Friday, December 21, 2012

Year End Thoughts

First I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Hug yourself, love yourself, and love the people around you as much and as best you can.  Life is short, and life is very often harder than it is easy, but it is sweet.

And it is worth it.

When I got sick, I was feeling guilty for taking time off work, and not being able to cope and the list sort of just went on and on and on...A friend said to me "Stop talking like that and tell me what you would be saying if it were cancer or something else."

It was dead simple, and he was 100% right.  So I leave you with this.  Know that this year seems to be tougher for a lot of us struggling with depression and anxiety than it seems other years have been.  So, if you're hurting, know you're absolutely not alone.

Also know that I think we're finally hitting a precipice where we're going to learn that the stats of 1 in 5 people struggling with the things we struggle with is largely understated.  That number is more like 25%-33% of all people are dealing with depression and other mental illnesses that are debilitating, crippling, and life altering.

Know that there is help and there is a reason to live and there's a damn good reason to not let this beat you.  You are loved.  If by no one else.  You are loved by me.  I wish I could reach out and hold your hand for real, but I am always here to listen too.  If you need someone right this moment, please call your local distress hotline.  They care about you too.

And at Christmas remember that giving to someone else, anything at all, whether it is time, a smile (even one that is forced through your very own tears) can make the difference between someone hurting themselves and living another day.  One smile, handshake or even holding the door open, can set off a chain reaction of love and kindness that can truly save lives and make the world a brighter place.  Paying a kindness to someone else, can save you too.  Try, please.  For me and for yourself.  See firsthand how it can fill your heart and replace your pain.

With love in my heart, I wish you all a safe and joy filled holiday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Cloak of Invisibility

So my weight has long been my cloak of invisibility.  Not only is it the one thing that makes mobility difficult enough that I often stick out like a sore thumb.  But it's the very same thing that helps me hide from the world and live quite comfortably in a role of observer.

We attended the orientation session last night for the bariatric surgery program at the hospital.  It was nothing I didn't already expect.  And as I sat there, I felt myself hunkering down.  Preparing for battle.  This is going to be one of the toughest wars I'll wage in my lifetime.  But I already knew that.  It's the toughest, and longest  hard fought battle I've dealt with in my life so far.  How could the final hill be won with any less blood, sweat and tears than I have already invested?

The session was really our opportunity to learn what we didn't already know and to firmly feel the gravitas that is this final decision to alter our metabolic system was really going to be.  Think Top Gun, the scene where they're all being told that they are about to be flying for their careers and that only one of them will be Top Gun.

It was that, only for fat people.  And instead of hearing "you're the best of the best", we heard a lot of "Don't waste our fucking time and money.  Leave now if you're not absolutely fucking serious about this.  Now.  Did you hear me?  Right fucking now."

And that sorta threw me for a loop.  Who in their right mind goes through all the effort of dieting, and failing, and dieting and failing, and beating themselves up endlessly, long enough to finally throw their hands in the air, and make the appointment with their family doctor, only to confess in the most public way any of us ever could dream of having to do it, that they can not succeed without extreme intervention?  The kind of extreme intervention that can only be offered at 5 hospitals in the province and has a 6 month waiting list just for a session in which we can be berated and demeaned further by a nurse, dietitian and social worker about wasted fucking time.  Where we discover it will be another 3-6 months before we even get to meet with a surgeon.  Where we sit for two hours and take it graciously despite the fact that the voices in our head who have beat us up all our lives for being worthless and fat are laughing maniacally at your treatment of us.

Apparently they didn't get the memo that I just spent the last six months worrying about heart attacks, strokes, and the fact that I might or might not see Christmas with my daughter, while they were jockeying their agendas and accusing other people who live with the same fears about waking up the next morning about not taking this seriously, wasting their time and potentially even punishing them for being lazy enough to need their services in the first fucking place.

The purpose of the program and for the rigors it includes is that it's meant to help people really succeed with this.  I imagine the tough love is intended to weed out the weak and make room for the brave.  These are going to be the people who support us through the surgical journey pre and post operative, for as much as five years after the surgery is over and done with.  Somehow I'm hoping that their bedside manner outside of that orientation is a million times more supportive, otherwise I can see my ass being "kicked out of the program" for being insubordinate.  Taxes paid be damned.

