Demons in my head

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I am heavy hearted. I have come to a ginormous realization, the kind that changes your life. I don’t know why it happened yesterday as nothing unusual was going on. But I have had a huge personal breakthrough.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my weight. My first Weight Watchers meeting was when I was 13. I can’t recall what I weighed but at the time I felt very large and had what I thought was a big tummy. Looking back I’m surprised they let me join. And since then, I have done almost every diet plan out there. I have ranged from 111-199 pounds in the last 32 years. Right now I am nearing my highest point again and this time it is REALLY REALLY bothering me.

Part of my big realization is the fact that I can not stand when I hear women berate themselves over their weight or their appearance. I am quick to correct them and tell them something beautiful about themselves or remind them that their legs work so they should be grateful. This pet peeve has come around in the last 5-10 years as I have watched the media destroy women over their appearance and it kills me. I used to be SO hard on myself at such an early age, and I let so much of it go.

Or so I thought… One part of my realization is that I still talk very ugly to myself but I do so way down deep, ever so quietly. Its almost worse to think you are kind and loving to yourself and realizing your thoughts are vicious. I am not nearly as outspoken about my disgust at my body, even in my own mind… I just call myself ugly things. I am my own bully.

In the apartment we are living in now, you come out of the bedroom and right in front of you is the bathroom counter with the mirror. You can quickly turn into the living space and not look at the mirror.  But if you are heading to the sink or the toilet, you are facing it head on. I see myself walk to the bathroom every morning and all I quietly think is ‘gross’ or ‘disgusting’. You see what I mean? My daily thoughts of telling myself I am worthless or lazy for not exercising have gotten so much better. I talked myself out of those thoughts… yet my demons still lurk.

As you all probably know, assuming you are all my friends that read this blog, my daughter has lost 135 pounds. She is 17. I have watched her transform herself by doing all the healthy things we are told to do: smaller portions, more water, no eating past 7pm, no soda, no snacking. She is a TRUE inspiration (130poundsgone on Instagram) and yet I lived with her and continued to gain weight. I am asked often ‘why did she decide to lose weight?’ which I think is an interesting question. I think she just got tired of being over 260 pounds as a teenager. And yesterday I got tired of being over 190.

Having MS is hard on a body. I remember when I was diagnosed at 27 and the doctors said I would ‘age early’. They said I would know the feeling of stiff joints and loss of flexibility before others my age due to the disease. I didn’t register what that meant. I educated myself on the BEST way to take care of myself with this disease. So I started on my regimen of MS medication and a new dose of supplements every day and I lost weight. I had lots of baby weight still on, as my daughter was 5 months old when I was diagnosed in April. By Christmas of that year I was down to 135 lbs and feeling really great. I thought I had this MS thing all under control.

And then the depression hit. By April of the next year I was so depressed I could hardly get out of bed. I was looking at a two story deck, while my children were playing next to me, and wondering if I would do enough damage if I jumped off it. I was not well. I put on 20 lbs in 2 months. I ended up having to change my MS medicine as we realized that was the culprit of the depression. I went from a weekly IM injection to a every other day SQ injection. I got better but never got as healthy as I was at the Christmas before. The depression monster started lurking around regularly, always reminding me it was right there whenever I wanted to chat.

Over the next decade I switched my MS medication again due to another bout of depression (this time it was a daily SQ injection), saw many therapists, took various doses of antidepressants and analyzed the shit out of myself. I beat myself up internally on a level that was never healthy. I acted strong and confident on the outside while I ate all kinds of junk late night and buried my pain and fear in all kinds of things. I searched for answers and slowly began peeling back the onion of my heart to figure out who I really was.

Then a few years ago I was introduced to Brené Brown‘s work. She is a shame researcher from the University of Houston and has written several books. Between my latest therapist at the time, and The Gifts of Imperfection, I started valuing myself a little more. Then in Spring of 2016 I did the Living Brave online class with my sister and Brené officially became my new (virtual) therapist. Her work opened my eyes to all kinds of things. I started seeing the world as a more beautiful place (and really meaning it.)

As my weight has slowly crept up again with this new move and living in a small apartment, I realized I am still not balanced. I was strong enough to give myself an injection everyday for 12 years but continued to secretly hide my pain in a bag of chips or popcorn. I made a million excuses to why I ‘couldn’t’ lose weight: MS, antidepressants, PCOS, you name it. I made excuses about how I couldn’t push myself physically because I couldn’t let my core get hot, while the whole time I was sitting with 50+ pounds around my middle and not exercising in the name of overall health. What bullshit.

