Experiments in Health and Wellness

by a Human In Recovery

June 2013: 28 Days To A New Me – Round 2, Day 10

Since it’s been over two weeks since my last post, the few of you who have been following this journey of mine may be wondering whether I’m sticking with my program. Let me assure you that I am. As a matter of fact, it’s part of the reason I’m not posting here or on my Human In Recovery blog more frequently. The other two factors are lack of regular access to a functional computer and that I’m battling life circumstances and mental health symptoms, which make using my phone to blog even more of a challenge than normal.

I’m posting a bit more regularly on my Human In Recovery FB page and the apps I’m using to track exercise and nutrition are tweeting @HumanInRecovery – I think. Twitter and I remain mere acquaintances instead of social confidants, so I’m not really much of a tweeter. I have also been uploading short videos onto the Human In Recovery YouTube channel. I’ve missed posting days 6, 7, & 9 (nothing recorded for day 8), but I’m working on getting those put together and posted soon.

June has been more challenging for me, all the way around, in most areas of my life.

During May, I still had my adult daughter and her boyfriend staying here, so it was easy for me to just go walking or swimming while everyone else was still sleeping, secure in the knowledge that my 4 year old was safe and cared for while I focused in self-care. They moved out a week and a half ago.

When the 28 Days began in May, my SO was out on the road doing his long-haul truck driving job, so, I had a routine established for meeting my daily 15 minutes of physical activity goal in place when he came home. Since we only get to have him home less than a week every four weeks or so, it’s a pretty high priority that as much time and attention as possible are given to him, our relationship and our family. Therefore, when he wound up home a week early, due to the foibles of his previous co-driver followed by the transition to another new co-driver whose home time was already scheduled, it was during the beginning if June’s 28 Days.

In addition to that, there is the added stress of what amounts to four months of extended home times combined with shortened road times because of co-driver turnover (he’s with his fourth co-driver and third fleet manager since February) and the financial strain of it all is reaching crisis proportions: we’re facing potential eviction, service interruptions, and loss of property in a storage unit because we haven’t been able to stay caught up on bills or save ahead for rent. Anxiety and frustration over these things shortens his fuse and disrupts my sleep, increasing our relational stress and the symptoms of my fibromyalgia and depression/hypomania.

Two thirds of the way through May our laptop got broken and there’s no money for replacement or repair. The hand-me-down, hand-me-over, XP laptop that was given to me has a third party wifi administration app that won’t accept alpha characters in the access key to our internet, which is one of the services that could get interrupted at any moment.

On top of it all, even knowing all of this was looming on June’s horizon, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to increase my commitment to an hour’s worth of exercise daily AND track all of my eating. Meaning that just as every situation and circumstance that triggers my binge eating, I committed to go public with a record of what I eat, at the same time as I lose the regular Childcare to enable me to exercise goes away I make a greater commitment to exercise EVERY DAY.

Now that I think about it, I can see this is part of an overall lifetime pattern of self-sabotage. I’ll have to chew on that one a bit and process it on my main blog.

Not all is doom and gloom though. I have some really good things to report.

1) I have completed daily food and activity logs, using My Fitness Pal, which is available in app form and online, with interfaces to Facebook and Twitter.

2) With the exception of Monday of this week, June 11th, I have been in motion a minimum of 1-2 hrs. everyday and logging/recording my walking and swimming activities with the Map My Walk app (also available online and with other social media interfaces).

3) I’m having my little girl be more physically active by walking with me and I’ve taken her swimming twice in the past week.

4) I’m getting more consistent with housekeeping!

5) I’ve lost three more lbs. in June, so far, for a total of 11 lbs. missing in the past month.

6) My sleep is improving, my pain is decreasing, my stamina is increasing, and my moods are leveling out.

7) I’m doing a better job at connecting with other people, not just to get support and encouragement, but to offer it as well.

8) I don’t spend nearly as much time on the couch or in front of the television as I used to.

9) The way I feel about and treat my body is less negative and more constructive. I’m less averse to my reflection than I used to be.

10) For the first time in an incredibly long time, my emotional reactions and responses aren’t at the mercy and whim of the emotions, words, and actions of those around me and I’m able to be less defensive, more intentional, and grounded in my interpersonal interactions.

Committing to the daily actions of the 28 Days To A New Me process in the midst of everything is one of the most challenging things I’ve done for myself in the last 23 years. It reminds me of the 12 Step meeting closing mantra:

“Keep coming back. It works, if you work it. So, work it because you’re worth it!”

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28 Days to a New Me: Day 28 – Just the beginning

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Exercise is helping me to recover, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

I have mentioned that I deal with Cyclothymia – a low level bi-polar disorder. It includes a component in the cycle known as hypomania. I have written about it on my Human In Recovery blog, in the past. Last week I wrote about it again in Hypomania Interrupted.

Exercise and I have a long love/hate relationship. I think there hasn’t been a year in my life where I haven’t attempted to rekindle the affair only to bail when the pain of too much, too soon got too real.

This month of May 2013 is the first and only time I have ever exercised for 28 consecutive days! It is the first time that I have pushed through the exacerbated pain and fatigue of the fibromyalgia. It is the first time I have consistently pushed through the mental and emotional barriers of depression, anxiety, and oppositional excuse making to exercise anyway.

There are a great many people and resources that advocate for and teach the benefits of exercise. However, partially due to the effects of the fibromyalgia and how its symptoms manifest for me, in combination with the impacts of both the depression and hypomanic aspects of my mental health issues, exercise and I have had a love/hate relationship.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but I would get all “gung-ho” and decide to start exercising. I would jump in and formulate a grand & complicated plan with some HUGE number goal, trying to calculate BMI, calories, exercise, and eating plan all at once. Graph paper, notebooks, and a collection of recipe books, exercise program cassettes/VHS tapes/DVDs, and DIY celebrity/health guru resources would be obtained: Jane Fonda, Victoria Principal, Susan Powter, Richard Simmons, Oprah & Bob Greene, Andrew Weil, Prevention, Weight Watchers, Atkins, and the list goes on . . . and on and on.

