On Regret

So recently I’ve gotten involved with a indie video game group, called Studios Lu/ne. I am working as their Public Relations person, and I am very excited.

What does this have to do with regret? 

Well, this afternoon my birthson texts me. He’s 19 going on 40, as they always are at that age, a geek, and just finishing his first year of university. We get talking about video games, and I mention Studios Lu/ne. I send him the link, and then immediately start the “Wait, is that age-appropriate?” thing.

Then I remember – he’s 19. NINETEEN. Age-appropriate isn’t really a concern anymore.

And for the first time, I felt regret at the choice I made in giving him up.

Not that I would have preferred to deprive him of the love he has from his adoptive parents, or the experiences and opportunities he has had so far that would not have been possible if not for the adoption.

My regret isn’t in giving him up.

My regret is in not being a bigger part of his life.

In the early years, this wasn’t really an option. But by the time he was ten, it was. His adoptive parents were comfortable with me, and I spent a wonderful week with them when he was 11, and I was on disability. We were growing closer.

But, as it often does, life got busy and our visits were few and far between. 

And, as they do, he grew up and now instead of that impressionable, fun-loving child, I have an adult visiting me. I am proud of the man he is becoming, and glad I can be a part of his life, But I wish I could have been a bigger part.

As mentioned in earlier posts, I am childfree. I will NOT be having children. This is a conscious decision on my part, due to health and circumstances, I just don’t think being a mother is a good option for me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the one offspring I DO have. He is a brilliant young man with a great future ahead of him.

I guess the thing I CAN do, since rewinding time and making different choices is impossible, is to be a bigger part of his life going forward. It will be difficult – I have a very eventful life these days, as as a university student, so does he. But that’s how it goes.

And I know my life will be much more rewarding if he’s in it more.

I can only hope he’ll feel the same way.

 

 

 

FYI – If you wanna check out Studios Lu/ne, go to http://www.studioslune.com

Yanno, just because.

 

 

 

 

DO EET.

On Living with Anxiety

This post was a very difficult one for me to write. I sat at my brother’s kitchen table, my dad trying to make small talk even though he could see me trying to write. He means well, and I love him. But it was distracting.

It took me about five drafts, some of which were erased completely and saw me completely restarting the whole thing.

But I think the most ironic thing, and I’m sure he and I will laugh about this in the future, is when I emailed this to the friend mentioned in the post, I was so overcome by my anxiety about his response, I totally missed his very supportive text. I was having an anxiety attack waiting for a response about my post about anxiety. This, dear readers, is how my life goes.

One of the things I struggle with most as someone living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the misconception that we can control it. People who do not live with this disorder have troubles understanding just how debilitating it can be. So I’m going to start this post with an exercise.

Those of you without GAD, think back to the single scariest moment of your life. Whether it be a loved one suddenly getting violently ill, being in a major car accident, or perhaps watching your house burn down, one thing is likely the same – you in all likelihood felt a moment, if not minutes, of panic where you did not know what to do. Then the rush of adrenaline hit, and you were spurred into action, dealing with the situation.

For those of us unlucky enough to live with GAD, this is a regular occurrence. The way my doctor explained it to me, in moments of high stress, the brain sends out chemicals to spur the flight or fight reflexes. That’s that moment of panic. When you have GAD, the trigger for this delivery of chemicals is dysfunctional, and even the littlest things will set it off. And the worst part, is the adrenaline that clears the system and helps you focus and deal with the problem? Doesn’t come. Just the panic.

A quick Wikipedia search gives a great description of the problem.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry. … This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals suffering GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties.

So what does this actually mean?

For me, and I am lucky enough to have a relatively mild case, it means that the more common, everyday worries that are piled onto me, the worse my disorder gets. Things that most people would just deal with cause me to start worrying, unable to decide how best to deal with the situation. Often I will procrastinate, avoiding the thing that I am worrying about to the point that the situation becomes an actual true emergency, like that time that I put off going to the doctor about my difficulties breathing and ended up in the ICU due to Congestive Heart Failure.

Yeah, not my finest moment I admit. On a side note, it’s a damned good thing I lived at home at that time, as my mother made me go to the doctor. If I had been on my own, I am completely convinced that I likely would have been found dead in whatever apartment I’d been living in. So thanks Mom, you’re the best ever.

