Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Holding fast to my convictions

The President announced last week that churches are essential services and must be allowed to open. What he doesn’t understand, what so many people do not get, is that the church is not the building. It’s NEVER been the building, no matter how beautiful it is and how much people like worshipping there. This pretty much sums it up for me:

Image may contain: outdoor, text that says 'Churches are essential... we already knew that. When the faithful are scattered in every age due to persecution, disaster, plague, we persist worship and service, in sacrament and sacrifice- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, being good news for the poor, working to free the captives and oppressed. Our highest and holy calling is to be the church, not go to church. CJS'

I work in a church that has not held in-person services since March 15th, but resumed yesterday with Golf Cart Church outside. Everyone was so excited to be back but I couldn’t make myself go. I knew almost no one would wear a mask which isn’t so scary to me outside – except they were singing. I cannot make myself do that; it’s too risky.

I’ve been singing in church choirs since I was 6 years old. It’s how I worship, it’s my community, it’s my home. But singing projects the virus far greater distances than even coughing does – as it also projects flu and colds. The coronavirus is highly contagious and there is no vaccine and won’t be for some time, no matter what the President claims. Science isn’t politics. Until there is a vaccine, it’s not safe to sing in groups; adding in close proximity and indoor spaces of being inside a church multiplies the risk. Not everyone will agree with me and that is their right. For me, this isn’t negotiable. Neither is wearing a mask out in public.

The country is opening back up after many weeks of shut down and almost 100,000 deaths, which are continuing to climb. But things couldn’t stay closed forever. Too many people are out of work, too many businesses are in financial distress or facing permanent closure. My neighbors are busy shopping, getting their hair and nails done, going out to eat, gathering for dinner parties. I rarely see any of them in a mask even though they are strongly recommended.

I’m wary. I’m not afraid of getting the virus, or even dying from it if it comes to that. I just don’t want to give it to someone else. Wearing a mask is a small thing to do – and it pisses me off that so few people do it. I’ve done a little shopping (okay, two stores other than grocery) but have no interest in eating out, dawdling in stores, or even getting my hair or nails done. They need it mind you, and my hair is ready, but I’m not.

So I’m feeling distant from my neighbors and friends. Well, there was a lot of that already because of politics. They are being true to who they are and the steps they think are the right ones for them to take, but those steps are not ones that feel right to me for myself. I think my Covid Isolation will continue a while longer and once it starts to get really hot (which is overdue), I know I won’t want to go out no matter what.

I do miss the gym, though, which is such an odd thing for me. It reopened this week but I’m giving it a little more time before I try to figure out a good time to go when minimal people will be there. Even without the gym and without getting maximum steps, I’ve continued to lose weight on Noom during lockdown. As of this morning, I’m down 45 lbs from my start in January. It feels good and I was actually insulted last week going to the doctor when they didn’t want me to get on the scale first.


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Let me tell you about Noom

Almost nothing about a diet/weight loss program surprises me anymore, having been on a zillion of them in my life. Most boil down to being legalistic and rigid, and the second you tell me that I can’t eat something is when it becomes the only thing I want to eat. I don’t really like being in groups or classes and prefer working through this on my own, though I did like the accountability of having someone else weigh me – except when I’d gained.

On the other hand, they didn’t work long-term. None of them, even when I lost over 100 pounds, which I did several times. I’m good at losing when I want to pay attention to what I eat; I’m not very good at keeping it off and maintaining a target weight. Why? Because I was paying attention to the food and not to my inside self and the triggers that were setting me off.

Noom is a different kind of program. It’s app-based so you and your phone become very close. You weigh yourself once a day in the morning and record it in the app, and you also log food in the app. Those aren’t all that different; lots of plans do that, and tracking food is pretty essential to actually being accountable for what you eat. The app also has a pedometer to track your steps; many of you already do that with FitBit or other program, but this was new for me and it was nice to have it integrated.

Food tracking is common to all weight loss programs; each puts its own spin on it. In Weight Watchers, you count points. In others you’re counting carbs or grams of protein or fat. Noom does it with color groups based on caloric density. Foods are Green, Yellow, and Red. But you can eat anything, as long as you account for it, and you do look at the calorie count. Green food has a different caloric density than red food; you get filled up with food that has more water and fiber.

I’m a visual person and thinking of food by color groups makes it easier to picture and then make a choice between a Green Food snack such as fat free yogurt and a Yellow Food choice of 2% yogurt. Chicken is a yellow food; steak is a red food. Grapes are green, raisins are red. Mostly I just pick what I want – but then I use their food analysis tool to give me feedback on the choices. And since I log my food BEFORE I eat it, I can (and do) swap out one thing for another to keep things balanced.

But what’s really different about Noom is the psychology components. Each day has several small little articles on related things, such as mindful eating or breaking habits. Some of the style is a little cutesy but the information itself is sometimes new, or at least presented in a new way. And there are little quizzes to see how much you retain. It’s actually a lot of information in small enough bites that I’m absorbing more than in a lecture or reading a book.

