Monday, February 28, 2011

How to succeed at bariatric surgery

One thing that comes up every time I talk to someone about the bariatric surgery seems to be "I have a friend who had that surgery" or "I have have a friend who is thinking about that surgery." I always ask about the friend who has had the are they doing?

The answer good or bad I have found really depends on what the person's mindset was going into the surgery.  A magic bullet or pill the surgery is not.  Your surgeon is not going to do anything to your brain, isn't going to reroute any synapses or impulses in your brain.  All he is going to do is reroute your digestive system. 

But the problem is, it's all in our heads.  It always has been, it always will be. And what's in your head is what is going to show up in front of you.

Before I made the final decision to have the Rouen-Y gastric bypass surgery, I talked to a lot of people. In the beginning, it seemed like all I talked to or heard about or knew about were people who had 'failed' at the surgery.  People who regained the weight.  People who still struggled with eating too much and throwing up....10 years post surgery!  People who weren't drinking their water, weren't exercising, weren't taking their vitamins.  They were drinking alcohol and smoking, drinking diet sodas.  All I was surrounded by were people who didn't make the surgery work.  So I looked at myself and I realized that because I was so afraid of failure, because I was so afraid of the surgery, the universe (God) was manifesting in front of me exactly what I was thinking about.....failure.

Now, I didn't change my mind overnight.  In fact, it took me almost 2 years to decide to go forward with this surgery.  I kept telling myself "This time I can lose the weight and keep it off for good", "this time I'm going to exercise and eat right", "this time it will be different".  The challenge was that, of course, nothing was different.  I was the same person in the same body thinking the same thoughts, over and over, like a rat on a treadmill.

So I had to decide to be a 'success percentage of 1'....meaning that I was not going to worry about what other people who 'failed' did....the only thing I could control was myself.  So I started seeking out people who had 'won' at the surgery.  And the funny thing, they're not obvious.  Why not?  Well, because I was looking for overweight people this entire time!  I had to start asking friends for referrals to the healthy-weight people who had 'won' at the surgery.

And they are everywhere!  Once I decided that I was going to win at this game, the universe (God) opened up my eyes and put successful people in front of me left and right.  I was bombarded by referrals to strangers who were willing to talk to me, encourage me, guide me.  And they all said there was no secret to magic easy way......but you had to follow some simple rules.  Here they are:

1.  drink plenty of water.  Think you've drank enough?  Have another glass.  And another.
2.  no more carbonation.  Say good bye to sodas and beer and champagne and fizzy water.  Just say goodbye.  They're not good for you anyway.

3.  chew chew chew.  then chew some more.  a little more.  Remember the old 'chew your food 32 times'? well, try that.  See how much longer it takes to eat a meal if you actually chew your food into mush.  I will guarantee you that you will #1 actually notice the food you are eating, possibly for the very first time in your life, #2 feel like you are eating more, and #3 finally give your brain time to catch up with your stomach.

4.  no eating and drinking at the same time.  Now, this was the rule that terrified me.  After all, I was the water guzzler.  2-4 glasses of water with each meal, no joke.  So what was I doing? Washing all the food thru my stomach & diluting all my stomach acids & the saliva acids that were pre-digesting my food for me. 

#4 was the guideline that I knew I had to get down before surgery.  I could not remember a meal in my entire life that I had not drank copious amounts of liquid with it, whether it was milk as a child or water as an adult.  So I made a decision to get this habit down before surgery.  I started about 3 months before surgery, because I wanted to get the habit ingrained.  I couldn't imagine how I was going to be able to swallow food without liquid.  But you know the funny part?  It's really easy.  And I felt like I was eating so much food.  I had to stop reading while I ate too, that slowed me down and made me more conscious of my food.

#5 protein first.  so eat your meat before your vegetables, and your vegetables before your starch.  Trust me, if you chew and chew and chew, you won't have any room for the starch.  Nor will you miss it.

#6 no smoking.  This was not a problem for me as my mother died from emphysema, which essentially means she drowned in her own lungs.  Urgh.  No thank you.

