Mindfulness, Self Discovery

The Mirror

I’ve begun my journey back into what many would consider “real life” – the job hunt. Coming back from a longer-term illness is going to be an adventure, that’s for sure but the first things have begun – Vocational Rehabilitation has been a life-saver.  Being on a fixed-income has been a bitch, to say the least.  I’m beyond tired of it, as has cutting my own hair so, ask and see what you get.  They can assist with the cost of interview clothes and as my income is low enough, that’s covered. Then came the hair:  also covered.  So comes the day of my “transformation.” No clothes but the haircut came and while I like the hair, I took a good look at myself for the first time in a long time.

I’m growing older and it’s showing.  And, the feeling I got from that wasn’t a good one either.

I’m hoping it’s because I’ve been through a great deal – and I have.  And yes, I’ve lived it. Unfortunately, it’s showing on my face, along with the weight loss.  Then came the reconstruction of my resume – a formidable task given I lost much of that information through moves and computer upgrades.  Good thing I have lists from the SSI applications.  My job placement counselor and I have met and having to reconstruct a resume was both insightful and humbling; about as humbling as looking at myself after my haircut.  I saw for the very first time both HOW and WHY.  And it was not pretty either.

In therapy, a tool that was used for me was a timeline to identify key events that led to another.  It was very useful as I was working out some terrible and painful issues and trying to place perspective upon them.  It hit me that what I was doing with my job placement worker was much the same:  Another timeline of a different sort – an employment timeline.  Normally, it wasn’t a big deal.  But for me, it brought up a great deal of emotion.  I was able to gain a great deal of perspective for the very first time of not just myself but also my children. I saw for the first time every symptom of bi-polar disorder playing out on the computer my job placement counselor was typing:  the multiple jobs in a short period of time, the breaks between them, the inability to KEEP permanent employment and having to continue to perform contract work BECAUSE of that inability to KEEP permanent employment.  Then came the issues as to why I LEFT my jobs which had to be disclosed.  And for this woman, mental illness is always assumed to be a factor so it was alright to disclose.  But for me, I could SEE it and FEEL it powerfully.  Grandiosity – my thinking I was always right, the rest of the world was stupid, how I never needed help because I knew more than everyone, how I thought I was doing just fine when, in fact, I truly WASN’T.  Then came the constant interpersonal conflicts and me wondering why I wasn’t connecting with other people on the job – I wasn’t a person even I would want anything to do with!  The inability to finish what I’d start, my inability to ask questions when I didn’t know an answer for anything.  Then here comes the money issues; overspending, not paying my bills on time – or at all – because I wanted something else first, my priorities in bill paying were WAY off (Rent first?  Are you joking?!?  Car payment?  Oh that can come LATER!).  Then here come those mood swings!  The highs so high I was yodeling at the top of my lungs in the Swiss Alps and lows so low you’d wonder if I was at the darkest deepest depths of the ocean never to return.  Ah, and the men.  Yes, dating.  Match.com, Yahoo!  I could flirt like no tomorrow and I could get that date but KEEP THEM?  Never.  Oh, the list was endless.  It was PAINFULLY obvious.  And it wasn’t like I wasn’t getting treatment. That’s the worst part:  I WAS.  I was in counseling and having medication prescribed. The problem was, it was the WRONG medication.  And, I was sober – and attending AA, actively participating in the program.

