My Journey with Food Addiction (part 1)

It’s said that knowledge is power and when it comes to food addiction and me, that saying is so true.

Here is a decent explanation of Food Addiction and how it relates to me…….(just click on the underlined words)

I’ve struggled with my weight for a really long time…..I’ve had issue with food for even longer. I remember sitting down as a child/preteen/teenager and pounding back cookies or chocolate bars or candy or to a lesser degree chips…..any kind of junk food specifically those with sugar and/or flour.

I’ve never really understood people who could take “just one”. As far back as I can remember, it was kind of an all or nothing deal. If I had a bag of M&M’s….I’d eat until they were gone…..and it was never the small bag – always the BIG ONES. I’d never just buy 1 chocolate bar…it was 3 or 4. I’d grab a handful of cookies and most likely head back for a second or third handful.

While I was a teenager, it never seemed that big of a deal because I was a tall, big framed person and weight wasn’t ever an issue for me.

I was 170lbs when I got married and definitely was not overweight by visual standards.

I still struggle because according to different standards like the BMI or other weight calculators, I was overweight based on my height vs weight ratio….but in no way was I overweight back then……I was thin, I modeled. I firmly believe those standards are flawed…

As far as my weight goes, I did ok until after I had my second child and then things started changing……I didn’t lose the weight as fast as I did after having Angelica. Literally, 10 days after having Geli, I was back in my pre-pregancy clothes and I could see my hip bones and everything. It was not the same after having Alexandra and from then on I began to actually “struggle” with my weight.

But this whole issue is about SO MUCH MORE than weight……and that’s where the “knowledge is power” aspect really comes into play for me.

I remember my sister telling me about a friend of hers who was eating a certain way and she briefly mentioned “food addiction” when she was telling me about this “way of eating”. I briefly looked into it but mostly because I was desperate to lose weight. I didn’t particularly “like” the food eating plan and so I dismissed it…..after all, I wasn’t an addict and I most certainly wasn’t addicted to food…I only had 10 pounds to lose and then I’d be happy……

I’ve spent a huge portion of the last 20 years dieting or eating according to a “food program”. I’ve eaten low carb, sugar free, fast metabolism, 3 day diet, and so many more gimmicky eating plans to try and lose weight. And while some of them worked for a bit, in the end……I’ve gained the weight back and felt more miserable and like a HUGE failure on top of it all.

I think that there have been 2 periods of time over the last almost 20 years where I’ve been close to a healthy weight. Neither lasted very long and between the different traumas and stresses in our lives, its been a brutal battle.

2014 has been an extremely difficult year for me and yet……..it’s been an amazing year.

We are exhausted.

And that’s putting it mildly.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve had numerous job changes and losses, a stillbirth, 2 second trimester losses, an early miscarriage, the long desired arrival of Josiah, a crazy long, difficult and exhausting journey to an Autism Diagnosis, children with special needs, cancer and the birth of our sweet Judah in the middle of it, serious Mental Health Issues, and 2 BIG house moves…..there is more that I’ve not accounted for, but that’s enough….it’s just too much. We are tapped out.

I feel like I’ve been fighting a battle for a long time. I have been…….. but what’s worse is that I really didn’t understand what or who I was fighting.

Earlier this year, I committed to 100 days of investing in myself. When I look back, I see that I was searching for answers and that I was close to finding them but just not quite there….

See, in the past, my focus has been for the quick fix….

– If I lose 10 pounds, I’ll be happier and then I can go back to doing whatever I want.

– Ok, realistically, I should lose 20 pounds, but that’s a lot and so difficult so if I eat no/low carb for a few weeks, I should loose a ton of weight, and then I’ll be happy and be able to do whatever I want.

– OK!!!! So I should probably be REALLY SERIOUS and just go for an entire month and hopefully lose more than 20 lbs and then I’ll be happy and can do whatever I want……….

It was all about losing the weight as fast as possible – which for me typically meant no sugar, no fruit, no carbs……just veggies and protein….and then something would happen and I’d “cheat”………. cause everyone deserves a cheat now and then, especially when you’re being SO GOOD. That cheat would typically turn into more than just a little treat and BAM…….soon I’d be stuffing my face with whatever I could find.

The “100 Days” challenge was difficult for me and yet amazing, when I look back on it. I’d decided that it needed to be more than a quick fix. I needed something longer term, because the quick fixes were not working. I needed a shift from “short term/quick fix” thinking to something that was more a “lifestyle/long term” plan.

So I started back in February….on Valentines Day to be exact…. my plan was no sugar, no gluten, low carb, only natural foods that I could eat in whole form or combine to make something. I’d started running in 2013 and planned on combining that exercise with my food eating plan to be able to lose weight and really get control of my life which felt so chaotic and out of control.

It started out pretty good. I started 2014 at 230 lbs…..

Towards the end of March, I was doing pretty good. I was down to 208 lbs. I’d run over 100 km in the month of March….and then I stalled.

March-April-May…nothing shifted and I was getting frustrated. I started eating things that were outside of my chosen allowable foods and my running slowed down and by the start of summer….I crashed. it probably didn’t help that I was anemic over the summer.

Summer of 2014 was an absolute out-of-control, gong show. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I didn’t exercise. I felt lousy. I was trying to just survive. It was so bad, that even walking upstairs to my bedroom was a colossal effort and so once I came down stairs, I avoided going back up until I had too. Lotta couch time over the summer and anything I did do, came at a huge price as I’d crash the next day.