While that is an extreme case, it’s things like it that define my daily life. At work, I worry that I’m not performing to my best. And yet I get almost daily feedback from my coworkers and boss on the great job I am doing. It’s never enough to calm the beast called anxiety.

In personal relationships, I find it really hard to confront my partner with anything serious. Even if it’s a good thing, like admitting my true feelings. The beast called anxiety whispers to me all the horrible things that could happen, like him dumping my ass because I said “I think I love you.” In fact, I am no longer even able to tell WHAT my feelings truly are, due to the combination of my history with relationships and anxiety. This makes relationships very difficult.

I spend so much time lying awake at night worrying about all the things in my life that could go wrong, that I am often exhausted and unable to think straight. This is not a constant – I have gone years without anxiety causing these issues – but when it does happen, I become irritable, and the anxiety is given more and more control over my life. I try to control it without medications, but as my doctor told me when first diagnosed, there will always be points in my life that medications will be required.

It is a very hard thing for me to admit to. I don’t want to be That Chick Who Worries. I want to be a normal, healthy, well-balanced individual. But this is not who I am. I am currently in the midst of an upswing in my anxiety attacks. It’s not been fun, and I am at a point where I can no longer control this without help. I know my doctor will ask that question he always does: “Have you dealt with the issue that caused this bout?” and I will tell him yes. Usually I have. To be honest though, I haven’t at this point. I know what the underlying issues that brought this on are. I have dealt with most of them. But there is one that is so terrifying to me that I just cannot confront it.

All the things that could go wrong if I confront this issue are currently running through my head like a checklist of the apocalypse. That is how serious my anxiety is telling me this situation is. The worst part, the part EVERYONE with GAD has to deal with, is knowing that it’s the anxiety lying to you. Knowing that if you just dealt with it, the anxiety would dissipate and you could go back to your regular life. But the anxiety is just too strong, and I am having troubles overcoming it. And the scary part is that my logic center, the voice that for most people helps to control the worry, is telling me that if I let anxiety win, the worst case scenario WILL come true.

It’s a horrible circle. It feeds itself and without help, I cannot escape it.

And the strangest things can cause an attack. For instance, I recently was in Fort Worth, Texas. The trip was a lot of fun and I am so glad I overcame all the anxiety and forced myself to go. However, because I DID make myself go, there were a few more attacks than I would have liked. (I would have liked exactly zero anxiety attacks. That’s my ideal number). The worst was in a used bookstore. The friend I was visiting made a correct guess as to how much I would love being in a used bookstore. So we went.

We got to the store and went our separate ways. The thing I should mention at this point is that the single best way to help me through an attack is physical touch. Hold my hand, kiss my cheek, give me a hug. Even so much as a pat on the shoulder will help me focus and realize that it is an attack and to calm down.

Of course, I didn’t think I’d have an attack there in the store. So I didn’t stick close to the one person I knew that was closer than a six hour drive away. Seriously, how can you anticipate these things?

Oh, and to that friend, if he is reading this? So not your fault. You couldn’t have known that this is what I was struggling with until I admitted it to you. Thanks for being so awesome with me and my anxiety-riddled ways.

So I work my way through the store. I find used DVDs. I’m browsing them when I come across an old beat-up copy of the Dukes of Hazard. The Dukes of Hazard, while an absolutely horrible show, has a lot of memories of my oldest brother attached to it. That’s one of his favourite shows. So I started to think about him. The bad thing about being fairly good at math is that your brain can do things in the background. Like say “If Diavik (the mine my brother works at) is 2300 km from Saskatoon, and Fort Worth is 2700 km from Saskatoon, that means Diavik is 5000 km from Fort Worth. Brad is at work right now, which means I’M 5000 KM FROM MY BROTHER.”

That, by the way, is a good trigger for a panic attack. Apparently.

Then I walked by the records. And I thought of my other brother. By this point my anxiety is at a slow boil. I’m darting my eyes everywhere searching for my friend. I cannot see him. The boil grows.

I work my way over to a section of the store I know will help distract me. Sometimes that will stop the attacks. I start browsing books. It works for a while, but I’m still searching for my friend. I finally see him, looking for me where I was when we parted ways, so I text him, and he comes over. He gives me a quick hug and the anxiety goes down a little more. We move into the graphic novel area. I’m calming more and more.

When he decides he’s going to go look elsewhere, I follow. He gives me a funny look, and I make excuses. I’m not ready to admit I’m an anxiety-ridden mess at that moment. He takes me to the sci-fi and fantasy section. My anxiety dissipates a bit more. He wanders off without me noticing.

