I am Winning! Day 26 – Tuesday March 11

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, a million lego pieces on the floor around me thanks to 2 little boys who eat, sleep and breathe lego.

I have so many thoughts swarming around my head. I feel like I’m trying to herd a cloud of flies. I can’t seem to grasp one or get them to neatly line up so I can process through them. I’m not sure if I’m subconsciously avoiding dealing with “them” or if I just get so few opportunities to sit and think……..and now there are just too many……

I mentioned that I have a Dr’s appt on Thursday. It’s the yearly appointment of joy and fun, if you are a woman. And, it just happens to work out that it will be 4 weeks/28 days since I started this journey. So, I will get up on Thursday and take my measurements. I’m unsure whether I want to step on my scale at home or just do it at the Dr’s office.

I mentioned that I’m scared of the number.

It’s true! And so incredibly stupid.

It’s been so freeing not knowing the number. And yet, I still mull it over and over in my head, way more often than I’d like. My thoughts go something like this……

If I’ve lost 10 pounds, that’s awesome.

Yah, but your eating has been impecable…..surely you’ve lost more than 10 pounds.

But you’ve seen yourself in the mirror….you’ve got a LONG way to go.

But you’re doing SO good.

Yah, but it’s not fast enough and you are running like crazy.

I know but I don’t want to be disappointed. I don’t want to set myself up for a blow.

Is it a disappointment if you’ve lost weight and gotten stronger?

No, but what if I’ve not lost hardly any weight because I gained muscle?

I don’t want to be over 200 pounds. I hate that number.

And on and on and on……..

None of that is positive. It’s not helping me.

I know that I’m fitting in clothes differently. I feel better. I can actually see my cheekbones. I feel less exhausted and crazy(anxiety is less….sort of, I guess). I’m sleeping better. I’m accomplishing more (I think). And yet, I’m still on this stupid merry-go-round.

There is less of it. So, I guess that’s a positive.

I’ve probably upped my distance in running/walking too fast. The difference is…..I feel so much better when I’m exercising. I seem to hit the “high” after 35 minutes. And it feels SO GOOD!

BUT……my knees are tired and one is a little swollen. It’s funny because it doesn’t really hurt, but it feels……weak? Maybe that’s the best word for it. So, I’m going to back off a little because I don’t want to actually damage it. But as soon as I think about backing off…I start to feel a little panicky because I don’t want to gain weight back and I don’t want to feel anxious again.

Ha! Again with the “having anxiety” about having anxiety.

At least I can recognize this and laugh at myself. Even though it’s no laughing matter. Anxiety sucks. If you’ve never really dealt with it on a constant day to day basis….count yourself blessed. It’s as wearing as long term physical pain. It’s soul crushing.

I don’t want to think like this. I don’t want to be like this. And yet, even in my weakness, there is a positive side. I’d like to think that I have a certain amount of understanding and compassion for others who may be experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues. If you haven’t really experienced long term anxiety, it can be difficult to really comprehend.

My least favorite “helpful” suggestion is, “Just stop thinking like that!”

I wish I could.

I’m not sure if it has to do with a crazy imagination or what, but just recently I was standing in the shower and my mind flashed to a picture of me slipping, hitting my head on the temperature dial, splitting my head open and dying. In one second, I went from doing a mundane task of getting clean, to a flash of panic.

I don’t want to die. I’m actually quite satisfied with where I am at right now. I don’t want to think thoughts like this. That thought or picture flashed through my head, followed by a wave of anxiety and my immediate next thoughts were, That’s the anxiety. Why does my brain do this? I don’t want to see that picture. I don’t want to feel this anxiety. The panic that washes over you in an instant, like water flowing from the shower.

I didn’t ask to feel that. I don’t want to feel that. Even though I can recognize that it’s “anxiety”, that doesn’t mean that I can just dismiss the whole experience. I’m left exhausted by the surge of panic. Even if it was only for a moment. Even if I know it’s not real, and that there is little to no chance of “that” actually happening……the experience is still wearing. I want it to just stop. If I never had a thought like that again…..I would be thrilled.

But I can use my experiences to understand and show compassion and to teach….so that when my son comes to me asking if the mark on his face could possibly be cancer. Even though, his next comment is that he knows it most likely isn’t and that its probably just the anxiety speaking…..

