Category Archives: pain

Owning My Pain

I had goals for today. They were sidetracked by housework which left me in a tremendous amount of pain. Then I discovered our ISP has some speed issues so instead of sitting down and resting or going to the gym to soak in the hot tub, I pushed myself to get things done and be ready for a tech to show up at any moment.

Of course, the tech did not show up until nearly 5pm.

I stood the entire time he was here, nearly 10 minutes, holding back tears the entire time. And then, I forced myself upstairs where I collapsed on the bed and proceeded to fold laundry. Why? Because folding laundry made me forget about the pain – it distracted me from the intense fire in my lower back. That’s how J found me when he arrived home not much after I sat down. He walked through our bedroom door, asked me how I was and all I could do was look at him with absolute pain and tears in my eyes.

He sprang into motion, put a SalonPas patch on my lower back and fixed me a drink. Then he helped me finish laundry, chiding me for twisting and lifting the laundry basket. He tucked me into bed, nudging pillows behind me and making sure I was properly supported. After awhile, (and after some Aleve finally), I fell asleep.

I’m sitting on the couch downstairs now and as long as I don’t move, I’m okay. Tomorrow is a new day and even if I have to crawl into the gym, I’m going to go sit in the hot tub.

I struggle with my emotions on days like today. I am stubborn and tend to push through pain. I do not accept “failure” well. This, this not being able to function as I should, is failure. Intellectually I know it is not but it feels like it. I live with a standard level of pain every day so when that pain level surges and affects me like this, it is incredibly difficult to deal with. I handle depression or mental health issues far better than this sort of thing. I know how to deal with those. I can still move around. But when this happens and I am relegated to bed? Just ugh.

Earlier this evening, as we were folding laundry together, I focused on the fact that we were together. I also focused on the sunset outside. It was gorgeous – a phenomenal combination of oranges, yellows, greys, and pinks which slid into vibrant purples, dark blues, and specks of magenta. Certainly one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in awhile and because of this intense pain, I had a front row seat.

It is a fight to focus on the positive instead of the pain so when I manage to do so, it is quite a victory. I talk myself into holding on until the next day, convincing myself I will feel better then which is usually the case…or at least has been thus far. I may need to take it easier than usual but I make it through.

The same holds true today. I just need to make it to bedtime. In the morning, a brand new (and better) day begins. Tomorrow, I will own the pain instead of the pain owning me.

A Tango With Pain

This morning began as all mornings usually do, with the promise of hope and accomplishment.

Then, I got out of bed.

I stretched, as we all do upon waking, and something in my right shoulder or back shifted out of place. I audibly gasped, and J asked me what was wrong. I told him I was fine, finished up in the bathroom, desperately trying not to scream as pain washed over me while I washed my hands.

I opened the door, hunched over, and made it to the bed, where I knelt down and rested my upper body on the mattress, head in my hands, my hair falling  down around my face. I tried to move so my hair would allow me to breathe but I was wildly unsuccessful. I stayed there for a short bit, until the pain eased enough to allow me to climb into bed. J moved the pillows out of the way for me. I attempted to do the Cobra Yoga position which will sometimes pop things back into place but all it did this time was steal my breath. I grabbed a pillow, rested my head on it, and that was that.

I was stuck in bed for awhile.

I made it downstairs after the pain subsided and managed to eat an English muffin along with my morning medication plus ibuprofen. We menu-planned as I sat, nearly immobile with fear on the couch, and decided to go get J’s van while I was feeling better. Somehow, I managed to drive my 5spd to the dealership and back home. It wasn’t that bad because I was sitting down and there was not a lot of sharp movement involved in driving.

Once home, as J ran errands, I decided to fix his daughter’s nightlight in her bathroom and that’s when my lower back decided to join the party. After I got the new bulb placed, I retreated to our bedroom, tossed two pillows in bed, grabbed my body pillow, and curled up with the two pillow behind me, and the body pillow intertwined with my body to prop me up. A neck pillow lay on top of my regular pillow. I was as cushioned as I was going to get.

J finally arrived back home and came upstairs right as I was uncontrollably drifting off to sleep. It was not my intention to fall asleep but the pain was so great I could do little more than sleep. I slept until shortly after 3. He brought me some cheese (I wasn’t very hungry nor was I interested in sitting up for a long period of time to eat), water, and some Aleve.

I tried to get up shortly after to use the restroom only to move horribly wrong and fall back onto the bed, utterly defeated, tears streaming down my face, terrified J would need to help me.

I’m stubborn, though, and I made it on my own.

Eventually I took a hot shower right as J & his daughter ran errands. It helped slightly but not enough to kill the pain. J came home with patches and a heating pad. I opted for the Capsacin patch which helped somewhat and allowed me to get a few things popped but as I sit here, now using the heating pad and finally on Tylenol Arthritis, the pain washes over me as if high tide were rolling in.

Pain is my nemesis but over the past couple of years, it has worsened immensely. I have a threshold of pain I live with on a daily basis but when things go above this threshold, I get bitchy. Today? Today I would qualify at triple my threshold. I’d rather be asleep, to be honest.

Tomorrow, my goal is to make it to the gym to sit in the hot tub for as long as I can tolerate it to help with this. I may swim, I haven’t decided on that yet.

Just like PPD, the pain has taught me to be patient with myself, to be willing to take care of myself, and to let others do things for me. For some reason, I am less willing to do these things with the pain than with the PPD which makes no sense at all because with the pain, I am physically incapable of doing all the things. Perhaps it is the frustration of having the capability suddenly snatched away which initiates the frustration, who knows.

