(not) nice knowing ya.

In a recent conversation with someone new to my life I shared that I had a blog. I didn’t elaborate much just that it was about random life stories and weight loss journey and growth and well ya know, all that jazz. A week or so later she mentioned that she found my blog and read it, and commented on the lack of entries the last few months. I blamed graduating, my new job, the pandemic, but really that wasn’t it. I paused, one of those heavy sort of lingering pauses and then told her about the phone call.

Sometime in December of last year, I missed a call from a number that was not in my phone, but something about it was familiar. I listened to the voicemail and was instantly sick to my stomach. I knew the voice. I knew the name. Ugh. I hadn’t spoken to the caller in easily 8 or 9 years. I hated the way he said my name.

I told her about the person; someone I had a shared financial obligation with in the past and that was why he was calling. Honestly, that’s not the part that made me feel queasy. The obligation had morphed and changed and it wasn’t a big deal to me – I have done a lot of work around my previous financial shortcomings and don’t live there anymore. I don’t even want to visit. I ignored the call. I don’t know why I didn’t send a text acknowledging the message or confirming he had the right number. His message let me know that he wasn’t sure if it was still my number. I told my best friend and Steve about the call and went on with my day. I can’t remember if he called a second and third time, or just a second one; but a week later I got an email. It was a “new contact” email through this website. He ‘googled’ me. He couldn’t get me on the phone so he searched for me on the internet.

I went on to tell her how a few years ago I joked about wishing we could send updates to people from our past so they could see we were thriving or more successful, prettier, thinner, happier. Not this guy. I was happy to let him think I was a fat, sad waitress who needed his financial assistance at some point. I didn’t care what he thought about me as long as he stayed out of my life.

Let me be clear that this was someone I’d spent years in and out of the chase with. You’re probably thinking who cares about someone from your past showing up, this is your moment to shine – so shine. Well, I care. I told her what a shit he was. That he was abusive. Not in a push me around, physical way. Not even in a way I may have noticed in the moment. Lying, cheating, gaslighting. Offering morsels and expecting pounds. It was the voice, honestly. Hearing that voice. The same voice that once called to say he had an STD and confessed he had cheated on me. The voice that commented on my weight. The voice that judged my job, my education. The voice that lied. The voice that shouted when he punched the sunroof of my car in a fit of anger.

I told her that I think I stopped posting much because I didn’t want him to know anything about my now life. He could see this blog now, he could read years of stories he knew nothing about. My improvements, my growth. I thought that somehow him knowing the “new” me took something away from that. I didn’t want him to have any access to any pieces of me, he doesn’t deserve them. I laughed at the thought spiral, the weird trip down memory lane and realized he never deserved them.

The financial thing in question was a student loan for the final class of my first masters program. He helped me secure it because he “couldn’t marry someone who slings chicken wings.” Nice.

Anyway, saying it all out loud made me realize how lame that whole thing was. I stopped writing here as much maybe because of the pandemic, and maybe graduating and starting a new job, but it was the voice that made me stop before that. I’m so big and loud about who I am now, and how I got here and helping others get places and I am gonna be silenced by that voice? That google search? Nope.

I told her I wanted to write a post about it and get past it but that I felt bad, I didn’t want to make anyone look bad or make a thing of it and ya know what she said? “The stories you share belong to you, they are what happened to you and what you experienced and if anyone doesn’t like the way they are portrayed in them, they should have behaved better. ”

And you should have.

hi, it’s me again

Earlier this year I picked up a spiral bound hardcover notebook at Target because it was a pinky-blue brushstroke design with gold accents and a ‘there is always something to be grateful for’ etched on the cover. To be clear I did not need this notebook. I rarely need a notebook because whenever I see one I like, I buy it. I liked the sentiment though and decided I would start something like journaling again.

Three weeks later, my best pen in hand, I go hard and scribble out three to four pages about things. The next day I do it again and the next day for about a week. I start to forget, I come back here and there and when I pick it up again it’s the week after I had to cancel my flight to visit my family in Wisconsin. It’s a day after I panic bought canned food and Cinnamon Toast Crunch because they were talking about food shortages and government lockdowns. I never buy food out of a panic in a storm or a crisis, but the panic of others makes me think I am too calm so I follow suit. I once called Steve from the grocery store the night before a snowfall … “Everyone is buying bottled water!! Do we need bottled water?!” I don’t think I have ever purchased a case of bottled water in my life!

