Thursday, December 19, 2013

I wanted to say "How much gung is in my ho?", but I was a little too grossed out to just leave it out there without comment

So it's been awhile, and this post won't come close to covering everything I'd want to, but that's a lot to chew for any occasional reader anyway.  Here's sort of an update, more or less:

The IUD doesn't bother me at all anymore.  I don't even know it's there.  I'm still spotting, though, and the doc thinks this is cause for concern.  I have another D&C scheduled for January, which means removing the IUD.  I believe that means putting a new one in afterwards, but I suppose it might depend on what she sees while she's in there poking around.  It might mean hysterectomy after all, which is ok with me, with caveats.  The operation could be problematic, as previously noted, and the recovery will definitely be -- I'll need to rely on the transit company to pick me up and take me to doctors' appts. and to the grocery store and stuff for about six weeks.  Also, I'm really engaged in the stuff I'm doing at work (wut did you say, Willis?!), so I don't really want to take that much time off at the moment (!?!?!?), and I'm about to start a 6-month program ... that may just need to be deferred for a bit, which is ok, but I'm all gung ho about it.

Relatively gung ho.  No, really gung ho.  Well, it's a sliding scale of gung ho-ness.  I finished the Hunger Within course just before Thanksgiving.  It continued to be stupendous.  I loved every minute of it.  Putting it all into practice is not second nature or anything, though, but I am much more mindful and I am making some better choices.  The question I try to ask myself is, "If I eat this, will it make me feel better?"  Often the answer is no -- let me make other plans.  I don't need to eat the office party leftovers.

All this is good, because the 6-month program (which recommends the HW workshop to its participants) is a metabolic fitness thing run by the university's cardivascular folks.  It's a real full-service shop, with a team of helpful people helping you reach your goal.  My goal is, of course, to not get cancer and to lose the fat that is pushing me in that direction, to lower my blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on -- to stop having to take medication to control those things, and to be able to live a healthy and active life, again, finally.  It includes a regulated Mediterranean-style eating plan, with a "medical food" supplement (what they used to just call a protein shake), at least for 3 months anyway.  And exercise at least 3 times a week.  And a group session every week.  They figure if you do it for six months, it might actually become a habit.  I'm trying to push away my skeptical attitude about my "ability" to do this, and let in the enthusiastic kid who wants to try anything.  The program is very individually-oriented, so I'll have an exercise physiologist helping me set up a non-weight-bearing regime (at least for the time being), so that the pain I have in walking is lessened.  That helps!  And the HW workshop has really set the stage, emotionally and psychologically, for me to embrace this program.  I don't know how I would have handled it before HW.

I feel very fortunate that I'm in a setting that provides these remarkable programs.  I have plans for some good, active vacations in the next several years, so I've certainly got some motivation (besides, you know, not-cancer).

So that's that for now.  More to come.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just so you know ...

I haven't been eaten by a bear or anything.  I started writing a novel, along with the thousands of others who do this in November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The idea is to try to finish a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.  So, while I am nowhere near finishing it in time, I have actually started writing something that I've been thinking about for years and years, and I've gotten really engaged in the process.  So blogging, I figured, would take a back seat through November.  After that, though, I imagine I'll be back here and there (and hopefully more here).

The Hunger Within workshop is almost over, sadly.  It has really been a big deal.  I feel much better, although I don't suppose the scale is showing a big dip.  The important thing for me is not to concentrate on the scale, but to pay close attention to changing the script in my head.  And I do find that I'm eating better and enjoying the good foods more.  Mostly, at this point, my shorthand phrase as I choose what to eat is, "Will this make me feel better?"  Better physically, better emotionally, better psychologically?  Am I choosing as an adult or making choices based on a child's mind?  It's still a struggle at times, but when I actually eat mindfully, I'd much rather be eating real food than processed pap.  So things are looking up!  I do generally have more energy and feel happier, so this is all very good.  More later!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mindful eating, serious movement, putting on socks

This week, I've been trying to do some mindful eating.  An interesting experiment!  Hold, for example, a grape in your hand and look at it, think about it - does it hold any meaning for you?  Does it look delicious? Boring? Etc.?  Are there any feelings associated with your thoughts about the grape?   Then put it in your mouth, but don't bite or swallow, and feel it.  What does it feel like?  Then bite down on it and consider the sensations of the food.  What does the skin feel like, and the flesh of the fruit, etc.?  When did you notice your salivary glands start up?  Before you put the grape in your mouth?  After you bit into it?  And then chew and swallow, and notice how far it gets before you lose track of it.  We were supposed to do this with a "green light" food (something good for us, that doesn't make us crave a non-stop supply) - for me, it was green beans; a "yellow light" food - I chose mashed potatoes; and a "red light" food -- ice cream for me.

