Saturday, August 15, 2015

Caregiver Transformation

A while back I would say that I finally hit bottom. I was contemplating suicide a lot, feeling like I couldn't do this anymore, there was no point to breathing anymore, not liking who I had become (not knowing who I was anymore) and feeling like being alive was just a detriment to my kids. It was getting bad. I felt no reason to leave the house, no reason to get dressed, and I withdrew from everyone and felt mostly anger and sadness.

I had struggled with my weight since my pregnancy 22 years ago but with Dean's injuries I was just throwing my health away by eating myself to death. I reached my heaviest at 256 lbs about two years after he returned home. I had no motivation to exercise or eat healthy. I was eating junk to FEED me some happiness that I longed for. Food was my happy place, my vacation from the shit I felt all the time, my pleasure, my new best friend. With the depression, I wasn't hardly getting off the couch but to walk to the bathroom a couple times a day. I was feeling pain in all of my body and really in my soul. I was disappointed in myself and didn't really realize that. I was in a position of blaming my circumstances for my actions.

I began to realize though that if something were to happen to me, what would Dean do? And even worse, what would my son do? All the other kids were grown and could take care of themselves but my husband could not take care of our youngest who's entire life had been filled with repetitive separations from his dad and whose only security had been in me. Even if I didn't die (I don't believe we control that at all), what if I got heart disease, had a heart attack, got type 2 diabetes, got cancer? Any of those things would so destructively affect my family and myself as there would be no one to help me either that I felt I needed to do something. I actually felt the immediacy of it. I felt that even if I couldn't control death or even sickness, there were things that I could strongly contribute to. I believe a healthy person could at least fight an illness better than an obese, depressed person could. I knew part of my depression was due to my shame in letting myself get this far gone.

What could I do? I'd been heavy for almost two decades.

I went to a wounded warrior wife retreat and met a thin woman there who I found out had had gastric bypass surgery and had lost over 100 lbs. and the best part was that it was covered by TriCare. I felt like this lifted a veil off my eyes! I thought "This was my ticket out of this hell"...and really I believed it would work for me wonderfully! I attended an informational meeting about WLS (weight loss surgery) and began the process of getting insurance approval for the surgery. Dean didn't like the idea one bit but I knew I had to do it or else I wouldn't survive. When you feel your choices are die by suicide or drastically change your body's internal organs and make sacrifices for the rest of your life, it makes that 2nd option seem like a good deal. Now I was motivated! Now I would do anything to survive!

To have my insurance approve the surgery would be a year long journey of tests and other hoops to jump through. I checked each thing off the list and got to the final hoop. I needed to lose 5% of my body weight. Ok...that was about 13 lbs. I could do it. I was almost at the finish line! The day (surgery) that would be the beginning of a better life.

With this new motivation I got up the courage to join a local exercise group. I surrounded myself with others who struggled and it worked well for me because none of the other ladies were skinny-minis. After a few months I felt like I was getting in better shape but wasn't seeing too much difference on the scale. I just counted it as going in the right direction and kept plugging away. I investigated the nutrition piece. I needed to make dietary changes because 1) I needed to lose 5% of my weight and 2) I realized that I should practice eating differently since after surgery I'd have to eat different for the rest of my life. I bought a nutribullet and began drinking my vegetables (I hate vegetables) and that was a big key for me! I had also begun drinking alkaline water which let me FEEL the affects of food on my stomach for the first time. That led me to giving up fast food and soda. These three changes jumpstarted changes on the scale. I was losing weight...which I had done many times before but could never keep it off. It's ok because this time I'd have the surgery and THAT would take over and assist me from my sticking point all the way to my end goal.

I had forgotten the exact number the scale needed to show for ins approval and with the differences in scales and times of day I weighed myself, I knew I was in the ballpark of my 13 lbs loss and so made an appointment with my doctor to get it documented. By the time I got in to the doctor the scale told a story that really surprised me - I had lost 30 lbs and really weight was just dropping fast now. Well I didn't think anything of that 30 lbs loss except that I was happy to be for the surgery.