You’re also assigned a goal coach, and after the first 2 weeks, are put into groups with a coach to help work through and respond to the articles. I’m honestly not finding that to be that much help because I found another option that works for me and that’s two Facebook groups for Noom users, a general one and one for those with large amounts to lose. I prefer typing on a keyboard over using thumbs on a phone, and like the more instant gratification of responses to questions from other users.

The thing is, I know my goal and I know how to break it down into smaller bits. I know there will be plateaus and slips as well as progress. I have a realistic idea of where I want to end up and how to celebrate the NSV’s (non-scale victories) along the way, things like behavior changes that become new habits or fitting into clothes another size or in a different store.

For me this is about getting healthier, and as of this morning I’ve lost 18 lbs; my BMI has already dropped 3 points. I got on a scale at the doctor yesterday and saw a number I haven’t seen since I retired. I’m happy with this program, how it’s working for me, and what I’m learning about myself and my habits.

Want to read a more detailed review of Noom? Check out this review in USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/reviewedcom/2020/01/09/noom-review/4422490002/


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New Year, Fresh Start

This blog used to just be about dieting and my relationship to food. That changed over time, and it was healthy, but then it kept creeping back because, well, so did the weight. It always has. I was on my first diet at age 10 and have done everything I could think of to look normal over the years. Weight Watchers more times than I can count. Medical fasts. Nutrisystem. Grapefruit. Phen-fen. Lapband.

Here’s the thing – they all work as long as I’m motivated to actually workk the plan, whatever it is. The motivation is what falters, because I get scared of success, and I resent being treated differently because I’m thinner. And I’m afraid, always afraid, that the weight will come back, because that’s my pattern.

But it’s another new year, one with nice round numbers, and I’m ready to make some changes. I don’t feel comfortable in my body and every doctor I’ve talked to in the last 6 months (and there have been more than I wanted to see) has started our visit by talking about my weight. I hate it. But they’re right.

So my goal for 2020 is to eat healthy, move more, and be comfortable in my body. And I have a plan for getting there. Maybe more on that later, after I have some time and success under my belt. For now, it’s about starting and sticking to something I’ve avoided.

My fridge is full of healthy things – broccoli (lots and lots of broccoli), grapes, chicken, eggs, raspberries, clementines, yogurt. Well, it always has yogurt – I’m addicted to Fage 2% plain yogurt. There are sweet potatoes and bananas, hummus and carrot sticks, and a plan to eat them in healthy ways.

New shoes will get here on Monday. My feet are ginormously wide and I need to order them online, or at least ones that fit properly. If I’m going to be walking and exercising, I need good shoes. Check. When I’m brave enough to put on a bathing suit, there’s a pool at the gym. I used to love pool walking and exercises, which are good for my cranky joints. But I’m not brave enough for that yet, especially in a community with ton of people who frequent the same gym. I’m not ready to be seen.

But I’m ready to do this. I don’t really care how long it takes; what matters is that I’m doing it. Happy New Year, me.


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Coming Back to Writing

TessieI haven’t written here in a full year. I’ve missed it and at the same time, I’ve been busy. But things are going on in my heart and head and it helps to articulate, even to myself.

My beloved cat Tessie crossed the Rainbow Bridge three weeks ago. She hadn’t been really herself for six months and was having increasing problems until the end, when I held her in my arms as she passed. She was my constant loving companion for 10 years, and it was just the two of us for most of them. I have a hole in my heart – and at the same time, I’m relieved not to have to worry about whether she’s eating or pooping or why she’s crying. Then I feel guilty to be relieved, because I miss her so.

She is my only experience of being a caregiver, and let’s face it, a cat is not a person. I have no practice taking care of a person, young or old, so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve to take care of my dad. At age 89, his general health is good but his memory is getting spotty. He loops and retells stories that I’ve heard a million times, and every day we talk about what heaven is like and how wonderful Mom was and whether she will be there waiting for him.

I’ve not found a good balance to living with him. I care too much and do too much, and have lost myself in the process. I work part-time as a church secretary in the mornings and in the afternoons and evenings, mostly do nothing or do things with Dad. I know lots of people but haven’t taken advantage of things like line dancing classes or Pokeno nights because I don’t know how to do them and feel stupid, and because I felt like I needed to be there for Dad.

But really, the best way to take care of him is to take care of myself first. So after a brief meltdown the other night and the time that followed for thinking and prayer, I’ve decided a bunch of things:

  • Manage my food in healthy ways
  • Go to the gym for a fitness assessment and start going 2-3 times/week (I’ve been a member for 18 months but haven’t entered since I signed up)
  • Go out at least one day a week for a meal or activity with friends
  • Start planning a vacation and at least one monthly outing
  • Start working with a spiritual director

Things slow down here in the summer; with the high heat and humidity, lots of people go away for long stretches. So most of the social things will go by the wayside until fall. But that will give me time to feel better physically and get into a better more balanced routine. I do play Mah Jongg once a week and love the interaction with my friends there, even if I’m not winning much these days.

But it’s time for an attitude adjustment. No one can do it for me, I have to just do it for myself. I’m making decisions to be healthier physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I start today.


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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.