Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dangerous Neighborhood

The mind...it's a dangerous neighborhood to wander in alone at times. The things we think in our heads, the things we allow to take root there...well, they can really destroy us if we let them.

My days of going into my thoughts and staying there with the negativity are so few and far between now...and I'm grateful for that. At the same time, I really dread that they still occur at all. I'm still working on learning how to cope with them. Do I share the thoughts with others? Which people do I share them with? What thoughts do I employ myself to combat the downward spiral?

I'm getting better at hearing the negatives in my own mind and saying in response to them "no, you're NOT a bad person, you're NOT a fucked up person, you're just human...and you have bad days, and that doesn't mean you're bad, and it doesn't mean you're still a basket case, and it doesn't mean you have to stay there. Remember all of the things you have accomplished in your life...the struggles you have overcome and been victorious over."

Over the past 20 years or so, after having it bludgeoned into my brain that I need to talk about this stuff or it kills me physically and mentally, I have learned to share with others, close friends/confidantes when I have days like this. Most of the time anyway. But now, I'm in new territory. I have a significant other with whom I want to share my thoughts and feelings...and at the same time, I'm terrified that if I share the days like this, well, he'll realize just how messed up I still am and it will scare him off. I think there are some things I still just need to actually learn how to keep to myself a bit more until I've processed them. I'm doing much better these days at the positive self-talk to get out of those yuck places.

Seriously...stay out of your head...as much as possible. It's not a pretty place.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And So This Is Christmas

The Christmas spirit has been more elusive for me than usual this year...that is until last night and today. I have been so incredibly fortunate these past two years. Ok, I've been fortunate for way more than two years, but right now that's what I'm focused on. So much has changed since my mom passed away and I subsequently began this weight loss surgery journey...i.e., the beginning of the rest of my life.

In a conversation with my boss the other day, he remarked on how the changes haven't been just to my physical being but to everything that I am...that it has been an overall transformation. I think this is in part due to the weight loss, but I think it's also due to many other changes in thinking that I began to embrace around the same time I began pursuing weight loss surgery. The weight loss has affected my self-confidence in such major ways. I'm still me...still the same person I always was, but she's no longer hiding or ashamed or embarrassed and afraid of drawing attention to herself. As a result, I'm more outspoken and vocal. My sense of humor shines through much more because I no longer worry that people will think I'm stupid or just plain old not funny. I don't care nearly as much what the majority of people in this world think of me. I find that much easier to do when I don't have the body image issues to focus on. I'm more accepting of myself...and as such, care less about whether others accept me as I am or not.

The changes in attitude and self-confidence have affected my work, my mothering, and my personal and social lives. My life is good...it is full and happy. I learned long ago to be happy regardless of my circumstances. I have my down days, but I've really gotten much better at plodding through them, knowing they will pass and the sun will shine again. There's been one piece missing from my life for a while now though. I haven't had the adult male companionship, friendship and love that I have so desired.

My heart is big...there is so much in it that I want to share. My son gets a great deal of my love and my life. But he can't and shouldn't fill all of my needs for love and companionship. I've dated...I've blogged about my unsuccessful dates at times. And when I finally said "I just don't much care anymore if I meet someone for the long-term, I just want to have fun and enjoy my life," he appeared. I did a few things early on to dispel the notion of this relationship becoming serious. But for whatever reasons, call it fate or destiny or chance (and I don't really believe in chance), we still connected, this man and I. And now, I have fallen completely and utterly head over heals in love with him. My fears of abandonment creep in now and then. I'm sure somewhere along the line my trust issues will also rear their ugly heads as well. This man is patient, and kind, and thoughtful and understanding...and he's like me in many, many ways. He's all about the communication, and he's all about having a huge heart with much love to give. I am so unbelievably thankful right now that his heart has been given to me. The person I am in this relationship is the person I want to be in a relationship. And it happens pretty damn easily. Wow. Just, wow.

And so this is Christmas. My son and I are happy and healthy, and we have an amazing new person in our lives...and the hope of not just SOME of my dreams, but ALL of my dreams coming true has been restored. Love, hope, peace...all in time for Christmas. Does it get any better than that?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Days

It's been a bit since I've written. I guess I've been busy with the thoughts in my head, getting ready for the holidays, balancing work, family and new social connections. I won't say a bunch about it here just yet, but I've been dating someone that I really think is very special. It's all pretty exciting and scary. I'm doing my best, with his help, to not let my fear take over and ruin a good thing. From what I've seen and learned about him, he's really a damn fine man in so many ways. So fine, in fact, that I find myself saying "wow, could this really be???" Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts...they make all the difference in the world you know. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sometimes, Validation Is Everything

Last weekend, Zachary and I took a trip down to NYC to visit long-time family friends. Paul has known me since I was probably 2.5 years old, and he knew both of my parents. He and his wife, Hilda, Zachary and I got together last Saturday to visit and have dinner. Paul is a bright spot in my childhood. When my mother could no longer take me shopping because the conflict was just too high between us, it was Paul she designated as the adult in charge for my clothes shopping. He never ridiculed me for being fat (which sometimes she did), and he never made me feel badly for not having the same taste as he had in clothing.

There were many times I know my mom vented to Paul about her feelings towards me...her anger, disappointment, hurt. So many things I did caused her great pain...never did I intentionally try to inflict pain on her though. Never. As I grew up and eventually started becoming healthier mentally, I was unable and unwilling to tolerate the poor treatment that was a result of some of her own issues. When she died, our relationship was very, very strained because of the constant conflict.

Over the years, I knew that Paul heard things about me from her that I suspected made him think less of me. I only hoped that he knew enough of my mom and her own troubles that he was able to have some perspective on things and not hate me. I lived with a great deal of shame around most of my mom's friends...fearing that they thought I was a wretched, ungrateful and selfish daughter.

I sent yesterday's blog entry to Paul and Hilda to read. They have been there for me since well before my hospitalization. Hilda sent me an absolutely lovely response, and below is the response that I received from Paul. Maybe I can finally cast aside some of the shame I felt, thinking that he thought less of me as a person. He wrote:

***************************

Dear Amy,

I read your blog twice and it saddened me that a child would have to endure a life cloistered within the disturbed patterns of two people. Fortunately, Amy, an inner strength probably surfaced and helped you through unseen exits. But the conflicts that always hung around the two people--separate or together--found you.

You lived with a mother who herself lived with demons inside. They rose with Catherine in the morning and accompanied her to bed. Only she would know if they wrote the scenario for each dream. Of course there were breaks when the demons had to rest from overwork--not too often. Catherine was very intelligent, and used it not for the benefit of creating a harmonious family atmosphere, but to work in executive positions. But the inner demons voted, and none (there were many) of the positions were, after awhile, considered acceptable.

When Harvey worked at Otis elevator on 3rd Avenue and 48th Street, I would meet him often for lunch. I ended my workday around 1:15. I never, ever, saw a piece of paper or anything else connected to work on his desk. Except for himself, his cubicle was always empty. Although our conversations ranged far and wide, he always expressed a very negative, almost misanthropic, attitude. Also he was always sarcastic. Our meetings began to, and then eventually drifted into, nothing. This was before MS took over.

Of course this is only a small peek into your world where you were forced as a child to live with Catherine and Harvey. And yet Amy, you have emerged and shaped yourself into a strong and attractive woman. On Saturday there was a glow to you with a strong personality. Not one to take small steps but to stride in the world.

Zachary is a beautiful child with, apparently, a sense of self. Now I am sure, Amy, there are times when he upsets you...but then he would smile that smile--he has to melt you. You have to be very proud, particularly as a single mother. On Saturday, Zachary was the fourth adult at the table.

I am personally very sorry that you had to endure what you endured--no child should. It was a walk through Hell.

Welcome to the world, Amy. You did it. An excellent example for Zachary, who is one terrific kid.

Love, Paul

***************************

This may sound weird, but it's really reassuring to get validation like this. I think that much of what went on as a kid, I minimized in order to survive...and so sometimes, I find myself wondering if it really happened, or if I'm just making mountains out of mole hills. The validation from others reminds me that there were good reasons why I struggled as I did and ended up needing a two-year hospitalization. All those people weren't misled or lied to by me.

I never expect people to believe me. I live with this constant fear that people will think I'm lying. That in itself is another issue from childhood. There was a therapist who told my mother that I was a liar when I was 12 years old. Why? Because I expressed fear of my mom. This therapist felt that since my mother wasn't physically abusive to me, my fears were unfounded. For the record, there are lots of things to be afraid of as a child beyond physical abuse--losing the love of a parent, having their disapproval, rejection by them, etc. With that edict handed down, so many of my feelings were discredited as not being based in reality. I started to believe really that I was the problem...not everyone else.

Anyway...I feel like the people who are in my life and give me any of that validation are dying off in a way. And I fear sometimes that I will discount all that I lived and worked through when they are no longer there to say "yes, this stuff was real, the things you experienced were horrible and hellish and I lived them/saw them too." So yeah, sometimes validation is everything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Musings on an Anniversary

It was 20 years ago today (no, not that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play) that I began an inpatient hospitalization for depression that lasted just short of two years. Yes, you read that right...two years. Absolutely unheard of these days. This is a summary of the events leading up to my hospitalization and a bit about its progression.