I can know that I’m helping him to differentiate between the anxiety and reality. I can also understand that he’s emotionally exhausted and has little reserves to “hold himself together”. I can “get” that he’s not wanting to feel or think like this.

It makes this whole situation a little easier to deal with.

But believe me….if I could just stop this…..I would.

If you don’t deal with anxiety, maybe the next time someone shares an anxious moment with you….instead of encouraging them to “just stop it”, you could just listen……and say something encouraging like, “That’s tough. It’s got to be hard fighting against that or feeling like that.” It’s amazing how encouraging validation is. It’s not saying that being anxious or stressed is okay. It’s just acknowledging that the person is experiencing stress on the mind and body; and that they are fighting against it. It’s incredible to hear someone say, “Keep going! I’m standing here with you, beside you. Even if I’m unsure what to do….I’m here!

If you do deal with anxiety, keep fighting. Every day is a fight. Every day you fight….you are winning!

You are winning!

I am winning!

Day 15 – February 28

Today feels like a good day. I woke up at 6:15…..stayed in bed until 7:15am, BUT….I made the choice to do that because the older kids are home today; and except for breakfast and getting dressed….Siah was all ready and packed to go to school (Yay for evening prep). So, I had time……

It’s been 2 weeks since I started this “journey” and it’s been filled with ups and downs. There have been a lot of downs, but I keep attempting to focus on the ups.

I’ve seen a pattern that I hope to break. I managed to make it out of my “fat” jeans and into my “regular” jeans…..this was a fabulous feeling, BUT…….I noticed that as soon as I reached that milestone, I wanted to quit.

Yup!

I have no idea what my weight is right now, but I know that I’m no where near an optimal weight/size/shape/fitness level. And so I choose to carry on.

I know that this has happened in the past….I’ve reached this place and figured that it was good enough and that it gave me a reason to give up. I say give up, because while I am comfortable eating this way (closer to Whole30 than paleo), it’s not easy. It requires effort and discipline. It requires not inhaling a bowl (or 3) of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms. It requires planning ahead to have lunch and snacks. It requires making dinner instead of eating out. It requires going out for a walk/run even when I don’t want to because I’m tired or it’s snowy or it’s raining…..or I really just don’t want to. It requires a recognition that all my choices have consequences, when a part of me just wants to “do/eat whatever I want” without having to deal with the consequences.

That’s really what it comes down to……one of the things I talk the most to my kids about…..

CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES

Now, I did make a choice. It was actually a conscious choice. I chose to not monitor my food choices for a while because I was exhausted and so worn out. I knew that the consequences would be weight gain and a general feeling of physical, mental and emotional “blergh”. I needed to not feel like I was trying (and failing) to control every aspect of my life. And so I just ignored that area of my life….until I felt pretty horrid and was at the point where I could no longer fit into my “biggest” clothes.

And here I am…..wanting change.

When I was on my walk/run last night, that word was on a loop in my head.

CHANGE

I’m typically resistant to change. I like safe. I like routine. I like knowing what to expect.

Basically it all comes down to fear and control.

Again with the fear and control. ARG!

But………… I feel like this is a year of change for me.

I’m not out to force change onto myself, but I’m willing to allow change to happen and to do what I can and what I need to do to encourage that “change” to happen.

The last 2 weeks have been interesting for me. It’s eye opening to see that I do things to sabotage myself so that I can stay in a “comfortable” place. And yet that’s part of the lie….that the place I am in is comfortable….cause it’s not. And who said that life is supposed to be comfortable, anyway?

One of the “downs” of the past 2 weeks have been anxiety.

I haven’t been walking around in a 24/7 panic attack, and in fact, I’ve felt pretty stable most of the time.

I have noticed that I must be feeling worse than I realize because the desire to “escape” has been intense at times. I’ve wanted something to “take the edge off”. I’ve noticed that there have been a few more times than I’d like where I’ve wanted a glass (or 3) of wine; or to take a few Ativan just so I could escape from the pressure. I’ve noticed this particularly at the end of the day, and definitely on weekends. I’ve also noticed that when confronted with certain situations, my anxiety goes from what has seemed like “non-existent” to full on panic.

