Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Healing

My version of New Year's resolutions is One Word.  I choose one word to direct my coming year.  It's a from-the-gut choice.  I toss and turn it over in my head and heart for days or weeks, working with God to choose what I need for that year.  I've been doing it for a few years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how my year looks in retrospect wrapped in that word.

My word for 2015 was HEAL.  I went into the year not knowing how that would play out.  In most cases, I just tucked that word away in my heart and went about my life.  But once in a while something would happen and I'd notice it.  I'd notice it was an element of healing.  I was healing.

I just went back and re-read my post from the beginning of the year, when I chose this word.  I read through the list.  And I noticed things, areas of healing that had happened, that I hadn't noticed before.  I'm so grateful for that.

But, truly, the biggest change has been my body.

I've got health issues.  Nothing major, just enough to keep me from being and doing what I want.  Enough to force me to see other ways of being.  Others ways to be of value.

I started the year off very unhappy with my body.  With its size and shape.  With its open rebellion against me.  With its struggle to control me, to make me submit to its whims.  Honestly, I was frustrated that I even had to have a body, because I felt it limited me in so many ways.

But things changed.

I don't remember exactly how or when it happened.  It might have started last year.  In fact, I think it did.  Last November I decided I wanted to add some color to my hair.  Not regular color.  Purple.  And early in December, I did.  I got about six inches of the bottom of my hair bleached and dyed bright purple.  Much brighter than I'd anticipated.  And more inches than I'd planned.  (Due to my own miscommunication with my fabulous hairdresser.)  All of a sudden my hair was troll doll purple.  My Little Pony purple.  No longer subtle at all!

I'd spent years hiding in plain sight.  Trying to be subtly present in the room.  Mostly because I was very unhappy with the weight I'd gained and the way I looked.  I felt miserable and it showed.

I loved having bright hair!  It gave me such a lift.  But I wasn't prepared for how others would react to it.  Suddenly, when I walked into a room, there was no question people would be looking at me.  It often made me uncomfortable.  But I have always tried to stand behind my decisions, even if they don't seem to make any sense to anyone else.  I've tried to live by the principle that I shouldn't make any decision, take any action, that I wouldn't be okay if it were exposed to the world.  Stand behind my choices - that's me!

So I decided to embrace it.  I decided to embrace me.  I shared photos of my hair on Facebook.  It was fun seeing how it faded and sharing that, too.  But I hated pictures of my face, so it was tricky to share my hair unless I had someone else take pictures from behind.  I have lots of picture of the back and sides of my hair, with my head leaning so that my hair fell mostly in front of my face.  Because I didn't like my fat face.

Again, I don't know the exact day it happened, but I decided to stop hiding from pictures.  I decided to allow pictures of myself, even some I didn't like, to be seen.  I decided the picture was just a moment.  Even if I didn't like how I looked in that moment, I liked who I was.  And I wanted to remember that moment and have evidence of my presence.

And in the midst of this, there were other changes happening.  I was healing in other ways.  Invisible, inside ways.

In February I heard the words that changed me forever.  In February I found the key that turned off the self-harm switch inside me.  I February I gave up self-harm for good.  Something I knew I was supposed to heal, needed to heal, but didn't want to heal.  I trusted.  I was healed.

This year I came to a healthier relationship with my dad.  I found my footing.  Mostly through taking care of my mom together, he and I have found a new respect for each other.  A new gratitude for each other.  Healing

I've come to a much healthier place with my mom as well.  As she's changing, as her world is changing, I'm finding my footing there as well.  It's been a tough slog.  It's going to get tougher still.  But I understand and accept it better now.  And that helps.  I feel less burdened and more compassionate.  And I feel love toward her.  The kind of love that's been missing for a while.  A healing love.  I'm grateful for that.

But the most noticeable healing I've experienced has been physical.  At the beginning of the year, I was a slug.  I could move and get things done, but everything exhausted me.  Everything was a huge burden.  I'd do what needed to be done and head straight back to bed.  I was so tired and miserable and uncomfortable in my own body.

