The scale is the ultimate betrayer.

I have been trying to lose weight for a year. However, overeating from stress and drinking made it impossible. Since I quit drinking and started running, I have lost 4lbs. I finally feel like I have a shot at this! That said, it has been such a slow process and I am completely impatient.

When you’re used to overeating, trying to eat at a calorie deficit every day seems like starvation. A typical day goes like this:

Breakfast: 400 calories

Lunch: 400 calories

Dinner: 198892983829 Calories

The fat kid in me tells me to eat two hot pockets after dinner. Or chips. Or 3 cereal bars. Or something. Except, I don’t have any of those things! Only Hobbits have two dinners so I drink water until it’s time for bed.

I jump out of bed in the morning and onto the scale. I think, surely, I have done it! Now I will have lost weight! and to my dismay, I am actually a pound heavier than my last recorded loss.

Sometimes I feel like the scale is against me…

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I know, I know. It’s just water weight. The scale is only one way to measure things. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. I tell myself these things, but deep down I am still impatient. I want to see some kind of proof that my hard work is paying off. I can’t help but stare at my stomach in the mirror after every run and think, am I skinny yet?

In the past, I obsessed over calorie counting only to gain the weight right back, so this time I am trying instead to make healthier choices and the weight loss is much slower. I know if I obsessed over the numbers I might lose more quickly, but I am stubborn. The fat kid inside me doesn’t think she eats enough. No matter what’s on the menu, it’s only filling if it’s paired with 1/2 a large pizza or something that comes in a trough. Seriously, I can put it back. She stares angrily at the scale and says, “I didn’t eat cake for you, and you betrayed me“.

I wish it were as easy to lose weight as it is to gain weight.

Making strides.

Twenty-five days ago I quit drinking, and most people told me to start AA meetings or sign up for therapy. I started running instead.

I am not an athletic person whatsoever. I don’t work out and I’ve never trained for anything. Even as a child, I never participated in sports. I couldn’t even tell you how most of them are played. The 3-block walk to the grocery store to pick up potato chips for my Netflix marathon is usually plenty of activity in my book. That said, starting this running regimen has been kind of a big deal for me.

I suppose before I started the C25K program I had a romantic idea in my mind of what I thought running was like. The expectation was that I would leisurely jog down tranquil beaches in cute exercise clothing while sporting killer abs and hardly breaking a sweat, just like the girls in pictures. The reality is that I would drag my 2000lb, heavier-than-stone, aching body through the grass for fear of breaking my shins on the concrete, in the grubbiest clothing that I own because they will be so nasty that I will want to burn them in the fires of Sauron when I’m finished, all while praying nobody noticed my fat jiggling to the tune of “Get your freak on” on my Ipod.


Running is hard.


I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: You fool! You should go to AA. That seems to be the common thought among society. I did try a couple meetings, but sitting in a moldy church basement with a bunch of strangers and listening to someone’s struggle that was brought on from their dead cat simply isn’t therapeutic for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why a lot of people like the program. There is that sense of community when everyone greets you, listens to your woes and shakes your hand at the end. You even get coins, and who doesn’t like prizes?!  Well, this loner could do without.

The road is a fairly good listener and I get to tell my tale to the most important audience: myself. On my first run, I noticed right away the amount of positive self-talk involved to get through a session. It sounds really cheesy, but telling myself, “Don’t stop- you can do this!” has done wonders not only for my running but my self confidence.

You can get through this.

This pain is temporary.

You are strong.

These are all things that I think on my runs and I’m now starting to apply those same thoughts when I have other challenges in my life. As a drinker, I was only familiar with negative self talk and sabotaging myself into not doing anything that could result in failure. The mind is a very powerful thing. If you can train your mind to keep going even when your body wants to quit, you can achieve some incredible things.

I’m not sure how long I will have to train before I can consider myself a “real” runner. Right now, I am on week 4 of the C25K program and I find it quite challenging. Sometimes in the middle of a jog interval I have asked myself, “Is this really jogging or am I just hop-walking?” but finishing is all that matters so I keep going. I never regret a run. Even if my energy sucked and I come home feeling like I totally sucked, at least I tried.