In group last week, we did this with a raisin, a potato chip, and a Hershey's kiss.  It was really interesting to take one bite from a potato chip and let it rest in my mouth while it became a mealy pulpy unpleasant mess.  And then the other half of the potato chip sat there, and I kept desiring it and desiring it, and then lost interest.  Very strange!  When you concentrate on the bite, and you're not trancing out and just stuffing chips in your mouth, it is such a different experience.

The focus of this group is not the number of pounds lost ... but I find myself really wanting to see pounds lost!  And, really, it's a matter of serious health concern that I do.  Also, I would like to be able again to:

  • walk for more than a half-block
  • sit comfortably, including going to the theater, buying only one seat on a plane, sit at an outdoor cafe, get into a booth in a restaurant, etc.
  • lie down and get back up again easily
  • breathe
  • kneel without agonizing pain, and get back up again
  • sleep without the bipap machine/mask
  • put on socks without a struggle, tie shoes, wear panty hose or something other than trousers
  • buy non-hideous clothes
  • etc. etc. etc.

It's difficult to list these things outside of my journal, for others to read.  It's often difficult to admit them to myself.  As far as I've come with my self-doubt and self-loathing, this is an area that is not only very painful but tremendously stigmatized.  In general, I'm pretty carefree about certain kinds of stigmatized behaviors or ways of being, and I've tried to be with this topic, but it doesn't come easily.  I have a lot I'd like to do in my life, and this can be very discouraging.  No one would choose this; it's not a matter of will power.  It's not a moral failing, as so many people seem to think.  This is a real, serious, complex disease.  Recovery isn't easy.  Quick fixes don't work.  Full-body physical rehab is involved, not to mention the mental health aspect of it, which is so deeply hidden that it's a major life-altering thing to get into it.  I'm glad I'm ready to take it on, after years of dealing with the big, obvious stuff, like major depressive disorder.  Oh my.  Life is an endless adventure.

Monday, October 21, 2013

If it's good, I'm gonna ignore it!

Well, it's been a few days.  Howzabout we talk about the Mental Filter category of cognitive distortions today?  Your mental filter helps you pay attention to only certain types of evidence.  Remembering failures but none of your successes.  This goes along with another one, called Disqualifying the Positive.  You might feel unloved, despite the fact that evidence shows you have many people who love you -- or you might feel somehow undeserving of that love.  Somehow it doesn't count, even though it's a fact.  Ignoring the fact that you are loved because you feel unloved does yourself a big disservice.  Or you might think you haven't done anything right, because you made a minor error on something.  What about the millions of things you haven't done wrong?

When I said to myself that every major decision I ever made was a bad one, boy oh boy, was I ever disqualifying the positive, and ignoring all evidence that showed that I was misrepresenting myself to myself.  The feelings of hopelessness engulfed me entirely.  When I reviewed the evidence and it turned out my feelings were based on misinformation, I felt entirely better.

The trick is, as I've said, to try to figure out the thought that came right before the feeling.  Write it down. Then see what sorts of cognitive distortions are involved.  Rewrite the thought, based on evidence, removing the cognitive distortions, and see if that is more true.  For example:  I may get a text from a friend that says that she can't make it to the movies tonight after all.  I don't know why, but I may assume that it has something to do with me (as opposed to a million other reasons), and start to think that maybe that friend is withdrawing from me.  Next, I start to filter out all the times that friend, and other friends, have gone out to the movies and drinks and dinner and other stuff, and start to only remember the times that people haven't been able to go out.  Now I'm starting to feel like a pariah -- not based on evidence, but assuming the worst.  I might even start to isolate, which just makes it seem worse.  If no one comes to save me from my self-imposed exile, then they don't love me.  No one loves me! I have no friends!  (I've done this; I know how it goes!)  You could rewrite the whole thing to say that my friend certainly had something more pressing to do, and it could be anything -- or she just didn't feel well.  I'm glad she feels comfortable enough with me to know she can change plans when she needs to and not feel obliged to go when it would be difficult for her.