Again, I don't remember exactly when it happened.  But I know it started before my physical.  As I was approaching my physical, I was evaluating things and had decided I wanted to get off one of the medications I was on.  And, dang it, I wanted to talk to my doctor about losing weight.  My body wanted to move.

Now that I think about it, I think that was how it started.  My body ached.  I lay in my bed aching, and I knew it was because my body wanted to move.  And my brain wanted my body to move.  But I was so exhausted.  Completely depleted.  I had nothing more to push my body with.  Gravity was pulling so hard.

But I wanted to move.

So at my physical, I talked to my doctor.  We made a couple of medication changes.  And I made a plan.  Eat better.  Move.  That was the gist of it.  And that's what I did.  I changed how and what I ate.  And I started walking.

Since then I've walked three 5ks; I ran a little in the last one.  I've injured myself (plantar fasciitis and shin splints), because I pushed too hard too fast.  (Hopefully, I've learned something and will do better now.)  I added bodyweight exercises.  I did some yoga.  I've done some Just Dance.  A little of this, a little of that.  I shared it all on Facebook, to keep myself accountable.  Exercise is now something that's a part of my life.  Part of who I am.  Part of who I want to be.  I want to be a runner!

And, let me just tell you, those are words I never thought I'd say.  I had no intention of running.  I started out walking.  I walked and walked.  Miles and miles.  (Which in and of itself was amazing to me and everyone around me.)  It was in my last 5k, the one where I pushed my body too far and it rebelled.  The one where I ran some.

Hurting.  Crying.  My body ached.  But not because of the injury.  My body ached to run.  I ached to run.  Weird.

I'm still working toward that.  It's a two steps forward, one step back thing.  My body doesn't recover like it used to.  I can't just decide I'm going to go push it for hours and hours and not pay for it like I could in high school.  These days, the cost of pushing is a bit higher.  But not too high.  Not so high that it's not worth it.  And if I pace myself instead of diving off the cliff, which is my inclination, I can do it.  Baby steps.  I'm working on that.

Since May I've lost 33 pounds.  I've gone down a pant size.  I've lost inches here and there.  My face has thinned.  And all of that's great.  But it's not what's most important.

I feel like I've found me.  Like my body and I are working together again.  I've proven I can do this.  I'm not at complete peace about my body all the time, but I'm doing so much better.  I'm so much happier.  I feel more whole.

Like each year in the past, I will carry this word forward with me.  It will remain in my heart.  It will continue to drive me in ways I won't notice until I look back.

And I'm so excited to share my word for 2016!  But that'll be tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Land of Irritation or Depleted or Something Else

You bug me.  Yes, you.  Whoever you are.  If you're reading this, you bug me.  And so does everyone who's not reading this.

Right now almost everyone and everything irritates me.  A lot.  And I don't know why.

I'm severely limiting my social interactions, digitally and in real life.  Because I can't keep up the facade.

I can't pretend the things you're saying or doing or wearing or eating aren't making me crazy.  It takes so much energy to be polite and smile when I really just want to go off on a diatribe about how ridiculous I find you.

I absolutely know how self-centered this sounds (because it is).  I understand how un-Christlike this sounds (because it is).  I get it.  And in my heart of hearts I don't feel this way.

But in my nerves I do.  I don't want to.  I'm working on it.  But right now I do.

And my isolation is for both of us.

I'm certain my facade will eventually break down when we're together, and I'll tell you how whiny I think you are.  I'll tell you to quit complaining and either do something about it or just shut up.  Which will hurt you.

Which will hurt me.  Because I will feel your hurt and carry the weight of that in my heart and on my back.  And I just don't have that strength right now.

I think part of the reason everyone and everything is bothering me is because I feel like it's my job to fix all the problems.  All of them.  All of them in the world.

