Life Lesson: Always carry a needle to stick in the elephants butt

Let’s talk about weight loss/gain. This is one of those painful subjects people don’t like to talk about because most people feel like they need to lose a few or a lot and the other side some people would even like to gain a few. In my life long history I don’t know that I have met more then a very small handful of people that are happy with their bodies. Weight Journeys are always filled with ups and downs but you may have learned a lesson in the process that is important.

The Ultimate Before Picture

The Ultimate Before Picture

I was thin when I was a small child. Around the age of 10 I started packing on the pounds. My diet hadn’t changed and I didn’t start eating more than I was in prior years. Much later in life I would discover some of the causes. When I was 24 I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) one of the symptoms is near puberty someone with the disease their body begins to change. My hormones started pounding through like a freight train and my sugar levels went haywire. Oh goody. It took 14 more years for the diagnoses to come through. In addition to my body creating an uphill battle I would fight for years to come, my parents decided at the age of 12 to rip me from my home and family and friends in Florida and moved us to the unknown world of Massachusetts. This added immense amounts of stress to my already developing issues which I have discovered stress wins over all other attempts to do anything about how my body processes things.

 

I went on my first diet at the tender age of 11. Weight watchers put me on a low fat, low carb, high tasteless foods diet. I did fine on this diet for a short time until my mother started bringing Swiss Cake Rolls and other tasty treats into the house for the members of the family NOT on a “Diet”. I spent so much time longing for the treats because I felt so deprived on my “Diet” that I began hiding food and sneaking things I knew I “shouldn’t” have. I would sneak out at 2am and eat entire boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls and hide the evidence because if I tried to eat one when people were around I was shamed. (Yeah so there’s future issues developing.)

I was put on diet after diet throughout my teenage years but because I had my own forms of income through babysitting no one could actually do anything about what I would eat in private. I generally had stashes of junk food hidden like a drug addict hides drugs. I hid candy bars in outlets. I hid entire boxes of Oreos and Chips Ahoy in under-ware drawers. I become an astonishingly good liar.

The one message that came through loud and clear on each and every “diet” I attempted was “Diets” don’t work and only contain tasteless horrible foods.

By now you will notice my use of quotes when I use the word “Diet” when referencing a strict form of eating that is meant to cause weight loss over a short period of time but which is not truly sustainable in the long term. The reason for this is because that is an utter bastardization of the true meaning of the word. A persons DIET is what they eat and should not mean only a restriction. When scientists or archeologists talk about the DIET of a people they are researching they are NOT referring to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or Grapefruit. They are referring to the all encompassing of the foods they eat. So the only way I use the word diet is with the scientific meaning. If I am talking about food restriction I simply call it food restrictions or in this case I will use “diet” as so many readers will understand and expect that usage.

So many of you may have followed my weight loss over the last few years and so many of you cheered me on as I found a lifelong changes to my diet. Things went well for a long time and I rarely ever felt restricted at all. I was eating flavorful foods and enjoying food completely. There were things I missed and I would have them occasionally (i.e.: donuts because really who can live forever without a donut or two?). I was doing fabulously all around. I was happy, life was good. It was something I truly felt I could sustain long term.

Before and Progess 8-months

and then…

A number of things happened. I found out there is a possibility I may have sensitivity to nightshades. I also started to have increased levels of stress because of various external factors. I began trying to remove some of the foods I love most in the world from my already somewhat restricted diet. Tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers were a part of more than half the meals I love. From chili, to spaghetti sauce, salsa, pretty much anything Mexican and most Italian meals I make. We won’t even talk about the ways I use Paprika, chili powder, jalapeno peppers, cayenne, green chillis etc!

External factors including my brother Mike moving away, my oldest brother Wayne finally succumbing to cancer, my father who has been on and off sick for years taking the loss of his son so horribly and being diagnosed with cancer again, the loss of my grandmother, hearing about someone I cared about many years ago in school falling victim to Leukemia, and my unemployment and realization that now at 40 it is not as easy to find work just overloaded my entire being. With so many losses and so much stress my body stopped doing the things it is supposed to do. My digestion is always the first to go during stressful times. Then my willingness to create meals that tasted good left. Then my willingness to get out of bed some days escaped me. Depression took over everything in me.