This is fine. I’m in my Happy Place.

Right up until I walk around a corner right into a cardboard display with a nearly life-sized Gandalf on it. Thanks Gandalf. I needed my anxiety levels to go from just barely boiling to OMG LIFE IS GOING TO END! GANDALF STORMCROW IS HERE!!!!

Yeah. That actually happened. God help me.

I’m laughing right now. Because now that I’m not in the middle of an attack, it’s the Funniest Thing Ever.

Luckily for me, my friend chose that exact moment to laugh. I made a beeline for him, obviously upset. When I told him what was wrong, he did exactly the right thing. He held me, and told me he would attack the anxiety for me. He even made kicking motions. I THINK he actually either kicked himself or kicked something he wasn’t intending to. It made me laugh. And the anxiety went away.

I am so lucky to have friends like him. I cannot tell him just how much that meant to me. I was able to enjoy the rest of our time at the bookstore, and then he took me for ice cream. Ice cream. On a warm day. (Well, hot to my Canadian brain, but not really from the point of view of those actually from Texas). In January.

Best Ever.

The point I’m making with this story is that anxiety cannot be anticipated nor truly explained. We know what causes it. We know the symptoms. But knowing what will trigger an attack? Nearly impossible. The next day we had gone out for supper. I had been extremely hungry when we left. And I finished my meal. But it was like ash in my mouth, and when he offered me more, the thought of food made me sick. I told him I had nervous stomach. He asked why. I explained that the flight home the next day was scaring me. “But you did that flight on Thursday and everything was fine. You’ll be just fine.”

Yeah. I know that dear. But anxiety doesn’t care. Anxiety goes through all the things that could possibly go wrong and runs them over and over like a B-rated horror flick.

And that’s what it’s like living with anxiety. To never know when the stupidest thing will make you freak out. Never knowing what is a legitimate threat and what is something easily dealt with.

This is my life.

I try not to use it as an excuse. I manage most days to face what is causing the attacks and deal with it. When it’s boiling over all the time, this is very difficult. But I manage.

For those of you without GAD, there are several ways you can help those you know and care about who are affected by this disorder. The most important way is to understand that they really have no control over this. Their brain chemicals are causing them to worry more than you do. They often know that they are overreacting, and telling them that, or belittling what they are going through only makes it harder for them to find their way out of an attack. If someone you know is diagnosed, research what is going on and understand that sometimes medications and time are the only thing that will help.

For minor attacks, I find that distraction can be a great method of dissipating the anxiety. I try to think of something else until the worst passes, and then deal with what triggered the attack. I want to stress that this doesn’t help everyone. Each person with anxiety has a different level of the disease. Some have such severe cases that distraction simply won’t work. Ask the person if it will help, when they are not in an attack. They’ll let you know if it will help or make things worse.

As I said earlier, one of the biggest things I find to help is physical contact. A hug can go a long way to helping me feel better. I do not know why this is, but my theory is that it gives me something to focus on that is not the trigger, or on those occasions I have no idea why I’m freaking out, on the fact that I’m crazy.

Simply being supportive, and saying things like “it will be alright” works wonders for me. Knowing that I am not being judged helps to make it easier to deal with what is happening. Because one of the things that I worry about is being normal. Not in that I like the same things as everyone else, but in that I have a disorder. I just want to be like everyone else. And I worry that I’m not. It bothers me. Knowing that the people who know me and that I care about understand that there are times that I am not in control of this thing helps.

The most important thing to remember is that this person that you know who worries about “nothing,” very possibly cannot help it. If they know they are diagnosed, all they really want is acceptance from others, and their support. If they don’t know, it’s a good thing to get them to find help. Because help is out there and they are not the only ones who go through this.

If you have GAD, remember: you are NOT alone. Millions of people struggle with this every day. It is also not uncommon for people with GAD to have Depression as well. They are closely related and can go hand-in-hand. Get help. It’s out there. Find a support network. Eventually you will find the thing that makes it seem controllable, and trust me, life can be so much better once you’re there.

Childfree and Loving It

I have a confession to make. I am childfree, and I love it.

Go ahead. Gasp in shock. Blink at the screen. Ask yourself, and everyone around you, if I really just said that, if I mean it, and if I’m crazy.

I will give you a minute.

