Sunday, August 28, 2016

Body Image Issues Be Strong - And This Post Be Long

:::stands up:::

Hi. My name is Tina and I have body image issues.

"Hi, Tina."

:::sips water and prepares to get vulnerable for a quick minute or 10:::

You know, I just find it so ironic how I have these daily, hourly, mostly constant chats with God, be it out loud or in my head, and I still haven't learned that...when I ask to be shown something, boy do I ever get hit over the head with it. I'm guessing that's because God knows I need that sort of delivery. My mind moves way too fast and distraction is far too prevalent in me for subtlety. Isn't that a strangely spelled word? Who did that?

See? Distraction.

Anyway. My ramblings went something like this: "I feel restless. Don't know why. Everything is good, so this doesn't make sense. Just show me what it is.  And You know how I am, so make it clear." I guess I'd liken that conversation to Step 7, but I never really had the attention span to work the steps and ended up tangled in steps/principles like the cord of my headphones after I've shoved them in my pocket. There's more than one way to heal, thank goodness ;)

I started those ramblings a couple months ago. Since then, I've seen friends make bold social media posts, sharing their stories of struggles with self and body image. The "open letters" to moms on the beach.  Bathing suit season will bring those feelings of shame and inadequacy and comparison straight to the surface, right?  It's become a recurring theme all around me.

"Oh, that? No, God. I don't need to work on that. I'm good.  Really."

But, more posts surfaced...then messages at church that spoke to our perceptions of our worth...conversations with friends over coffee...and finding myself on the receiving end of an absolutely beautiful person's sharing of her own struggles with unworthiness and self image, to which I was completely dumbfounded and immediately said - well, after listening - "Wait. Stop. You're absolutely beautiful. I don't know why you would ever feel less than that.  That is not how I see you.  How anyone sees you.  And it's definitely not how God sees you."

"What's that, Lord?  I just gave her all that truth, but can't own it for myself?  Well.  I still don't really want to work on it.  I'm good, seriously..."

A couple of weeks or so ago, I had been feeling kinda blah, because the school year is starting shortly, which means I need to start presenting to work as if others will actually see me.  My usual "week's worth of clothing" hangs in the closet.  Pants that aren't of good quality, meaning they've frayed and faded after too many washings, but I make them work. Five or six feasible tops - some of which are really old, but I make them work. One pair of shoes that are scuffed (thanks, ms!), but I make them work. I tell myself, "At least I don't get stuck in my closet anymore like I used to. There aren't any choices to weigh my mind down. Everything gets worn once. Let's call it 'simplification' and pretend I'm using it as an ms coping strategy! Yes! That will make me look resourceful and savvy." And that looks much better than the truth, which makes me vulnerable...

The vulnerable truth is - when I look in the mirror, I see something that others do not see.

This has been a struggle since I was a small child. I remember being in kindergarten, hating the image in the mirror. I started taking laxatives when I was about 10, but that didn't make me thin. As a teenager, I resorted to a regimen similar to what wrestlers followed when they wanted to make weight. Work out hard, wear trash bags and sit in the sauna, eat as little as possible, then eat all the things late at night after getting super hungry, feel horrible about overeating, beat self up with typical "you're fat and worthless" self-talk, work out harder, eat less, eat more, rinse and repeat. And, above all else...plaster on happy face, never let anyone in, because I had to keep my secrets game strong. "You're only as sick as your secrets", right?  That is a very powerful statement for me.  By the grace of God, over the course of several years, I've unearthed and dealt with all the roots of that too-many-years-long-mess-that-took-on-several-faces.  I've come to see goodness in the face staring back at me in the mirror.  But, the struggle to look at my body is still very real.  

MS totally has not helped this body image sitch. I'm no longer able to work out in the same ways I did, nor can I run, nor can I sit in saunas, nor do I view big trash bags as attire - come on, that's funny. I have to approach my exercise with caution and cannot push my muscles to the point of burning, which had always felt strangely fabulous to me, because now it just results in terrible spasms. My legs have become dimpled and unsightly from sitting.  Always had a belly, even back in the extreme work out days.  I can hate on my arms, too.  It's all so easy for me to do.