At the age of 20, I had for the first time in my life lost about 40 lbs. in a healthy manner, following Weight Watchers. I didn't binge, I didn't purge, I didn't starve myself. I followed the plan and I exercised. I had a new body image to deal with...and the resulting attention it drew from others.

The therapist I had seen since I was 12 years old decided that he didn't believe in long-term therapy...and as such, was preparing me for termination with him. There were times in my life where I thought he was the only human being/adult that actually cared about my well-being. I took this termination as a personal rejection and my incredibly fragile self-esteem and self-worth plummeted. He also felt that due to my history of sexual abuse, it was probably advisable that if I felt the need to return to therapy, I might want to seek the counsel of a female therapist. Within probably a month or two of his terminating with me (which was in June of 1988), I did just that...and I began seeing Martha Page Burkholder who was, at the time, working out of the outpatient mental health clinic at St. Vincent's Medical Center in the Village (NYC).

In early August of 1988, I came home one Friday night after being out drinking with some of the NYU law school students who lived in the dorm I had worked at. My mom had been to an AA meeting that night, and had seen one of our old family friends there. He informed her that my dad, who I had not seen in over four years, was in a coma at Holy Name Hospital. He had suffered with Multiple Sclerosis for many years...went on disability from work in 1974 as a result of it. I was 6 years old then. That night, mom and I went to see him at the hospital. He was brain dead but being kept alive on a respirator. Once his wife found out we'd been there, she was pretty livid and made sure that my mother would not be allowed to visit my dad again. She had no ability to stop my brother and me from seeing him, as we were also next of kin. I think she'd have done it if she could though. My grandparents on my father's side hadn't called to tell us about his condition, so I suspected they did not know and I called to tell them. Apparently, they'd had a falling out with my dad's wife and so because of her anger, she refused to communicate with them. When she found out that I had called to tell them of his condition, she was furious. The next time she saw me in the ICU visiting my dad (my brother was there as well), she launched into a tirade with me about my grandparents and mother, claiming that SHE was the real wife, and my brother, who typically stayed out of conflict with her, told her "No Ann, you're the real BITCH." Ann proceeded to yell at us that we were not his children; we were merely his biological offspring. You can imagine how well all of this went over with the nurses in the ICU. They came in to figure out what was going on, and my father's wife proceeded to tell them it was no big deal as my father had heard it all before anyway. From that point forward, she was not to be anywhere on the hospital grounds during certain hours that were deemed visiting hours for me and my brother.

My grandparents drove up from Texas and stayed for a couple of weeks. In Ann's anger, she made sure that my father, who was brain dead as determined by EEG, was on a "full code" and would be resuscitated if he went into arrest. And she made sure to hand write a sign she hung over his bed letting us know this, lest there be any confusion. She was a really hateful woman. My dad went into cardiac arrest at least three times over the two weeks my grandparents and aunt and cousin were there. Because of the full code though, he did not die and so they did not have the closure of attending his funeral. I think the hospital's way around this was to move dad down to another room from ICU that had less monitoring. He was taken off the respirator; they said he was breathing enough on his own that he didn't need it. Instead, the nurses checked on him every 15 minutes or so. My brother and I were there to visit him, on August 31, 1988, in the evening. It was the day before Andy would be heading back to college in PA, and we told our dad this. I told him that I would do my best to try and make it there every night. After we left, we went to hang out with a friend of ours. Mom called around 11 p.m. to let us know that the hospital had called and dad had died at about 10:10 p.m. that night...probably within about half an hour after we left. Ann had not made it back to the hospital to see him by then, and so Andy and I were the last to visit with him before he died. Ann was sure to tell people that we were actually there when he died and watched him die and did nothing to stop it. None of that was true, but I guess it made her feel better to tell people that.

At this time, I worked for NYU in their Graduate Housing Office. I was also attending nursing school at NYU. The union at NYU had gone on strike. It didn't take very long for me to figure out that I wasn't very good at not working during this period of time, and so I made the choice to cross the picket lines and return to work. My mind being idle wasn't a good thing at all. My boss and several of my coworkers, as well as the union president and treasurer, who sent me a sympathy card, understood...a few others did not. Despite studying for hours and hours for a chemistry exam, I failed it. First exam I ever failed. I was devastated and went to speak with my nursing adviser. She was on leave, and so I spoke with someone else about withdrawing for the semester. When I explained all that was going on, she was incredibly understanding and agreed that a leave of absence from school would probably be best. And so, I withdrew from my classes before I had opportunity to fail them.

The strike at NYU eventually ended and everyone else returned to work. Some had hard feelings towards me, and some did not. My therapy appointments continued and increased from once weekly to three times weekly. At the end of each appointment, Dr. Burkholder and I would "touch base" on our verbal contract. I'd been thinking about suicide a lot...and I'd been hoarding some of my fiorinal (for migraines), as well as trying to ascertain just how much other OTC meds I might need to complete the job. The deal with Dr. Burkholder was that I agreed to call her if I was feeling like I was in serious jeopardy of hurting/killing myself. On November 14, 1988, I told her point blank that in all honesty, if I wanted to die that badly, the last thing I would do would be to call her because she'd only try to stop me. She told me that she couldn't let me go home, and that she felt I needed to be hospitalized. I'd already been down that road before, as a 14 and 15 year old (yeah, twice), and didn't want to do that again. I begged and pleaded, and she asked me to at least let her call my mother so that she could be assured that someone at home would keep an eye on me. I was very reluctant to do that, as my mom's reaction to my self-destructive tendencies was typically one of outrage directed at me...and I wasn't up for more hatred, I already hated myself enough as was. But, given the choice between hospitalization and enduring mom's wrath, I opted for mom's wrath. After Dr. Burkholder's conversation with her though, they both apparently agreed that I needed to be hospitalized. And so Dr. Burkholder walked me over to the hospital that evening, with my backpack on my shoulder. So it began.

I stayed there until May 9, 1989. I was the youngest patient on a primarily geriatric ward for patients with depression. They felt that was a better choice for placing me than the floor that housed the neighborhood patients who tended towards the drug addicted and psychotic, as I was neither and those units were far less "stable" places for me to be. For a while, they played with different medications to see what, if any, helped my depression. By December of 1988, they concluded that my depression was more environmentally than biologically based. In other words, the situation at home contributed more significantly to how I was coping than did any chemical imbalance. As such, it was their recommendation that I be placed in a longer-term facility that offered intense therapy to help unravel some of that stuff.

In May of 1989, after completing a lengthy application and screening process, and waiting many months for a bed, I was transferred to the New York State Psychiatric Institute's (PI for short) 5th Floor. They had a research program affiliated with Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and their College of Physicians and Surgeons on character disorders. Apparently, that was the "bucket" I fit into. So many things happened while I was there...the biggest, though, was that I was actually finally allowed (and encouraged, no less) to feel and express what I felt, without being told that I was selfish, self-centered, etc. It was made clear that stifling my feelings was self-destructive in many ways and I needed to find new ways to cope and navigate my way through life. There were still plenty of times that I wanted to die there, but they kept me safe...sometimes to my great dismay at the time.

In August of 1990, I left...not entirely with their blessing as I did it pretty abruptly and without a specific discharge plan, but they offered me their support as best they could. I moved to Bridgeport, CT and began my transition back to the "real" world. I got a full-time job at Hewitt Associates, lived with my fiancée (who was another patient I met while at PI...he was there as an alternative to incarceration...sign of things to come in hindsight), and started a whole new journey. Lots of stuff transpired during those years in CT...and even in the years since I've moved to MA. But I continue to grow and cope and deal with life on life's terms.

Here I am, 20 years later, a single mom to an amazing little boy who is the best thing to have ever happened in my life. For many years, I have kept secret my past...the shame of mental illness, depression, my hospitalization, all weighed very heavily on me and I didn't want people to judge me or write me off because of the things in my past. In therapy this week, we talked about how I'm not ashamed anymore...and while I don't go around telling everyone about this, I won't hide it anymore either and live with it being a dirty secret of sorts. I survived. I have grown. I have become, and continue to become, someone I am proud of and think is a pretty amazing person. All of my past has contributed to that...all of the people in my past and present contribute to that. It's an amazing journey, this life...it is what we make it...bottom line.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Liberty, Freedom and Patriotism...GO VOTE!