Every time I walk upstairs now, I flash back to how bad it was over the summer and I’m amazed at the difference from then till now. It’s pretty drastic. I went up on my anxiety meds and even added another one into the mix. There were days that I contemplated hospitalizing myself because I could not get the anxious thought under control and I’d spend the entire day fighting thoughts….crying…..it was pretty bad.

September’s are always like a new year for me….a new start……so I kept looking forward to September and the kids going back to school and routine and…….when it came…..everything was still brutally difficult and nothing changed except that I didn’t have the kids home all day…..I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t. I was so exhausted. Just existing was difficult….it was bad!

I went to give blood in September. I’ve been donating blood since I was 18 and while it’s not been as regular as I’d like and been broken up by pregnancy, breastfeeding, and different meds that I’ve been on….I could finally give and so I did….only to be denied because my hemoglobin was too low. While at the time I felt pretty embarrassed to be denied, that was the start of something amazing…….like the catalyst that kick started this next phase in my life.

I went to my dr and asked for some blood work. I started taking iron…..went and saw my naturopath, got a few supplements…… Finally towards the end of October, I started to feel a bit better.

I honestly cant remember why or how the whole concept of food addiction came to me but right at that same time, I started doing some serious research and reading about food addiction.

It was like my whole world exploded into tiny shards of hope and shame, exhilaration and denial…….

What does THAT even mean?

I mentioned that I felt depressed about my life yesterday.

I thought I might take a moment to clarify what exactly that looks like, feels like and means to me.

I ran into someone yesterday who had read yesterday’s post and gently asked me how I was doing. I threw something back at them saying that I was ok and that I was just keeping on, keeping on.

Anxiety speaking here: I’m not sure if they were expecting me to be a huge mess of tears, or if they were thinking that I’d be fragile, or really off, or shaken, or…..maybe they were thinking none of the above and that’s just the anxiety saying that they were “thinking” or “expecting” something.

Regardless, it got me thinking….because I’ve written posts before and had people very cautiously approach me wanting to cancel a get-together that was planned because it might be too much for me, or talking to me as if I couldn’t handle things and they were not wanting to upset my delicate balance.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate people’s care and concern……NO! Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. I feel so cared for and supported and loved, when people care enough to step outside of the emotional distance that we, as humans, like to hold ourselves to and try to bridge over into my problems and stresses. It’s HUGE and I’m so grateful.

On one hand, I don’t like to appear weak, on the other hand, I don’t like to be needy, but so often I am both weak and needy……..and I’m recognizing that having a “community” or a “family” that can help to lift you up and carry you when you feel exhausted or worn down, is an incredible, INCREDIBLE thing.

When I share about feeling depressed about my life…….I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a tough place and I don’t have a clear vision as to how to move from this difficult place into a better place. I don’t like NOT KNOWING……..I like to have a plan, to be in control, to be working towards a goal, to be able to make things better……

There are somethings in my life that I cannot change. I cannot remove the emotional or physical marks that cancer has left on every person in my family. I cannot remove the anxiety that all 5 of my children seem to deal with in varying degrees, from severe and debilitating to mild. I cannot change the fact that autism is a very real, exhausting and difficult neurological disorder that we deal with, as an entire family, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I cannot change the fact that ADHD has impacted 4 of my family members intimately and the trickle down effect of that disorder effects the rest of us.

I can’t “just fix” those things. They are here. They are real. They require HUGE amounts of effort mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They affect each interpersonal relationship within my immediate family and many outside of my family.

There are moments when “the reality” of my life seems WAY. TOO. REAL…….and my options are to keep on keeping on….or give up.

I cannot give up.

I mean, I could. That was something that my counselor said to me at one point. I could give up. I could check out. I could run away or end up in a hospital somewhere…..unable to “handle” things and that it was my choice to carry on.

I think she was trying to tell me that I “held power” in my situation and that many people did/do check out and that I was doing well, in the fact that I still had the ability to CHOOSE to carry on.

I think I get what she was saying and yet……oh there is always a yet or a but, isn’t there……..I don’t feel that giving up is an option. Yes, somedays, it’s all I can do to just get up and get dressed and put my make up on……

That’s my thing…..my gimmick…..the one thing that signals to me that the show must go on….if I get up and get dressed in real clothes (not pyjama wanna-be’s) and do my hair and make up……..then I accomplish so much more. Very rarely, do I ever, stay in pyjamas and not do my hair and make up. I get “ZILCH” done on those days and I simply cannot afford to not accomplish things……

The 2.5 years of cancer treatment was brutal. It taxed me to my extreme limits as a person, and definitely as a parent. I am still not recovered from the toll that it took on me.

I find that I feel a bit like I am a hollow egg (Humpty Dumpty, if you will). I have a very thin and fragile shell and as long as things don’t shake me or bump me, I exert every bit of energy that I have to hold my broken and cracked self together. One little bump and the precariously balanced pieces start to fall. I fall apart……

Jeremy has a bad Autistic day……….BUMP!
Geli has an emotional day relating back to cancer crap………BUMP!
Josiah has an ADHD frustration flip out…….BUMP!
Judah is 3 (enough said)………BUMP!
Xani experiences extreme anxiety for unexplained reasons…….BUMP!