For example, Jon called me the other day when I was picking the girls up from school. My initial thought, when I heard that he was not at work but on his way home (it was earlier than his quitting time – but I had forgotten that he had a dental appt), was that something terrible had happened. He couldn’t explain himself fast enough and I could feel “worse-case-scenario-girl” kicking into overdrive.

And, Geli messaged me the other day from school…..I totally forget about what….I just remember “the forbidding feeling of doom“. I quickly cut her off to clarify that everything was ok and that she wasn’t about to “drop a bomb” on me.

I hate that aspect of my brain. I have a Dr’s Appt on March 13 and I’ll be talking with him about meds and whether or not we need to tweak things. I feel pretty good most of the time but those “flare ups” and the “desire to escape” bother me.

On a positive note….I feel a lot stronger, in regards to walking/running, than I did 2 weeks ago. I don’t feel like I’m going to die before I finish, HA!. Which is a good thing, right? I’m going further, faster than I did two weeks ago. I’m definitely not where I was when I stopped running last year, but I have the memory, both physical and mental, of what I am capable of and that has me excited for both attaining and surpassing where I was. I’ve restarted the C25K program because I figure that it can’t hurt…..and even with that…..I see differences from where I was to where I am.

Last night, I just turned the running app on and hit play without looking at exactly what the walk/run info was….I just followed the prompts, instead of anticipating them. It felt a lot easier. Just going with it. Instead of anticipating the “tough” times and counting down every second…….I just let go of all that “control” and trusted that I could do it.

I let go of the control and put aside fear and……..it felt great. Even better, I was over a minute faster per km than my previous run/walk.

I’m excited for where I’m going and trying even harder to be content with where I am at.

It’s a process. I’m in process. It’s ok. I’m ok. I’ll be ok.

How are you doing? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your life….the good, the bad, the ugly…..it’s all ok.

Day 4 – February 17

Yesterday was a bit of a hard day for me.

It was an “at home” day and I find that unless I am super busy, then the “noise” seems to be louder on those days. It’s like there is too much time to “think” about things.

My biggest worry – my health…….every little ache or pain seems intensified. I spend a HUGE amount of effort talking “reality” to myself. The “cancer fear” seems huge. I hate it. I hate that Geli was sick for a while before we knew and by the time we found out….she was really sick. So, little things swirl around inside of my head and become huge things.

I know it’s anxiety.

I hate it.

The exchange goes something like this….

That feels “off”….hmmm, that’s weird. I remember feeling that before. I wonder if it’s serious.

Of course it’s not, that just the anxiety talking.

But how much do I discount, and what if I discount something serious because I think it’s just anxiety.

Ok, so now you are having anxiety about having anxiety….that’s messed up.

I know. I’m fine……………right?

Of course you are. Remember, you brought it up the last time you were at the Dr and he explained it.

I know, but we can’t see “inside” of me and what if……

What are the “what if’s” going to do to help you?

……………Nothing….I know………, but this is just so hard.

I wish I could just turn my brain off.

And this goes on and on….

Except that when I am busy…..I can entirely forget that there had even been an issue…that is, until I remember, AGAIN….at which point, it cycles around again.

It’s messed up.

So I go to bed and wake up the next morning and……….I’m fine. And then I have a busy day and……….I’m fine. And then I have another tough day………..and in reality, I’m still fine.

Which is why I (mostly) believe that I AM FINE.

I’m thinking I might need to go back to my trauma counselor and have a session dealing with this……..

I remember dealing with a very mild form of this before Geli was sick, but it’s been just stupid intense since Geli was diagnosed with cancer………

Other than the anxiety….it was a fairly good day. Yesterday morning, getting out of bed at 6:45am really helped with the insanity of the morning situation. It felt like a really calm morning….which is odd ’cause we don’t have too many of those.

We even had a Team Meeting between Jeremy’s two schools and it went fabulously. He really is doing well. it’s not easy. It’s never easy, but it’s nice to hear that he’s doing well, as opposed to hearing that there is something wrong. I’ve had way too many of those meetings. I will be thrilled if I never have another one, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Do you struggle with anxiety? Any tips on dealing with the intruding thoughts? Have you found a way to “turn it off”?

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!