A Whole Year Eclipses: Brother Update

August 18th came and went and, unfortunately, my brother’s concussion didn’t follow. There was a small glimmer of hope? That on the anniversary of the life-changing accident, the brain injury would just -poof!- go away and he could go about with life plans. That isn’t what happened though, and  we look at the possibility of another anniversary passing vaguely without promise of any guaranteed progress.

I remember last year distinctly. I called N from a department store parking lot to ask him a super simple shopping question and his reply was that  he was at the hospital and had been involved in a bad accident. From there, they expected the concussion to last days. From days, it became weeks. From weeks, they tried to offer a hopeful couple month’s time. After six months, they told him he now was an anomaly, and after a year, people who fit his parameters are so rare they don’t have medical data to project any timelines for progress.

Many of the therapists he is working with are also at a loss and ready to ween him from their services. After all, after a year with little improvement, a medical professional probably has little more to say or contribute. Nothing seems to be working in his favor except for the fact he is still retentive of all his knowledge and fully sound of mind. The problem is that his brain can’t process all the hard sciences and data without taxing him critically at this point. That means working on his doctorate is put off indefinitely.

They went away for a short trip to see the solar eclipse in the path of totality to “get away” from it all for N’s accident anniversary. My SIL unwinds best in nature so they took a few days to camp and another day or two to visit friends. N’s head was in a bad place for a portion of the trip, but he said viewing the eclipse was breathtaking.

Even though it’s just as silly as the -poof- dream above, I still hope and pray that if it’s God’s will he will be able to enjoy his son’s first birthday next month concussion free.

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His First Word is “Banana”

At least, that’s what his mom and dad claim. I have yet to hear this mythical first word despite my constant coaxing. He is now fluent in the ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ department, and babbles ‘banana’ on Tuesdays when Mama works at the birth center and Dada takes him to a nearby Trader Joes for a weekly banana treat. Some of his outbursts are also uncanny for ‘Yeah!’

Kai is now a little over 9 months, and I look at this little dude and think of how much he’s grown. He is both spirited and inquisitive and flips sides at the drop of a pin. In the grocery store, he’ll be all smiles and wave like crazy to everyone around him and then pause all emotion to examine the face of a particular person. He often folds his hand into a loose fist, with his pointer finger stuck out and posed on the corner of his mouth making that “hmm” pose. It’s the cutest thing.

Every month Kai grows and reaches new milestones is also a bittersweet moment of reflection for my brother, who still suffers from a concussion due to an auto accident that happened exactly one month before my nephew was born. I think of how hard it must be to mark his son’s new advancements and his limitations on the same day each month. It gets hard to answer those around me who are praying for my brother with the exact news months later: “There are slight improvements but he’s about the same.”

Kai adores his daddy. They spend almost every waking minute of their day together. It’s definitely harder for my brother to try to get all his mental exercises done and have time to rest with a baby on his hands, but at the same time, despite the constant migraine, he’s also blessed with being at home and bonding with his son during Kai’s first year of life. I think of the what-if: if he didn’t have the accident he would be working full time or be in grad school and working part time. My SIL has worked really hard to keep them afloat with her midwifery while being a good mom and wife. She’s really shown me how resilient she is. I’m hoping and praying that in the next few months, Kai and Daddy can both work on big milestones together – Kai in development and N in healing. Secretly, I’m hoping for a birthday miracle in September.

NYR’s and PR’s

NYRs = New Year Resolutions
PRs= Personal Record

I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! I’m feeling refreshed and ready to make the most of 2017. I’m also humbled and feel like my selfish desire to hide out for a week was wrong. I truly enjoyed the company of the relatives that came for Christmas and the relatives I saw in Arizona during my week off.

I ate horribly this holiday season. I didn’t really follow any guidelines for food or exercise and I sweet-ed myself out. All that to say when I was in AZ with my cousins and they were obsessing talking about logging calories into myfitnesspal, going to the gym religiously, and breaking all types of weight-lifting PRs, it made me feel super crummy. Some of the crummy I deserved to feel because I was making poor choices. But a lot of the crummy felt like shame, incompetence, and worthlessness — and I’m not okay with that.

They have all worked hard and I can’t discredit their efforts. I’m PROUD of them. I will say that they started out as healthy individuals of ideal weight and physical ability when they started so they didn’t have weight or health issues and were able to hit the ground running. Trying to compare myself with them isn’t fair. We have different goals even though we’re both working on our health.