Pain is a cruel mistress, y’all. May you never end up in a permanent tango with her.

2014: Breathe, Yawp, Live

‘Tis the season to split oneself between the nostalgia of days gone by and the promising anticipation of sparkling new things yet to arrive. It’s the time of year we find ourselves inundated by “Best of” lists and the ever daunting “resolution” lists. December ends and January begins in an odd state of limbo swirling around us as if it were a beautiful and haunting blizzard threatening to swallow us whole if we stopped long enough to stare at the accumulating drifts of lists beneath our feet.

Is it okay for us to stop and stare at this vortex of nostalgia and anticipation? Will we be awestruck by the ferocity of the electricity dancing about in the overhead clouds? Or should we doggedly march forward, one right after the other, heads down, ignoring the invigorating storm?

Stop and smell the roses, we are told. But we are also told not to let the grass grow under our feet. Take the road less traveled, it will make all the difference. Do not go gentle into the good night, rage, rage against the light. We are all meant to meet that light one day. But until then, take the road less traveled and refuse to do anything less than rage against it. Yawp until you can yawp no more. Live life, don’t let life live you.

We seek, in life, a balance of joy and sorrow. We reach for joy when the sorrow shreds our soul to the bone, bleeding our hearts dry until there is nothing left, not even the marrow to suck out of life. So we are still, frozen, in grief, pain, whatever the reason, until joy surges forward and replenishes the marrow and our life force. With this resurgence comes the drive to rage against life. How do I know this? Because I have been there – splayed open for the world to see, my heart atrophied and hardened on the bare floor, aching for hope and love. It stayed there awhile, resigned to never finding love again, trapped in the penumbra of a hovel deep in the woods. Yet, it still beat and now, it is full of life-blood, dancing in the light of joy because of a daring rescue.

I wish that for those who read this. I know so many who have lost or faced difficult changes this past year. I am here to tell you that it gets better. The grey lifts, the sun rises, and the sky does fill with spectacular colour. It never stopped. It’s just waiting for you rise up from beneath the waves and see the tango of exploding soft oranges, pinks, and pale blues as you watch, breathlessly, the sun languidly traverse a cerulean sky until the clouds, holding hands, bed the sun beneath the horizon. As your feet find the shore, caressing the wet sand for the first time in eons, you exhale, letting go of the shattered soul which has claimed you for far too long. You slink out of your old soul and into your new one, the promises of joy filling your heart with a joy more beautiful than any fully bloomed scarlet rose covered gently in sweet morning dew.

Breathe.

Yawp.

Live.

This, this is your year.

Make it so.

On Loving Motherhood

One of the phrases I hear a lot from parents who struggle with mental health issues after the birth of a child is that they didn’t feel an instant bond with their child. Or that they did but it was to the nth degree and they obsessed over every little thing that happened to their child, to the point of it interfering with day to day living. Instead of being the parent society leads us to believe every parent should be, they were either detached or over-attached. It’s the Goldilocks syndrome with none of us feeling that “just-right” level of attachment.

One of the most difficult aspects of experiencing a mental health issue after the birth of a child is that in addition to healing ourselves, we must develop a bond with a new person we hardly know and cannot communicate with in the normal manner because they are not yet capable of deep thought and expressive language.

Imagine that you’ve just met an amazing person. You want to get to know them, to give them all you have inside you, but you can’t. You don’t have the energy. So you worry about the effect this will have on the relationship -if they’ll end up hating you because you can’t quite reach out the way they need you too. You wonder how much emphasis they’ll put on the lack of affection from your end. Somehow, though, you manage to muddle through and they miraculously stay. They love you simply because you’re you, something you struggle to comprehend. Then you feel guilty because you haven’t put as much into it as they have (or perceive that you haven’t) and so you overcompensate, which fills you with intense guilt as the days go by. So you read books about what you should be doing. After awhile, it becomes habit but somewhere, deep inside, you always wonder if you’ve done enough. Or if they’ll bring it back up some day when you falter the least bit.

Or you remain detached, thinking that it’s just not worth the work, the stress, the anxiety. Things are the way they are for a reason, right? Why bother? They’ll either stay or go. The choice is theirs in the end.

Parenting can be hell.

It’s the toughest job on the planet, and no matter how much preparation we put into it while expecting a new little one, we’re all thrust into it, suddenly. It’s on-the-job training. When you add a mental health issue, it’s like on-the-job training at the Hoover Dam on a day when it’s sprung a leak. SO much is flung at you.

Every little thing means more than it should.

Bed seems really lovely.

Giving up seems like a fantastic idea.

Walking away – sheer brilliance.

In the past, I envied parents who seem to know exactly what they’re doing or really enjoy their kids. As a survivor of multiple PMAD episodes and issues and a relative introvert, it’s extremely difficult for me to relate to others who want to spend every waking minute with their children. It’s not that I don’t love my kids, I absolutely do. But for me, parenting is traumatic. My start was more of a train wreck with a hurricane thrown in for good measure. I fight for every second of what appears to be “normal” parenting.

What I forget in my battle to be “normal” is that no one is normal. We are all fighting our own battles, they are just a bit different from the battles of those around us. As I have moved toward healing, parenting has become more like breathing for me. Sometimes I still have to fight for breath but most of the time due to the necessity of mindfulness in my own survival, parenting has become easier as the years have gone by. The wounds have healed enough to not feel as if they are torn off with every single negative instance.

