Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Weight Loss, Adele, and What If We Have It All Wrong?

I just read an article on "The Mighty", a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities, about the big deal the press is making of Adele recently losing weight.  This article so affirmed ideas I have had for years but never thought could actually be true, because society and especially medical personnel, have been saying the opposite.

The article, titled "What to Remember Before Commenting on Adele's Weight Loss" (published mid-December 2019, written by Lexie Manion... https://themighty.com/2019/12/adele-weight-loss-christmas-photos/?utm_source=newsletter_mighty_brief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_mighty_brief_2019-12-30&$deep_link=true has some amazing thoughts in it.  But by far my favorite paragraph is this one:

"For those struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating, celebrating someone's weight loss uninvited can trigger dangerous behaviors in an attempt to lose more weight.  Some argue that by uplifting or just allowing fat people to exist we somehow promote obesity, which isn't true, yet no one talks about how we clearly promote self-harm through eating disorders and disordered eating when we carelessly celebrate someone's weight loss and nothing else.  It sends a dangerous message to people trying to recover from disordered eating and eating disorders that weight loss of every kind is an accomplishment."

I have been overweight by far the majority of my life - sometimes extremely, sometimes not as much, but I've never been what the charts say is a "healthy weight".  Even the times in my life where I worked out every day or was on a strict diet, I never made it to that magic number.

But until very recently, my physical health has been pretty good - and what I've been dealing with health-wise has had no relation at all to my weight (except for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - PCOS - which actually could be a cause of my weight issues).  Other than that, for years I've dealt with Restless Legs Syndrome and Mitral Valve Prolapse/dysautonomia, and just being a sickly child in general with many, many ear infections, kidney issues, etc as I grew up, plus a myriad of mental health issues.

I just crossed the line from pre-diabetic to having type 2, but it's still controlled by meds so it's really no different other than the terminology.  I wasn't diagnosed as a pre-diabetic until just a couple of years ago.  My cholesterol was a little bit high at my last check-up - the first time I've had an issue with it at all.  My blood pressure has been slightly high the past few years but those years have been BEYOND stressful so how much of that was weight-related and how much was continuous, ongoing, major stress on top of an anxiety disorder and other mental health issues?

I have two clear memories of the medical field in relation to my weight and this issue - two extremes.  One was a time that I knew I had an ear infection (I have had many so I knew what they were like) and I needed to get antibiotics.  I had new insurance and hadn't established a primary doctor yet, so I went to one of the few in the area that would take me without being established.  He spent the entire visit lecturing me about my weight - and he didn't even look in my ears!  That experience to this day makes me nervous about going to a new doctor and experiences like this have also scarred my daughter concerning the same issue.

The other time was just the opposite.  I was severely depressed at this time of my life.  This doctor mentioned at my visit that my weight was something that we needed to address, but not at that time.  He was much more afraid that I would do something to hurt myself with my level of depression and he knew that adding on the stress of dealing with weight loss could send me over the edge.  (He was very correct, by the way.)  This was the first doctor I ever had who cared more about me than about my weight.

Since then the tide is slowly turning to where doctors don't blame weight for almost every physical problem out there.  I have found a few doctors now that care more about me than my weight issue.  But both my daughter and I both have dealt with this in the recent past so we know that thinking is still out there.

On a quick side note... for most of my life I would put off going to the doctor about anything, even an ear infection, because they made me weigh at each visit and all it did was throw me into a deep depression.  It has taken me years but I am finally at the point where I tell them I don't weight - and the medical field is starting to listen.  I've had to argue with some to get to that point but now I don't let me scale keep me from having other medical issues addressed.

If you are in the same boat as I am about that issue, stand up for yourself.  My point always was, if they can tell me a reason they need to have the number, I'll do it.  So far no-one ever has.  I can understand a child whose amount of medication is affected by his/her weight or a health issue that very directly involves weight gain or loss as a symptom, but not a freakin' ear infection!

Oh - and if they tell you that you don't have to look at the scale but they have to have that dang number, don't fall for it.  One time I read over my post-visit notes after they had said that, and saw the number.  I got so depressed I was down for weeks - all over that stupid number.  Again, know that I've done it for years now and though sometimes I have to argue with them about it, I've always gotten the medical care I needed, even without that number on their charts.

Back to the main issue... I know my eating is a huge problem.  I have said it before on this blog that I am to the point where I am terrified I won't ever be able to fix it - and those health and mobility issues that are just now showing up will get much worth over time.  But it's truly ridiculous for a doctor to bring it up in an office visit where you went in the first place because you thought you had a virus.  Do these doctors not think that we (those of us who are severely overweight) haven't already realized that it's an issue that needs to be addressed?

