Monday, January 2, 2017

Congratulations, it's a burger!

Anyone who has known me longer than 5 minutes knows that I have been a gassy individual since birth.  I've never been particularly shy about my ability to burp louder than most men or clear a room.  Sure, I keep these things under wraps with various people, such as new boyfriends, friends who aren't as disgusting as I am, my boss (most days)...  But being a walking fart bubble is just who I am.  Sorry not sorry.  I've always teased people like my mom and middle sister that if they didn't start letting out their gas, they were going to explode one day.

In the last year, what started in 1981 as just a normal part of my day, turned into a complete nuisance when it started affecting my ability to enjoy my food.  Nothing gets in the way of my food.  And it wasn't so much the flatulence and belching that bothered me.  I was actually still quite amused by that.  It was the other symptoms that made me realize that something was wrong with me.

It started with my body's hatred for sodium almost 2 years ago.  If I ate a few salty meals in too short of a time span, my feet swelled up like my sister's when she was 8 months pregnant with twins.  Then came the acid reflux that only occurred at night.  If I even so much as looked at a piece of food or glass of alcohol within 3 hours before bed, I woke up a few hours later drenched in sweat, knives in my stomach, burning chest, and for several days after the incident, I would have the feeling of a lump in my throat (we Speech Pathologists call this "globus").  This was an easy fix...don't eat before bed.  But then the queasiness kicked in.  Anytime I ate, I felt slightly nauseous.  I was eating Alka Seltzer acid/gas chews like candy, going through a bottle every week or two.  I took Nexium but I wasn't consistent with it and it's one of those medications that you have to take every single day for it to be effective.  I was entirely too cheap for that so I mainly took it if I knew I was going to be going out for a beer or unhealthy meal.

The worst symptom, the one that bothered me the most, was the bloating.  After a meal of any size, I looked as though I was 6 months pregnant or had been holding in a fart for a decade.  At one point, I took a "before" picture after a meal at my sister's house.  My stomach was sticking out, literally hanging over my pants.  The next morning, a mere 10 hours later, I took an "after" picture of a perfectly flat, semi-toned stomach (this was over the summer when I actually had stomach muscles, before a Caribbean vacation and holiday indulgence made them disappear.)  I talked to my college roommate about this because she had had similar symptoms and found out she was allergic/intolerant of a bunch of stuff.  That would explain a lot so I decided to look into this as a possible cause.

I showed my doctor these pictures side by side and her diagnosis was simple and what I had already suspected: I was allergic or intolerant of one or more things.  I could either get allergy testing and/or get a GI consult.  The allergy testing would've settled the allergy/intolerance question right away, but my insurance sucks and I didn't want to pay for both.  So I opted for the GI consult since the globus (feeling of a lump) was still present and I had this paranoid feeling that I had throat cancer or something.  Wrong choice.  She told me what I already knew (globus...duh, I can feel it) and recommended an endoscopy before she would diagnose me with any stomach or esophageal ailments. But like I said, terrible insurance with high deductibles.  Seeing as how I'm in the process of saving money for a major life event, dropping a couple grand on an exploratory procedure wasn't an option.  I asked her to do the food allergy testing but she said I'd need to go to the allergist for that.  Should've gone there first...  Her "in the meantime" solution was to troubleshoot and figure it out on my own: take 2 Nexium every single day (approximately $40/month versus $2000 surgery, drink a glass of prune juice with Benefiber 3 times per day, and cut out gluten/dairy/wheat/grain/sugar, so basically almost everything in life that makes me happy.  Once the bloating and reflux improved, I could add things back in to test for reactions.  At this point, I had gained 10 lbs since August.  I knew there was no way I had consumed an extra 35,000 calories in 4 months, so I knew it had to be the bloating and I was willing to try just about anything to feel right again.  Not because I felt like I needed to lose weight, but because I felt like I wasn't healthy.

Well, from the get-go, the Benefiber/prune juice cocktail wasn't going to happen 3 times per day.  I had to work, I drive over 2 hours a day, I workout... I wasn't about to lose control of my intestines on the treadmill or in my car.  And there are only certain levels of smells I can get away with blaming on the dirty linen cart - or the residents - at work.  So I tried it twice a day for 2 days...and nothing.  Except a belly that looked 6 months pregnant and a fart bubble the size of a melon that refused to pop.  After googling this strange reaction to a concoction that should've cleared my body of everything I'd eaten in the last year, I discovered that some people can't tolerate a lot of fiber at once.  It recommended that instead of a fiber supplement, I simply increase my fiber in my food choices by 1/2 cup.  Done.

Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that this "elimination" diet that the GI doctor suggested was basically Paleo, which made it a lot easier to plan my meals.  I could have meat, vegetables (except potatoes, but sweet potatoes are allowed, THANK GOD!), fruit, eggs, nuts (but not peanuts because they're legumes), almond milk, coconut milk...yep, that's about it.  No bread, milk, cheese, cereal, pasta, BEER!, WINE!, cookies, etc.  Sounds awful, right?  And the first couple days were.  Breakfast options are limited to protein shakes or eggs and bacon.  I'm not a huge egg fan nor do I have time in the morning to make bacon.  So the first health shake of the week tasted like death.  I've perfected it since then but the first day was bad.  I. Was. Starving.  Even though I ate all day long (ask my coworkers - "Man, you always have food in your mouth!"), my body was craving my oatmeal bar and the leftover Halloween candy in a giant bowl above my desk.  But I quickly got into the Paleo groove and I learned to crave fruit and pistachios and sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli.  It took a few days but I got the hang of it.

I had my first cheat meal on day 4.  I decided to test out the wheat/gluten allergy by having a couple beers on a really bad date.  And to emphasize how bad, you should know that my cheat meal also consisted of a Whataburger cheeseburger that I picked up on my way home from said date because...He. Didn't. Order. Food.  Who doesn't order food at a restaurant on a date?  Not my future husband, that's for sure.  Lame sauce.  Pass!  So anyway, the beer and cheeseburger.  No reaction at all.  No significant bloating or acid reflux that night.  The cheese was minimal, not enough to really test for a dairy allergy, but it was freaking delicious.  Even though I passed the beer/wheat/gluten test, I wasn't ready to add those things back in completely.  I wanted to do this elimination diet through December 16, my 35th birthday, before I took a break for the holidays.  A good 3 weeks felt like enough time to figure things out.  So I forged on.