But as I said, I also saw, through the years, what happened to my daughter and sons through this time and it became crystal clear as to what they must have seen and felt, as well as why they are so bitterly hurt and angry now.  God, what I put them through!  My mood swings were so bad for them and they were so young.  To see their mother go so high – I was fun, exciting to be around but then?  Absolutely angry, yelling at the top of her lungs in fury for no reason at all?  God, what a nightmare I was!  Then when I was involved in their activities AND working?  MAJOR stress.  That was a huge trigger for lashing out for me.  And for the kids, a MAJOR embarrassment.  I even had one of my sons tell me that their friends didn’t want me to be their scout leader because I “was so angry and mean to them.”  I can’t imagine what I did to them there; I was the mother they wanted to be proud of but yet, they couldn’t.  It was their father who had the place they could go to and was the more sociable, not mom.   I’d try to go to events but things would manage to go wrong – ALWAYS.  There was always an excuse.  I destroyed them, hurt them terribly, most notably my youngest who got stiffed the most by being simply the youngest. The job bouncing DID NOT HELP.  I’d gain a job then lose it so money was both loose then tight.  After a while the kids would say, “So you lost your job again?”  For them, it was heartbreaking and caused them to worry needlessly.    And as I was divorced, guess what the kids would do?  Tell their father who was LESS than thrilled as he’s paying child support; alimony had long quit under our agreement that I got screwed by, according to many attorneys I’ve spoken with over the years; I never should have been treated as I was.  But it was what I had and I had to live with it.  So, into debt I went.  DEEP into debt.  And more stress and the kids took the brunt – as did my mental health.  Now SNAP,  Medical Assistance AND GA would have helped – had I known about them; another symptom of my issues.  But for the kids?  It didn’t matter. They saw it all, lived it all and WORRIED about it all when they were too much too young to do so.  I tried to get them not to but they loved me so much, they wanted to make me feel better as kids want to help.  They always do.  Then comes the multiple moves, loss of my car and then….having to move to take care of my mother.  THAT was gut-wrenching.  That one was foreseen by both my ex-husband and me even when we were married but with the damage done BEFORE?  This, I truly believe, was what broke the kids hearts the most.  Abandonment became huge for them.  “Mom left us behind.”  And, honestly, I don’t blame them.  I WAS ANGRY over this, honestly.  I didn’t want to go, but yet I HAD to go – I had nothing where I was but yet my mother desperately needed me.  I had no job, no home and could provide nothing to the kids like my ex-husband could.  I tried to be a “long distance mother” but it wasn’t the same; my mother’s care became a major battle for me and my mental health and I believe the kids could see it and hear it in my phone calls to them.  When they visited me, they SAW it first hand.  I was angry, stressed out, bitter….then to see their grandmother  dying was too much.  Upon my return, I had changed for them.  My mood swings were out of control and on top of that, the kids had grown up on me.  They had changed.  I had lost touch with them; they now had lives and as much as I tried to “fit in” I couldn’t.  And when I did fall apart, it was frightening for them.  I wasn’t their mother any longer; I was a stranger.  By now they were in high school and for them?  I was an embarrassment and wanted me hidden – and it wasn’t the normal “I don’t want to be seen with my parents.”  I didn’t know my kids any longer. They didn’t want me around and once I was in the hospital JUST ONCE and had to go through the humiliating hoops of being “legally” homeless, they were beyond finished.  It was too much for them.  They were so ready to focus on themselves and their own lives.  Mom?  For them she was too much of a burden to worry about.

Then, after having one too many battles with the ex-husband, I dropped out entirely to focus on myself.  I had to.  I couldn’t deal with the garbage being tossed my way.   But to the kids, this was something that stuck with them; the constant issues with my ex-husband and me.  They saw me as the one bashing him, and I admit that I did so, though I know he did his fair share but I know what they see – me against him.  He had moved on, I had not in their minds.  My youngest reveres his father.  Me?  I’m nothing to him. My daughter doesn’t speak of me or even TO her maternal grandfather.  My sons DO speak to him as they’ve always been close – and they’re both in the military now, my father being a veteran.  I know now they’re in pain and suffering and I can feel it and understand why.

It all took me having to return to process things to get back to work to see this before my eyes; the pain and the suffering from both sides; just as much as seeing me in front of the mirror for who I truly am.  If there’s any good that can come from this, I can now SEE this a great deal more clearly than ever before, a great thing.  I can see how I was struggling and that I truly needed help but wasn’t getting it, which frightens me.  I hope that someday, I can speak to my kids of this, openly and honestly to tell them “Hey, I get it now.  You won’t get what I went through but I can see you suffered horrendously because of what I said and did; you worried about me and I put you through total hell – and I made you pay for my actions.”  As much as I’ve said to them “I did the best I could with what I had,”  I now can see I wasn’t.  I wasn’t in any shape to be their mother in an active sense.  I wasn’t being TREATED – AT ALL.  But I am now and I am so grateful for that.  I now am LIVING and moving ahead for myself, not to gain anyone’s approval but my own.   I move forward because I choose to.  Not because I must – other than finances that I wish to have for true independence.

I guess my reflection in the mirror doesn’t look so much “older” after all; it appears to be softening as I become relaxed and my life changes and takes shape into a new form.  And it will continue to do so, I truly believe that.

Body Image, Health, Self Discovery, Sobriety, Spirituality

The School of Healing

It’s been two weeks after surgery and I’m healing.

Oh, am I healing, alright…and has my world turned UPSIDE DOWN!  It’s been a new realization in “mindfulness” as to what goes into my mouth and what effects it has on my now-altered body.  Sure, you can’t SEE that it’s been operated on but it’s been changed forever with with the removal of the gall bladder.  And for many, they see no real changes.  But for still many others, there’s bound to be some.  I am one of those.

