Weight Is Just A Number

“I’ve gained weight.”

 

A statement that is uttered internally by almost every woman at some point in their lives and most likely more than once.  ‘Weight’… we are so focused on that one word which essentially, as my geeky husband who studied physics and astronomy in college would say, is our gravitational pull to the Earth’s core.  Fairly interesting when you realize how heavy you are on Jupiter (for me 321 lbs) and how light you are on Pluto (8.5 lbs).  Now if I thought my weight on Jupiter was huge, using the site https://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/ I can see that my weight on Earth is nothing compared to my weight on a Neutron Star (17780000000000 lbs).

 

Enough about the solar system.  My goal here is to shatter the high standards we as women place on ourselves when it comes to how much we weigh.  I have covered Body Shaming prior to this, but I believe there needs to be more as even since that post, I haven’t stopped shaming myself 100% until a few months ago.

 

I have spent my life so focused on the number that the scale would spit up at me.  I dwelled on it.  I would see my ‘thunder thighs’ and cry.  I yo-yo dieted in college, eating crap during the semester and then following Weight Watchers during summer break.  Up 10lbs, down 10lbs. Up 15lbs, down 15lbs. Up 15lbs… uh oh!  By the time I got married, I was heavy but would not admit it until at age 25, when my resting blood pressure was 150/90 and my cholesterol was elevated.  Now I had to pay attention.  Still focused on that stupid number on the scale, I dove right in to following Weight Watchers day and night.  And it worked.  The number on the scale went down.  At one point, even after having my daughter, I was down to 112lbs.  I thought I would finally be happy with my figure.

 

But I wasn’t.

 

It wasn’t until I hit my mid to late thirties where I said to myself, “Steph, is it really the weight?  Is it really the number on the scale?!”  At first, due to my latest episode of Depression I was suffering from (where I dropped to 104lbs and then proceeded to gain way more back), I answered with a “Hell yes!”  It was hard to do anything during this time.  I had no motivation.  Exercise, ha! That was never going to happen.  Food, if I thought something would make me happy, I ate it.  This went on for 2 years.

 

And then I had had enough.

 

Nothing I was doing was making me feel better.  I sat back and really thought about when I was happy, when I felt… strong.  Whoa, where did that word come from?!  Strong?!  Ah, Stephanie, now you are on to something.  Maybe instead of focusing on my weight so much, I should focus on my strength.  I had mostly accomplished this with working on my mental and emotional strength in therapy, now was the time to remedy my physical strength.

 

I stopped aiming for my previous weight of 115 lbs. and started to focus on what I could do to be healthy and get strong.  I wanted to teach my daughter that weight was just a number.  I watched what I was eating and joined a gym.  My first personal trainer listened to my goals but chose to ignore the ‘lose weight’ aspect.  He heard ‘strong’ and went with it.  I started barbell squatting, sumo squatting and front squatting.  I was doing bicep curls, tricep kick-backs and chest presses.  I was beginning to feel strong again.

 

The number on the scale didn’t budge. And then my trainer up and fell of the face of the planet (really no one has heard from him in over 6 months).  What was I going to do?  I continued with this circuit but knew I was slacking in eating healthy.

 

Then the gym offered a program guided by a different personal trainer.  I was skeptical at first but knew my focus was on strength.  No way was I going to ‘Lose Big’ (as the program is titled).  This trainer provided us with nutrition basics, info on Macros, insightful tips and, frankly, kick-ass workouts!  After the 10 weeks were over, I had lost only 3lbs, but other things occurred.  I dropped several inches and lowered my body fat percentage.  This was working.  When this trainer decided to run this program again, I said “Sign me up!”

 

And… I haven’t lost any weight so far.  I am 127lbs at my 5’-0 ¾” stature.  I am a bit proud of this.  Why?!  Because my smaller clothes fit.  Because this means I am building muscle. And because my body fat percentage is in the Fitness Level.  I can now barbell squat over 150lbs and feel energized.  I sleep better.  My mental health is better.  I feel stronger.

 

And to me, strength equals happiness, not some stupid number on the scale.

When You Learn How Important Self-Advocacy Is

In the last twenty years, off and on, with my frenemies, Anxiety & Depression, I have learned quite a bit about living a life with Mental Illness. My first twelve years were in secret, keeping my mouth shut on anything relating to the words melancholy, empty, sad. I was told to hide, told that the stigma would ruin any chance of a career for me, would isolate me and make me feel even more lonely than I already did. I was ashamed that my differences made me plague-worthy. Who wants to be friends with a psycho?!