It's possible that you have someone in your life that feeds these feelings of self-loathing, someone who knows which buttons to push to trigger these feelings in you.  If that's the case, you're giving all your power away to someone who is hell-bent on hurting you.  You don't need to be hurt by that, though.  That person may be working out his or her script, but you're not obliged to play along.  You can be in your adult mind and say, nope, not going to play those games.  That's the other person's thing; it's not mine.  (Yes, been there too!)

Meanwhile, on a personal note, the struggle continues.  It's not people I'm having trouble with as much as it is this intense relationship with food -- which is, of course, an intense relationship with myself.  It's daunting, but very interesting to peel away some of these layers.  I'll talk about that later.  It's an adventure, to be sure!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


So here's an email I sent to my family, to keep them updated.  Might as well just copy it in here:

So I went to see my doc for the post-op appointment and, of course, things are always more complicated than I want them to be.  I was just sure she was going to recommend the hysterectomy and, if not, I was going to insist.  Well, insist is a strong word, I guess.

We had a long talk, though, and went through all sorts of permutations of what might happen for whatever course we take.  The short story is that, at the moment, the surgery isn't going to happen.  There's some relief in that, but also some concern on my behalf.

There are some risk factors for the surgery.  My weight, of course, is a big issue, although that would not probably be enough of a factor to keep me from having it.  The biggest risk is that I never gave birth!  The gory details are that hysterectomies are usually done these days vaginally, and it's just easier to do it with women who have given birth.  So the surgery for me would be done by a relatively large incision, which is prone to infection and the worst case scenario (and this is perhaps because of weight) is that the infection would have to be cut out and the wound left open and packed until it healed from the inside.  (Or I could not get an infection at all, or it could be anything in between.)  Anyway, she feels a conservative agenda is better. 

The biopsy had shown that I had complex cell growth, with focal atypia associated with polyps.  What?  Well, the complex cell growth means there's a lot of it, but most of the cells are not worrisome.  There were some that are troubling within polyps that I understand were removed during the D&C.  At the time of the D&C, she inserted a Mirena IUD that provides a continuous supply of progesterone to balance the hormones.  She said that very recent research has shown that this can be effective in reducing or eliminating the extra cells, even at this stage.  
Another thing that can help is if I lose weight.  I'm working on that through this group therapy thing, but she's concerned that it won't work, I think.  She's encouraged me to have bariatric surgery, which I'm pretty opposed to -- but I'll be thinking about it.  I have met so many people for whom it has been a nightmare, and one person for whom it seems to have worked pretty well.  Even that wouldn't happen until at least six months from the time I decided to do it, because of extensive pre-surgery hoops to jump through -- and one of those things is this same group therapy that I'm already taking.  A lot of the women in the group are there as a requirement of the surgery and they're all very excited to get their surgery.  They assume I'm there for the same reason.  The thing is -- if you get the surgery, you need to learn to eat less, etc.  My feeling is, if you have to do that anyway, why not learn to eat less and then not get the surgery. 

So, for the time being, this is what's happening.  I'm going to have *another* D&C/biopsy in 3 months (about early/mid-January).  We'll see if the treatment with the IUD is making things better.  Meanwhile, I'll be working on the weight loss thing too.  If things are worse, then we'll do the hysterectomy.  If I'm still having trouble losing weight, then I'll be willing to reconsider the bariatric thing at that time.  But I want to go through this group thing and see how it works out first.  After that, there are other programs here -- metabolic fitness, etc. -- that might be a good follow-up.

So that's a lot to say.  But the upshot is:  No surgery now.  A D&C every three months until the problem goes away, or gets worse and a more invasive solution takes place then.

Phew!  I'm a bit on a roller coaster about the whole thing, but I feel again that we're on the right course under the circumstances.  The IUD was a bit uncomfortable at first, but it's not bad at the moment, so I can live with it.  I'm not feeling depressed about it (I keep checking to make sure!).  As long as I have a clear understanding of what the options are, even if none of them are a quick fix, I'm OK with it.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

No, no, I'm fine, really. But thanks!

Dear friends have responded to my previous post regarding the last little bit where I expressed self-doubt about writing the blog.  I want to clarify what I didn't at the time, which is that I'm sort of amused when I hear myself come up with that stuff.  Even though I've been working on changing these thoughts for a few years now, they still crop up.  But I'm generally aware of it.  The reason I'm taking the Hunger Within workshop is because it's a major area where I'm not conscious of what I'm doing/saying to myself.  But in writing the blog, I'm trying to be more aware.