This morning, as my 7 year old son accompanied me to the polls to vote, I was just smiling at the huge turnout. I was so full of pride to be showing Zachary how we check in, the ballot, how you fill in the ovals, check out and feed the form through the machine...how many people are part of this magnificent process. They've done a lot of mock "voting" at his school. Probably a month and a half ago, he came home from school and told me he had voted for President that day. And he told me he had voted for John McCain. I simply told him "Excellent! Now tell me why." He didn't have an answer to that question. I highly suspect he chose his candidate because it was what he heard many of his peers saying. I explained to him then that it's very important that he understand WHY he is choosing the candidate he selects and not to just "go with the flow." Yesterday, when I picked him up from his after school program, he was awfully cute. Over the past many weeks, he has heard many, many talks at home about the election, he has watched some of the debates with me, asked lots of questions. So yesterday he told me again that he had voted for President...and he said "mom, do you want to know who I voted for?" I said "do you want to tell me?" He said he did. I said "ok, who did you vote for?" He said (with a huge smile on his face) "Obama!" I said "Great! Now tell me why you voted for him." You know what he said? "Because I love you!" It's so simple at his age...so I told him that was wonderful and great, and that as he got older he would want to find out what each person believes in and then choose his candidate based on what feels right to him in his heart...that he'll have to make that decision for himself at some point. It's so amazing to be teaching him how to think about these things...and it's really eye-opening to think about how we form our opinions and beliefs so much from what we are raised with...I want him to (of course) have my values, but make sure they are HIS as an adult...internalized and suited to who HE is. He will get so much of what he feels and believes from being raised by me...I have to trust that he will find the best way to make that work for him in his life. I want him to be able to think clearly, critically, for himself...know the right questions to ask...and then, listen to his heart. Yeah, admittedly it is sometimes difficult to hear him say he voted for one person or another when it isn't who I voted for. I really did try to think "big picture" there. And so yesterday, after he told me who he voted for, he asked me "Mom, will Obama make the war end sooner?" I said I really didn't know for sure. He asked if McCain would make it end sooner. I told him that I didn't know that either...that I believed they both want the war to end, but they may have different beliefs and approaches as to how that should happen and when. Big picture...for a 7 year old.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I have some of the best coworkers...honestly. They're such an awesome and fun group of people. A few of us dressed up today for the holiday...I'm a Fire Goddess.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Getting To Know Me

On one of the boards I participate, someone posted a "getting acquainted" thread. And I replied...with more info than I typically do. I figured maybe this would be a good place to re-post some of my information for people reading...to know where I've come from and where I'm at these days.

My full name is Amy and I am 40 years old. I was born in New York City. My parents were from Texas (dad) and Oklahoma (mom). Most of my extended family that I knew growing up still live in those states. I have one sibling, a brother, who is 2.5 years older than me.

I was married many years ago, and subsequently divorced, from a drug addict. I cohabitated, planned to marry, and was in the process of buying a home with my son's father...just to clarify, he is not my ex-husband; we were never married. Instead, we split up when I was 17 weeks (4.5 months) pregnant. Our son will be 8 in January and I have sole legal and physical custody of him.

After graduating high school, I began working full-time at NYU Law School both to earn money and tuitiion benefits. I attended nursing school at NYU, and eventually at Norwalk Community-Technical College, but never finished nor got my degree or RN. These days, I do not do anything even remotely related to the medical field for my work (or the work I've done for the past 9 years). I worked at NYU Law School, and then in their Graduate Housing Office, until November 14, 1988.

Something few people who aren't that close to me know is that I started out self-injuring at the age of 8. I spent most of my teen years trying to die or mutilate myself in some fashion. At age 16, I was thoroughly convinced I would end up dead or committed to an institution by the time I was 25. My father died on August 31, 1988. I hadn't seen him in over 4 years when he died as a result of his Multiple Sclerosis.

When my father died, I suffered a depressive breakdown. I was 20 years old. That resulted in a 6 month "short-term" hospitalization, which led to a longer-term hospitalization in a psychiatric research hospital (voluntarily). Total of almost 2 years. It will be 20 years ago on November 14th that I was first hospitalized for that. It was one of the hardest times in my life...but also the first time in my life I was allowed to start caring about myself first and not everyone else. It wasn't selfish to have my own feelings. It was a rare opportunity to get on the road to loving and learning to take care of myself. I know I would not be alive if not for that opportunity.

I can be somewhat of a hard ass with people...at least until they get a piece of my heart. Once that happens, well, I'm a complete and utter mushpot. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have dreams of being a childrens' advocate someday, and trained to be a facilitator for Parents Anonymous when I lived in CT many years ago.

My favorite color is periwinkle blue, and my favorite flowers are blue bearded iris. I love classic rock, folk, classical guitar (and classical in general), blues, R&B, well, just about any kind of music except for rap. Not a huge fan of country and western, but there are a few songs here and there that I really like.

I have no tattoos, but I've contemplated getting one of an iris and butterfly. I am a serious cookie monster...when it comes to homemade cookies, I have zero self-control. So when I bake, we tend to package the bulk of the cookies up and ship them off to anyone who will take and hopefully enjoy them. And I also bring a lot of them in to my coworkers...they're always eager to devour them.

I am currently a software configuration/release engineer. It's a new role for me after being a software quality assurance engineer for the past 8 years or so. Some days, I really enjoy my job and some days, well, it's a rat race.

I currently live in northeastern MA (known as the "North Shore") next to Salem, MA (yes, the Witch City). Rich with history and I love it here. It's the first place I've lived that really felt like I belonged.

I had weight loss surgery (laprascopic RNY) almost 16 months ago, and I've lost 135 lbs. between the cardiac risk reduction program I participated in and my gastric bypass surgery (July 9, 2007). I'm currently maintaining my goal weight of 120 lbs. I pursued gastric bypass surgery because I was afraid I would die before I had raised my son. This is a comparison of my "then" photos, and my now photos. No wonder when I would lay down at night I felt like I was being strangled/choked. I had so much fat around my neck.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Week In Review

It's been kind of a wild ride this week. Zachary and I baked cookies last weekend. Aren't they beautiful? He did such a fantastic job decorating them.

I love to bake/cook, and so does Zachary. The problem for me, however, is that I don't have any self-control when it comes to homemade cookies. When we bake that means the "profits" need to be given away as quickly as possible. But, as is typically the case, I didn't get rid of enough of them or get rid of them quickly enough. I ate way too many cookies...the evil little things that they are. I had the joy of experiencing a lovely dumping episode on Monday evening that, once resolved, I felt good for abut half an hour before the predictable sugar crash ensued. The sugar crash post-dumping is almost as bad as dumping itself for me. Did I learn? Not exactly. Last night, we had a ladies night out/clothing swap. There were so many really yummy things there, and I made the mistake of trying them...which meant I liked them...which meant I ate them...more than in moderation...and so I spent a good hour and a half at the party quietly wanting to die because I felt so queasy. And then, on the tail end of the ride home the sugar crash set in.

I spent some time last night thinking "tomorrow, I'm doing protein shakes only to get myself back on track." And then this morning I thought "how is that healthy? You screwed up. Just STOP doing what you're doing and start eating as you should. JUST DO IT." So, that's where I am this morning. It really is hard sometimes to halt that internal voice that wants me to resort to diet mentality. I know that I'm not going to perfect every day, every week, for the rest of my life...I have to learn how to rebound from this crap without chastising myself endlessly OR making excuses for continuing to be lax. Sometimes I think "cripes, I've only been at goal for 2 months...I've got the whole rest of my life that I will do battle with this back and forth crap." I can't think in those terms...because although they're accurate, that's just too big of a chunk of time to manage in my mind. I don't know...maybe I'm just babbling right now.

Yesterday Zachary and I went on a really nice hike with one of my coworkers/friends and his son and some friends of theirs. Zachary had so much fun having two other little boys to keep up with. I certainly enjoyed the beautiful day, the physical activity and the ability to actually manage a hike after so much time where I couldn't. This is us at the summit of Wachusett Mountain. It was really such a beautiful day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Morning Blues

I guess I'm feeling pretty decent...for a Monday. I've been having some issues of late with food getting stuck, vomiting, nausea. Last week at support group I asked others if they ever started experiencing these things kind of suddenly after having no issues for many months. The consensus was that I needed to call and see Dr. B. I called on Tuesday morning, went in Tuesday afternoon and had an endoscopy Friday with Dr. K. The result? Completely normal anatomy (pouch, staples, hook-ups, etc.) for post-RNY. Good, no GREAT, news. But, it leaves me wondering why the heck I've been having the occasional pain, the frequent episodes of food getting stuck, more frequent vomiting than I've had in at least 7 months? I have no answers...and now, I feel like I must be a hypochondriac. There's a reason why I don't call the doc without someone telling me I probably should...because I'm afraid I won't be believed because there will be nothing found. I actually usually feel surprised when a doctor comes back and says "yes, there's XYZ and this is why you're having this problem." I remember being almost damn near shocked when I had a tubal pregnancy back in 1992...as if to say "oh, you mean there really WAS a reason I was in this much pain? Really???" Yes, I suspect I know where this comes from...does it make it any easier to deal with? Nope.

I had a date on Saturday night. It was good conversation. I suspect, however, that I won't likely hear from him again. Gut feeling. But that's ok...it was good practice for getting out, meeting someone new, making conversation, and being generally more at ease with myself. I really hate dating...have I mentioned that?

I don't think the change in my dosage of Cymbalta is making a bit of difference...except perhaps I'm sleeping even more poorly than usual, so I'm taking my Ambien almost nightly. My feeling of melancholy is very much alive and well. Some days, more than others. And it means that I'm having to make sure I focus on all the reasons that I'm a decent mother, instead of dwelling on how I feel like a crappy mother who doesn't spend enough quality time with her child. Some days, I feel grossly inept at this parenting thing, as I'm sure we all do. I remind myself that this too shall pass, and with any luck, I won't have irreparably damaged my kid by the time he's grown. I can hope, right?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good Old Separation Anxiety

So I'm beginning to think that perhaps my abandonment issues are not all that dissimilar from Zachary's separation anxiety issues...and that there's a big genetic component to it. Random thoughts, I suppose.