Armed with my resources, formulas, plans, and end goal in mind, I would go forth and subtract!

The first week would generally entail me going all out, blasting through aerobics classes, gulping down whichever weight loss concoction and nutritional supplements – Slim Fast, Herbalife, Atkins, Medi-Fast – I had chosen and congratulating myself in hopeful reassurance that I was going to “Just Do It!,” this time.

Then something would shift: Insomnia, fatigue, the sharp pain of numbing & tingling hands and feet, injury, illness, loss of child care, family/relationship/financial crisis, or some combination of these things would arise and I would lose momentum. Then depression and anxiety would suck me under and I would stop moving.

I’ve been riding this weight loss roller coaster for about 30 years, ever since I was about 14 years old. I turn 44 in June. I think the lowest I weighed during this time was somewhere in the 140 – 160 range when I was in my early twenties after having gone over 225, the weight I was at the time my son was delivered when I was 17 years old.

By age 24, in 1993 when my oldest daughter was delivered, I was back at 225. By 2003 I was up to 280 lbs. I was so debilitated by the weight, the fibromyalgia, the depression and the cycles of chaos, conflict, and self-destruction that if it hadn’t been for my teenage son, I might not have made it out of a house fire that happened one night at a family shelter we had been living in for almost three months.

After that, I managed to lose 20 lbs through exercising at a gym and my weight would fluctuate up and down between 250-270 until 2006, when I got into a medication trial for depression. At the end of the trial I got to choose the anti-depressant medication I wanted and choose one that was already approved for depression and was entering trials for its effects on fibromyalgia – Cymbalta.

I never felt so good!

In what I now recognize as a severe and prolonged hypomanic episode triggered by the Cymbalta, I made some really drastic changes in my life (another story for another time) and got down below 225 in 2006.

I walked, I swam, and I danced! I socialized and sexed it up. I was happy and energetic, focused and intent on what I wanted – in the short term. I also severely damaged important relationships with people I loved deeply, namely my two children.

When all of that came crashing down around me after about six months, the depression rose up in force. I was a basket case. I wound up taking a very low-paying and physical job as a care giver in a group home for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. I fit right in with all the other care givers and their chaotic lives and emotional disturbances.

As my physical activity increased, I got insurance and went back on anti-depressants, which eventually triggered another hypomanic phase, less severe than before, and weight started coming off again. Just before I embarked on another grand plan to return to college, the rabbit died and, at 37 with a 14 year old and 21 year old, I was going to be a mommy again.

Gestational diabetes and the pregnancy itself took me out of work so early because I could no longer meet the physical requirements of the job. I went off of medication for the sake of the baby. Between that, the financial stress of being at 60% FMLA disability income, and the pregnancy hormones I spent the last four months spiking and dipping on the see-saw of depression and hypomania with a good measure of anxiety and relational stress thrown in for good measure.

In late November 2008, I went for my 38 week check-up and ultrasound, Luna was measuring the size of a 42 week baby and a c-section was scheduled for the next Saturday. 9 lbs 7 oz was the size of my smallest and youngest child, born a week early. I weighed around 278, if I remember correctly.

Four and a half years later, as my weight was hovering, just under the 270 mark, I finally learned about hypomania and I realized that cyclothymic bi-polar symptoms explained so much of my life’s ups and downs. That understanding came just before I met Robert Kennedy III online and found out about the 28 Days To A New Me process and accountability group

Perfect timing!

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28 Days to a New Me: Days 14 -19

When last I checked in, I indicated that I had been struggling a bit emotionally and psychologically, the primary trigger being me grieving over some realizations around Mother’s Day. Since that time, additional things have been weighing on me: circumstances and people outside of my control that affect my family’s financial well-being which have a domino effect by triggering attitudes, actions, and emotions in those around me.

For 20 years I’ve been engaged in mental and emotional guerilla warfare of the mind and body with a collection of symptoms that have been diagnosed as depression and fibromyalgia. Recently, I came to understand that there were also symptoms that indicate hypomania is also present, meaning that there is a bi-polar element to the depression.

Right now, the sense of oppression has been increasing and getting heavier over the past week. The past two or three days has seen a marked increase in the numbing and tingling in my arms and hands, the lower back and sciatic pain, soft-tissue pain exacerbated by my concentrated efforts to walk and work out on the elliptical machine. Pain and stiffness has been increasing, the desire to sleep has been overtaking me, frustration levels are getting higher, interest in pushing through to do the things I usually enjoy doing is waning and becoming more of a chore.

The thoughts to give up and give into the circumstances and barriers against doing the things that are critical for moving forward and getting through this phase have been getting stronger.

The good news in all of this is the fact that I’m still pushing through. I don’t think I would be able to keep pushing through if it weren’t for the online communities and support network that is growing up around me thanks to the 28 Days accountability group and the Dream Stoker Nation group, both of which are on Facebook.

I started off strong in the 28 Days group, with approximately 30 people whom I’ve never met in person, and only one person whom I’ve gotten to know through the Dream Stoker group. The praise and validation I got for how I was doing the first two weeks, which didn’t really feel like a struggle for me, just fed into my desire to keep performing well and to show my best efforts.

Historically, when things like what have been happening, start triggering my symptoms, that’s when I withdraw and isolate. I pull away from the very people who can offer me continued support and encouragement.

Friday night was when the scales began tipping into the negative and my internal struggles began increasing. Instead of falling into all of the old patterns and behaviors, I was able to change a few things.