We went out for a hike one of the days there and I needed to prove to my own self that I was capable. As we hiked (it was an easy trail, btw) I kept the lead most of the way up and down. Some of them weren’t wearing proper shoes or clothes, and I was in snug jeans, so none of us had ideal attire, but I pushed myself to keep ahead. It didn’t matter if they were casually hiking and I was putting in 110%, it mattered to me that I was able to keep up and feel good about what I was able to do. That hike dissolved a lot of the mucky feelings I was having and set my mind straight for 2017.

Here are my 2017 resolutions:

1. A healthy body, mind, and spirit. First and foremost.

Learning to rest/de-stress myself physically and mentally because I’m HORRIBLE at it. And leaning on Jesus. Also working on this body of mine, one day at a time, with new focus.

2. Working on patience instead frenzy, kindness instead of aggravation, and helpfulness instead of frustration. Especially with family members.

3. Minimizing belongings and unnecessary thoughts/feelings that cloud my outlook, rob my time, and prevent me from seeing my potential. Dwelling on/owning what truly brings me joy.

4. Being better friend. Finding new local friends organically.

5. Giving myself a heck of a lot more grace than I did in 2016. But also push myself harder with healthy motivators.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Refocus: Willing and Able

I’ve been harsh on my body lately. Despite many efforts to lose weight recently I haven’t [in fact, I’ve put on a few]. Some of it is from negligence, dealing with trials, and being medically advised to not participate in vigorous exercise until a blood clot was ruled out [which it has, praise God]. And then I went to a theme park and didn’t fit the newest rides and again had to work myself into body image homeostasis again.

 I love and accept my body the best that I can, with a healthy knowledge that aiming for a lower weight is ideal for my health and wellness. 

That’s a hard struggle right there. On one hand, I’m supposed to be content with who I am and on the other hand, I’m supposed to be dissatisfied enough to make changes to who I am. Ideally, I should be able to sort out that intrinsically I am the same person despite weight or appearance, but it’s not quite that easy either.

It’s not the same me when I know I turn down certain activities right now because I feel too fat to join (long hikes, yoga, swimsuit-wearing, bust a dance move)

It’s not the same when I’m constantly fearful of airplane buckles, taking up too much space on a bench, or squeezing through tight rows of tables in a restaurant.

It’s not the same when I edit how I express myself because certain styles hide problem areas better.

In many ways, despite clinging to body positivity, I do feel limited if I’m honest. So, it’s time to reinforce what my body is able to do; right now, at this weight, at this time.

I am loved and able to love (platonically and romantically).

I am powerful. I love the strength I have and plan to work out and keep it. 

I am deserving of respect and dignity. No one can compromise that.

I am able to carry this body and walk and not grow tired. 

I am able to embrace my curves and be fashionable. 

I am able to look in the mirror and smile. 

I am able to try harder at weight loss and fitness. 

I am able to make an impact in the world around me. 

I am able to ground myself when negative body thoughts enter my mind. 

I am able to look back and see progress even if others can’t.

I am able to consider my choices and if they fit my path.

I am willing and able to pursue my goals.

I have and will fall short time to time but it’s time to kick butt again.

Too Fat to Ride

Talk about an amazing extended weekend staycation, and I got to do it with one of my best friends. I got eight hours of sleep multiple nights in a row, several coffee and chit chat trips with H, and we got a theme park and beach day in. It was amazing!

Living near Universal Studios and Disneyland, it’s always fun planning a theme park day especially when new attractions come out. H and a group of mutual friends and I were highly anticipating the brand new Harry Potter World addition in Universal Studios. I had turned down several invites throughout the year because it meant a lot to me that I go with this group of awesome ladies. And I’m glad I waited, because we all experienced the magic together for the first time. Every detail was considered and it really looked like you were transplanted to Hogsmead. That’s why one detail bothered me even more…

I can’t do coasters. The most I can stomach and often lands me with a headache is Space Mountain. Anything beyond that caliber means trouble. That’s why I did my due diligence and looked up the new HP World ride reviews on Yelp and videos on YouTube. As I preview Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I notice an interesting video in my recommended panel. It had to do with not fitting. The lady in the video sat in a test seat and tried several times to pull the chest holster over and get a green light. It never lit. And my stomach sank as she said she is a size 18/20.

I’m a size 18/20.

I asked about ride intensity on one of my social media accounts, and again, someone commented on the confining seats.

I may be too fat to fit.

