Friday, December 25, 2020


Disclaimer... In this post, I'm going to sound like I'm the most selfish person in the world... But with this blog, I'm trying to be honest about who I am and what I'm going through so that others know they aren't alone in having these same feelings. So I'm planning to share the truth even if it doesn't put me in the best light.

I'm sad... disappointed... frustrated... It's Christmas Day, 2020. I'm at my boyfriend's parents' home in another state and today I'm supposed to be having Christmas with his extended family, the vast majority of whom I didn't meet until this week and about half that I still haven't met even after five days here.

But I don't know what's going to happen. You see, his dad had a TIA (mini-stroke) on Wednesday morning. He was in the hospital two days and was released last night. He was doing well and it looked like he dodged the bullet of having lasting damage.

Overnight things changed. I'm an early bird so I was awake when my boyfriend's parents woke up. At first, I thought that my boyfriend's dad was just weak... until my boyfriend's mom told me that he could barely move his right side and that she was considering taking him back to the hospital.

My first concern was for them - and I was also worried about the long-term affects of the stroke. 

The embarrassing admission I have is that this thought was quickly followed by: So now what's going to happen with the family gathering I have been both excited about and dreading for at least six months?

I don't want it to sound like all I'm thinking about is myself, but I already had to cancel the main activity I was looking forward to - going on a river cruise to look for dolphins, manatee, and other wildlife. As a photographer with a foot injury, this was right up my alley. I could sit, enjoy the wildlife, and take lots of photos without having to deal with my injury. 

We were scheduled to go the day he had the TIA. With it being Christmas week, he was already booked for the few slots he had left, so rescheduling wasn't even a possibility... and with my boyfriend's dad's condition, we had no idea how long he'd be in the hospital anyway.

So, like I warned you about, I'm being incredibly selfish with this admission, but I'm so sad that my plans have been ruined. My boyfriend and I have been dating almost four years now and this is the first time he's been able to get off work long enough and the right time of year for us to come down. I wanted to cram in so much this week, as it's the first vacation I've gone on in several years too. 

But instead, I'm doing a lot of what I'd be doing at home... playing Candy Crush, watching stuff on my phone (with earbuds so I don't disturb anyone), culling photos on my laptop, and blogging. I'm doing these things on a less comfortable bed than mine or at the kitchen table with not very comfortable kitchen chairs and a laptop. 

At home, I have a comfy bed, a cushy desk chair, a huge monitor (for photo editing), and all I need. At home, even though it's Christmas week, I can work some. At home, I can go to the gym and swim or take a long, hot bath (stress relievers for me).

One more thing... with COVID, we can't even go to the hospital to relieve his mom or help in any way. We are stuck at his house, waiting on updates.

I am so upset but even as I admit that I feel bad that my major emotion has to do with me. I feel like I should be more concerned about his dad's health and how his mom is handling all this. Don't get me wrong, I am both of those things. But I was really hoping to just have a fun time this week - and that's blown to bits. 

All I can do is try to make the best of it and try, try, try to not focus on all the bad. 

(I'll be so glad when 2020 is over...)

Using a Wheelchair for the First Time

If you have read this blog recently, you know that I had a major ankle injury this past summer. The only way I could walk for even a few steps the first two months was to use a walker and I'm still recovering several months later (it's now December).  

I am to the point where I can walk on level surfaces without too much of an issue. If I'm going places where I don't know what types of surfaces and varying heights I'll be walking on, I wear an ankle brace and take a cane. 

But for very long distances, like going to a zoo, I knew a brace with a cane wouldn't cut it. I realized the only way I could get around was to get a wheelchair. 

My last blog post discussed the whole process of getting ready for a trip to meet my boyfriend's family, which I knew would involve at least one instance of needing to do lots of walking. This included buying a wheelchair because I knew that I couldn't count on them having one at the place(s) we visited, and even if they did, it might not be a heavy-duty one (which I need because of my weight). 

