, the first few months, I barely ate anything.  Nonetheless, I’m 83 pounds away from my goal and I feel like I will never get there.  Normally, I do not sweat the plateaus, etc, but today I am impatient.  It is probably compounded by the fact that I am not really feeling very well.

I am also fretting about my hair.  I pulled another fistful out this am while I was washing my hair and I almost started crying.  I do not know if my hair actually shows signs of thinning yet, but I am always checking the mirror for evidence that I am going bald.  I have become ridiculously obsessed with this.  I am taking two different forms of biotin every day, I just bought some more biotin shampoo, and I am going to try some iron supplements as well to see if that helps.

Tonight my AWG friends are meeting at a local restaurant for a social event.  Maybe I’ll go home after work, change, do my hair etc and see if that helps.  And, tomorrow the girls from my essay group are supposed to come over and we may have a writing session.  I usually feel better after I get some writing done.

On the writing side of things, I edited one essay that my essay group reviewed for me.  I have also submitted the revised version to AWG for another round of reviews.  Maybe one day, it will be worth something.  Also, I started two slightly humorous essays.  One has to do with my work, which is mind-numbing drudgery.  The other has to do with language and the regional dialect in the small part of America where I grew up.  I do not know if that one is working out the way I wanted.  I also have another essay about when “frenemies” break up that I have to edit.  That essay needs a lot of work and I have been avoiding working on it.  It is a very personal account of what happened when a former friend and I parted ways and what that did to our inner circle.  So, it is a difficult subject for me to revisit.

I do not know why I have decided to focus more on essays than fiction recently.  I think maybe because I have been writing so much of my life on this blog and what it is like to be a fat woman in America, it has forced me to review certain events in my life and how they affected my psyche.  Maybe the essays are a way for me to put things into perspective so that I can finally put them behind me and move forward to accept whatever the future may bring.    Or maybe I’m just full of crap.

Commuting in DC

metro

So, now that I am able to walk some more, commuting to DC is not the hassle it was a year ago.

When I used to work in DC at a client site, my office was located about a block and a half from the nearest Metro station.  I also had to walk across the street from my apartment building to catch a bus.  I did not have to walk a lot, but it was still more than I could handle.  I had to sit when I arrived at the bus stop.  After I got off the Metro in DC, I had to stop at least twice to rest my back before getting to the office.  It was awful.

Now, I am back to working in DC and no longer working from home.  My office is nowhere near a Metro station.  It is at least 5.5 blocks from the nearest station. Well, OK that’s not entirely true.  There are two stops that are about 4 blocks from the office, but then I have to go two stops out of my way and take another train, and the stop where I change trains is still adds another two stops to my trip.  It’s worth the extra block to not have to change trains and keep my metro stops down to three stations.

Five blocks are really not that far.  Normal people walk this much all of the time without even a thought.  I used to before I became so morbidly obese.  Now that I have lost 81 pounds, (OMG 81!!!!!), walking this much is easy.

I am also standing pretty much from the minute I leave my apartment until I get to the office.  I stand out in front of my building to wait for the bus…OK that’s not true.  I sometimes sit at the bus stop.  But once I get on the bus, I stand until I get to the metro station because there is often not a seat.  Then the metro train is so full, I stand for the three whole stops until I can pry myself out of the train.  There is not even time or quite frankly the room to read anything on my kindle app.  Seriously, some days you need a shoe horn to get people out of there we are packed in so tightly.  Then I fight to get up the escalators and out of the station before I begin my hike to the office.

Sometimes, I go to the little French café (where they play middle eastern music, btw…not that I mind middle eastern music, it’s just that Americans have fanciful notions that every French café should be playing Edith Piaf singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien all day long, but I digress), that is next to my office to get a cup of decaf.  There I sit and enjoy my last moments of solitude before entering the snake pit.

Honestly, the three stops are not bad.  Even the 5.5 block walk to the office is not bad.  I just hate being crammed on the train with about 10,000 other people with nowhere to move or breathe.  I am convinced with every jerk of the train that I will lose my balance and fall into the person next to me.  There is no real room to fall, so I would probably just body slam into the person next to me and cause people to tumble into one another like dominos.  Then there is the constant stopping and waiting for no reason without explanation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the broken escalators and elevators.  The train ride is stressful.  I thank God I only have to go three stops.

I am also thankful that I can do it relatively pain-free.  I still have some pain in my feet.  And occasionally my knees and back hurt a little.  But for the most part, I am enjoying the fact that I can do this.

Two other points…I lost 81 pounds!!!!  Omg I can hardly believe it!

The other thing I wanted to mention, I kind of put on my Facebook Page yesterday.  Yesterday, upon exiting the Metro station in DC, I ran into a friend of mine whom I have not seen in about two years.  She had a gastric by-pass 9 years ago.  We used to work together.  She looks great.  I also did not know her before the surgery.  She told me over and over again that she has no regrets.  I thought about her often before and since my surgery.

Well, I saw her and walked right up to her and made eye contact and she looked at me like she has never seen me before.  Then I told her who I was and seriously, her jaw dropped.  She asked me what I had been up to so I told her that I had the surgery.  We only had a moment to talk because we were both in the mad-commuter-rush-to-work mindset, but she told me that I looked great.  I have her email address, so I am going to send her an email.  I need to tell her how her experience really helped me make my decision when I reached my breaking point.  I may not have been ready to do it when she and I talked in the past, but I thought of her often through everything I have experienced.