1) I reached out and got real – I posted this in both groups:

My family needs your prayers. Keith has been on home time from his job since Monday and is supposed to pick up a load tomorrow that was supposed to be the beginning of a lucrative, regular run that would have allowed our family to catch back up with our bills. His co-driver waited until just now to tell him he wasn’t going to get back on the truck at this time.

This is another major blow for him and for our family. The way it looks at this moment, we will fall farther behind on all our bills and will be hard pressed to make June’s rent.

2) I was open to receiving the support and encouragement offered. The outpouring of prayers and words offering compassion, understanding, and wisdom was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, or like I’ve never allowed myself to experience before.

3) I stuck to my commitment to myself and stayed in accountability with the group.

Day 14 – Arrived 20 minutes before opening then walked through different exhibits for an hour. Sat for 10-15 minutes then walked through another exhibit before making our way out of the zoo. The last 10-15 minutes walking out I had my 37lb child riding on my shoulders as I climbed a short set of stairs and an incline the rest of the way out.

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Day 15 – End of day totals: 6.75 miles walked, 1,517 calories burned, 19,090 steps taken. 1:54:26 minutes walked. My legs, ankles, knees, & back all HURT!

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Day 16 – I’ve logged over 11,000 steps and 4.1 miles walked, although I’ve walked a bit more than that so far today. Final count forthcoming tonight. [Final step count for Day 16 is 13,330.]

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Day 17 – Woke up w/migraine during 4 o’clock hour. Took OTC meds. Two hours later still in pain & not sleeping well. Went to parks & rec fitness center across the street & worked out: 60 min on elliptical and 40 min lap swim (24 laps in 25 yd pool). Head still hurts. Ugh.

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Day 18 – Started the morning by visiting a local prayer meeting. I only walked a little over a mile for about 19 minutes – shin splints, ankle pain, and sciatic pain are starting to flare and I want to be able to give my all in worship and praise at church in a few hours. So, I’m sticking to my commitment and budgeting my energy for later. Shabbat Shalom for those celebrating the Sabbath. May this day overflow with joy and peace for all, regardless of faith.

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Day 19 – Fighting against fatigue – atmosphere of oppression – I am feeling the symptoms of a Fibro flare & depression trying to assert themselves – pain, numbing & tingling, an increased desire to sleep, and losing interest are all increasing. No walking or elliptical today, but I did get out and go to the pool and swam foe 31 minutes, so I’m counting it as a win.

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With 19 days completed and nine days left on this leg of the journey, regardless of the negatives, I can truly say that I’m already a New Me and I have to give credit where credit is due, I didn’t do this alone. Without the support, encouragement, and accountability from the new friends and new relationships being built in this group, I probably wouldn’t even have bothered to write this today, much less have a record of what I’ve done and what I’m capable of to remind me that how I feel and the ingrained patterns of thought and behavior do not define who I am or who I am going to be.

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28 Days to a New Me: Days 10 – 13 – CPR

It feels like it’s been a lot longer than four or five days since I blogged about my 28 Days to a New Me: A Journey of commitment.

In the past, not posting would have been a sign that I had given up and stopped trying. This time it is completely different. I may not have been posting proof here, but I have been following through with my commitment and I have been posting my proofs in the Facebook accountability group.

I’m not going to lie, I was struggling mentally and emotionally, especially yesterday – Mother’s Day. However, I was able to push through, and even stepped it up a bit.

Here are the updates from the 10th through today, the 13th – almost halfway through!

Day 10 – Walked 40 minutes on a 2 mile round trip. On the return trip, I paused the stopwatch to meet James & Milla. James was fixing up an old roto tiller to help a neighbor lady with her community garden plot. He also seems to be the neighborhood “go to” guy. Milla lives across the street from James and was asking him if he knew someone who could install her new window A/C. She’s from Romania. Go Team FORCE

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Day 11 – Shabbat shalom to those celebrating the Sabbath & happy Saturday to everyone else. Adapt & Overcome is today’s encouraging advice to those experiencing that pesky resistance.

I couldn’t walk this morning since I didn’t have anyone here to be with my little girl while she slept. Also, I was really tired from waking up several times during the night – partly due to late night folks heading home from local hipster venues that have little or no parking, so the patrons park in the neighborhood. The warm weather means windows open at night and I get to hear their conversations. Yay.

So, instead of going back to bed, the way I wanted to, I did a little CPR. I gathered laundry, straightened the living room, and washed dishes. Three trips up & down the stairs and 1.5 hours later: dishes are done, one load of laundry each in the wash & in the dryer, the dishes are air drying, and the counters are wiped down.

Time to get ready to head to church.

My daughter and I just met little Laurel (22 mos) & her mommy, Tam. They had already been out and about to the local Farmer’s Market this morning and were on their way home. It’s not even 9:30 a.m. here! Aurelia is currently an only child.

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Day 11 (Yes, I lost track and it was actually Day 12): Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms. I got a late start this morning. Feeling melancholy and unmotivated. I went to the Community Center across the street and did 30 minutes on the elliptical – Interval program. Wasn’t sure I could make myself do the full 30 minutes, even with my music pumping in my ears.

While I was there, this other lady came in wearing two medical boots. After the super-energetic lady next to me left, this other lady got onto the machine next to me. She glanced in my direction and we exchanged smiles.

So, I took my headphones off and asked about the boots. She has severe tendinitis in both Achilles’ tendons and has to wear the boots for four months.

Her name is Amy and she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 8 years ago. She’s on leave from her part-time job teaching graphic design at a local high school.

I got her number so we might be able to become workout partners.