But let me backtrack here – the surgery itself was not a normal laproscopic procedure.  It was supposed to involve five small incisions and take about 90 minutes.  Add on that I had a massive hernia where my intestines are now residing OUTSIDE of the stomach wall resulting in what appears to be a perpetual nine month pregnancy combined with fat. Wonderful.  And this came due to my three now-grown kids – the muscles split during each pregnancy and could never heal resulting in three “C-Section” births.  There was a tear already in that abdominal wall that was never fixed and it just grew over the years with the gaining and loss of weight.  Did my OB/Gyns figure this out?  Of course not.  “It’s just fat” they’d say.  Translation:  It’s the mother’s issue/fault.  Classic.  Just like all of the issues of the baby are “the mother’s fault.”  So, a mitigating issue for the surgery from the start – a nasty hernia.  Then comes the day OF the surgery – Surprise!  The hernia was NOT the only problem.  Try a massively infected, inflamed, gallstone-filled gallbladder BEGGING to be removed that was awaiting the surgeon and the team.  Pus was inside along with the stones – UGH!  So much for that hernia issue being the only problem.  Now it’s the possibility of this nightmare of a gallbladder RUPTURING during surgery PLUS the hernia that may need to be repaired adding to the woes of this team.

All told a 90 minute laproscopic procedure took FOUR HOURS…and no full open surgery needed.  At first, I’m sound asleep…later, I’m feeling like I was hit by a truck.  A few days later?  I’m damned impressed by the surgical team by their efforts. The morning after I hear the disgusting details of the ticking time bomb lurking inside of my body.  It’s a good thing I didn’t really feel like eating.  But the nurses had other ideas.

“You are NOW on a regular diet, starting now.”

What I was thinking?  “Like Hell I am!”

But I looked at the menu groaning in pain with every choice I saw.  Meatloaf?  Chicken sandwiches?  Salads?  Oh please, must I?  Can’t I order anything from the “Liquid diet” side?  I called in my orders….and I stuck to the safest ones I could get away with.  In one meal I could remember – I was pretty zoned out – was a herb chicken sandwich.  I swear that chicken breast was so big I was going to need something to help shove it down to my stomach.  The thought of ice cream was too painful so I skipped it and stuck with fruit.  It just sounded better.

What?!? Me?  Fruit sounds better?!?   I really was in an altered state of consciousness. And I kept eating fruit, drinking skim milk when I could and water?  Tons of it went down.  There was never enough.

Then I come home and it’s now the House of Culinary Horrors.  What can I eat?  The big fear?  That my new home would become the bathroom.  I learned a great deal about the gastrointestinal tract just before my surgery and I was stunned at how complicated this area of the body is.  It’s not just about eating whatever you want, it hits the stomach and somehow gets processed  and out it goes as “#1” or “#2”.  There are parts called the liver, the spleen, the duodenum and…surprise!  The mysterious gall bladder.  Once upon a time the appendix played a role in this – reportedly it handled bones – that’s why it usually comes out when it hits air.  It’s not needed.  The gall bladder is not quite essential either but it’s not as negligible as, say, the appendix.  The liver produces bile which breaks down fat.  We need fat in our diets but most of us take in too much.  So this organ really gets a workout and a lot of bile is secreted.  Then it hits the spleen and the bile goes with it and it’s broken down more.  The duodenum is one of the duct networks and the mess is going through and it’s all still being broken down further.  Then here comes that gall bladder, the final way station before the intestines.  Here it has to be in a form to be able to hit the intestines.  If not?  What cannot be forms gallstones.  The reason is simple:  most of us eat too much fat.  Gallstones is the excess fat and other items that cannot be broken down by the bile – and even excess bile itself.  The rest hits the intestines and goes out.  But the stones remain and grow over time.  And more develop and grow.  The process continues until one blocks the tracts of the gall bladder and inflames the openings causing an infection and THAT’S what gets the attention of the patient.  But symptoms build over time:  gastrointestinal reflux, pain in that area that is not dealt with or mistaken for “gas,” upper abdominal pain that comes and goes and is ignored, feelings of being too full when little food is consumed – those are a few of the less gruesome symptoms.

When I came home from the hospital to my new “house of horrors,” it’s because you don’t have a “how to” guide as to how or what to eat. It’s totally experimental.  All you come home with?  Pain medications, a directional sheet on a Low Fat diet, how to handle the incisions and “when to call the doctor” and one final thing:  watch your fat intake.  That’s the only warning I received.  I had leftovers so I ate some but limited the amount as that’s all I wanted.  First thing?  All I tasted was PURE SALT.  I couldn’t finish it at all so? It ALL was tossed in the trash.  Little did I know it wasn’t the last I’d “hear” from that meal.