Now, instead of worrying about speed and intensity of the ride, I was afraid my 5’5 size 18/20 body would disqualify me from the fun.

I confided with H before the trip my fears before we went. I needed to let her no that no matter the outcome, I didn’t want anyone to feel bad or not ride on my behalf. As we entered the line, a Universal Studios staff member pulled us aside. He didn’t address anyone’s weight. He didn’t single out the overweight people in my party. He merely asked if it was our group’s first time on the ride and if we knew we’d fit comfortably.

Person by person, we tested the ride and the green light lit for our party.

For everyone but me.

I was too fat.

So many thoughts raced through my head and I chased them away before they could fester. Gathering the confidence I had left, I tried to stay positive and offer to hold my friends’ bags and see that as a bright side. Avoiding ride lockers is always a plus. The staff member was kind enough to let me try again and have a friend push down to see. No green light.

In a way it was hard. I wasn’t the only overweight person in the group, but I’m most definitely the heaviest. My taller and more apple-shaped friend fit just fine, and my shorter curvy all over friend did too. I can’t tell if my really thick thighs or Size 40 E chest was the culprit behind the red light. But either way, I didn’t fit. The guy apologized and said for the inconvenience he would give us a password to the front of the line. Which was awesome! I’m so glad we skipped an hour-long line. In no way was I singled out and I was so thankful. And I was happy the test seat was discreetly placed, and available so I wasn’t shamed as I hopped in an actual ride seat. One of the gals offered to stay behind with me and I wouldn’t have it. I thought it was so sweet, but I knew it would make me feel guilty and frustrated to have someone else miss on the fun because of me.

I sat in the child-switch area with all the bags and time flew by. I kept my mind occupied on the movie clips they had a tv screen. I stayed positive. We searched out the other HP world attraction and there was another test seat. This would just had a little seat bar. I thought, pretty much knew, I’d fit. I’m fat, but my butt fit it fair and square, but as I pulled the bar to my belly, it was my knees that hit.

Everyone else fit but me.

This is where it got difficult. I was prepared to not fit the first ride, but both?! What gives?! I tried to stay positive but this time, it was a full on war in my head. I was going to miss both the rides I’ve anticipated for half a year because I was too fat. Not only was I fat, I was shaped in a way that didn’t help me for either ride.

I want to disclaim that I’ve never felt entitled to anything or any accommodations because of my weight. I’m over 250 pounds and I know 250 is kind of where places draw the line. But at the same time, I felt like Universal Studios Hollywood did not care about my worth. I was too fat, too small of a percentage, for them to give two shakes about. And that made me feel awful. I fit ALL THEIR OTHER RIDES, I don’t require a seat belt extender in an airplane seat, but I couldn’t fit their new rides. How come their larger riders weren’t considered in the grand scheme of things? Why did I fit all their other rides and not these? Obviously the test seats alluded that many other riders would be facing my reality too.

I also felt it personally. I felt like I finally hit that “fat” where I am truly handicapped from certain activities. I can bend, I can walk long distances, I can carry myself with dignity, I can run miles at the gym, but I couldn’t fit these damn rides. Lots of ultimatums raced in my head.

“I have a season pass, I’ll starve myself until I fit.”

“I’ll use this shameful moment to GUILT myself until I’m smaller.”

“Look at my random health issue and this now. It means I need to do something EXTREME before it’s too late.”

These are horrible thoughts, and I’m ashamed to admit them, but they did reside in my head for the first half of the day.

I’m that fat. The kind that now holds me back. And that hurt. And it made me upset that even if I dropped a ton of weight, my boyfriend and other overweight friends would have to go through what I felt. That made me really angry.

We went on the tram ride, I got to excitedly share my favorite ride, Transformers, with our group, and I happily walked ahead of the group many times without needing my inhaler or huffing and puffing. Even with my edema, I gliding down stairs and walking fast.

I wasn’t a handicap, I am able-bodied! I tried to remind myself of how well my body was carrying me throughout the day. We were there until nightfall and I never ran out of breath or asked to take a break because I was tired. I might of failed a couple rides, but as a whole I was doing okay.

In the end, I was grateful for the caring and considerate group of friends who supported me and that I got to spend the whole day with. The fat factor will always sting, but I have to remind myself I am still able-bodied and valued, even if a couple theme park attractions disagree.

Test Results are In!

All the results are back.

I do not have a blood clot. 
I do not have liver and kidney issues. 
My ticker is doing just fine. 

