Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Life in the Slow Lane

12108756_10208073611423764_1885628941810349569_n (1)Four months ago today I arrived in Texas after a 1,658 mile drive from Connecticut. My sister-in-law flew up to share the drive and Tessie was good as gold on the trip. We stayed in pet-friendly hotels but didn’t make reservations except for the first day, since that gave us more flexibility depending on road and traffic conditions.

Our route took us through the Poconos and down through Scranton, PA and continuing down through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, just a short drive from my former home in Charlottesville. We skimmed through Tennessee and cut across Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana into Texas, completing the drive in 3.5 days. My furniture arrived within 24 hours, much to my shock and delight.

The past months have been nesting time. Figuring out where things go and what things we don’t need. My pre-move cleanout made the move cheaper than estimated and also meant fewer items to find homes for in my new house. We ended up taking quite a lot of kitchen things and books to Goodwill, including my dad’s 40-year-old stereo system that took up way too many shelves in the bookcases. I replaced it with a new Bose system with CD-player. We’re loving our Amazon Echo in the kitchen and listen to NPR and music over meals.

Dad and I joined the local community church and I’m singing in the choir, which is like breathing for me.  I’ve also been taking Mah Jongg lessons and am starting to play regularly. It’s a strange game but an important social activity here so I’m meeting lots of people.  And the parties! I’ve been to more parties in the last 3 months than in the past 10 years!

It’s been a big adjustment to go from living solo (plus Tessie) to sharing a house, meals, errands, etc. with my dad. We’re figuring things out as we go and the space is large enough that we’re not falling over each other, especially now that we have a second TV in the den. He watches Fox News in one room and I watch anything else in the other!

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Thanksgiving 2015

 

 


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Healing Power of Doing Nothing

I have done almost nothing over this 10-day recess break period, and this year especially it’s been a blessing I needed more than I knew.  Having this break is a major perk of working in academia. Some years I fly to Texas to be with family, but honestly, I miss them for about 30 min on Christmas morning and the rest of the time I’m happy on my own without the stress of holidays and expectations.

I slept until I woke up most days until I finally feel rested and my eyes look less bruised from lack of sleep.  My time was my own.  I did limited shopping, got a pedicure, had my hair cut and colored, and took Tessie to the vet.  I drove out to a consignment shop an hour away that I’ve wanted to go to for months, and did genealogy research for my 95-year-old neighbor. I bought furniture.

I went through drawers, boxes, closets and shelves to weed out what I don’t need/want to take to my new apartment, lugging bags and boxes to Goodwill – and even more bags to the dumpster or recycling bins.

But mostly I spent the time alone with Tessie and it was just what I needed.  I enjoy being with people but it tires me out, especially in the chaotic bustle of the holiday season.  I brought some work home but kept it in my bag without opening it – which made me really happy.  More to do when I get back tomorrow, but emptying my head of work was necessary.

I hope I can remember all the codes I need to know tomorrow.  But at least I will go in rested and ready to take it on.


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Whining Ahead

Last week (how time flies!) I went back to the surgeon for my 2-week update.  My hope was that the nasty surgical drains would be removed, but I knew going in that it wasn’t likely.  In fact, when he asked me how I was feeling, I said “Physically much better. Emotionally, pretty crabby since I know I will leave with drains.”

My surgical drains

He ended up removing two and leaving me with the ones that have been draining the most.  The normal rule is that you keep the drains until the total daily output is no more than 30cc of fluid for two consecutive days.  Unfortunately I have one that generates almost 90cc in the course of a day which makes me annoyed, plus it’s literally a pain in the butt.

One reason for the annoyance are the limited clothing options (hello, red moleskin shirt!).  I know that when the drains are gone, I will finally start to really see the results of the surgery.  I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything I should be eating (or not eating), or increasing or decreasing kinds of movement and even sleep to speed things along.  At the same time, I also know that having the fluid removed from my insides is good for my healing and I should just shut up about it and let things go at their own speed.