My next semi-cheat meal was on day 6.  I made a spaghetti squash marinara bake and added some mozzarella.  Within 20 minutes of eating, I was bloated and crazy gassy.  So was it the cheese or marinara?  My gut (literally...ha!) says it was the cheese.  I had a dairy intolerance as a kid that I outgrew so maybe it came back?  But like the beer, I wasn't ready to say for certain after one trial that I did or didn't have an intolerance/allergy. By the 10th day, I had already lost 8 lbs and 4 inches off my stomach.  8 lbs in a week and a half is insane but I know I did it in a completely healthy way and simply cut out foods that were holding onto my insides, not to mention the excess water that my cankles were holding hostage thanks to sodium.  These 10 days also included 5 workouts, so that helped the process.  Like I said before, my goal wasn't weight loss, but monitoring my weight helps me to be more aware of food intolerances.  Watching my weight was what made me aware that I had a problem with salt.  I can gain 5 lbs in a weekend from sodium alone. After a cheat WEEKEND where I had 3 major cheat meals and beer, I gained 6 of the 8 lbs back.  I lost all 6 within a few days but still, it shows how much my 35 year old body doesn't like the good stuff anymore.  In those first 3 weeks that I followed that diet, I really only 100% figured out that lettuce isn't my friend.  I highly suspect that dairy and wheat are also a problem, but those symptoms have been inconsistent.

So in summary, Paleo is definitely the way to go if you a) want to lose weight quickly in a healthy way, b) want to get rid of bloating, or c) have food intolerances that you can't quite figure out.  I still plan on getting food allergy testing done and resuming this diet now that the holidays are over.  After a few weeks of Christmas cookies, potlucks, and dinners out, I feel like crap and look like I'm with child again.  I also still plan to get that endoscopy done since the globus never completely went away, even with the diet changes and Nexium.  Both things will have to wait a few more months, but it's a relief to know that I found a fairly simple way to control my symptoms for the time being.

Here is a site that gives a food list if you're interested.  Or just search it on Pinterest and you'll find a ton of ideas.  Here's to a healthy, happy, less gassy 2017.

Paleo Diet

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I read something the other day that said that, on average, it takes 3 months for every year of your previous relationship to heal and move on.  If that's the case, I have a good 5 months to go before I am remotely date-worthy and no longer damaged.  But I'm coming up on the 4-month mark and I'm actually pretty proud of the progress I have made in terms of healing and coming to terms with what happened.  Sharing my thoughts and feelings on my blog has helped tremendously, as have my friends, family, new job, great co-workers, and plenty of self-reflection.  I still have random hard times and those usually happen around the time of a "first".  First trip to a favorite restaurant without that person, first anniversary without them, approaching first summer without them.  You miss the good times that come with those firsts, but the key is knowing the difference between missing the good times and missing that person.  During times like these, I make myself sit down and reflect on the relationship and list the cons of still having those times with that person.  Not because I only want to focus on the negative, but because thinking about the pros of the relationship isn't going to help a person heal and certainly isn't going to help them to not repeat the same mistakes in a future relationship. I'd much rather keep it real and remind myself of the absolutely crap behavior on the majority of a 5-day cruise than to dwell on the ONE afternoon of happiness.  (Speaking of crap behavior, I'll get to "red flags" and "things not to tolerate" in my next blog post so stay tuned!  I've added to the list since my blog post from 2013 - Guide to Happy Dating.  If that one was remotely helpful for you, my next one might help, too.  Just doing my part...Experiencing bad relationships so you don't have to.  Consider it a Public Service Announcement.  :-)  )

I've also had to reflect on the meaning of that dreaded breakup word: Closure.  I've always needed "closure" after a relationship ends.  It means different things to different people. For me, it always meant ending on good terms.  Admitting that the relationship ending was a "good" thing and mutually walking away in opposite directions with warm, fuzzy feelings of no regret or sadness.  Very rarely has this ever actually happened, and it's only ever occurred after the end of a minor relationship that didn't progress.  As I've grown these last few months, "closure" has become synonymous with healing and moving forward.  It's no longer an ending that is nicely gift-wrapped and set on your doorstep.  I was never going to have that.  I wanted that, I aimed for it.  But reality sets in and you come to terms with the fact that the other person doesn't want that ending and isn't going to give it to you.  Some people, typically the person who caused the most damage in the relationship, don't want a nicely wrapped ending.  They want anger and hostility so they feel better about it ending.  So you're forced to rip the Band-aid off and form your own ending.  I had to rip the Band-aid off with Isaac's dad, too, and while it took a little bit of skin off, we both survived.  Ripping the most recent Band-aid off was the best decision I could've made for myself.  It still stings but in 6 months, I'll be really glad I took that step.  It needed to happen.  

One habit I have formed over the last couple months as a form of "me-time" is watching 80's and 90's romance movies.  This has been good and bad for the healing process.  On a happy note, it has brought me back to my childhood and reminded me of all of those warm, fuzzy feelings I felt as a little girl or teenager as I watched couples fall in love and live happily ever after.  It made me realize I still believe in love and would love to have it again someday.  But the downside to these movies is that they give you unrealistic expectations of relationships from a young age. You can't compare everyday relationships with these romantic comedies because you will be highly disappointed.  The only romantic comedy my life even remotely emulates is Mannequin, and only because I've dated a lot of dummies (ok, complete dumbasses).  Maybe a little bit of When Harry Met Sally, but without the same ending.  Pretty In Pink, but does it count if I'm Ducky in that scenario? Luckily, at 34 and with another failed relationship under my belt, I can watch my favorite movies with a little more maturity and realistic expectations.  Maybe a spoonful of bitterness for good measure. 

