Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Health, Stress, Weight, and The Road Back

Tonight's blog comes with a bit of a warning label. It is long. It can be considered serious, maybe even something of a "downer". But if you read is going to end on a very positive note.

The doctor appointment Monday was a good one, but once again I had gained weight. I was NOT happy about that. So, even though those photos (previous blog) look so good, I am going to have to temporarily keep away from those kinds of temptations. At least until I can tell myself that it is much better to take home a doggy bag...which Daughter and I both did. And it was even better the second heating. As in all things we don't like to admit to ourselves, there eventually comes a point where we say Enough Already! I have said that about my weight many times over the years. And many times over the years I have been able to lose weight. I will again. But this time there is a big difference from previous times. This time there is a different attitude, and a different overall outlook on my life. And the change has been so very gradual as to have, at this point, seemed to creep up on me. What I mean by this is that there came a point here recently where I suddenly realized some things that I just hadn't figured out about myself before.
Yesterday I was talking to someone about these very kinds of things and I told her that there is a phrase sticking in my mind lately. The Road Back. Nothing reveals to you how sick you were until you start feeling better. And I am a person who has spent her entire life in a constant state of denial about certain things--especially when I am focusing all my attention on other things that have to be taken care of to the exclusion of taking care of myself. To be honest, I have never fully taken care of myself in a healthy way, because from my earliest years I was already taking care of myself in the way of self-preservation. I am not going to go into the issues that brought a lot of my current problems to the surface. Just suffice it to say that I did not live in a totally healthy atmosphere for a young child. For the most part it was good, but there was the awful stuff which involved different kinds of abuse. Denial quickly became a part of my life at a very early age.
Then if you look closely at the picture of the little girl on the left side of the blog, you can see that the little girl (me) has legs that just don't stand right. And if you look really close, maybe you can see that even the knee caps seem to be in the wrong place. I grew up my entire life being told I couldn't do this or couldn't do that because I had crooked legs. As I got into the ages of trying to decide what to study in college, the what I coulds and couldn'ts got even bigger. But I am still in denial at this time. I did whatever I wanted to do as a child even if I was being told I shouldn't do it because when I got older I would pay for it. I was clumsy. I fell down a lot. I ran and played with the rest of the kids, but I didn't keep up very well. I hated the orthopedic shoes I was always being told I had to wear. I didn't wear them anymore than I had to. I wanted to be normal just like the rest of the kids around me. In high school and in college, and in my jobs, I always was on my feet. I was warned that the more I was on my feet, the worse my legs would be as I got older. Denial. Not me. I was going to be just fine. I was fine then, so I would be fine later. I wasn't really fine because everything I did was already causing a lot of pain that I refused to believe wasn't the same as it was for anyone else, and I did nothing about it. I had convinced myself I was not in any more pain than the rest of the world was. Maybe since I was in denial about my health it helped to make myself believe that everyone else was like me instead of me trying to be like them.
Another warning was that I needed to keep my weight down because that added to the leg problems. I tried. I was put on my first diet when I was 8 years old. Now at this point, let me tell you a bit about that. Up until I was 7 or so, I was not a heavy child. But in my subconscious I decided that some of the abuse would stop if I were ugly, and I thought being fat would make me ugly. The weight gain all started then and in spite of all my attempts to lose weight, I kept gaining. I would lose some, gain more. The Yo-Yo pattern we all know about today. Dieting actually makes people fat. We need to eat healthy....but not diet. And not deprive ourselves because we set ourselves up for failure right away. I just have trouble doing all that.
Now we are hearing how stress contributes to weight gain. I don't know all the ins and outs of that and I am not into all the so-called quick fixes about cortosol and stress and weight gain. But, what I do know, and what I am figuring out...what I was talking about here earlier about this "knowing" sneaking up on me, is that stress has played such a huge part of my life all of my life, since earliest childhood and on until even today. I know stress is part of everyone's life. But each one of us deals with stress in our own different ways. Some are good at it, and others are not so good at it. I am one of those not so good at it kinds of people. Actually, maybe that is not true. Or maybe what is really true is that part of dealing with stress for me was my poor coping mechanisms. I eat. And eat. And in addition to all this, I have to deal with all that denial stuffed deep down inside of me. Well, what do I stuff it with? Food, of course.
Well over the years I have done a lot better with cutting back on the eating. I have made some pretty major changes, actually. The problem is, that over the years, as my pain increased, my activity level decreased. I didn't tell people that I was in pain. I am not sure I would have recognized it to be able to tell denial was so ingrained. It was pain...wasn't everyone in pain? So, shouldn't I be doing what everyone else was doing? And due to the abuse in my childhood and teenage years, I believed I was somehow deficient because I was not just like everyone else...not just physically, but in other ways too. So...pain becomes very well acquainted with guilt. If I didn't do something all the way or correctly, I felt guilty. If the reason I didn't do it was because of pain, I erased the pain part...and replaced it with the me who was told I was no good. Now don't ask me to explain how a child interprets things. I don't know. Like in this...why could I tell myself my legs were okay and I was not different...when they were not okay. Yet at the same time, I could let someone tell me over and over again that I was no good and that I believed. I had it all twisted and mixed up. You can imagine what this did as I grew into an adult.
And to feel better about all of it, I ate. To get through problems whether they be with normal every day things we all deal with on a daily basis, or something unexpected that comes into all our lives occassionally, I dealt with them all by eating.
Raise your hand if you have been in this position too, whether it be with food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, or any other destructive thing we do to ourselves to help us cope.