I spent ALL NIGHT in the bathroom.

The meal was filled with beef – I discovered that beef can no longer be part of my diet. Cannot – and it was the leanest possible ground beef and had been washed and drained properly.  It was also filled with pure salt to my palate.  Good thing I had chicken breasts already at home as I discovered that chicken was not a problem.  Chicken immediately was now in my diet and my stomach has had no trouble with it at all. I had turkey tenderloin and that has also been just fine for my diet.  Ground versions are also just fine.  I was not a fish eater – next week, that is going to change; that’s a challenge to myself.

Cod fillets

Within a few days I could move around enough to get to the store and I now had to stock up on fruits, vegetables, SKIM milk, egg substitute – I was concerned for cholesterol; I’ll be following up with my primary physician, skim milk-based yogurt (Greek yogurt can’t be handled by me at all; too hard to digest), softer lower fat cheese.  Nothing processed.  And another mainstay had to go.

Diet Coke.

First, the amount I drank was insane. Second, the carbonation killed my stomach.  No carbonated beverages, not even carbonated water!

But for all of that, the frustration was mounting and with my therapist we discussed what else I could do. So My Fitness Pal was put on my phone and on my computer – it’s a weight loss/exercise log where you can get support from others as you make those changes to your diet as you work on your goals.  It forces you to write down everything you put into your mouth:  food and water, as well as the exercise you perform and you can link up with others for support.  Best of all?  It’s free.  I have it linked to Google Fit for my walks I have begun to take regularly – another thing I’ve neglected.  The number of steps transfer over and I can scan the SKU patterns of every food I consume and the application records it.  It’s been a great tool.  It has a blog of ideas for recipes, nutrition information, mindfulness information and support boards.  It’s helped a great deal.

Then I had to return to life and I went to AA once it became easier to walk distances – my first one was within walking distance; my women’s meeting.  And what happens?  At the end of the meeting one of the members shouts out, “I’M READY FOR PIE AT BAKER’S SQUARE!”

I was on the verge of a true panic episode I hadn’t had in months. I didn’t know what to do or say.  It wasn’t just the pie – it was the diet coke I’d usually order WITH that pie.  It was just too risky and it wasn’t the “I can’t because of my diet.”  It was the “I can’t because of pain due to my lack of gall bladder!”  So, I just excused myself and left.  One disaster averted.  In a place I thought was safe, I get smacked with a two by four.  Little did I know I’d get hit even harder.

Forbidden Chocolate Brownies

This photo is from a bakery called Bread and Chocolate in St. Paul.  They are NOTORIOUSLY rich and NOTORIOUSLY expensive.  Cakes, pies, cookies, fudge, sandwiches, you name the food, they have it and it’s sinful.

Forbidden Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here I am getting active in my life again.  I had become lethargic, hibernating and “lost.”  Now that my health was becoming front and center I felt great and wanted to live.  AA was important for my sobriety as it has always been.  Just last night, I attended a meeting – a “closed” meeting meaning I can only discuss issues with alcohol – and a wonderful woman was celebrating 41 years of sobriety; a damned amazing accomplishment!  Of course at AA meetings we have coffee; decaf and regular.  But what ELSE shows up?  Cookies and fudge from Bread and Chocolate in St. Paul – and this fudge weighed, in its box cut up, a good 20 POUNDS.  That’s right POUNDS.  Then there were two giant boxes of cookies easily 8 inches in diameter with cake flower so they were thick – oatmeal, chocolate chip, M & M.  Rumor had it this woman paid $80 USD for just the cookies alone.  I had my large water bottle with me but I’m staring at food I cannot have in a place I thought was safe!  Again, it’s not a calorie counting issue.  It’s health-related and I am suffering in emotional pain because I’m, literally, fighting the urge to grab something I would normally would have not given a second thought to partaking in.  But now, I can’t.  I’m angry.  I want to scream.  I want to shout.  I’m having thoughts about true hunger or whether this is a compulsion…or is this another addiction.  The meeting goes on about the third step “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  I try to listen to the speaker, I truly do. But all I’m thinking about?  Trying to get through the damned meeting.  I’m angry that my safe refuge has been violated. I’m singing praises to whomever this higher power I’m now struggling to believe in at this moment is once we break into groups as now the torture devices have been removed but I still cannot say one word – a “closed” meeting; only alcohol can be discussed.  I DO speak with someone after the meeting but I’m still angry and beyond frustrated.