 

Okay, still with me? I guess that means that either you are more open-minded than others I know, or you care enough about me to give me a chance to explain myself. Thanks for that.

If I am going to explain how it is that I have come to this place in my life, I need to give some background information about me. So here we go.

 

When I was a child, the best possible career, in my mind, was to be a wife and mother. I watched my mother, with her loving husband and three children. She was always so happy. I don’t remember fights between her and Dad until I was much older. As a child I thought that meant they never fought. As an adult, I realize now it’s because they never fought in front of us. United front and all that jazz.

I knew that I wanted what she had. I wanted to be at home, baking cookies by dozens of dozens, putting the local bakeries to shame. I wanted to have my kids walk in after school, see a table a foot deep with cookies, and see the delight on their faces. I wanted to have my husband come home from work, kiss me on the cheek, and ask how my day was.

I wanted nothing else in the world but to have all of that.

But, to quote one of my favourite songs, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

When I was 17, I was out for coffee with my best friend and my boyfriend. I was expecting my period, so the cramps that started up did not really surprise me. By the time we were done with our drinks and snacks, I really just wanted to go home and go to bed. We left the restaurant, and by the time we made it to the intersection where we would turn right to take Brit home, we were turning left to take me home instead. The pain was growing with red hot intensity. I cannot remember having ever felt that much pain, before or since.

Long story short, I had experienced an ectopic pregnancy. The zygote had attached itself to the lining of my fallopian tube, and when it reached a certain size, it ruptured the tube, causing severe internal bleeding and a lot of damage.

I nearly died.

I remember the day when I finally realized what it all meant. It was about a week later, and I was at home recuperating. And I suddenly realized that I had been pregnant. A baby had been inside me.

I still cry when I think of the tremendous sense of loss and betrayal I felt. How could I, who wanted nothing more than to be a mother, fail so miserably at it?

Of course, teenaged me did not understand that it was a situation that I had absolutely NO control over. I think that it’s part of the reason the next part of my story occurred.

Because I did not even have a period before I was pregnant again.

I’m not going to get too deep into this pregnancy. That is for another blog post. What I will say is this: if I could have raised a child on love alone, we would not be having this conversation. I would be instead telling you of the trials and tribulations of raising a 19 year old geek.

My 18 year old brain did one thing right – it took into consideration the needs of the tiny life growing inside of me, put aside all of the childish desires I had regarding my own future, and made a decision that I have never, nor will I ever, regret to this day: I went to Social Services and arranged to give this beautiful baby boy to a couple who wanted nothing more than to give a loving home to a child who needed one.

Best Decision Ever.

To say that I showed maturity beyond my years would be somewhat of an overstatement. I suppose that, in that one decision, that is the case. But that was the only decision that I made in my early adult years that would qualify as mature.

We’ll skip over all the stupid decisions I made in my late teens and early twenties. After all, that’s only human nature, and really has little to do with this post. I suppose one could argue I only got married because the only life goal I had in those years was to get married and have a family. But really, the truth is that I got married because everyone told me it wouldn’t work and I wanted to prove them wrong. This is what I get for being both German and Scottish. Damn fucking stubborn.

So much of my early adulthood revolved around my “goal.” I defined myself by my ability to attract a mate and have a family. I determined that I was an utter failure because I was not yet a wife (again) or a mother.

Looking back, I was not ready to be either of those things.

On September 10, 2004, something happened that turned my life around and changed things forever. I ended up in the intensive care unit at the Battlefords’ Union Hospital. I had been sent for chest x-rays because I was having troubles breathing at night. What they found instead of possible pneumonia was a heart that was three times larger than it should be. I was in the midst of Congestive Heart Failure due to Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Those are a lot of big words that basically mean that my heart had grown too large and could no longer pump my blood as it should. During the day, the fluids gathering in my chest cavity would follow gravity and pool around my stomach. But at night? That is a very different story. The fluids would gather around my lungs, and the lungs, being the giant sponges they are, would soak up all of that fluid and then I could not breathe. I was drowning and I wasn’t even in any water.

I remember very little of my hospital stay. And it’s not really important to this story anyways. Perhaps I’ll discuss it more in depth in another post.

In the months that followed, I had a lot of changes to make. I was put onto CPP (Canadian Pension Plan for my non-Canadian readers – all two of you) disability, and spent the next five years recovering.