Aside from drowning myself in romantic comedies and wine/cheese nights, I've started focusing on my health a little more, physically and mentally.  I'll go ahead and put it on here that I'm planning to do another 10k in September.  When I publicly announce that I'm going to do something, the chances of me backing out are pretty slim.  :-)  So there it is.  It gives me something to strive for and focus on. I recruited one of Isaac's baseball moms to run it with me so I can share my misery.  Research has already been done on last year's race and it has been determined that HUNDREDS of people are way slower than I am, as shocking as that was to see.  So I'm feeling confident and excited for it.   One step at a time.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Acceptance - Phase 1

Another month has passed (2 months yesterday) and another milestone has been reached, one that I never expected to happen in the next 6 months.  It hasn't been pretty; there have been good days and bad, days when I thought I was DONE followed by days when I felt just as bad as I did on Day 1, days when I was happy and content followed by days when I let my feelings get the best of me and I took 10 steps backwards in my healing process.  But I can confidently say that I have officially transitioned into the next stage of grief, the stage that psychology books tell you is the final phase: Acceptance.  But I somewhat disagree.  During my many hours of reflection while driving around DFW, I have decided that the Acceptance stage can be split into 2 phases.  Acceptance Phase 1 is the actual acceptance of the loss/situation.  Coming to terms with the loss, realizing it's never coming back, letting go of what it once was.  But Phase 2 takes it a step further.  Phase 2 is healing, and that can take months or years.

Making it to the Acceptance stage at all is a major step for me.  For so many weeks, I just struggled to wrap my mind around the loss itself.  I knew it was over, but the whole unraveling was so bizarre and unexpected that I just couldn't accept that he was no longer a part of my life, that all of the things we had done together would now be done solo or with others.  I remember the moment I reached Phase 1 of Acceptance.  It was about a week ago when I suddenly realized that I really WAS done.  I had lost the desire to reconcile, I was no longer "in love" with this person.  Sure, I loved him, I cared, I wanted him to be happy and ok.  But that's where my feelings stopped.  I had finally accepted that this part of my life was over and I was ok with it.  I was moving forward.

I realized that the Acceptance stage is a 2-parter when I began to reflect on other moments of grief and loss in my life.  One particular circumstance involved the death of a close friend 8 years ago. That loss had a profound impact on my life.  HE had had a profound impact on my life, so losing him was excruciating.  It was the first major loss I had experienced in my adult life.  It was also the most devastating loss of my 10 year career thus far.  Kevin was my first patient ever and I spent countless hours with him; trying to save him even though he couldn't be saved; being his friend; bringing him his favorite meal of steak and potatoes from Texas Roadhouse after work hours and personally feeding him because I didn't trust anyone else to do it right; bringing Isaac to see him after work and on weekends because he loved babies; playing Bingo with him almost every afternoon and winning almost every time with our lucky number 15 since he and Isaac shared a birthday. When we lost him, it left a huge hole in my heart and intense feelings of sadness and guilt.  Guilt over not being able to save him from a completely unfair disease that I never could've saved him from anyway, guilt over his medical care at the end - again, out of my control.

For years after his death - YEARS, 6 to be exact - I never made it to Phase 2.  I had accepted that he was gone and had moved on in my career - who am I kidding, I had run from my career as a way of healing, left my comfort zone in long-term care to avoid another Kevin. I thought I had completed the grief process but I hadn't.  I saw this quote on Pinterest, which reminded me of Kevin and ultimately made me realize that Acceptance has 2 phases.

You can accept something is gone, but until you can move past the sadness, you haven't reached the final phase of the final stage of grief.  Crying doesn't necessarily mean you're stuck in the Depression stage, but it is definitely an indicator that you haven't healed.  I COULD NOT talk about Kevin for years. I couldn't listen to a certain song that reminded me of him.  The memory of him saddened me. These days I can think of him fondly and with happy memories. I can think about him throwing his head back and laughing, long talks about our favorite Nascar driver, feeding him breakfast every day, the sight of him holding my infant on his lap with a big grin on his face...  When you have honestly healed, you are better able to look back on experiences clearly and with good memories.  Sadness taints happy memories. Losing someone to death is obviously much worse than the end of a relationship, so I'm definitely not trying to compare my heartbreak over one to another.  But thinking about Kevin this last week has helped me to gain perspective on the grief process.  And that's how I know that I haven't yet reached Phase 2 in my current grief.  I have accepted, I have not healed.  I still carry sadness that taints my happy memories.  Someday I hope to look back on my 3-year relationship and remember the moments that brought me joy, because there were a lot of them.  I hope that Isaac can also one day look back on that part of his life and remember the 5/6 of the relationship that included camping trips and the building a winning Pinewood Derby car and skipping rocks at Texoma, instead of just remembering the 1/6 of unhappiness.  

I'm getting there.  Closer and closer every day.  Thinking of Kevin these last few weeks has brought me unexpected comfort and clarity.  Not only did it make me realize that I wasn't quite done healing, and that's ok, but it also helped me to focus on something more important.  If I could get through the death of a beloved friend and come out on the other side a stronger and happier person, I could get through this. 

The song that I had a hard time listening to after he died was a song by Carrie Underwood called So Small.  It reminded me of him because while he was dying, I was in the process of leaving Isaac's dad and breaking apart my family.  I was dealing with something that, while sad and devastating, was nothing compared to what he was dealing with.  For 6 years, this song broke my heart because of the sadness and guilt I felt.  But tonight as I reflected on my old friend, I listened to it again and fully appreciated the meaning behind it.  Something might feel huge at the moment, unbearable even.  But there are much bigger things in life than this one situation.  My situation doesn't define me, it doesn't define my future.  I'll get to Phase 2 when I get there, but in the meantime, I am focusing on all of the other things that make my life great.