#7 exercise.  It doesn't need to be fancy.  Walk.  Can't walk yet?  start.  Go for 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, or one minute.  Just start somewhere.  You've got to be able to walk around after surgery, and it's cheap (okay, free) exercise, requires no special equipment, you don't need a gym, if the weather is bad you walk inside the shopping mall (ladies, without your purse!).

#8 no more Tylenol/ibuprofen or derivatives. I have to say that tylenol works a heck of a lot better than acetiminophen, but I don't have as much cause to use painkillers now that my poor body isn't lugging a small person around on top of me.

I took one guideline (hate to call them rules) a month and internalized it into my life.  I knew I had to get these steps down before I would be successful.  And that is what everyone who was successful said.  Follow the rules (guidelines), no deviations, and you'll be fine.

I'm almost at a year post op, my weight loss stabilized about 8 months out, and I have maintained a 100 pound weight loss without any challenges.

Remember, it's all in your head.  Work on your head first.  Your stomach is not the problem.  It's what's going on in your head.  And you're the only one who can help yourself and change your self-talk.  It's not going to be easy, in fact it's going to be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life....but I promise you, it will be worth it.

I hope you find my words inspiring, my hope is to help others be successful and heal as I have. I wish you much success in your own personal healing journey

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cruise Ship Buffets post surgery

Just got back from my first post-surgery cruise.  I was quite terrified to go on this cruise, since cruise ships are notorious for the never-ending buffets and midnight snack bars, plus 24 hour a day room service.  How was I going to cope with an unlimited amount of free food surrounding me for a total of  96 hours???

Afer all, one of the main reasons I and many other people take cruises is the food.  So how was I going to do?  There was only one way to find out if my newly-minted emotional skills and beliefs were solid or not.  On to the Lido deck, the classic home to the 24 hour buffet and my normal first stop upon checking into my cabin, putting my carryon away, and of course being hungry.

My choices were:  Asian, Italian, Bistro, Salad, Drinks.  What I decided to do instead of just blindly getting into the buffet line was to do a little reconnaisance and see what the various offerings were.  No matter how much I wanted to pig out, my 'pouch' only holds so much, so I wanted to make sure I made the best choice possible.

The Asian was mostly sushi, which is not my idea of a good time, so that area got safely checked off my list.  The Italian I decided was too pasta-focussed and I didn't want to chance the food expansion my first day on the ship.  So Italian was out.  Salad I knew would be a part of my meal, but 'salad' on a cruise ship usually means anything but greens.  It's usually potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, corn salad, etc.  There were greens, but I didn't want to fill up on that.  This left "Bistro".

Bistro ended up being deli sandwiches toasted and flattened.  I had a ham/cheese/mayo/lettuce combo, and passed on the potato chips.  Just a sandwich.  The server on the other side of the glass sneeze guard looked at me as if I was crazy.  Just a sandwich?  Are you SURE you don't want chips?  How about french fries? Nope, thanks.

One of the greatest results of this surgery is no matter how much I may want to eat, no matter how good the food is, there's just only so much that will fit at one time.  While my husband enjoyed a full meal and gulped down glass upon glass of iced tea, I munched very very slowly on my sandwich.  Paced myself. 20 minutes to eat as I was taught.  I made it through a 1/2 sandwich and I was stuffed.  Uncomfortably stuffed, so I knew I was absolutely at my limit.

I thought for sure that I would get angry, as I have in the past when I have not been able to eat the food I want.  After all, food was my one salvation up to this point.  But I was happy that I got full so fast.  I realize that what I have always wanted is that feeling of fullness, that I am replete.  Before my surgery I was always hungry, always trying to fill a hole inside of me.  Now the physical hole gets filled up extremely fast, so I can deal with the rest of life myself.

The next challenge was dinner and the 5 or 6 courses that entails.  My biggest fear was that people were going to notice I wasn't eating a lot and that I'd have to explain myself, and I wasn't sure if I was willing to open up to strangers yet in person.  I mean, it's one thing to blog to an anonymous internet, but to talk in front of people....hmmmm.