Eventually, I got fed up… or I should say, extremely deeply depressed. I couldn’t hide it anymore. My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety brought on my first step in becoming free of this stigma… I had to admit my illnesses to someone aside from my family. I had to tell my boss. I had no idea what would happen, if I would be let go for some stupid made up reason to hide the real dismissal of me being crazy. I had no other option though, I was hospitalized and in turn could not do the work I took home to do during my maternity leave.

I then started to tell some friends and upon seeing their genuine compassionate reactions, I realized not everyone believed the stigma behind having a Mental Illness diagnosis. It was from this point, about a decade ago, when I decided to screw the stigma and advocate.

Advocacy is defined as, “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending,” by dictonary.com. I dove right in, starting with Mental Illnesses that most were unaware existed, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I immersed myself joining up with a non-profit I found on Facebook one day. I bonded with fellow mothers who experienced similar events. Some of them proudly declared their stories while others still felt the need to hide. It was an amazing feeling to not feel alone.

By doing this I began to tell my story to anyone at any given moment. It didn’t matter if they never inquired about my illnesses. I wanted to get my story out there. I wanted to be a voice, a voice that was heard when many others were still so afraid to speak up. This was my main form of Advocacy. I told my stories and frankly couldn’t care less if someone responded negatively which was very rare. I rose up to the challenge of becoming a symbol of someone who could be successful and who lived with Mental Illnesses.

These last few years, I began to learn about Self Advocacy, the need to fight for my own care. This is not always easy to do especially when your own care involves a brain imbalance and what I like to call “thinking imperfections”. In the beginning, I even wondered who would trust me to create my own care plan… after all, that required someone with a healthy brain, not someone who was mentally ill. Now I don’t care. Majority of the time, I am in my right mind and can decide things for myself. But this was not always the case.

Three years ago, things changed. I quickly went from a stable human being to one having a psychotic break. There was no point in creating a Self-Advocacy plan at that time because the change was so rapid I could barely recognize it. One moment I could coherently tell my husband I needed to go to the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit, the next, I was in the fetal position scratching my head repeatedly crying for the rapid thoughts to leave me, that it hurt too much. It frightened my husband, my parents and my daughter who was 8 at the time. More importantly, in my lucid moments, it scared the shit out of me.

It was after this last episode with Major Depressive Disorder that I became extremely involved in Self-Advocacy. I needed to be. I knew how my body felt, what my brain was telling me, how the meds were working. When I needed a different type of therapy, I searched for the therapist. I worked together with my psychiatrist at the time in weaning off two of my medications. I made sure my doctors and my therapist were aware of each other. I began to practice Mindfulness and really took notice at how my body felt. There were no secrets anymore, no hiding.

And now, once again, I am advocating for myself. In the last 2 years 9 months, I have been through 4 psychiatrists/APRN’s at the same psychiatric group. They all left for some reason. The first, who saw me through my worst, left to have a baby and never came back. The second I saw once and then he retired. The third who aided me in my weaning and worked with me on medication changes left to become a head for an addiction facility. The last… I saw her once in July, just sent a letter explaining that she returned to work far too early when she had her first child and was now pregnant with her second. She decided to leave the end of the December. I was due to see her in January.

What to do, what to do? As I am waiting for my next assignment, whether it be a psychiatrist or psychiatric APRN, I am researching my other options because well, starting a 5th doctor in 3 years is kind of annoying. With my track record, the 5th is bound to up and leave too. There must be other psychiatric groups out there. Sad thing is, I am only down to seeing them twice a year just for prescriptions. I know for emergency purposes, my primary care physician would write a script for me. Problem is, my Anxiety has been worse these last couple of months and I foresee an additional medication being prescribed. As much as I like my PCP, I need someone who specializes in Psychiatry.

Self-Advocacy is a process that can be very time consuming and mentally and physically draining. When it comes down to it though, it needs to rank high in the self-care process. The only person who is going to care as much about your care and health, is you. What I have realized is that having a Self-Advocacy Care Plan is also a necessity. This can be used when you know you are not mentally stable. It is a list of things for your spouse, parents, or even a special friend to tell the doctors when you can’t. It allows them to advocate for you the way you would want to advocate for yourself.

I am currently putting mine together.