Zachary's been having a really rough time with the start of school...none of it is new...we go through this same crap every year...for school...for camp...for any "new" thing or transition. He's got some significant and persistent issues with separation anxiety. I've dealt with this with him since he was an infant. At some point in the past few years, it became more than just "typical" separation anxiety that children experience and grow out of. He sees a wonderful counselor, who is helping him learn new coping skills that ideally will help ease some of this very real distress for him. His counselor has said that basically, I'm the only person who's always been here for him, and since we're very close/tight, I'm pretty much everything to him. That became even more apparent when my mom (Zachary's beloved Nana) died very unexpectedly in May 2006. And while it all makes sense, it definitely makes our lives challenging at times. Every morning before school, we go through the same ordeal. The tears start, and Zachary says he doesn't feel well, he has a headache, a stomach ache, his legs hurt, that he can't possibly go to school. And so the offer of an ibuprofen and a Tums is made, to help with his aches and pains. He's tenacious, let me tell you. He can persist with his complaints, crying, whining like this for a solid hour, despite me telling him that school is not optional, it's the law, he has to go, and then I tell him the discussion is over and I proceed to ignore the rest of his complaints or simply tell him that yes, I know he doesn't feel well, and I'm sorry. Note, there is NO indication that he is staying home, coming with me to work, or anything of the like. Unless he has a fever or is throwing up, he's going to school. We've done this for years, literally. It's wearing on me. I can't do this with him until he's 18 years old, I assure you. The counselor said that at some point, we may have to consider if medication might help him with some of his anxiety. That made me feel very, very sad.

Last night, before bed, he's laying there and starts talking about the stuff in his head, as he usually does, when it's time to wind down and go to sleep. He says to me "I'd rather me be taken away from you, than you be taken away from me." I looked at him and said "honey, neither of those things is going to happen, and you don't need to worry about that." He said "but mom, who would buy me food and take care of me?" I told him that even if it DID happen, I promised him he would be taken care of. These are his worries at age 7. What the hell is he going to have left to worry about as he gets older and life gets more complicated? *sigh* I wish I knew how to help his anxiety and I wish it felt like the things we're doing in the name of helping him were actually easing some of his distress. But most times, I really don't know he's feeling any better...and I know I'm not.

I wish someone could tell me why some kids think this way...and that somehow, it's a good thing in life to be a deeper thinker. But in my personal experience, I'm not convinced that's the case. I think I'd personally like to be blissfully unaware of the crap of life at times. Awareness is not something I'm able to dismiss though...and as such, things weigh heavily on me...and they always have. Another thing to have passed on to my child that I feel oh not so great about. But you know what? I think he's even MORE obsessive with things than I am. I don't remember too much of this type of stuff from when I was a kid. I remember significant events that triggered my abandonment and anxiety issues. I had a recurrent nightmare as a child that I can clearly remember and the theme there is obviously being entirely alone and abandoned. But I don't ever recall just thinking about stuff like this, like Zachary does. *sigh*

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Autumn, Anniversaries, Abandonment?

It's been a rough few days for me. Yesterday was really quite a crappy day all around...too much thinking and junk floating around in my head. There were a couple of people that let me lean on them yesterday, in whatever capacity they were able. I emailed Pat and Melinda, because they've been there for me for over the past year now. They both offered their words of support and encouragement and ideas. I called my doctor who prescribes my sleep and antidepressant meds and left a message for him to call me. I see him later this month, but at Pat's urging, I called him to see about getting a sooner appointment. I fought the tears on and off all day at work...not all that successfully. I know others at work saw my face and my tears...and not a single one asked if I was ok.

On the way home from work yesterday, I called one of my closest friends, Tammy. And when she asked how I was, I tried so hard to hold it together but the tears started to well and my voice started to crack, so I grew silent trying to keep it in check. She could hear it in my voice and said "I'm going to pick up Katlyn (her daughter), we'll be home in 45 minutes...come for coffee?" So Zachary and I did.

I shared with Tammy everything that has been going through my mind and heart these past few days. Things about my history she didn't have complete knowledge of, current things, and all that they trigger. Without getting into all the icky history, suffice it to say that I have some significant issues with abandonment. I don't actually ever expect anyone to stick around for me...though I still always hope for it. I'm not sure whether that is a hope I need to change or not...I guess that will be topic for discussion in therapy on Thursday evening.

This time of year just seems to trigger so much of my abandonment anxiety in spades...the 20th anniversary of my father's death was this past Sunday...half my lifetime ago. That one event altered the course of my life in so many ways. The anniversary of my son's father leaving me pregnant for a 17 year old is around this time of year. The anniversary of my ex-husband ultimately leaving. Shit, there's just a ton of stupid triggers...and I can recognize that they are in the past, that they are done, and not now...and yet they still are triggers for all these feelings. Have you ever had that happen to you? Things that you know are not rational enter your brain and kick off a chain of events in terms feelings? And it is that irrational thought part that compounds it for me and gets me so worked up...I KNOW the thoughts aren't here/now/rational, but it still comes up. As such, I'm embarrassed and ashamed to share them with anyone for fear they will say "well what did you expect?" or "that was so long ago, it's in the past." What I really need is for the person to just hear me. I don't need their judgment of me/my feelings because they are neither right nor wrong; I'm not looking for them to agree or disagree with me, or tell me that I should feel differently than I do...just hear me. Once that has happened, once all the "truth" of my feelings is out, it's like the feelings start to dissipate and I can move on and get past it.

Tammy listened to it all yesterday. And she held me while I sobbed for a minute or two in her arms. I don't have the physical reassurance/contact of a person to hold me most of the time when my heart and spirit feels like it's in pieces. There is no person at home to do that for me. Zachary can obviously be affectionate and give a hug...but that is a very, very different kind of affection than I need when I am feeling that vulnerable. I have had a really, really hard time asking for that from any friend because it feels so helpless and weak and, quite frankly, scary to me. I am trying really, really hard to learn how to let other people in a bit more...friends who have never given me any reason NOT to trust them. Tammy reminded me that we ALL have these times and things that will cause us to plummet from time to time...that none of us is alone in that. We all cope with it differently, though. She gets aggressive and angry...I get weepy and sad. She needs to be alone...I need to be with someone who makes me feel loved, accepted and safe.

For today, I feel better...and a few folks know a little bit more about me, the person, my heart, my feelings. I really do have wonderful, wonderful people in my life. And I know, have to believe, that even on the crappiest days, it WILL be ok. Just gotta give it time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reached Goal

Several weeks ago when I saw Melinda last, we talked about my personal weight loss goal. Originally, I had the number of 115 lbs. in my mind. Well, after seeing how I look at 125 lbs. I decided that really, a better goal for me would be 120 lbs. If I didn't actually get to 120, but instead stayed between 122 and 126, that was fine by me. So, I upped my calories in an effort to try and stabilize my weight. I subsequently lost about 4 lbs. within the next week. I haven't had a weight loss that large since the first few months post-op. I let Melinda know and she said not to worry, my weight would stabilize. And it stayed pretty stable the next couple of weeks. This morning, I dropped another 4 lbs. since last week's weigh-in. We ate out (healthily, but still) 3 nights within this past week. I am down to 119.6 lbs. I'm fine with that...and pleased that I actually hit my goal though I wasn't really still striving for it. Now I want to make darn sure I don't keep losing this way. I'm already unhappy with how angular my face looks this thin and I don't want to appear gaunt/unhealthy.

This leaves me with a dilemma of sorts. Do I continue to do what I've been doing, and potentially lose 4 lbs. every 3 weeks or so? Or will it indeed stabilize doing what I'm doing? Should I be taking in MORE calories? I am so scared (to be honest) of getting "below" goal and having the mentality of having a few pounds to "play with." I've been there and done that before...and it's dangerous. I would much prefer to just continue the way I am...which means eating healthy, balanced meals frequently, and occasionally having a treat/special item that may extend my calorie range for that day, but overall balances out nicely for the week. It's more of a head thing than a body thing at that point. But I don't know...I'm kind of confused about it all and what I should be doing. So, I'm going to sit on it for a few days and try and figure it out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Top Ten Reasons Why Weight Loss Surgery Is NOT "The Easy Way Out"

by Glenn Goldberg

This was posted by Kristen on one of the OH boards that I frequent...and I loved it and thought it would be invaluable to post here.

10. It's very expensive. Many health insurance companies don't pay for the surgery, and even when they do, co-payments and other costs add up quickly. Also, it can become very costly to constantly replenish wardrobes as the weight comes off.

9. Recovery can be very painful. Besides the pain from the surgery wound, patients may experience nausea or severe gastric distress. Patients with sleep apnea may become sleep-deprived, with all of the associated adverse affects, when they must discontinue use of their CPAP machines to avoid disturbing the staples creating their tiny new stomach pouch.

8. Recuperation can take a long time. Patients may be “out of commission” and absent from work for a prolonged period of recovery time. In some cases, patients may not be able to return to work or normal pursuits for up to 10 – 12 weeks.

7. It's hard work and a major time commitment. For optimal results, patients should engage in aerobic exercise for up to an hour daily. For bodies unaccustomed to vigorous exercise, this can be very hard. It's also a real challenge for WLS patients to learn all they must about nutrition so they can assure that their food and vitamins are sustaining their body. Finally, it can be exhausting to consciously, carefully and painstakingly chew every bit of food that enters your mouth.

6. Vomiting isn't fun. Nor is diarrhea. It may take patients many months (and frequent episodes of vomiting or diarrhea) to identify incompatible foods and to learn the practical limits of their newly reduced stomachs or digestive systems.