Well, I ordered from every course, and had a taste of everything.  I took my time with it, and really, really enjoyed it.  And when the chat turned more specific, I opened up and talked about why I wasn't eating much.  To my pleasant surprise, instead of people reacting with a 'couldn't you control yourself?" I got "oh, my friend had that surgery, and it turned out great' or 'my friend had that surgery but still eats and eats and gets sick' which opened up discussion about what I went thru on this journey and how thankful I am that Kaiser requires you to take a pre-surgery class to get your head screwed on straight.

I was really shocked at how happy people are for me.  I mean, they are really ecxstatic and want to hear all about my journey, what prompted it, why I chose the Rouen-Y over the lapband, what it's like to face a buffet and know I can't eat everything in sight.  I was expecting the shame and humiliation I usually felt when I was morbidly obese, but instead I got sunshine and happiness radiating back at me!  What an amazing feeling!  I was shocked at how happy everyone was for me.

Now, one of the side effects I did not get was the dumping syndrome, so sadly I can eat sweets.  However, what I have found is that a little sweet goes a long way, and if I do ever over-indulge I get the sugar-shakes, which is a very antsy anxious feeling that I don't like.  Again, the surgery is an amazing behavior modification tool.  Whereas before I overate and had no immediate consequences (nausea, shakes, stomach pain), I had the long-term consequences of being overweight.  Now, consequences manifest themselves immediately, and I mean immediately. There is no escaping the consequences, which really keeps you focussed in the now and forces you to pay attention.  There is no daydreaming or avoiding reality with the surgery.  What you put in your body affects you right now.

Ernie commented to me the last day of our cruise how little we ate.  He commented that on all the other cruises we have been on, I was constantly saying 'let's get a slice of pizza' or 'how about a small snack" or 'second dessert, anyone?"  This time I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes a late night snack after the show.

Excellent side effects:  I could easily, and I mean easily, fit in the shower.  Before I used to create a watershed in the the bathroom because my body barely fit in the shower so the shower curtain was essentially useless.  I could sit in the small toilet cubicles around the ship.  I was able to easily navigate the dining roon, didn't have to map out a strategy based on where people were sitting, how far back they were from the table, was there enough room for me to fit?  When we were at one of the sea-day 'high teas' I saw overweight people doing this silent dance and I remembered what it felt like, and once again thanked God for leading me to this surgery.

Another nice side effect, trying on jewelry in the shops and all the rings fit or were too big :0) .  The necklaces fit easily. I had a choice of clothing to wear.  Navigating between the deck chairs was easy  and hoping that I wouldn't break them was a thought of the past.

Fitting in the back seat in the shuttle vans? no problem.  that used to be my biggest nightmare, and I would generally ask to sit in the front passenger seat.  Get to the third row of seats in the very back?  No problemo.  Fit the seatbelt on me?  No problemo.

I really thought I would have more challenges with the buffet, but I think that since I have done all the mental work, I was very well prepared to face the buffet and survive. 

Remember, it's in your head.  When I hear about a TV star or an athlete who makes the big bucks and is caught drunk driving or goes in an out on rehab, I feel for them.  Everyone around me says "what's their problem?  They have all the money in the world" ....what people don't realize is that having money does not solve the inner problems.  If anything, it exacerbates them, because if someone already is struggling with their own demons and lack of self-worth, even if on the outside they present a confidence facade, the very success they have acheieved mocks them even more.  It becomes 'if they only knew who I really am' and the self-doubt can become overwhelming.  More on this in another blog. 

I leave you hoping my words help you on your healing journey.  Please feel free to share this with a friend and please 'follow' my blog if I inspire you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feeling better today

I want to say thank you to all my friends who reached out to me after yesterday's blog.  As I mentioned when I have these leaky-depression days, they thankfully for me usually only last one day. 

I'm not sure if it's because I finally caved and got onto anti-depressants, or if it's the soul-work I have done over the last 10 years, or the faith in the God/Universe that I personally know.  All I know is that my depression-days thankfully do not last.

