Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Scream You Can't Hear

Right now, there's an inner me that's screaming in frustration. The me that has done more 5K's than I can count. The me that loves going to the gym and working on the physical side of self-improvement -- a stronger, healthier body. The me that steps on the scale in frustration the last few weeks because even with trying to watch what I eat, I feel like tossing it all up and saying, "Why bother?"

Yeah, honesty.

Yesterday, the gym bag was packed, in the car, and everything was good..... until around 4:00 PM. I truly could feel my left foot swell. Why? I don't know. I don't know anything about my body lately as I battle this foot/ankle thing. All I know is that I can be at the gym, do things right, and feel fine the next day too .... and the day after that, pain, pain, pain. I have sat and wondered "what if" about a million things and if I think anymore about it, I will send myself into a frenzy. And no, I'm not going to do that.

This morning, I can still see the swelling in my toes, around the left ankle (even though there's no pain), and I'm not sure why.... I took anti-inflammatories all day yesterday because I felt little twinges of pain yesterday morning. I don't get it.

That's the scream: the sound of frustration, the bewilderment of not knowing. Will today be a good day, when I can do a little something and feel good enough to even do 10 minutes of activity ---- or will today be one of those days when I'm all ready to do something and be thwarted by a body part that says, "Mmm, I don't think so, not today."

I know, I know, listen to my body and all that. So what is it trying to tell me now, "I told you so"? Yeah, thanks a lot, that's really helpful.

And to that a little guilt because this is just a foot/ankle thing. Or the occasional migraine at times that frustrates my plans. I have friends who have far worse issues, and I feel like an absolute heel for even whining about this.

But I *am* upset. I worked too hard to get here only to have it fall apart. I am trying so hard now to get back to a place I'd like to be..... like any child, I want to know WHY!!!!! and yet I know there's got to be some sort of higher purpose. Ohm.

So...... I will focus instead on what I can do, when I can do it. If I have a bad day, I just have a bad day. I don't choose when my arthritis will flare up. I don't choose when my migraine brain says, "I got ya now!" And as much as I hate these distractions (TRULY), enjoying my life is just as important.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Some Things You Can't Outrun....

It was early November 1989, and my knees were absolutely killing me. It had been about 3 weeks since they really started hurting after that Mass I went to with my friends, and they hadn't stopped hurting. Really? Could a simple few minutes of kneeling on a makeshift kneeler (basically, a 2x6 covered with a basic loop carpet) cause this much pain?

I would soon have my answer, thanks to the outpatient clinic of the Medical University of South Carolina and the Orthopedics Department. I was just about 2 weeks past my 20th birthday when Dr. Morwessel gave me the diagnosis: osteoarthritis. She gave me a laundry list of everything that would happen to me at various ages and stages -- by the time I was 40, 50, 60, etc. -- if I didn't take care of myself properly. And by properly, she meant get the weight off ASAP.

It took 16 years for her message to really take root -- because honestly (a) I wasn't ready to hear it but (b) I wasn't hurting nearly as bad as I had been at first. Sure the knees popped and swelled occasionally .... as did the fingers. As did the ankles. But really, nothing bad.

And I lost the weight. And I forgot mostly about the diagnosis except on cold and damp mornings, or when my fingers would ache and swell and turn red from the inflammation. But hey pop a few NSAIDs and we'll be fine, right? Same as forever.

Almost three years ago, I had a really painful experience at the gym. I was in the middle of a beautiful set of calf raises when I felt searing pain in my left foot -- diagonally, across the metatarsals. I thought it was perhaps a stress fracture and went to get it checked out at a sports medicine clinic. Nothing showed up on the x-ray (as we suspected it wouldn't), and I got a bootie/sandal type thing to help give my foot some stability; I still use the bootie thing on days when my foot needs that little extra boost. It was good for a while but about a year later, I was still in pain, especially as the colder weather came in. I was really freaking out, because I'd signed up for 4 different 5K's over a 7-week period (including one non-refundable in New Orleans that was really just a great excuse for a girls' weekend). I haven't done a 5K now in over 18 months, and I purely adore doing them. The pain in the left foot has become pretty much constant now.

Within the last 8-9 weeks, I've noticed a new pain -- right foot, in the heel. I thought it was everything from a bone spur in the heel (oh no!) to maybe needing orthotics. Heel supports? Didn't help. Okay, so ball of foot supports? Meh.......