5. It takes extraordinary courage to consciously limit food choices for the rest of your life (and potentially limit social opportunities built around meals). For many patients, life after WLS means treating food as a fuel, not as a source of drama, excitement, comfort or a central life focus: i.e. eating to live rather than living to eat. While some procedures may be reversible, for most patients WLS is a lifetime commitment, requiring a lifetime of major lifestyle changes.

4. Weight loss surgery can be dangerous. As many as .5% of surgery patients may die from the procedure, and up to 5% may experience debilitating medical complications (especially if they listen to their peers' advice more carefully than their doctor's.)

3. It takes great bravery and strength to deflect other people's judgments and society's myths about obesity. Fat people are often blamed and shamed by family and friends with simplistic advice, unrealistic solutions, and uninformed prejudices. Whether it's for genetic or metabolic reasons, diet and exercise, willpower and discipline have never, by themselves, been enough. Our appetite regulators simply don't work. Without WLS, we don't know when we're full!

2. What gives anyone the right to judge which path is right for another? Is a person who runs a 10K taking a “better” or “tougher” route to wellness than the person who walks vigorously every day? Is working with weights better than water aerobics? Different strokes for different folks. Each of us finds our own right way, and how dare others judge our path to health and longevity! By their reckoning, the most courageous thing would be for us to suck it up and die young.

1. For many morbidly obese people, WLS may be the ONLY realistic alternative for achieving a long, healthy life. The newest research provides irrefutable evidence that body weight is largely a function of genes — just like height or a family propensity for cancer. These genes help regulate appetite and metabolism. People prone to obesity seem to gain excessive weight easily, while finding it difficult or impossible to lose it. That's why diets almost always fail and why WLS is currently the only viable weight loss option for many morbidly obese people, according to endocrinologist David Cummings of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. Most people can lose no more than 5-10% off their "natural" body weight by exercising and eating wisely. Decades of diet studies show that more than 90% of people who lose weight by dieting gain it all back within 5 years. "There are exceptions, but when you are speaking of general rules, the only people who are able to lose more than 10 percent of their body weight and keep it off are people who have had gastric-bypass or other bariatric surgery," Cummings notes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Confusion...Brain Whirling...Body Dysmorphia

One of the things that has been causing great confusion in this mind of mine is my thoughts about my body these days. I know I'm not fat...but in my eyes, I'm not thin either. Others say I am. I don't feel it. I feel like I look fit, but not thin. I can look at my arms, my legs, and see muscle definition and be very pleased with how both look...but it's like it's not MY body...it's A body, but not MINE. Will it always be this way? Or will I someday be able to reconcile the body I see in the mirror with the one I see in my head? In therapy this week, I discussed this quite a bit and we talked about the need for me to do more affirmations that refer specifically to MY body, not THIS body (which is how I tend to refer to it). These arms, these legs, this stomach, not MY arms, MY legs, MY stomach. The only time my brain actually feels connected to my body (yes, I had to backspace over THIS body there and change it to MY) is when I am working out and I can look in the mirror and see my muscles moving while I can feel my heart pounding and hear my breath and feel my sweat. It all feels very surreal the rest of the time. I think it's probably typical that people who have had WLS and experienced significant weight loss take some time for their minds and bodies to catch up and be in sync. I find it particularly unsettling.

Today, Zachary and I went to brunch with my brother and sister-in-law at Denny's. Not the easiest place to find something reasonably healthy to eat, but I stuck with a veggie and cheese omelet, gave away my hash browns and so other than being higher in fat that I might like, I got in some good protein and veggies. Then we went to the mall, saw a movie, and shopped around a bit. At Old Navy, I ran into not one, but three people I know. And the first two that I ran into were chatting with each other...Maureen, from Heart and Wellness, was standing there chatting with one of Zachary's classmate's mom, who I also know. So I stopped over to say hi and I told the mom how I knew Maureen, and Maureen said "I wasn't going to say it" and I said "well I knew that, but I'm not quiet about it." Maureen gave me some kudos about how well I've done to Erica, and that really made me beam a little more. And then, standing in line to check out, I saw Sandy Skinner, who is on our relaxation CD and led relaxation and did some other education talks during my post-op Heart and Wellness program. I obviously recognized her and I thought she might have recognized me, but I wasn't sure, so I smiled and said hi, and she said hi, told me I looked great...and I wasn't sure if she had placed me just yet, but then she said "people are really enjoying your writing" and I said I was very happy to hear that. And I told her that I had just run into Maureen not 10 minutes earlier there as well. It felt like affirmation to me to be out and about, and seeing people, and being confident enough to approach people and say hello. I feel "normal" and not like some fat freak most of the time. The weight loss has definitely made a tremendous impact on my ability to socialize.

Dating...well, I'm on both match.com and eharmony now. Neither are proving to be particularly fruitful these days. I will continue to do my best to put myself out there and maybe someday meet someone. There are times when I feel like the years of my life are spinning by too quickly and I don't want to run out of time to enjoy my life. I don't think I ever held that perspective before. Despite my confusion about my body and my brain, I guess I'm still feeling very positive overall about my life and the changes I've made in it.

My brother asked me today about how my coworkers have reacted to my weight loss. We talked a bit about that, and he also said that it will effect my career in ways that he imagines I haven't probably even thought of. For example, he said that they have now seen me take care of my own health and be consistent in my efforts to manage my health issues, my weight, continue to move forward daily, and that they also know health-wise, I take care of myself and so my reliability/dependability because of health issues is less likely to be a problem as I continue to work there. I never thought about it in those terms, but he's right. They've learned quite a bit about me, my character, what is important to me, my determination by something that is completely unwork-related but still bodes well for me in the work environment.

A couple of weeks ago, my brother gave me an apology for, as he put it, not necessarily always giving me the benefit of the doubt or thinking about my perspective when our mom used to talk to him (read that as complain to him) about me. He said that he realizes now that her perspective was likely very skewed and that as a result of him taking the situation at face value from her vantage point, he'd done me a disservice. He wanted me to know that he was sorry for that as it probably effected our relationship quite a bit then. I told him not to sweat it...that I learned a long time ago that there is always his side, her side, and somewhere in between is "the truth." As such, I try very, very hard to be a good listener in any situation but not place any judgment on the things I've heard because frankly, I haven't lived in either party's shoes. I'd like to think that in the couple of years since our mom has died, he and I have gotten to be closer (at least a little) directly, without mom's manipulative interference to color either of our perspectives on the other. I'm a direct person...I'm an honest person...and so, when I've had an issue with my brother, I've dealt with him with it directly...usually without anger or harsh words. I think he's learned a bit about who I really am, and how that person is different from who he thought I was based on the things he heard from our mom. I know it's a good thing...and it reassures me that if I am true to myself, everything will work out as it should.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thoughts On Maintainance

At a little over a year out, I still weigh and measure everything. I still food journal daily. I have begrudgingly increased my calories, afraid that I will regain...or that my body will adapt to the new intake levels and start up with the chronic, insatiable hunger again. I am constantly afraid that these bouts with being unsatisfied (I'm usually pretty satisfied these days), unfull (which I am, most of the time...my measured portions do not fill me up but they DO satisfy me) will just continue.

This, this is the hard work I think of being further out...and I am so very early in the further out stages. I have a lifetime ahead of me. It's work. Make no mistake about it. It's about diligence in my mind and habits. It's about that constant awareness to determine if it's real hunger, head hunger, or something else. It's about learning to accept that I'm not always going to do this perfectly, but that doesn't mean I am going to go into a downward spiral like I always have in the past. I have more armor to help me in the battle than I have ever had before. I just have to remember to use it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One Year Follow-Up at Heart & Wellness

I had my one year follow-up with my after (and in my case, before) care program. I met with Melinda today and will meet with Ellen next time I go in October. We reviewed my labs, all looked good. No anemia, so upping the iron has helped. My HDL cholesterol has come back up (it was below the normal range last November, it is now 54), and my LDL has continued to drop (it is 83). My overall cholesterol was 142, and my ratio was 2.7. Triglycerides were also down. :)

We used the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer to get a weight, BMR, etc. etc. My weight came out at 125, my BMR is 1301. To maintain my current weight, I need a minimum of about 1600 calories daily, possibly more. I have decided to revise my goal weight to be 120 (from 115). If I get there, fine; if not, that's okay too. My body fat percentage was actually low (in the athlete range) at 20.5%; essential fat is 12 to 15, athlete is 16 to 20, fitness is 21 to 24, acceptable is 25 to 31, obese is 32 and above. So I'm lean...I guess this flabby stuff really IS skin and not so much fat.

Melinda and I talked about the issues I've been having with horrible, quick onset fatigue, typically when working out. She said "yeah, it's called hitting the wall." And it's happening because my body's glycogen stores are gone. The reason eating has not improved the symptoms is because the things I'm eating are protein and vegetables...and what my body is needing is energy/carbohydrates. She told me "you're an athlete, your body is functioning like an athlete, and you need to start thinking like an athlete and fuel your body that way. You need an actual energy bar, not a protein bar, or at bare minimum, some Gatorade or fruit juice mixed in with your water during your workout. You'll feel a huge difference." I'm going to start putting about 8 oz. of Gatorade in my 20 oz. water bottle that I consume while I'm working out. Hopefully that will help. My daily fat intake at 30% of my calories would be 53 grams...so I've been low on that most days. Overall, it was a really good appointment.