Anyway, I’m in my comfiest clothes, on my couch and I grab the journal and write a bit and then, you guessed it …. put it back on the shelf and now it’s practically August. I picked it up today, once again determined to get back in to and the last two pages I wrote on go like this:

3.24.20

Well. Never made it to WI like was planned. A virus – I feel like I’m writing about a movie – started spreading rapidly. 

4.7.20

I couldn’t even write any more last time because the whole thing seemed so surreal. It’s still going on. The virus. 

I went on to write a bit more in that last entry detailed our work and internship situations and things that were going on, but then it tapered off again. I think maybe for the same reasons things did for me with this blog. What was there to say? I was trying to finish my graduate program, find a full-time position, plan and then stop planning a graduation party, and trying to reschedule that flight to my family. Then more shitty things just kept happening in the world.

I was bummed out on a lot of levels about a lot of things. I think I just needed a break to get my brain together and take the temperature of the whole thing … and this morning, months after that first scribble,  I filled some of those pages again and plan to be back filling these. I guess the notebook was right, there is always something to be grateful for.

memory

Shouting over the espresso machine while making us lattes this morning I say “I think I’m going to stop telling people I used to be fat.”

He looks at me without responding because he knows there is more. “I don’t know, it’s weird, I’m not trying to pretend I wasn’t but why do people need to know that me when she’s not now me? People don’t tell you they dyed their hair once in high school or that they have a hidden horrible tattoo. Well, maybe they do. I don’t know I just think it’s weird, it usually comes up organically but is it possible I just don’t keep going with it?”

I hand him his latte, he takes a sip, “Well, I guess that depends on …” I don’t hear what he says because I am still in my thought spiral about how “talking about it keeps it relevant, and brings it into the now and with some people that can be helpful but really who gives a shit? and it was almost six years ago I mean, well I guess it was all thirty five years before that too … what was the point of losing all the weight if i was just going to carry it around with me forever anyway? The ghost of fat past … ”

I laugh. He waits. I shrug.

“Do you even need me for this conversation?” I stare at him “Yea, I need guidance, do you think this part of me should be included in every new person’s knowledge of me?”

He stares.

“I mean, think about it, people I knew growing up don’t know the me in this kitchen, they  just know chubby, kinda bitchy, not doing anything so great me, ya know?”

“Kinda bitchy?” We laugh.

This line of thinking is something I get lost in pretty often. Which you is in a story that someone tells? Is it the actual you? A version of you that you’ve outgrown? People have ideas and opinions about us all the time that may not be accurate, or are based on a bias, a first impression or something someone they kind of know said to someone who knows their mother’s cousins aunts uncle. What about when the opinion is based on something you no longer are? What’s the story someone is telling themselves about you?

Sometime in 2006  I was out for the night with a group of friends. There were about ten of us having dinner, and then drinks before a hockey game. We found ourselves in the path of a couple of drunk guys who spouted off and started trouble, only to be taken down, so to speak by a few of the guys in our group. I have told the story of that night; the banging of a guys head on the door, the dropping of keys in the river, the yelling and chaos of the six or eight minutes it lasted, at least a dozen times since it happened. I always wonder if those guys, or the girls they were with tell the story. If so, I wonder what it sounds like.

I wonder how people tell the stories that we are part of.

Its unlikely they tell them the same since their perception is their reality, as is ours. I wonder how I am represented by the stories I am part of, I wonder if I am left out of some.

I found myself wondering if that guy, whose name I still remember recalls making some snarky comment about me in the elementary school yearbook before someone caught it, or if he even remembers going to that school.

I wondered if the guys who invited me to dunkin donuts for coffee in college and squished me into the backseat of a car and took me for a ride two towns away propositioning me for all sorts of lewd things remember that night; I wonder if they talked about it at when they met up for one of their weddings.

I wondered if my neighbor who shouted at my parents about my faulty car alarm going off in the middle of the night still remembers that happening, or that we even lived there.

I wonder if the guy who I had a whirlwind relationship with and talked about marrying remembers that we talked about that, or that we talked about anything.

I wonder if the friend who couldn’t support the idea of weight loss surgery, so I stopped calling and interacting tells the story of me as a bad friend, a person who hurt her, not the way I saw it.

Then I wondered if they even tell these stories at all.

Maybe they don’t.

Actually, they probably don’t, not the us part anyway.

So many times we probably exist in a memory that is vague, or that we are left out of. A memory that isn’t ours. Nobody remembers what we said, what we wore, or that we were even there. Those memories, are none of our business.