So many bumps……so much energy expended trying to keep all the pieces in place…..so many pieces falling…..so little left at the end of the day.

I can’t make these things go away, and so I must learn how to live and carry on and continue with pieces of myself broken and fallen apart.

Some of it will get better….or at the very least different, with time. Some of it will never go away, but the kids will grow up and learn coping skills. And my hope, my prayer, is that I do a good enough job of training these amazing blessings of mine how to deal with life’s challenges with grace and dignity; and how to keep on keeping on even when you are unsure of how to proceed and what the best course of action is…..

But………

………sometimes, the enormity of my job weighs heavy on me. Sometimes, I’m unsure how to best help these ones I love so dearly. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the emotional or physical strength to deal with “even one more issue”(…and there is always “one more issue”). And then I feel discouraged…….

We have had a few BIG BUMPS recently. Ones that I’d love to share, but it’s just not the right time…….and the added pressure and stress weighs very heavy and makes “coping” that much more difficult. And so here is where I am at today……..

I’m dressed. I have my make-up on and my hair done(sorts of, if a messy pony tail counts…). The kids are off to school, except for Geli – who is still feeling sick (Thanks to Xani for bringing home a stinking bug from New York) and Judah. I’m needing to make a list and see what I can actually get done today. I know I have a mountain (probably 8 large loads) of laundry to fold, sort and put away. I know the main floor is a disaster and the kitchen needs to get put right. If I can accomplish any (not all, but ANY……) of that before the kids come home; as well as planning dinner for Angelica’s 17th Birthday (which is today) I will consider today a success. I have LOW standards…..

So, my “feelings of depression” are an exhaustion, a feeling of uncertainty and brief moments of hopelessness, a sense of constant pressure and chaos, an insecurity of my abilities to adequately parent these amazing children who have been presented with striking challenges to overcome……it’s a little bit of acknowledging a desire for some easy days, yet not wanting to stay in a place of discontent with my life, because that helps no one. It’s a tough place. At times it’s a wonderful place…..but right now, it’s mostly a tough place.

It won’t stay that way forever. I know that I’ll feel stronger and stronger again….I always do, but it is tough.

I would encourage you to look around you and encourage each other…..it doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent by choice or by circumstance, or whether you have special needs children or a child with a long term or chronic illness, whether you have a difficult or challenging child(ren) or need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, whether you or your loved ones struggle with any kind of mental illness or disability, or whether you seem to have a fairly smooth go of things at the moment……

Be Kind.
Be Compassionate.
Be Loving.
Be Encouraging.
Be Understanding.
Be Gracious.
Be Merciful.
Be Caring.

Understand that everyone is doing their best, and while “our bests” may differ depending on our circumstances and experiences and abilities……..be gentle with each other. Your care and support may make the difference in someones life today.

Moving Forward The Morning After

So I posted last night…..

I was tired and emotional and probably if those two factors had not ganged up on me….I may have filtered myself a bit more or even just made less typos…..maybe….maybe not?!?

I don’t know that this morning brought any new clarity with it.

I woke up with a killer headache……….at 5:30am.

Yah, it’s been a long day already and it’s only noon-ish. Did not get back to sleep after that. BLERGH!!!!

On a side note….It’s gorgeous outside.

That is the view to my right….

and this is my view straight ahead…..

She’s not supposed to be on the couch….but I haven’t exactly kicked her off.

It’s the last day of school before the Christmas Break….and probably my last quiet (ish) day for the next two weeks.

So, I’m taking advantage of it. I’m sitting. The house is a mess, and I made Judah pancakes for lunch. He is currently trolling Netflix….I believe Ninjago is the show of choice at this exact moment.

I’m currently staring at my Christmas Tree trying to figure out what I’m thinking, but again with the 50 million thoughts going in 50 million directions.

I had a few people send me private messages of encouragement and those were so nice to hear.

I wonder if it’s about perspective.

I’m in the middle of it all. From my position, I look around me and I see children who are unique and amazing and challenging in their own fantastic ways. I see the screaming and the bickering and the squabbling and the challenges to get them to do their chores and take care of their responsibilities. I see their shortcomings and I want to work with them to strengthen those areas while at the same time encouraging them in their strengths. I see these amazing individuals with really great hearts even in spite of all the challenges that we’ve faced individually and as a family……. But it’s a constant effort to keep these 5 bodies moving in a forward direction.

We were so isolated over the “cancer years” and before then….doing almost anything with Jeremy required HERCULEAN effort and sometimes it was easier to just not do anything. Again…..very isolating.

It is hard when you’ve had it said to your face that people can’t be friends with you because your child is too difficult. Or to hear from others that you shouldn’t subject your children to people because they are too much effort to have around and be around.

Just typing both of those down….I realize how brutal those two comments are. I mean, I know how brutal they are….I’ve lived though both of those said directly to my face and more. But I can’t imagine saying those things to someone…..EVER!!! I love children. I especially love the challenging kids. The ones that make you think and keep you on your toes. The extremely smart kids that say the most incredible things but require a little more attention and focus……I love the regular kind of kids too, but somehow, the ones that people seem annoyed with or bothered by….the ones that talk and talk and talk and talk and never shut up……I LOVE those kids. I want to go out of my way to make sure that they feel special and included and NEVER EVER a bother or an inconvenience….