I know it's not.  In my head.  But in my heart I feel differently.  Accountable.  Responsible.  At fault.

And I want the world perfect.  I want the world to be the way I want it.  That includes the people and their behavior.  And if I'm accountable, at fault, then it's my job to fix it.

But it isn't.  And people get very irritated when I try.  (As well they should.)

So I'm just going to pull back and give myself some space to get through this.  It's kind of like taking my ball and going home because you won't play what I want to play, only a bit more mature (I hope).  You can keep the ball.  I'm just going home.

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Time to Write

It's time to write.
It's time to write.
It's time to write.

I've told myself that so many times over the last few months.  And, yet, still I haven't.


I'm not sure.  I have lots to say, but I just can't make myself write.  I even know how I want to say the things in my head.  I just can't make myself do it.

Maybe it's because the things I plan to write aren't the things I need to write.  My heart isn't exploding with the ideas.

In fact, I'm sure that's what it is.  It's amazing how things can become so clear when I just start writing.

See.  I was right.  It was time to write.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What I Learned From My First 5k

Let me start by saying I walked the 5k.  Let me follow that up by saying I was doing almost nothing physical before that.

Some of you will remember my last post, the one where I owned my weight (216 lbs.) and said I was ready to do something to change it.

I went to the doctor on May 18th and talked to him about my weight.  I wrote about it on May 20th.  And May 23rd I walked a 5k.  My first ever.

Was it wise to go from almost no activity to a 5k?  Maybe not.  I was hurting a lot afterward.  But I honestly think it was the best way for me.

Why did I do it?  Let me explain.

First, I was motivated by my weight (ugh!).  Second, I had a bit of a rush from knowing some of the meds I was on were likely making me gain weight and I was getting off almost all of them.  (Seriously, being able to blame the meds was a nice lift.)  Third, the last two years we've walked in the Chiari Walk Across America (because my daughter has a Chiari I malformation), and I had walked over two miles both times, and a 5k is 3.1 miles.  So I was pretty sure I could do it, even if I had to take it very slow.  But the biggest reason is because I wanted to so bad!

This 5k was in honor of the daughter of a couple I went to high school with.  She died in an accident when she was just 15 months old.  Her name is Elle and this was the Live wElle 5k.  I'd known about it for three or four years.  I'd wanted to participate in it ever since I heard about it, but I knew I couldn't.  I knew I wasn't ready.  This time I was.  And the title seemed to indicate it was the right one to start with.  I am trying to live well!

It was amazing!

But it was also hard.  And I learned a lot.

Before the race, with three of my kids.
That's me on the right, with the dark blue jacket and gloves.  It was very cold.  I was also wearing my yoga pants (because you have to wear comfortable pants, right?).  I wore my hair down for warmth, and curled it because I knew I'd see people I know there and didn't want to be hideous.  I brought a clip to pull it up as I warmed up.  I figured I'd just tie my jacket around my waist as it got warmer.

Me at the end of the race.
That's me on the left at the end of the race.  That was the only time I jogged, and it was because we were near the finish line.  You have to run across the finish line, right?  Oh, by the way, it's tough to run (or jog) when your feet and legs are numb.  Just sayin'.

Let me tell you what's wrong with this picture.  No matter how cold it is when the race starts - NO JACKET!  Seriously.  I found out I hated walking with something around my waist.  A few blocks is one thing.  Three miles is quite another.  And my clip kept slipping.  Seriously, pull that dang hair up in a ponytail.  No one cares what you look like.  No one.  And don't wear boot cut yoga pants.  Or a t-shirt of material you don't like, even if it's the race shirt.  Or heavy tennis shoes.  (Okay, those were the only tennis shoes I owned, so I really didn't have many other options.)

I was really excited.  I was totally stoked!  I knew I was going to rock this thing.  And then, two blocks after I started, this thought went through my mind, "What the hell have I done?"