So begins my journey.  Through all the pain that has been and all that is to come, I'm fighting my fight tooth and nail, sip by sip, and mashed up food for the win.  My next appointment with the specialists is in March - 3 more months of fretting over what could happen between now and then.  But I'll be damned if they are going to kick me out of this program and call me weak, lazy, worthless.  My next round of tests is on Monday and then look out world.  When all of this is done, I'll use my extra skin as a shield and I'll show my child what it is like to be healthy and happy and able.  I'll show my child that she is the prize I fight for daily.  That she is my entire reason for living.  And she is my strength in beating something that has beaten me down for so many years.

And when my last appointment is done, I hope I get to tell those bitches who called a room full of desperate and disappointed people lazy and worthless, how lazy and worthless they really are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Knitting Our Own Nets

So, the last week or so has been emotionally challenging for me.  For no good reason.  Just likely the pressures of the season and a whole lot of missing my loved ones who are no longer with me.  The notice about my surgery consultation, coupled with holiday and work stuff, and my daughter's uncanny timing with trying to assert slightly more independence has been a lot to absorb.  Fitting in all these pre-op tests with work and making the magic of Christmas miraculously happen without seeming to take the effort we all know it takes - possibly a little too much.  I'm on the brink of tears probably 50 minutes of every single waking hour, and I'm barely sleeping.

Today I met up with long time friends of mine for our annual "festive special" celebration at le Swisse Poulet.  And what would ordinarily be an energized couple of hours sharing gift bags full of baking and happy stories of things that have happened since we saw each other last in the summer, turned quickly into a sad story sharing experience that left me honestly ravaged.  One of my friends announced that she's separating from her husband and when asked why, I suddenly realized it could have been me sharing precisely the same story today.  I realized quickly that I'm lucky my husband has made the efforts he has.  Otherwise it likely would have been me sharing this very news.  My daughter's godfather is also part of this crew, and when I first met up with him for our lunch today, he quickly asked me about my mental health issues, and confided that he has been feeling extremely unhappy and that he's now seeing his family doctor.  My heart broke for him, because let me tell you, the last thing you want to hear is that someone you love dearly is now experiencing the same thing you've survived.  ESPECIALLY when you still struggle with it, and you have the tools to help you cope.  And the third part of our foursome is also dealing with some sadness that is related to the loss of a loved one.  Between all four of us, we have been so dramatically impacted by our losses and we have seen each other through the darkest hours, that to see us all come to this screeching halt, and see us all stiffening our lip and squaring off our shoulders to brace ourselves for the next hit, was so remarkably poignant and disheartening all at once.

I love these people.  I think they love me just as much.  We don't see or talk to one another nearly as often as any of us would wish to, but I do believe we always know we're still there for one another.  At least I hope we all feel that way.

In driving my friend back to work after our lunch, I reminded him of some of the things he told me when I first got sick.  I tried to reassure him that it was manageable, that he could do this, and that his people love him.  He was quick to exit because he's not used to this kind of attention or needing to be this vulnerable.  And that's when it struck me.  We're struggling because we've let our own hand made safety net pull and stretch and now there are some rather large holes and we're afraid of slipping through.

And that how it struck me.  We need to "re-knit our net".  We need to catch each other and build one another up once we have landed each other safely on the shoreline.  And maybe our lunch was step one of that, but in any event, this should be true for everyone who suffers with mental illness like depression.  And particularly for the loved ones of those affected by a mental illness.  They need you to knit their net for them. The worst fear anyone with depression or anxiety disorder is that they'll fail and fall, and get lost completely.  It's absolutely terrifying to be in that position where ever step you take feels like it's on the edge of a slippery cliff.  10,000 feet into the summit of a mountain, and when you look over the edge, it's so steep a drop you can't tell if the net even exists.  We need that net.  Everyone does.  So, if you're reading this, and you know a loved one has been down a lot lately.  Reach out.  Do whatever you can to pull them out of their funk.  You won't know you've been successful til you've not given up on them.  It takes time, but every single phone call, every single touch, and every single kind word knits another catch in their safety net.

As we approach Christmas, this kind of effort is never more important than it is for that person right this moment, today.  Pick up your phone and dial the numbers.  Leave a message and say "I love you".  You might be amazed at how uplifted you even feel by having said it.