Miss you Forever!

Miss you Forever!

 

I got to the point where I was eating only when Bill would make food and generally only one meal a day because I didn’t want him to know just how bad I was (not knowing he was fully aware of most of it). I went down to 300-500 calories a day and this amazing thing happened. I started gaining weight. Hold on to your horses folks! Calories out/calories in deficit to lose weight is BS. You can eat FAR less than your body needs and still gain weight! I know shocking right? You wanna talk about screwed up well there you are.

I started eating only what I could open a package and eat instantly. I didn’t care about anything and even food was no comfort. I literally sustained life for about 3 months on Ruffles. Ruffles is one of those things that I missed drastically when I cut out junk foods. I would have them rarely but once life didn’t matter anymore well Ruffles it is. Then I started drinking soda again and quickly it was just a downhill spiral. I even got to the point where I was eating gluten several times a week in spite of the havoc it reeked on my system. I would be in tears in pain from the gluten cramping but hey at least I knew I was alive right? I guess that is how a cutter feels?

When the world tilts and spins out of control sometimes you just go along with it no matter how unwilling you are to do so. Sometimes you just lay down and don’t get up because you don’t have the strength to deal.

Now people that don’t know anything about depression may be thinking, “Just think of the good things in your life.” “You are so blessed, just think of the blessings”, “Well you should just get up and move on”, “When you have responsibilities you can’t just CHOOSE to stay in bed”. To those well-meaning people I would like to say, “I love you but you should probably stop talking because I didn’t CHOOSE any of this.” I didn’t HAVE a choice. The chemicals in my brain were so messed up I couldn’t see anything. Thinking of the good things in my life only made me feel GUILTY for not being able to get up and do what needed to be done. Then the guilt would make me feel like the worst person ever and there you go, downward spiral again and then there was the brain fog that made it nearly impossible to even think straight which made everything else even more difficult.

Telling someone in the depths of depression to “Get over it and move on” is like a knife in the gut. Do you really think I am ENJOYING this? Do you not think I would get up and get over it if I could? Seriously!

So in the course of 2 of the most difficult years of my life my loving husband finally said enough. He made me make an appointment with my therapist. Talking to someone outside the situation who can give you a different perspective is sometimes the only thing that can help some people. I had to have an outside perspective. I needed someone that didn’t love me to say “you need to stop beating yourself up.” I needed someone outside to make recommendations on actions I could take to move on. Ways to remember my lost loved ones without becoming lost with them.

Yeah yeah I seem to have gone off on a tangent but I really haven’t. What does depression have with weight loss? Well it is all about the journey right? With too many people everything is about the destination. People just want to be there and with my long term diet and lifestyle changes I would LOVE to just be there but that is not how these things work. You have to go through the journey or you never appreciate the destination. As an RVer you would think the journey is the destination in all things but sometimes I need a reminder.

In the process of my depression I seem to have hit the weight goal reset button but the thing about weight goal progress is that sometimes even gaining weight is a very important progress in your journey.

What have I learned? In everything I go through I try to sit and think about what is the lesson I need to learn to move forward in life. I have lost and gained weight but each time I do I learn something else that didn’t work. Thomas Edison tried 1000 ways to make a light bulb that didn’t work but then he found the way that did work. Oprah Winfried was fired and told she wasn’t made for television. Walt Disney himself was fired and was told he wasn’t creative enough. The one thing that each of them did that is different from so many of us is they NEVER GAVE UP. So here I am starting over again but with life lessons under my belt to give me strength.

So what have I learned from this experience?

Compassion for people with depression that I never had before but also a willingness and eagerness to help friends with depression pull themselves out.

You may never get back to your former “normal” but you can find a new “normal” that may even be better than the normal you had before because you understand so much more.