All I’m thinking and wondering now?  How do people LIVE?  It’s only two weeks out but I still don’t know what I can and cannot do.

But then comes today – the post-op visit.  Everything is healing fine.  My surgeon takes my weight and I’ve dropped SIX POUNDS since the day of surgery.  Oh is he overjoyed!  I share with him what I’ve learned so far and what he tells me is that it’s trial and error on food.  Beef, if I cannot handle it from the beginning, is going to stay out of my diet for good.  It’s the fat content, pure and simple.  Lean cuts of chicken, turkey and fish are the best.  Fruits, vegetables are superb; the more fiber the better and LOTS of water daily.  And since I have the hernia, I must lose the weight.  That’s when I ask, “What is ‘substantial’?”  That was the term he used.  Then he brought up my records and, bottom line?  It’s a bit over 40 pounds. But that’s not all of the weight I need to lose.  That’s the MINIMUM to qualify for hernia surgery.  I said, “But that’s not what I want.  I’m tired of this. This was a painful wake up call for me.  The hernia was a self esteem issue as I was told all it was?  Fat.”  The doctor was shaking his head in disgust. “I want to do all I can to get what I can get off for good and have the surgery so that I’m healthy and ‘back together’ as I should have been.” We talk some more about the dietary programs and the drugs we ruled out due to their content – most have medications such as amphetamines, wellbutrin, lamotrigine – used for bi polar, and another medication used to quell addiction, seizures and assists with bi-polar – bariatric surgery is “iffy” with mood disorders.  So it’s diet, which he prefers anyway.

Then comes the big question:  “Now for a goal:  if I’m going to do this surgery, let’s set a date for a follow up.  This sets a time for YOU to lose the weight and we can check in.”  Now the butterflies kick in.

My reply?  “Would six months be reasonable?”

“Perfectly reasonable,” he replied.  “Let’s plan on that.”

I’m committed.

Tomorrow is the nutritionist – I had planned on that all along and that goes with a support group for “Intuitive Eating.”  She’s going to be in this as a team.  So now, the challenge is on:  September 12th is the appointment for the hernia follow up.  And I’m going to be putting everything here so you can follow along and keeps me accountable.

Yes, I’m scared and excited…but I’m also frustrated and angry because of what I’ve been experiencing so far.  It’s one thing to live without booze.  It’s another to go without food.  But, in the end, I’m hopeful the journey there will be worth all the trials.  It’s only the beginning.



Body Image, Self Discovery

Tossing the Chains


It’s time.

For so many years, I’ve been blaming external forces for my plights in life.  As i sit looking out on my deck, listening to the Canadian geese honk their way into a new springtime, I realize just how much I’ve missed – how much I STILL miss – by not just “being.”  But as far as chains, I’m starting down the road to toss a huge set.

Later this morning, I go in for my preparation for surgery and, I admit, for a routine surgery, I’m nervous.  The reason is the surgeon warned me that this is NOT going to be routine.  The hernia that should have been fixed ages ago is the issue.  That damned hernia has been the source of my heartache, grief, suffering, mocking from my kids, my now-ex husband and even my own self-loathing for years.  YEARS.  I was told by my numerous doctors and OB/GYNs, “Oh it’s just fat.  You won’t lose it.”  I’ve tried to exercise it away. Now I know why it’s still here 22 years later.  I’ve been very emotional about both the surgery and the knowledge of this “baggage” I’ve carried unnecessarily that now, I have an answer for and IT’S NOT MY FAULT.  I’m going to say it again – if only for me to see it in print:  IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

Stomach crunches, sit ups, anything to do with the stomach have been useless.  NOW I understand why – the stomach muscles have been broken; split.  They ARE weak and it will require therapeutic intervention, but in childbirth, HA!  I was screwed.  I’ve had physical trainers say, “It’s just going to take time…”  Bullshit!  OH!  How that got me so angry!  They just didn’t get it – nor my frustration.  I had the equivalent of Mount Everest pushing on my bladder and didn’t know why I had it and it seemed like other mothers who had C-sections but SOME issues, did not; just the scar, wiggly muscle tone and call it a day.

Then came the humiliation of the ex-husband wanting to know why it wasn’t going away while dressing one night.  That’s….where it triggered a nasty downhill slide in my marriage; I wasn’t attractive anymore.  I worked the weight off but that nasty bump remained.  It was always there.  Taunting me, haunting me, mocking me.  MY KIDS even asked years later why I couldn’t get rid of it.