"It's so easy to get lost inside a problem that seems so big at the time.  It's like a river that's so wide, it swallows you whole.  While you're sitting around thinking about what you can't change and worrying about all the wrong things, time's flying by, moving so fast.  You better make it count because you can't get it back. Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just grain of sand." - Carrie Underwood

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My First Airbrush Experience

Since making the decision to pull myself out of the sad slump I was in and focus on happiness and healing, life has gradually improved and I feel better than I have in months. I've been focused on upcoming events, time with friends and family, and just trying to find my happy place.  I've always been a generally happy person (with the exception of a grumpy phase for most of 2009) and easy to please. Little things make me happy: coffee, dark chocolate, stinky cheese, warm weather, wearing flip flops, the smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of a freshly run-over skunk on a warm spring day...  I've been lucky enough to have worn my sandals twice so far this year, thanks to an unseasonably warm Texas winter and a few February days that were over 70*.  Coffee happens every day and I'm currently eating stinky Gouda as I type this.  No skunks yet.  😕

About a week ago , I walked past the mirror on the way to the bathroom and thought, "Ugh..."  Pale, dark circles from lack of sleep, lack of muscle tone thanks to my 2-month cold and allergies preventing a decent workout and run.  So I started thinking of all of those little things that I do for myself that make me happier. I'm not the girliest of girls but some of the things that make me happy as I get older are: good makeup, having a tan, having painted nails, and just feeling pretty in general.  Wow that sounded girly!  Yikes.  Barely a day has gone by over the last 3 years that I didn't have makeup on. I've never been a fan of my makeup-less face.  A little bit of color goes a long way with me and boosts my self-confidence. But over the past month, I barely combed my hair before heading to work. I just didn't care.  But when I walked past the mirror and felt disgusted with myself, I knew that not caring wasn't doing me any favors where my happiness and self-confidence were concerned. My self-esteem had taken a beating over the last several months and I wasn't doing anything to make myself feel better about ME.  As I looked at my pale reflection,  I knew what I needed to do.  I needed a tan.  Badly.

Since it's obviously too cold to get a real tan and I try to avoid tanning booths unless I need a little color before going on a tropical vacation, my next best option was an airbrush tan. My sister gets these every once in a while and recommended that I try one out. I had bought a Groupon over a year ago and never used it, but I could use the expired one for $21 off at least.  So I booked my appointment.

I knew what to expect, thanks to my sister's warnings, but I wasn't completely prepared for the actual experience.  When I arrived, the girl who would be spraying me down went over all of the recommendations (light-medium for my pale self) and "rules" for after the tan (no shower for 6-8 hours, loose clothing, etc).  She walked me back to the spray room and instructed me to undress as much as I wanted based on my comfort level.  I already knew that my underwear was staying on.  Not only was I not going to stand completely bare-assed in front of this girl, but I also like some tan lines.  A bra wasn't an option since I forgot to wear a black one and the dye would destroy my white one.  So I'd have to get past the embarrassment of flashing my boobs to a stranger for 10 minutes.  

She walked out so I could undress (you're going to see me naked anyway, might as well stay!) and I stripped down to my undies.  The giant mirror in front of me assaulted my eyes. Not only was I white and soft, but the fluorescent lighting added 20 lbs.  Was I going to look this gross in front of her or was I just fatter in the mirror?  Would she even care?  And why did I care?  I'm not trying to date her.  I gave my pasty self one last look and called her in.

Despite her warnings that it would "feel a little cold", nothing can really prepare you for the ice cold dye hitting your nipples for the first time.  I HATE being cold and this felt as miserable as a swim in Lake Michigan in June, except there was no gradual introduction of your boobs into the ice bath.  She just blasted me and giggled a little when I shrieked.  I clenched my teeth and tried not to grimace in case the spray tan somehow missed the lines in my face.   When she was done, she put powder in places where I might sweat and looked slightly confused when I told her to put extra in my belly button. Maybe she lacks stomach rolls when she sits down,  I don't know.  She also warned me that I would look dark before my shower, "so don't panic".  I dressed in my all-black, loose clothing and left, thankful to be warm and no longer exposed. 

With the exception of the full-body stickiness and the stench of the spray tan (similar to how you smell after a tanning booth), I felt better already.  I felt happy and a little more confident. So confident that I took a makeup-free picture and didn't hate it.  That never happens.

I drove home and started my 6-8 hours of desperately wanting a shower.  It's one of the hardest parts about the spray tan.  You're sticky, sweaty, and stink like crazy, especially since you're free of deodorant, body spray, lotion, everything.  You have to be aware of what you touch and whether or not your stomach rolls are sweating and wiping off the tan. At one point I decided to clean up cat puke with a Lysol wipe and it dripped on my arm. 

Luckily the white spot disappeared after my shower.  7 hours later, I was tired of smelling like death so I went upstairs for my much anticipated shower.  I briefly forgot the girl's warning that I would be darkest before my shower.  I panicked when I looked in the mirror and looked like the blonde sister of my Mexican brother-in-law.

I checked my tan lines and immediately noticed 2 things: a) I looked 20 lbs thinner than my whiter self had looked under those horrible fluorescent lights and b) my stretch marks were suddenly magnified x100.  (They faded slightly after my shower but definitely still more visible than with whiter skin.)  After my shower, I was able to see the true results and I was very happy with them.  Just a nice glow that I had badly needed.  I felt better already.

The next day, I noticed bumps on my stomach.  Over the next couple days, they spread to my arms, neck, and back and were really itchy.  So I've concluded that I'm allergic to the dye in the spray tan.  I make sure I use a lot of lotion so I don't dry out and that's helped with the itchiness.  But because of this, I don't think another airbrush tan is in my future, so I'll have to wait for bathing suit season to get another tan.  As of today, I still have a good tan going but it should start to fade in about a week.  Definitely not long enough for the price I paid.  If you get an airbrush tan, definitely use a Groupon.  It ain't cheap and it lasts for 12 days max.   Aside from the rash, I recommend it.  It's safer than the sun or tanning booths and gives you a nice color. 