To those who are still in the trenches and still fighting for breath as they fight to parent their children and remain sane, (with or without a PMAD), my hat tips to you. To those fighting through a PMAD specifically as you parent your new one (and possibly even older children), I know how it feels to be where you are and I want to tell you that it won’t always be this way.

One day, things will just work. There will always be potholes and bumps as you navigate the road, but if you take the time to just breathe, ask yourself if what you’re about to explode over is really worth it, and then address the issue at hand (or not, depending on the answer to the second step), things will improve. Take time for yourself. See your child as just that – a child – take the time to see the world through their eyes, marvel at the little things right along with them, and let the world hold you close instead of crawling away into a cave. Baby steps.

You may remember all your faults but your baby will not. All your baby needs is you. They are not mini-adults, judging you for not knowing what to do. They aren’t the ones behind the myriad of research which blames parents for all that is wrong with adults. Let it go. We are our own worst critics. If we take the time to just be as humans instead of critiquing every single choice life flows so much better.

Stop judging.

Stop worrying.

Just be. Drink in life, drink in your child. Drink in the sunshine and the joy when you can. Store it up for the days short on both.

You can do this. Even Goldilocks found the right one eventually, didn’t she?

Your just right is out there, I promise. It’s just a bitch to find in the fog.

You are not alone, you will be okay, and your baby will be okay too.

In the interest of all honesty, recovery is not as easy as sitting out in the sunshine and drinking in life. For many, it takes a multitude of visits to a therapist, maybe a few medication changes, and a hell of an effort to reach the point where you CAN sit in the sun and drink in life. It certainly took all of that for me, and more. But the fight is worth it in the end and that fight will make the sunshine even brighter once you’ve evicted the fog.

If you find yourself struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, you can find hope and help through Postpartum Support International or over at Postpartum Progress. If you are feeling down and struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to Lifeline, the National Suicide Hotline here in the United States.

The Scorpion Tale of Perinatal Mood Disorders

Last night, I had a rather in-depth discussion with Addye over at Butterfly Confessions. We’ve discussed the same topic before and we’re finally doing something about it because we both think there’s not enough out there about this subject. Her blog post went up last night, discussing the role her antenatal depression, postpartum mood disorders, and other mental health struggles have played in her son’s recent diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. While our children’s diagnoses are different, our story is the same, and it begins with a long hard look at the stinging guilt with which we now carry along our paths of Motherhood.

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It’s taboo, really, more so than admitting you struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It’s a secret locked in a trunk hidden in a house deep in the woods where no one will find it. It’s the poison-tipped tail of a scorpion, the thing that gets you after the initial reaction of having a scorpion land in front of you. It’s the nagging feeling you get in your throat every damn time you look at your kid and think, even for a brief second, that you did that to them. It’s YOUR fault.

I’ve been there. I still am, sometimes. Not as much as before, but it’s something that I will always carry with me. A small part of my heart will always be tinged with guilt and a depth of sadness I’ll never shake. I’ve learned to accept it instead of fight it, to give it space to just breathe, knowing I’ll never get rid of it as long as I live. Right next to it though, now, is a space that is filled with a peace I’ve worked very hard to achieve – a peace that cancels out that guilt and sadness…as long as the see-saw is working that day, that is.

I struggled with Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first daughter. I’ve made no secret of that. I sought help but was shot down by my OB, an integral part of this story. I had to fight on my own to heal. Looking back, I didn’t do a great job at healing. What I excelled at was shoving all of the darkness down and faking it until I felt like I made it. Only by the time I got there, I was pregnant again and my hormones became the scorpion.

They flowed into my pregnancy, along with severe morning sickness. There were days I had to choose between eating or my prenatal vitamin. I often chose eating because I knew the vitamin would make me vomit whereas I might be able to keep the food down. One day, I lived on just one powdered donut. Other days, less. I couldn’t tolerate food for almost four months, if memory serves correctly.

I remember thinking I didn’t need the prenatal vitamin. I’d be okay, baby would be fine. Or so my hormone rattled brain said so. I didn’t want to get up, I would lay on the couch as our oldest, just a little under a year and a half, begged me to play with her. I couldn’t move or I’d vomit. So she learned to play by herself.

The pregnancy progressed, everything seemed fine, I didn’t have Gestational Diabetes again, the baby measured fine, all was good.

Until my baby shower. I went into labor that evening. I was 35wks and 6 days pregnant. (Women with untreated antenatal depression are more likely to go into labor early….or so says the research). At the time, I didn’t relate the two. I just knew I wasn’t full term and contracting. I labored at home until the next morning when we finally saw the doctor. I was dilated enough for them to send me to the hospital. Baby was on her way. Instead of happy, I was nervous. What was wrong? Why was she coming early? We were close enough to full term, really, less than a week away. But still, she was early.

After 42 hours of grueling labor, my daughter was born. She looked perfect. 10 fingers. 10 toes, screaming, a perfect squishable pink human all mine. I made her. As I tried to latch her to nurse, she wouldn’t latch. Just kept screaming. I didn’t know why. I tried for 30 minutes. Then we called the Lactation Consultant. I knew what I was doing, damn it, I had nursed our first for 16 months. Why wouldn’t she latch?

The Lactation Consultant swept her mouth as soon as she got to our room.

That’s when shit got real.

My darling perfect little squishable baby was rushed away from me, the word “cleft palate” left hanging in the air.