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When I woke up on Day 12 and saw all the Mother’s Day posts on Facebook, I experienced some grief and depression. I cried some and I wrote about my connection, or lack thereof, to this day of celebrating mothers. I was feeling foggy and fatigued. I had to force myself out of bed and into my workout attire. The resistance was VERY strong.

But, I was able to push through it and come out on the other side. The rest of the day I was still out of sorts and wound up with a headache and watched several episodes of Bar Rescue, which was enlightening. I napped some and later went to dinner with my daughters and the boyfriend of my oldest daughter.

Financial stress and conflict over it reared its head between me and my life-mate, via text. So, a few more tears happened. Even though that sucked, it was a constructive experience because it didn’t sink me into the depths of the inner darkness – which has been my norm for too many years.

I ended the evening by working with my daughter and her boyfriend to clean and organize the apartment in preparation for Keith’s arrival for his home time break from driving long-haul. I felt good. So, when I woke up this morning, I was energized and motivated again.

Day 13: I HIT IT! 30 minutes on the elliptical at varied resistance with a five minute cool down. Followed by 50 minutes in the pool, 20 minutes of self-paced water aerobics while I met Rebecca who is expecting her second child in a couple of weeks. She works in human resources and her husband teaches German, fifth-grade, at the German-American school. He is going to take a year off from teaching to stay home with the baby. They have a four-year-old daughter. They don’t know what the gender of the baby is and they haven’t told anybody the names they have picked out. When the lap lane open I swam laps for 30 minutes. Go. Team. FORCE

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Here’s what I’ve learned and where I’m at in this part of my journey:

Calling out to my fellow Team FORCE members: Last week, several of us were hammered with resistance.

We were counseled on CPR:
Commitment
Persistence
Responsibility

Well, I have some other words for CPR, and some quotes I hope will inspire and encourage you:

Consistency – “I pray to be like the ocean, with soft currents, maybe waves at times. More and more, I want the consistency rather than the highs and the lows.” ~ Drew Barrymore

Perseverance – “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie

Resolve – “Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you.” ~ Denis Waitley

(All quotes from Brainy Quote)

The FORCE of our resolve to develop healthier habits of thought and action cause us to persevere in the face of resistance of all kinds, enabling us to consistently choose the path toward achieving our goals and dreams.

As we do this we begin to move through and release the fears that may have been holding us back and keeping us from staining focused on our commitment to persistently work toward our goals and hindering our ability to accept and take responsibility for creating our own happiness.

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28 Days to a New Me: Days 8 & 9 – Resistance Training

Yesterday marked the beginning of the second week of my 28 Day commitment to do 15 minutes of physical activity each day. I’ve met that challenge every day. The other piece is to post proof, which I have been doing, and is the reason I was doing the videos.

The thing is, I did something that is my habit to do and I under committed in the challenge itself and then created this huge internal mental and emotional pressure on myself to over-deliver.

I have this pattern of giving everything I’ve got in the beginning of whatever it is I’m doing and knocking it out of the park. I did this my first term of community college in 1990, I’ve done it repeatedly ever since then. I put it all out front and never hold anything back, creating or performing to the maximum of my ability, all at once, leaving myself nothing in reserve to get me through the long-haul. I guess you could say that in the race of life, I’ve been a sprinter and not a long-distance runner.

With this 28 day commitment, I’m building stamina and learning that giving it all I’ve got is not sustainable for the long-term. I have to figure out how to give it my all, in ways that don’t completely take me out of the game after the first inning. (Yeah, I know, lots of different analogies and metaphors for things I’ve never even done, but you get my meaning).

The other thing I’m learning is not to give up at the increased pressures of resistance, but to push back against it.

I’ve had technical troubles with my computer off and on since last September. It has been very frustrating and depressing at times when I’ve really NEEDED and wanted to write. Recently, I’ve been seriously exploring how I can take my writing to the next level from personal blogging and break into the world of professional writing, since I don’t have a degree or credentials to enable me to get a foot in the door through traditional employment means.

Yesterday, my computer got broken again.

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The circumstances in which it happened were fraught with highly charged emotional energy. It wasn’t just the fact that this fairly essential piece of equipment was no longer functional, there were layers and layers of mental and relational issues going along with it. Pressures that had been building up due to other circumstances, of which being able to use the computer was an essential component for coping and creating solutions, and the loss of access to the computer was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. The emotional and verbal fireworks were intense and overwhelming.

I’ve gone through many of these kinds of explosive moments before, too many if the truth is told. However, what I can say about it is that all of the previous times I’ve worked through the “resistance” and difficulty of dealing with these kinds of moments and experiences trained and equipped me to handle this one better and more constructively than ever before.

Of course, just like is seen on the ground on January 1st and July 5th, there is remnant debris and litter from the fireworks. My level of energy and ability to cope with typical demands of the day were challenged. There’s clean-up and additional rest and withdrawal that I needed to do in the aftermath. However, because of what I’ve learned previously, the stamina and strength I’ve gained from going through those other experiences, means that my recovery time is quicker and the mess is less and easier to deal with.

As the Team Leader in my Accountability group, I posted this as a source of encouragement for them and as a reminder for me this morning: 

Good Morning Team FORCE! Are you experiencing resistance today? I am and it is NOT a bad thing.In the world of health, wellness and exercise, “Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance.”

We push our leg muscles against the external resistance of the ground when we walk. We use weights and other equipment to strengthen our muscles and increase our stamina and endurance.

When the external forces of our lives bring resistance in the form of adverse circumstances- whether it’s a financial, relational, health/physical, or any other obstacle to us engaging in and pursuing our goals and dreams, we need to press into and against that resistance in order to strengthen our resolve and build up our stamina and endurance.Once we have done this and move through it, we will need rest and time for the mental/emotional/spiritual “muscles” to repair. We may feel weak and shaky during this time, it’s normal. Once we have allowed that rest and repair to happen, we will discover we have gained strength and stamina, in preparation for facing the next form of resistance.