In fact, one of the reasons I'm writing the blog is because I want to keep conscious; I want to stay focused on the process for myself.  In my life, I've struggled with depression most of the time, I think.  I've been deeply, deeply mired in major depression probably at least three times, for extended periods (years!).  There have been triggers for each of them (social isolation in high school, my marriage/divorce, and the death of my father), although none of those have been the sole cause for the depression.  So I feel I need to stay vigilant, especially now that I have the tools to do so.  Writing about the tools helps me stay focused on the job at hand.

One of the best days of my life was the day I first did a CBT exercise.  I had been suicidal, and I was in a brilliant partial hospitalization program at Chelsea Hospital in Michigan, along with others who were similarly distressed.  I was asked to write down something that felt true to me, something that was weighing on me.  And then to look at how many of these cognitive distortions I could attribute to this feeling.  And then to rewrite the original, eliminating all the distortions.  Could I see a difference when I thought about it without the interference of the distortions?  And it was like night and day.  From that instant, I felt like a different person.  My sense of worthlessness pretty much disappeared.  A few more weeks of the program, learning mindful meditation and other skills, and I felt ready to be in the world again.  It was really one of the best things that ever happened to me.  It still took me some time to deal with some fears -- I had a lot of them!

But it's true that I still feel self-doubt and so on.  What's interesting is how quickly I (usually) pick up on what I was thinking that made me feel that way, and it almost always makes me laugh.  The previous post's did too, but I hit "publish" before I added that part.  In other words, I'm ok.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I'm so over overgeneralization

OK, I'm just gonna jump into another category of stinkin' thinkin'.  You'll notice that there's a fair amount of overlap on these, and that the messages are pretty similar.  Remember, when you feel bad about yourself, you've already told yourself something that probably sounds like one of these phrases.  So it's useful to try to note when you're using these and try to change the thought.  Today's category:  Overgeneralization!

"Nothing ever goes right!"  "The world sucks."  I remember in the depths of my worst feelings, I said, "There isn't a major decision I've made in my life that was a good one."  That felt like a sudden realization -- every time I've tried to make a big life choice, it's been a disaster.  Suddenly, I slipped further into utter despair.  And I couldn't stop ruminating about all the disastrous choices I'd made and how awful it was, and how helpless I felt to ever do anything right.  I didn't see any way out.

Well, you know, in hindsight, in thinking about all the major decisions I've made about the direction of my life, I realized that I made some dandy ones.  And some of the decisions I made that didn't work out that well had some terrific surprises and benefits to them.  And sometimes, when I've let go of what I was hoping or expecting to get from a decision, I've found that I was plenty content with the outcome anyway.  The thought that I had never made a good decision absolutely paralyzed me from making any headway on the issues at hand while my life fell apart around me.  But when I stopped and clarified, and thought about the actual facts of the matter, I realized that sometimes it wasn't the decisions I made but the self-loathing I felt and the bad messages I was giving myself that sort of set up a self-fulfilling prophesy.  It wasn't going to go right if I can't ever do anything right, right?

These things are so powerful sometimes that they can just knock you to your knees.  Sometimes we don't want to take too close a look at these things, because it can be painful to change, even though we're already in so much pain.  It may seem impossible to tolerate even an improvement in the way you think about yourself, because you're so used to feeling lousy.  But if you hear yourself saying something that's clearly an overgeneralization, maybe you can hear that and think, "Whoa, wait a minute.  How can everything be this lousy?  That can't be right!  Let's see if I can name one thing that isn't lousy."  Evidently, if one thing is pretty good, then everything isn't lousy.

You know, another issue with this is that I think we think that we are supposed to talk about ourselves this way.  I think it's especially true for women, although men aren't immune to it obviously.  If I project comfort in my own skin, maybe people will think I'm too big for my britches.  If I take ownership of my life, perhaps my friends won't like me anymore.  I'd better say out loud to people how awful I am, or how awful my life is, so they don't think I'm being too fancy-pants happy.

The thought has crossed my mind while I've been writing these things that maybe my pretty new feelings of self-worth and self-compassion are coming across as somehow suggesting I think I'm better than someone else, or like I think I have all the answers, or that I'm trying to write some sort of self-help guide.  (Huh, maybe I am trying to do the last thing, I dunno.)  Anyway, I decided to let those doubts go, because what the hell.  Maybe no one is reading this, but that's ok.  I like writing it.  Maybe someone somewhere will try this out and say, "Oh, gosh, you know, when I caught myself thinking I wasn't lovable, and I reframed the thought, I felt better."  And that would be pretty cool.  So yeah, I can't control what other people think about what I'm writing or about me.  I'll let other people worry about that.  It's making me feel good to write it.  So, that's that.