Two blocks in.  And I've still got over three miles to go.  There's no way on this earth I'm going to be able to finish.  But, dang it, I spent money on this.  And I want to do this for my friends.  And, seriously, how humiliating would it be to have to be rescued?  So I kept going.

That first mile I thought I was going to die!  Probably not literally, but I thought I might pass out and have to be tended to.  Even though I was being careful and going at my own pace.

But guess what.  I didn't die.  After about a mile, my legs went numb.  And things got easier after that.  When you can't feel your legs and feet, they don't hurt.  Plus, passing that one mile sign is awesome!  Not nearly as awesome as the halfway sign, but still awesome.

Once I hit the halfway point I stepped up my pace.  I was feeling pretty good now.  And, gosh darn it, I was pretty sure I could pass some of those people right in front of me.  I went into the race planning to just walk my speed.  What was comfortable.  Not compete with anyone.  But since I'd paced myself well in the beginning, I had a bit more to give in the second half.  And I could see others slowing down.  And it's just possible my competitive side kicked in.

I picked up my pace and passed many people.  That was cool!

I ended up finishing in 53 minutes and 38.1 seconds.  I was thrilled to have done it under an hour.  Yay me!

And two weeks later I did another one.  This time I finished in 48 minutes and 43 seconds.  I took almost 5 minutes off my time!  Yay me again!

And this is what I wore for that race.

Much better clothing choices.
New, lighter shoes.  A lot less clothing.  Boy, was that a more enjoyable race!

But the most important thing I learned from that first 5k?  I learned I could do it!

We did it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No More Weighting

Let me start by saying I know how difficult this topic can be.  I know there are many psychological hot buttons involved here.  I know many of us are struggling, many struggling more than me.  Please know that when I am saying something negative and judgmental here it isn't about you.  It has nothing to do with how I perceive you.  It's all about me and how I feel about myself.  I hope that makes sense.  Now here we go.


"Are you freaking kidding me?!"  That's what I thought when I looked at the scale.  I had my annual physical a few days ago.  We all know what that dreaded first assessment is going to be.  "Can I get you to step up here?" the 20-something, size 2 nurse asks me.  She was sweet and kind and just doing her job, but I really want to turn to her and say, "Do I look like someone who wants to step on a scale?"

But I did, because we do.  And I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

And to follow that up, when my blood test results came back they showed quite a spike in my cholesterol levels.

And I'm not okay with that.

I'm not sure whether it was the weight or the cholesterol, but now I want to do something about it.  Really do something.

So here it is.  - deep breath - 

I weighed in at 216 pounds.  I am 5'4".  I'm just going to let that sit there for a minute while it sinks in.  While I get comfortable with owning my self.  216 pounds.

I'm not comfortable with it.  Not at all.

I've seen lots of people, mostly women, blog about weight loss and openly share their weight.  I swore I would never do that.  Funny thing.  Now that the decision is made to move in a healthier direction, I can say it.

For years I've told myself I wasn't sensitive about my weight.  I knew I was getting heavier, but I was still able to do most of the things I could before, so how bad could it be?  My skin never felt flabby.  (Yeah, it never does.  It grows with the enlarging mass growing under it.  Duh.)  There was always someone larger than me.  That helped, although it shouldn't have.  It really had nothing to do with me.

But it did bother me.  I'd say it was about being healthy, not about how I looked.  Bull!  What a lie.  One of those self-deception things that helped me get through a situation I felt powerless against.

It was bothering me before I went to the doctor.  I addressed it with him as part of my physical.  "I used to have no appetite and could easily go 24 hours without eating (not healthy).  But now I'm hungry all the time.  I'm more physically active than I've been in a long time, but I'm still gaining weight.  Could it be menopause?"  (I had a full hysterectomy last year.  So even though I'm only 45, I'm in full-blown menopause.)

He told me two of the medications I am currently taking cause weight gain.  Wonderful. :(  Actually, I liked when he said that because it gave me a bit of deniability.  "I would totally be losing weight if I weren't on these meds.  It's the meds' fault."  And that's probably partly true.  But not entirely by a long shot.