If you are experiencing resistance, as I am, do not fear it, avoid it, or hate it. Welcome it and be thankful for it, because it is making you stronger and more able to achieve your goals.

We are Team FORCE and we use resistance to make us stronger!

 Have you found that times of resistance strengthen and increase your endurance and stamina?

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28 Days to a New Me: Day Seven – Shifting focus (lessons from week one)

It’s the end of my first full seven days on this 28 Day to a New Me journey of commitment and accountability. YAY! I made it and survived.

Truthfully? I’ve done more than survive, I have thrived! Although, if I would have been asked last night how I was feeling, I might not have said I was doing more than surviving.

In today’s video I shared that I had a realization about weighing myself at the end of the day, metaphorically speaking. I shouldn’t do it. Just as conventional wisdom says not to weigh oneself at night because the accummulation from the day can cause the numbers on the scale to be higher than in the morning, weighing myself and measuring how “well” I did throughout the day, often is filtered through the accumulation of fatigue, remnant negativity from adverse encounters, unresolved frustrations, etc. Since a good night’s sleep for me us typically 4 -6 hours in length and my average night’s sleep for the past 20+ years is generally closer to 4 hours a night, usually interrupted, if I wait until I’m near exhaustion to evaluate how my day went, my perspective is skewed toward the negative.

Today’s email from the Author of the just published e-book, 28 Days to a New Me: A Journey of Commitment, Robert Kennedy III, had this to say:

“You are almost complete with your first week and you may be tempted to look back to see how much you accomplished.  Well, take a moment and do that.  Great, that’s enough :-).  Looking back is necessary but since we are forming habits, we don’t want you to get in the habit of looking back.  We want you to take those lessons, good or bad, and then move into your action for today.”

In my video for today I stated that I am shifting my focus and instead of evaluating how well or not well I feel the day went, I’m going to do a gratitude list. I have decided to make this post a summary of my lessons learned from these seven days and be grateful for every lesson.

1) Starting from a position of fear and self-doubt caused me to set the bar too low and to expect too little of myself. I’m far more capable, innovative, creative, and interesting than I ever gave myself credit for.

2) Not valuing myself and my needs meant that I was always prioritizing everyone and everything else. Taking the transitional “baby step” to attach doing something for me with doing something else I saw as a priority was the primer needed to start my engine and get going on taking care of me, for me.

3) Being so caught up in my own lack, pain, and overwhelm created a wall of insulated isolation between myself and others. Conciously and consistently making the effort to encourage others and being mindful of how sharing my journey can benefit them, sends that encouragement back to me. Just like in the kids’ song, Love is Like a BoomerangLove is like a boomerang, and all you have to do is send your love around the world and love comes back to you.

4) Newton’s First Law of MotionAn object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force. (Thank you Wikipedia). I was a body at rest and the force that acted on me was the force of change wrought by engaging in a community of encouragement, support, and engagement with other people who were in motion, pursuing their dreams.

5) Pain and resistance are not meant to be avoided, they are meant to be used to propel you in a new direction and strengthen you. Pain indicates a change is needed, resistence is also known as strength training. Instead of defining myself by my pain I am learning from it. Instead of absorbing the resistance and becoming immovable, I’m pushing against the resistance and getting stronger.

6) Setting an intention, then taking steps to make it happen, will manifest change. For example: Last night, I was completely frustrated, exhausted, and at the end of my limits – or so I thought. I attended part one of a two night meeting and by the end of it, I was completely NOT wanting to attend the one tonight. However, by setting my intention to shift my focus today and seek gratitude, I made different choices throughout the day. By the time the meeting came around, I was open, relaxed, and engaged. I came out of the meeting feeling the same way as when I went into it.

7) Strangers are friends we haven’t met yet. 

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At some point, I will expound on these lessons. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy today’s video. Thank you for joining me on my journey.

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28 Days to a New Me Day Five – All activity is NOT created equal

Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody. Interesting thing about this day that came across my Facebook news feed this morning:

“Happy gringo taco and beer marketing day!!!! -One American traveler, after spending a lackluster Cinco de Mayo in central Mexico, learned from a shopkeeper that it was just “a gringo holiday made to sell Mexican beer to Americans.” ‘ ~ Cinco de Mayo on Infoplease

Yesterday, when I mentioned to someone at church that it was Star Wars Day, she scoffed that people can make a day of ANYTHING! Which seems pretty true in the culture I live in, anyway.

I wonder why that is? Is it possible that in the lives of most people, in my society at least, there is so much striving to support lifestyles that people don’t truly enjoy and appreciate, so they don’t see any reason to celebrate just being alive every day? There are many who feel as if every day is a struggle for one reason or another. I know I’ve lived a significantly large amount of my life that way.

I don’t need to go into details at this moment. If you want to explore the TMI FYI on me, you can head over to my primary blog, Human In Recovery and start with the December 2011 archives to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. Suffice it to say, I have struggled with what I have frequently considered more than my fair share of trials and troubles – consequences of less than good decisions on my part and the part of others in my life.

I’ve always kind of figured that my early life with the disruptions, dysfunctions, and chaos was simply by chance. I attempted to fight against family patterns, however, as I progressed, I found myself repeating them with my own personal little spin. The harder and harder I fought – with resentment, bitterness, frustration, and, let’s face it massive amounts of self-pity and an overdeveloped sense of the unfairness of it all – the deeper into the pit of depression, toxic co-dependency in ALL of my relationships, binge eating. I was in a negative feedback loop of monumental proportions.