It's the little things that make a big difference, so I'm glad I took this tiny step for myself.  Now that the majority of my looooong cold is over, I started running again.  Still hate it as much as I always have but I know it clears my head of unhappiness and negativity, so I'll stick with it.  Summer is coming, after all.  I even ordered new Brooks for myself, another little thing that cheered me up.  The tan and running shoes weren't the cheapest form of happiness, so hopefully a skunk comes along soon so I can get a free burst of motivation.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Almost a month has passed since a wrench was thrown into my future plans.  It's been a month of heartbreak, sadness, bargaining, sleepless nights.  But I think in the last 24 hours, a page has been turned for me.  I wouldn't quite say I'm entering the acceptance phase yet.  That will likely take months.  But I've slowly managed to start climbing out of the depression stage.  I'm still sad every day and still have (sometimes embarrassing) moments of randomly breaking into tears.  But I no longer feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest or that my heart is shattering inside my body.  I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This breakthrough has definitely come as a result of a lot of self-reflection and long, emotional talks with my best bud.  I hit a rock-bottom moment the Friday before last.  With my job, I drive a lot, and therefore have a lot of alone time to do nothing but think, which can be a dangerous thing when you're mad, sad, annoyed...  I have a couple hours during every day to stew over the things that bother me, lots of time for the what-ifs, time to wallow in my own misery.  Those imaginary arguments that you have with yourself in your shower...multiply that by 10.  On that particular Friday, just over a week ago, I was reaching the guilt stage.  Now, I never thought I'd actually go through this stage of grief.  I thought I would skip right over it, because what did I have to feel guilty about?  I didn't cheat, I wasn't mean; if anything, I had probably been too good of a girlfriend.  Too accommodating, too agreeable.  A doormat, basically.  But here it was, the guilt phase slapping me in the face that morning.  And it took the wind right out of me.

The feeling that I felt that morning that caught me off guard was a complete feeling of inadequacy.  I suddenly felt not good enough and I hadn't allowed myself to feel that way in a very long time.  I felt guilty for not being "enough" for him.  If I had been "enough", he would have been ok.  If I had been "enough", he wouldn't have done this or that, or said this or that.  He would've fixed his issues if I had been enough.  If my son had been enough.  The reasonable, smart Becca knew this was absolutely ludicrous.  I had been good to him.  We had made great memories as a little family.  I had spoiled him and made him feel special and given him so much attention and made excuses for him.   But the emotional, broken Becca that had just lost a long-term partner couldn't see this.  All I could see was that despite my best efforts, it had fallen apart.  I hadn't been enough for him to keep it together,

It took me several days of having this destructive thought process before I finally told broken Becca to shut-up.  I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw this quote on my news feed.  It was probably the best timing I've experienced in a long time.

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors (although I haven't yet read this particular book), and she was 100% right.  I had spent my entire 3-year relationship trying to mend a broken person and naively convincing myself that it was my responsibility.  I thought that by fixing his broken heart left over from his divorce, patching up those insecurities so he felt loved and wanted, and being ridiculously patient with him, that those things would make me "enough".  I thought it would guarantee me a happy life with the man that I loved.  I thought that by being that person, his "saving grace" so to speak, that it would make us complete, that we would complete each other.  

I never thought I would want to try to "fix" another man.  The last man I tried to fix was a decade ago and I learned way back then that a person has to fix himself.  Nobody can do it for him.  People have to grow and make their own decisions to be a good person and make good choices.  But here I was again, trying to be that savior for another person and I didn't even realize it.  Why?  Maybe it was the fact that he had a lot of great qualities that I wasn't used to in a man.  He was educated, handsome, tall, outdoorsy, liked good music...  I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I started dating him.  But I saw red flags and ignored them.  Over time, those red flags disappeared so, looking back, I think I thought I had conquered him.  I had succeeded in saving him.  I was his girl and he was my future husband and everything was going to be perfect because I had been patient and accommodating.  WRONG...

So many girls and women go through life and relationships with this same mentality.  Some like the bad boys, they like a challenge. They like to "save" people.  I honestly didn't even realize I was one of these women anymore.  Maybe in my 20's, but not now.  I had been single for 2 years before I met him.  I didn't have the patience, time, or energy to fix someone or chase someone.  Ain't nobody got time fo dat, especially a single mom.  It took me 3 years, the end of a relationship, my friend shaking sense into me, and then this Jodi Picoult quote for me to see that that is exactly what I had been trying to do.  It completely explained why I suddenly felt like a complete failure.  I had set myself up for failure.  Because...  this...

Let me tell you, friends. Love is not all you need, contrary to Mr. Lennon's claims.  You can love a person forever and not mend them.  You can love everything about them and tell them every day, and still not make them feel secure or happy.  You can only be so much for a person.  And that's where I went wrong.  True, I wasn't enough to fix those things, but I'm finally seeing that it's not a reflection on me.  It's not my job to fix anyone other than myself and my patients (and the occasional attitude adjustment for my son).  It took some reminding over the last couple weeks, but it finally sunk in yesterday.  I know my worth.  I know what I have to offer and someday, that will be enough for someone and I won't have to spend day after day trying to convince them (and myself) of this fact.

The healing process has begun and that brings me a sliver of relief.  Baby steps... deleting my 111 pins from my wedding album on Pinterest (I'll make a new album if that special person makes an entrance into my life later on), reading novels again (I finished an entire novel this week alone), working on my blog, focusing on work, watching Isaac show off his mad baseball skills, anticipating the upcoming Rangers season.  All of these things bring me joy that I haven't felt in a long time. When you finally stop the daunting task of trying to make others happy when they don't want that for themselves, you suddenly have so much more time and breathing room to enjoy what and who matters the most in your life.  In closing...

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Love and Loss

The last time I posted to my blog, I was new to the 30 Club.  I had accepted that my youth was over and I had fully embraced my 30's. I was excited to be done with the drama of being a 20-something, excited to be a "real" adult.  Surely crazy things wouldn't happen in my 30's.  People settle down, get married, settle into family life.  Men in their 30's don't play annoying games.  They're grown up.  They're ready for a family and ok with dating a single mom.  They know what they want. Right?  Yet here I am, 34 years old, sitting at home on a Saturday night, writing a blog post as a sort of therapy to heal a heart that I had naively convinced myself wouldn't get broken in my 30's.  Trying to figure out how to proceed with a life that I thought I had in order years ago, and trying to accept that future plans won't ever happen now.  