So I ordered it. There was a lot of nervousness surrounding whether it would arrive in time for the trip with all of the delivery delays surrounding a COVID Christmas. I had decided it made more sense to get it delivered to my boyfriend's parents' home in case it arrived after we left. Still, I was very relieved when I got a confirmation that it had been delivered.

But getting it at his parent's house caused a new dilemma... I was nervous about sitting in it for the first time. I knew it had measurements and was supposed to be big enough to fit me - and heavy-duty enough to not bend under my weight - but until I sat in it, I wouldn't know for sure. 

I ended up waiting until everyone was asleep to try it out for the first time. I sat in it and was so relieved when I realized it was the size it advertised as well as being very sturdy. Only then was I able to start getting excited about going to the zoo with his family.

The closer I got to actually getting to the zoo, the more nervous I started feeling... again. What would it be like to have to be wheeled around? Would there be places I couldn't get to because they weren't accessible? Would I get judgmental looks because I am so overweight and I "should" be walking?

I'd love to say that when answering those questions, it turned out that there had been nothing to worry about. I can't say that's true. It wasn't fun to be wheeled around (more about that later). Most of the zoo was accessible but there was one place I had to go on a very shaky lift and a couple of other places I had to get out and walk (which was difficult with my ankle). I got looks but I didn't feel a lot of judgment (some, but not a lot).

About being wheeled around... you need to know that this type of wheelchair has small wheels so it fits easier into a car. This meant that when my boyfriend, who is also a photographer, wanted to get a shot of something quickly, he'd park my wheelchair and just leave me there. I was stuck because I can't move it on my own.

Sometimes this meant that I couldn't get the shot I wanted, because I either had to try to get up and walk (which was very difficult) or just miss it and wait for him to come back. It didn't happen much as he takes great care of me, but there were a few times he did this. 

I didn't get mad at him; however, I was really mad about the situation. I kept beating myself up for letting this happen. Though the ankle injury wasn't my fault, I felt that if I was a typical size, I'd be fully recovered by now. 

When I can step back (pun intended) and analyze my feelings, I know that even incredibly fit athletes have injuries where they have to be in a wheelchair for a time. I know that I'm a food addict and didn't realize this for 50 of my 52 years on earth. I know that I have other medical conditions that contributed both to my injury and my weight. But at the zoo, I continued to beat myself up. 

On the other hand, it was nice to be able to get around the zoo without worrying about whether I'd be able to walk the next day due to straining my ankle. It's also a relief to know that if my ankle gets worse or something comes up where I normally would have to do a lot of walking, I have a way to get around. 

My hope is that when I get home from this trip, I'll be able to store the wheelchair and not need it for a very long time, if ever. But it is nice to know that I have it if I need it. So I'm thankful for my wheelchair, even though it would be so much better to not need it at all.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

When Someone With Anxiety is Getting Ready to Visit the Boyfriend's Family for the First Time

Two weeks from tomorrow we'll be on the road. So many emotions are going through my head... fear, excitement, anxiety, hope, and a myriad of others. You see, for the first time in the 3 1/2 years since I met my boyfriend, we are going to visit his family for Christmas.

When he first told me he could get off work and that we were going, I was excited. His parents still live in the house he grew up in - and I've wanted to see it. He has a huge, close family and I've wanted to meet them. Plus it's a chance to do something different for Christmas and get out of town, which is a huge treat because of being home so much due to COVID.

Then the anxiety started. He made an offhand comment about how his sister doesn't like anybody... it's the first time I realized I might not be liked by his family. When we first planned it, COVID issues should have no longer been a factor... they still are. 

The worries multiplied... What were we going to do each day? Where were we going to stay? Will my healing ankle injury handle the activities planned? Will my mental illnesses get in the way? What about my weight - will that be an issue? How will I deal with my new meal plan in the midst of lots of food and also not wanting to draw attention to myself?