By June of the following year, I was starting to get anxious. I had no future that I could see. I was 29 years old, and likely to spend the rest of my parent’s lives living in their basement. My dreams of being a wife and mother were a distant memory. All I really wanted was to find a way not to rely on my parents.

That was when Dante entered my life. He was amazing – intelligent, funny, geeky, and cute. He showered me with attention, and made me forget my troubles. I fell hard for him.

The following February my parents and I made the trek down to Omaha Nebraska, where Dante lived with his parents, to meet him. In person he was even more than he seemed online and over the phone. On the trip back, I’m almost ashamed to say, my mom and I spent the time dreaming up wedding plans and how we could get him into Canada legally.

The next step, for me, was to talk to my cardiologist about children.

I honestly don’t know why it hit me that bearing a child might be an issue. I do vaguely recall the cardiologists asking me, while I was in the hospital, if I had ever been pregnant. When I said yes and the child was 10 years old, they said that it was unlikely that the pregnancy caused the condition then, as it should have manifested much earlier had it been caused by that pregnancy.

I guess that must have twigged in my brain, so I brought up pregnancy when I next saw my cardiologist. He said that this condition is not common in women my age, and he had no personal experience with it. He would look into it and get back to me.

When he did get back to me, the diagnosis was not good.

Best case scenario: I would only worsen a bit, and my child would only have a couple of health problems.

Worst case scenario: neither the child, nor myself, would survive pregnancy.

And worse yet, chances of the worst case scenario happening were higher than the chances of best case scenario happening.

And there you have it – my body, once again fighting my only real dream.

And yes, I know, I can adopt. I know this. I relied on that as an option as I dealt with the fact that I would never again bear a child of my own.

Dante was amazing through this period. Adoption was a perfectly fine option. He didn’t care as long as I was happy. And so I could put off dealing with the pain of this for a while.

Right up until things started to get really serious on my part. Once again, I won’t go too into depth on the situation. Needless to say, I started to get rather pushy about my future with Dante, and he got severely cold feet.

In March of 2008, my relationship with Dante ended. Rather abruptly from my point of view, though looking back, I really should have seen it coming.

Since then, I have had to search my heart on a lot of things. I have come to many conclusions about what I want out of life, many of which are a direct opposite of my childhood dreams.

  1. I AM a career woman. I have worked very hard to get to where I am. I clawed my way out of my parent’s basement into a life in which I am very happy. I have recently been promoted to Human Resources Manager, giving me a nice salary and a position with a lot of responsibility. I love my job and the people I work with. I love what my job means most of all. True, I live in a tiny apartment, but it frees up my money to do other things – like go to conventions and meet like-minded people, or travel down to Texas because I can. My career comes first now. All decisions I have made in the last two years have been to further my career.
  2. I am perfectly happy on my own. This was a tough one to come to. I have spent so much of my life defining myself by my relationship status. But one day, waking up in my big bed all by myself, I realized I had been living for over a year by myself, and NOTHING BAD HAD HAPPENED. It would be okay to never have anyone in my life. I would be fine. Though I’m not opposed to someone coming into my life, as recent developments would show…
  3. Finally, IT IS PERFECTLY ALRIGHT TO NOT HAVE CHILDREN. This is the point of this post, and I know I have got somewhat sidetracked in getting here. But not being a parent does not, in fact, make me less of a person. Not having children does not make me a failure. All not having children means is that I am somewhat of an oddity in our society. And that, my dear readers, is something that I am very used to being.

So here we are. After years of defining myself by relationship status and viewing my lack of children as a failure on my part, my life has come to a turning point. This is where I proudly declare that, though the decision was thrust upon me, I am perfectly happy knowing no one will ever call me “Mommy.”

To everyone who is really shocked that a grown ass woman would declare such an awful thing, think on this. I came to this conclusion through a real trial by fire. My life has been heading in this direction for as long as I can remember. This journey has nearly killed me. Twice. But it has also brought happiness and made my family something truly unique and wonderful. I would not trade the life I have led so far for anything in this world.

I am at a point in my life where I can make decisions like “I want to go on a trip this winter,” and I don’t have to worry about if the other people in my family care. I don’t have to say “will the kids enjoy this?” because I don’t have kids. At most I only have to worry that it’s at a time of year that I am not needed at work, and that someone will look after my hamster.