I take a handful of supplements and vitamins everyday because I have read they help the brain. I am willing to do what it takes to be as proactive with this disease, yet I have held on way too tight to my horrible eating habits as a way of comfort. I overeat. I snack late at night. Yes, I’m gluten free, for my health…ha! But I can eat a whole box of GF cookies in one sitting. It’s not about what you eat, as my daughter has shown me, it’s about HOW MUCH. And more importantly, it’s about how much do you value and LOVE yourself? Food has always been my crutch, but no more.

I am committing to forgiving myself for the way I have abused my body. I am learning, at 45 years old, what balance really looks like. And no matter what we think, we have to dig deep down and ask ourselves what we are really thinking when we walk in front of the mirror, to the bathroom in the morning.

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I wasn’t just LAZY

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So now that I have sufficiently scared my husband into thinking I’m going to bankrupt us, I can go back to talking about my MS and how I got to where I am today. But first let me say that this shopping thing is real. I laid in the bathtub and shopped, the night after my last post, for awhile before I even realized what I was doing. I shopped for household goods that we need but I didn’t order anything. So progress I guess…

And speaking of progress, let me update you on my diet since I left you there. I did follow the Paleo Diet for the full 90 days and felt amazing. I regained my life back in a mere 3 months and ‘ate’ every word I ever said about diet being unable to affect my MS symptoms. I was shocked at my results. I had not had this level of energy for years. I felt GREAT.

Growing up as a teenager especially I remember having times of feeling extremely LAZY. My family would want to do something remotely athletic and I would dread it. Even skiing, which I loved, was becoming a chore. I perpetually thought I just didn’t move enough because I was a firm believer that “energy breeds energy,” as that was how I was raised. If I’d get off my ass I would feel much better but yet there were times it seemed impossible.

After my diagnosis I remember feeling justified. See, you suckers, I wasn’t lazy, I was SICK! It explained why I could always sleep longer and sounder than anyone else. The belief is that MS starts developing in your teens and is a culmination of a series of things that cause someone to develop it. It’s quite fascinating if you read the linked page about the 4 things that must be in play for MS to develop. It’s like russian roulette, and I got the chamber with the bullet.

For years I used to drag myself around the house. I would sit on the couch all day because my limbs felt like they weighed 300 pounds each. I would sit on the floor with my kids when they were little and fall asleep. Let me tell you, it’s pretty scary to wake up and realize you have been asleep while your young children are playing by themselves! I have missed school pickups, school parties, sporting events, birthdays and all because I was too tired to get there. If I ask my kids what I was like when they were young they say “asleep”. It breaks my heart.

Right after I was diagnosed someone emailed me this story. It is called ‘The Spoon Theory.’ It is written by Christine Miserandino about her explanation of life with a chronic illness. When I first read it I felt like my MS experience was finally put into words. I sent it to all my family and friends and tried to explain to my young kids. I can remember my daughter asking me, ‘how many spoons do you have today Mommy?’ But I had a hard time knowing how many spoons I had. I simply knew they were running low and it was only 10am.

Not long after I was sent this story, we bought our first iPod. We thought it was the greatest thing ever and after using it for awhile I felt like I could relate better to the battery on it than actual spoons. I think I struggled because I was never sure how many spoons I ‘should’ have when the day started. Some days I would wake up with 4 and some days 20. But the battery on the iPod suddenly became more tangible and I started adjusting the spoon theory to the battery. Then my daughter’s question became ‘how much battery do you have Mommy?’ and I felt like I could give her an answer that made more sense.

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The hardest thing about MS for me has been the fatigue. I would wake up some days, after sleeping 10-12 hours and still be in the ‘red’ on my battery. I would have to stay close to home all day because I needed to be plugged in to my bed. I can remember going to the grocery store, for years, and being so overstimulated by the lights and choices that I would have Rusty meet me at home to carry the groceries in and put them all away. I had to go straight to the couch. When I gave up the things in my diet that increased my inflammation, that all went away for me. I was back to being the ‘energizer bunny’ I had been when I was younger…and it scared me.

When I first got my energy back I remember being so scared that I would do something and it would all go away. I knew I couldn’t keep up the strict Paleo diet so I started adding things back in slowly to see what I could tolerate and what I couldn’t. I realized that gluten was definitely my BIG TRIGGER for the fatigue. I could envision it coursing through my body gobbling up my energy as if it was PacMan. I don’t believe gluten caused my MS but taking it out of my diet definitely decreased the systemic inflammation I had and made me feel so much better.

I still have maintained the gluten free lifestyle. Occasionally I will get ‘glutened’ and I get instant headaches and fatigue. It takes 14 days to get the gluten out of your system, so I get real strict after that. I can have a bite or two if it is a small ingredient and not be too bothered, but I know for me it is something to watch. My next ingredient I really need to work on is SUGAR. But just like I could never imagine giving up bread, I am dreading the idea of no sweets. As with gluten, I think I will eventually enjoy the way I feel much more than what those bites are worth.