But seriously. Back to the clothes thing. A week or so ago (see how God kept hitting me over the head, time after time and thing after thing?), I received a message from a friend, who asked if I'd like to come take a look at some clothing she was unloading. I *knew* that nothing would fit my short and sturdy self, but she's seriously one of the most fun people to be around, so why not? I figured I would simply hold the pieces up, determine them not to fit, and just enjoy that half hour or so of hang time.

Instead? She showed me what seemed to be endless pairs of brand new, beautiful dress pants and jeans. In my exact size. The quality of these pants is unlike anything I have ever worn. As if I wasn't already spoiled? *Several* new pairs of capri sweatpants for the gym! Who am I kidding! Capri sweats for the gym AND the sofa!!!  But then, it got real.  Sweaters and tops were next.  When she announced that we were doing this, meaning I was trying them on, I started with a panic attack.  I thought to myself, "No.  I am not allowing anxiety to ruin this day (yes you are, your heart is coming through your chest). Clearly, this is exactly what God is trying to show me (not here, not now, no thanks).  Get over yourself (can't), get in the powder room (don't wanna), and put this stuff on (not gonna fit me, way too fat for every last one of those tops).  Then?  Walk out there (seriously? in front of everyone?) and (be judged)...okay, whatever.  Hold your breath if you must, but just rip the band aid off already (kinda wanna pass out now), open the door (still wanna pass out), and go (legs are shaking, but okay then...and we're walking...)."

Digression alert (italics time):  I've written before about my personal level of hell that is "being all up in the dressing room", because you know what's waiting for me in there? The multitude of mirrors. One glance in any direction reflects my entire body from angles unimaginable. What is *that* about? "Oh doesn't this look flattering if I'm standing completely still and people are approximately 165 degrees to my left? I'm totally getting this." Then, I put it on in the morning and decide it's hideous. I'll never wear it. Instead, I'll shove it to the far left of my closet and donate it.  I also struggle with sizing. My clothes are too big, because that's how I hide. From my window tint to my giant hooded sweatshirts to my pink Phillies hat...pulled down right to my eyes.  Straight up hermit who has to consistently check thyself against isolating.   /digression

When I finally walked out of the powder room, where I had no way to hide, I was met with compliments and smiles and love and a little bit of "what are you talking about, that looks really nice!"-ities.  Because I was busy playing the "I don't think this looks okay" record.  Not every single thing worked for me, but many things did.  And so?

This is a picture of my upgraded closet.  See the hangers that are not wire?  Yep.  She gave me those as well.  I'm moving up, y'all:

I can't possibly explain the joy that I am feeling over these clothes.  I'm not comfortable yet in several pieces, but I have already begun to challenge myself by wearing them.  My eyes don't see contrast differences in certain shades of peach, pink, salmon, or lighter oranges all that well (thanks, ms!), so I was all the more grateful to have ended up with colors I could easily match.  How perfect was it that one top had a matching peach/pink/salmon or lighter orange (because I honestly don't know what it is) already paired with it?  As long as I can keep those two together, I should be good to go!  And speaking of challenges?  I thought I might go to the store and try this dressing room throwdown again.  I mean, if I could stand in front of 50 people at my friend's house (or maybe it was just 4 or 5 people), surely I could conquer the dressing room!  Or at least kick it in the face more than before.  Which I did.  I even made some new BFFs in the salesgirls along the way.   

My heart is smiling.  My closet is full.  My BFF list grew by 3 in the past 24hrs.  And someday, with my Lord's help, I will be able to see the beauty in myself that I so automatically see in others.  ;)

/end session 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

If I'm Lost, I Can Always Go Home To Find Myself

How can you explain being within a 5mi radius of the town you grew up in, yet not being able to find Target?

Oh the irony...

