Give Yourself a Break

You know what’s weird/sad/funny? It’s so much easier to forgive another person for their transgressions and faults than it is to forgive ourselves. It’s widely reported that social media is contributing to our feeling “less than”. It’s not just one area that this applies to. We’re all feeling bad over our parenting skills, dietary choices, music likes or dislikes, bodies, sexuality and so on.

In an attempt to help myself feel better despite my chronic health conditions, I recently took up yoga. I was drawn to it not just for it’s physical benefits, but the emotional and mental benefits as well. But sadly, even in this community, which one would think would be hippie dippie zen, there is fat shaming, posture shaming and alignment shaming. It’s hard to go to classes as a disabled middle aged woman when I’m surrounded by thin, lithe 20 somethings clad in their spandex and little bra tops. So I usually just follow a yoga DVD I have here at home, where only my cat can see me.

I experienced similar issues when I was a runner. I constantly compared myself to the super speedy runners, those without health concerns. I wound up losing my passion for running because I was putting so much pressure on myself to measure up. I am a slow runner, I’ll never win any age group awards, never run a 20 minute 5k, so I gave up. And that makes me sad. Sad I let other people’s opinions of me cloud my own. Sad I didn’t realize everyone else was worried about that same thing, too caught up in their own worries to concern themselves with me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m feeling bad about the weight I have gained due to my medicines and my decreased physical activity. I’m watching calories, choosing healthier foods and trying to move as much as the pain will allow. But when the scale isn’t moving, I get frustrated. I’ve always had “big” thighs- they’re muscular and got even bigger when I was running. But with all the hype around thigh gaps and size 00, I look down and feel miserable. I avoid wearing shorts, I’m self conscious about how pants fit so then I just put on sweatpants and feel bad.

I’m sure about 90% of you readers have felt the same at one point or another. I’m working hard to accept myself as I am. I may not be a size 00, but I’m certainly not obese. I understand the concept of a “healthy weight”, but I really think there’s too much pressure to lose weight everywhere you look. So I have decided that as far as my weight and my mental health goes, I’m going to start giving myself a break. Viewing myself as a valuable, attractive and awesome person isn’t easy, but I’m getting there. Rather than obsessing over how many calories I’m eating and burning, I’m going to eat foods that I enjoy that are good for me (or at least not complete junk). I’m going to stop viewing my body as flawed and ugly and appreciate all that it does for me. Instead of being ashamed that I have bipolar disorder, I am going to ramp up my activism for causes I believe in, especially mental health.

Feeling a bit more self love and self acceptance isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s something I’ve committed to. Surrounding myself with those who build me up helps me immeasurably. I’m lucky to have a great guy friend who reminds me that while I may not completely love my curvier figure, he does. I have fantastic co-workers who let me know that my work matters and that they appreciate me listening to them. I am blessed with friends and family who never give up on me. I guess it’s all about perspective. You can dwell on the bad, or you can look for the good.

Additionally, I want to thank a beautiful young lady by the name of Britanie for showing me (and all her readers) the meaning of beauty, both within and on the surface. She’s come a long way in accepting herself and inspires me to do the same. You can read her blog (and gaze upon the most beautiful natural eyebrows ever) at beautybybritanie.com

Dear readers, if you have any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share regarding comparison, the shaming trends, or your own journey with self acceptance, please share them in the comments.

Dear Girlfriend of My Ex-Fiancee

I owe you an apology. I’ve judged you too harshly. We were both manipulated, lied to by omission. I realize you were not intentionally hurting me. I was collateral damage.

I think under different circumstances, we could have been friends. And if you are the one he needs to be happy, then I am glad you are together.

You’re a better match for him, a better partner. He finds in you the things he didn’t find in me. It’s taken me a long time to really come to terms with this. It doesn’t mean I’m inferior or you are superior, it just means you two are more compatible.

I hope he treats you with the respect you deserve. I hope you help him remember the good parts of himself, to quiet those self doubts he has.