I have also learned that when times get tough the worst thing you can do is just lay down. That sometimes all you can do is just lay down but that you have to know how important it is to get back up as soon as you can get that darned elephant off your chest. To always carry a needle to stick in the elephants rear to get him off your chest or have a friend that has a needle you can borrow.

That half of the people you think are true friends won’t be when you don’t have anything to give them and will disappear like snakes in the grass after biting you with poison that will make it even harder to get back up.

Your true friends are even more rare than you know but that some people you may not consider a true friend may surprise you in the good way and become lifelong holders of your heart.

The road to where you think you want to be may not exist. You may find a new road or you may forge your own road but whatever you do it is a constant uphill battle.

People inherently are selfish but you are people and sometimes you have to be selfish in order to survive.

Fat is a bitch. It is clingy and causes you pain and is sometimes seems impossible to get rid of but if you try hard enough you might be able to smother her in her sleep. LOL

That I am beautiful from within. Also to all the nasties in the world, I may be fat but you are ugly inside and I can lose weight.

Before you judge someone that is overweight stop for a minute and consider you may not know their story. You may not know how difficult their life is and unless you a perfect back the F off. This should actually go for judging in general just don’t.

So here I am preparing to begin another chapter in my life (again). Will I be perfect? Nope Perfect is overrated. Will I be successful?  Who the hell knows but if I don’t try I won’t ever be successful so if it comes to trying I will just keep trying. Do I have any answers for anyone? Nope but I have a lot of good advise and I’d probably better start taking some of it.

Life is full of uncertainty and I think that’s some of the fun even if it can be stressful. Find the people you can count on. Make a plan for your life and then grab life by the balls because if you don’t it won’t wait for you it will just pass you by.

Here is to new beginnings.

New beginnings

New beginnings

***Subnote: I do not assume people with extra weight are not healthy or cannot be happy. I know my weight is actually killing me. With the health issues I have I NEED to lose weight. There are many healthy people with extra weight on their bodies and I say more power to you. If you are happy in your skin go for it. I just want to be my happiest and healthiest self. That doesn’t mean skinny or the worlds idea of healthy it means I can do the things I want to do without being held back by the weight that is breaking down my knees, feet, and body. It means getting my PCOS under control so I can move into my middle age and older years gracefully. ***

Escape Puzzle Room

On Thursday this week my Toastmasters group had an outing to get to know each other better. Our organizer decided we should go to one of the Escape Room places. It is a place where you go into a room and have to solve puzzles in order to get out. You have 60 minutes to complete the puzzles.

Many of you know I am a puzzle fanatic. I had subscriptions to Games magazine for well over a decade when I was a kid and I’ve always loved puzzle games so I was more than excited. I read the website and even watched a couple youtube videos to try and figure out what I might be up against. Luckily there really isn’t any information so you go in knowing nothing about it.

When people think puzzles they often assume its going to be trivia questions or memory things which I am generally horrible at but I had hoped for something more like what it really was.

I don’t want to really do a walk through because I feel like not knowing what you are getting into is so much more fun but I will say there was trivia questions or horrible riddles that make you want to pull your hair out.

I feel bad now after the fact because I feel like I totally went in and ran over some of my friends. My focus was so hard on finding the answer that I wasn’t really paying attention often and I feel like I totally just plowed through.

All in all I thought it was a ton of fun and I would not hesitate doing it again. It did make me realize how long its been since I had to work as a team with other people on anything. Working from home has not enhanced these skills. LOL

A great man gone

David Gilland was my uncle. He was an amazingly strong and stubborn man so much like my grandfather. As a young kid I didn’t get to spend much time with him because he was in the military stationed overseas and to me as a young kid he was a man of the world. When I was 12 years old he and his family moved back to the US after it was discovered he had a tumor growing in his chest. They ran hundreds of tests on him and gave him only a few days to live. This was scary to me and I know it was scarier to the rest of my family. We would pray for him every day and even our church prayed for him every Sunday.