I get it. I know how much effort it is. I live it…..EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Jeremy has not been the easiest child. He requires some effort. Well, he requires a lot amount of effort. So does Josiah in a different way and Judah….well, he’s a 3 year old. What 3 year old doesn’t require some attention and effort. My boys require effort……I know this. I guess, it would just feel really good to feel like others “want” to be with my kids. Do you know what I mean? I think that in spite of their particular challenges or maybe even as a result of them….that my kids……all 5 of them are pretty amazing. I’d love to feel like others felt that too and wanted to spend time with them….not cause they HAD to, but because they WANTED to.

So, to those who have said something…..THANK YOU. Really! I appreciate it more than you may ever know.

I’m not sharing this in the hopes that people will “do” something. I am just trying to unravel some of this mess inside myself. Part of that is dealing with the hurts and wounds that I have or have gotten.

I realize that I’ve been hurt and I definitely have some sore, open wounds when it comes to my kids and how they are perceived and received.

And this OBVIOUSLY colors how I hear people comment on my kids.

So the school wanting to help Siah….turns into….HE’S A PROBLEM…..which I can’t even fathom….cause he’s freaking sweet kid who can read and write and wants to please…….and then I go…WHAT….WHAT do I even do with that….

How could be he a problem…..which, when it comes down to it….that is not even the issue at all.

He is a great kid….who has some quirks and may require “some individualized strategies” to help him succeed and how do we (parents & school) as a collective team help him to achieve success?

So we met, and talked through some things and I think I have a better perspective. I think we are more on the same page than I “felt”.

Which is great.

Not that the whole things doesn’t still stress me out….but the Principal….she’s an amazing lady, encouraged me to trust them and to just “plug my nose and JUMP!”

I believe this school and these people are amazing people…..I believe they truly care about Josiah. I really do believe that they want the best for him. That they want him to succeed. And so…..I jump.

I’m scared.
I’m nervous.
I’m sure I’ll need reassurance again.

But…..

I want to trust.
I want to believe.
I want to be in “community.”

and so….

I carry on…

one step after the other…..hopefully in a forward direction. 🙂

Let’s Talk About Mental Health Issues……

I’m frustrated with the whole concept of guilt and Mental Health.

I, in no way, have all the answers; and on most days I question whether I have any answers. What I do know is that I deal with anxiety and have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that I was fearless as a child and so, I’m not exactly sure what happened, because I don’t really have any concrete memories where I wasn’t dealing with anxiety.

At least 3 of my kids deal with some level of anxiety and Jeremy is also dealing with ADHD, Executive Function Disorder, Learning Disability and Autism. All of those fall under the “Mental Health” umbrella. They all have areas of “Brain Disfunction.” In my mind, that means there are areas where the brain is not functioning in a Neuro-typical way. I do understand that there are many who don’t want autism classified as a mental health disorder because it is usually thought of as being a genetically predetermined disorder, and there is a certain amount of “shame” associated with mental illness or mental disorders.

I choose to think differently about the whole concept of Mental Health.

I deal with any physical health issues for myself or my children in a completely non-guilty manner. If myself or one of the kids has a cold, or a broken bone or some other physical ailment, I don’t feel guilty taking them in to see our Family Dr or a specialist, if needed. Why then, if myself or one of the kids are dealing with Mental Health Issues, should it be any different?

In my mind, it shouldn’t be any different at all.

If my car needs a tune up. I get it done. If my house needs a hose for the water tank, we get it done. If our clothes are in need of repair or replacement, then I take care of it. Why do we take care of our physical bodies and our belongings, but hesitate when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

We, often, hesitate to talk about it openly and freely. Sometimes we hesitate to even admit it to ourselves. It’s a tricky subject and not one that everyone understands or even cares to try to understand, but Mental Health and Mental Illness are not going anywhere.

I’m trying to raise my kids to understand that Mental Health is as important as Physical Health. It’s important to take care of your mental/emotional state; and it’s important to take care of your physical state.

If I needed insulin because my body never produced it, or it produced a very small amount……would that make me “less” in some way. Would it mean that I was broken and not as valuable or worthy as someone else who didn’t need insulin shots? So what if I need extra seratonin in my brain, for either a while or even forever……I don’t see how the two are different. What if genetically, I don’t produce as much as you do? Or what if I experienced some traumatic event in my life and the stress has negatively affected my body in such a way that I needed some help, in the form of seratonin or any other mental health drug…….why is that any different than needing insulin or any other drug.

I don’t see that it is.

In my family, there seems to be a huge history of anxiety and depression. I have also experienced a stillbirth, 4 pregnancy losses and cancer, as well as dealing with a child/children with special needs. So whether it’s genetically predispositioned or because of some life trauma…..I don’t know.

What I do know, is that being on medicine has helped “ME.” I’m not advocating that everyone needs to be on meds. Because if you can deal with your mental health issues through counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy….then awesome….but by doing that, you are still “taking care of” your mental health.

For the first time in my life, that I can remember, I feel like the inside of me matches the outside of me. It’s crazy hard to explain, but I will try. I’ve had many people not believe or understand that I was anxious (as a teen or young adult) because I seemed so confident and in control. I think that must be where my kids get it from. They seem to hold themselves (mostly) together when they are at school or church or “out” and then when they get home, they feel comfortable enough to “fall apart”.