People use the word "grief" when someone has died, but I've come to realize over the last several days and weeks that it can absolutely be used to describe the feeling that comes with the end of a significant relationship.  And by "significant relationship", I mean any relationship that had a profound impact on your life.  I don't care if it lasted 6 months, 3 years, or 20 years.  I don't care if you were domestic partners or if you had a piece of paper telling you that you're legally bound to that person.  I don't mean to downplay the meaning of marriage.  I don't actually think of it as "a piece of paper".  But over the years, married and divorced folks have downplayed my marriage-less relationships often.  "A marriage is always more important than a long-term partnership."  "You don't understand how a divorce feels."   I've always been highly irritated by the inaccuracy of these statements. I've had 3 relationships that lasted longer than a lot of marriages I've seen.  One of them lasted for half of my 20's and produced a child and, in turn, a family. That same relationship lasted longer than the dating relationship and marriage combined of my most recent ex-boyfriend. We didn't have a ceremony or rings or a paper signed by a judge.  But we were a family. And the end of that relationship was heart-wrenching and took years to get past.  Fast forward 8 years and that same heart-wrenching feeling is back, minus the legal proceedings to separate property and children. Is it any less significant because there wasn't a marriage?  Absolutely not.  I lost an entire family of people who treated me like their own, a family I so desperately wanted to be my own someday soon.  My son lost a father figure that he loved whole heartedly for 3 years. Ironically, one of those divorced people who often downplayed the end of my marriage-less long-term relationships happens to be the other half of this story and sitting a few blocks away, no doubt feeling the same devastation that I am feeling tonight. So for all of you who have never been married but have lost someone significant, I understand. Your feelings are valid.

The term "sick with grief" is so unbelievably accurate.  The physical symptoms of heartbreak are sometimes more difficult to deal with than the emotional ones.  They make it hard to function, get out of bed, go to work, eat, sleep.  It's as though you can feel your heart breaking from the inside out.  Queasiness with every meal, stomach ache, sleeplessness...I haven't slept through the night since September, when the first signs of what was to come appeared.  But I'd say the worst physical symptom is the breathlessness. Feeling like someone is sitting on your chest.  There are so many days, several times a day, when I can't even take a deep breath.  I catch myself holding my breath because my chest is heavy with grief. I'm sure it's also anxiety.  Fear of the unknown and someday starting over, fear of never seeing that person again.  Wondering how you are ever going to go to all of the places that you went to with that person again. State parks, cabins, our favorite Irish pub.  Wondering if you should go ahead and delete your 111 pins in your "Future Wedding" album on Pinterest.

I also feel like the amount of anxiety you feel is directly related to the progression of the breakup. When a couple is gradually unraveling, even though the end of the relationship is just as sad, you feel more prepared. With Isaac's dad and I, we were falling apart before Isaac ever made his entrance into the world. The end of the relationship was devastating, but it was inevitable and I had almost 2 years to prepare myself.  Not that we didn't try during those 2 years.  But when it ended, it wasn't anything too shocking.  To anybody.  With my current situation, the unraveling was somewhat sudden. When it goes from good to bad in a matter of a few months after almost 3 years together, your heart doesn't have time to process the devastation.  You go through the stages of grief, sometimes multiple stages in one day. I'd say the most common one right now is Bargaining.  If only we hadn't taken the next step in our relationship.  If only we had done this or that differently. The bargaining phase is full of regret and living in the past.  I think this phase makes it harder to move on because you're still thinking of all of the things that happened prior to the switch being flipped. These things cloud your judgement. We start thinking that those good things will fix the bad things. But in all honesty, the bad things wouldn't have happened if the good things had been enough.  I also try to bargain with the future. Maybe we can be friends someday. It's been known to happen. I have a pretty cordial relationship with most of the people I have dated, but some time has to pass. Sometimes it takes a couple months, sometimes it takes 6 years. Sometimes it never happens. But I know these thoughts are likely because I'm not ready to let go.  I guess that will come with the Acceptance phase, which I think I am pretty far from right now.

Anger is another common feeling. Just frustration that I'm dealing with this again at 34 years old. I have questioned God, fate, karma... Why?  Am I supposed to be learning some kind of lesson again?  Did I do something in a previous love life that put a curse on me?  Maybe a previous ex shoved a needle through the heart of a voodoo doll like Dane Cook's scorned lover in Good Luck Chuck.  That would explain why the majority of my exes end up marrying the person they date after the end of our relationship. You're welcome, guys. 

The thought of moving on is painful and it likely won't happen for a very long time. A few days ago, I fully intended to never date again. But a close friend of mine encouraged me to "leave the door open just a crack".  I deserve happiness and love as much as the next girl. 

The only real comfort I've had is to just remind myself of the positives of the whole situation. There will always be a silver lining in every bad thing that happens to you. The silver lining here is that I'll be able to do things that I haven't done in a while because he didn't want to, like watching UFC, watching live music, listening to my music in the car, maybe work on my blog again, etc.  I'll have time to read novels again. I can take mini trips with just Isaac like we used to.  There's always a silver lining.  Life will go on, the sun will come up tomorrow, and at the end of the day, I still have the biggest love of my life sitting next to me, biting his toenails and watching cartoons.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lazy Girl's Guide to Running

"How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it." ~Robert Brault

It's hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks, I will be completing my 17th race and my first 10k.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was wishing I could run but doubting my ability to make it happen. I chose the title because, even though I have made a ton of progress in the last year and a half, I'm still very much a lazy runner.  I don't "love" to run and most days I would prefer to sit on my couch and watch baseball in my underwear and eat a cupcake rather than go for a run or to the gym. You don't have to be Miss Athlete to be a runner, you just have to make the choice to do it even when your couch is calling your name.  I decided to compile this list as a way to help other people who are thinking about running or have already started and may be struggling. 