In mid-August, I took a step off the same concrete steps that I have used for the last 35 years when taking Maddox out for a potty break. My ankle was instantly hobbled. I didn't twist it or turn it, but I suddenly had lots of problems putting any pressure or weight on it. I ended up at Urgent Care the next day where they took x-rays of the ankle to ensure there wasn't a break or any major chipping. But the doctor did say something to me that he thought would knock me for a loop:

"Um, wow, did you know you have some major arthritis in that ankle?"

He wasn't prepared for my shrug. He wasn't prepared for me to say, "That's just me outrunning the last 25 years." He just said, "Oh......" and I replied, "I've had a diagnosis since I was 20. This isn't a huge surprise."

It took seven weeks for me to get into the orthopedic clinic here. Yes, seven weeks. Funny how 25 years ago, I got an appointment within a much shorter framework (about 2 weeks, if I remember correctly). But once I got to actually see the orthopedist, well worth it. There were more x-rays needed, primarily of my feet, and after reviewing them, Dr. Anderson gave his verdict: fallen arches (among the issues) and tendonitis. PT for the next 4-6 weeks. New arch supports for my shoes.

The days of really cute cheap shoes? Over. This pain is not worth however cute the shoes may be. Revoke my "Southern Girl Card" because when the throbbing and stabbing pain kicks in, I couldn't give forty damns about how cute the shoes are......

In just about 48 hours, I can tell you that the arch supports are helping a bit. Now to figure out how to wear them 24/7.....

I start PT for the feet/ankles next week. I'm actually looking forward to this, so that I can move past the pain and into better health!

I can't outrun the fact that I have osteoarthritis, but I can do everything possible to manage it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No Holding Back

This is a post that I have debated for a long time.  I admit, I've done a horrible job over the last couple of years of keeping this blog as relevant as I did when I was losing the weight. And you, my friends and readers, deserve better. You deserve an explanation, if nothing else.

Some of you know that for right around 3 years, my health has been haywire -- as has my weight. I am not at goal weight; this is no surprise. I've been floating around 20-30 pounds north of my lowest weight, and trying to get back to something more manageable. The health struggles started in earnest when I fainted during a meeting. Add stress from a job change due to a merger, a possible cancer scare, other "female" health issues, and a general "woe is me" pity party .... and within 6 months my weight that had been at a decent place (at the time of the fainting episode) was more than the 30 pounds north. I spent the next 18 months battling migraines -- many of which were low-level dull aches which would recur on average every four days. Just dull enough that they wouldn't send me home from work or activities but just enough that I couldn't give 100%.

In short, I battled the bulge as I battled for good health. Believe me when I tell you I have felt like a total failure at times -- wondering why in the world would anyone would want to pay attention to me......... I had that horrid demon of "Perfection" telling me I was worthless unless I was back at my goal weight, looking like a model off the latest "Shape" or "Fitness" cover (can't do that with my bat wings and thunder thighs, right?)

Over the last few months, though, things have changed. Really changed, for the better. And last night I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and was amazed. I mean, ah-mazed.

Here I am, up 4 pounds from where I was earlier this month (thanks in part to a sprained ankle which curtailed my activity level). But I don't care about the number one whit...... Why?

Because I looked pretty damn good in that mirror.

I saw teensy little shoulders -- but shoulders which are strong enough to have borne the weight of the world, every time I feel that I am worthless because I'm not where I was 5 years ago. Or whenever I see some chippy 30-year-old get back to a bikini body only 5 weeks after birthing a child (to which I think, "WHY is that even important?")

I saw a person who has after years of telling herself she wasn't worthy of (you name it), finally becoming more and more happy at last in her own skin. Even more so than 5 years ago or 10 years ago, and far more so than 15 or 20 years ago. I am someone who is learning -- ever so slowly -- that the only opinion that really counts is my own.

I saw someone who is still a success. Once upon a time, I lost 228 pounds. I still have lost over 190 of those same pounds. Just stop and think about that. I have kept off over 190 pounds lost. And someone will dare call me less than a success over a few pounds here and there of it? REALLY? I beg to differ. Unless you have ever walked through the doors of a weight-loss place, having only some idea of what you weigh (because you know what it said at the doctor's office a couple of months back and that was shameful enough) ..... and having no idea how much you might have to lose, but knowing you have to start somewhere and it might as well be the first pound ...... and running out of options.......