Strange dreams

Whoa, really strange dream last night!  Invasion of my childhood home.  My parents and I have to go into the house to get some stuff; we feel we need to move out, because there's danger.  We go in the front door, quietly, and fan out to make sure no one is there at the moment, and to pick up just a few things.  I go through to the back door, when I see some dogs start barking and running through the back yard.  I'm afraid it will draw attention and, just then, a hand comes around to silence me.  I wake up and pull the BiPAP mask off my face ... and can't get back to sleep for awhile.

I realize I've had a few childhood home dreams over the last several months, maybe years.  One I recall was that the house was crumbling and falling in on itself.

I'm thinking this has to do with my moving from my child mind -- very reactive, powerless, fearful, depressed -- to my adult mind, which I've been working on since I had that first taste of CBT.  One of the things that this has changed is my voice -- what I am able to say out loud.  And so, yeah.

I had some interesting memories on the way to work after my difficult night's sleep.  I'll probably dredge those up for the page later.

By the way, biopsy finally came back.  Complex hyperplasia -- some atypical cells.  As I understand that, those cells are worrisome, but not quite cancer.  If they were cancerous, they'd be invading the surrounding tissue.  In any case, though, it's close.  I meet with my doc on Monday and I suspect we'll be going on to schedule the hysterectomy.  Thanks, estrogen!  You've sure made things complicated.

Ah well, onward!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What a muddle!

Last night's group session was amazing.  Marilyn used the cognitive therapy model for going through some of the stinkin' thinkin' that gets people into the food, along with self-loathing and other nasty feelings.  It was really powerful stuff -- lightbulb-going-on stuff.  I don't want to get into big details about it, but I wish everyone who feels bad about themselves could share it.  (There is a workbook that follows the course that you can get at and sometimes a used copy is available on amazon.)  I don't want to go into details about it, exactly, because Marilyn does a great job with it anyway, and it's in the book.  But I do want to get back to some of this stinkin' thinkin' stuff, because it really is powerful stuff.

As Marilyn reminded me yesterday, we usually dwell on our feelings, and so do traditional therapists.  Behavioral therapists obviously dwell on your behaviors.  But before all that comes your thoughts, and you can change your thoughts.

Today's category is All or Nothing Thinking.  Good or bad, black or white, either/or.  If I'm not perfect, then I'm a failure.  If I'm not good at something the first time I try it, no point in trying to do it again.  This happens a lot, I think, with people who are told as kids how smart they are, or how talented they are.  If I'm so smart, then why did I get a B on that test?  That means that something my parents told me all the time isn't actually right.  I'm a failure!  How embarrassing!  If I'm so talented, then why can't I play that piano piece without making mistakes.  (Practicing may suggest that I'm *not* talented, because "being talented" may suggest some sort of savant-like mastery without hours or years of learning scales, etc.)  My dad tried to tutor me in math when I was in high school because I wasn't doing well, and he was really good at it.  The message I got from him was that I was really smart, so it was baffling that I wasn't brilliant at something he was good at.  The next semester, I got a D- in math.  End of that career path!  It wasn't until I was an adult that I tried to learn any math at all.  Dad suggested he could help me.  No, thanks!  But I've always felt a bit of a failure at that.  When I wasn't good at it, and I was told I *should* be because I was smart, I got *awful* at it, hated it, and never wanted to touch it again.  Epic fail!

This is also a perfectionism issue, I think.  Either the house is completely clean, or it's a disaster.  I can't do it all today, so why bother doing it at all.  Everyone loves me, or I'm unloved altogether.  Either you behave the way I think you should -- or you think the way I think you should -- or you feel the way I think you should, or we're through.  Lots of ultimatums in this area.

And it sure doesn't have to come from someone else.  Either I behave the way I think others think I should, or I'm worthless.  Society doesn't want me to be gay, but I am, so I'm a horrible person, for example.  Either I'm thin, or I'm not attractive, or not lovable, or not good enough, or not completely human.

Wow, we sure know a lot of ways to hurt ourselves!  (Well, if no one else is going to do it, I guess we have to do it for ourselves, right?)