My boss and I talked last week about coming back to work.  After she heard about what the surgical drains actually involved, she said I should stay home until they’re gone.  But what if I go back on Wednesday and still have one?  I can’t stay here forever.  Maybe I need a note from the doctor saying it’s okay for me to deal with them at work without increased risk of infection.

Because that’s another possible complication:  the longer you have the things in, the greater the risk of infection.  It’s hard to change the dressings when they’re on your butt and you can’t actually see what you’re doing.

Now let’s whine about the arms.  I hate the ace bandages that are the compression gear for the upper arms.  I’m using the self-stick kind with the ends taped together to try and make it stay put.  I’m not so good at wrapping, though I’m getting lots of practice.  I would really like to graduate to “wear 12 hours, leave off 12 hours” but don’t know if my doctor is likely to go for it.  He’s pretty conservative.

The upper arm incision still has stitches that need to be removed, hopefully this week (I know, I’m terribly optimistic about this week’s visit).  It runs from my elbow along the bottom of the arm up across the armpit and wrapping slightly under the arm to my back.  I wear dressings on the “around the armpit” stitches and the only way to hold them in place (at least with my Wikipedia medical degree) is to wrap the whole thing across the shoulder with 2″ medical paper tape.  I have lots of sticky residue in some complicated to reach places.

And I want a shower.  I really really want a shower, which I can’t have until the drains are out.  So I’m back to them again.  Blech.

Flat tummy in fleece pajamas

On the plus side, I’m completely off of pain meds (and have been for about 10 days) and cleared to drive.  I’ve been out in the car twice and it felt so good to not have to depend on neighbors, friends, and cabs to get places.  The big incision seems to be healing nicely and I can actually lift both legs up on the bed without using my scarf as a sling.  This is huge.  My abs are not totally happy about it but I feel very accomplished.  And my ankles and calves are no longer swollen with edema.

So that’s where I am at almost 3 weeks post-op.  I don’t regret doing this but wish I’d had better idea of how much it would take out of me and how long certain things were going to go (think drains).  Much of it, though, can’t be just set in stone.  It depends on the body and how it wants to heal.  And it IS healing.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind thoughts.


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Christmas Then and Now

Two years ago I spent Christmas with my family in Texas.  I weighed in at 312 lbs and was sad and not in a good place with my body or my weight.  This year I went again, weighing 182.2 lbs and oh, what a difference!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone I saw told me how beautiful I was, asked me how I did it, didn’t I feel wonderful, was it hard, what could I eat, etc.  And I found I had a hard time knowing what/how to respond, other than to say “thank you.”

I’m in a good place now, a stable place.  I’m proud of my accomplishments, because they are considerable and have been life-changing.  I’ve lost 130 lbs and enjoy shopping for clothes and finding things that both fit and flatter.  My belly and upper arms are annoying because of all the extra skin, but I’m having medically necessary plastic surgery in March to have those areas trimmed (at last I think we’re doing the arms; it depends on insurance).

Back in 2008 I said: “I don’t want to diet. I want to eat sensibly in moderation, to enjoy a variety of food, to ease the stress on my knees, to be comfortable in my body and with myself.  That may be mutually exclusive.  All I can do is try and take things one small step at a time.”

That pretty much describes where I am now.  Emotionally I’m in a very calm place.  I haven’t really found the weight loss to be hard this time, not since I heard the “click” that said “It’s time now” and took it one step at a time.


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Being In the Zone

I spent last weekend evaluating 179 program proposals submitted for our annual meeting next summer.  We can only pick 63 of them, so we need to make wise choices, and that means reading each with care, assessing the topic, speakers, description, learning outcomes, level, time length, competency area, whether the topic was recently done, does the program overlap with others proposed, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve done this twice before, once as a member of the committee and last year as I shadowed last year’s chair, so I have experience in working through this whole thing.  But it takes uninterrupted time, focus, concentration – and being In The Zone.  I finally got there this weekend, as I made my second pass through.