If that's not been you, then you have no.... (expletive deleted) .... idea of what it is to be me. And to still consider 190 pounds out of 228 a success. Now you may be asking why I still step on a scale at this point. Because I have to keep myself in some level of check..... because if I don't, 190 could easily become 170, 150, 130, and creep its way back to a place I never want to go again. Because it's not a weight thing with me anymore, it's a health thing.

You see, this weekend, I got to sit with my mom in the hospital instead of our living room. She was taken there on Friday because of her own heart issues and not taking care of herself (and her heart problems) as she really needed to for the last few years. For me, it's doing everything I can to lessen my odds of being in the same boat.......

It's not about whether I'm up 0.2 this week, oh woe is me, I'm a failure as a human being.
It's not about whether I was at 42:15 in this 5K and oh man, that's a new PB, hot damn I am SOMEONE! (although I would think it, very briefly, if I ever got below 45:00!)

It's about being the best person I can be, with all my limitations and not just in spite of them or because of them. It's just recognizing that they are there, as parameters within which to work and be fruitful.

It is about celebrating your successes and cheering you on.

Really, it's about love. Loving myself. Loving yourself. Sharing it with each other and helping each other out.

What a concept, huh?

Imagine.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

And to go with the previous post.....

John Legend, you are indeed living up to the moniker:



This is phenomenal. And I love that many different ladies are represented -- ladies of all sizes, ages, ethnicities, abilities...... The two that got me were the lady who removed her wig to reveal a bald head (presumably from chemo?) and the one who removed her bra to show the scars of a mastectomy. And all of them are beautiful.

Have you told yourself that lately? Have you looked in that mirror and told yourself that the sunspots or crooked teeth or two teensy freckles don't matter -- especially given that no one but you and maybe your significant other know these "imperfections" even exist? That the curves are okay, you're not necessarily meant to look like an 8-year-old child anymore? That you are here and you matter, and there are people who care more about YOU than just  merely the body you occupy -- and that the most important people in your life (yourself included) should care more about you than just the physical aspect alone?

Watch the video again. Cry if you must. And go tell yourself how much you love yourself. How proud you are of yourself for everything you've been through, overcome, and survived to be able to thrive in this moment....... and beyond.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Look of Love

There's a piece of glass that we all love to hate. It has this silvery-like paint on one side that throws a reflection of ourselves back to us. Many are the curses hurled at this innocent little piece of glass.

I am no exception. I have never been much of a fan of mirrors for years.... and lately, as time marches on and leaves little footprints in its wake across my face, I'm finding myself looking and thinking, "Who is that person?" Then there are the times I look in it and think, "Dang girl.... you are looking awesome!"

Lately, however, those are not words I have uttered. It has instead heard words of disgust, of worry, of the variety that make me say, "Great, whatever, you look like (insert a favorite expletive or several here)......"

So here it is on the line: the last almost-three years have been full of some things that would cause the average person to throw up their hands and say "I QUIT" about 4 months into it: heart arrhythmia questions, cancer scare, constant battle with lymphedema (and while mostly under control, there are moments....), job changes (3 times over so far), family situations, a year of recurrent sinus infections and near-constant migraines, and weight that has gone up and down like a Duncan glo-yo. Oh, yeah, and shingles too. Constant stress and worry over the situations beyond my control -- I know, I know, but you live it and try to just "let it go." Yeah, good luck with that. New meds, no let's change this up, no, let's try this, let's take you off this, add this, blah blah blah -- and a new one coming into the mix too soon......

And I am okay. I'm okay.

Because I'm not junk.

A dear friend of mine reminded me last night that the next time I look in the mirror, I need to remind myself that I am not junk. I am not junk. I have been beautifully, wonderfully created for a purpose. I am here for a reason, even if I do not fully grasp it. I am not junk. I am not the number on a scale. There is no scale that will ever define my success. There is no scale that will ever measure my worth.  There is no way I am going to allow a series of numbers -- which are a measurement of the amount of gravity needed to hold me to the earth -- to be a definition of my value as a person.

NO NO NO NO NO.

So today as a reminder, I bought a cheapie compact at the dollar store and took a Sharpie to one half of it..... "U Are Not Junk" all around the edge......