"The Mighty" author said it so well: "When we assume weight loss is a good thing without the person saying so themselves, we send the message that any lost weight is a win, when in fact, people can lose weight due to stress, illness, eating disorders, taking new medications and a multitude of other things.  This also sends a clear message to fat people that it's not OK to be fat, and that they should lose weight to fit in, too."

This happened to my boyfriend, though, because weight isn't a big issue to him, I doubt he even noticed.  A couple of years ago he was in and out of hospitals for months, extremely ill, while several teams of doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.  He was finally diagnosed with Stills Disease, a rare auto-immune disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Throughout the course of that horrible time, he lost about 45 pounds - and he's not a big guy to being with.  When he was finally strong enough to be able to get out and do things, a friend of his complimented him on how great he looked.  

All I could think about was the absolutely nightmarish way he got there - and how I had begged him to eat and drink during that whole time because he was so weak.  It tore me up inside and the one who said it is a big addiction recovery advocate.  Maybe he was just trying to think of something positive to say... but I really wish he would have emphasized how great it was that he was out of the hospitals and on the road to getting better.  If that same thing had happened to someone who was sensitive to eating issues, it could have spiraled them down to thinking that it was better to lose weight, no matter how you got there.

Sometimes I wonder about the future of medical science.  I have already heard one TedTalk speaker say it (Peter Attia - "What if We are Wrong About Diabetes?"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMhLBPPtlrY )- and I know there are others who are starting to believe it, but what if... WHAT IF... the reason I am so overweight is due TO a medical issue, not the other way around?  What if it doesn't have anything to do with my willpower or the fact that I don't exercise enough?  What if, in fact, diabetes is part of this same underlying medical issue?  What if no amount of willpower or dieting would change the basic underlying make-up of my chemistry and even if I lost weight, the other issues would still happen to me?

I know one result of this thought process... the shame at being overweight would be gone.  The self-hate would be gone too, and so someone in my condition would actually care enough to tackle being as healthy as possible, instead of giving up because who wants to work that hard to help someone you hate?

I dream that one day this will no longer be an issue.  In 150 years I hope that medical science will have come so far that they no longer blame the person for issues that are much, much deeper than something like willpower or being shamed into it fixing it (issues such as addiction, mental health, weight, etc).  I hope that they look back at where we are now and think of this the same way we now wonder how the most enlightened 150 years ago believed that bloodletting was the best way to cure illness.

I still need to lose weight.  I know I have an addiction to food and it's controlling my life.  I know that there are definitely health issues that are directly caused by my obesity.  But people, especially those in the medical field, need to realize that weight loss is not the most important aspect of life.  After all, true health is the goal - not a number on a scale.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas is Here

I have had bad Christmas seasons before - the year I found out my husband wanted a divorce, the first Christmas I had as a truly single mom, the year I lost my job/career and decided to move back home... but this year has topped them all.  The biggest difference between those horrible years and this year is that it never got back.  I wasn't able to muscle-through and at least try by going through the motions.  I just couldn't work it up to care enough.

I chalk this up to major depression and some life events happening this month.  I haven't put up one decoration and have barely done any Christmas shopping.  I haven't gone to one Christmas party or event (well, with the exception of watching my daughter's college choir in their annual Christmas event - but I felt numb through the entire program).  My daughter and I make Christmas cookies together almost every year (very few exceptions), but that didn't happen.  We didn't even watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" together - which is a staple for the two of us.

To top it off, my family Christmas is always on Christmas Eve because my daughter goes to her dad's the afternoon of the 24th and is there all day on the 25th.  So our Christmas Eve is the 23rd and our Christmas is the morning of the 24th.  Well, she had to work on the evening of the 23rd and I had a support group meeting I needed to go to.  So no Christmas Eve stuff happened.  Then I woke up with a bad headache, nausea, and some abdominal pain yesterday - on the 24th.  This has never happened before, but I didn't even have my daughter's Christmas gifts wrapped (she was basically the only one I bought for this year that needed to be wrapped).

It took all day to make myself just get up long enough to wrap those gifts (one was big and heavy and really difficult to wrap).  My daughter has never been one to wake up early to open presents (even as a little kid she preferred to sleep over seeing what Santa brought).  This year, though, she was in the same boat as me, except that she had done a little bit of decorating earlier in the month.  Yesterday, though, she was as depressed as I was - and so she didn't come down until late afternoon.  This gave me time to wrap the gifts before she came down.

I don't want to go into details, but the evening just got worse as it progressed.  I hoped that I would wake up today feeling better, but I don't.  Right before the nearest grocery store closed last night, I did have the foresight that I might feel this way - so I bought some snacks for my daughter's trip and some junk food to eat today.