I have to say that when she told me "you're an athlete, you need to start thinking like one," I just about cried. I've never been an "athlete"...not for any length of time. It feels great to know that the hard work on my body has paid off and shows.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lots On My Mind

I have so much on my mind lately. I'll be changing roles within my company in the next several months. I'm feeling both excited and scared about the challenges and doing the job well. I have the greatest fears about being inadequate, letting people down, doing a poor job. Last week in therapy, I briefly talked about my feelings of being an imposter, thinking that someday everyone will realize that I'm not as bright as they think I am...that I've had them all adequately snowed/fooled for years. My therapist said we'll have to talk about that one more in-depth next time.

I've also been pondering changing my goal weight. When I first started pursuing weight loss surgery, I had in mind a goal of 125 to 130 lbs. It wasn't ideally where I wanted to be, but I knew I could be "happy" there, feel better, be fit, active, look normal. And then, when the weight loss started and seemed to go so well, I thought well maybe setting my ideal goal isn't such a bad thing, maybe I can attain it. For the past 2 months or so, my weight has been pretty stable. I have lost, at best, 3 lbs. The scale has reported my weight as anywhere between 124 and 128.5 lbs. My clothes fit, I'm healthy, feel well, have a normal BMI, look fit and trim (if not thin), so perhaps my original goal of 125 to 130 lbs. wasn't off the mark. I'm not willing to eat less or work more than I do now to lose more. If my weight stabilizes here, that will be fine. If I lose a little more, that's ok too. I've struggled with whether to officially change the goal as stated on my ticker and in FitDay. I know it sounds silly, but I feel like somehow, by changing it there I'm giving myself some kind of out, taking the easy way out. I know it's not rational. I'll be discussing it with Melinda and Ellen on Thursday, I think.

I've also been thinking quite a bit about my potential to have more children. As I get older, and I remain single (despite my best efforts), the reality of me meeting someone and adding on to my family becomes less and less likely. I have never done particularly well with hormonal birth control, and barrier methods have proven less than comfortable for me (latex and spermicide sensitivities). As a result, I am also having a consult with my OB/GYN on Thursday to discuss the possibility of getting an IUD. I have always read that I would not be viable candidate because of my previous tubal pregnancy. But, I'm going to ask because I'm not quite ready to consider tubal ligation...though I imagine it's something we will also discuss on Thursday while I'm there. And it makes me feel really sad.

Zachary has been having a really difficult time lately. Last week, he went into a complete meltdown about eating his dinner. That led to him being unable to calm himself down because he started thinking about (dwelling on) his size, his "friends" at school teasing him about his small stature, and he finally asked if I could please just help him calm down. I asked him how I could do that and he said "just say something nice to me." My heart broke for him. And we had a very long talk and cuddle session. We spoke about the importance of friends being kind to each other and treating each other well. A person who makes another person feel badly about himself is not really a friend. This was very distressing to Zachary since he considers some of these children who have said mean things to him to be his closest friends. From there, he went on to be upset about how he has only one friend who isn't mean to him. We talked more about that, and we listed all of the people who ARE good to him. I stressed the importance of him sticking with the people who treat him well, who are good to him, and that he does not deserve to be treated badly by anyone. I also gave him some strategies that I hope he will consider using when people do say and do mean things...because they will, that is how life is sometimes, unfortunately. But it made for a very sad evening for him, and as a result, for me.

Last night, as he was heading to bed, Zachary was telling me how lucky he is to have been born. I ask him why that is, and he said "well because usually people aren't born to people who aren't married, and you weren't married." I said "well actually lots of people have children when they aren't married. It's not the only way obviously, but there are many people who have children when they aren't married." Then he said he misses his dad and wishes he could spend more time with him. I asked him if he had told his dad that he would like to spend more time with him and he said no. I said "well, you could try having overnights again with daddy, and that would give you more time with daddy." He said that he didn't want that, that he meant more like he wanted a week. I said "well, we can talk to daddy about that too, but if you spent a week with daddy that would include overnights too." And then he said "I wish you and my dad had been married." I asked him why that was and he said "because then I could spend all the time with both of you, not so much time driving back and forth in the car. I'm really sad." I told him I understood that and I was sorry.

He's a deep little thinker, my little guy. He has asked lots of questions about things I would never have thought he'd ask at this age. I've always answered him honestly, and tried to deal with whatever feelings he had as a result. But it's hard sometimes...and it tugs at my heart strings.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All In A Year's Work

I know it's typically "Day's" work, but today, it's been one year since my bypass surgery. It's hard to believe that a full year has passed already. It's really been quite a year (well, and a little more if I include Cardiac Risk Reduction and everything else). I know I'm the same person I was, but I feel like a different person with a different outlook, a different body, different aspirations. I feel like I have life ahead of me now, instead of it being some chore I'm muddling through.

There are many new anxieties since I'm so very close to maintenance of my weight. Number one on that list is regain. I'm petrified of it. I've never in the past managed to keep my lost weight off. In all honesty, I can't even say I know what it was that has derailed me in the past. All I can focus on is the here and now, and making sure I don't get off track. One day, one minute, one second at a time it seems.

To celebrate, I did a little shopping. I haven't bought many clothes except for bras and underwear. I've been ever so fortunate in that I've been clothed by absolutely fabulous hand-me-downs from my cousin. She has fantastic taste in clothing and she's short and teeny like me. I decided to splurge a little on some dresses, because I have none of those. I'm sure they (and I) will look a lot better when I've done my hair and makeup.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Food Transgressions

Let's talk about transgressions...my food transgressions the past couple of days specifically. Monday night, Zachary and I went to dinner at Vinny T's. I had one piece of bread from the basket, torn into bits and dipped in olive oil. It's my "treat" when we go there. And it always helps to keep my digestive track running smoothly. For dinner, I ordered the gorgonzola, apple and walnut salad with grilled chicken on top. And of course Zachary and I had, in no time, eaten the entire head of roasted garlic (he's worse than I am these days at scooping out the cloves with his knife and eating them straight, not even spread on the bread). Anyway, when dinner arrived, I focused on eating my chicken first, and it was yummy. I didn't finish it all, but I worked on the salad (lettuce and cheese first). Lastly, I finished with the apples and walnuts. Yup, I ate the whole thing except for probably about 2 oz. of chicken. And I felt ill. Really, really ill.

At first it was just an overfull feeling (not pain, just really overfull). But then I started feeling really hot and sweaty. I thought "oh great, I'm going to dump...just great." We finished and we left the restaurant and went home after stopping quickly at Bed Bath and Beyond. I was doing ok except for the really gross overfull feeling. But I got more and more uncomfortable the more time passed. I got into pajamas (it was maybe 7 p.m.) and I asked Zachary to do the same. And then, I went to lay down on the couch beside where he was playing Guitar Hero...because I sure as heck wasn't capable of sitting upright. I felt that carb coma feeling...it actually feels like being ridiculously drunk/out of it, without the "good" part of being drunk. I cursed myself for eating the whole salad and the one piece of bread. An hour and a half after finishing dinner, I was still miserable. I told Zachary we were going to bed. He wasn't tired. Too bad, I said...I am incapable of staying up at this point and you can't stay up on your own. It's 8:30...you can read in bed but you need to be in bed." He complied. And I pretty much passed out. Unable to get comfortable because my stomach hurt, I don't know how I actually fell asleep (passed out is more like it), but I did. It was several hours before I woke up and realized that I finally felt better. Blech.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening and a work party/bbq at a coworker's home. I plan to eat clean. Some grilled chicken and some salad. Well, some events transpired at work late in the afternoon and so I indulged in about 2 oz. of a frozen mudslide drink when I first arrived at the party. It was enough that I felt it, but not too much, and I didn't want anymore. And I ate my chicken and steak and salad. And I had some potato salad. And then I had some of this dessert that had crushed vanilla wafers and pineapple and butter and whipped cream. And then, maybe an hour later, I ate the cupcake that Zachary had licked all the frosting off of. And about an hour after that, I started snacking on Doritos and some dip. And then, I felt really, really sick. Wishing I could just go in a corner and die somewhere for a few hours sick. After feeling that way for an hour, I took two Rolaids...which promptly made me finally sick and not much of anything came up but I could still taste the damn mudslide. And then, I started to feel less queasy. Finally. And then, my blood sugar started to crash and I had to eat an apple to keep from feeling like I would pass out. Then, we went home and went to bed. It was late, I was spent, and disgusted with myself and grateful for my tool.

This morning I woke still feeling queasy and with a pounding headache. It was as though I had a killer hangover, from 2 oz. of mudslide. Even the protein drink I opted for this morning for breakfast didn't feel good going down. My tummy has recovered throughout the day, and I've eaten "cleanly" all day. And I've thanked my lucky stars for this tool I have to remind me just how crappy it feels to abuse my body with food. Alcohol isn't the issue...I don't miss drinking, wasn't drinking really before I had surgery. But now? Well, I just see no use for it in my life ever. None. Thankfully. It's an easy choice.