And a reminder that I need to see the person in the mirror with the look of love.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Truer words were never written......



Take it from me
I have had to learn this lesson in the most unpleasant, literally painful way. If you do not take care of yourself -- in big ways and small -- it will come back to bite you in a most unexpected and not very nice way. TRUST ME when I tell you to do this for yourself.
Self-care includes eating right, getting in activity, proper sleep (yes, I *mean* this), hobbies, recreation, de-stressing, connections (and not just online ones), and finding your perfect balance -- which very likely is NOT the perfect balance that someone else has.
Take care of yourself. No one else will. People will help, but they cannot, e-v-e-r, care for you and give your body, mind, and spirit what it needs. ONLY you can do that for yourself. 

DO IT.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rest up!

I hadn't posted much lately -- for lots of reasons. One, I wasn't sure I really had anything of importance to say. I wasn't sure that anyone really wanted to hear my story, my struggles, my failings, just my triumphs and successes. Part of me would think, "No, that's not right. People need to know that you can bounce back, that it's okay to have dark moments of the journey....." and then this other part of me would think, "But I *can't*!!!! You don't understand!!! I have to be 'on,' all day every day!"

Warped, huh?

Without going into laborious detail, there's a lot on my life plate that has very little to do with weight loss, with body image, etc. and yet ties into it on a very intimate level that only those of us who struggle mightily with it can begin to understand: how we can feel so put out by things that actually are not in our control so we work hard to control what we can -- but end up creating more stress when those plans don't necessarily work out to our benefit. And so it has been with me. Between my own things that really are not within my control and things I can control but either choose not to or feel that I cannot because of other reasons/excuses...... well, vicious cycle of emotional roller-coastering ensues here.

But hope is always present. Faith and courage are always beside me, even when their faces are shielded or blocked by doubts and cowardice. And love, love for myself, love from my friends and family, love and support from those dear to me, is always underneath, girding it all. It is love which binds my wounds and also applies the stinging mercurochrome when necessary.

Most of you know I'm definitely an introvert -- I can operate well in the world and be friendly and sometimes even outspoken, but the introversion/extroversion measurement has little to do with that, and more from where we derive our energy. I like people but I can only handle people situations for so long before I have to withdraw and recharge. I have to be alone, I have to ruminate, I have to allow things to be thought out thoroughly in my head. Make big decisions with ramifications on the fly? The very idea makes me almost apopolectic on a good day. When I'm really stressed, I get moody and very withdrawn and unable to think straight, let alone make the best possible decisions.

Finally, I spoke with a couple of friends who said, "Enough. Enough. You need to stop, you really need to care for yourself. NOW." So I am doing just that. I am taking real, active, concrete steps to do so. Part of it is that I have stopped swinging.

Now..... does that mean I have stopped fighting? Have I taken off the gloves, had Mick throw in the towel and conceded to Apollo Creed? NOT IN THE LEAST. Never!!!!!!!!!! I can assure you that I am never ever ever ever ever going back again (to mishmash Lindsey Buckingham and Taylor Swift; please forgive me). Been there, done that, ain't returning. Bought a ticket out. One way.

What it means is that it's in between rounds. I am sitting in the corner, I am catching my breath -- sweet precious breath -- and I am strategizing. I am trying to clear my head having been sucker-punched repeatedly over the last two years or so by a variety of things, all of which are things over which I had very little control but which I allowed to take up free space in my head. It means even Muhammad Ali took at least 60 seconds out every 3 minutes when he was in peak physical condition to rest. He knew his body needed to rest and regenerate. He knew he couldn't keep up if he didn't rest up.

I love this blog. I love sharing the journey with people. I have hated, hated, hated, feeling as if I have disappointed my readers (1) for not blogging as often as I should have and (2) for feeling as if you'd hate me if I didn't act "up" all the time... if I wasn't perfect. If you've never had that loop in your head say, "You just wait until they find out you are a fraud," then God bless you..... it's a negativity tapeloop that you NEVER want to have. And there are times it runs in my head more than you can guess.

But I'm still around. And I will post when I can and I will come out fighting and swinging for all I have in me..... and know that when I'm silent, it's because I'm in the corner, plannign the next thing and catching my breath for the next round.

One last thought for you:
Never ever regret your struggle. EVER. It has helped make you who you are.