My insurance denied my request for surgery. After going through the psych eval, the sleep study, the nutrition classes, the swallow test, the gag reflex test, the 6 doctor visits with documentation that I "struggled with losing weight on my own", and now with my 12% weight loss I thought I was golden! But NO! My insurance said that if I was able to lose 12% of my bodyweight then I was able to lose weight on my own and so was disqualified for the surgery!

I was so freaking mad! I can't even explain how angry I was. I had worked my ass off for a year for this and now nothing? I had been able to get down to 200 lbs many times in the past but then always plateaued there until I eventually I would give up and eat the weight back on. I was sick of the up and down and up and down and the feeling like my weight owned me.

Now I had a different motivation though. The future of my family was resting on my success and I was already getting my nutrition in line and exercising so fine....I'll try this one last time!

I continued. I was succeeding and slowly got past my 200 lbs sticking point down to 179 lbs. I was ecstatic. Then some life happened and we bought a house and moved and my whole schedule and routines got all messed up. I struggled. Without all the supports I had built up around me, I began to fail again. I questioned why would this be happening to me again. Why could I not seem to do this ON MY OWN! Why did I need all this support? Was it the supports that were really doing the succeeding? I tried to keep a hold of my success as I slowly slipped backwards....creeping back up to 199 lbs. Shit! I gained 20 lbs this year??? OH NO, I was NOT going back dammit! I tried to build some new supports - that worked last time. Every time I built supports, they broke. A person flaked, a place closed, the class times changed, etc, etc. I felt that God was telling me "YOU MUST DO THIS BY YOURSELF". I didn't understand this at all! Or maybe instead of trying to understand, I was throwing an internal tantrum and telling God "But I don't wanna do it like that"! "I want help"!

It occurred to me that He wanted me to do this on my own (with Him as my support) because He knew I would then carry the strength within me that I had done it on my own, I could do it on my own, and no credit could be given to a trainer or my friends or my gym or classes but it was ME. It was the same words but reframed in the loving way of God rather than of the earthly way of me who wasn't getting what I wanted.

Many, many months prior I had purchased 21 Day Fix from an infomercial on TV. I took it out of the box and read through it. I realized that it would be challenging but it wasn't impossible. I actually could do this all on my own at my house. I even had a spare room with enough space! All I needed to do was to press play everyday and show up. This time though I was carrying the emotional weight of my family's future on me. I needed to do this for them! For me, but for them. I had to survive and become able to fight future battles that could wait in the shadows.

I did it. At first it was sparse, and I got better and better at doing it consistently. I stuck with it. I saw weight loss EVERY WEEK! This really kept feeding my motivation! My clothes were getting looser every month! Wow...I was doing this! Along the way I had to make other psychological, emotional, and mental changes which were 100% necessary at completing this transformation. I learned that from the beginning, my weight wasn't about my weight and it wasn't about the food. It was about my hiding from feeling bad, lonely, unlovable, unworthy, and ashamed. My eyes were opened to how I spoke to myself and about myself. I realized I would NEVER talk to any other person that way, I'd never talk to my children that way, but inside was this hurt child and I was talking to HER that way!

I've been writing an entire blog about my journey but I will end this blog entry with a quick summary. Through this journey with Dean's injuries and the loneliness I faced, the grief over the loss of my future and of my best friend/partner/lover, the emotional turmoil I'd hidden about my new role and my new future.....the pain goes on and on.....but I didn't allow myself to feel any of it with any depth. I knew it was there but I just distracted myself with tasks, I fed myself pleasure, and I just denied. Along the way I had listened to Brene Brown's book on tape about vulnerability (Daring Greatly) and that really helped me see what I was doing to myself. I learned that deep down I didn't feel worthy and I had to remedy this.

Now....I've lost a total of 110 lbs. I got a tummy tuck to remove all my excess skin. I found my self again. I am not at the end of my journey....I'm in the middle of it....and the journey surely changed many times along the way. I do not suffer from caregiver fatigue anymore. I learned that I have to put me first. I matter. I am worth being healthy, feeling vibrant, being alive, and being happy. I learned that other people cannot make me feel those things or have those things, they only come as a result of ME giving it to myself! That is freedom right there! I will never NEED anyone else to fill me up. I fill me up with God's help! No one else gets the credit to my success. Now I get it!

Here is a link to my very unfinished blog about my self-discovery through weight loss, in case you find it helpful:

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