Before I went onto my anti-depressant medications, it took everything I had just to get out of bed.  Every morning I would wake up either extremely angry or sad.  Not for any specific reason.  My husband and I hadn't fought the night before.  I didn't currently have any more pressure from work, finance, personal than the next person.  But there the mood would be there, awakening with me.

I know some of this anger and sadness stems from my childhood.  Now, before I go any further, I want to say that I have been blessed to be able to forgive my mother and father, and myself, and know that what I went thru was what I went thru.  I am not casting blame upon anyone.  What happened, happened.  But, it did and sometimes still does, impact my today.

My mother, as I memtioned before, was a paranoid pyschophrenic, and my entire childhood I never knew which mother I was coming home to.  Was it the cookie-baking, happy mom?  The maudlin drunk mom? Or was it the comatose on the sofa mom?  Maybe it was the terrifyingly angry mom.  That one was the scariest mom.....that mom ended up in the nuthouse a couple of times, both for trying to smother me, and going after my father with a carving knife. I never knew as I was walking home from school which mom would greet me at the door. 

The easiest one was the comatose mom. At least the comatose one was calm, in a sense, and I could do what I needed to do.  Normally that would be helping make dinner, making sure I got my homework done, doing the yardwork chores I was assigned, tidying up the house. As a child, I didn't understand why my mother drank herself into oblivion, why she wasn't always 'there', why she saw Nazis everywhere. All I knew is that I had to walk around very carefully and try to be as invisible as possible when she was in one of her 'moods'.

So, when my doctor first tried to prescribe anti-depressants to me, my first terrifying thought is, I am NOT my mother!  I'm not crazy! I don't need these things!  And so for many years I suffered needlessly, using up vast stores of energy and emotional time every day just to put the happy face on.  Then I thankfully started to listen, and a new doctor challenged me with this:  She said to me, "if you had diabetes, would you take your insulin if it was prescribed?"  And I said yes, of course I would.  "Well", she said, "you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and I am essentially prescribing insulin for your diabetes.  Take the anti-depressants.  All they are going to do is bring you up to a level playing field, so that you can go about your day.  You can start when most people start their day, and use your energy for living, not just surviving."
And after I thought about it, I could see her point of view, and started taking a relatively low-dose prescription.

What a difference for me personally!  For the first time in my life most days I was able to wake up in neutral, and have at least a chance to decide what kind of a day it was going to be.  I could finally start working on myself, finally start facing the fears and pain inside of me.  It was truly an eye-opening and refreshing experience.

So when the leaky-depression days happen, and the sadness or anger oozes out past my medications, I have learned that as Scarlett O'Hara is famous for saying "After all, tomorrow IS another day!".... and I lick my wounds, nurture my inner child, love her despite herself, and move forward.  And I have learned to reach out to friends and accept the love they reflect back at me.

So again, to all my friends who sent love and healing and prayers and hugs my way, thank you.  It is your support that makes my journey not only possible, but worthwhile and beautiful.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Today was a difficult day.  I battled with low grade depression today.  It leaked out past my medications and colored my world.  I get so frustrated by it because I know it's a chemical imbalance, and I know that tomorrow I will probably feel better, but it doesn't help right now as I try to work through my day.  I feel like I have nothing to be sad over, and 'should' get over this. 

I mean, I'm a fortunate person.  I am healthy, I have been married to my best friend for over 15 years, I live near the ocean in the sunshine year round.  I am truly fortunate in that I do something for a living that I enjoy and take great satisfaction over.  So why the blahs?  Why the 'what's the point' feelings? 

Days like today are so difficult because it takes every ounce of my being, every fiber in my body, to just get out of bed and glue a "happy face" on.  As I go about my day, summoning every bit of emotional reserves I have in me to joke with people, interact, hold conversations, etc, I wonder how they cannot see the pain that is eating away at my soul?

Perhaps they too are hiding behind their social mask?  I often wonder what is going on behind people's eyes and their laughter.