There I lay, in a hospital room, epidural still wearing off, all alone, no staff, no husband, nothing to show for almost 2 full days of labor except for the echoing of my heart shattering, insidious voices flooding my head with the phrase, “It’s your fault.”

I did that to her. She grew inside of me, imperfectly.

I lost it that night, brushed my hair for 10 minutes in front of the mirror. Ugly cried on the phone a lot that week, so much so that my ex-husband couldn’t even understand me at several points. In front of nurses. I cried a LOT. This? Wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Why had I failed?

She was in the NICU for 21 days, undergoing one major surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. Seeing your 9 day old infant on apparatus breathing FOR her… yeah.. um… yeah. “I did that to her.”

The kicker? The geneticist at the hospital asked me if I took my prenatal vitamins. I lied. I didn’t need any more guilt. I really didn’t. In my fog, I failed a lot.

People told us if we made it through the first year….we’d be scot-free.

They lied.

She’s seven now. Is one of the bubbliest personalities you could ever hope to meet. She’s perfect in every possible way. But she’s struggled so much and her struggles are far from over. Because of me.

She fights for every word she says. It could be worse, I tell myself. She could have so many other issues kids with her same condition have – texture issues, an additional syndrome, etc. Aside from her Pierre Robin Sequence at birth, she’s fine. She has speech therapy, and has had additional surgeries to help with her speech. Before she was 2, she’d been through three times as many surgeries as I have in my entire life.

I did that to her.

What if I’d taken my prenatals? Would she have been born this way? What if I’d fought harder for myself in seeking help for my depression after the birth of her sister?

Intellectually, I KNOW it’s not my fault. But still, the sting is there, long after the scorpion has faded out of sight.

It’s there, just a tinge of it, every time we talk. Every time I have to decipher what she’s said to me based on the context of the words I am able to understand because I still can’t understand every single thing she says. I recently won $200 headphones. They help me immensely in understanding her when we Skype. The ear-buds I had before just weren’t high enough quality to do so. Even now, I have to make her slow down and repeat what she’s said because she’s seven and well, seven year olds get excited.

She will need a lot of orthodontic work. She has the risk of giving birth to a child with similar issues. Kids will tease her because of the way she talks. She was born a fighter without having a say in the matter. While I know this will serve her well later in life, it is something with which I struggle.

Some mothers have Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, etc, and they heal, with no adverse affect on their children. But there are those out there who experience issues with their children. And because of what we’ve been through, we draw that line from point PPD to point whatever Alphabet Soup DX with our kids. There’s research to back most of it up. There isn’t research (that I’ve found) to back up PPD related to cleft palate but a “Friend” of mine once tried to draw a line to the type of med I may have taken to my daughter’s cleft palate. Punch.IN.THE.GUT.

Moms like me need a gentle hand. We need to be heard, not dismissed. We don’t need to hear that “It’s not your fault” because in our heads? It is. It always will be no matter how much you tell us that it’s not. It just will be. We need you to stand with us, to be there when we need to scream, cry, vent, and shake our fists at the sky. To understand that our truth is a hard truth and sometimes it will break us but we will rebuild, a constant practice in our lives shattered by this spike of unexpected blow-back from our already complex, shame, and stigma-riddled experiences.

We are women made of glass. Under that glass, yes, we are steel, because we have to be, but on the outside, we are glass and we shatter. We need you to be someone who lets us shatter, someone who helps put us back together and take another step forward as we walk toward processing our new truth.

It’s time for us to come out of the darkness and speak up, to be honest about the role we feel we played in the issues affecting our kids, and to find support, REAL support, not dismissive attitudes, in our search for the light both we and our children need to thrive. We seek out the research drawing the lines from Mom to our kid’s issues, whatever they may be. Sometimes, the line tracing back to Mom is real, worth exploring, and worth understanding. Without it, we’re just left wondering why. I, for one, don’t like hanging out in the middle of nowhere with no answers.

Any answer, even a horrible one, is better than no answer at all.

It’s something. A direction in which we can begin to move forward from, a new beginning from which we can start to walk toward solace. Even if we never reach it, walking toward it is often enough. It has to be, right?

 

 

 

Being Me

Growing up female is tricky business. There’s so much we’re expected to do, expected to say, nod, smile, grin, hide the negative, put on your happy face, kiss ass, kick ass, love this because everyone else does and OH MY GOD don’t do that because it’s not lady like.

I’d like to take a second to thank my parents for not raising me to bow down to those around me but instead taking the time to encourage me to question everything, dig deeper, be strong, to foster my desire and passion for writing, and above all else, raising me to be HAPPY.

Sure there are things they wish I was doing instead of what I am doing right now, a vision they probably had for my life but they have always supported me…or at least made me feel supported in whatever I chose as my path.

So for me, when I’m not happy, I have failed. When I’m not myself, I have failed. I haven’t failed when I don’t kiss someone’s ass just because I should. I haven’t failed because I haven’t achieved some sort of materialistic goal. I haven’t failed because things aren’t in some sort of perfect magical sublime order (although my OCD disagrees vehemently with that statement).

Things could be better, sure. I’d really love to be employed. That would rock. But I’m not. What I am is fulfilled. There’s not a paycheck with that, no, but there is peace, happiness, and a strong sense of self. I am doing, right now, exactly what I am meant to be doing.

What anyone happens to think of that does not matter to me.

It doesn’t matter to me that someone thinks I *should* be getting paid. Or that I *should* be doing this or I should have tried harder at that. Wanna know why? That worry is theirs to bear, not mine. That worry is not on my back.