I think I've mentioned this strange phenomenon where I get all the symptoms of a migraine, yet my head only hurts at maybe a pain level of a 1-2.  I'm self-diagnosing that as a "silent" migraine.  Any formal dx would have to come from a doctor, meaning I'd actually have to go to a doctor.  Nausea, hearing and visual weirdness, word salads, taking upwards of "5 mississippi" to digest and answer questions, and this funky thing my brain does where it decides to 'not'.  Yet not completely 'not'.  Just some 'nots'.

For example:  My mental function was such that I could make sense of numbers and do high level things with them.  I could not, however, write a 2 sentence email in under 5 minutes.  And responding to a text message was a hot mess of bad spelling/sentence structure that would have made a series of clicks and grunts more coherent to those asking me questions.  "Answering questions" was on the list of nots, apparently.

See?  Migraine.  Without rip roaring, kinda-wanna-cry-but-that-hurts-too-much pain.

It seemed as if my thought processes cleared if I was up and moving around.  Therefore, when the nausea eased and my vision straightened itself out, I thought it may actually be a helpful sort of thing to take my daughter out to pick up the last of her college supplies.  We stopped by a produce stand in a neighboring town first, because I've been on this dinner cooking kick for the past several weeks.  Totally new for me since my very first flare and I have to say, I am enjoying it!  Well, until I set out from that stand to Target.

Italics symbolize the conversation my mind was having with itself:

Right turn here.  And there.  Left here.  Around the bend.  Where am I?  Oh crap.  Ok.  Right turn again.  A left should bring me out to...what the heck is this?  Wait wait.  Let me go back out the way I came.  Reverse all directions.  Back to familiar road from stand.  Right turn here again, because that is positively correct.  Right turn there.  "I'm sorry, Bean (daughter's nickname).  I know exactly where I am now.  Whew, I sometimes get turned around back on these roads!"  Left turn.  Wait.  Okay, no.  Just go right here.  Oh I love this song!  Am I out of bread?  I got 2 boxes of butter yesterday, but I should get more since I bought this corn.  Wait...where the heck am I again?  There's the airport.  "I'm really sorry, NOW I know exactly where I am.  When I was little, Mom would bring me here to watch the planes come in.  And Target is in front of the airport."  Right turn in front of airport.  Target isn't here, you idiot.  What the (not heck) am I doing?  It's near here, but I have no idea how to get to it.  I've been driving around for about a half hour.  I'm completely lost in my own town.  This is so embarrassing.  It's just like when the kids were little and...oh that's right...I know exactly what to do...

I admitted to my daughter that, okay, I'm lost.  And this had happened to me before (during a time of extreme stress).  What I'm going to do is...go home.  Home to where I grew up.  From there, I can find my way.  The twists and turns within my old neighborhood are easily navigated, stamped into my mind by love and warmth and nostalgia.  They bring back memories of no seat belts, Coke in glass bottles, listening to disco/soul music, and being with my mommy in our '72 Buick.  Walking to school, riding bikes to the family owned grocery store, buying individually wrapped pieces of their chocolate cake with caramel icing, and playing street hockey, frisbee football, and stick ball until I was called in from the top of the hill.

Home.  Circa 1972-1987:

There's something about my old home that helps me to restart, get centered, and clear the tripped circuitry in my brain.  It helps me to retro.  I remember talking about that (retro'ing) with my neurologist many years ago and she said that some people's minds will respond to stress by taking them back to times of comfort.

Stress?  Nah.  I've purposely not been allowing myself to feel that in light of my daughter going to college this week and my son getting his license.  When I've started to feel it, I've redirected my mind to something else.  Usually cooking.  Driving around looking for where they're selling that new cold brew coffee.  And laundry.  I have washed 3 towels, people.  That's just where I'm at right now.  It's like some strange version of nesting.  Maybe my beloved-and-now-retired neurologist was right.  Typical migraine triggers of stress...may actually now be "silent" migraine triggers.

I prefer these over the other layer of hell that migraines are.  Though, if I'm being honest and somewhat entitled, I'd love to not have the "migraine day 2, kinda wanna eat the top 2 rows of the refigerator, kinda wanna go to sleep on the kitchen floor" moments.  But first, kinda wanna hit the 'publish' button.  Ya know, so that anyone else who has these moments and feels a little crazy maybe doesn't feel so alone.  I'm with you.  Totally.