I know people look at me and say 'you're so positive' "you're always cheerful'.  Not always.  There are days that I am an actress putting on an academy-award winning performance.  I don't feel like myself on those days; I feel separated from myself, floating around myself, but not inside myself.

It's days like today that irritate me the most, because I feel like I 'should' be able to get over it.  There's that word again.....'Should"..... the word of shame, of guilt, of embarrassment.  I'm always telling people to be careful of the word should, and that they should stop 'shoulding' all over themselves. 

Because that's what 'should' is all about.  It's our self = flaggelation, our way to browbeat ourselves and shame ourselves.  It sets us up for failure, because we are competing against an impossible ideal person.  It makes us 'wrong' for what we are doing, makes us think we are less than we are, which is truly a perfect child of God.

But it's on days like today that I think "should should should should".  And I am battling against a tide of 'I don't cares' and 'what's the points' that are running in a continuous looping soundtrack in my head.

Now, I'm never suicidal.  Quite frankly the geek inside of me wants to see what's going to happen tomorrow.  But there are days like today where it takes everything I have to drag myself through the day.

I lasted until about 3 pm, and had to call it quits.  Luckily for me I have staff who understand that I go through these phases, know I'm generally a workaholic, and will be back bouncing around tomorrow or the next day.  I thank God every day for the people I have been surrounded with. 

Even as I write this I am struggling with the blahs.  But I know that this is probably one of the more important posts I will send out into the internet because I know from many conversations with others that I am not alone in battling these feelings.  It's days like today I wish I still had food to numb myself with.  But I know now that I have to go thru the feelings, feel them, acknowledge them, forgive myself, and love myself.  I know this too shall pass.

I send this out with much love and gratitude and hope it helps you on your own healing journey.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One of the biggest concerns I had before deciding to have surgery was giving up my drug of choice----food. 

When you think about it, it's not a glamorous drug, you don't see celebrities going into rehab for it...but it's readily available, reasonably cheap, legal, and everyone, and I mean everyone, is a drug pusher. 
Your mom, your grandmother, your aunt.  Your friend who loves to cook.  Don't you like my food?  Have another serving. You can diet tomorrow. Clean your plate, there are children starving in (name the country).

You can get this drug 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Advertisements enticing you are blasted at you in every TV show.  People are shown having fun and being socially accepted around food, or they are sexy eating a messy hamburger.  So you shoot up your drug in plain view, and no one thinks twice about it. 

The problem is, you are killing yourself in plain sight.  Crying out for help and understanding while you snarf food down as quickly as you can.  And no one sees it.  The only thing they see is the weight, and they might think 'if she just had a little more control or discipline'.....what they don't see or hear is the siren call of food, promising numbness, promising fullfillment, promising love. They don't see the underlying pain you are trying to numb.

Food was my lover, and I carried on an illicit but completely visible affair with him for the first 15 years of my marriage.  I brought food to bed, loved him on the sofa while I watched TV with my husband, made sure he came with me in little packets wherever I went.  Snacks were always at my side, little love bites.  Food filled me up and made me feel least for a little bit.  Food was more important to me than anything else at times. Food was something, sometimes the only thing, I could control in my life. I would get horribly angry if I coudln't have the food I wanted.....I went into emotional withdrawals, psychological, painful withdrawals.  You didn't want to be around me if I couldn't get to my drug. 

So the thought of walking away, essentially cold turkey from this love affair, quite frankly terrified me.  Who would I turn to in crisis?  How would I numb my emotions?  I mean, it's not like cocaine, or heroin, or alcohol, which you don't need physically to live.  Food has to be consumed every day.  You cannot eliminate it from your life. If I did this surgery, I no longer could eat the vast quantities of food the way I was used to doing. 

One thing I realized was that I couldn't do it on my own.  And that terrified me as well.  Count on other people? Count on God, the universe?  Trust other people?  When you grew up not being able to trust the two people in the entire world (your parents) who were supposed to take care of you and love you and keep you safe, trusting yourself or others is an extremely difficult thing to do.

God has definitely helped me.  Now, this is a non-denominational blog, and I want you to think of God however you see him or her or the universe.  Whatever and however you understand that higher power that only wants the best for you.