Moreover, those memories are the reason we shouldn’t put too much stock in what others think now. We get one life, so we gotta live it the best we can and hope we are remembered well because eventually, everything becomes a memory.

fart party

This is never going to be a professional blog (see: title) or solid resource for mental health information; but as a person with mental health, who works in mental health, you can expect some overlap. There has been a lot of talk about physical space and social distancing lately, which has got me thinking about emotional space and the idea of privacy.

I was talking to someone today and we were talking about how someone in her family asked about her kids and some decision she made. She admitted to being sort of taken aback by it, and responded to avoid conflict but something about it irked her. Was she the topic of conversation? We talked about how her family always held what I called ‘fart parties’. Someone in the family would do something, anything – as insignificant as fart and immediately the news spread. Quickly the family would decide on a meet up spot, who would bring what food and drink and desserts and then they would sit and discuss the fart, and of course, the farter (farter need not be present). These people were so enmeshed in each others lives and business that the idea of privacy or omission was foreign. If the farter didn’t want to disclose what they ate prior to the incident, the group would be incredulous. How could you not tell us? We need to know every detail about the fart, we’re family! If the details weren’t disclosed, the family might talk about the fart for weeks separately and then reference it for months or years to come. She acknowledged my point and countered it that all families are like this. I was hesitant to agree, but couldn’t fully disagree because I vividly remember a game of telephone my mother played with her mom and sisters (both blood and in-law) when I confessed that I had gotten my period in the school bathroom in sixth or seventh grade. Not a fart party, but an overshare for sure.

I have always been an open book, but have joked that you need to come to the library. I am willing to share almost anything about my life from crapping my pants while simultaneously barfing on the church altar in 5th grade to the experience of weight loss surgery, moving 1000 miles away from your family and (finally) deciding on a career path at the tail end of your thirties. The information is available but the way it is dispersed is in my control. Usually. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when something is repeated or shared by someone other than me, but I’ve learned to be more selective with my sharing, considering the potential spread. I’m not ashamed of any of my choices or behaviors, though I know who may use them as ammo, or throw a fart party – it’s important to be clear about what in your life is open for discussion, and what isn’t.

My favorite thing to talk about with clients, and in leading groups, is boundaries. It has become a favorite thing to talk about with friends, too. Boundaries are, simply put: the rules that you make for yourself in terms of how you will let other treat you, what access you will allow them to have to you and your life and how you will respond if these rules aren’t followed. Boundaries can be hard to put in place.  A lot of the time it’s because what we have to say or do to set a boundary, is counter to what we have been doing, or been taught to do. Boundaries limit our obligations, in the sense that they keep us from doing and allowing things because “that’s the way it’s always been” or “that’s how we do it”. That we can be a partner, parents, extended family, siblings, friend, neighbor …. anyone who has an attachment to a situation.

It isn’t always family that we need boundaries with, but that seems to be a big one. There may be familial traditions or expectations that, when you distance yourself, make you an outsider or cause a vague bullying. This is typically true when your behavior is counter to the behavior of the group. When people change something, those around them may want to deflect the attention from their own needs, or self examination. A lot of people don’t like the idea, or don’t want the responsibility of self-exploration. The pushback on boundaries is often from people who don’t want to self-examine or don’t like change. That’s not hard and fast; there are plenty of reasons people might push back, but they are not your reasons.

The most important way (I think) to set a boundary is to be direct. As a recovering people-pleaser, I know that this is as harder than it sounds. We want to say yes to people who need something for us, we want to make others happy, we want to avoid conflict, we want to keep things status quo. That’s admirable, but not if it makes you want to die inside. (dramatic) I spent many years saying yes to things out loud and then regretting it and feigning illness, other plans, or following through while being angry about it because I didn’t feel like it was okay to say no. I felt like that might rock the boat or break tradition or disappoint someone else. Know what? It might have … and so what? Why is our sense of obligation often tied to others responses and reactions and not our own? That’s a question for another time, honestly. A few other key ways to approach boundaries are knowing your limits, prioritizing self-care, considering the audience, exploring your feelings and giving yourself permission to alter the boundaries you set when it seems reasonable.

Boundaries can be set for all sorts of life areas; personal space, time and energy,  sexuality, belongings, cultural or ethical beliefs. Boundaries are super personal and cannot be decided for us, they are rules that we make up about our own lives and our own needs. There’s no checklist for setting boundaries – only to not be too rigid, or too loose with them. The more rigid your boundaries are you may miss out on experiences or relationships that are beneficial. the more loose your boundaries are you may not feel capable or able of making decisions for your self, or you may feel pressure to give and do for others without hesitation.