I do not want children in my life. I like not being responsible for anyone but me. Is that selfish? Sure. Of course it is. I fully admit to being selfish. And you know what? That’s probably reason enough RIGHT THERE to NOT have kids. Selfish people shouldn’t have children, because children require more self-sacrifice than anything else in this world.

So I am declaring right here and now – just because you have children, and you feel they are the best thing to ever happen to you, doesn’t mean that they would be the best thing to happen to me. Don’t tell me I’d feel different if I had them. What happens if I don’t? Do you really think a household where the mother resents her children is a good place for children to be? I sure as hell don’t. Let the people who truly want and will truly love those children have them.

I was childless by circumstance for so long. Now I am childless by choice. And it feels fantastic.

On My Body Image

This is something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. It is a subject that affects all of us – rich, poor, fat, thin, young, old, male, female. We are surrounded every day by what our society tells us is “beautiful” and “correct.” I have heard, far too often, from far too many people, that they are “fat” and “ugly.” Or the opposite – “toothpick thin.” Only what the magazine and TV showed as beautiful is truly beautiful.

Growing up, I was often told that if I continued to eat (chips, pop, ice cream, chocolate, whatever) I would grow up to be “fat and ugly.” I know what they meant. They were concerned that I wasn’t eating healthy enough, keeping my body from the nutrients it needs to survive. I wasn’t active enough either, thus had the perfect equation for becoming obese.

Their concern is touching. I look back and see the care and love those people had for me. My father was one that often took that route, adding the quip “like me,” at the end to take the sting away. Dad, I know what you meant.

But what I heard was that being fat meant being ugly. There was no way around it. It was cold, hard fact.

Add to that the fact that I was one of the heaviest girls in my class, and this is a recipe for disaster. My young, immature brain could not handle the strain. So I ate more, hid my body, and hated myself.

I was fat and ugly.

….

Looking back, nothing could be further from the truth. I wasn’t fat. Sure, I was a large girl, but I look at old photos, and I was merely out of shape. I was carrying the right amount of weight for me. I looked wonderful, really. But I hated my body, I hated my image, and I just wanted to hide. I had the fashion sense to match – big, bulky clothes, baggy jeans, baggy sweaters and t-shirts. Nothing to draw attention to myself. The few times I tried to dress better, I was made fun of, teased. So I went back to my baggy jeans and sweaters. Hiding myself away from the crowd. If they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me.

I graduated high school. I was six months pregnant, totally in love, and thought my life was going exactly as it should. I gave up that precious baby (another story for another day), and did my best to move on with my life.

But I had gained weight. The stress of a teenaged pregnancy had caused me to overeat more than ever before. Soon, I was over 200 pounds, and hating every inch of myself.

I remember trying so hard to lose the weight. I would buy exercise books and weights, and work out. I’d push myself to my limits – past my limits if I could. I would restrict my food to crazy things – money was tight too, so I ended up on a pancakes and Kraft Dinner diet. Original, I admit, but not particularly healthy. Or good for losing weight.

And then, when the weight didn’t magically disappear after a half hour workout, I’d get ashamed, honestly believing the hurtful comments of the one I loved most. I was “fat,” “lazy,” and “good for nothing.” I would never get anything better than I currently had because I didn’t deserve it.

When I think back on my life, my body image was a driving force in everything. The food I ate – whether while trying to be healthy (depriving myself of treats, focusing on eating because it was healthy, and hating every minute of it) or while trying to forget all the pain and hurt I suffered from (stuffing myself on all the delicious food that was so bad for me) – truly defined my life.

It still does to an extent.

My life was a cycle: I would be determined to lose the weight, workout, and be healthy. Not because I worried about my health, but because being thin was equated in my mind with being beautiful and worthy. If 175 pounds was good, 140 pounds was better. And the crowning glory would be if I could just hit 100 pounds.

And when I inevitably hit that wall of shame, the inability to lose all that weight in record time? What happened then?

I would say “fuck it” and eat whatever I wanted, in whatever portions I wanted.

I was either starving myself (“only one slice of bread and a small salad. I’m trying to lose weight.”) or I was gorging myself (“a whole extra large pizza by myself? Don’t mind if I do!”) In the end, I managed to lose about twenty pounds – and gain about 100.

When I got really sick – and by really sick I mean “spent three days in the ICU and had to have a pacemaker inserted in order to save my life” sick – my focus on eating changed. Suddenly, I had to eat to help heal myself. I had to recognize the healthy foods from the junk. And I succeeded.