So I asked God for a lot of help.  I asked God to provide me with people who would support me, people I could tell the truth to, people who would help me.  And God did provide that.  I have learned to open up and trust both myself more and other people.  Did it happen overnight?  No.  Did it happen in stages, and after people proved themselves trustworthy?  Yes.  Do I feel everyone is trustworthy? No.  Will I give them a chance?  Yes.

By the way, it's God that has pushed me into writing this blog.  To me God is the voice inside of you telling you the right thing to do, telling you what you already know in your heart.  So God has been harrassing me for quite a while....."Romo, get off your butt and write this blog.  I've given you the gift of words....Now write!"  Okay, okay, so I am finally writing.  And just writing this blog and putting it out to the internet itself is a gift of trust.  I don't know who is reading this blog.  I have to trust that the people who need to read it are being led to read it, and it remains undiscovered by those who don't.

So I'm almost a year out from my surgery, and I can say this.  Food still calls to me, but it doesn't control me. I made a decision that if I was going to do something so extreme, so irrevocable to my body, that I was going to behave myself.  The thought of changing my internal plumbing to the point where I no longer absorbed all my nutrients....and then going back to overeating.....was unacceptable.  The fact that I no longer have a stomach, but a pouch, also helps.  There's just only so much that can be eaten at one time.  I have learned to listen to my tells me when to stop, if I will only listen.  And if I don't, there is a serious side effect....either dumping syndrome or throwing up.  Both are extremely effective behavior modification tools.

I will say that the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.  Now when I see food, I think about size 6 pants.  Painting my own toenails.  Walking up several flights of stairs.  Shopping in regular stores.  Fitting inside restaurant booths.  Not dreading airline seats.  Being able to roller skate, jump rope, zip line, tap dance. 

I send these words out hoping to help you find your own journey to healing and wholeness.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Choices Choices Choices!

One of the most amazing and gratifying side effects of losing a ton of weight is the way the fashion world and choices open up to you. 

People usually can easily see the choices of clothing such as pants/blouses, but if they have never been grossly overweight, they don't usually realize that things such as shoes, necklaces, bracelets, rings, hats, small shoulder bags or fashionable backpack-purses.....just don't fit.  I used to go shopping and would spend most of my time in the home wares sections of stores.  Not because I wasn't interested in clothes shopping....but because I didn't have to try anything on.

My choices used to be limited to stores such as Dress Barn, Lane Bryant, Kohls.  Forget Bebe or Claire Russe or any of the other myriad stores in the malls with the cute clothes.  There was usually, if I was lucky, one store out of the entire mall where I could shop.  Needless to say, I didn't spend a lot of time hanging out in the mall or window shopping.

Want new shoes? you have them in wide sizes?  You do?  Great.  Whatever they look like, if they fit, I'm buying them.  There is no such thing as 'choice' when you can't fit into hardly anything.  People said to me "We'll take you shopping when you're thin and teach you how to dress more fashionably" if I was a fashion retard.  No, that's not the case....It's a matter of going to a store, picking out the left overs in the large sizes, trying them on, and if they fit.....hurry, buy them!  Who cares if it's not really my color?  Or fits like a paper bag?  It fits, doesn't it?  Buy it.

Now, however, a beautiful world of fashion and color have opened up to me.  High heeled shoes! Cute strappy sandals! Frothy dresses! Tank  tops! Camisoles! Every color imaginable other than black or brown!  White pants or a skirt!  And I can pick and choose whatever I want!  The danger now is overcoming my 'if it fits buy it' mentality.....because everything fits! :0) 