I kept looking for fixes: therapy, education, groups, religion, 12 Step Recovery meetings. The thing is, most of the time, these actions and activities weren’t about fixing me, they were about manipulating and controlling situations, and the people involved, in order to let me stay the same and make my life easier. It has taken me over 20+ years to reach the point and to be the person I am today, on both the inside and the outside.

None of the external changes I attempted ever really “took” or lasted long. I could intellectualize, analyze, and give the proper and expected responses. Yet, even as I would go through the motions and pay lip service to the accumulated knowledge, none of it really “sank in” until I was able to reach the point where I finally had to admit that it wasn’t everyone and everything else in my life, it was me that was broken and I was powerless to get me out of the mess I had created as long as I relied on my own will, my own understanding, and continued to focus only on my pain and misery.

The Day Five motivational video for the 28 Days to a New Me series is called, “Not By Chance, By Change.” Robert said something that struck right at the heart of what I’ve done for the past two decades:

“A lot of people wallow and whine inside of themselves, but they never commit. They never make a commitment to change.”

As recently as two months ago, if I had heard that statement, the internal whine would have started up right away. Perhaps, even as recently as a few weeks ago. I would have pointed out all the obstacles, barriers and challenges I have: finances, physical health, mental health, family structure and relationships . . . and probably a lot of other things.

All of these things are real and valid concerns and issues in my life. They really are. But, somewhen down the line, probably in early adolescence, I concluded that I was more committed to my problems than I was to overcoming those problems. They defined me, they factored into every decision ever made to change my life, simply because each time I decided to do something to better my life, I went into it believing at the deepest levels that nothing was going to change.

What’s different now?

Change-happens-when-the

The pain of staying the same outweighed my fear of the potential pain that changing would bring.

Let me put it this way.

The pain and fatigue from the fibromyalgia, as far as anyone has been able to determine, is for no apparent reason. The root cause of it is not identifiable. Pain and fatigue cannot be measured in tangible terms. Although, new technology, fMRI can track the neurological pain responses in the brain of someone who doesn’t experience fibromyalgi and in the brain of one who does and identify that there are measurable and significant differences in the pain response mechanisms. However, it’s still subjective and specific to the one who experiences it.

The pain and fatigue of exercise is also subjective, but it has an identifiable cause and has been proven to have beneficial effects on the mind, body, and spirit.

I let the fibromyalgia define me and slowly, over the course of two decade change who I was on the inside in the way I thought and the actions I took or didn’t take. That life of a morbidly obese, anxious, depressed, sometimes manic, emotionally toxic person did not happen by chance. It happened by change.

That change continued until I had virtually lost two of the most important relationships in my life, the relationships with my adult children. That change continued until I recognized that the behaviors and actions of my youngest child, now four years old, were not conducive to her learning and growing up to be the healthy, functional person I dream of her being. Some of it may be just normal development for her ages and stages. Some of it may be organic, since I and my family have histories rife with mental illness, substance use and abuse, and probably an undiagnosed personality disorder or two AND her dad and his family have histories with those things themselves, it’s likely some of it is programmed into her DNA. Spiritually speaking, I do believe there are such things as generational curses, in the sense that the behavioral and thought patterns, the conditioned responses to challenge and conflict, and the cause/effect cycles from decisions put into play in prior generations, have a cumulative impact and effect on the current generation. Especially if the people in the generation preceding it were unconcious of it and unwittingly perpetuated the patterns.

The pain at the prospect of never having the possiblity of functional and healthy adult relationships with my children and the fear of living out the end of my life the way I witnessed my maternal grandmother live hers out, became greater than the pain of doing the hard work and looking inside of myself to see my own culpability and responsibility to make a difference in my own life and, hopefully theirs.

My life is being forged by change, not by chance.

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28 Days to a New Me: Day Four – May the 4th be with you

Apparently, for some inexplicable reason, to me anyway, today is Star Wars Day. I first learned of it when I logged into the book of faces and a number of my friends had posted, May the fourth be with you. I have enjoyed the Star Wars movies, both trilogies, however, I doubt I can be considered a true “fan.” That being said, it’s kind of impossible to ignore, so, I decided to pay homage to it.

Moving on . . .

In the accountability group I’m part of for the “28 Days to a New Me,” a project with a book of the same title being released on Amazon in a couple of days, the founder and author, Robert Kennedy III, provides a short daily video, focusing on a different aspect of maintaining and following through on the commitment made for the 28 day period. My commitment is physical activity for 15 minutes each day. Other people have a variety of other commitments from eating green, reading books, intense physical training, and developing habits to overcome or manage other challenges in their lives.

Today’s video spoke about living in the world of reasons vs. the world of performance: a concept he learned about through working with a personal business coach.

The fact is that each and every one of us face challenges on a daily basis, some days (weeks, months, and years) more than others. Injury, illness, mechanical failures, grief, loss, and the list goes on . . . and on, and on, and on.

These things rise up and disrupt our flow, trash our plans, and generally seem to happen at THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. MOMENT. Especially if we have committed to doing something that is life changing for ourselves. I know because it has happened to me each and every time I have decided to take steps to get healthy –  mind, spirit, and body. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

For example: A little over a year ago I decided that the only way I was going to be able to get and stay motivated to attain more physical health was to walk the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon that takes place here every May. Since I didn’t have the finances to pay for my own full registration and I also wanted to do something to “pay it forward,” AND I knew I needed training and suport, I decided to join T.E.A.M. in Training, a fundraising branch of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “We train to beat cancer!” A dear friend of mine had been going through a different form of cancer, as had an extended family member. In my mind, cancer is cancer. I realize there are a myriad forms of it and not every one is the same or has the same expected outcome. However, to me, anything I could offer to benefit cancer research in one area, has the potential to impact cancer research in other areas. At least that is my understanding.