Here come the echoes of the past:  Echo..echo..echo…fault, guilt, shame, blame…it’s all YOU…

Now, 22 years later, comes salvation through, of all things, a horrendous gall bladder attack and a surgeon who bluntly tells me, essentially, things must change:  Once the gall bladder is out – and today, it comes out.  He made it sound, less than routine and I am nervous.  But once out, and he also made it clear, “that hernia MUST be fixed after you lose SIGNIFICANT weight.”

*Heavy Sigh* 

I’ve heard that, but we’re not there yet.  Today, one chink of the chain is broken; the first step, the beginning.  It’s time to toss the shame, the blame, the guilt. It was NEVER me at all.  My body has been broken for years.  Now, it’s time to move forward to accept that and cleanse the emotions behind the false guilt.  It’s a new day and a beautiful one.  And today, I take no one’s shit.  Not today.




Body Image, Self Discovery

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, Right?

Good Morning!  It’s time for breakfast!  Jello and Gatorade!  Yum!  I’ve become accustomed to that horrendous backache, a nasty stitch in my side and having to squeeze by fat self between the bed and the wall – hey, and when I’m in jeans I’m like a big “permomarker” in blue denim marking a solid line across the same line every day!  Now there’s a line and that’s my new goal – to not add to that line!  I think that’s a worthwhile goal, don’tcha think?

But in the meantime, it’s getting to that big day when the bit “G” on the right, G for Gall bladder, has to come out and so I drink “G” for “Gatorade” to keep me hydrated.  The doctors didn’t want me to DRINK anything red in color in case it came back to haunt me.  They didn’t say not to EAT anything red so jello it became.  It’s funny but when our POTUS decides to not go forward with our secretary of Labor who happens to be with Carl’s Jr.  all I was thinking of?  Not politics..

A Super Star with Cheese, LOADED with mayonnaise, cheese, grease, fat…THE WORKS!  I CRAVED it, baby!  Oh how I wanted that burger so badly it was killing me!

But here I am in Minnesota – but there was Hardee’s that had the same menu.  And I STILL wanted that burger.  Then I had to remember – can’t have that anymore.

Then came the next morning after meeting with the surgeon.  What does the scheduler have on her desk?  CHOCOLATE!  I’m thinking I’ll have some.  Then, I have to stop myself; not anymore.  Can’t have it.  The pain is too great a cost for that.  DAMMIT!

In Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) we have a concept called “mindfulness” where you are aware of everything around you, what goes into your body, your mind, your soul, what comes out in your speech, your breath, the noises that are surrounding you, the feelings that surround you:  hate, love, joy, anger, happiness – you get the idea. Then extend it out to “mindful eating” a new concept in eating.  “Be mindful of what you eat.”  Right, “I’m mindful I’m about to devour this Carl’s Jr. Super Star Loaded with Cheese and I’m mindful that this is going to cause me to keel over into the worst gall bladder pain in the history of gall bladders.”  I’d probably get applause for that statement as “YES!  YOU’VE GOT THE CONCEPT!”   Me?  I’d be performing a facepalm and saying “That’s all that is? Give me the burger and run….so I can keel over in pain later.”  Marsha Linehan would not be so kind as to give me a “pass” for that statement; NOT EVEN CLOSE.

I’m coming to realize that mindfulness means that I must be in total balance with myself and with everything surrounding me.  I must know what true hunger is and know what it is my body is craving.  It is truly that hamburger or, it is something else?  Am I truly thirsty, tired, sick, lonely or is it my hunger or thirst at all?  Is it something else that’s not right with me?  I’m angry at someone else and I’m going back to eating to self-soothe when I’m not hungry at all?  Then when I do eat to self-soothe, I’m sabotaging myself by choosing something that will harm me making things worse.  Am I actually happy?  Did something wonderful happen to me and I’m turning to drink to celebrate but even THAT is going to harm me?  Am I paying attention to my body THEN or am I too wrapped up in what’s going on around me to get refocused.  It’s interesting that in therapy we started to refocus on this concept as my body was really starting to “talk” to me – ok, “scream” at me – that now was the time to pay attention.  Now is the time to learn about what true mindfulness was all about.  I’m starting to notice what my body CAN’T do right now and it’s frightening.  I’m not old and my body has limits it’s not supposed to have!  I have issues that have been missed for years but surgery is going to be the only way to fix it all….or is it?  I will need a way to cope with some very tough choices and mindfulness was tool in the past that helped and we started using it again and now I realize it’s not a coincidence; it was perfect timing.  I needed the reminder.  I wasn’t paying attention but now the student is willing to listen.