I'm getting off one of the meds, for other reasons, and cutting the other one by half.  Finger crossed this helps.  And with my new thyroid medication and the Lamictal I have more energy that I have in years.  (Not a lot, but enough to feel like a tired human instead of a rock.)

This is it.  This is the time.  It's only going to get harder if I wait.  And I'm sick of hiding from friends and from pictures.

There are people I used to work with that I avoid seeing, even though I like them and would love to see them again, because I don't want them to see how much weight I've gained.  And I've hidden from pictures for years now.  There are way fewer pictures of me for posterity than there should be.

Because I'm embarrassed.  There.  I said it.  I'm embarrassed about how I look.  I want to say I'm not.  I want to not care about what others think of me.  But I am.  And I do.

A basic history:
  * Other than being shorter than most people, I was never really petite.
  * In high school (which was the first time I remember even knowing what I weighed) I weighed 140 pounds and wore size 8 jeans.  I was not skinny by high school standards.  There were so many girls around me who were just tiny.  Thin little things.  I was absolutely not that.  I knew I wasn't that but wanted to be.  I developed substantial hips at 14.  I have thoroughbred thighs that run in my family.  I was not tiny.  But when I look back at those photos now I realize how small I really was.  Go figure.
  * I only gained 20-25 pounds with each baby (5).  With my first, I lost the weight quickly and even dropped some extra.  I was very active.  I dropped to 130 pounds and a size 6.  That was the happiest I'd ever been about my weight and how I looked.
  * After each following baby, I kept about ten pounds.
  * In the spring of 2001, when I weighed about 180 pounds and my baby was almost three, the world feel out from under my feet.  By June I was in bed.  All the time.  For the next year and a half.  I was able to function just enough to keep my children alive.  I would lie on the couch and watch videos with them or watch them play.  I would talk my oldest daughter (10) through getting them food.  At night I had a tiny amount of energy and would put together sandwich bags of food for the next day.  Cheese slices.  Carrots.  Crackers.  My attempt at taking care of my kids.  Because that was seriously all I could do.  I couldn't move.  I was so tired it made me cry.  And giving up all the things I did, all the volunteering at their schools and coaching of their teams and taking them to the park - all gone.  I never got a definitive answer about what was wrong, it just gradually got better.  But I've never felt well again since.  I go through times when I can function better than others.  And I go through times when I'm flat in bed.
  * I have no idea how much I weighed in between that time and the next time.  We didn't own a scale.  We still don't.
  * In 2010 I wrote "A Weighty Issue," a blog post about being unhappy with my weight but not ready to really do anything about it.  It really shook me today when I looked back at that and realized it took five years for me to be ready.  I honestly don't remember what I weighed then except that I'd probably just broken 200 pounds.  I'd sworn to myself I'd never let myself hit 200, but I did.  And it devastated me for a few days.  But I shook it off, blamed it on still not feeling well, and moved on.  Seriously, if you can barely get out of bed, how could you be expected to exercise?
  * In 2012 I went to my psychiatrist for the first time.  She asked what I weighed.  I said about 200 pounds, which was hard enough to say.  But it wasn't even true.  Because I had just recently had a physical and the scale said 206.  Stupid scale.  But I wrote some of that off as premenstrual water retention.  You know what I mean; right, ladies?
  * And now, three years later, I weigh 216 pounds and wear size 16 jeans.  Like I said, I had a hysterectomy.  So the excuse of premenstrual water retention is off the table.  I am finally able to move enough to clean my house and function almost like a real human being.  And I know how to do it.  I really have no excuses anymore.  (Well, I still have some flat in bed moments.  But I could work out on the other days.  Which I don't.)

So here's my action plan.  Eat better.  Move.  That's it.  It's more defined in my head, but that's the gist of it.