This has been a very expensive process, but so worth the peace of mind! I was really stretched in my faith, and I needed that. Learning to lean on God and trust His will is hard. I don’t even want to dare say that I wholly leaned and trusted the whole time. But I got so much closer. I’m humbled, and mindful of how hard it was; on how much I have yet to grow in the area of trust.

I think the height of my surrender was last week, trying to get a last minute appointment to figure out the test results, and crying in the car and giving it all up to him. At that moment, I knew I could handle whatever was happening, big or small. I actually found it easier to trust God with my health, and harder to find that big faith in paying for all the extra expenses of the medical fees coupled with an upcoming car fix. I’m ashamed to admit that, but want to be real. Did God handle it all and help me figure out how to handle it all? Of course.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember to give thanks and find gratitude and I know this small trial is actually something I’m thankful for. I’m glad that I was able to go through this to grow my faith in the Lord. Is the issue gone? No. But I don’t have to worry about a horrible underlying cause.

I hope despite some of the excessive worry and financial freaking out, I was able to bring God glory in this. I am so grateful that no matter how the results could have come back, my God is there for me.

Lots of Happy in the Crazy

First of all, the ultrasound results are back and I DO NOT have a blood clot! Thank God! That in itself is worthy of a happy dance. I’m still experiencing swelling and waiting on blood test results, so I’m not in the clear, but I’m thankful to know it’s not DVT. Now I can get back to my gym routine (can I call it that yet if it’s still becoming a habit?) and check out all the new stuff at Universal Studios when my bestie H is in town.

Speaking of which, my best friend flies in this coming Thursday. I am so excited! It’s an almost annual trip and one of the highlights of my year. In past trips we’ve planned daycations and whatnot but this year is a little more relaxed. I’m looking forward to Coffee Bean trips, perhaps some beach time, and lots of catching up in person.

Last night my brother sent the cutest Kai pic ever from his newborn photoshoot and announced that he is finally up to birth weight and even a little heavier. It’s been a long few weeks for my SIL with cluster feeding and all that jazz. To help Kai with his weight gain, no one’s been allowed to hold him so he can sync with scents to Mom and Dad and work on hunger cues. The extended family has been waiting anxiously to get to hold the little guy and fingers crossed that happens soon.

Another silver lining that makes me incredibly happy is the new Amazon Prime Reading! Now I can view magazines and many popular books for free. Prime is the best thing ever. 2-day free shipping. Previewing music when new albums are released. No longer standing in the post office to pay $17 to flat ship gifts. I’m loving it. And now books.

Some of the madness includes waiting impatiently for blood test results, getting the house in order for a one month celebration in the span of a week, and selling a bunch of my furniture before said party happens. I’m so thankful for the happy parts that help tame the crazy. Life is a compilation of highs and lows but I’m so happy to be alive.

But If Not, He is Still Good

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So there’s a lot happening right now.
It’s a grab bag of happy and not-so-happy things.

I’ve been dealing with edema on one side of my leg for nearly a month. The crazy thing is this could point to really crazy things like kidney/heart issues or a blood clot. Or it could be nothing. I’m taking it seriously and spent last week and today getting some tests done to rule out things like deep vein thrombosis.

Friday afternoon, I somewhat grudgingly coughed up a couple hundred dollars to get an ultrasound done of my leg. I couldn’t see the screen or understand what the beeps and sounds meant as the medical staff moved their wand all around my leg. In that moment I felt a bit helpless and scared. I closed my eyes and prayed and tried to acknowledge to God I knew he was in control and if there was something there (like a blood clot) that it was His will for me and I’d accept that. More like I prayed that several times until my mind and heart were at the same place.

Today I woke up extra early to get a blood panel drawn to help rule other things out. I was there an hour before work started. Did I get done in time to clock in at start time? Nope. One hour and a half. That’s how long it took to get my blood drawn. And with a baby needle.

But I emailed HR from the waiting room and told them my situation and they said do not worry. Just like when a simple doctor visit last week turned into needing more time off for imaging. They have been so understanding. God is helping me in the details.

My brother is still suffering from his brain injury.
My newborn nephew is still needing to gain weight to get back to his birth weight.
My SIL is dealing with healing from birth, a newborn, and a husband with a brain injury.
And who knows what my health issue is.

One of my old church acquaintance’s husband is dealing with cancer right now. He went to the doctor to discuss migraines and found out it was much more than a migraine and is now in treatment for cancer. They have a friend who made bracelets to help raise some money and remind people to pray for him and the family. On it is stamped, “But if not He is still good.” It is not a direct phrase from scripture but is a coined rephrasing from a passage in Daniel.