I recently went to DSW, a shoe warehouse that I went into once before, only to run out almost in tears.  Too many cute shoes, none that I could wear. This time, it was like being a drug addict with unlimited choices! Holy moly!  I aimed to the clearance rack, hoping to keep my spending down. When the gal in that section learned that I had just lost 100 pounds and was so excited that I could fit into any shoe in my size, she made it her personal quest to help me find cute shoes.  I spent about 2 hours in that store, trying on everything, walking around in high heels for the first time in15 years....amazing!  (Before, my weight would bear down on my toes and shove them forward, very very painful).  I walked out of that store with 8, yes count them, 8 pairs of shoes!  Work shoes, sandals, dress shoes, casual shoes.  You might say, OMG 8 pairs!  But you have to realize that my current shoes are falling off my feet!  Your feet shrink too!  I went from a size 9 WIDE to a size 8 regular.  My feet have shrunk along with the rest of me, hooray! I had to re do my shoe wardrobe, not just my clothes wardrobe

Necklaces and bracelets.....if you don't have a 'standard' size neck or wrist, you have to buy these things with 'extenders' on them.  Lovely, just lovely.  It's hard enough to have the chain move around your neck when you can wear a regular necklace...think of the embarrassment when your extender chain (which never ever matches the regular necklace) shifts to the front.  Thanks, but no thanks...I'll just not wear anything.

My shirt sleeves actually fit my arms now, instead of extending beyond them ( a problem with large sizes).  I'm still trying to figure out if clothes really 'fit' and have been relying on the kindness of strangers in the stores to give me an honest opinion.  One thing I have found with the sales staff----they seem to be more excited than I am about my weight loss.  It's like they love being part of a winning team and want to make sure I look great.  I never knew sales staff were that wonderful; since I did my best to avoid them.

I wish you much success on your journey.  More on emotions and healing coming up in a future blog.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is courage, really?

I have been told by many people who know I have started this blog that I am a courageous woman.  That makes me feel good (who doesn't like compliments?), but it also makes me think about what courage really is.

Is courage facing down enemy fire in war?  Is it running into a burning building to save a child? Is it standing up for what you believe in? Sitting down in the front of the bus? Saying NO when you are being pressured to say yes? Courage is all these things.  But courage is also a quieter, unheralded event.

In my last blog I talked about being a spiritual warrior.  Healing really is a courageous quest.  Knowing that you have a hole inside of your soul that is gnawing at you day and night, with an unending, voracious appetite that you can never truly fill....and then making a decision to face that hole inside you...That to me is the biggest evidence of courage anyone can ever experience.  Facing yourself when you can choose to ignore the voice inside....facing the pain when you know you have some sort of coping mechanism in place to temporarily appease it (be it food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, or ???)...that to me is courage. Looking at the who and what hurt you in the first place, and learning how to forgive...that is courage.

It is so much easier in the short term to repress the pain, numb it with our drug of choice, and in a lot of ways it is what society expects of us.  Put on a happy face.  Boys don't cry.  Suck it up.  Don't tell anyone.  You don't want to be different, do you?  Isn't it easier to just fit in?

Maybe, in the short term.  But that pain is like an acid inside your soul, slowly eating you up from the inside.  Mabe no one can see it....but you know it's there.  So what do you do?

What I finally figured out after therapy and reading a lot of books, is this:  All the abuse, the pain, the humiliation, the whatever you faced in childhood that is eating you up right've already survived it.  You're here, aren't you?  You are already a survivor.  You already have all the courage you need.  There is absolutely nothing inside of you that you cannot cope with and heal from.  You are already a warrior.  Maybe you don't know it yet, but you are. You've lived with this pain and it hasn't killed you. You have survived.  Subconsciously you have already faced the pain.  Now you just need to bring it to the surface... a little bit at a time.  Be gentle with yourself. .

Now, your coping mechanisms, which served you so well in the past, are now hurting you.  And only you can decide to change how you cope.

What I have learned is that healing is in a way like peeling an onion. You first peel off the tough outer skin; it's usually dry and crepey, has dirt on it; it's not attractive.  But it protects the softer, more easily bruised inner layers.  Once you have peeled that off, you are usually crying.  Onions have defense mechanisms too, you know.  They don't want to get eaten, they want to grow into another onion.  So, they aren't going to make this easy for you. Your soul doesn't want to get hurt either; it's going to do its best to guard you against perceived threats....which the healing process can sometimes seem like!