Yes, I know that this is completely opposite to my goal of recovery through OA.  Yes, I completely realize that I am medicating my feelings with food.  Only a few times in my life have I bought alcohol to drink at home - and those were more for others.  But last night I did think about trying to get drunk, just to make the pain go away.  However, I'm too broke for alcohol so Little Debbie cakes and chips and queso made the cut instead.

Once more, it's a blog without a moral, without encouragement, without help for those of you in the same boat.  But then again, maybe it's not.  There is no great story about how I stayed sober with my food addiction through this hard time.  There aren't some helpful tips on how to make it through this kind of crap in a healthy way.  There's nothing positive about this post.

But... maybe you are in the same boat I am.  Maybe life circumstances or mental/physical health issues or finances have meant that this season sucks.  Maybe you are also by yourself and just like me, all you want is for this day to be over.  I might not be able to encourage you except to say: you aren't alone.

Mixed-State Ultra-ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder Type 2 Is...

Mixed-State Ultra-ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder Type 2 is...

... See the lists for "Depression Is...", "Hypomania Is...", and "Anxiety Is...", combine them, and have them pop up randomly at any time of day, any day.

Sometimes scenarios off of 2 or even all 3 lists can show up at once.  Sometimes it's more than one scenario from one list all hitting at the same time.  Sometimes in the morning, you start with scenarios from one list then at some random point in the day, change to another.  Sometimes you can stay on one list, cycling through many of the scenarios on just that individual list for days, weeks or months.

The only thing you know for sure with this disorder is that no matter how you feel at the moment, that feeling will eventually change with a different scenario or list heading your way.  Though it's possible for it to change into stability, even then it's temporary.  The lists will return with a vengeance.  Medicine, therapy, support groups, and supportive friends and family can keep you in stability longer, but there will be a point where it leaves and the lists attack again.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Mania/Hypomania Is...

Mania/Hypomania is...
... talking way too much and even though you feel embarrassed doing it, you can't stop;
... not being able to get to sleep;
... not being able to stay asleep;
... waking up way too early;
... having amazing ideas for all of these life-changing projects, but not being able to focus enough to finish any of them, or even really get started on them;
... feeling at the top of your game but in the back of your mind knowing can't trust that feeling;
... working non-stop without stopping to do basics like eating or getting something to drink;
... having medical conditions like restless legs syndrome amp up so that you are miserable while you are working non-stop;
... having anger issues that you can't seem to control;
... dealing with constant thoughts, usually negative, that you can't silence no matter what you do;
... not being able to stay on a topic of conversation;
... being distracted extremely easily;
... spending more than usual;
... having to really, really struggle to maintain sobriety in areas of addiction that you thought you had overcome;
... increased energy, but not necessarily in a positive way - more like a constant restlessness.

Every one of these scenarios is something that has happened, or continues to happen, to me.  I have come a long way in that now I usually am able to recognize how crazy the thought is and not get totally wrapped up in anxiety over it, but it's still there and is often still a fight.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Depression Is...

Depression is...
... knowing how relaxing a hot bath would be but still putting it off as it's too much effort;
... recognizing that there's one task for the day that has a deadline, and even though it should only take about 10 minutes to finish and submit, still putting off getting it done;
... not caring about how you look;
... not being able to plan ahead, like what you need to buy at the grocery store so that you can make meals for the next week;
... forgetting something someone just told you;
... not wanting to get out of bed but also not being able to sleep while in that same bed;
... feeling "foggy" all the time, not being able to focus or concentrate, becoming very ADD but only for that time;
... not being able to decorate for a holiday, or at least not wanting to;
... realizing that your addiction is killing you but not being able to stop doing it, again because it's too much to even figure out where to start;
... viewing your work as horrible, even when it's almost constantly praised by clients and employers;
... crying over something very tiny going wrong;
... not being able to laugh at a comedian who you used to laugh so hard it hurt over;
... not being able to enjoy going on a date with someone you love;
... not being able to get your normal amount of work done because you just can't concentrate;
... getting angry over stupid stuff - things you would normally take in stride;
... having an extremely difficult time scheduling anything - from doctor's appointments to things to do with your family;
... having to fight negative thoughts all of the time;
... not caring about, well, much of anything.

Every one of these scenarios is something that has happened, or continues to happen, to me.  I have come a long way in that now I usually am able to recognize how crazy the thought is and not get totally wrapped up in anxiety over it, but it's still there and is often still a fight.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Anxiety Is...