I’ve survived hell more than a few times. Yes, others have gone through worse hells but this one, this one is mine. Filled with potholes of chronic pain, Postpartum Mood Disorders, loss to cancer, addiction of a spouse, a special needs baby, divorce, and the struggle to redefine myself after living an a hostile environment for so very long – an environment which I allowed to completely turn my sense of self inside out.

I’m writing this in response to a post over at Schmutzie’s place entitled “We Can Become Known”. Go read it. I guarantee you’ll be empowered to write a post of your own. If not, it’ll give you something to think about for a bit.

When I was in therapy, one of the TOUGHEST things my therapist asked me was “Do you know who you are? Really know who you are?” Then she challenged me with this beauty…”I don’t think you’ve ever truly shown your true self to anyone, not even to yourself.”

Wow.

You try sitting across from someone who has just said this to you and stay tear-free as you realize, “Fuck. No. I haven’t. FUCK. Who the hell am I???” Yeah. That session rocked my world.

Do I know who I am now?

Yeah, sorta, kinda, okay, maybe not but sorta…um… what was the question? I’ll be figuring out who I am until the second I take my last breath because I believe every experience, every exchange, changes us to a certain extent. Maybe not to our core (although there are those type of experiences out there – trust me – I’ve had a few) but they change us ever so slightly.

For the first time in years, and I do mean, in YEARS, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am comfortable in my own head, in my own soul. I’ve hit the trifecta and baby, can’t nobody stop the trifecta.

The best part of all of this? I’m with someone now who loves me for ME, supports me, and is happy to just BE himself with me. Seriously, y’all.. this is the hollywood ending. I’m not gonna lie and say it’s not work, because it is – but when it’s honest, compassionate, filled with trust, and adorned with love – it’s a hollywood ending even if there is a lot of behind the scenes work.

All that hell I’ve been through makes it worth that much more.

I’m growing bolder in lifting the veil off the person I’ve become over the past two years, figuring out how to translate it all into words which sit on a page (or the Interwebz). Like a giant glacier, I am thawing in the ever-warming world, water oozing into a waiting and welcoming ocean.

I may not be perfect, but I’m me.

And in the words of Amy Poehler (via Tina Fey via Schmutzie’s blog):

“I don’t fucking care if you don’t like it.”
Because I’m done bending over and making people happy just because that’s what the world expects me to do – I’ve never been very good at it anyway.
Besides.
As Laura Thatcher Ulrich once stated, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Whatever Wednesday: Owning my obesity

Way back in late 2010, the last week of December, to be exact, I decided to weigh myself. I hadn’t been on a scale in months. Too busy running a house with three kids 6 and under. I didn’t have the time. I liked being an ostrich. If I didn’t think about it, it didn’t matter, right?

Wrong.

My feet killed me. I mean, really killed me. Sharp shooting pains in my arches. My knees were giving out. I could hardly stand up once I sat down. My legs were weak. My arms were weak. Walking was a chore. I’d get out of breath just going from the living room to the kitchen. Shopping at Wal-mart exhausted me. I couldn’t play with my kids. A blob on the couch. This was not living. Sidelined in my own life instead of a participating. Life is not meant to be lived like this.

So I got on the scale.

On the Wii. Which, as those of you who have Wii know, can be harsh. Not only does your Mii suddenly put on a Sumo Wrestler fat suit, the computerized voice shrieks for the whole world to hear that you’re “OBESE.”

Sighs.

Obese. Me. Yup.

I’m 5’8. I weighed in at 281lbs that day. I cried. 19 pounds away from 300 pounds. Wow. In my head, I 300 pounds was the number I would never reach. Yet here I was. Staring the bad boy down. So disgustingly close.

No wonder my feet were sore by noon. No wonder my knees were constantly giving out. No wonder my back killed me. No wonder I couldn’t play with my kids. I was OBESE.

This had to change. No more excuses. Time for action.

I started slowly with Wii. I did guided work outs via the Trainer in Yoga. I did Choose your own workouts too. Signed up for My Fitness Pal and tracked my calories. Stopped eating crap. Drank more water. Moved on from Wii to real world hiking at a local botanical garden. I tweeted about my progress. Shared on Facebook too. So many friends encouraged me. I found @bookieboo on Twitter. Started using the #mamavation hashtag occasionally and found even more support.

I could play tag with my kids in the front yard and keep up with them. I walked the neighborhood with them – 1.5 miles up and down some mildly hilly terrain. While pushing  a double stroller. I went from not able to push that stroller up a hill to looking forward to the burn I would feel in my thighs. I bitch-talked myself up and down some nasty hills in my in-law’s neighborhood. I KNEW I could do it. And felt so proud of myself when I did.

Eight months after that horrific weigh-in, I’ve lost a little over 50 pounds.

Earlier this summer, I was hiking 3 miles every day. 1.5 if it was really humid and hot because let’s face it – there’s exercising and then there’s insanity. I’m not quite insane. These days, I’m hooked on an exercise bike. I’m up to 8miles in 30 minutes. I’m a hot sweaty stinky mess when I’m done and I love it. If you had told me I’d be this into exercise a year ago, I probably would have laughed at you.