I apologize and hope you find it in your heart to send forgiveness my way.

Sink

Amazing how quickly you can go from feeling pretty good to being downright despondent. Rotten bipolar. There’s a good reason I’m feeling down, but I know I’m beating myself up too much. There’s nothing more I could have done to have changed how things went.

It’s actually distressing how bad I feel right now, just full blown “hate myselfs”. Feeling lonely and angry and I just want to crawl in my bed and hide. I’m tired of feeling misunderstood, left out and alone. No amount of yoga or meditating or supplements can help me tonight. I just need to honor the sadness and start again tomorrow.

Wellness Warrior Reborn

Not going to lie, lately the number I’m seeing on the scale is distressing me. I’m currently about ten pounds higher than I was when I was diagnosed with bipolar and subsequently started on meds. I guess ten pounds in two years isn’t anything to complain about, but it’s pretty depressing to attempt to put on your favorite jeans and find you can’t get them past your thighs. Sigh. Having fibromyalgia means I’m limited in what I can do to keep myself in shape. My rheumatologist advised I shy away from high impact exercises, so my time as a runner seems to have come to an end. I do plan to pull out my bicycle now that the weather is better and I’m back into yoga and pilates.

There’s a moderately well-known saying that you cannot exercise off a bad diet. My diet, once really great at the time of my food allergy diagnosis, has slid into fatty comfort foods, super unhealthy convenience foods and too much candy. So, I’ve committed to improving my diet. Part of this includes adding a (gluten free) protein powder into my diet. No, I’m not trying to have huge muscles, but I have read several interesting articles regarding the use of protein powder as a successful treatment for fibromyalgia. And honestly, if I have a protein shake for breakfast rather than sugary cereal, that’s an improvement. Obviously, this is taking a lot of dedication and preparation. I’ve always seen food as a reward, as a comfort. I am an emotional eater, with a tendency to binge eat when I’m manic. Fortunately, I haven’t had a binge eating episode recently, but I definitely needed to look at my relationship with food. So re-vamping my diet and nutritional choices was long overdue. I also invested in a FitBit, which has been a great help. The app allows you to create a food diary, which is essential for me to lose weight. I also set an alarm on it to remind me to take my medications. You also can track sleep, calories burned and so on. It’s definitely worth the price, I find it to be motivating.

In addition to increasing my exercise and improving my food intake, I’m also researching alternative medicines, specifically ayurvedic medications. I have a wonderful co-worker who hails from Chennai and she introduced me to meditation (and the amazing Sattva app) as well as suggesting some ayurvedic herbs I might want to incorporate into my medication regimen. **please note, although I work in a hospital, I am NOT a doctor. I cannot recommend you take any supplements, please check with your doctor/psychiatrist as many herbs can interfere with medications.**  My psychiatrist changed my antidepressant a few months ago, after a particularly bad depression plagued with suicidal thoughts. So, here’s the list of medications I am on, as well as the ayurvedic herbs and vitamins I use, as well:

  • Depakote DR 250 mg twice a day
  • Fluvoxamine 50 mg at bedtime
  • Gabapentin 300 mg three times a day
  • Trileptal 150 mg every morning
  • Relpax 40 mg as needed for migraine
  • Vitamin B Complex every evening
  • Ashwagandha 2 capsules twice a day
  • Turmeric 1 capsule twice a day
  • Tulsi (Holy Basil)  2 capsules twice a day

I get all my ayurvedic herbs from OrganicIndiaUSA.com. You can also find Organic India products on Amazon, usually for a few dollars less. I do recommend visiting the Organic India site, you can read a lot about ayurvedic medicine there. I’ve been meditating with the Sattva app almost nightly. I find it’s really helping my sleep, and I have also noticed I can shut the negative dialogue off in my head a little bit more. It’s not completely gone, but it’s not so loud, which is definitely an improvement. So, am I turning into a hippie? Maybe, but truth be told, I always was one.