So, I started this with that phrase "The Road Back". This phrase popped into my head last week sometime I think. I was pondering this realization of how sick I had really been since June of 2006, and that actually it was probably building up before that. I remember how bad I felt. I remember at times feeling like if I took one more step I would die because there were times I felt my heart was just going to explode inside my chest. It wasn't pain...and I never had a heart attack. Even before my atrial fibrillation went chronic rather than occassional, I was sometimes feeling that bad. I was in vocational training classes full time evenings and working full time days. I was exhausted, but it took a stress fracture in my toe/foot to slow me down. Something had to give. Because of the hectic schedule I only had time for fast food in between shifts, so I was eating absolutely horribly unhealthy food. But the old guilt was more powerful than the pain and discomfort. Other issues were also at play in this and the stress level was extremely high. And I stuffed all of it so I could just keep that everready bunny. If I didn't keep going, I was just like I was always told as a good...a failure.
Do you know what a nervous breakdown looks like when it only hits you physically??? Like me the past 2 years. I fell apart physically probably because I was in so much denial that I wouldn't let myself fall apart mentally or emotionally. The Road Back takes a lot of turns. The Road Back covers a lot of territory. And as I am realizing today, The Road Back takes a long time...the sicker one is, the further we have to go to get better. Today when I am disappointed in myself because I can't do something I want to do, I stop thinking about being a failure. Instead I may try to find a different way to do it. Instead, I remind myself that my heart was stressed to the ultimate limit. My doctors feared heart failure and kidney failure when I was at my sickest. Thank God all tests came back normal. But still, the heart is a muscle and if a leg muscle can be strained, cannot a heart muscle also be strained? The heart being what it is as the organ that keeps us alive...that pumps all that blood and oxygen through our bodies, if it is strained, and for a very long period of time, it just goes to figure that it is not going to feel normal again very soon. It needs time to get better. The legs hurt. Oh my do they hurt. But for the most part I can deal with that. The issues still having to do with the heart are what are slowing me down the most. And I have come to think that when the pain is at its worst, it causes another atrial fibrillation episode which is one reason I am on this monitor.
My weight has got to start coming down. I will not allow it to go any higher. Thank you again Richard Simmons for that sit down exercise video. That is going to help me out a lot to keep me from being bored trying to exercise sitting down. Thank you all my doctors and everyone else I have gotten help from, including various counselors for the mental health issues from all of this. Depression is also a big problem for people learning to accept disability. Stress being what it is in regards to atrial fibrillation, especially for me, counseling has become a necessity. In the past, that would have been something that convinced me I was still a failure. But you know what? I am not a failure. I never was a failure. If you are in counseling, or know someone who is, give them your support and encouragement. They are doing what they need to do. In fact...when most of the rest of the world around me was telling me to keep going, and not quit (work that is), and didn't really understand how sick I was, it was my counselors who kept me going. It was my counselors who kept being the ones telling me maybe for the first time in my life, that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing...doing what I needed to be doing...and making the right choices when the world around me was making me feel like I was making wrong choices. I am not sure I would have gotten through the worst part of waiting for the determination of receiving my disability benefits had it not been for the way my counselors kept telling me that I was doing what I needed to do to take care of myself.

Here is the upbeat part you were waiting for...I got my disability benefits, and on the first try. I am working part time to suppliment that income. (How many times do we who receive help from the government we paid taxes to, get ridiculed for being a drain on those who complain about us--get over it!!! That's another blog maybe next year LOL). I have had a lot of the stress-causing issues taken care of in the past few months. I have not been in chronic a-fib now for several months although I still have a lot of periodic episodes that may last up to a day or two...not so much now. I am off of 3 medications. I might get to have one more medication changed for a less dangerous kind if this monitoring goes right. I had shingles over the Christmas holidays--YUCK! I hope I never get those again. But once I got past that, I have been steadily been feeling better every day. I still have days when I feel lousy. But there has been a great upside. For instance, I am quite sure that even 2 months ago I would not have been up to doing these blogs. I couldn't even motivate myself to do a regular journal like I used to do before things changed so. Denial wants to rise again at times because I can feel so good I want to get up and go do something simple only to find out when I try that I am forced back to my chair just to breathe. Weight loss will play a huge part in that also. And figuring out that extra activity that causes more pain than usual, and makes me more tired than usual, triggers another atrial fibrillation episode is something else I have to figure into the equation. So there is the lose weight, exercise I need to feel feel better, I need to lose weight. LOL But it will happen all in a good, healthy time. No more trying to hurry up and get it done. Realistic goals I have never really set for myself before. But now I have my goals. And I am making new goals all the time as I feel better...but all in good time. I need to lose a lot of weight--no I am not telling how much. It is going to take time. Especially if I want to keep it off. I have been sick a long time. (Denial--I never used the word "sick" to describe my a-fib until this past year and I have had it for almost 14 years. It had to go chronic before I accepted that I was sick.) It is going to take time to get fully better. Like 2-3 years is what I am giving myself. And if I don't make it in that time, I have given myself permission to take longer. I have also given myself permission to reach a realistic weight loss goal instead of trying to make myself look like--well what a model would look like if she were an old granny like me. I want to be healthy, not skinny. If any of you wants to join me in this weight loss journey, feel free. Actually I would enjoy the company.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I definetly gain weight when I'm stressed :(