I don't intend for my blog to suddenly become a weight loss blog.  I may or may not report as things progress (because they will progress, dang it!).  And I don't have a before shot of my body.  Honestly, my fat body hasn't been what's bothered me most or kept me from being in pictures.

It's my fat face.

You can hide your body behind other people, but if you hide your face there's really no reason to be in a photo.  And I've got a big head - like 7 3/8 big.  So when I'm in a photo with other people, my head dwarfs theirs.  I look like Andre the giant.  That was even true before I got so fat.  (Luckily, my husband's head is even bigger than mine.  Thanks, honey.)

But I'm ready to own it.  I'm ready to move on.  And in order to move on, I have to acknowledge where I came from.  So here are some of those photos.  (Sorry I don't have better photos.  Not only do I hide from the camera, but I also haven't digitized many.)

My wedding day - 1990, 25 years ago.  This is the oldest digital photo I had of myself that you could see my face in.  This was two years after I graduated.  I think my face looks pretty good here.
Five kids later - probably early 1999, 16 years ago.  I'm not thrilled with my look here.  My hair is pulled up in my "softball/cleaning" ponytail; not super flattering.  But there's no double chin yet.
I'm guessing this is about five or so years later - let's say 1994, 11 years ago.  See how I'm throwing my head back.  At this point I'd started to notice a double chin in photos and was trying to avoid that.
2009 - 6 years ago.  My daughters are super cute, but that's about the only thing I like about this photo.  See how I'm hiding behind them?  Still trying to tip my head up and back a little?  See those flabby arms?  See that double chin?  Yeah, not cool.  But I got in the photo.  For that, I'm proud of myself.
2011 - 5 years ago.  By this time I'd decided I needed to start being in some of the photos.  I'd also learned that being cheesy in a photo made it less bothersome when I didn't look great.  Okay, I look kind of like a drowned rat here because of the rain, but also notice how round my face has gotten.
2012 - 4 years ago.  This is a photo I both love and hate.  It's a picture of me teaching at church, which is something I absolutely love to do.  It was a wonderful time in my life and I'm glad I have a record of it.  But, seriously, can you believe how fat my face is?  How fat I am?  Oh, my heck!  I about cried when I saw it.
2013 - 2 years ago.  Hiding behind someone again.  Tilting my head away and back a bit to try to hide that double chin.  Failing miserably - Ugh.  That double chin.
2014 - last year.  I'm kind of proud of myself for just letting the shot happen.  I'm not hiding or tilting my head back.  I've come a long way toward acceptance of my true body size by this time.  But, oh, how huge my head is.
2015 - last week.  This is me now.  I voluntarily took a photo of my face and put it on facebook.  I own it.  This is me.  I'm a fat girl.
I'm ready to move forward.  No, I don't want your help.  Yes, I'd love your support.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Talk with My Dad

Open, honest, heartfelt communication has never been a thing in my family.  Especially with my dad.  He's always been very honest and direct, but never touchy-feely.  When I was young, he was emotionally abusive and I was very scared of him.  There are times even now when I am scared of how he will react to something and am not truthful with him because of it.  He's 72 and I'm 45.  I thought I'd be over that by now, especially with nearly ten years of therapy off and on.

All of that is so you'll understand what a big deal this story is.  My dad is my mom's primary caregiver.  I'm her secondary caregiver.  She isn't currently diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's, but we've been helping her care for herself for about five years now.

The other day I was finally able to sit with my dad and have an open, honest, heartfelt discussion about how my mom is really doing!  I'm so proud of myself for that.  It was very difficult, but I did it.  For me!  Because I needed it.

I worried that he didn't think she was as bad as I do (and everyone else does).  I worried that he still thought if she could just get off all the meds she takes she'd be okay.

But that's not the case.  He did not flinch when I said I thought she was in the early stages of dementia.  (Trust me, if he disagreed with me he would have said so and probably told me I was stupid to think so.)  He is an old cowboy and really doesn't get stressed.  He just rolls with things.  He suggested the best way to deal with the situation is to just take it as it is and not be sad about it.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could do that like him?