Food, on the other hand, I'm sure there will be other days that my demons come to haunt me. I likely will cave to temptation again at some point. I hope it's a good long time from now though...and that's up to me. Because I want it to feel this cruddy again. The validation that I made the right choice in having RNY is wonderful. As cruddy as my body feels today (and last night and the night before), it really is a validating experience.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weepy Days and PMDD

This month, I decided to try and NOT take my Lexapro for my PMDD to see how I do. I take a low dose for the one week before my period actually starts. This morning, suffice it to say I can tell that I'm not "right." I feel weepy, overwhelmed, tired and just generally too emotional for things not going on in my life. My life is pretty stable and quiet. It's good. There isn't really much for me to be feeling this way about, yet I feel like I could spend my day crying. At least (so far anyway) I haven't been having the horribly outrageous desire to eat everything in sight. Tomorrow morning I will taking my piddly 5 mg dose of Lexapro and see if it helps. I really hoped/thought that when the weight loss slowed down significantly, I'd handle my PMS better (not that I ever did in the past, but I was hoping). I'm to feeling that way at all today...and it stinks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Losing Vs. Maintaining Weight

My home PC is still dead. The new one has not yet arrived, and neither has the power supply I ordered to replace the dead one in hopes of making a more methodical transfer of data from the old PC to the new PC when it arrives. In any event, I have written down everything I've eaten, but without all the custom nutritional info I have added in my PC version of FitDay, I don't have a hard number of my calories, fat, carbs, fiber, etc. I suspect (as I logged one of my days in the online version of FitDay just to get an idea) that my calorie intake has been between 1200 and 1400 daily. I usually still stick to 1200 and below. My weight is up about a lb. this week, as opposed to losing anything. And yes, I'm semi-freaking out about it. I have about 13 lbs. to get to MY goal. The reality that I may not get to my goal without having to significantly change what I'm doing now (exercise more, eat less) hit me this morning. And I'm trying to feel ok about that. I have a normal BMI, I'm within the normal weight range for my height. Realistically, I'm fine right where I am. But I am still grappling with disappointment and it sounds stupid, even to me, to be complaining about...but it's weighing on me, that I may not make MY goal for me. It is definitely a shift in thought patterns going from losing to maintaining. I have felt fat all week. I know that isn't reality, at least, logically I do. But I feel like I have this paunch of a belly and my leanness is in question. I still made it to the gym 3 times for cardio this week, and 2 times for weights. Yet I feel like somehow, I'm fatter and more out of shape. Therapy ought to be fun tomorrow night, huh?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ok...A Positive

My buddies Martha and Kevin are on the cover of the Spring/Summer 2008 edition of "The Healthy Life," a publication from NSMC. Way to go Martha and Kevin!

Weight Loss Family Style is the name of the article. WOO HOO!

*&!^%ing Electronics!

My home PC has crapped the bed. The power supply (I think) went kaput this morning. Not a huge deal you say, right? Well, for me, it's causing me tremendous anxiety. Why? A few reasons. First and foremost, for the past 11 months I have logged my food intake and exercise every day. It has helped me feel in control of my own body and life with regards to my health and weight. Yes, when I get a new PC I will be able to access all of this data. But until then? I feel like I'm blind. I feel like I know nothing on my own without all my customized food values, exercise log, etc. And it's really truly pissing me off and causing me anxiety. Secondly, I work from home many an evening after Zachary has gone to bed. If I can't power up the PC, I can't log on to my work PC and do any work. That makes my flexibility here at work more limited. Thirdly, I have a part-time, home-based business that has all of my data (inventory, sales, etc.) on my PC. Fourthly, much of my person-to-person contact, if you can call it that, with other weight loss surgery folks in my program and on OH is through Yahoo! Messenger during non-work hours. No PC, can't do that either. I feel cut off from my support in some ways as well as my tools. I have many tools, only one of which was my surgery. I have others, like my ability to connect with other people, the tracking of my food and exercise for nutrition and fitness goals. Without free access to all of those tools, well, I'm feeling very out of sorts today.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Mental Battle

These past couple of weeks, I am doing some kind of serious mental battle...and I have no idea what or why. I want to eat constantly. I never feel full. I have done just fine with not giving in to the urges...but I'm really feeling quite frustrated with where they are coming from. I figure there must be something emotionally going on with me that I am feeling this driven to eat, but all of my attempts to figure out what are fruitless. Do you think even with therapy, support, the tool, we are able to ever truly figure out all of our food issues and conquer them? I'm terrified that, at 11 months out, I'm going to start to fail. The only "basis" I have for this is past experience...and I know that circumstances, because of my surgery, have never before been what they are now. My success or failure is really entirely dependent upon me and utilizing my tool. I am doing this. But I just feel so anxious and scared. Is this normal for folks approaching a year out? Nearing maintenance?

I'm glad I will see Dr. B and Melinda/Mary Ellen next month for my one year follow up. And I'm really glad we have support group in another couple of weeks. I feel whacked in the head lately, and I honestly have no idea why. :(

Monday, June 2, 2008

Zachary in the Paper

I guess we're keeping it all in the family these days with the Salem News. I had therapy tonight and my therapist says to Zachary "I saw your picture in the paper." And I looked at her and said "WHAT?!?!?!" I had no idea. I found it online, and she dug through the recyclables and found the hard copy picture and is mailing it to me. How very cool and cute. There he is, sitting attentively with his buddy Griffin. :) Salem News

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fabulous 40

That's what I'm calling it. The age where I no longer care if my opinions, thoughts and feelings are satisfactory to someone else...they are mine and mine alone.

My body size is about half what it was when I started this journey. And here are a couple of pictures taken yesterday on my birthday

.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Rough Week

I will be 40 in oh, about 52 minutes at the time I start this post. Yes, my 40th birthday is May 30th. And I have myself convinced that 40 will be my age of self-confidence and self-assuredness. I can think what I want, say what I want, feel what I want and really, if someone doesn't like it, that's just too bad. I don't need to make excuses for who I am. At least, this is what I'm telling myself.

Last weekend we had company from out of town and so eating out happened a few times. I don't do very well at controlling my portion size when I eat out and have super duper yummy stuff. I always eat good stuff, yummy stuff...but super duper yummy stuff, well, that's another level. I think it helps make it super duper yummy stuff when someone else makes it...someone who isn't necessarily trying to keep it healthy low fat and high protein. So, I ate more than I should, and bloated up. After 2 days back on track, all is right with the world again. I feel like, at least at this moment, I handle my setbacks a little better...I treat them more as minor transgressions as long as I don't allow them to continue more than a day or so. Admittedly, it scares me to even go an entire day without everything being weighed and measured before I consume it.

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call from a very close friend. One of my best friends was in a serious motorcycle accident on 128 South on Sunday evening and her husband called to let me know. My heart sank when I saw his name/number on my cell phone caller ID because it's not typical for him to call me. My first question was "what's wrong???" And he filled me in on what happened. Tammy has a quite a few broken bones, they've operated on her ankle to put some plates in there, and she has a few internal injuries, but no head injuries and nothing she won't eventually recover from. She was moved out of from ICU today, which is wonderful, wonderful news. I saw her last night and despite the medicated loopiness, she was all Tammy...heart, soul and sense of humor. I'm so relieved she's going to be ok...and I miss her like crazy. I'll be glad to see her again and talk to her tomorrow night. I may bring some cupcakes or something to celebrate my birthday with them. I'm really, really glad she's still around for it. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Off Limits

That's it. Some places just need to be off limits for me. And I'm just so mad at myself and trying to let it go today and move on. We (me, my son, my brother and sister-in-law) went to a local Italian restaurant that I love for dinner last night...at my request because I haven't been there in over a year. Yeah, well there's a damn good reason I haven't been there in a year. I have no self-control there.

They have baskets of focaccia they bring out along with whole heads of roasted garlic in olive oil. I ate (no joke) most of the garlic from two HEADS of garlic. My son ate the rest. Spread it on bread? Nah...just eat it straight. But, I did have some bread...one 2-cubic inch sized piece. Then, it was on to dinner. I had the warm tomato salad (yummy baby spinach, plum tomatoes sautéed briefly and then served with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar and olive oil, along with three grilled crustini--yes, more bread). I also ordered one meatball for my protein, and I ate that first. Oh, aren't I a good girl??? Then, I ate the whole salad. Including the three pieces of crustini. OMG...the bloat, the gas, the absolutely wretchedness of knowing I blew my calories refined carbs way out of the water yesterday in that one meal...the amount I could actually eat...WHY DID I DO THIS????

I'm still killing myself with roasted garlic farts today. Yes, the farts smell just like the garlic that went in (sorry, I know it's gross, but I have a date later this morning and I've taken Mylanta Gas twice now, to no avail). And tomorrow is weigh day. Damn restaurant is obviously off limits for me now. I had glimpses last night though of never reaching my goal...of regaining all of my weight. And it scared me absolutely silly. :(

Friday, May 16, 2008

Joyful Friday

Or as one OH'er put it, happy dump day for me! Don't laugh (too hard)...and not to be gross but...I am so friggin happy right now because I just had THE MOST JOYFUL POOP that I have had in many, many years. I swear. It was plentiful, easy to come out, and caused no pain. How much better than that can you get?? I'm hoping it's actually possible that I've finally found the right combination of things that works for me! I really am easy to please. :)

It's Friday...and it's been a really, really long week. I'm breaking slightly from "tradition" in talking about my work, but it's been a heck of a week. Lots of stop and go, hurry up and wait, and let's do this whole thing over again. I'm grateful that I have what I consider to be really good working relationships with my coworkers, and we all have good senses of humor. Otherwise, we'd all seriously be hurting each other in knock-down, drag-out brawls. I dreamed about work stuff last night, which is always an indication to me that it's getting to me. That all just means it's a very, very good thing that it is Friday.