1. Get started

Getting started is the hardest part of anything, especially where any kind of exercise is involved. How many times have you set a weight or fitness goal as a New Year's resolution only to give up by February 1? I've tried to start running several times in my life. In high school, I ran around the tennis courts before practice and hated every moment of it. I only played tennis for the cute skirt and to avoid gym class anyway, not because I was athletic. In college, I would get motivated very briefly and run around the track at my dorm, all the while thinking about the cookie I had thrown away the night before and desperately wanting to go retrieve it (I did, by the was still soft and tasty. The 5 second rule doesn't apply to cookies). In 2009, I tried again to start running, this time with a running group, and ended up with tendinitis in my ankle. So I quit and ate my frustrations and developed quite the rear. In July 2011, I tried yet again and actually stuck with it for a month or so. My first 5k trek around my neighborhood took me a long 50:26. My shins hurt, my lungs were on fire and I felt every extra pound in my pants. After a month of dealing with shin pain and humid nighttime runs, I gave up yet again. It was only after my sister guilt-tripped me into registering for my first 5k that I finally decided to "get started" for the last time. That was in September of 2011, and 16 races later, I haven't looked back since. My 5k time has gone from that very slow 50:26 to my most recent personal best of 31:45. I never thought I would be this close to the 30:00 mark. My cousin, who is an awesome marathon runner, told me a long time ago, "I want to be there the first time you finish in under 30:00." At the time I just thought, "Not gonna happen...ever." But I'm already very close to that milestone. You just have to set your mind to it and do it. You have to push out every doubt you have in yourself and ignore the agony you feel after several (or two) minutes of running and remember that it'll eventually pass. And if you start to think, "I'll start again next week", just realize that when next week rolls around and you're struggling to make it around your neighborhood, you're going to be kicking yourself for not starting last week. So just do it.

Me in July 2011, except chubbier than these chicks.

2. Plan a fun race

I was kind of thrown into my first race via the guilt trip, but it changed my life. Setting a concrete goal such as a race (and paying the registration fee) will help motivate you to start and keep training. If I hadn't registered for my first race, I would've eventually given up again. But because I paid $25 and promised my sister (and probably announced it on Facebook), I felt like I HAD to complete it. Not that you should guilt trip yourself into running, that's not what I'm saying. Yes, my first race was a guilt trip race, but the 15 races after that were a way to pump myself up and get excited about running. I always made sure to choose really fun races (a glow-in-the-dark race, my hometown race, a Halloween race, etc) so that I looked forward to running it. Planning my outfit based on the race's theme was one of the most motivating things for me. See #3.

3. Shoes/outfit

SHOES ARE EVERYTHING! Especially if you're as injury/accident prone as I am. It took me several running injuries before I finally realized that bad shoes were my main issue. I mean, I had a lot of other issues in the beginning (an extra 30 lbs on my butt, horrible running form that resembled Phoebe Buffay from Friends, an inability to steady my breathing, just to name a few), but my poor quality running shoes really had the biggest impact on the misery I experienced those first several running attempts. I suggest going to a running store and getting fitted for running shoes. They'll do a gait analysis, tell you if you walk/run funny (I do) and tell you what shoe you should get and what size based on that information (usually 1/2 to 1 size larger than your regular shoe size - your feet swell when you run). Don't be cheap, especially if you're prone to shin splits or joint issues. Spending about $100 is normal for good running shoes. I'd rather spend $100 every year (yes, you need to replace them eventually because they wear down) than spend $40 and have them sit in my closet because I got injured and gave up again. Now, about your outfit... This may be a woman thing, but most likely it's just a Becca thing and doesn't matter to most other people. But I'm a weirdo who is much more motivated and energetic if I look as cute as I possibly can while running. My face is pretty hideous at the end of a run, so all I can really control is the outfit. That's one reason I choose fun, themed races because the costume/outfit I get to wear gets me excited. Who wouldn't be pumped up to wear a tutu or a Batman costume or knee-high neon socks during a run? But feeling good in your running outfit doesn't just apply to races. I have found that if I like what I'm wearing during a workout or training run, I have more energy. I may be the only person who suddenly gets a burst of energy mid-run because I remember that I'm wearing my hot pink sports bra and matching underwear. Whatever works!

See how excited my outfit made me?

4. Weight

Would you rather run while carrying 50 lbs worth of candy bars in your underwear or without? Weight matters where running is concerned, at least for me. I've seen heavier people run 5k's, sometimes way faster than me, but for me, I do much better and struggle less when I weigh less. When I first started running in 2011, I was 35 lbs heavier and really didn't "run". I walked with a hop and my butt bounced behind me with every hop. As I lost weight, my race times and overall endurance improved. Not to mention that races were much less swamp-assy when my thighs weren't rubbing together in my yoga pants the whole time.

5. Diet

Diet obviously contributes to weight, but it also affects how you feel when you run. Even if you're the type of person who can eat chicken enchiladas and a 6-pack of beer and not gain a pound, it'll still have a negative affect on your run. Running bounces and shakes and jolts your body around. Your stomach is bouncing around in there and I'm sure your intestines are being flopped around, too, and you know what those contain. I have found that I feel best when I stick to meat, nuts, fruit and vegetables (very low carb - you need some good carbs for energy but heavy, starchy carbs weigh you down and make you feel like you might fill your pants mid-run. Never a pleasant sensation). I try to follow this diet most of the time, but your diet is especially important the day before and day of a race. Feel free to pig out after a race - post-race meals are the BEST - but I wouldn't recommend eating a stack of pancakes or a plate of Mexican food within 24 hours before a race. Do what you want but you'll be wishing you had listened to me when you're trying to push down the queasiness and/or desperately looking for a bush during mile 2. Trust me, I've been that girl. Many times.

6. Music

Music is a huge motivator for me. I can't run without it. It energizes me when things get tough and puts me in a good mood when I just want to quit. My 5k playlist has changed a lot over the last year and a half. I used to think music was music. I figured if I liked the songs, they could be on my running playlist. Over time I realized that my song choices played a huge role in how well I did and how energized I was able to stay. I love slow country love songs and depressing breakup music, but that music wasn't conducive to a successful run. It made me sleepy, unmotivated and hungry for chocolate. And anything repetitive is really annoying when you're struggling to breathe and stay upright. There are songs I can sing and dance to in the car but if they suddenly start playing mid-race when I'm already angry at the world, it drives me insane. For example, Isaac put "Baby" by Justin Bieber on my playlist before my first Halloween 5k (by the way, this is an example of a repetitive song, not a song I dance to in my car...just to set that straight). It was a miserable, frigid, hilly race and I was in a tutu. The Biebs came on at the very end of the race when I was in the process of trying to stay ahead of a dad and son so I could avoid coming in last. At that moment, I had to make the choice to either slow down and turn the song off or ignore it and keep running. My fear of being last beat out my hatred for Justin Bieber and I suffered through the rest of the race with that song playing. When I crossed the finish line (not last), turning it off took precedence over yanking my shorts out of my crotch or wiping the snot off my face. After that race, I always make sure to triple check and update my playlist before each race or training run. I still have a huge variety of music (everything from Luke Bryan to Usher to Soilwork to Casting Crowns), but all of it is upbeat and motivating. Most of it is heavy metal and rock lately. I guess I like to be screamed at when I'm about to give up. :-)