Thanks in advance for excusing any nonsense in my writing.  While day 2 is cognitively better, it ain't perfect.  Plus, kinda got jelly on my keyboard in an earlier feeding frenzy...and it's distracting...

Oh!  Here's an interesting article I found for those of us questioning our level of crazy and hesitating to call these things migraines, since the pain isn't particularly unbearable.  See?  We're not crazy.  Well.  Migraine crazy, at least.  I'm just not smart enough to paste this as a hyperlink.  Not today, at least ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pride Comes After The Fall...

That awkward moment when...

You're heading out into the kitchen to clean up and the dogs start arguing with one another, so you round the corner with that "I'm gonna break THIS nonsense up!" attitude.  And before you know it?

You're laying all over the floor.

See, when basset hounds drink water, they end up watering the floor in the process.  Fuzzy socks are suggested footwear.  Bare feet are an absolute hazard.

That's my PSA for the night.

The thud I made very well may have registered on the Richter Scale.  The pain that initially shot through my hip definitely earned some form of sad face on the hospital's pain scale.

Can I digress?  Wait.  Let me get into italics...

We've all been to the ER and had the triage nurse ask us to identify our pain level, right?  These faces.  There is no time in my life that I have presented to the ER and resembled any of these.  When I have been able to get to the ER with a migraine (rarely), I was barely mobile, shaking violently, hands clenched over face, asking for a vomit tray at the sign in sheet.  I always gave that a 7/8, because I couldn't see the faces to tell me otherwise.  That heart thing I had after taking a magic carpet ride migraine med?  There wasn't a corresponding "scared out of my mind" face.  I believe I gave that a 5/6, because it doesn't hurt when your heart has left your body and clung to the ceiling.  The results of the EKG felt I downplayed the severity and I won that no-expenses-paid, overnight stay in the luxurious cardiac floor.  With no coffee.  What was THAT about? And the kidney stones, which created writhing pain?  Again, no corresponding faces, but the nurse was able to properly assess based on my...words.  

Know what I think of when I see these faces?  I think of a dining experience at a new restaurant.  Excellent service, never running out of your beverage, food prepared to your liking?  0.  Wait staff taking the attitude of the last table out on me, not getting my sweet tea refilled, dry chicken and not enough butter for my baked potato?  10. 

/ end digression /

The thud.  The instant pain.  The customary inventory assessment of "how badly am I hurt, can my legs move with some sort of coordination, what's the best way to get back to my feet?" was interrupted by my son, who was clearly shaken:  "Should I call 911???"

And me, not really able to move my legs just yet, feeling the initial pain disappear into numbness and tingling, realizing there was no getting back to my feet in the immediate, yelled out:  "NO!  No no no.  I'm okay."

My husband came to see if he could help and saw me all twisted up on the floor.  I felt so sad that he had to see me that way.  I mean, it's Saturday night.  I wasn't dressed for the occasion.  I gave him the usual, "I got it. I'm good. Carry on.  Seriously."  But, it took a few minutes to get my arm and leg to do what they were supposed to do, which resulted in him coming *back* out to check on me.  In that moment, I was finally ready to accept his helping hand.  Sorta ready.  Okay, not emotionally ready, but more like recognizing and embracing the necessity.  Pride comes after the fall when you're me.

As my new and freshly laundered pajamas gently hold me, it is as if they are whispering, "Regardless of whether or not tomorrow is a high pain day, which it certainly has the propensity to be, on account of how the numbness is now transitioning into twinges of's okay.  It's going to be okay."

:::because pajamas would whisper and be totally supportive like that:::  

I also have a cat who likes to lay on the top of my desk chair.  Usually, he just hangs out.  But, tonight he's lending me his paw of my hair.  See?

Shout out to the solid construction of our home as well as to my chiropractor, who will put my Humpty Dumpty self back together again as soon as it's safe to push on me ;)