What Happens When A Dream Turns Into A Triggering Nightmare


Suddenly, I was back there.  That place, both a saving grace and a hell.  I was walking down the hall.  Bare concrete block walls.  Gray, solemn, just like the people that dwelled inside.  Doorways on both sides leading to rooms with aging office waiting room furniture that was once comfortable but now forlorn like their occupants.  I was one of them again.  An empty void, emaciated, internally crying for help.  Tempered glass and a counter to my left held those that treated us.  Their faces ranged from a gentle smile to a stare as if asking, “What is this person doing?  Am I safe?”  Slowly, I walked toward the end of the hallway where a window was.  Large, a glimpse to the outside world.  If only it was not right across the street from a cemetery.  

My eyes were welling up with tears.

Why was I back here?  There was no reason to be.  I have been doing well mentally and emotionally.  If this was the case, why was I, without warning, plunged into the short term psychiatric ward once again?  I was dreaming and being triggered.  Being both on the outside looking in and on the inside dying to get out.  

I have a love-hate relationship with the hospital’s psych ward.  When I was first there over ten years ago, I wondered why I was there.  I never thought I was experiencing the same problems as the other residents at the time.  I thought I was normal.  Ha, ha, good one Steph!  When I went back over two years ago, I begged for it.  I know being there would help me.


There are things I would rather forget about the hospital aside from the bare walls and gloomy atmosphere:  


The bed checks every 15 minutes… even if I was deep asleep, like clockwork I was awakened to a flashlight shining into the small glass panel in the door.  


The psychiatrists… although there to help, none of them appeared like they cared to help you. I spent all of five minutes a week day (they did not work on weekends or holidays) talking with them while their eyes looked elsewhere as if saying “You’re wasting my time.”


The wake-up time and routine… it was a bit rough waking up at 7am with all the medications I was given and then to go through the process of waiting in line to get weighed and our blood pressure taken.  


Lack of outdoor time… depending on your mental and physical state that day, you may be allowed to go for a short walk circumnavigating the hospital building viewing the nearby cemetery and emergency room.


But, where there is bad, there is also good.  As I mentioned, I knew I needed to be hospitalized again.  For some reason, I felt safe there.  I was only responsible for myself.  I could focus on my much-needed self-care and work on getting better even if it took a psychotic break to get me there.  I knew I would get the medications necessary to sedate me, stop my brain from its incessant thinking… you’re worthless, helpless, not worthy of love.  These medications would also stop my hysterical, borderline delusional, thoughts… take that screw, just jam it in your head, who cares if it kills you?!


Although the psychiatrists were lacking in care, there were some nurses that were a pleasant gift.  They would talk with you about your life focusing in on your face, treating you like a human being.  They remembered things you told them and asked you about it days later.  They were concerned about your care.  Sometimes they even sat and watched TV with us.


Aside from two very special nurses (1 each hospitalization), I made connections with fellow residents.  We talked about our experiences, gave each other advice, was there as a person who knew what it felt like.  I still, from time to time, communicate with my last roommate.


And yet, this dream triggered me.  I awoke with rapid breaths, scared, worried, panicked.  What did it all mean and why was it affecting me so badly?  I was somber the whole day.  Was this a prelude of another hospitalization to come?  Because of my Anxiety diagnosis, of course, here I am jumping to the worst conclusion instead of calmly thinking this through.  And if it is a premonition, why am I so fearful?  The hospital helped me.  Ultimately, I think I will have to consult my therapist on this.

Mommy’s Sick… Does Anyone Care?!

A few days ago I stayed home sick.  No, I didn’t actually have a fever, but my nose was constantly draining as if someone forgot to turn the shower off and my body was achy everywhere.  I was involuntarily stretching because of these aches and knew that I would accomplish nothing, zero, zilch, nada at work.  I was lightheaded and nauseas.  From the moment I woke up, I knew I was doomed.  I texted my boss and informed him I would be out apologizing because I have a project deadline approaching.  I then crawled up the stairs and informed my husband that he would have to drive our daughter to school.

“I’m sick.  Can you please drive Sophia to school?” I voiced weakly, “I’m dizzy, achy, and my nose needs to be permanently attached to tissues.”

I should’ve known what his response would be, after all I have been married to the man for over 12 years and with him for over 20, but I was still a bit awe stricken…

“Ugh, do I have to?!” he whined.

Really?!