I don’t know that I did a lot of “falling apart” but I did use “control” as a method of dealing with how “out of control” I felt. I felt that I needed to control my situations, the people around me and myself in order to feel safe. It got to the point where my “control issues” were hurting my relationships. And yet, I didn’t understand “why” I felt the need to “control” everything. I just knew that I felt safer when I knew exactly what to expect.

I did believe that I was a good person and yet a part of me didn’t believe that. I believed I was a good friend and yet the insecurity and anxieties held me back from actually “being a good friend.” I thought I could do things like “sing” and yet I could never put myself fully “out there” because I couldn’t possibly be good enough and what if I made a mistake…..what would people think of me. I know that lots of people deal with a certain amount of insecurity and I don’t know that I can fully explain just how it felt inside of me. But imagine if you thought you were good enough but then you weren’t really sure if you could believe yourself…..and if you were so unsure then maybe you really weren’t good enough. Throw in some perfection issues which meant that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do ANYTHING you weren’t absolutely certain that you could do with 100% accuracy and confidence………and that pretty much left you not doing much at all. You wanted to do “stuff” but unless you could control the situation and knew exactly what to to expect and exactly what people’s reactions would be and exactly what the outcome would be……….which having all of that fall into place for any specific event, was pretty much an impossibility and if it did…..you came across so confident that no one would ever guess that you were dealing with insecurity and anxiety……and throw on top of that whole mess, that you never wanted to come across as anything less than confident and so you were exhausted all the time just trying to hold yourself together so that you could come across “PERFECTLY” because anything less than perfection was failure and “FAILURE” was never acceptable and basically you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

Knowing what I went through as a teenager/adult, and then when I finally figured out that I was dealing with “anxiety”, feeling so relieved and yet angry and grieved over all the lost time………I am strongly advocating for my children’s Mental Health when necessary.

I look back at my teenage years when I didn’t feel strong enough or worthy enough or acceptable enough to do things like, go to college or university. I figured that I was good at looking after kids and so rather than do things I was interested in, like music or teaching or even in the medical field….I took whatever jobs fell into my lap, got married and had kids. I was too scared to do anything else.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I’m not unhappy with my life, and yet…..I could have done things differently. I’ve shared this with people before and I usually hear something like, “We all feel insecure and regretful of the things we wish we had done but didn’t do.” This is different. I’m talking about life crippling anxiety. Like there where things I wanted to do and yet was SO scared to do them that even the thought of doing it stressed me out, and so I did what felt safe.

I’ve lived my entire life, up until now…..only doing things that felt safe……and that doesn’t seem like a huge list of things, especially compared to things that I have dreamed about doing over the years.

I’ve accomplished a fair amount in my 38 years but I’ve dreamed of accomplishing so much more. I’ve just discarded those dreams because I wasn’t good enough, or people would think I was stupid for wanting to do those things. I believed the lie that others could do it better than me and I shouldn’t even try in case I failed. Because failing is one of the worst things ever. I believed that. I’ve believed that for so many years and I hate it.

This is why I’m a HUGE advocate for my kids and their mental health. I’ve pushed my kids beyond every “limitation” that I’ve had that has held me back. I’ve explained why I’m pushing them into uncomfortable situations. I’ve had them ask for things from adults/teachers/doctors/etc. when they felt uncomfortable doing so. Discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you tried and for whatever reason it didn’t work out, this time……..and that’s ok.

Never try, never win
never get a break
You miss a hundred percent of the
shots you never take

Hedley came out with this song and it’s been HUGE for me……

I’m a lot more open now. I say “yes”, when everything in me wants to say “no”, because “NO” is safe. I don’t mean that I say yes to everything. I’m still in recovery mode from the 2.5 years of cancer treatment and the havoc that wreaked on me. But, I will honestly assess my stress level, versus just saying “NO” because I’m scared. I ask myself if I’m allowing anxiety to hold me back from saying yes to something that I might actually want to do and even be good at. I try to be honest with myself about what I can do and what I can’t do, and to not view everything through the lenses of anxiety. I will even tell others that any hesitation they might sense from me is anxiety and I’m not willing to allow it to control or rule my life any longer.

Does this mean that all my days are good, confident days…..NOPE! Not at all. And when I’m having a particularly bad day – as far as anxiety goes – I am gentle with myself and honest with both myself and others as to how I am doing. Because I know that tomorrow is a new day and most likely I won’t feel the same. I have stronger days and weaker days, but now I know that I am “fighting” anxiety and that it’s not me……I’m not bad.

I am enough. I am good enough. I am strong enough. I am confident enough. I am enough.

I want my kids to believe that they are good enough and can do whatever they want. I want them to “go for” the things they want and so I advocate for them and I encourage them to advocate on their own behalf. We talk about strategies for dealing with “issues” and “insecurities” and “anxieties”. We use medication as an aid, if necessary, and we do it all without guilt. There is no guilt or shame in needing help…….whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

I am enough!
They are enough!
You are enough!

Letting Go

Sitting at the kitchen table, plopped down in the middle of a mess.

Staring at a blank screen…..

Smelling the herbs just picked from the garden and hung to dry……..

This has been a very different summer. Different than any we’ve ever had before. I’ve not written a lot. I gave myself the summer off. Well, if I’m honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted regularly. Stress is a funny thing, and by funny……. I guess I mean horrific.