The saying goes that you have to get through hell to reach heaven. Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way.  Maybe this is part of the journey to get to my goals. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

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Obligatory photo of my running shoes and heart rate monitor.

Independence Day, literally.

For two days I have tried to write this entry. I have written paragraphs, only to dissect them and ultimately delete them. Each effort began on a different tone or at a different scene, but the result was always the same: darkness. My mind is like a black, empty void that is scrambling to give description to 14 years of repressed grief.


“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy


 

Independence Day, 2002 took a very literal meaning for me when my mother, who was terminally ill with breast Cancer that metastasized to her bone and brain, passed away in the hospital. She was 48.

It wasn’t sudden. My mother fought for 6 years with Cancer and never really went into remission. We were constantly told that she would die, as if she had some expiration date stamped on her arm. My bed-ridden mother was the reality for so long that I guess I perceived it as normal. I didn’t believe that she would die, or at least told myself that I still had plenty of time. Time to talk to her and hear her old stories. Time to play games. Time to drop the teenage attitude and be a better daughter.

There wasn’t enough time.

I don’t remember my mother before she died, with her bald head from too many rounds of chemo or her heart surgery scar. I remember the version of her as she was when I was a small child. I remember her boy haircut, and her big plastic glasses. I remember her red lipstick and her puffy purple coat. I remember how she was the director of Camp Fire boys and girls, and I know now that it’s because she wanted nothing more in her life than to be with her two daughter’s and their friends every day. I remember her borrowing money just to put food on the table. We didn’t usually have much but my mother put us first.

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My mother, cooking in the kitchen, how I remember her.

My mother didn’t make it to my High School graduation. The birth of my first child. My wedding. My divorce! Mother’s Day comes and goes and I’m not sure whether to mourn or celebrate because I am a mother without one. Time goes on but the scars are permanent.

I was left to spend my days with my alcoholic father, who joined her in 2010. I remember so many nights, laying in bed and asking the darkness, why?  My mother’s passing brought my father and I together. So, if there can be any ‘why’, it was that. Nothing helps you understand the fleeting beauty of life more than death. Nothing helps you understand what is important in life more than death. The people in our lives are the most important. The connection, the bond, the stories, and the memories that we share.

The people that you call family, whoever they may be, are your greatest gifts in life. Forget the arguments, the drama, the fights, the blame or the wrongdoings. Grab hold of them. Don’t learn about life from loss.

 

 

 

The burning.

Five years ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table in the same run-down apartment that I live in now, and I realized that my feet were burning. Careful inspection revealed no burn, and no home remedy seemed to help. My skin simply burned in weird waves like a sunburn. It didn’t take long for the sensation to move to my legs, arms, face and back. The burning would float around, coming and going like the tides. I was stumped as to why it happened or why some days it was like the plague was upon me and others it was hardly noticeable.

I finally went to my primary doctor when I was in an unbearable flare. I remember telling him, “It’s like I’m being dipped in acid! I can’t stand it“. Sometimes I would touch things with my arm or leg and feel a burning sensation in its wake. Sometimes I would touch something and itch in that spot. My doctor said it was Neuropathy and referred me to a neurologist.

I waited for 3 months to get in to that specialist. On appointment day, I arrived 5 minutes early with a list in hand. I didn’t want a single thing to get missed. I waited for 45 minutes in the exam room for the doctor to come in. I remember it all so clearly. I remember his suit that didn’t fit, his white hair and his indifferent gaze. I remember starting to tell him about my symptoms, but he cut me off and started a few physical tests on me. I remember one of them was running a paperclip down my leg. He asked me if I could feel it, and I said yes and added that it left a wake of fire behind it. He raised his eyebrows and nodded as if I were telling tales. Then he said, “Well, it’s not M.S.” in a dismissive tone.