Exercising and eating right have become a habit. People notice I’m healthier and looking better. They ask me how I’m doing it – expecting me to answer with some sort of fad or get thin quick scam. I’m not into those. I’m into lifestyle changes. Yes, it takes time. But it’s a lasting change. I’m less likely to put the weight back on given that my habits have changed. There’s literally no change in cost to me – no diet pills, no gym membership, no fad foods. Everyone loses weight differently and yes, some people need the structure of a program. Turns out I just needed the motivation of staring down 300 pounds to run in the other direction.

Technically, I’m still obese if you go by the numbers. My BMI is 35. It WAS 42.7.

I don’t feel obese. I can run up and down 14 steps without getting winded. AFTER going for 30 minutes on the exercise bike. I don’t cling to the railing of the stair case for fear I’ll collapse. My thighs are slowly developing muscle definition. I don’t crave (alot of) fatty foods. I haven’t had soda in.. well…. it’s been a long damn time. I’m not capable of pigging out anymore because I get full quickly these days. Water and I are best pals.

I still want to lose 80lbs for a total of 130lbs lost. So yes, I have a long way to go but I’m taking it day by day and as long as I continue to feel healthier and see changes in my body for the better, the numbers really don’t matter. I don’t use My Fitness Pal anymore. My diet has changed so much I’m capable of keeping my calories where they need to be without really thinking about it. I don’t deny myself an indulgence here and there. I just work out harder or eat lighter the rest of the day if I know I’m going to indulge.

Losing the weight has also improved my mood and outlook on life. It’s shown me I can do anything if I just decide to push through the barriers. You can too. There’s fight deep inside you even if you don’t feel it right now. It’s there, just dying to get out and push you forward. Let it escape and motivate you through the hard times. You’ll be glad you did… trust me.

On surviving the tempest

The following post is very descriptive of a difficult period in my life. I have not shared this story with very many people until now. Within the past few weeks, it has been swirling about my head, wanting to come out. As it did in the story, it took me a very long time to get these words on to paper. But tonight they came. I’m grateful. Grateful to have them off my chest and out in the open. If you feel you cannot handle a difficult and potentially triggering read, go watch the following video, Michael Franti & Spearhead’s Say Hey, I love you. This song makes me sqeeee with glee every time I hear it. Also, FYI, the triggering things in this post? Start right off the bat. Be SURE this is something you can handle reading before you scroll past the video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehu3wy4WkHs]

A Quick Note:

The following intertwines words I wrote tonight with words I wrote in college as part of a short story. The words in italics are from the short story. Toward the end, there are words in bold italics. They are explained directly below, in red.

Perfect

When I was seven or eight, or perhaps a little older, I wrote a poem about death. It was quite graphic. My mother kept it in her jewelry box for a very long time. She may still have it today – I don’t know. You see, as a child, Death and I often played in the same sandbox. That bastard repeatedly stole relative after relative. He snatched them out of my arms as a greedy toddler snatches toys away from other children whilst shouting, “MINE! You can’t have them!”

I hated him.

Death faded out of the picture for a few years after he stole my grandmothers. My junior year of college, Death came back with a vengeance and stole my grandfathers. Just for kicks, he stole both of them in less than three weeks. Insolent greedy toddler prick.

For the first time, I experienced a deep, dark, sinister physical grief. I often lost control of myself. I hit, punched, kicked, screamed, cried, wailed, and writhed until I passed out. I drank. Heavily. In places I should not have. With people I really should not have. I did things I now regret with people I really should not have. And then….

Then.

I signed up for a Creative Writing Course as part of my Major Coursework as I sought my degree in English Literature.

As part of this course, I wrote a short story about a Latin American Author, Alfonsina Storni, who killed herself as she faced certain death due to cancer.

Brilliant, right?

Still grieving, I struggled to write this story. You would think it would be easy. But no… it wasn’t. A numb void – that’s what I was when I set out to write this story.

It was spring. Slowly, the buds poked their heads out, the freshness of a reborn earth filled the air, the chirping of baby birds echoed across the forest. Rain fell to push the buds closer to blossoming.

Spring. Rebirth. Water.

There was a lake nearby the college. I often drove to this lake, sat there, dipping my toes into the cool water as I watched the ducks and geese swim and fish. Sometimes I even fed the geese, getting them to eat from my hand. I even discovered an underwater cement jetty at one location which allowed me to walk almost halfway out into the lake yet only be ankle deep in the water. The mere thought of standing in the middle of the lake like that still makes my head spin – very surreal.

As I struggled to understand Alfonsina, I visited the lake more and more.

You see, she killed herself by diving into the Atlantic Ocean from some cliffs in Buenos Aires. I struggled to understand why she would do such a thing – why, when she was a mother and would leave behind a son. I struggled with this because I was not yet a mother but I could not bear to think of my own mother doing such a thing.

Finally, I began to write:

I know they talk about me all the time. They say what a bad mother I am, those proper mujeres de Buenos Aires; what a distraught pilgrim she is, along for a ride of simple ecstacy. How crazy she is; the woman who lives away from the society she should be embracing. I see no point in embracing the false, that which inflicts pain and suffering upon others for mere appearances. Stretching out under the covers, I open my eyes to face another day. At least today there is no treatment for my cancer. Today I have all to myself and know exactly what to do.

After tossing the covers aside, I reach for my bathrobe. I pit-pat to the bathroom to shower before heading out for the day. No one else is home, my son is off at University listening to his Professors ramble. Warm water flows about my body for more than half an hour. Water lifts my soul. It is my freedom, my saviour.