Stress is a killer…..a killer of energy, a killer of focus, a killer of creativity…..

Even now, I have so many words floating through my brain and I’m not sure which ones to grab onto and which ones to banish and which ones to allow to continue to float around in there.

I’m doing a lot better than I was…….at least I think so. And yet, I’m not sure where I’m going.

Angelica came back from Camp Goodtimes (The camp put on by the Canadian Cancer Society) and was quite emotional as she shared with me how she was realizing that she could never “go back” to normal. There is no “going back”. There is no “picking up where we left off” or “getting back to where we were or the people we used to be”.

This is such a tough concept to grasp. There is so much grieving and letting go to do and it just keeps going on and on and on……so much so that this feels like the new normal and yet……I don’t like this. I don’t like this new me. I don’t like the me who is exhausted all the time. I don’t like the me who can’t organize and plan and arrange things instantly. I don’t like the me who forgets things and lets balls drop. I don’t like the me who can’t accomplish very much in a day.

I feel like I used to be SO. MUCH. BETTER. at everything. And recognizing that I’m no longer that person is a tough thing. I want to be that person. I want to be able to do more and organize more and think more and handle more and yet what I’m stuck with is SO. MUCH. LESS!!!!!

Less organizing, less tidy, less capable, less focused, less disciplined, less stable, less energy, less…….just SO. MUCH. LESS!

And I hate it!

And yet, what I feel that I need to do, is to recognize that the “Old Me” is “no longer……she was buried under a mountain of stress and cancer and grief and loneliness and exhaustion and……

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This…..the me sitting here right now with her scattered thoughts and messy table and even messier kitchen, with no clear schedule or plans or meal plan (that one really gets me – and yet everytime I sit down with my paper and pen….the blank sheet mocks me with my inability to “make it happen” and I put it all away and allow myself to get distracted by something else that doesn’t require so much thought or energy)…..the woman who prided herself on the healthy foods she fed her kids has been replaced by one who allows her kids to forage for cookies and tortilla chips or dry sugar cereal and calls that breakfast. This person is who I am now….this is what I have to work with…..and I find that so difficult.

I’m trying to accept her. To love her for all her faults. To recognize that for all the things she can no longer do or be…….that there are still things that make her incredible. I’m trying to love the fact that she is more compassionate than she has ever been, that she is more understanding and accepting of people, that she is less judgmental, less controlling. I’m trying to believe that there is good that has come from all of the bad and that even though there has been so much loss…..that there is still “gain” and yet its hard…..

When I see all I could do and to try to stack it up against what I can do now…….I fall so short.

It’s a tough concept….to let go of who you were and to accept who you are…..much more difficult than you’d think.

I’d like to think I’m getting there, but I’m still not sure I like this new me…..and yet, I can’t go back. I’m not even sure I’d want to.

Changes can be Good

So many new changes…

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We moved into our new home just over a week ago. The home itself is lovely and bright but the actual move just about did us in.

We have moved so many times over the past 18 years but this move was by far the absolute hardest…..even taking our move from Abbotsford to Langley after 10 years of living there.

I’m not exactly sure what made this move so horrific, but I’m almost positive that our “reserves” to be able to handle stress were non-existent and that made things so SO tough.

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We have things settled down to where we can sort of function but we are not actually “settled”. My room is a disaster with unopened boxes still stacked about and we are still trying to figure out how to place our furniture. It’s tough when everything had a place and now the layout has changed and you are not sure how to “Tetris” everything in. There is quite a bit of puzzling and re-arranging to try to fit 7 people and all of their stuff into a new space.

Jeremy is finally starting back into his regular homeschool routine after 2 weeks of chaos. We started a little bit at the end of last week just to ease him into it and then we hit the ground running this morning. Our “office/homeschool” room is still a bit chaotic but it’s coming along slowly.

One of the bigger changes around here, as if moving wasn’t enough, is that Siah is going to the local Elementary School. He started the first Monday that we moved. He’s been so excited. We had a big meeting with the school before we moved and then another “intake meeting”. That one was kind of rough because you are talking about all the ways your child struggles and will need help. Having a child with learning differences is not easy but having already gone through the Infant mental Health Clinic at BC Children’s has totally given us a leg up to be able to get him the help he needs.

It’s exciting to see him SO excited to go to school and meet new friends. Today he is going to attend until noon. They’ve started him attending slowly and are working up. We’ve gone from 1 hour last Monday to half a day today.

I’m shocked at how much it feels like I have “all this free time”. It’s quite a lot of work teaching two kiddos while supervising a third and trying to care for the home too.

So not only are we adjusting to a new home but also a new schooling balance. I’m excited and exhausted. Looking forward to spending the summer out on my deck and in the backyard.

Just trying to get through today…….that’s how my world feels right now. Just focused on today…….sometimes that’s all I can handle.

But I feel like this is a new beginning and I’m pretty excited. I have no idea what the future holds but for the first time in a long time……I’m feeling that we are headed in an upward direction. I feel like I can breathe. I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I’m tired but feel like we’ve crossed over from barely treading water to being able to rest and rejuvenate. It’s such a welcome feeling after the past 3 years.