I managed to lose about 70 pounds. I was 240 pounds. Down from 310. I felt fantastic. I loved my new body.

Of course, the high didn’t last. I became comfortable in my new found body, and started cutting corners. A small bag of chips wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Oh sure, one can of Coke won’t kill me.

And I returned to a normal life. I went back to school, and eventually found work.

Okay, here’s where the story takes a turn I am not proud of. I’m writing this to try and help myself find that place I was at 5 years ago. I’m admitting to things that make me horribly embarrassed.

It started with a horrible break up. Not that I blame him. He did what he felt was right, and it blindsided me so badly that my whole world went spinning out of control. And even though so many exciting and happy things were happening – my heart was as healthy as it ever could be, I was given the green light to go back to the real world, go to school, get a job – I felt like the world had betrayed me, and that nothing was truly worth it.

I rebounded into a bad relationship. Not that he was bad – he just wasn’t good for me. We both had major issues, and I would like to point out that instead of holding on for almost five years, like I did when I was younger, I recognized what it was doing to me and got out. Let’s take all the victories we can.

And one night, deep in the badness that was poisoning my life, I found myself surrounded by not a small bag of chips and a can of Coke, but a really big bag of chips. One that by eating all of I had almost doubled my daily recommended intake of sodium.

And even then, I couldn’t stop myself.

Since then, I’ve been on a roller-coaster ride. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of ups – a great job, new friends, being able to stay in touch with old friends, and meeting my personal heroes, to name a few – but under it? This horrible, overwhelming nothingness. Like for a brief time I was worthy and now I can’t find it again. Sure I LOOK happy – and I am happy with much of my current position – but in other ways, I’m just putting on a great mask.

For the last four years, I’ve been eating those really big bag of chips, and drinking all that pop. Having an entire pizza. And generally just doing everything I did back in the day. Everything I know will cause all my hard work to reverse.

And that scares me.

Here’s the thing: it’s one thing to know that what you are doing is self-destructive. It’s another to care.

I recently underwent a drastic change in outlook. I stepped on the scale. I took one look at the number, and jumped off in shock.

I knew I had gained weight.

I didn’t know I had gained THAT MUCH weight.

And that’s why I’m here now.

This is my pledge.

I will do what I need to do TO GET HEALTHY.

I will not step on the scale and hate myself. When I get scared by the number, I’ll tell myself that it’s okay. That we’ve done this before. And we’ll do it again. For good this time.

Everyday I will do something for myself. Whether that be to read a good book, do some sewing, work on a knitting project for myself, or even just watch a favourite TV show, it will be for me.

Finally, I pledge that I will focus on why I’m doing this. I will not focus on the numbers. I will not count calories, and weigh myself incessantly.

I will focus on that feeling of knowing that I have done everything in my power to be healthy. To control that which I can, and ignore that which I cannot.

Because the numbers on the scale do not directly tie into my self-worth. I am more than my weight. I am an intelligent, independent woman, with a loving family, great friends, more talent than I know what to do with, a job I love, and a lot to live for.

I will need help. There will be days when I will want to give up. That’s its too hard, or that I wonder what does it really matter if I’m 280 pounds.

For those days, I have my friends. The ones who know me well enough, and don’t even outright say “Shauna, keep it up you’re doing fine.” They know not to try to encourage me. Instead, they distract me. They find things that will take my mind off of the gaping hole that is my emotional state.

And eventually I will come back, see that I made it through once again, and I will go on.

BECAUSE I AM WORTH IT.

So what is my body image? It’s not that picture where I look fat no matter what I do. It’s not those things that I imagine people saying when I walk by on the street.

My body image is that of a woman reaching for attainable, healthy goals, being the best she can be.

And that’s the big difference between 37 year old me and 19 year old me: 37 year old me realizes that I am worthy.

It Saddens Me….

Note: I started this post about a month ago, after a morning of sifting through hateful and hurtful posts on the book of face. I found it very disturbing to see all the judging that was happening, even in my little world. At least, to the credit of my circle of friends and family, the majority of the posts were re-posts along the line of “what were these people smoking?” So there’s that. But I felt that I had to say something. So here it is. I hope it makes at least one person pause far a second and think.

****

I have to remind myself sometimes that not everyone thinks like me.

And that saddens me.

Not that I think everyone should think exactly like me. After all, if everyone thought alike, this would be a very dull world, and we’d still be in the stone ages, without even fire or tools. Or we’d be extinct.