He went in for treatments and the tumor shrank. While he was going in for all of his treatments he had gotten a price on how much it would cost for someone to come and dig a hole for a pool in the backyard of his house and he was so outraged by the cost he picked up a shovel and a bucket and each day would go out and dig the hole. Eventually it was the size of a pool. Unfortunately the tumor had gotten so big it damaged his heart and lungs and caused him a great deal of pain.

He continued on through life and created a company to sell his crafts around the country at craft fairs and flea markets. He made handmade baskets and puppets. I remember going to their house and he helped me hand make a couple baskets to keep as my own.

He was alive to welcome all of his grandkids into the world and loved them all so dearly. He was a great father and even better grandfather and I got to know him better over the years. He was an amazing baker and even made my wedding cake for my first wedding. I remember coming home the night before the wedding and he was putting the final layer of icing on the cake and I sat and chatted with him and helped with some of the final touches before finally going to bed.

Last week we lost him. He was able to conquer the cancer and live another 27 years beyond. We are so glad we got the extra time but as is often said it was never enough.

Sending prayers and condolences to my family. Another great man has moved on to whatever is beyond this life.

The Phoenix is Rising from the Ashes

This week I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and it’s a truly powerful book.

Phoenix

Over the last 18 months my friends have been so amazingly supportive and my life has been a constant challenge.

Something none of you know is last November/December I hit a low unlike anything I have ever experienced. Just getting out of bed some days was a struggle and my therapist and I discussed all my possibilities and I did actually consider committing myself for constant help. I made the decision that day that something drastic had to change. I knew this all was stemming from the losses I suffered last year.

Losing my grandmother was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken and tossing losing my oldest brother on top of that and then hearing that someone I knew in HS and was a few years younger then me had suddenly and unexpectedly passed and my father’s battle with cancer and knowing there is nothing that is going to help him at this point was just was the last straw on that famous camels back. I just shut down.

On a general daily basis I struggle with serious hormone imbalances from my PCOS and that is something that is generally manageable but when tossed in with all the rest it just became debilitating.

For a few months over the summer I just pushed through life and thoroughly fulfilled the denial phase of grief. I went on my merry way like nothing had happened. Come September and the light starts to fade from the sky and I am so busy in my denial state that I don’t remember to start supplementing light and Vitamin D and suddenly my whole mental and emotional system just slowed almost to a stop. As life throws you things and sometimes you don’t even see them go by I spent September in a constant state of “I’m just tired” or “maybe it’s the weather change”. Until I spent a week where I didn’t leave the house and didn’t want to and didn’t want to see anyone and didn’t want to talk to anyone. This is when Bill finally after asking for a few weeks “Honey are you okay? Are you REALLY okay?” That I realized something was very much not okay.

I went to my doctor and made appointments to see my therapist and started a very long journey to figure out what I could do to work with this. I started taking St Johns Wort and working towards something that was better then where I was. When the holiday season came around I was just shut down. The holidays for more the 25 years of my life were spent in St Pete, FL at my grandmother’s house. It was all I knew for most of my life and even though I hadn’t spent the holidays there in years that time of year is all about my grandmother even now. So I had constant reminders that she was gone and I would never again have the option to go home for the holidays. This broke me deeply and I didn’t know how to handle it so I didn’t.

I believe not working out of the house was detrimental to my process although I do wonder if I did have a job out of the house at the time if I just would have ended up taking leave or something so I’m not convinced working outside the house would have been much different. But I do think it slowed my progress. There were entire days I didn’t get out of bed until it was time for Bill to come home. I didn’t want him to know how bad I was because he already worries too much about me and I knew my depression was hurting him. He was so supportive of me and even offered to cancel Christmas and spend the day with me so I could just grieve but that didn’t happen.

By January things got better because the holidays were gone and I tried to put my best foot forward and force myself back into life. I gained a lot of weight when I wasn’t eating which sounds totally counter intuitive but that is what my body does. Any food I put in was immediately reserved as fat because I would go all day not eating and then have dinner with Bill and my body assumed I was starving so it packed on the reserves. This didn’t help with my PCOS issues and as I gained weight my hormones continued to spiral out of control even as my emotions and grief started to subside.