It’s going to be a long road to reach a sort of peace with my weight and body issues. I had a great period of confidence several months ago, and then I started noticing how tight my waistband felt on my scrubs, how sluggish I felt. I understand that a scale cannot measure my worth as a human, and fortunately I have some great friends who are supporting me and also making healthy changes in their own lives, as well. So much has to do with the ridiculous standards of beauty set forth by society, of our homogenizing beauty to blond hair, blue eyes, tan skin and a size 00.

Are there things you’re doing, either diet, medicine or exercise wise to help your conditions/disease/general well-being? I’d love to hear all about them, so tell us what’s going on with you in the comments!

It’s June already??!!

Hello my friends, it has been too long. So much has been happening of late, some good, some bad, some neutral. I’ve moved. I’m still swimming in a sea of boxes and containers, but the new place is coming along. So much less stress now to know I have cheaper rent and housemates who can help me when my chronic illnesses flare up.  There’s so much to update you on, but honestly my mind is swimming. I’m hypomanic due to all the chaos, so I’m doing the best I can to corral it. Here’s a few things swirling around my head to tell you about, I’m sure I’ll post in greater detail soon:

  • I went on 2 dates with a guy who was a friend of a friend. Date #1 was great! He got me flowers, treated, held doors open. Date #2…not so much. And the text messages sent the following day equally not cool (hint: I don’t care about your “very high libido”. That’s a huge turn off)
  • My fibromyalgia is pretty bad with all the crazy weather fronts that have come through. But I have started taking some herbs to complement my current therapies for the fibro, my bipolar and my migraines. I’m happy to say the migraines have really gone down in frequency. Is it the herbs? The new living situation? Not sure, but we’ll stick with it for now.
  • I’ve been pretty successful in keeping up with meditating each night and doing yoga several times a week. Sleep for the last few days hasn’t been so great, mostly due to the fibromyalgia pain and the move. But I’m confident I can get my sleep habits back to a healthy level again soon.
  • http://themanifeststation.net/2015/06/01/the-struggle-is-real-body-love/ THIS POST, YOU GUYS. Jennifer at TheManifeststation.net is speaking some real truths. I felt this post hit me somewhere deep, recalling how upset I was when I stepped on the scale to see how much weight I’ve gained with my medication change (hint: it’s not as much as my mind wants to make it out to be). I applaud her bravery for posting the video, too. I mean, I blog anonymously so I am in awe, for sure. I want to write about my journey with this a little bit more in the future, once I can really figure out what “the feels” I’m having are.
  • I meditated with a guided meditation on forgiveness the week before last. During the meditation, I pictured the one person I need to forgive the most (besides myself, of course): my ex-fiancee. It was incredibly moving and emotional, and I actually cried. Afterwards, I felt so free. There is still one person I need to envision with this forgiveness meditation in the future, although I am thinking they are far less guilty than I believe them to be. Since I did the meditation, I have not dreamt of my ex and really haven’t thought much about him at all. Truly freeing.
  • Just read “The Girl on The Train”. Totes awesome.
  • “Came out” as bipolar to another coworker, which led to a great conversation on therapy, recovering from abusive relationships and just that general happy buzz you get when you find another member of “your tribe”.
  • And for the most surprising thing I want to mention: I had a couple of truly awesome, heartwarming experiences in the emergency room last week. Thinking of them almost makes me forget how bad today was. One of them was so special, and one of the people I shared it with means so much to me (to the point I’m pretty sure I am in love with him) that I’m now re-thinking a decision I made so many years ago- the decision to not have children.  Obviously, something I need to really go into more detail on after some more thought.

I hope you are all doing well. If you are in a dark spot, please know that I am thinking of you, praying for you, sending love your way.

Get Your Tinfoil Hats Ready!