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All you need is A duck

My name is Lou Thompson. I am a 45 year old female, living in Lakewood, Colorado. I am married and have two children. I am someone who loves to think and talk and analyze. I love to learn and to research. And I love to craft, with paper.

I have had a blog that I rarely posted on for many years. It was mostly about crafting with some personal things thrown in. This one is new and is going to be DIFFERENT.

Different you ask? How? Why?

And the reason is that I have something to say. And even more to hear. And things to share.

In 2000 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which is very mild for me. Thank heavens! If you walked into my office/craft room now you would never know. If you spent 2 hours with me, you would never know. Except that I would probably tell you, as it does play a part in who I am today. I wish I could say it plays a small part. But I would be lying, because it has impacted my life tremendously in the past 17 years. I am not going to list all the ways it has now, as that would take hours, but it will come up again. And it plays into my decision making considerably. It also is a reason I had the epiphany I had that leads to today.

After struggling with this disease and symptoms of numbness and tingling, I was hospitalized over the July 4th weekend in 2004. I was experiencing numbness to the point that I couldn’t tell if I was done going to the bathroom or not. So before I lost control of my bowel or bladder I decided it was time to call the neurologist. He immediately wanted me admitted for a 5 day round of IV steroids.

My children were 6 and 4 at the time. We were living in Winter Park, Colorado. We were 75 miles from the hospital and the IV steroids had caused blood sugar issues for me in the past. So we took the kids to my parents and headed down the mountain.

I received the treatments and had various routine tests performed. The second day I was there I was seen by the doctor on call, who happened to be Dr. Allen Bowling, who is a renowned Neurologist and MS Specialist. He explained that what we had seen in the last 4 years of following my disease was a classic case of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. He said what we had found this time was a case of Spinal Multiple Sclerosis, which was a totally different ballgame. He said I had two inflamed lesions on my spinal cord that were very close together. He said these were what was causing the extreme numbness in my groin and the right side of my body. He said the problem with the location of these two lesions was that if a third developed in the same location, or one of them grew to be much larger, I had a very strong chance of being paralyzed from that point down…

What? Did you say paralyzed?

And I sat there and thought, what the fuck? So for the next 3 days I prayed and I thought and I asked God to very clearly show me or tell me how to prevent that from happening and how to not have to be hospitalized again. I cried. I moped. And I waited…And the only message I kept hearing over and over was, ‘be. just be.’ But I had no idea what that meant.

The IV steroids helped my numbness. I did end up needing insulin twice in the 5 days, so it was a good thing I was there. But then I went home, with a round of 10 days of oral steroids (Prednisone) that started at 80mg the first day. If you don’t know anything about Prednisone, I will tell you, they suck. They fix things but they mess with you. Bad. I hardly slept for weeks. They wire me so that I would stay up all night and play The Sims video game on Playstation or shop online. I would journal, as I had since my early teens, and read.

At this time in my life I had an active youth program going at our church that I had started. I met with 25-30 high school kids on a monthly basis and contacted over 100 by mail. Remember, we lived in a very small town so this was a big success. I loved it but it was also very draining on me, as I was terrible at setting personal boundaries. The time was coming to get programing started again for the school year but it wasn’t coming together for me and all I kept thinking about was what I had heard in the hospital. ‘be. just be.’

After sitting with that for about two months I finally felt very at peace to just walk away from my Youth program and take care of myself for once. I was not good at that. I still thought a lot and prayed a lot about what ‘be. just be.’ meant. And one day in September I got another line. It was ‘you are enough just in who you are.’ And suddenly ‘be. just be.’ made perfect sense.

Since that time I have challenged and challenged that message. I have changed careers several times. I have jumped into things that wore me out in the end and every time I would get frustrated and wonder how I let this happen again. I was quick to forget that all I needed to do was ‘be. just be.’ and that was enough.

Now here I sit at 45 years old. My children both have their own apartments. I have left Winter Park and we are settling down in Denver. And I still struggle with ‘be. just be.’ I am a do-er and feel that my worth comes from what I do, how I perform, what kind of recognition I get… sound familiar?

This new blog is going to be my way to ‘be. just be.’ I am going to share my thoughts, questions, fears, love and me with the world. the REAL me. Not the bullshit one that I put out so often when I am not conscious enough to think about what I am doing.

So now you have processed and you think, ‘ok, but why the duck?’ I was listening to The Alison Show on her podcast recently and Alison said people are so afraid to get started sometimes because they think they need their ducks in a row first. And she said (and was paraphrasing Seth Godin)  ‘you don’t need your ducks in a row. You just need A duck. Just one. Just get started.’

So after all the years I have thought that I should put myself out there or write a book or something… I am starting. And here is my duck.

enjoy.