Self Discovery

The Crash – And I Did NOT See This Coming; Honest.


A few days ago, there was a major ice storm in the upper midwest.  I had a counseling appointment and my medical ride through the cab company, thank you insurance, was waiting at the back of my building.  Hate that.  It means I have to take my life into my hands and go down TWO sets of stairs.  I made it down one set just fine; it was inside.  The second?  Not so well.

ALL ICE – stairs, handrail, and the ground TO THE CAR.  No traction at all.  I had snow boots on with special traction guards; the works.  I couldn’t grip the hand rails. All I COULD do?  Slide – down – each – step – to – where – the – driver – was.  Then? HE slips in trying to get me to the van.  Now, I’m terrified to do anything, go anywhere see anyone. And this was “for therapy related to my PTSD.”  I think I just re-triggered it going down those goddamned stairs!

Risk of accidents in winter. Mid aged woman is slipping and falling on footpath, street covered with snow and black ice

Yup, that was me.  In my not -so fine moment of humiliation.  Hey!  At least SHE HAD SNOW!

Four days later?  I get the worst pain…ok, not THE worst pain, but the SECOND worst pain outside of childbirth.  This was over the weekend.  I manage to live through it but…it only got WORSE.  By Monday, the pain was so bad, I was up at 2 am, walking around, praying I wasn’t dying of a heart attack, using the bathroom frequently.  The pain was now everywhere; upper back, lower back, toss on chills for good measure, I could not lay FLAT in my bed so I propped myself UP.  Not good.  I moved to the sofa.  Better.  Then comes the genius in me that says, “AHA!  Heating pad!”  Up I go, cursing all the way back to the bedroom to find the Mecca of relief – the heating pad. I did grab a few Ibuprophen with me and oh, did I pay for THAT!  Not good at all.  So on goes the heating pad and Ahhh!  Relief!  I’m on the sofa but the Ibuprofen kicks in and I’m feeling what it’s doing to my body and thinking, “This is NOT good at all.”  But eventually, I doze off….until I wake up shivering. Shivering? It’s a 70 degree F warm house!  BACK into bed I crawl in and I pass out exhausted.  But I do get up, shower but now the aching is EVERYWHERE.  I swear even MY TEETH ache.  By the late afternoon, my home health worker is watching me move around and says, “It’s time for you to get to Urgent Care – NOW!”

Within the hour, I’m waiting for a doctor to see me and he comes in pokes and prods and one scream of pain on my upper, NOT LOWER so no appendicitis, right side, and he says, “Bad news, it’s your gall bladder.  You’ve got stones and more than likely, it’s coming out.  We just need to run some tests to verify this and to see if anything is blocking the numerous ducts in the area and to see if anything else is hidling.”  All I was thinking?  “Pain? Get rid of it..please?”  Then here comes a large, pretty cool, water bottle filled with the most disgusting liquid short of Tang – that phony powdered orange juice the Apollo astronauts had way back when – I’d ever consumed.  And I had to have TWO rounds of this, for lack of a better word, shit.  Then once I’m done, for the FIRST TIME that day, I’m all primed to head to the ladies room but am stopped.

“Oh no!  You MUST have a full bladder!” said the nurse.

“Please, I’m already in pain from my gall bladder.  You mean I must endure MORE pain for you to LOOK at it?”

“I’m so sorry, M’am, it’s the way it goes…”

Oh how I had a load of expletives I wanted to fire off at that nurse at that moment!  But, humbly, I sit back down, PRAYING that my contents of my bladder do not explode upon the entire population of the waiting area of Urgent Care.  But then I’m told to go to the CT area.  Probably for that reason alone.

As I’m in the CT area, I’m called back then I’m thrown back in time.  I see the CT machine and I think of my mother and I chuckle.  She had several of these when she’s in the height of her late stage alzheimer’s.  She always laid down as if she were lying in a casket, arms crossed her chest.  Only thing missing?  A lily.  At the time, my brother and I would roll our eyes. Now, I laugh.  Then I’m told to lay down and I’m strapped to another machine to check my liver, spleen and other organs this thing MISSES.  And off we go….and in about 15 minutes, we’re done.  Then, I RUN for the restroom and I am overjoyed; upon coming out, I return to the doctor who tells me…”Oh by the way, did you know you had a hernia?”


Forget the gallstones….I’m now MORE upset about the hernia NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT!