The bottom line is we get one life and we have to live it in the way that works best for us – EVEN if it’s different than what your family wants or what your friends expect. You know how when you are on an airplane and they talk about putting your oxygen mask on first, before helping others? We need to get our head out of the clouds and think this way on the ground, too.

destination addiction?

I recently saw a quote about “destination addiction”. The term was used to describe the idea that happiness is a place that we can find and get to somewhere else than where we are now. I was curious so I dug a little deeper and another article I saw referred to it as people who believe success is a destination. The most relatable, was what I saw in a Psychology Today article when I read a little further and it said that destination addiction was “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” The article went on to say that until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Man, that’s familiar.

I don’t consider myself as ever having been an unhappy person. I was always pretty contented in most areas of life, and the company I kept. A little bitchy, over opinionated, easily irritated maybe, but not unhappy. I would have been more comfortable in a smaller body and with a better job or a career path, sure, but mostly I was good. I was good right up until I wasn’t.

I remember sitting with the counselor at the hospital for the weight loss program I was entering, during the psychological evaluation she asked if I was married “not rolling down the aisle in an expensive dress in this body” I responded, or when she said are you planning to get pregnant (this is a no-no for roughly 18 months post op) and I laughed, I don’t think think I can add the weight of a baby to this body. These are just two examples of things that I wasn’t doing because I thought they would be better and make me happier if I wasn’t fat. (Turns out that’s not why I wasn’t doing them but that’s another post) 

I know, and know of many people who think that their happiness is still out there, that there’s just one more thing they need to do to complete the riddle and BAM- HAPPY! Well, prepare to have your dreams dashed, kids, ain’t gonna happen. I can tell you for certain that losing weight, whether it’s 10 pounds, 80 pounds or 180 pounds is not going to instantly change your life and give you all the things you think you want / need / deserve. I can also tell you that getting married or having a baby isn’t going to fix your relationship, a new job may help your bank account and even your self esteem, but it won’t make you happy if the other puzzle pieces are still strewn across the table of your life.

I just thought of something someone said to me awhile ago that was laughable, honestly … they said “You don’t understand, you always get everything you want.” I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. Me? Everything I want? I feel like it took me until I was midway through thirty to even consider what I really wanted, and by the time it was in action I was practically forty.

That wasn’t the part though, it was that I GET everything I want that slayed me. I asked for a clarification, I said ” What’s this everything I get?” They did not miss a beat. “You didn’t want to be fat anymore, you’re not. You wanted to go back to school, you are. You wanted a newer car that wasn’t rusty and dented, you got one. I mean ….”

Ain’t having it.

“You mean what? I didn’t just get those things” “Okay fine, but you got them easier than I get shit.” This turned into a conversation about the hoops I jumped through to “not be fat anymore”, the doctors appointments, the embarrassment, the waiting room practically public weigh-ins, the re-learning how to eat, the surgery, while minimally invasive, was still surgical. I went on a tirade about sure I am back in school but not without applying to several programs, tracking down transcripts from a college I went to twenty years ago for less than a year that tried to say I still owed them money, letters of recommendation and applying for even more student loans. The car? Gimme a break, I traded in my car for pennies, and put the rest of the down payment on a credit card. (former poor credit use also for another post!)

I think that this person and maybe a lot of people don’t want, or can’t put the effort into certain things because what if they fail? What if the desired outcome isn’t achieved (BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!)? I didn’t tell most of my family I was having weight loss surgery, because what if it didn’t work? Even the people I did tell had opinions (both positive & negative), how about when I decided to go back to school, the opinions or the pressure to “get it right” this time. That shit sucks, but really, not as much as being in your own way, relying on some other person or event to give you this euphoria.

People preach self-love and self-care and these are important, but you gotta like yourself first, and decide what’s important, what life you are going to create for yourself, and do it. There’s your success, your happiness.

Anyway, what I gathered from the destination addiction bit is that we always think there’s something missing, and that something will miraculously “fix” or improve life. I half buy into it, because my life has drastically improved since weight loss (my personal destination) but not as a direct result of weight loss. My doctor wasn’t like, “Okay, that’s eighty pounds, here’s a graduate program, a career path and healthy boundaries, go forth with the happiness.” I had to do that.

I think there’s an expectation for these things to present themselves and when they don’t, we become discouraged and/or depressed, so we assume there is another next thing that will do it. It’s a cycle that just leads to disappointment, comparison and feelings of low self-esteem and even failure. Why wait on something or someone to make you feel that way, when it’s the opposite of what you want?