It saddens me because my world has so much beauty and magic in it.

It saddens me because when I see two people who are obviously in love, I celebrate the great thing they have achieved. True love is so hard to come by, and a healthy relationship built on two whole people who build one another up and truly better their partners is a thing of beauty, something we should encourage. Not the insane idea that true love can only be between a man and a woman.

It saddens me that when someone sees something they don’t understand, their first reaction is to analyze it. If after analysis, they still cannot explain it, they say it doesn’t exist, that they didn’t see what they thought they saw. Why not say “hey that was beautiful!” and leave it at that? Do we really need to spread every butterfly in the world out on a peg board, pinned in a static position, dead, labeled and displayed?

It saddens me because I try so hard to at least understand that others DON’T think like me, and to at least acknowledge their viewpoint, even if comprehension of it is beyond my capabilities. Just because someone’s viewpoint differs from mine does not make it less valid. In fact, by acknowledging these varying viewpoints, I open myself up to the possibility of bettering myself, because they just might have a good point! And this means that when you refuse to at least entertain a new idea or viewpoint, you prevent yourself from growing.

I see around me people of all shapes and sizes trying to exist in a world where only one shape and size is “ideal.” I see people hiding who they are because they know that the people who love them will not accept them for who they are. These poor people struggle everyday with the pain of rejection, the pain of being unable to exist as they are meant to be solely because others cannot be open to them.

And this saddens me greatly.

This is a vast planet with billions of amazing people on it. We see different people every day, and, as is our nature, we judge them without even thinking about it.

Just once, try to see them for who they really are. To the best of your ability, without actually knowing who they are. Try to see the struggles that exist under the exterior. The self-conscious geek who would like nothing more to fit in, even just a little. The overweight person who would love to understand why the weight is there, and then eats those feelings of insecurity. Literally. The strutting male who is just trying to ensure that people will respect him. The young girl dressing way too old in order to get everyone’s attention. Everyone is hiding something under the masks that they put forth. Try to understand that everyone has layers, and treat them accordingly.

And maybe, little by little, this world will become a better place.

And that, dear friends, would not sadden me in the least.

Welcome! (or “It’s about Bloody Time, isn’t it?”)

About a year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I decided I was going to start a new blog. Well, by “new” I meant a blog period, as I really don’t currently have one.

I had, as I often do, grandiose plans. I was going to write helpful hints and ideas for the geek trying to save money, eat healthy, etc, etc, etc…

I think I was going to call it “Home Geekonomics.”

Yeah.

As you may have noticed, it never happened. As often happens with my grandiose plans, it never left the writing table.

I’ve had this account now for a year and I have published a grand total of… ZERO posts. Go me!

I have a great many reasons for why it hasn’t happened yet. One, I wrote a bunch of posts, unpublished of course, and quickly realized that it was totally hypocritical of me. I am probably the last person to give money advice. I suck at watching my own money. Other’s money sure, but not my own. And my “healthy eating” consists of remembering that vegetables do in fact exist and maybe, just maybe, I should eat some once a day.

So yeah, probably not so much with the helpful posts.

Two, and probably the last I will share because the others all kind of sound like whining on my part, I am employed full-time in a human resources/marketing position, which means I use the brain meats a LOT. A lot of my day is actually spent writing, and as such, I don’t often feel like writing when I get home.

However, I do greatly enjoy writing. I like free form writing like I’m doing now. I also like to tell stories. Sometimes I use existing characters – fanfiction – and sometimes I write my own stuff. Thing is, I haven’t really done it at all in the last ten or so years.

And I’d really like to try to do this.

So, here is the plan.

I intend to write, when I am able to, about anything that strikes my mood. Some of it will be ramblings about my day, life, financial crisis, whatever currently ongoing concern I feel like sharing. Some of it will be fanfiction, and some will, hopefully, be original writings for your reading pleasure.

Or rather, more for my writing pleasure. Because, and I’m going to be perfectly blunt here, I am writing for me. I do not expect anything to come of it at all.

So, as people come and join this (all two of you, I’m sure), there will be only two rules:

1. I write for me. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere.
2. Comments, criticisms, playful flirting, jests. All are welcome. Flaming and hate will not be tolerated.

So, this is my first post. I may write something a little later tonight, because the mood to write has struck home pretty hard, but if not, don’t be disappointed. I will post something soon, I promise!