Marilyn says that we're all familiar with the level of misery that we grew up with.  We use our child minds to keep ourselves where we were when we were kids.  There's a strange sort of comfort to the familiarity of our childhood fears and anxieties. (Not that our parents are to blame, either -- they do they same thing!)  This really rings true to me, because when I was so depressed and anxious, before I did the CBT stuff, I felt infantile a lot of the time.  I noticed afterwards, and every time I confront the negative thoughts and change them, that I feel lighter, happier, more in charge of my feelings, and more adult.  It's really cool!  It's like magic to me.

So we can go from feeling like powerless little kids, with issues of fear, anxiety, abandonment, unlovableness, and so on, to being pretty powerful, unstressed, loving, kind, in possession of *ourselves* by practicing changing our thoughts.

So think about all-or-nothing thinking.  For today, try to pay attention to times that you feel like a failure, for example, and consider what you were thinking at the time.

This reminds me of a piece by the brilliant writer Gregory Bateson, who wrote up a series of (perhaps apocryphal) conversations he had with his young daughter, in a book called Steps to an Ecology of Mind.  One of them was "Why do things get in a muddle?"  He asked his (apparently neatnik) daughter if he put her paintbox down here, was it ok?  And she said that that wasn't where it went.  And he tried another place.  No.  There was only one way for it to be neat, and that was for it to be in one specific place.  Everything else made it a muddle.  There was only one way to be right; everything else was wrong.  Well, everything gets muddled.  If you have only one way that it's right, then everything else is wrong.  But nothing is ever neat for long.  No one could ever keep up, unless that's all they did was neaten, neaten, neaten.  Life is messy, and so's my desk.  And I still know where just about everything is.  That's not a failure (I have had a few bosses who thought it was); it's just one way to be.  So lighten up a bit.  Einstein's desk was messy too.  And he was so smart, I can't imagine how he could have a messy desk too!  (What a failure!)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I may not be a failure yet, but I'm sure I will be soon!

Hey, sports fans, today's stinkin' thinkin' category is Catastrophism!  I've alluded to this before.  "If I don't eat soon, I'm going to starve!"  Yeah, I'm not going to starve.  (Luckily, I'm not reliant on WIC or food stamps.)  Other ways I've used this:  Worrying most of my life that I'll get cancer.  Worrying that I'll lose my job if I get any criticism, even from a well-known narcissist curmudgeon.  Well, just assuming the worst, without evidence.  "Yikes, I got a B on the first test.  I'm going fail the course."  After my comprehensive exam, I cried all day, assuming that I'd failed because my answers seemed simplistic to me, and then it turned out I passed with high honors.  I've assumed failure-to-come so often that when sometimes I fail, I feel vindicated in my self-loathing.  But everyone fails sometimes, and it's a way to learn, of course.  If we didn't fail, we'd never learn.  And it's hard to imagine anything much being quite as catastrophic as I've feared.  Heck, I'm even facing potential cancer now, and even that is not as daunting as my fears have been.  Boy oh boy, will Catastrophism freeze you from moving forward.

So, what about you?  How often do you predict failure or loss or other fearful things?  How often do you say, "This isn't going to work out" or "I just know this is going to end in disaster", etc.?  Even with no evidence but your feelings (and feelings aren't facts), I bet you do it too.  Pay attention today to that particular voice in your head, and stop yourself and reframe what you were thinking.  Maybe, "Well, we won't know until we try" or "No, I'm not going to starve just because my stomach is rumbling.  Maybe I just need some water for now."

Going into the last operation, I was sure that the implantation of the IUD was going to be horrible, given my history of cramps and anecdotes I've heard about IUDs for years.  The night before, I decided to stop forecasting failure, and went in ready to do it.  It hasn't been great, but it has hardly been a nightmare.  A little discomfort, and I may have to have it removed, but, you know, not that big a deal really.  Significantly, though, the moment I decided not to catastrophize the thing, I felt much lighter and in control of my own feelings.

Let's put the last two categories together.  What if I were to ask for what I needed?  Would people stop loving me?  "Honey, I could use some help getting ready for company.  Can you help with the cooking or the vacuuming?"  Oh, I couldn't do that.  I can't be that direct.  Why, because he won't love you if you ask him to slice some onions?  Then he doesn't deserve to be in your house anyway.  If you fear failure or loss because you ask for clarification, or ask for help, then try not anticipating what the answer will be and ask away.  You may get what you need.  Amazing!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oh yeah, that's funny.