Anxiety is...
... heading down a staircase, imagining what the fall would be like and wondering which time it will actually happen;
... seeing a large nail or other sharp protrusion coming out of a wall and thinking about the scenarios for your head hitting it and having a major injury or dying;
... waking up in the middle of the night with some strange symptoms, looking them up to make sure it's not a heart attack (even though you've looked them up many times before), seeing you don't have even the unusual symptoms of a heart attack, but still not being able to go back to sleep because what if it is, in fact, a heart attack;
... having your boyfriend not answer your text for an hour and, even though you know he's probably just taking a nap, letting the fear freak you out - being sure that he's injured or dead;
... looking on a tracking program (our whole family does it) late at night and seeing that your adult daughter is at an unusual location and, even though you look up the area and find out a restaurant is nearby, can't let the obvious scenario be that she's eating there and instead thinks something happened to her;
... checking your bank balance and seeing that, for once, you made enough money to pay all of the bills for the month with a little leftover but all you can think about is that something could still happen to the car to wipe out that extra, plus more;
... noticing that someone you work with is treating you differently and, even though you are 99% sure that it's something going on with them (like a family issue, etc), you just can't shake the fact that maybe it's something you did;
... going to a party with people that you know and love but still find that once you get there, you are paralyzed with fear and hide out in an unused room for the majority of the event;
... overhearing that a diagnosis you have could possibly lead to another condition that could possibly cause major vision or hearing impairments and so you decide to start learning braille and sign language, just in case (this was at about 10 years old);
... observing that something fragile is near the edge of a table and automatically seeing it crash;
... watching your pet walk differently and have 20 different horrible outcomes (both with the pet and financially due to vet bills) even though he jumped down from a table funny last night and chances are huge that it's just a sprain;
... walking on an uneven surface, such as cobblestone, and not being able to stop thinking about how injured you could get if you fall...

Every one of these scenarios is something that has happened, or continues to happen, to me.  I have come a long way in that now I usually am able to recognize how crazy the thought is and not get totally wrapped up in anxiety over it, but it's still there and is often still a fight.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Making it Through the Holidays with Addiction and/or Mental Illness

No matter where you are in your sobriety or mental health journey, the holidays won't make the urges to turn to your addiction or make the symptoms of your mental illness go away.  Social media and television portray holiday parties and family gatherings as wonderful, fulfilling, stress-free times.  In fact, they are just the opposite.  For an addict or someone who struggles with mental illness, the stress of the holidays can be the trigger to bring even someone who has gotten more healthy into going back into old behaviors. 

I'm not a doctor or therapist but I did some online research to try to find any tips that might help during this difficult time of year. 

Following are some suggestions that might help:

- BEFORE the holidays hit, make a plan.  Studies show that stress can bring long-dormant behavior back.  Get with your sponsor or another support person and plan for those stressful times.

- Remember that you aren’t alone.  We are all dealing with staying sober or living with mental health issues. If an addict, keep in mind that turning to your addiction is only a temporary fix.  Reach out to fellow addicts when you have a low moment.  If you are someone with mental illness, also reach out if you feel like you can't handle your symptoms.

Call someone - preferably a fellow addict or another person who deals with mental illness.  Keep phone numbers with you for those low moments when you want to drink, use, act out, or you just need someone to listen.    
Remember HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – are common triggers.  Figure out ways to deal with them beforehand.  Remember that you need to get adequate sleep and nutrition through the chaos of the holidays.  Phone calls, meditation, escape, or distraction can help.  Slow down and don’t overbook yourself.

- Release resentments before going to family gatherings or parties. The #1 reason for relapse is due to resentment.  Before seeing the ones you may still have resentments against, get with your sponsor and try to work through some of those feelings.  If you aren't an addict, think about forgiving some of those that have hurt you before you deal with them.  Remember that forgiveness is much more about you than about the other person.

- “Bookend” events with planned calls.  Have someone call you before and after an event to check on you (and get you out of an event if needed).  Friends and family could be triggers and you might need help escaping or dealing with the stress.

- Have an escape plan.  Limit time in stressful situations.  Make sure you have a way to leave if needed (and that your car isn’t blocked in).

- Relax your standards.  Don’t compare yourself, your home, your party, your family… to others’.  Progress, not perfection.

- Avoid isolation.  If going out of town, before you leave, find support groups that you can attend while you are gone.  If you are alone and isolated, shame and boredom can make it harder to stay sober and more difficult to handle your mental illness.  If you are alone during the holidays, find people to be around.  Addicts... keep in touch with your sponsor and continue working your program.

- Don’t feel obligated to discuss your addiction or mental illness with friends and family.  However, just in case, be prepared with answers to uncomfortable questions.  Role-play conversations/interactions with a safe person if you feel they could be especially difficult.