The table was completely cleared of everything except my Big Notebook, lists of program rankings, final programs from the last 2 conferences, my pens and markers, and the laptop on the chair next to me for quick reference (doing “find” searches through the lists to make it easier to locate duplication).  On, and No email, no surfing, no TV.  My iTouch was hooked up to speakers, softly playing a mellow playlist on an endless loop, and the kitchen was nearby for water bottle replenishment.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and scattered, I was focused and purposeful.  I’d prepared by reading all of the proposals once already, dotting the pages with colorful post-its with notes and reminders.  This time I could really concentrate and had a context in which to see them all.

I don’t get in this zone very often with work; things are too fragmented with information and questions coming from every direction at once.  But when I can get into it, my mind is crystal clear and I’m extremely productive – and happy.

I need to find ways to build this into the office routine, especially with my friend’s retirement.  I’ll have more to do than ever and it would be easy to just be fragmented. I need my space to be tidy, interruptions at a minimum, soft music to help block out outside sounds and help me concentrate, and enough time to accomplish the task at hand, or at least in whatever time I allot for it on a given day.  Things to ponder.


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A Year in My Life

Two events in my life happen every July:  my birthday, and my national professional conference.  Next year they will even overlap – and I can’t begin to tell you how much I will enjoy spending my birthday doing that, although it will be nice to see friends on the day and I’m guessing there will be cake somewhere.  In any case, both occasions give me a chance to view the previous year in perspective.

Last year my conference met in Washington, DC where it was hot and sticky (kind of like now everywhere).  The convention center was humongous and we had quite a hike from the hotels to our event location.  I had been working on weight loss for a few months and was down about 20-25 lbs. from my starting weight.  But I weighed so much that it barely made a dent in my appearance or how I felt.

My right knee hurt all the time and I lurched when I walked because of the pain and immobility.  I used a cane to get around all week, and took cabs to go longer distances because I wasn’t sure I could manage the stairs of getting on and off buses.  I wore colorful but shapeless floaty dresses and felt like a whale; the folds of skin developed rashes from chafing and heat.  I had little energy and opted out of events and social things I wanted to do because I wasn’t sure I could get to them in any comfort.  It was great to see people except I didn’t really want them to see ME.

Flash forward to July 2010 in Denver, which was hot but much less sticky.  I lost 80+ lbs between the two Julys and it made such a huge difference in how I felt, looked, and acted.  Many of my friends weren’t all that surprised by my new appearance, since they follow me on Facebook and had been following progress and pictures for months.  Others were completely in the dark and didn’t recognize me, which was cool but odd.

Changes in looks, attitude, comfort, and behavior came slowly over the last year and had become normal; it’s just seeing them with the perspective of a year to see the difference:

  • Fitting into one seat on a plane – and not needing a seat belt extender
  • Being able to move quickly and easily
  • Spending lots of time in the exhibit hall and hallways without needing to sit down every 10 minutes
  • Clothes were fitted and still colorful and comfortable
  • Went shopping for more clothes when realized some of what I brought stopped fitting while in the suitcase flying out
  • Making good choices about food, including giving my ticket for a dessert reception to someone else.  Brought protein powder and bars.
  • Felt more confident, assured, and comfortable
  • Had way more energy and was on the go for very long days
  • No CPAP machine to lug around since my sleep apnea is gone
  • Took a mountain train excursion to actually see something of the area instead of hiding in my room

Maybe the biggest obvious sign that things were different:  I was happy to be photographed and even like the results.  In the past, I hated it because I didn’t think I looked in real life the way I looked in pictures – even though it was an objective image.  This time I thought the pictures looked really good because I knew that I looked good.

I’ve lost lots of weight before, and really did think I was the same person inside at the lower weight that I’d been at the higher one.  This time I know I am different.  The lapband was a big part of it, because I simply can’t do “life as usual” now.  I’ve had to think about choices, actions, and consequences, and have taken responsibility for things that didn’t work as well as those that have.