Last night I picked up that bracelet I bought and meditated on the words and also prayed for them. Do I believe those words? I’m learning to. I’m learning to say despite circumstances, I can see He is still good. That His plans may not make sense to me. But I can trust and acknowledge His goodness even in hard times. Even in the if nots.

Self Harm No Longer

This blog post is really hard for me to talk about and admit, even though it’s probably been evident to people longer than it has to me because of location.

I grew up thinking self harm was inflicting horrible pain upon yourself or cutting your wrists. And I ignorantly thought that since I once attempted to cut my wrists with a knife and it scared me shitless that I didn’t self harm.

Except I have been for a majority of my life. And I’m publicly posting this as a commitment to stop.

Whenever I’m anxious, frustrated, or unable to cope with my feelings, the first thing I do is pick my arms. I will scratch with my nails until I draw blood or pinch my skin until it opens and then I will pick the scabs and not allow them to heal. Sometimes when I feel neck deep in anxiety the first sign is not how I feel (when I’m neck deep I don’t “see” it), but looking at my forearms. They will be spotted with red welts, dry flaking patches of dead skin tired of scabbing, and dark traces of where a wound has been.

Nobody has really talked to me about it. Maybe they didn’t know why or didn’t want to be rude.  I guess it may disguise itself to others looking like psoriasis that comes and goes. Or perhaps people thought they were bug bites I scratched until bleeding. But I know why.

The reason varies. Sometimes I feel nervous or overwhelmed and it gives me something to distract myself with. Sometimes I feel frustrated with myself or a situation and I feel relief with “punishing” myself. Sometimes I need to fidget and ground myself and that is what I resort to.

I cannot practice self care while still practicing self harm. I am consciously acknowledging that the pain and comfort of scabbing my arms is not acceptable and not the right response. I am forgiving myself instead of letting myself think I am despicable. I am translating that energy and relief into writing with mindfulness and fidgeting with jewelry or my fitbit.

I commit today to self harm no longer.

A Great Workout and an AMT Review

My posts tend to get pretty heavy and pedantic. I don’t really write to delight or keep the attention of my readers (although I appreciate all of you!). But I also don’t like keeping a negative focus. So, I have good news and a much shorter post this time around.

Last night I watched my heart rate climb, felt sweat pouring down my brow, coached myself through two cramps, and ran my heart out on an AMT for 20 minutes. I gave it my all! There was something gratifying about being the heaviest person in the little line of machines and going faster than all of them with my head in the game. I stepped down and the pay off was immediate- my legs felt like they weighed a ton each but I was so pumped.
Have you seen an AMT? They are like ellipticals 2.0. but so much more. It stands for Adaptive Motion Trainer and the beauty of it is a more fluid motion and broad range in strides.

 

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                          The AMT-885 from Precor                             Photo Credit: amtfitness.com

 

Imagine a machine that allows you to bounce so that your movement isn’t rigid and isn’t guided by a track or wheel. You can bounce up and down like skipping on a jumprope or swing your legs far apart and feel like prancing gazelle. You can change your stride length from zero to thirty-six. You get a full range that feels like you’re running on air without the pounding of a treadmill or the stiffness of a crosstrainer or elliptical. You can go up and down like climbing stairs or do big large ovals like treading water.

I like that this is much less impact than running on a treadmill or on concrete but still gives enough bounce to get the benefits of some impact. Impact is a friend and foe to one’s body, especially with obesity. I know that some impact on my bones and joints is a way to keep them healthy and strong but I also know that high impact exercises work against my body since I’m carrying way more weight on my frame than I should. When I first tried this machine at my gym, my knees were not happy. I was dealing with knee problems and so I approached this machine carefully and tried to limit my time on it to 10 minutes initially. I found the impact really helped and feel my knees to my knowledge are benefitting from it!
I typically do 20-25 minutes of cardio followed by weight machines and then wrap it up with another 5-15 minutes of cardio at a more leisurely pace for cool down. I’d like to increase that number to 35 minutes of cardio, some weight machine, some free weights, and a 10 minute cool down.

I have a book coming my way to help me learn more about the machines and exercise moves so I can confidently do them with the right form and knowing what muscle areas they target.

If you have this type of machine available at your gym but have been intimidated to try it, I say give it a go! It’s so much fun!