- Serve others.  One of the best ways to be stay sober is to serve others.  For those with mental illness, if possible, try to put the focus on others' happiness instead of your own.  See how you can help at a family gathering or party.  Visit a shut-in.  Help serve food to the homeless.  Write letters to the military or those in prison. Take the family’s kids out for a treat.

- Make time for physical exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that can help.             

Oh... The Holidays...

Every year around the middle of October I start to dread what is to come: The Holidays... Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas - the trifecta of guilt, bad memories, and stress.

All of my memories of this time of year weren't bad.  I guess Halloween was ruined first.  As a kid, I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia.  I could still have sugar (this was before they equated carbs with sugar), but had to only eat it with something to slow down the spike in blood sugar that would later lead to a glucose low.

Reese's became my favorite candy during this time, and it still is.  The peanut butter has protein and fat, which helps slow down that surge of sugar from the chocolate that would run through my veins.  Halloween to me meant getting all of the cool different types of candy and then trading pretty much everything for the few Reese's Cups my brother got.

Maybe it happened and I forgot about it, but I don't ever remember ever going crazy on candy after Halloween.  I had to dole it out slowly.  It did cause me to save it, savor it, which was probably a good thing, but I became jealous of my friends and brothers who would eat all they wanted (at least until parents or a stomachache made them stop).

It took much longer to put the pieces together on why I have hated Thanksgiving since I was little. I'm just now figuring it out.  It was a combination of things... too many people in too small a space; being compared to cousins that all seemed to be prettier and wealthier and more popular than I was; cigar smoke that made me gag; but mostly it was the food.

For the majority of people, food is the best part of Thanksgiving.  While a child until probably in my early 40's, I was never one to love the traditional Thanksgiving foods: casseroles, ham, turkey, green beans, yams/sweet potatoes, etc.  I ate them only because I was hungry as there were no other options.

I also ate because of one other major reason I grew to hate Thanksgiving - social anxiety disorder.  Looking back, I had it since I was a young child but didn't know anything about it until around10 years ago.

I just recently learned how these two things fit together to make Thanksgivings horrible for me.  I recently admitted to myself and on this blog that I'm a food addict/have an eating disorder.  Food is often how I cope when I get anxious, especially in social situations.  So I was put into a social situation that I couldn't handle, with food that I didn't like, and I was plain old miserable.

Though I now like many Thanksgiving foods, my social anxiety has gotten worse as I've gotten older and so it's balanced out.  Plus, the older I get, the more I feel guilty when I use food to help my anxiety, which just adds to the anxiety (fun cycle, huh?)

But Christmas... Christmas was the last one to go.  As a child I really did love most of Christmas.  My mom was a perfectionist and some things, like wrapping presents or decorating the tree, were never done good enough, but I loved the whole mystery of Santa coming and going to neighborhoods to see the light displays and putting on Christmas plays and choir performances.

It was still okay as an adult, even though it was harder when I didn't have a baby nearly as quickly as I wanted to after getting married.  The first year or two after you are married, it's novel and fun to just be with your spouse, but for me at least, I wanted to start Christmas traditions with my child(ren).  It took a painful nine years for my daughter to be born and after it happened, I could hardly wait for her first Christmas - and the many to follow. 

Then something I had never imagined possibly happening did... my now ex-husband decided he no longer wanted to be married.  We pretended to be a family during holidays for the couple of years of separation but it was strained and stressful.  The first year after the divorce I didn't want to even decorate.  A friend spoke up, saying that I needed to do it for my child, even if I didn't feel up to it.  So I went through the motions for her, while stuffing down the deep depression I felt.

I think that's when going through the motions started.  It just never seemed "right" after that.  As my daughter got older, I really enjoyed watching her in plays and choir performances and we did have some Christmas traditions that we both enjoyed, but mostly I have felt numb.

A few years ago, some major, life-changing events happened, and on some levels, I'm still reeling over them.  Because my daughter's favorite time of year is Christmas, I think I was able to make it off her energy during those years to make it through the season.

This year has been different.  I've been even more depressed than usual and my daughter has been going through her own, major, life-changing events.  She has been anxious and stressed, as have I.  So we are now at December 13th... with no decorations, no plans (my daughter and I used to decide around Thanksgiving each year a plan of all we wanted to do and see during December), and no desire to even try.  If I put up even a mini-Christmas tree, without any ornaments, it will be amazing.


Sorry to be such a downer.  I usually work really hard to share on this blog how I've overcome my struggles... or at least how I am working to overcome them.  This year - I just don't know.  I'll let you know if/when something changes.