If I had to define myself as happy or unhappy, I would say happy; but it’s more than that. I am comfortable, in my skin, my life, my career path, my relationship. I feel validated and accepted by the people and places I assign value. I don’t subscribe to a societal checklist that measures my success or happiness by the things I do (or don’t do). I have also known people who have the big house, the marriage, the kids, the fancy job, all the material possessions and invites to everything social and they aren’t happy either.

Happiness isn’t a destination or posession, it’s comfort in knowing that you are living your best life in the moment it’s happening. Sure there are improvements you can plan to make, but they should enhance those feelings, not be responsible for creating them. So I say make yourself comfortable; not complacent and lazy, running through your Netflix queue hoping happiness will knock on your door. Truly comfortable with yourself; in your body, in your relationships, in your career, your family, your hobbies … get comfortable with who you are and what you want and see where that takes you.

ten

I was born at the start of the tenth month, and took my first breaths around ten thirty in the morning.

When I was about ten or so, my grandmother, in an effort to motivate me to learn my multiplications tables, promised me a “life sized” doll from the Woolworth’s on Main Street in Woodbridge when I could recite one through twelve.

I remember walking behind her one afternoon counting on my fingers for the ones I wasn’t sure of, and even though I’m sure she knew, that Walking Wendy-esque doll got buckled in next to me when we left.

I laugh a little thinking about how my grandmother also ended up being the person who picked me up from summer school after failing algebra my freshman year of high school.

Ten is also the number of years it’s been since she passed away. The morning of her funeral mass, as I limped, sobbing into the church held up by my father and someone else I can’t picture I made a pit stop in the vestibule bathroom. My aunt came in with me, and I choked out how this was the worst day of my life, she assured me it wasn’t, which was both comforting and frightening.

Ten is the number of months it has been since I have seen my parents; Ten is roughly the amount of years I spent living in Wisconsin with my family, (two thousand and) ten is the year I quite my job and weaved my way through ten-ish states to get to the apartment that I now live in and the person I have been with for ten years.

Ten has been a lot of little things that have contributed to a lot of big things for me.

Today, ten is heavy.

It’s sulking on the couch, taking forever to get out of the car, too much trouble to tie my sneakers heavy. It’s sports bra indentations hours after it comes off, dresses that won’t zip and shirts that ride up heavy.

Ten is the number of pounds I have gained in the last ten months, when I was still trying to lose ten more.

Ten pounds is nothing, I know, except it is the first weight I have gained in almost 5 years. I can make the argument, as others have for me, that my weight gain is related to medications and inability to exercise freely, or truthfully, even take the stairs more than one at a time … for months now. This doesn’t make it any less than ten and it doesn’t make it any lighter.

I just started a new medication that will hopefully lead to remission and I’ll be taking the stairs and walking around the park, hiking and yoga-ing and Zumba-ing my heart out again soon, but for now, I’m taking some solace in the fact that the first dose already has me feeling ten times better.

Hello 911? I have no pants on …

Every since I was a fat girl crying all over myself in the office of a primary doctor in 2014, I have seen all of the same doctors. Recently I have been feeling like I wanted to change them up, but it’s really hard to find new ones and I am pretty comfortable with this lot since they have seen me for years and witness my blood pressure and weight go down, biopsied a nodule on my thyroid, removed excess skin, swabbed throats and lady parts, ya know, witnessed my whole transformation into this person, and I don’t know if I want to do all that again. So I’m slowly exploring and as things frustrate or disappoint me with one, I look a little harder.

In the meantime, a few months ago it’s time for one of the yearly visits with my gynecologist. I schedule the appointment, and a few days before they call to say she has to cancel because she’ll be in the hospital with a patient. A baby takes priority over a swab, understandable. We find a day and time that she’s available that also fits in between my internship, school work and my part time gig  during the week.

All set.

The day before?

They call to cancel and we reschedule for the following week. Another bout of moving and squeezing in and we’re good.

Then, you guessed it, that gets cancelled too.

The woman who calls about the appointment says that my usual doctor is just too busy but I could see the nurse practitioner. The woman pushes “everyone likes the nurse practitioner, she’s really nice” – I say I’m sure she is but I am just a little attached to the set of cold hands that I normally see there and I don’t want to. I mean, I don’t care, but I see this doctor once a year I feel like I should be able to see her, so I decline and reschedule again.