After signing up, going to the initial meetings, and getting assigned the group I would be training with, I found out that the coach was a lady from my past who had been a significant influencer for me the first time I conciously made an effort to affect change in my life, way back in 1989. She is an amazing and beautiful soul and it just seemed like THIS. WAS. THE. THING!

Then, one morning, I was rushing my little girl out of the apartment door so I could get her to her Early Head Start program in time for me to make it to my job on time, instead of late, as had become my pattern in recent weeks. The apartment was a cluttered mess, as usual. For some reason, even though it was before Daylight Savings Time, I turned every light in the apartment out, before opening the door and without turning on the light in the entryway to our apartment. She stopped still, in front of me, quite suddenly, and I felt myself beginning to fall. I was close to what I weigh now, around 270, and she was probably about 30 – 35 lbs. I put my hand up to the short wall between the dining area and the entryway to keep myself from falling and felt something really bad happen in the center of my lower back.

I didn’t have insurance then and I still don’t, so I never got an official diagnosis. What I do know is, based on the continual symptoms I’ve had since that day, I probably herniated a disc or two. That put an end to my T.E.A.M. in Training dreams.

Now, retrospectively, I can see that the injury itself didn’t put an end to my dreams. Self-doubt and fear did.

I didn’t believe I could actually raise the money required to stay with the program before I would be on the hook for having to pay a minimum portion of the goal donations myself. I didn’t believe that I had the capability or the capacity to establish and build enough relationships with people who would pledge and donate on my behalf. I was also afraid of failing. I was afraid of failing to meet the commitment. I was afraid of failing myself. I was afraid of failing so many others the way I’d already failed so many people in my life, up to that point.

Then there was the physical fatigue and pain from the training I was being told about. I was fearful that the training would compound the fatigue and pain I already experience with the fibromyalgia.

There was also the additional expense of needing to get the kind of shoes and supports that I needed in order to train as well as a second pair I would need for the event itself. Due to my size and physical condition, I needed to go to a specialized shoe store to get shoes that fit correctly and specialzed arch support fitted to me. That first pair cost $100 and I had no idea where the money was going to come from to purchase a second pair.

All of these things were valid reasons and concerns. However, at the end of the day, the question is, “Did I do it, yes or no?”

No. Regardless of the reasons and excuses, fears and doubts, valid and invalid, I did not perform. I didn’t recommit every day to perform. I didn’t reframe my thoughts to capture the fears and doubts and wrestle them into motivation to prove them wrong. I focused on my lack and what I thought I couldn’t do, so that’s the reality I created for myself.

Last night, when I realized that there would not be anyone here to stay with my four year old so I could go walking AND that I had a busy day planned, which would challenge both of us and max out my physical, emotional, and social limits, I again started to experience those same old doubts and fears. Only this time, I posted how I was feeling in the group and got them out of my head. Then, I decided that even if I had to patchwork quilt my minimum 15 minutes of activity together today, I was going to make my commitment.

I got one response from a fellow group member:

I believe God will honor your efforts to committed and renew your strength . . . I’ll be praying for Him to make a special way.

A short while later I found out my oldest daughter would be coming to spend the night. So, when my eyes popped open, against my wishes this morning, the realization sank in over the course of about 20 minutes that I COULD go walking this morning and still get out the door on time to make it to church.

The “force” was with me.

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28 Days to a New Me: Day Three – Housework IS physical activity

Yesterday I mentioned that I do not enjoy walking for walking’s sake. I need to have a destination. Honestly speaking, I’m not a physically motivated person. I’m more the epitome of “couch potato.” I really identified with my bloggy pal, Amy West when she wrote this:

You know what my favorite activity really is? Couching. Sitting my lazy ass on the couch, computer in my lap, second-screening something on TV or listening to music. . . . couch. It’s got an indent at one end of it that’s the exact shape of my ass.

I’m the stereotypical Biggest Loser fan who sits on her couch, season after season, watching and listening to all the contestents and the trainers, while frequently eating things that would wind up in a Temptation Challenge. I see aspects of me in most of the contestents’ personal stories: whether it’s hard-knock life circumstances, physical injury/health concerns, and certainly in story after story of those who are so emotionally shut-down and cut off that they either have their walls so high that even Bob, Jillian, and Dolvett have difficulty scaling the heights or they’ve buried themselves underneath so many layers of self-judgment and taken in every negative message available that they’re succumbing to The Swamp of Sorrows. If I remeber correctly, I think I actually submitted an application to the show at some point in the first three seasons, or maybe I just started to and never got through my own resistance.

Resistance. Yeah, that is really at the crux of many of my issues. There’s this resistance and I don’t understand why or what the root of it is. I just know that, in the past, I have given into it in its myriad, diverse forms.

So, here I am, at the end of Day Three, having reframed my expectations about what is “acceptable” physical activity.

I’m almot 44 years old, weigh close to 270 lbs, and am 5’3″ on a good day. Garfield and I could be undertall twins. Factored into all of that, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia I received in my late teens/early 20’s. Back when I would go out dancing at 10 p.m. and close the bar down, while being the only sober one in the joint because I spent the major portion of the night on the dance floor, with or without partners, who could be either gender, I didn’t care. I just wanted . . . NEEDED to dance. I would drink several pitchers of water while everyone else was dowing beer (Yuck! A taste I never acquired). I might occasionally have a mixed drink or two, but usually only if someone else was buying, since I had other financial priorities. Every Friday or Saturday night, occasionally both nights, I would dance away all the stress and tension of the week . . . then spend the next 24 – 48 hours as the only one with the symptoms of the world’s worst hangover.

Eventually, the painful consequences, as well as a second pregnancy where i subsequently wound up single-parenting a second child, put an end to the late night dance parties. I switched to worship dance and fellowship with spiritual seekers and others who participated in Messianic Dance. Physical movement as part of my expression of faith filled the need for self-expression through movement. However, after going all out in worship dance, I would experience the same kind of deep-seated fatigue and lightning strikes of shooting pain and bone deep aching in my body.