I find out that other physicians I had seen in the same hospital system for other things, such as mammograms, blood works, that sort of thing, knew about it more than three years PRIOR.  Oh I’m REALLY angry!  Not even my primary doctor told me this! I was reassured it was large enough the surgeons wouldn’t do anything for it as it wasn’t causing any problems.  Right. Easy for YOU to say – and this doctor is male and so overweight he’s probably having twins.

And NO pain medications but I do get an appointment with the radiologist to come RIGHT AFTER my psychiatry appointment in a day or so.

Oh was it a long day…

The WORST attack to come hits the NEXT NIGHT and I am wishing for ANY relief at all.  I’m shivering because of cold.  The pain scale can’t rate this pain – never mind I’m ready to vomit – I can’t sleep, walk, EAT; though I tried, sit, I did anything I could to deal with the pain.  I kept telling myself:  “You’re going to make it to the appointment tomorrow!  You’re going to make it to the appointment tomorrow!”  What a LONG night…but then, after a shower which helped a bit, I’m in the cab and in the psychiatrist’s office and what do we talk about?

Gallstones, NOT MENTAL HEALTH.  He’s got a background in Internal Medicine PLUS Psychiatry.

He’s telling me what to do here, what to eat, what NOT to eat.  I tell him about the hernia.  THAT SET THAT MAN OFF LIKE A FIRECRACKER!  When I told him it came from childbirth he said, “That should NEVER have been neglected!  Never!  I cannot believe no one followed up on that after your first!  The reason your vaginal after C-section FAILED was because you had NO STOMACH MUSCLES TO PUSH!  THEY SPLIT!”  That was my second child – first son’s birth, by the way.

Oh am I even LESS happy now…

Now I make it to the surgeon.  I get even WORSE news.  He shows me the CT scan and says, “Normally a gall bladder surgery is a day surgery but I cannot guarantee that for yours.  The reason is the hernia.”  Then he’s flipping through the CT scan which shows the body in layers and what comes up is horrifying.  I CAN SEE what it is – MY INTESTINES.  “It’s not a large hernia.  It’s a smaller one and you’re lucky the intestines are NOT BLOCKED.  I may have to perform a temporary fix JUST TO GET TO THE gall bladder to remove it, which will require a hospital stay.  I’m going to do my best to not have to do that.  But I will tell you this – that hernia must be fixed ASAP! I will not perform this surgery until you lose weight; a SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT of weight.  There are people here who can help you with that part if you need it.”   I said, “I don’t care.  At this point and after the pain I’ve been through, I’m finished.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make things right again so I don’t have to go through this again. ”  The surgeon then looked at the hernia itself with an examination and said, “The muscles split more than likely with the first pregnancy – a C-section?”  I nodded.  “the sutures were probably horizontal but the split was vertical negating the effect.  Pregnancy #2 only ADDED to it.  Then you had a third?  You were finished.  The hernia was there to stay and it needed to be dealt with immediately.  I’m surprised no one caught it with that pregnancy or dealt with it as part of the birth of that third child.  They could have.”


Now, I’m scheduled for surgery, have antibiotics and the phone number for the hospital’s weight management programs.  I call the number and get a link for the information session.  Ohhh I was not prepared for THIS:

–Weight management drugs

–Stomach alteration surgery

–Food/Diet changes

–Frequent Support/Check in

Uhhhh…I can handle TWO.  But MORE SURGERY?!?  Then I read it’s tailored to my needs.  But then I qualify for the two big options.

Wonderful.  THIS I need.

I saw a posting on Facebook from George Takei about what you can accomplish in 100 days; this bright amazing woman lost weight in 100 days by setting her mind to it.  I thought about what I was going to do in 100 days – I though it was going to be heading back to work through Vocational Rehab – and that process HAS STARTED.  Now, it’s my body saying, “Ehhh, not so fast.  Got a few things to handle here first.”

There went my “What can I do for the next 100 days.”  A friend of mine called me and said, “Look at it this way, consider the suture markings as a “dot to dot” puzzle and when you get thinner, you can draw out the entire pattern!”

Hmmmm….I thought about it.  Then, we both burst out laughing.  But it does deserve some merit.  What color?  Blue? Green?  DEFINITELY not permanent marker!

But all I’m thinking about?  No more chocolate.  No more greasy burgers.  Fries?  Out.  Cake with frosting?  Forbidden.  Watch the dairy.  LOTS of water, fruits, veggies, fiber and an entirely new way of looking at food.  No weight watchers here, sorry Oprah.  No PBJ sandwiches – can’t have the peanut butter; no creamy fats.  Wow, what a lot to think about here.  But one thing is for sure:  it’s going to be tough but I’m hoping it will be oh so worth it in the end.