So, again, one of the reasons I'm writing this is because of the overwhelming misinformation about obesity in the world.  Fat-shaming and fat "jokes" abound.  Even my favorite, usually thoughtful, comedians fall back on jokes about fat people as an easy target, and boy oh boy, does that piss me off.  The more I respect the comedian, of course, the more frustrating it is.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert should know better.  And back when Al Franken was just Al Franken, I read his book Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot.  So much could have been said about what an idiot Rush Limbaugh is, but I fear that the book had more to do with how fat he was. I hope that Senator Al is more sympathetic to people who are struggling now.  But I was pretty turned off by him then.  And I'd always liked Al (in fact, I invoked Stuart Smalley in my last post, I think).

I'm lucky to be in a place where I don't get teased or insulted, and in a mental place where I don't do it to myself either.  Most of the time.  But I still find myself working up an occasional apology for myself.  I've gotten better at requesting what I need, such as a chair without arms in a restaurant or a theater, but I also avoid going to restaurants and theaters most of the time.  I'm eternally attached to my hair stylist, who replaced the trendy tiny chairs in his waiting area with a big luscious leather sofa when I told him I couldn't sit down.  If I couldn't, there were probably a lot of others who couldn't either (and that was a lot of pounds ago).  He even got a larger styling chair for his larger clients after that.  If I ask, I find I usually get what I need, but sometimes it's just too much effort to bother.

But I'm the only one who really says hurtful things to me these days.  And if someone else did it, I'd just consider the source -- an asshole, obviously.  Mostly I don't either anymore, but just sometimes.  I used to point out to other people that I was fat, to try -- I think -- to keep them from assuming that somehow I didn't already know?  I dunno.  But no one, no one, needs to be told they'd be so pretty if they just lost weight, or that it isn't good for them to be heavy.  We're already pretty, and we already know it would be good for us, dammit.  Think about the emotional and physical struggle we're going through, and keep your opinions to yourself.

Thank you for your attention.

I know just what you're thinking!

So, friends, are you depressed?  A little self-loathing?  Is the world getting you down?  I thought I might give you a little primer on this cognitive behavioral stuff ... from a rank layperson.  I had a major MAJOR change in my emotional/psychological life from a brief encounter with this stuff.  I thought I'd go through the list of cognitive distortions (what Stuart Smalley might have called "stinkin' thinkin'") that, from what I understand, form the basis for a lot of our bad feelings about ourselves.  For more, you can see the book Feeling Good by David Burns, which is sort of the bible of the CBT folks ... and/or find a good CBT therapist to work with.

Today's stinkin' thinkin' is Mindreading.  Do you ever get the feeling that someone isn't telling you something?  And that thing must be something negative about you?  For example, you're having lunch with a friend you normally have a great time with, but she's really quiet that day.  Do you start to wonder if it has anything to do with you?  Do you think maybe you might have offended her, and now she's having second thoughts about your friendship?  Despite any actual evidence to support this, you start to feel concerned and anxious?  That's Mindreading.

Another way Mindreading has affected me (and I used to do that first one a whole lot too) is to want someone I care about to know what I need without my telling him/her.  For example, if you loved me, you would anticipate that I needed help with a household chore and pitch in without my having to ask you.  If you can't read my mind, well, maybe you just don't love me enough.

Apparently, sometimes people have things on their mind other than wondering what's on mine.  Sometimes it just has nothing to do with me at all.  It helps to ask for help, for example.  (I've also learned that, if someone is helping me, I shouldn't criticize the way they're doing it!)

So try paying attention to when you're doing this kind of thinking.  See if you can reframe the thought.  For example, "Gee, Pam is awfully quiet.  I asked her how she was, and she just said 'ok'.  I guess she's not ready to talk about whatever's going on.  I'll let her be.  She might not have gotten enough sleep, for all I know. Who knows?  She'll tell me when she's ready, if there's anything to tell."

This mindreading stuff has kept me up nights.  I hardly ever do it anymore; it's a big relief!

A lot of times, when you're really stressing about something, it seems like a lot of these distortions are going on at the same time.  It's so useful to look at a feeling that just seems like fact, and then reconsider it.  As they say, feelings are not facts.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A brief history, excluding most of the details

I was given the impression I was fat on and off as a kid and somewhere mid-tweens.  Sometimes I didn't think so, but sometimes I did.  For a little while, my mom bought me clothes at Sears in what they actually called their "chubby" sizes.  Imagine!  I've never forgiven Sears for that.  I had a dream as an adult that the Sears Tower was a giant chubby dress and it was coming to get me.  Run for your life!  Here comes the monstrous chubby dress!