I’ve had to ask for two prescription refills because this is over the course of a few months. I’m finally going to my appointment the next morning, and that evening, after hours I get a call from “Unknown” and it’s a voicemail about having to CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT the next morning. It was a good thing it was after hours because I was so infuriated I just called the next morning and said I would take the next appointment with the nurse practitioner, but please call in my refill because you guys keep cancelling and I take a chemotherapy drug and I cannot get pregnant.

Appointment set, don’t worry they’ll put the refill in, see ya in a week.

Later that week I get a call from the office letting me know that my refill was called in but they won’t be able to do it again without an office visit, ‘SINCE YOU’VE CANCELED YOUR LAST FOUR APPOINTMENTS’ ………….. Woah, nope. I let her know the whole timeline of events and decide, now that I have been reprimanded (for a thing I didn’t even do) I’m going to let them call in the refill and once it’s in my hands I’m going to find a new office.

I forgot to.

The appointment was this morning so I decided to just go and get it over with, get my year of refills and get on with my life. Nurse practitioner, as expected, is very nice. She assured me there would be no more hiccups, and I almost might prefer her to my usual doctor. We chit chat a bit, she updates my history, does a little exam and then we’re gonna get the awkward part out of the way and I’ll see her in a year.

I’ll spare ya the details but just know she’s rubber glovin’ it and I’m half way into a backward roll when she says “scoot all the way down to me” and someone knocks on the door. I only hear a little of what is said and she comes back laughing and says “Uhhhh apparently someone smelled gas in the building so they called the fire department and they’re on their way”…

I laugh because she is and say okay and she continues “They said to evacuate…

…. immediately”

“Immediately?”

I look down at myself wearing only an ill fitting backward robe gown thing made of paper.

“Is there time to put on my pants?!”

“Yea, but really fast, because they’re on their way in”

ONLY ME.

I shimmy into my pants, adjusting them as I walk out with my shoes in my hand and my wallet in the other. After ten minutes of standing outside the building, half dressed in a crowd of people with two fire trucks, about seven firefighters come out and give us the all clear. Inside, I get myself  up on the table again and she says “All right, let me jump back in” … silence … laughter …I guess I’ll keep her.

40.5, RA

Just over six months ago I turned 40. I was temporarily unemployed, buried in coursework and trying to secure an internship but feeling mostly optimistic about life. My parents had surprised me with a long weekend visit and treated us to meals and snacks and great company. I had no major life complaints. I mean, I couldn’t open the resealable Sargento cheese packaging without a struggle and I suddenly needed Steve to open what seemed like every jar or can, but mostly happy and complaint free.

Sometime around Halloween I experienced some aching in my wrist and hands that I attributed to more frequent driving since I had started driving for Lyft shortly before that. I used ice packs, heating pads, super duper extra strength tylenol, advil that’s generally off limits as per weight loss surgery and I got a little crabby about it. The pains and cramps came and went, sometimes I would wake up with them and they’d go away by lunch, sometimes they would linger all day, and invite my elbow or shoulder to join.

In November I clearly remember being bummed about how I felt and trying everything I could think of , including sleeping on my back so I didn’t crush my arms, or sleeping with my arms out straight when I slept on my side. Some nights Steve moved to the couch and so some mornings I felt even worse. I had definitely begun experiencing depression, which is not wholly unfamiliar to me, so one morning I got myself up and dressed and went to a nearby park. I walked about two miles around, up and down steps, listened to music, laid in a pile of leaves and confessed my depression to Instagram and felt like I was gonnna be just fine…. until 2 am when I was in excruciating pain now in my hips, legs, ankles, feet and I was home alone laying in bed crying and asking out loud what the fuck was going on and ice packing, heating padding and adviling myself back to sleep.

Before I knew it, it was December and now my feet hurt frequently, a lot like my hands. Both feet, in the heel and the ball and the arch, I was trying to figure out how to walk without putting pressure on any of those points. Well, I thought, you’re out of shape and maybe those sneakers aren’t a great fit. I tabled exercise and slowly anything that required me to exert much effort. I felt exhausted and sad and heavy and uncomfortable in my body. I started wearing the same pair of flats, to my internship interview, to Christmas with Steve’s family, to the grocery store all hoping nobody would notice how I was walking and that another advil might keep me looking normal. I’m not a hypochondriac, I truly believed whatever was going on was my doing, so I wanted to take all the steps to remedy it before I went to my doctor because there had to be something I was missing.