I love my husband, really I do.  He really is my rock.  So many times my Depression and Anxiety have told him to leave, that he would be better off without me.  But he never did.  He stepped in as primary parent and let me get the help I needed whether in the form of visits to my therapist or psychiatrist, a phone call to my parents or even a couple of hospitalizations.  He truly is my best friend and an awesome man with exception to this one thing.

During my hospitalization for Severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety 10 years ago, I finally learned I am not Wonder Woman, I cannot do it all.  I mean ALL is a considerable amount.  The media will have you believe that mothers can do everything.  I haven’t met a mother yet that does everything and those that come close usually have large quantities of coffee or wine in hand.  Once I arrived home from this hospitalization, I put the phrase, “I need help” to use.  I mean, I honestly needed help.

“Jimmy, can you help me with this?” I asked my husband.  For awhile, he did (remember, this was a decade ago).  Then he would get whiny.  Once he started to get whiny, I stopped asking for help.  Without asking for help, my Mental Illnesses got worse, but I kept them relatively under control.  After all, I was forever in debt to him for being hospitalized and leaving him with a newborn to take care of for 12 days… at least I thought I was.  Then, I was hospitalized again and once released, he and my daughter questioned me how they could help me.

Ah, finally, they were asking how they could help, not waiting for me to beg them.  This, unfortunately, didn’t last.  I was once again asking them for help, not a lot, and I was using “please” and “thank you”.  They are the magic words you know.  My daughter usually obeyed, but lately, with prepubescence, it is becoming more difficult.  My husband…

And we’re back to… “Ugh, do I have to?!”

I tried not to get angry by this response.  I was completely drained anyway, but inside I was beginning to boil.

“Yes.  Thank you.”

He proceeded to do as asked.  I then called him at work around noon, after a nap and forcing some food into me, to make sure he was going to pick her up from school.

“You’re picking Sophia up from school, right?” I inquired.

“What? Me? Why me?  You’re home.  You pick her up.”

“I’m sick.  I’m not leaving the house.”

And once again… “Ugh, do I have to?!”

When this is a response you constantly receive, it makes it hard to ever ask for help.

Then, he added, “What are you making for dinner?”

What?!  Yes, I know I am home, but really, I don’t even have a desire to eat.  After explaining if he would like his food with snot on it (because, hello, drippy nose), I hoped he would understand that dinner making was not happening from me.  That wasn’t the end of it though… somehow he did guilt me into marinating the steaks I wasn’t going to eat.  With tissues stuck in both nostrils and my hands lathered in antibacterial gel, I got the steaks marinating.

It didn’t end there.  When these two people I love to infinity and beyond arrived home, their understanding of Mommy being unwell left the house.  I was constantly needed for something.  I don’t understand… the two of them functioned fine when I was away on business a couple of weeks ago.  But somehow they can’t understand the idea of me becoming sick.  To them, if I am present in the house, I should be able to function at 100%.  This, too, was the case 3 years ago when I had the flu.  They both couldn’t fathom why I wasn’t cooking and cleaning the whole house since I was home.  At that time, I put myself in quarantine… for 3 days all I did was sleep, go to the bathroom, and munch on toast.

And now, the tables are turned.

Hubby left work early 2 days ago feeling icky, deep into a case of the ‘Man Cold’ with the symptoms I had.  For those who are questioning what the heck ‘Man Cold’ is, I am pleased to tell you.  ‘Man Cold’ is the common cold when it presents itself in male humans.  Instead of acknowledging that they have a cold, they think they are dying.  They believe their sneezes and coughs are much more than a common everyday germ.  They somehow get the idea that this germ, the germ us females have just had, has mutated into a superbug.  They will continuously whine about how awful they feel and try to make you believe that they deserve to sit on the sofa and binge watch Star Trek and Mythbusters.

He stayed home yesterday to nurse said ‘Man Cold’ and mainly because school was canceled due to a couple of inches of slushy snow and ice.  He questioned why I wasn’t staying home too so I could take care of him and our daughter. I just looked at him oddly.  Home all day and he didn’t even salt the walkway, driveway and sidewalk.  Made for quite a theatrical performance for me getting to my front door last night after work.

This is the same person that only a few days ago was having me drive my child to school, make dinner, clean, pick up the child from school and wanted to know why I couldn’t go to work.  But I don’t whine when he asks for help.  Why?  Because I am Mommy.  I am the caretaker and my heart aches when those that I love are ill.  I just want to help them feel better.