Something I haven’t really discussed in too much detail is the fact that I am a veteran’s daughter. My father fought in Vietnam in 1968 through 1969. 68 was a bad year, although honestly, they all were bad years. His generation of service was the generation of anti military protests, of being spit on and called baby killer. There were no emotional half time reunions with my grandparents and aunts. My family was just ecstatic he came home in one piece.

Dad didn’t have a plum assignment, he was drafted into the infantry not long after high school ended.He survived his tour and left. He did not want to be a career military man. He saw and did things that have caused him nightmares. He had PTSD before they had a name for it. You never approached him from behind without announcing who you were, something my mom learned shortly into their courtship. As the years went on, and he started our family with my mom, the mental anguish stopped, only to be replaced with physical ailments related to his service, specifically stemming from his exposure to Agent Orange. First it was eczema, then diabetes. The eczema morphed into psoriasis and his arthritis was re-classified as psoriatic arthritis. His ankle, injured when he stepped out of a Huey after it landed, is now misshapen by arthritis and gout. His back is 95% arthritic and riddled with bone spurs. Dad deals with it, as most men of his generation do, by just gutting it out and continuing on. But now things are different, and I am the reason why.

My father receives medical treatment through the VA. He was lucky enough to get in quickly, not being one of the thousands of people on wait lists. He was in for a check up related to his high blood pressure and diabetes management, and mentioned all of my ailments to his doctor. The doctor surprised him by saying they were hearing of more and more Vietnam veterans with children having similar problems. The doctor suggested I go in to talk to a claims representative, that I might be denied coverage at first, but that a new bill has been submitted that is due to change the coverage veterans’ children receive. When my dad advised me of this, I was skeptical (he has hearing issues in addition to all his other problems), then I started doing research as to health benefits for children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Let me say first off, this research does not produce the most cheery and uplifting results. I learned that, even as sick as I am, I am well off. I can walk and care for myself, which is more than a large percentage can say. I also lived past 30 years of age, again, putting me ahead of many others. However, I found that migraines, reproductive issues, immune system disorders, emotional and mental development problems are found in higher percentages among children of Vietnam veterans than among other groups. I also learned that the federal government is doing next to nothing to help these children. If you think the horrible treatment Veterans get is frustrating, check into what their dependents get. (Interestingly, in doing this research, I also learned my ex-fiancee was exposed to chemicals during his deployment in Iraq, which ended a few months before he and I got together. I am praying he never experiences health problems as a result of his deployment)

My father just attributed his illnesses to getting older, to making poor diet choices, to family history, etc. Now we have learned that many of these things stem from his service and exposure to Agent Orange. He complains very little when you consider all he is going through, and all he went through. He’s always been a good father, provided for his family and didn’t run around on Mom, hit us or drink. Sometimes he doesn’t know what to say when it comes to my illnesses. He’s always prided himself on being able to fix things, be it the car, the house, the yard. He can’t fix what I am going through, and it bothers him to no end. I know he is hoping that the VA may be able to help me, that the same system that is so broken and backwards can help me heal and move forward.

Is it a stretch to say that all my health problems stem from my father’s exposure to Agent Orange? Maybe, but it’s not without merit. We learn more and more about the horrible chemicals every day. There’s a reason there are so many anti Monsanto groups, many headed by children of other Vietnam veterans exposed to their company’s evil product. It’s unknown at present just how many generations will be affected by Agent Orange exposure. This legacy is yet another reason I mourn the Vietnam Veterans, even the ones still alive. Such a thankless, unnecessary war (though all wars are) and they will be victims even after they pass away.

On a related note, please do not turn a blind eye to ways you can help veterans. There are many organizations across the country that help. I am embarrassed not just by the wait times for veterans to get help through the VA, but also by the huge number of homeless veterans. But the number that makes me cry is the number 22. That is how many veterans commit suicide per day. Mind you, this is just the number of reported suicides, the number may actually be higher. We need to change this. You don’t have to be pro-military or pro-war or even pro-Second Amendment, but maybe being a little more pro-human would help all of us.