I let go of the seemingly irrepressible part of me that ALWAYS wants to move whenever music is on (it doesn’t even have to be “good” music, or so my daughter informs me) and I have been suppressing it for years.

Gradually, I just stopped moving. The depression that had always been Right. There. waiting to take over, slowly and insidiously infiltrated every aspect of my being. Except for the happy, excited, sure I was going to get it done and change my life moments. Which retrospectively, I can now identify most of those as manic/hypomanic episodes where I had this overwhelming sense that I had all the answers and could make the Worst. Plans. Ever. be The Very Thing To Turn My Life Around. In between were times filled with self-doubt, panic, and anxiety. I desperately grasped at anyone and everything to fill me and fix me. Of course that couldn’t ever happen because people and things just can’t do that. It has to come from a soul deep, spiritual connection and internal belief and acceptance of Divine love and acceptance.

And so, my internal reality began to shape my external reality. And not just in the physical shape of my body. It also shaped the physical environments I lived in. Oscar Madison had nothing on me. Chaoctic clutter in my living environment is an apparent manifestation of the internal chaos and clutter.

Change-happens-when-the

Now, that I’ve worked long and hard on the internals and have achieved a level of self-acceptance because I’m opening myself back up to Divine love and acceptance, the old tapes still play, the old patterns still exist, and the old habits are still entrenched, but there are holes in those walls and the cracks are showing. I think this is playing a huge part in me following through to actually get into the 28 Days group and everything else that is happening as a byproduct of my participation and engagement.

Therefore, I’m starting with small commitments and being propelled into much greater action. I walked another two miles after completing yesterday’s commitment. I also had a very difficult time sleeping last night and woke up this morning groggy and heavy-limbed, aching and fatigued. It didn’t help that my oldest daughter wasn’t here to be with my four year old so I could actually get outside, put on my headphones and walk it out.

So, I had to work with what I had and get creative. For sedentary me, washing dishes IS physically demanding for me in my current state AND they needed to be done before they piled up any worse. The New Me gets housework done too.

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28 Days to a New Me: Day Two – A Purposeful walk . . . and unlikely gratitude

Welcome to Day 2 of my 28 day journey to a new me.

If you are anything like me, exercising and fitness just for the sake of exercising and getting physically fit, is not a great turn on. As a matter of fact, for me, it is a HUGE turn off.

I’m not exactly sure why. I know that exercise does good things for my mind, spirit, and body. Somehow, though, that knowledge isn’t enough to motivate me just by itself. Perhaps it is part of the lifelong habit of not taking care of me because, somehow and for some reason, I don’t feel “worth” taking care of.

I know that healthy mom makes for a healthier child and since I want my four year old to be healthier than I have ever been, as well as “naturally” able to make healthier choices than I was able to teach her older brother and sister, who are now adults, to make, you might think that would be motivation enough. Well, it isn’t. Again, I’m not exactly sure why it isn’t motivation enough for me to get off my kiester and get moving, I just know that it isn’t.

Being somewhat task oriented, I have to identify a task that needs completing and know that I can somehow incorporate taking care of myself into the process of completing that task. Today’s task was to apply to get Luna into the full-day pre-kindergarten program at our neighborhood school for next year. She has already been accepted into the local Head Start Program to be in a classroom next year, which is a fabulous program. However, there are a couple of reasons I want to put her into the neighborhood school.

I have this dream, or goal, of building community relationships with other families who are nearby, which we don’t currently have. Having her be in the neighborhood school with kids she will progress into kindergarten, then elementary school with, will help me to do something for her that I never had a chance at and that my other children didn’t get to experience: stability of relationships with people outside of the immediate family, which will, hopefully, follow her into her adult life.

Part of this vision is that I will walk her to and from school each day, thus getting myself physically active at least five days a week and teach her to do the same. I hope that establishing the routine of walking to and from school each day will also serve as time and opportunity for us to bond and engage in being present, aware and interactive with our surroundings and each other.

That being said, we also live in the Pacific Northwest, where it gets cold and rainy . . . the kind of weather that can trigger a fibroflare of pain and fatigue, which can make it problematic if I have to walk very far facing the elements. I also don’t own rain gear (go figure) and know myself well enough to know that if the weather is too icky, I will definitely use the fibromyalgia fatigue and pain as an excuse not to walk outdoors. Thankfully, we have an EXCELLENT transit system here and the nearest bus stop to our home is approximately 3 blocks away and the bus line that goes to her school has stops within a block of the school going in both directions. So, even when the weather or the fibromyalgia rise up to dissuade me from leaving the apartment, I know I have zero excuse to prevent me from making sure I get her to school.

Knowing that she has a place in the local Head Start Program is reassuring and something to be extremely grateful for, which I am. However, the two nearest locations aren’t necessarily “ideal” to support my dream and vision for how I want to raise Luna in the near future.

Day two of my journey, included me taking steps to make this dream, as well as my other dream to become employable as or build a “saleable” portfolio as a “professional”  writer, more of a reality.

How so?

Well, first by writing about these things here on the blog. It adds to my content portfolio. Secondly, in today’s market, having the skill to write good content is essential. However, there is this concept of “branding,” which current wisdom dictates that I be able to express myself in other mediums as well, such as video.  Creating yesterday’s video taught me a lot. Today’s video built on what I learned yesterday. It is approximately twice as long, six minutes, and it incorporates music, which is available through the Splice app that I used to create it. I hope you enjoy it, I think it came out rather well.

Oh, and you’ll have to watch the video if you want to know what unlikely thing I am grateful for . . .

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