Yes, I celebrate losing weight, but except for big landmarks, I try not to make a big deal about it (my friend may disagree with my success at it, but I do try!).   I’m using anchors to remind me of my success in very tangible ways – I have a Pandora bracelet that I got for Christmas, with charms to mark this specific journey.  And I just bought a new “anchor ring” to replace the one I started with that now falls off all my fingers.

It’s really now about just living a new way.  That way includes eating healthy “pouch friendly” foods that include enough carbs for me to feel normal and balanced, including exercise on a regular but not extreme basis so it’s something I can actually continue.  I weed out clothes that no longer fit and buy new (or gently used) ones that work with the changing body.

I’m not in this for a number on a scale.  I’m in it for my life.  I like myself, my body, my health, my attitudes better now than I think I ever have.  What a nice birthday present to myself!


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New Year’s Thinking

Saturday is my official weekly weigh-in day, although I usually weigh myself every morning.  This was the first one of the new year which was cause to look back and take stock of the year just passed.  A lot has changed:

  • January 1, 2009:  weight 305 lbs
  • April 3, 2009 (day I started WW again):  weight 310 lbs  (up 5 lbs)
  • October 29, 2009 (surgery day):   weight 261 lbs (lost 49 lbs)
  • January 2, 2010:  weight 236.2 lbs (lost 73.8 total with 24.8 lbs down post-op)

I didn’t start the year with one of those crazy goals of losing 65 lbs in a year.  I try never to create goals that are so specific and big because that makes them look impossible before I even start.   I just knew that I was unhappy at that weight and both disgusted and scared that I’d gained back 95% of the weight it had taken me 2 years to lose  from 2002-2004.   I was also tired of being unhappy, disgusted and scared.

But my wake up call was hearing from the orthopedic surgeon that I needed a knee replacement but doing it at that weight, there was no guarantee that it would last more than 3 years.  No way in hell I would do that major surgery without reassurance that it would last at least 15-18 years.   It’s a chicken and egg thing for many of us:   in order to lose weight, we need to exercise which is hard when the joints are bone-on-bone.  But repairing the joint requires us to have lost considerable weight first – which is hard to do with the bad knee.

So instead of beating myself up and saying, “Oh, I’m lazy and terrible and need to lose 160 lbs by the end of the year,” I just did one thing at a time.  It’s a lot more impressive looking back and seeing what was accomplished but I can’t say I mapped it all out.  I’m a big planner but this time my brain is in a completely different place and the results just follow from taking one next step after another.

I haven’t added as much exercise to my lifestyle as I need to, and am taking a next step to change that, too.  I got a Wii console and Wii Fit Plus for Christmas and now that Christmas is packed away, will be setting that up so I have an at-home exercise option.  On dark winter days I just want to come home after work and hunker in with the cat.  But there’s no reason I can’t do exercise videos, Comcast fitness on demand on the cable, and/or Wii Fit to get the blood moving.  Is it the same as a gym workout?  No, of course not.  But for a couch potato, it’s a change in the right direction.

Not a goal but an expectation for 2010 is that I will drop my weight into ONEderland for the first time in 30 years.   With that will be a complete wardrobe change, since everything currently in the closet, dresser, and storage bins will be too big.  I’ve already packed up and given away clothes that I’d been saving for some day if I ever lost weight and there’s not much left to pull out.  While I won’t invest in a full wardrobe, I’m going to need clothes!  Especially with a family wedding and a national conference to attend within the next 6 months. I can finally start shopping in stores with prettier clothes with better fitting options – and I’m going to take them.

I am not the same person I was last year.

  • I’m smaller and taking steps to continue my positive directions with body image and size.
  • I am eating healthier and in realistic portions.
  • I am happy with and proud of what I have accomplished.
  • I have more self-confidence and pride in my appearance.
  • I walk faster and with less pain.
  • I am treating myself with respect, both mentally and physically.

I’m going in the right direction and know I will accomplish what I’ve set out to do, no matter how long it takes.