Also in January I had a number of people I thought were friends decide I didn’t care about them and decided to block me from their lives, which tossed me into another bout of inner turmoil. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was that I couldn’t. I couldn’t even care about myself at that point how could I care for anyone else? My therapist and I went over this and she said it is a very common occurrence when someone that is generally a Joy becomes a Sadness many people that receive their joy by being around me couldn’t support me in my sadness. This ripped my heart in two because I truly loved and cared about these people and suddenly they were just gone from my life which was like suffering a death again.

I spent January through May doing everything I could to maintain regular activity and act like life was normal even though inside I still felt like I was rotting. I went through the motions and tried to act normal but anyone that really knows me could easily see through the BS. I started reading books and I started picking up books on happiness and other self-help books. I came across Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and the book was thought provoking. It made me mad, it made me sad, it made me happy, it made me mad again. It took me months to finish but I did finish it. The book is about shame resilience. Well I felt so much shame about losing my friends I blamed myself. I felt shame about wallowing in my depression, I felt shame about not getting up and doing more, I felt shame about not fixing myself better, I felt shame about everything. So when it made me mad I wouldn’t listen to more but I kept thinking.

Once I was about half done with the book I realized that as I had been traveling and working from home I had lost some of my natural ability to communicate with people. One of my life goals has always been to join a Toastmasters group and to really face and conquer my fear of public speaking. So I decided to dare greatly and I put myself out there. If you know me very well or even a little you will know I don’t do things half way. If I am going to pay someone to help me I’m going to squeeze every penny of worth out of it. So I dove head first into Toastmasters and I started forcing myself to visit different networking groups to help grow my business. My therapist was very happy to see me getting out of the house so this was completely supported.

When I joined Toastmasters(TM) I went headlong into it. I signed up for every role available to me. The first 3 months culminating with me being the Toastmaster for the first time this week. I’ve already done two speeches and plan to do one a month to finish my Competent Communicator book in a year. I am also going full force on my Competent Leadership book as well to help me learn to be a good leader. This has helped me open the door to my communication skills that had truly started slacking.

My TM group is wonderful. They are so welcoming and many of them have been through so much together through facing their fears together that they are an amazing group that all of them are there for the same reason.

About 3 weeks after I joined TM a friend invited me to go to a BNI (Business Network International) group for a visitors day. Bill had been considering joining a group and I was HIGHLY skeptical about it being something I wanted to do. I am shy. I know yuck it up. If you know me one on one you would laugh at me being shy but put me in a room full of strangers and I want to crawl under the table and stand up and talk in front of them and I guess that is my perfect nightmare but I know why I want to build my business and I know in order to do that I have to put myself out there so off I went. The visitors day had over 60 people and I had to stand up and give my 30 second commercial for my business which I had never done before but I had practiced Bill’s with him and so I had an idea of what I wanted to say. I was unlucky enough to be the 3rd guest to stand and I can honestly say I did a good job but what I said, I have no idea. It’s a blank. I had bright spots in front of my eyes and I thought for sure I was going to pass clean out. Adrenaline pumped in my ears and I shook for 20 minutes after. Thank God for TM or I wouldn’t have even done that well. Ha!

But during that meeting the regulars in the group made me laugh. They all knew each other’s tag lines and said them together. They laughed with each other and at each other and then there was Art. The Art of eBay does a special kind of commercial and while I cannot tell you which one of them he did that day it made me laugh and it lifted my spirits because I knew immediately he was a kindred spirit.

After the meeting I learned that part of what I said in my 30 seconds was “bear with me I’m terrified” or something to that effect. So once the meeting was over a dozen or more people walked up to me to tell me they also have/had a fear of speaking and that I did a great job. It was so heart warming and they were so sweet to me. Then one of the members, Krista, set up a one on one with me immediately to learn more about my business. I left thinking there was no way in hell I was joining because I could never stand up In front of all those people every week and talk. Well yeah we know how that turned out.