I also dreamed last night about messing up my tires on my car...needing to replace one of them because I ruptured the sidewall by hitting a curb. And the closest place I could find basically would not replace just one tire, but only would sell me all four, at a cost of $500 each. And in my dream, I was fairly freaked out about spending $2K just to be able to drive my car. Gee, do you think that money stuff is weighing on me too?

My dreaming tends to be cyclical. I have these periods where I have all kinds of very vivid dreams and I remember them quite clearly. It will last for a few weeks. And then, it stops. And in a month or two, it will cycle back again. Usually, they are nightmares and such. I've had issues with nightmares since I was a small child. At the age of 4, I started having a recurrent nightmare that I still remember quite clearly to this day. It actually makes me really sad to think about it and what it means, because it's pretty clear to me as an adult what it was about.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday, Monday

I'm not ready for the weekend to be over. I want a do-over so I can have two more days off. Is that possible? *sigh*

As for my date Friday, it went well. I'm not going to say too much more than that. Yes, I'm still afraid of jinxing it. He reads my blog from time to time, and well, I have to keep some mystery going on some things, don't I? Yes, another date is planned.

My very long-time friend Susan had her 40th birthday yesterday. I have mine the end of this month. We were talking about how much we've kind of been dreading it until the past few weeks. It seems we've both adopted the attitude of "hey, I'm 40, I'll do what I want, say what I want, feel what I want, like it or lump it." She's waiting to see how much trouble that gets her into...I personally just don't much care at this point. Trouble, here I come.

Mother's Day was nice. We went up to my brother and sister-in-law's and had an afternoon dinner with them. Zachary made me a lovely "MOM" banner of paper in my favorite color, decorated and cut out by him. It is now affixed to my door and looks awesome. And I had the loveliest card from him as well. He even made cards for me from the cats and from all of our Webkinz. He told me he loved me at least 10 times yesterday, assuring me each and every time that it was mother's day you know. I asked him if he wouldn't be telling me as much if it wasn't, and he said "well, I usually only tell you once a day." Not entirely true, but no matter...he can tell me he loves me any time he wants. It comes with wonderful hugs and kisses and that makes me happy.

Back to the dating thing...ok, so it's a good thing that I am direct and blunt with people in my life as well as in my blog or else this could get sticky. But because I'm direct and honest, there are no surprises to folks in my day to day life. I feel scared of caring too much...of opening up my heart and being hurt. I'm doing my best to go with the flow and enjoy every moment, but I gotta admit, the anxiety is not something I enjoy. I'm tired of thinking "better to have loved and lost than to have never loved" is a way of life. It's possible to love and NOT lose, isn't it???

Friday, May 9, 2008

10 Months Out

As of today, May 9th, I am 10 months out from my surgery last July. It's been a really wild ride this past year. My emotions have been all over the board, particularly the first 6 or 7 months. The last 3 or 4 months have really settled down (as my weight loss slowed). I'm glad for that. It was like being on a constant PMS cycle.

I've upped my iron as Melinda and I talked about now that my bum is healing. I hope that will help resolve some of the fatigue I've been feeling. It's 9:40 a.m. and I'm already in need of a nap. Pitiful.

I also have a date tonight. Yes, a date. It's actually a second date. The first was last Sunday and it went well. I didn't want to write about it for fear I'd jinx it...but he still wants to see me tonight, so I figured I'd mention it...just casually. :) He knows about my weight loss surgery and he cares enough to want to understand how it has effected me, what this year of change has been like for me. He also knows about my blog, and he's read it. And he STILL wants to see me tonight. Am I lucky or what?

Zachary has started baseball season and he's loving it. He's so attentive to the coach, follows his directions, listens to everything he says, he just wants to do it all right. It makes me very, very proud because not all of the other 7 and 8 year olds are giving it their full attention. I had my moments where I felt really angry that he hasn't had a guy to work with him on this stuff until now...he should have had that years ago with his father, but hasn't. I'm glad he's getting that time and attention now at least.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

Lots of folks are celebrating today as Cinco de Mayo. In our household, this is the anniversary of my mom's death. She died two years ago today, at about 6:50 p.m. We scattered her ashes in the Atlantic Ocean on the one year anniversary of her death. I've thought of her quite a bit today...it's really hard to believe it's already been two years. So much has changed in that time.

Zachary started school full time. He's playing baseball for the first time. Opening day was Saturday and he looked so darn cute in his uniform. Isn't he just the cutest?

I've made huge changes in my lifestyle and shed well over 100 lbs. I am venturing forth into the dating world, even if somewhat cautiously at times. She'd be proud of us both and how we've handled our lives and the changes in it.

Yesterday, my friend Tammy came over and led a guided meditation with me with the hopes of making a connection with my mom's spirit. And I think we were somewhat successful as I could very vividly hear in my mind a song my mom used to play on the piano from Paint Your Wagon called "I Talk To The Trees." There is no other reason that this song would have started sounding in my head and so that was kind of cool. The bag of scarves that was my mom's no longer smells like her. It did for a very long time...but yesterday, when I took one of the scarves out to have with me during our meditation, the smell was gone, and that made me feel a bit sad.

I wonder if some of the changes I have made that have affected my attitudes and moods and self-confidence would have improved our relationship at all. And it's really a pointless train of thought to go on, but nonetheless my brain goes there from time to time.

Yesterday when Tammy and I were out on my balcony, we noticed that a dove had built a nest and laid an egg in an ashtray that is out on the balcony. Today, there were two eggs. I guess we'll watch and wait to see if they hatch in time. Spring really is trying to spring around here...even if the weather has been cold and damp. No matter what the anniversary is, the cycle of life always just continues on. And as hard as that is sometimes, I know it's a good and necessary thing. Time heals and fades pain.

Friday, May 2, 2008

How I Do It

The below is the program I work, customized for and by me with the guidance of Melinda (my nutritionist) and Ellen (RN at Heart and Wellness). It's working for me, I feel great, and I'm still losing (though slowly, that's expected at this point). As part of my program, I have up to 1200 calories daily that I may consume, more if I exercise regularly (which I do). I still tend to stick to the 1200 calories daily, though on occasion I go a little higher. I have basic guidelines to follow with regards to where those 1200 calories come from. My daily goals are:
  1. Always, always, always, eat protein first
  2. No drinking of any fluids half an hour before or after meals; no drinking with meals
  3. Eat frequently...preferably 5 to 6 times daily; I have 3 "meals" and 2 to 3 "snacks" daily; every snack has protein; I eat approximately every 2.5 to 4 hours
  4. Minimum of 60 g of protein daily; I have set my personal goal to be a minimum of 75 g, and I usually get in between 80 g and 110 g daily
  5. Minimum of 64 oz. of water; my personal goal is 100 oz. or more
  6. Minimum of 25 g of fat, maximum 40 g of fat
  7. 3 to 4 servings (a serving is typically 1/2 cup cooked) of vegetables daily
  8. 1 to 2 servings of fruit daily
  9. 1 to 2 servings of dairy daily
  10. Minimum 25 g of fiber daily, maximum of 45 g
  11. Whole grains to balance out the rest of the day and to get in fiber
I exercise for 35 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week, on the elliptical at a level 11, getting my heart rate up to about 85% to 90% of my maximum heart rate. Then, I stretch out for about 5 to 10 minutes. I also do about 15 minutes of strength training 2 to 3 times per week.

I do my best to select foods/snacks that have single digits (less than 10) for grams of sugar per serving. I personally don't typically eat white flour, white sugar, white rice, white potatoes, etc. anymore. I won't say I never eat them because I do have the occasional treat that may have these items in them. Typically though, I choose whole wheat or whole grain items. I don't eat much bread at all, and very, very seldom eat pasta, even whole or multi-grain. The more refined carbs I eat, the more I seem to crave them. I try to choose foods that are low on the glycemic index.

Most of my "meals" consist of 3 to 4 oz. of lean protein (chicken, fish, seafood, lean red meat or pork), and 1 cup of veggies. At breakfast I don't do meat and veggies, but I do select other foods high in protein along with whole grains. Meals take between 20 and 30 minutes for me to eat if I'm taking the time I should, and putting my fork down between bites so I'm waiting at least 30 seconds between swallows. Most of my meals are between 150 and 300 calories. Snacks are typically between 100 and 200 calories. I also have my regular vitamins and minerals that I take daily.

Given the fact that my pouch can only hold so much, every single item I put into my body needs to satisfy both my nutritional needs as well as my "soul" needs for food. I won't eat anything I don't like...but that doesn't mean I will choose to eat crap just because it tastes good.

I think that a balanced diet that focuses on lean proteins and whole foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains first, limits or eliminates refined carbs, embraces plenty of non-carbonated (no more soda for me, ever, not even diet) and non-sugared fluids and regular exercise is good for anyone.

I know I've said a whole lot in the above...but it is basically the program I follow. Any food is ok in moderation. ANY food. Choose carefully. Daily, I actually end up consuming anywhere between 100 probably 175 g of carbs. Some folks freak out when they see my carb counts...but the source of those carbs is more important (to me and to Melinda). My carbs are primarily coming from milk, fruit, veggies, and whole grains. Balance is so important.