I am sure there are men out there that do not act like they are on their death bed, that do not suffer from the dreaded ‘Man Cold’.  But, I haven’t met one yet.  Anyone who is married or with one of this special men, hold onto them tightly.  They are a rare species.

Mommy’s Time Off… (Because That Will Ever Happen!)

Moms, stand up for a moment.  Identify yourselves!  We all deserve medals.  Scratch the medals.  Just bring us coffee, wine, ice cream and leave us with a nice comfy blanket on the sofa binge watching the latest and greatest on Netflix.  Oh, wait, is that the baby that just cried out?  Is that the toddler whining for Goldfish crackers?  Is that the preteen rolling her eyes at me because I said no?  Is that my husband screaming about having no toilet paper even though he was told to buy some earlier this week because we were out? And now the cat is kneading her claws into the blanket which in turn is scratching my legs and the dog is running from the sofa to the door deciding if he wants in or out.

Sound familiar?

Add in a bit of, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” and, “Honey, can you hand me the remote?  It’s too far away.”  (Really dear, it is 3 feet away from you sitting on the coffee table.  Move the damn cat and get it yourself.)

Mothers are the most important figures in a household.  Sure, I will give dads credit.  They do a lot… well most of them… okay, 50% of them?  I know, that might be a stretch.  But, it is us Mothers who have to deal 100% with all the Mental Shit that goes on.

A couple of weeks ago, I read the most enlightening article about Mothers and their Invisible Workload called The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down.  This article made such and impact on me that I am still thinking about it today.  It discusses that although women will work outside the home just as much as men (hubby and I work full time jobs and make about the same give or take 1%), women take on a WHOLE lot more then their male partners.  It isn’t that men do nothing.  Their share at home tends to be physical (think laundry, dishes, taking out the trash).  While us Mothers, aside from doing roughly equal amounts of the physical labor at home, take on all of that Mental Shit.  We know when Johnny has little league, when little Sarah has her dentist appointment, and of course, when the dreaded toilet paper has run out.  We are the ones who have to buy the milk, even if we don’t drink any, because our husbands forgot they have two arms, two legs and a driver’s license.  We are the ones that know where the passports are, the birth certificates, the car titles.

All of this is a HUGE drain on our brains, the brains that were already sucked dry from being pregnant (google pregnancy brain).  Ten years later, my brain is still not the same.

We become sick, and are still seen by society, to be workhorses.  Have the flu?  It doesn’t matter, you have a household to run.  Why is that?  Why has society taught us that if we are “under-the-weather” to just “suck it up”?  Why are our needs so minor?  Why is our care not as relevant?

This needs to change.  All you Mothers out there standing up, it is time we take back ourselves.  I am not saying abandon your family.  For sure, you wouldn’t be able to leave the house without a child attached to a leg.  It’s time we tell our hubbies, “I need a break.  You all are mentally draining me.  Please give me a couple of hours, just a couple, to sit and be lazy on the sofa reading a book with a glass of wine (or coffee, tea, hot chocolate).”  Don’t back down.  Then make sure these couple of hours are truly kid (& hubby) free.  Have him take the kid(s) to another part of the house, or heck, out of the house.

Of course, I am a bit hypocritical.  I have yet to have this happen in my household of 1 lazy, but loving, husband, 1 moody preteen daughter, and 1 precious and beastly furry child.  I started writing a book about two years ago chronicling my struggles with Depression and Anxiety.  I asked my husband to take our child to see her grandparents (his parents) once a month giving me the day to write.  Two years later… I am still waiting for this to happen.  Even tonight, I begged my daughter without giving me a guilt trip, to let Mommy write a blog post.  All I needed was 1 hour of quiet time.  I was not in my room 5 minutes and she was on my bed showing me drawings she made using pictures of me, her father and the cat, pulling my attention away from writing the post after I spent most of the day cuddling with her on the sofa.

But this changes today.  2017 will be the year I take back myself.  The year I recognize I am not just a mother and a wife (and an Architectural Project Manager).  I have my own hobbies and interests.  I will take my Mommy Time every weekend, a couple of hours each day, and recharge my batteries.  I will convince myself that this isn’t selfish, that this is truly necessary to keep this household running.  I will do this to deal with the Mental Shit us Mothers deal with all the time.

Because I matter.

Moms matter.

You matter.