The last time he left town (for a much needed respite, a golf tournament with my brother, which I fully supported), things were the worst they've ever been with my mom.  My adult daughters were supposed to stay with her and take care of her.  (Before that week, all that would have meant was driving her around, helping her get food, and maybe doing some laundry or shopping for her.)  But she was in severe pain, needed an MRI (which I took her to) - which made her pain worse because of the way the technician adjusted her, and tried pain pill after pain pill to get some relief while waiting for her appointment for an epidural injection.  Her anxiety was through the roof.  Because things got so bad, my girls were not enough.  She needed me, like a scared toddler needs her mom.  She was clingy and scared.  All of a sudden I needed to be with her 24-hours a day, including having her take over my bedroom and sleep in my bed because she emotionally couldn't go home (she has some PTSD issues with that house which flare when she's bad).  It was a horrible week that broke me time and time again.

Because of our lack of open communication, I never told my dad how hard it was on me.  But someone did, because during our open conversation I could tell he knew and is doing what he can to not leave her again.

I was able to tell him, very honestly, that I think I could do it without it being nearly so bad now.  My perspective has shifted.  First off, it wouldn't hit me out of the blue.  Now, if he has to leave town and leaves one of my daughters in charge, I will schedule my life knowing I might have to take over at any time (including always having a bag packed, ready to stay with her for a couple of days at the drop of a hat).  But most importantly, I've learned to see the things she does as the illness, not her.  She isn't the one making my life hell, the illness is.  She isn't the one yelling at me, the illness is.  She isn't the one refusing to cooperate and follow through on the things she said she wanted to do that I worked so hard to make happen, the illness is.  That really helps.

Thinking of myself as her caretaker has changed things.  Choosing to be her caretaker, because she's my mom and I want to help, has made all the difference.

She may not ever be diagnosed, as long as my dad is alive and fully able to care for her.  He said he doesn't see any point in it.  He doesn't want to know what's coming; he'd rather just face it when it does.  Why spend more time worrying?  I'm a planner.  I would like to know what's coming so I can be ready.  But I can honor how he feels.  All the testing would be so hard on her.  She really struggles when she has to have any kind of testing done or make it to doctor's appointments.  And I understand what he's saying about just living where we are in the present moment.

So he can stay there, and I'll do my research.  I've joined a group on Facebook for people with dementia and/or caregivers of those with dementia.   This group is about information and support.  Mostly support.  And sharing their stories, which help me and others find possible solutions for those moments that leave us frantic.  And answering questions of those who are now where they've already been.  I read what they write and try to remember it for the future.  I can see so much of what they say in my mom.  This group has already helped me so much.  They strengthen me through the dark times.  It helps to understand more what it is.  It helps to see some of what may be coming.  It helps to hear them speak with concern for their loved ones when I'm just feeling put upon.  But mostly, it helps to know I'm not alone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Am I Doing On My New Medication?

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II on October 30, 2014.  Within a week I was on a mood stabilizer.  My primary reason for this post is to examine how that's working for me. 

However, that's not the only major change recently, so I offer this background on my health and meds.  While I have no way of knowing for sure what treatment caused what effect, my gut tells me.  So I will tell you what my gut says (knowing I could be completely incorrect).