I put a lot of time into trying to determine what I might have done or what I was doing that was causing my body to ache and rebel in such a frustrating manner. I did a lot of reading, a lot of trying supplements and diet modifications; I gave up keeping protein bars in my bag or buying them at all, I considered going dairy-free, gluten-free, seeing how many things I could hide turmeric root in, I started drinking tart cherry juice, I read about inflammation, bought plantar fasciitis braces from an Internet ad, cried myself to sleep, took stairs one at a time at the pace of a sloth and finally, at the end of January, when I took my flats off and my ankles were swollen, and there were visible deep lines areound my foot from my shoes and my my feet were swollen and misshapen looking I called my doctor the next morning.

The appointment was three days later and I was so hopeful that he would have an answer, because after all my trying and suffering I didn’t. And I didn’t know how to explain what I felt to anyone, it was a burning, aching, sometimes restless, sometimes felt like what I imagine a broken bone felt like pain that produced anxiety in the simplest tasks – getting out of bed, getting into and out of the car, any number of steps with out without a handrail. I didn’t tell anyone really, unless they saw me and I (felt I) had to explain myself. Coworkers at my internship who would end up in the back stairwell I was trying to hide in while doing my  toddler steps up or down – and hold the door for me (so nice!) but also watch me and make me more aware that this wasn’t normal.

The upshot of the whole doctor appointment, if you read the last post was he ordered some blood and xrays and said come back in a week. They did images to check for arthritis and he said everything looked normal and he wanted to move on. I pushed for a referral; a podiatrist, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, anyone who might have a different view or specialized eye. He gave me the name and number of a rheumatologist and had me come back in 2 weeks. I made the appointment that day but they didn’t have an opening for almost 2 months, “ Have your doctor call us and we can connect him to Dr.’s secretary and maybe they can get you in sooner” so I tell my doctor this at our next meeting, and he says “You should be fine” and let me tell you, I wasn’t.

It was such a dark time in my heart and my mind and I couldn’t even talk about it. I started to question how much pain I was in, and others didn’t see it or know it because I still worked and interned and cooked and grocery shopped and wrote papers and did all the things I had to do. As my appointment got closer I started to feel hopeful and then anxious, what if he couldn’t help me, what if this wasn’t something anyone could identify? I got sad, rather than happy thinking about the summer; I can’t walk a mile on a rocky dirt road to go to the car rally we go to, I can’t sit on a plane for 5 hours to fly to Colorado, or a few hours to visit my family. I would think about going to the gym, even for the treadmill when I would feel less pained in the evening, but in the morning when I had to hoist myself out of bed with the help of my dresser and penguin walk to the bathroom, I gave up the dream on Zumba.

This is long and if you’re still reading, let me tell you, I’m okay. The rheumatologist was the right referral; it’s nothing I did or could have prevented, it’s an auto-immune disease. He said it was a great catch by my pcp and juvenile as it may be, I had to take that credit for myself.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, what a strange thing to feel relieved by; an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease –  but after six months, having my pain validated and labeled, and told there was treatment was the first time I felt hopeful in months. I got three prescriptions and he told me in a a few days I would start feeling better, and that a year from now I probably wouldn’t even remember the pain from this time. I asked if he thought I would have be able to Zumba again and he said “Totally” I called bullshit in my head but was grateful, and optimistic that, if he sees Latin-inspired dance routines in my future I can definitely live a normal life.

It’s been five days and I can’t believe the relief I have already started to feel, the way my mood has elevated, the way I just feel like myself again. I didn’t care that I chipped a nail on a can of seltzer, because I opened it myself, or that the first night I experienced a little insomnia because in my awakened stated I walked to the bathroom less like a drunk penguin. Maybe I’ll give that treadmill a try soon after all.

 

 

‘surgiversary’ is a made up word, but here we are

To be honest, I didn’t even think much about the anniversary of my vertical sleeve gastrectomy yesterday. Previous years have been loaded with comparison photos, follow up appointments and little celebrations treating myself to smaller size things or bites of foods I don’t indulge in often.

I woke up on December 1, 2014 and headed to the hospital with my boyfriend and parents. I remember weighing myself one final time before heading out (two seventy something) and being nervous we would hit traffic or something would derail my scheduled procedure. I can’t tell you much else. I remember waking up very tired, there was an incident where my catheter betrayed me and I wet the bed a bit, I barfed some black colored shit after my swallow test and I could barely stay awake any time Steve or my parents were visiting. I don’t remember any pain, and I left on the third day, but not until I could drink some sugar free carnation instant breakfast with a room temperature skim milk. I remember it was vanilla (yuck) and I waited until I could ask someone to track down any other flavor. Oh, and the drains were removed – weird (like, really weird) but not painful.