It is dark outside now, night. I have a glass of wine and a pack of cigarrettes beside me. As I sip on the wine, I hear crickets outside. I also hear the soft echo of traffic just down the hill from my dorm room. There is a soft breeze which plays with the leaves on the tree outside my window. I let the last sentence rumble about in my head for a bit as I chat online with friends.

Water has been my own saviour. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, less than a mile from the beach. Each day as I walked to school the air was infused with the scent of saltwater. To this day, that scent is a very soothing scent for me – sometimes I smell it even when it is not there.

I think this is why I was so drawn to the lake just outside the town limits of my college. For me, water is peace. Water is solace.

As I lay down to sleep, I continued to brainstorm about this story. Due in just a few days, I had to finish it. I had to…

The next day I wrote a few more paragraphs.

Alfonsina comes to life on paper. And in my head.

Every action intentional, deliberate. This woman had a plan.

I find what I want, a pure white ankle-length dress. Low cut, it hugs my curves as I slide it down over my naked body. Staring at myself in the mirror, I smile, sliding my hands down over the cotton fabric, smoothing it over my hips. I rub some blush upon my cheeks and lipstick upon my lips. I whisper to my reflection, “I am Alfonsina Storni, and I am beautiful.”

From there, I briefly summarized Alfonsina’s life. Her childhood, her marriage, her life as a single yet determined mother. And then. Then I type a single word.

Perfect.

What’s perfect? Who is perfect? Who says things are perfect? Who has that authority? How did they get that authority?

I had learned an important lesson…not everything is perfect nor could it ever be, at least not here on Earth. Earth by its very nature exists on an imperfect plane, riddled with rills, ridges and faults.

Sorrow and guilt live among those ridges and rills, I thought to myself. So does death. Death. Perfect.

My story is due within a day or two. I need to write my conclusion.

I have to write her suicide.

The next day it rains. A deluge. Complete with thunder and lightning. Lightning. Water. Person. Death. Perfect.

I change my clothes. Flowing skirt. Flowing shirt. I grab my keys and purse. Run for my car. Drive to the lake. Park my car. Sit and stare at the choppy lake, listen to the thunder and watch the lightning. I get out, leaving my keys in the car. I won’t need them anymore.

I walk down onto the lake’s beach. Into the angry water swirling under an angry sky. I begin to cry. I wail. I scream. I shout. I lift my arms to the sky and ask why. I scream even louder. I pray for lightning to strike the water. I contemplate sinking beneath the water and staying there. I wonder how long it will take anyone to notice I am gone. I breathe. I wonder what it will feel like to fill my lungs with gulp after gulp of water. What the sting of lightning will do to my body. Grief has finally opened it’s gaping mouth to swallow me whole. I’m circling the drain. Gleefully.

The rain beats down on my face, mixing with the saltiness of my tears. I close my eyes and am reminded of the ocean. The ocean – Alfonsina.

Then it hits me.

At first it is a whisper. Then a scream.

This?

Is not what my grandfathers would want for me. Is not what my grandmothers would want for me. Is this really the BEST I have to offer? The BEST I promised my grandmother? IS it?

Is it?

I scream back. Angry at them for saving me.

I wade back out of the lake and trudge across the muddy beach. I get back into my car. I’d left it unlocked so anyone finding my vehicle wouldn’t have to break in.

I sit there, in my car, until the storm begins to subside, draped over the steering wheel, drenching my seat, crying, wondering what’s next.

I finally start my car. Drive back to school, trudge up to my dorm room, change, and plop down in front of my computer with a deep sigh. I open Alfonsina’s story and stare.

I begin to type, my hair still soaked, dripping onto my shirt and arms.

As I walked to the edge of the cliffs, I hear the thunderous roar of the ocean greeting me. My eyes drink in the beauty of the view. The cliffs went down about fifty feet, and at their bottom, a small sandy and rocky beach stared up at the sky. In the distance, several boats bobbed about in the ambivalent sea as they struggled to find their way.

I closed my eyes, held my hands out, and drew in a deep breath, relishing the scent of the sea. Keeping my eyes shut, I breathed in the sweet scent once more, holding it longer this time. I sat there a long while, holding it in longer this time. I sit there a long while, listening to the waves crash and the sea gulls cry overhead. Here, at Mar del Plata, I find my peace. Here, I glance into the mirror of God and am appeased momentarily. But then the pain and horror of my cancer grows larger and looms heavy. Recovering from a radical mastectomy, I’m to be home. But I had to come. Water is my saviour.

I draw out a small pad and my favorite pen. I write a few lines, as I always did when I visited the cliffs. Today is different though. Today is the last time I will ever drive here.

I Am Going to Sleep


Teeth of flowers, hairnet of dew,

hands of herbs, you, perfect wet nurse,

prepare the earthly sheets for me

and the down quilt of weeded moss.

I am going to sleep, my nurse, put me to bed.

Set a lamp at my headboard;

a constellation; whatever you like;

all are good: lower it a bit.

Leave me alone: you hear the buds breaking through . . .

a celestial foot rocks you from above

and a bird traces a pattern for you

so you’ll forget . . . Thank you. Oh, one request:

if he telephones again

tell him not to keep trying for I have left . . .

Alfonsina Storni

(*Note here: The above poem was mailed to a local newspaper by Alfonsina the day before she committed suicide. Those are HER words, not mine.)

I sign my name with a flourish and set my purse on the paper so it will not blow away. Standing up, I smooth my dress down over my body as the wind plays with the bottom of my skirt. Walking close to the edge of the cliffs, I lift my head in prayer. I ask God to forgive me, explaining I could no longer endure the pain. I take one last deep blissful breath of that sweet scented Atlantic air. I dive head first over the cliffs, my eyes wide open to see just what endures below God’s mirror.