7. Focal point

I'll be honest, I struggle more after the 2nd mile of races than I did during childbirth. When you're in labor, they tell you to choose an object or area in the room and use it as your focal point so you can take your mind off your agony and fight through the pain. The same applies to running. I choose a focal point every time I run, whether it be a training run or a race.  Sometimes I have several depending on where I am running. If I'm on the treadmill at the gym, I usually just focus on the street lamp outside and never take my eyes away from it. It takes my mind off any pain or exhaustion I may be feeling and keeps me from looking at my time and distance on the treadmill. When I run outside, I usually have several focal points that change as the scenery changes. If I'm running alone, I focus on a tree, landmark or person in the distance and tell myself that I WILL keep running and not walk until I reach that point. I do the same thing during races but mainly focus on people. Sometimes I'll watch someone's butt in front of me and enviously wonder how they manage to keep their shorts on the outside of their body. Other times I'll focus on someone ahead of me that I would be embarrassed to finish after, like a little kid or a baby in a stroller. I'll pick up speed until I pass them, think to myself, "That's right, baby. Move aside!" and then choose another person to be my new focal point. Having something to focus on helps the time to go by faster and helps you to get out of your head. Running really is (mostly) mental...see #8.

8. Mental vs physical

It took me over a year and 13 1/2 races to realize that running is more mental than physical. Back in those earlier running days, I was positive that my shin splints, fat butt and Buddha belly were 90% of my issues. It wasn't until I was in the middle of my November 2012 race that I realized my self-doubt and mind games caused most of my misery. I was in decent shape for this race, was at a reasonable weight, the weather was perfect, it was a night race and I hadn't eaten tacos that day, yet I was still struggling to survive after a panic attack hit when my running app on my phone stopped working. I had obsessively used that app as a security blanket during my races so that I could track how far I was from the finish line. When I realized the app wasn't working during that race, I freaked out and started thinking that there was no way I could finish running it, I was probably far from the finish line and I was going to finish in a terrible time. Just that mental war I was having with myself made me feel exhausted and like I was going to pass out. That's when it clicked that it really was all in my head (there was no way a running app on my phone could make or break a race), and I just had to suck it up, turn up my music and keep my eye on the prize. That race ended up being my fastest race to this day. I still use my running app religiously but I'm now able to tell the difference between a mental war vs a physical struggle. I'd say it's 80-20. You still have to build your endurance and get stronger physically, but the thing that prevents us from improving over time isn't the junk in our trunks, it's the negative junk in our heads.

9. Injury awareness

I am the running injury queen. You name it, I've had it: shin splints (more times than I can count), runner's knee, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis... The frequency of these injuries decreased significantly once I packed on leg muscle and got better running shoes, but they still come back on occasion. The key is knowing when you have an injury vs soreness and when you should rest vs fight through it. The best way to fight off injuries is to stretch before and after running and to ice your legs, even if they're not really sore. Stretching your calves and hamstrings is so very important. Those muscles are attached to everything - your shins, your knees, your heels. I had calf pain for a couple weeks one time and suddenly got plantar fasciitis (heel issue) that was directly related to my tight calves. If your soreness just feels like normal muscle pain from exercise, it's ok to run through it. That's how you build muscle. But if it's pain in a joint or sharp pain in your shins, rest for a few days or a week and ice it. Ice baths SUCK HARDCORE, but they allow you to ice everything all at once and it actually feels better when, you know, you can't feel anything below the waist. You just have to know your body and know when something isn't right. If you have a feeling it's an injury rather than soreness, err on the side of caution and don't run for a while. You'll make it worse and end up giving up and eating your sorrows. I've been there. And since I'm telling you to not run through injuries, I probably shouldn't tell you that I have my 2nd case of ankle tendinitis and not only am I still running, but I plan to complete my first 10k in a couple weeks. I'll suffer the consequences of my stubbornness for sure, much like I did after my December race when I ran with strep and bronchitis in 28* weather. I may not be able to walk afterwards, but the accomplishment alone will make it all worth it, as well as the copious amounts of burgers and beer that I plan to consume as my celebratory meal. But yeah, like I said before, don't run through running's BAD. 

10. Cross training

I've always hated exercise. I didn't like the muscle soreness or the difficult time I had walking for the 2 days after a session of squats and lunges. But cross training will benefit you greatly when it comes to your running progress. Running requires the use of your whole body, not just your legs. Every muscle group is involved - abs, legs, even your arms. If one or more of these muscles are weak, it'll slow you down and make you feel tired a lot faster. I started incorporating cross training sessions into my gym visits about 3 months after I started running. As I built muscle, I got faster and less tired. Then for about 6 months, I got lazy and only ran. I noticed a difference right away. Without the cross training, I wasn't building the most important muscles that I needed to increase my speed, endurance or metabolism. Sure, I still had some nice calf and shin muscles, but my hamstrings and quads were weak, I still had a fat stomach and I had no upper body strength. So I started back up with these muscle groups on my non-run days several months ago and haven't stopped since. My quads and hamstrings are stronger and more muscular and I run faster as a result. Not to mention, these main muscle groups have helped me to become a champ at hovering over public toilet seats for several seconds. It's a win-win really.

I hope this list was helpful for anyone who is thinking about running or has recently started running. I subscribe to Runner's World magazine and have read hundreds of articles on "how to run" and none of them really spoke specifically to me. I felt like I was the minority, the one person who had so many issues becoming "A Runner" when it seemed so easy for others. So maybe you're just like I was and you'll read this, have extra hope and think, "Ahh ok, she struggled just like I am and has managed to pull through." Or better yet, you'll feel way better about yourself after reading about all of my problems and think, "Wow, my experience doesn't seem quite so bad anymore." Either way, I hope it gave you some encouragement and motivation to continue running. It's been a life changer for me.