Not like an elephant

My dad used to ask odd riddles. (I would never do that to my kids…) One of the riddles went like this: How do you carve an elephant out of a block of wood?  The answer is: You take a chisel to a block of wood and knock off anything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

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As dumb as that it, it’s relevant in raising a family in today’s world.  You have to know what your family is supposed to “look like” and knock off stuff that doesn’t look like that.  I guess its also like driving a car; after a while things just look like they are supposed to.  You can’t really explain why you stop before going through a green light, but something just doesn’t fit the normal and then a car runs a red light right in front of you.

This happened today for me with my daughter. Angelica has fought cancer, and now she is fighting to get back her strength and mobility.  She wants a car, she wants a job, and most of all she just wants to be normal (at least as ‘normal’ as one of my kids can be).

She is taking a class at school called ‘Planning’.  In this class they discuss all kinds of relevant stuff, like what skills will actually make you successful in the real world and how to think critically and how to prepare for a career and how to apply for a job.  This part is awesome!!!

In teaching the class, her teacher wants everything to be ‘real’. He wants them to make resumes with skills that they actually have, select a job from the local paper that they might actually apply for, write a cover letter for their tailored resume as if they were actually applying for that job, and then conduct a mock interview where you explain why you want the job and what your qualifications are.  This part is awesome!!!

The line was crossed for me when her teacher (name blurred to protect the well-meaning) told her that she couldn’t apply to be a “mother’s helper” because she can’t run after kids on a playground if they start to run away. Again, this is all in the name of making this exercise ‘real’, and I kind of understand the point.  This went back and forth a little bit, but today Angelica got this note:

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An alarm went off inside me… Now that I have processed it, written a response, received an apologetic call back from the teacher, I know perfectly well why this is bad, but I wrote the email before even fully thinking it through… I just knew it didn’t “look like an elephant”.  Here is my reply:

As per attached, I do not agree with this and I want it to stop immediately!

Angelica has fought cancer with every fiber of her being for over three years. It has been one of the most difficult things that I have seen a child go through. Angelica was very athletic and was talking about signing up for baseball before she was diagnosed with cancer. The most painful part of the treatment for Angelica was what it stole from her in terms of time and opportunity. Now she is in a place of working very hard to recover and we are constantly reinforcing for her that she can do anything.

In an attempt to make this job interview as real as possible, I believe that you have crossed a very sensitive and very real personal boundary. The facts of her “medical condition” have only been discussed at length with Mrs — and Mr —. By repeatedly questioning Angelica’s “mother’s helper” job application and telling her that she couldn’t do that job, you are 1) incorrect about her condition, 2) incorrect about what a mother’s helper job is, 3) acting in a manner that will be harmful to her recovery, and 4) breaking the spirit of my daughter.

  1. Her condition is such that she should avoid running or doing major impact, but is completely capable of it if needs be. I don’t believe that its really her responsibility or requirement to provide you all the details of her condition to take this class. If she says that she can be a mother’s helper, then you are in no position to say otherwise.
  2. We have employed a couple mother’s helpers in the past and it did not always include taking care of children. A mother’s helper may be required to do household chores so the mother (who is still in the home) can spend time with their child. A mother’s helper is not the same as a nanny as a nanny is left alone with the child and chores. If Angelica applied to be a mother’s helper to our family, and I knew what I know about her capabilities, I would hire her in a heartbeat.
  3. Angelica needs motivation to do all the physio that she is required to do. Her motivation right now is that she wants to buy a car, and she needs a job to do that, and she is doing her physio as hard as possible so that she can get an actual job as soon as possible. By making her focus on limitations (that aren’t actually there) you are taking away her motivation.
  4. Angelica, who holds her emotion in to her own detriment, has broken down in tears about this. She is getting the message from this process that she is not good enough, that she is broken, that she could never get a job. My daughter has the spirit of a fighter, and in fact she has fought through cancer to live. But it took a lot of effort on the part of us, her parents, school counselors, friends, neighbors and family to constantly encourage her to fight, to win. I did not tolerate negative reinforcement then, and I will not tolerate it now.

I believe that walking the kids through real world scenarios is VERY VERY good. I wish that I had been taught what it is to apply for and compete for a job when I was in school. I understand the motivation for making it real, but I ask you to step back from the “realism” in this area.

I was impressed when I read my own email. The teacher called me right away, immediately saw my point and has set out to amend the situation.  I wouldn’t always jump in to fight for my kids, but there are times when I do jump right away and I can’t really explain why… I just know what my family is supposed to look like and I’ll knock off anything that doesn’t look like it.

When do you jump in and fight for your kids, or let them fight for themselves?

Success and Anxiety

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So, I tried again tonight and YAY! I made it. I re-did Week 2 Day 3 of the “Couch to 5k” program AND…….did it with no problems. This is after not running for over a week…..almost two weeks? I’m not sure? I’m quite excited about that.

My knees feel tired but not injured which is good.

So Saturday, I’ll be attempting Week 3 Day 1…….which is a bit of a jump from this week but I’m trying to not worry about that.

I have been worrying quite a bit though. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that at the end of last year, I realized that I’ve been dealing with and fighting against anxiety, my whole life (for as long back as I can remember). Most specifically Social Anxiety but heck, if it can be worried or stressed about……most likely I’ve worried about it at some point in my life.

I went on Anti- Anxiety meds back at the end of November 2012. I was started on an extremely low dose and it made a HUGE difference. I don’t even know that I could fully explain (and most definitely not from mg phone – I’m posting from my phone……yah for the WordPress App) how much of a positive difference it made and how fast.