I slump back in my chair.

Grateful to be finished.

Grateful to be alive.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

My apologies for not posting as much – a girl can get worn out, yanno!

And I am worn out.

I’m gonna tell y’all something that up till now I’ve only shared with family and one close friend.

I struggle on a daily basis with chronic back pain and have since I was 18. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen a doctor about this but it’s getting to the point where I need to do so, and soon. Over the course of the past week, I’ve had my face go numb twice. This my dear readers, is a very scary feeling and experience. Very scary indeed.

Over the past few months, I’ve had other symptoms rearing their ugly head as well:

weakened grip in both hands (they also spasm when I pick up things and I’ve thrown/dropped things quite a bit – pray for my cell phone, won’t you? The poor thing has been dropped more than I care to admit)

severe lower back pain and muscle tension (I can’t stand/sit for much longer than 10-15 minutes unless I’m using my heating pad)

difficulty swallowing (this has happened just a couple of times but again, pretty scary)

What bites is that right now, like many, many Americans, I do not have health insurance. I recently applied for government assistance with that and am hoping (no, praying) that it goes through.

I am sure these issues are complicated by a very bad habit I have had since college – “popping” my neck, shoulders, and back. I do it because it temporarily relieves the pain. Everyone I have ever seen for my pain issues has always given me a lower back brochure and exercises and sent me on my way. Nevermind that until recently, it was all in my upper back, shoulders, and neck.

So please bear with me as I navigate this very bumpy and painful road. Sometimes I may just have to disappear for a bit and hopefully I will be able to post an explanation. But if I drop off the face of the earth again, just say a little prayer for me and my buddy pain…

What a week!

Monday was Charlotte’s cleft repair, pharyngoplasty surgery, and ear tubes.

Tuesday morning she got the nasal tube they put in to aid in breathing removed. Then she ate. And ate some more. And drank.

So we were discharged Tuesday afternoon.

She stopped eating Wednesday morning. Stopped talking by the middle of the day. She was also refusing all medication and foods.

We were instructed to return to the hospital.

So we did.

And there we stayed until yesterday morning when her appetite and fluid intake finally picked up enough to make me feel comfortable with bringing her back home.

Our stay was riddled with issues.

The first issue was failure to get written consent for her ear tube surgery. The surgeon took the time to track down where the breakdown in communication happened and did apologize to us but then just a few sentences later admitted that post-consent happens quite a bit in her practice with her adults. Yeah. We’re SO not going back to see her.

Second issue arose during our return to the hospital. The ER had a hard time getting ahold of Charlotte’s doctor to approve admission even though we had been instructed to return by them. We arrived at the ER at 830p but did not get a room until nearly 2a Thursday morning.

Third issue was our day nurse on Thursday. She was a bit flighty and had a propensity for over-explaining things and failed to be prompt in her attention to us. My daughter’s med pump went off repeatedly as did her fluid pump with no response from her whatsoever. She was apologetic and spent some time trying to kiss Charlotte’s behind but I had the nurse replaced. It’s not my kid you have to impress, lady.

Fourth and fifth issue happened on Friday.

Fourth: A tech walked into our room and asked if I wanted to give Charlotte a bath. I said that I did. So she got everything ready and decided we needed to give Charlotte a sponge bath in bed. We had Charlotte lean back over a bowl of water and wiped her hair down. The tech realized she didn’t have water to rinse with so she went and got some while I tried to keep Charlotte calm and still. The tech returned with the water and began to pour it on Charlotte’s head. Charlotte screamed. I reached up and felt the water. It was absolutely scalding. I immediately told the tech to stop and get out of our room. The water she had gotten was entirely too hot! She acted surprised and I had to ask her several times to leave the room. I asked our nurse to make sure she was not allowed back in our room. I didn’t see her again during our stay.

Fifth: At about 1p the phone in our room rang. I answered. It was a prank call. I hung up. They of course, redialed. I was very unsettled (they said horribly mean and rude things to me) and called our nurse. He came right away and handled the situation beautifully. Unplugged our phone and had our phone number changed. A report was filed.

I don’t tell you all of this to complain. I’m telling you all of this to stand strong. I got flustered only twice during our stays. The first was immediately after surgery when we had to hold Charlotte down as the anestethia worked its way out of her system. She was angry, confused, and frustrated. Kept pulling at her IV, her nose, and wanted to be done with all of the pain. I admit that I cried. It took four hours for her to finally calm down.

The second time was when we got prank called. I was very very scared. I didn’t know if it was someone from inside the hospital or outside. I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I even had a plan in place if someone we did not know were to burst into our room. But nothing came of it and I was able to get back to sleep within the hour.

I am glad this past week is behind us.

On a positive note, Charlotte’s speech is ALREADY improved. She’s saying words that we can now understand a lot more often. There are sounds she struggled with before that she is now making with seemingly no effort. We still have quite a bit of work ahead of us but for now, we’re miles away from where we were this time last week.

Last night was rough but I have hopes tonight won’t be as bad. I think she’s got some night terrors and trauma residuals going on as a result of spending the week at the hospital. Teething tablets and a night light finally helped her go to sleep on her own last night but she spent the bulk of the evening in the living room with me. We’re going to have her return to school so her mind will have other things to focus on as well to help leave the memories of this past week behind.