So you start with the next layer in the onion.  That is usually the thickest layer, and the dryest.  You need to peel that layer back and work with it before you start on the next layer.  Emotionally, this onion layer will probably take the longest for you to work thru.  After all, it has had years to develop and thicken up, and again it has served you well.  Pace yourself. 

I have found that your mind will never let you see or experience anything that you are not ready to.  So start layer by layer.  The same issues may show up (they probably will) in each layer, but it will get easier, and sweeter, the closer you get to the core.

You might put the onion away for a while.  Stick it in a container and shove it in the fridge and don't think about it for a while.  That's okay.  It will wait.  Then the day will come where you are ready to pull back the next onion layer of emotion.  This time it will be easier, because you have some experience.  You might have tissues ready for the tears.  Perhaps you are wearing emotional 'gloves' so the onion soul juice doesn't sting any cuts you have in your hands.  Perhaps because the onion is cold, it won't create so many tears. Bottom line is, you should be able to deal with a little bit more emotional work this time, because you have already experienced and lived thru the first layer.

And so it goes, layer by layer.  You peel the soul back at your pace, as you are ready for it.  You will get a little bit stronger every time.  With every tear you shed, with every word you write in a journal, with every conversation you have with a loved one about this pain....if you will allow yourself, you will heal.  You must let the emotions go.  If you hang onto them, all the talking, writing, processing will be for naught.  You must let the emotions go and release them.

As I continue to blog I am going to be referencing the books I read and the exercises I did to heal.  I am going to include the real journal entries that I wrote at the time.  I can no longer write those words, as they are no longer who I 'am'....but I journalled thru this entire journey for just this purpose.

I hope my words have helped you start or continue on your healing journey. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome to my new blog

Welcome to my blog.

I had gastric bypass surgery on 4/30/2010 and have let go of 103 pounds so far.

The weight loss isn't the the true measure of success, though.  It's only the byproduct and what everyone can see.  The true success is the change that has come to me, at a soul level, where I have been able to find myself and heal and grow and for the first time in my 45 years on this planet, actually be happy and whole, love myself and the world around me.

My hope for this blog is for me to share the ups and downs, positives and negatives that I have encountered and overcome on my journey to wellness and wholeness.  I have been helped in my journey by many people, and I feel called to write my thoughts and experiences and 'pay it forward' to others in the hope that you too will heal and be able to embrace life fully.

I have been told that my writing can be raw, but I have found that healing is a very raw, emotional experience, and can only write from my heart and what I know.  Healing is a spiritual quest undertaken by emotional warriors, and I speak from experience when I say that going thru the raw pain, facing it, forgiving people, and seeing that it didn't break me, is what healed me in the end. 

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my weight.

I started out life as a preemie, 4.5 pounds at 8 months.  My mother smoked, drank and took prescription pills. She was a paranoid psychophrenic.  It was no wonder I was a preemie.  My parents worried that I was too thin, and as a child I was given a glass of beer for dinner to help 'fatten me up'.  It was only when I was about 7 or 8 years old that I declared I would no longer drink the beer at the dinner table.  And, it was only when I was in school that I learned that this was not the norm.

I was always the 'fat kid' in the class, in the dorky clothes and the bad haircut. I was shy and anxious & had a hard time making friends.  My father moved us around several times in my childhood as he bought properties in Los Angeles.  I seemed to always be the 'new kid' in school and for a long time I didn't unpack several boxes of my things because he was always talking about the next move.  I learned not to make friends because just as I did, we were moving again to a new house he had bought.

There was a lot of emotional abuse growing up. Lots of giving me things and then taking them away. Pets would disappear if my father was angry. Physical abuse to this day I am not sure of, so I can only say my mother suspected it & accused my father of it, but if it did happen it is repressed so deeply in me that I have not been able to bring it to the surface.  Conditional love was the norm.  Again, I always thought this was how all families functioned.  When I realized it wasn't, I learned to hide behind a mask and pretend everything was all right.

I hope that by blogging about my experiences you will find something that will help you on your own
healing journey.