When I found out I was pregnant, at the beginning of January……to be honest, I felt devastated because it was best for the baby if I went off the meds. I had UNREAL amounts of anxiety for the twelve weeks that I was pregnant and would have been seeing a Reproductive Phsycologist this week had I still been pregnant. (That appt was to discuss the safest meds I could take that would still help me.)

Probably, had I not gone through the 2-2.5 stressful “cancer” years……I’d still be just plugging along; but those years really did a number on me. There is so much “fall out” from a family member going through something like that.

I started back on the meds as soon as I miscarried. I went back to my dr and checked in with him. It was all good and I made an appt for a follow up in 2 months from then.

But the meds don’t seem to be affecting me in quite the same way they did initially. I’m not sure if hormones are at play – my hormones always seem to be messed up after a miscarriage – or what the issue is but what I do know, is that I feel anxious. And it SUCKS!

I have an appt for Wednesday to talk about the possibility of a dosage increase…..but I’ll see what my Dr. says

It’s tough to feel anxious about stupid things. Things that really should make no difference and most people wouldn’t even give those things a second thought. Where as me……I fight those thoughts a third and fourth and fifth and even tenth time; and get more and more exhausted because I’m always fighting “the anxiety”

It’s hard to feel like you’re not enjoying life because everything’s a fight. And so for now……I take meds because its what I believe I need. In some ways, even taking the meds feels like I’m “failing”. Like I should be trying harder and yet……..I’m “tried” out; and going this route…..it enables me to still be available for my family. Which is so necessary………although, I’d love to check out……not forever……just for a moment….maybe to catch my breath.

It’s what all mom’s hope for, right?

Details

Hello Friends,

We are in the final countdown of the last days of Angelica’s Treatment.

It’s so exciting….not counting today, it’s 5 days left. YAHOO!

Some of you may have heard and I’m so sorry if you have not, but we are celebrating on Sunday September 30th from 2-4pm at the cafeteria at Walnut Grove Secondary School.

You can let us know if you need directions, but we’d love to have you join us as we celebrate the very last day of Geli’s Treatment and the first day of the rest of her life…..

What an amazing day. We are so looking forward to it.

We had a HUGE day at the hospital yesterday and I’m still recovering from it all. We left our house at 9am and didn’t walk back in the door until 5:30pm. It was all good news and we are so looking forward to wrapping this phase of our life up and starting to move forward in a life without daily chemo. We are looking forward to building strength and regaining that which was lost…..to just moving forward instead of feeling stuck.

We’d love to have you join us.

We’ll have coffee and cake available so if you can, stop by, we’d love to see all of you who have supported us and helped to carry us through these past 2.5 years…..it’s been quite the journey and we are so thankful that you’ve been there along the way helping us to keep moving forward.

Let me know if you need more details…..look forward to seeing you.

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So, it’s been a while since I’ve done an update on where Geli is at.

It’s been a GREAT summer and we are having a great kick off to the fall, too.

Angelica is officially finished cancer treatment as of September 30th. She wakes up on Sunday morning takes her last dose and BAM!!!!!! just like that…..no more chemo.

She still does have one more hospital visit that we fit in on Monday September the 24th. It should be a super quick “in and out” of the Oncology Dept, BUT…….she is supposed to see the physiotherapist BEFORE her 11:30am chemo appt and then she has an appt with the Orthopedic Surgeon just to assess where she’s at….which we are thinking is in a much better place than she’s been in over a year…….YAH!

This summer was great. Geli has gotten stronger and stronger. She was walking (not for very long) with quite a wobble in her gait and now there is almost no wobble. She still needs to work on some stiffness and shortness in some of her muscles but it is exciting to see HOW FAR SHE’S COME!

She was able to swim and swim and swim and swim, while we were up at the Lake and even went knee boarding a number of times with minimal muscular soreness the next day. She is walking around our community to visit friends, shop or buy junk food at the local convenience store. It is SO nice to see her “just being normal”.

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Last school year, there was quite a bit of talk about enrolling her to home school for Grade 10 as she was in so much pain and we were not sure where she was going to be at this year – physically, mentally and emotionally. We even signed her up at the same school that the two boys are at, but then she decided to stay at her local school and it’s been a great couple of days for her. People have been so complimentary regarding how she looks physically and there have even been a number of double takes as people recognize her and almost always there is a comment about how AMAZING she looks or how long her hair is….and honestly….she looks amazing.

At our next appointment, they will send off the request to have her VAD (the port that goes into her heart that she gets the chemo into) removed and then……and then….

Well, Angelica will still be going in monthly for check ups for the next year. Then it will space out to 3 months, and 6 months and then once a year. She will stay on the prophylactic antibiotic for the next three months and basically as of January….Angelica will be medicine free and after she gets the VAD out, if she gets a fever……I can just treat her like a normal kid and give her some Tylenol and send her to bed with some chicken noodle soup – as opposed to stressing and heading into the hospital.

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We have been throwing around the idea of having a get together, maybe at a local park or something, to celebrate the end of this season and the beginning of the rest of her life……

We will keep you posted if and when……and we’d love to have everyone who has prayed and supported us over this time join us, if we manage to pull something together.

Thanks again for all your support. We appreciate you more than you could ever imagine……