Each morning I take:
  • A multivitamin for women over fifty - even though I am forty-five, because the complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy I had last year put me into instant menopause
  • Vitamin D - because I don't get nearly enough sunshine and it can help with depression, especially during the winter (which it feels like we didn't even have here in Utah, oh well)
  • Estrogen - because I am in menopause an estimated ten years early and my doctor wants to protect my bones and I don't like the idea of breaking a hip when I fall
  • Gabapentin - which is often prescribed for anxiety, but that's not why I take it; sometimes my skin hurts for no reason, and gabapentin can help with neuropathic pain; I've been on it since April of 2014, I think;  does it work?  I'm not sure; my skin was hurting a lot over the last week; it feels like a first degree burn, but there is no discoloration and I haven't been burned; I'm going to talk to the doctor about getting off this one at my next physical
  • Lamictal - the mood stabilizer I've been on since the first week of November, 2014; the reason for this post
Each afternoon I take:
  • Gabapentin
  • Vitamin D
  • Omeprazole - a proton pump inhibitor that I take for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); otherwise I often have stomach acid that comes up my throat and makes it so I have a chronic cough, chronic sore throat, chronic hoarse voice, and so I can't sleep; without this medication it will often wake me with a burning in my throat that can't be soothed
Each evening I take:
  • Gabapentin
  • Melatonin - because I don't sleep well, like at all; I need all the help I can get, but everything else I've tried leaves me super groggy the next day; and melatonin is what our bodies naturally produce to induce sleep
  • Armour Thyroid - which is pig thyroid glands "dried and powdered for therapeutic use" (according to Wikipedia); I take this because I have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid doesn't do it's job very well anymore; I used to take a synthetic thyroid medication but never felt better on it; I found out about this through a thyroid health group on facebook; I had to fight my doctor for it because it isn't as consistent a dose as synthetic, but I have felt better on it; I started this in April of 2014
(I also have Xanax that I take for occasional anxiety and Meclizine that I take for occasional dizziness and nausea associated with my headaches.)

So as you can see, I have gone through many health changes over the last year.  How would I compare where I am now to where I was a year ago?  I am better.  Much better.

I do not have the constant, intense pelvic pain I had before my hysterectomy.  I have more energy on the new thyroid meds, although still subpar for sure; I can get out of bed and do things more often than before.  I don't go through intense PMDD/PMS every month; my moods are more in flow with what's actually happening in my life instead of attacking me out of nowhere.

But, most significantly, I haven't had any episodes of severe depression since I started the mood stabilizer.  I was initially put on it to control the hypomanic episodes that can come because of Bipolar II.  Those were hard to give up.  They were days of extra energy, lots of extra energy, when I didn't need sleep and could get lots done - all the stuff I didn't have the energy to do most days.  When I first met with my psychiatrist I asked her why I would want to give those up when they're so great.  She told me they cause brain damage.  Oh.  Okay.  I'll give them up.

As I researched Lamictal I read that it can often have the side effect of also helping depression.  I held a tiny spark of hope that this would happen, but not much.  I've tried so many meds for depression over the years and had so much therapy, but none of it took away the depression for good.  The meds didn't work at all or made me suicidal.  And the therapy could sometimes get me through a tough moment if my appointment happened to hit during an episode.  But usually the black dog (as depression is referred to by those who suffer) would just come out of nowhere and pin me to the ground.  And I just tried to survive until he let me up again.  I couldn't fight him off.  I just had to wait until he was done with me and moved on.

Since I have been on the Lamictal I have not been pinned to the ground by the black dog.  Not once.  He's chewed on my leg on several occasions, but I haven't gone completely dark at all.  There was one time when I'd say he knocked me to the ground pretty hard, but that was situational, and I recovered from it much more quickly than I normally would have.

So here's the deal.  And I hate to say it for fear of jinxing it.  But I believe the Lamictal is helping with my depression.  For real.  And it's kind of amazing.

Just as my psychiatrist said it should work, I have ups and downs, but they aren't as high or as deep as they were before.

And there's still a part of me waiting for it to come back and hit me in the head.  I've sometimes gone through long periods without depression before, only to be dragged down again; what if this is just one of those?  Depression has been a part of my life since I was a teenager.  The idea that it could finally be under control is something that's difficult for me to wrap my brain around.  I feel like it's an "I feel better so far, but we'll see how it plays out" thing.

And there's a part of me that doesn't want it to completely work.  Depression is part of my self-definition.  It's part of who I am.  If it works, I will have to learn to be me all over again.