He wrote me a prescription and quickly left. The whole appointment was less than 10 minutes long. I remember getting up and watching him walk away down the hallway. I stared down at my list and realized that I had only touched on 1/4 of it. I was so angry.

An older, wiser self wishes that she could go back in time and tell Mr. Big-Shot Specialist a thing or two. I wish that I could say I never said anything about M.S., you twat. I wish I could remind him that the only way to diagnose M.S. anyway is with a series of tests like MRI and spinal tap, and he hadn’t ordered those. I wish I could tell him that when he dismissed me as being a liar it deterred me from getting help for nearly three years and encouraged me to self medicate with alcohol. Prick.

Today, I am no closer to getting answers or relief. In fact, new symptoms were one of the things that increased my drinking and brought things to a tipping point. The doctors are very quick to offer medications, but not so quick to get to the bottom of why it’s happening.

Using alcohol to self medicate was a dumb decision, but it seemed necessary when prescription medication had failed. I tried the medication the Big-Shot Specialist gave me, but it didn’t help my symptoms and had a lot of side effects. Other medications that I tried before that induced panic attacks. It didn’t seem worth it to feel worse in an effort to feel better, even if it was temporary.

After many negative experiences with doctors, the very idea of going again makes me instantly angry and defensive. And yet, I know that I am writing this because I am opening myself up to the idea of going again. I know that I don’t really have a choice if I want to stay sober. I have a neurology appointment coming up this month, and I’m not feeling very open to whatever treatment they will recommend. I don’t know what other options I have, though.

Sometimes, giving up alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is afterwards, when you’re thrown into the UFC octagon ring called Life with nothing but your wits and you’re opponent is a decade’s worth of problems. All you can do is hope to come out alive.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but still fitting. The best reassurance that I have received lately was from my boyfriend, who said: “Well, you’ve made it this long with your health issues and you didn’t die, so… you will probably be okay”. Not dying is always promising. I’ll take it.

When enough was enough.

I remember the moment that I decided to quit drinking very clearly. I think deep down I knew that it needed to happen months before this, but I always rationalized that my habits were okay. I would always compare myself to the hardcore alcoholics that drank until they threw up, blacked out, or pissed the sheets. The type of people that would get the shakes if they quit cold turkey. I would say, “See? I’m not like that. I’m fine”.

Except, I was never fine. Sure, I never did any of those things, but I did drink fairly often. Sometimes several nights in a row, or at least half the week. It’s very common for me to buy a 6 pack of IPA and say that it will last me all week and polish it off within one or two nights. I have never, and I mean never, just had one drink and stopped. The only purpose of drinking is to get a buzz for me.

Somewhere along the way, I found it hard to enjoy basic things like going to a restaurant or night on the town if we weren’t going to drink. My boyfriend would have one beer with dinner while I had two margaritas. Most of the time, my drinking took place on my couch with some Netflix after throwing in the towel for the day. I tried not to think about it. It’s not like I can go to work and brag to my coworkers about staying up and drinking until I passed out. Alone.

I finally faced my drinking as I was crawling out of bed around noon on a Wednesday. A day that I would normally be at work, but decided not to go because I didn’t want to feel exhausted all day long from the drinks I had consumed the night before. The crazy thing was, I have been going through some financial stresses. It’s one of the things that led me to drink to begin with, but missing work obviously only puts me in further financial crisis. I said to myself in that moment, what are you doing? This makes NO sense!  I was filled with shame over my choices.

Drinking is glorified by our society, especially if you’re a young person. I told myself that my habits were okay, even when I was chronically depressed, because I was still functional. Then this image really stuck out to me:

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Just because something is still functional doesn’t mean it’s not broken.


I decided then and there that it was time for a change. I am tired of waking up with a headache, exhausted and achy. I am tired of rationalizing with myself. I am tired of the money spent. Most of all I am tired of the time wasted.

I don’t know if I would consider myself an “alcoholic”, but I definitely think that alcohol is negatively effecting my life right now. I am not going to focus on labels or long-term commitments right now. Instead, I am going to focus on healing my heart one day at a time.

(Today is my 4th day sober).