I'm thankful that the work I've been doing with therapy, support groups, and my sponsor kicked in. I decided I needed to be proactive concerning the trip. I'm so proud of myself for both realizing that and for actually taking those steps.

For one thing, after discussing it, we decided that we needed to drive instead of fly as well as stay in a hotel instead of with his family. 

There are many reasons driving makes more sense to me as someone with anxiety. For one thing, my car is an extension of home. It's something familiar when almost nothing will be familiar for eight days. 

It's also practical - both on a general level and concerning my anxiety issues. I'm very overweight so with some cars the seatbelts are tight. I won't have to worry about that embarrassing and safety issue if I have my own car. 

This will also give me somewhere to escape if I get overwhelmed with his family. He has a large, loud, multigenerational family and I know enough about myself to know that the noise could be hard to deal with. Having my own car gives me a place to go - either to just sit in the car for a while or to head back early to the hotel if needed... without inconveniencing anyone.

Staying at a hotel gives me even more of a chance to breathe. I don't have to have "guest behavior" every minute if I have a space where I can relax. Even though I know the family is sincere when they say that it's not a bother to stay with them, I'll still feel that I am intruding. Until I get to the point in my recovery that I truly accept that I'm not always in someone's way, this is a great way to deal with those feelings within myself.

There's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of staying at a hotel. Yes, we are saving money by not flying, but gas adds up so it's not that much cheaper (especially considering flights are inexpensive right now). I wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my mental health was worth it... I am worth it.

In addition, there's the ankle injury I had earlier this summer. I recently got to the place where I could walk on it without a lot of pain but not for long periods of time. My boyfriend's family has already expressed an interest in taking us to some attractions that involve a great deal of walking. 

I felt both a lot of fear and sadness when I first heard. I hate to be a bother and the thought of making everyone change their plans because of my health and needs is at the top of the list of ways I could be a hassle. At first, I  just hoped I could somehow make it with the new brace my doctor ordered for me and a cane that I bought for "just in case" times.

Then I did more walking to test my ankle and I realized that this was a pipe dream. There's no way I can make it around their zoo, for example, without being in a lot of pain and possibly re-injuring my foot. I was looking at the website for one attraction we might go to... and wondering how I could possibly walk that much... when I considered renting a wheelchair. 

However, remember how I mentioned I'm very overweight? Though I've been too scared to test them out, I'm almost positive most regular size wheelchairs are too small for me. When I reflected on this, I got pretty discouraged and very, very sad until I decided how I needed to be proactive in this area too. 

My ankle could be an issue for a very long time and hoping it would get better won't just make it get better. I have other health issues that come into play both in how long it takes to heal as well as how much I will eventually recover. So I decided to go online to see how much it would be to buy a heavy-duty wheelchair.

This decision is also scary. A very overweight person in a wheelchair carries a lot of stigma. It doesn't matter if there's an injury involved... I know that many people will see me and think, "She is lazy and has no willpower. If she just would stop eating and start walking instead of coasting along in a wheelchair, she wouldn't need it." 

That stigma, that issue, is for another blog. All I can do now is know that even though it will be a pain to deal with both physically (I'd much rather walk than be pushed in a wheelchair, and it also won't be fun to have to find room for it in the car) as well as emotionally (trying to not be embarrassed when people see me riding instead of walking), it's something I need right now. 

Like the hotel, there's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of buying a wheelchair. It makes sense to not rent one each time I need one at an attraction in the long run but right now, it's an investment. I again wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my physical health was worth it... I am worth it.

It's hard to understand that I am important. It's hard to believe that I'm worth others going to the trouble of dealing with my issues. It's hard to spend money on myself and what I need. It's hard to recognize that I'm doing the best I can and it doesn't matter what others think.

But I'm getting there. I might not be at the place where I can take all of this in stride, but at least I'm now at the point where I think proactively about what needs to be done to make a trip like this the best it can be... for me. And I'm worth making that happen.