A couple weeks later I did my first speech at Toastmasters and I totally rocked it. I was terrified and my hands gripped the podium like it was the lifeline and I was sinking but I got through the speech without passing out or throwing up. Bill and I discussed the BNI and I realized that it was an amazing group and the comradeship of the group really was something special. I had been to a few other groups that didn’t have that feeling and then there was Art and he really made me want to see what funny thing he might do next time. So I decided to go back for my second visit.

I got there too early and was the second person in the room and so I found a seat and stood there like a rabbit waiting for the foxes to come eat me. I was terrified. I was going to have to talk to people and I was going to have to stand up and talk in front of people again! I cannot tell you what I do in 30 seconds. Well people started arriving and several people introduced themselves to me so I didn’t crawl under any tables but I was still anxious about talking in front of the group. Everyone went around to do their commercial and the same things happened. People laughed and people were smiling and so I started to relax. It really helped that visitors go last. My turn came and I fumbled something out and they applaud like we do for everyone and the meeting went on and I didn’t die and no one threw tomatoes. I really fell in love with the atmosphere. They truly are like a big family. They tease each other and they laugh and when Art stands up some of them actually groan. It’s amazing so I joined.

Yes this is all going somewhere so I guess I should get to the point.  The phoenix.

Through the process of Toastmasters and through my BNI I have begun to realize life does go on. My company is growing and my life is still there and while I still have some days I wake up sad and missing my grandmother and my dad is still fighting his losing battle with cancer the sun is out and for the first time in a long time Joy has returned. For those of you that have seen Inside Out (the movie) I feel like Joy got lost in my long term memory for the last 18 months but she has finally made it back to the switchboard. Sadness is necessary for us to feel joy but I am happy to report that Sadness and Anger and Fear are no longer the only ones at the switchboard. Joy has returned and I can’t tell you just how happy that makes me.

National Infertility Awareness Week

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week to help bring awareness to an astoundingly common situation. Women all over the country are fighting a diagnosis of infertility.

Many of you may not know but I am infertile. During my first marriage I got pregnant twice and lost both pregnancies. My doctor says I could spend thousands of dollars if I wanted to have a baby but I had friends that did that and that was not to be a part of my life. My children, had I not lost them, would be 12 and 14 years old and if they had become a part of my life, my life would be very different then it is today.

Being told by a doctor that you are likely never to have a baby brings up all sorts of feelings. It is very similar to a grief cycle. There is rebellion aka denial, “How dare you tell me I can’t do something. Just you watch!” There is anger, “Why not, damnit!” There is bargaining, “Well maybe if I just… maybe then it will work.” There is depression and a deep sense of failure, “Why am I broken? Why can I not do the one thing a woman is put on this earth to do?” Then there is acceptance, well I guess there is supposed to be acceptance but I don’t know many of us that got that far and most of us still have the anger or denial or many of us are just always bargaining.

I have lied to a great many number of people and just said, “Well I didn’t want a child anyway. They change everything.” But the sad reality is that is a lie that started out as a protective mechanism. It has in the end become more of a true statement but I can say with absolute honesty that I did want a child, actually I wanted at least two.

When I was a teenager a friend of the family lost her baby and I remember thinking that this had to be the most horribly painful thing that could happen to a person and in the end I was right.

 

When I was a teenager I was a nanny for a beautiful family. I gave those children my entire heart and they loved me back in a way I had never experienced before. I was laughed at for years because I would tell people that because of those two little girls I wanted 12 kids of my own. The love they give was just simply intoxicating. I realized, as I got older, that 12 might be a bit excessive so I settled on 2 or 3. I was one of 3, well 6 actually but 3 were grown and moved out before I came to be. I felt like 2 or 3 would be perfect. I wanted a boy first and then a girl because I wanted my little girl to have a protective and loving big brother just like I had but I would have been happy with any child if I had had the luxury to have one. Instead I have the vague memory of those few months I was given to hold my belly and dream of the life that would never come to be.

If you know someone with infertility be gentle and love them. And for God’s sake if you have family that have not had children STOP ASKING when they will have a baby because you may not know how much they very much want one and the private struggle they are going through.