On this particular December first in 2018, I can’t tell you how much I weighed, I haven’t stepped on the scale in at least a week but my weight has been the same, give or take five pounds for the last few years. I had coffee and some bacon and a cheesy scrambled egg covered in everything but the bagel seasoning with a blob of ketchup. I did some homework, stayed in my sweats until late afternoon and then headed into the same area of the city for a comedy show. I had a cider, most of a slice of pizza from some joint on the corner of the steeet where we parked and then ate a piece (okay, two) of peppermint bark when I was back in my sweats. We stopped to look at Christmas trees because our prelit one ( also 4 years old!) moved to the dumpster after a few hours of tinkering with the lights. I didn’t really do anything special, and to be frank, that’s the very best thing about the whole process.

The one intentional thing I did was decide to revamp my Instagram account. For the last four plus years it has been riddled with comparison photos, nonscale victories, and all the weight loss surgery things. How many photos do I need to hold on to comparing a me that doesn’t look like me now, to another me that doesn’t look like me now? Or wondering if I would have lost the last twenty or so pounds I’d like to, if I kept doing Zumba like that post, or yoga poses in the other post. I can’t discount the role it (and all the people!) played in my journey and the success I’ve had but it just can’t be all I talk about anymore.

I was never trying to “get skinny”.  I wanted to be thinner, healthier, feel better, have more energy and be more active but I was so tired of obsessing over it for what equaled most of my life. I am all those things now, without having to drive myself mad and I still got to eat pizza. That’s something to celebrate.

forty.

In little more than twenty-four hours I will turn forty and I don’t give a fuck.

When I was turning twenty-five, I had only been transplanted in Wisconsin for a year or so from New Jersey and I remember panicking about that big fat scary number. I was sad about leaving my friends behind, about a new place, about everything. A few months before the big day I started seeing a therapist for the first time; I was terrified about getting older, having moved away from my then boyfriend, my parents getting older, finally finishing my undergraduate degree … I was thinking about all of us dying, about what I was doing with my life about how we even got here and everything getting scarier and closer to ending. I was a sad sack who did a lot of talking and only half the doing.

It’s laughable now because at twenty-five the worst things that had really happened in my life were some shitty friendships, less than stellar boyfriends, a series of years where I was starting college (again) and being fat.

I was almost twenty-seven when I thought I met the guy of my dreams and talked about marrying him. I was two days from twenty-seven when I drank entirely too much at a wedding after taking some pain reliever that caused a breakdown that landed me laying on the driveway, sobbing and that guy of my dreams and I breaking up on my birthday.

The rest of my twenties were only slightly tumultuous with a graduate degree, another half-assed relationship, a waitressing job I couldn’t stand but wasn’t ready to leave behind and happy hours and movies and lunch dates.

I panicked about my thirties which were kicked off with another waitressing gig, poor sleep habits, the deaths of my grandparents, the scale creeping uncomfortably over the 250 mark and plenty of other sad and anxiety producing things that I can’t even recall right now ….

because there are so many excellent things that happened ….

I reconnected with an old crush who kicks that dad jean wearing dream guy from my twenties ass, I moved (a thousand miles) away from my parents for the first time,  I had weight loss surgery and lost (& kept off!) over eighty-five pounds, I had some parts nipped and tucked, I got my shit together and applied to counseling programs like I wanted to do in my twenties, I fell in love with Vermont, I started going to rallycross events, I started buying myself flowers every week, I stopped over-explaining myself, I got over my fear of horror movies and am now obsessed with all the scary things, I learned how to make a killer latte, I embraced minimalism, I became obsessed with Zumba (I gotta go back!), I stopped saying yes to shit I don’t want to do, I went from making tacos without seasoning to having a slew of my own recipes, I started journaling, I started going for walks and hikes in the woods, I got better at following through on what I say I’m going to do, I took a week long vacation with my parents, I started this blog, I went to Colorado and cried when my plane landed and I saw the mountains (MAJESTIC!), I ate good food, I stopped apologizing, I laughed often and never passed up a craft cocktail. I learned things about myself (and others) that helped me grow and change and live what is in retrospect, definitely my best life.

I worried about all these milestone birthdays or getting older and it was for nothing. I can’t control getting older, only how I react to it, and if the next ten years are half as fulfilling as the last ten, I don’t give a fuck about turning forty.