As a young adult, I started gaining, then losing, then gaining more, then losing more, etc. --  then REALLY losing, then gaining beyond anything I could have imagined.  I was way too thin for awhile, because I wanted to be loved and I thought that would help, but it didn't.  I was self-loathing and a nervous wreck, so those things didn't help either.  When I realized that wasn't helping, and life became unbearable, I said screw it.  As I've said, I've had major depressive disorder for as long as I can remember (but I'm *much* better now).  And at one of my lowest points, after my marriage broke up, and I felt I had lost all my friends at the same time, and I didn't have a place to live, I just shut everything off -- including any self-recognition of physical cues, like hunger.  And I gained and gained.  I've had one or two periods of losing weight again, but it's been some time since the trend was downward.

As I've said, carrying so much weight around is extraordinarily painful.  My life is limited in so many ways.  This is not something that I've chosen, nor would anyone choose it.  I've found temporary remedies that have helped for awhile, but it's always been something of a struggle -- a sense that what I was doing to lose weight was not normal, and that I wasn't normal, and that everything was wrong.  I think ... it's early yet, but I think this group therapy thing is better.  I'll report more as I go along, but at the moment, I feel simply more in touch with those parts of my that shut down, in terms of hunger cues and that sort of thing.

A short list:
Lower back pain
Foot pain
Occasional but extraordinary shooting pains in the muscles along the outside of my thighs, to the point that I can't take a single step without stopping and regrouping (followed by a single step ...)
Emotional pain/self-loathing

It's hard to jump up and start exercising, even walking, when you don't know when you'll just freeze and not be able to move another step.  So it's not that easy.

I don't mean this as a list of complaints.  I'm just trying to make a factual documentation of what I -- and others who are in this same boat -- experience.  There's a great deal of ignorance about what larger people go through, and I want to try to shed some light on it.

More to come.


I understand that our path lab is backed up.  But is it normal to have to wait a week and a half or more to find out if you might have cancer?

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Do you know that feeling you get when you've been up way too long and you're in a 24-hour grocery store at 3 in the morning with the fluorescent lights buzzing, and you're so tired you can hardly remember what you're even looking for?  That's sort of the way I've been feeling since the operation.  I've had plenty of sleep, but I'm a bit fuzzy and buzzy.  I don't think that's the way I ought to be feeling.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I dunno nuttin!

So here we are.  I'm waiting for the results of my biopsy.  The IUD is implanted, and I can tell that it's there; it's a vague discomfort that I hope I can begin to ignore.  You know, it's weird to think that I had no idea about IUDs.  I mean, I knew about them for decades.  What I think I didn't know was about uteruses.  It's a bit embarrassing.  Somehow, I thought that an IUD just sort of floated around in there.  I know uteruses aren't generally filled with some sort of fluid, so there'd be nothing to float in.  But somehow, until I went online and looked at a diagram of this device in place, I just thought it was suspended in midair somehow, instead of being sort of squeezed out into the "corners" of the uterus.  I'm glad that it makes more sense now.  It's probably time I get to know my uterus, as long as I still have it around.  So, d'oh!

Meanwhile, though, I realize that, if I can feel something going on in there -- which I have cyclically throughout my fertile years and I do now -- what will I feel when it's gone?  I say "when" because I anticipate a hysterectomy at some point.  And, if that happens, this pocket of meat and glands will be taken out.  What will I feel then?  Will there be a real feeling of a void?  What happens to that empty space?  Does it just sort of hang out, all empty and everything?  Does everything stay where it should?  Is there a cave-in?  I feel very strangely uninformed.

I know there are people I can ask, of course.  I suppose I could google it.  But perhaps I'm clinging to a little ignorance, too.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Just so you know

The day went very smoothly, and I got home and feel pretty good so far.  More to come.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why all this?

Why all this?  Because no one told me that being overweight could lead to endometrial cancer.  I don't have endometrial cancer, as far as I know, but tomorrow morning I'm going to find out if I do, or if the recurrence of abnormal cell growth in my uterus is still pre-cancerous.  That "pre-" business is sure freaky.  Anyway, why does this happen?  Because excess body fat -- as I understand it -- can cause a hormonal imbalance.  I'm not going to look up the details right now, but either estrogen is produced or something that mimics estrogen.  Anyway, as I'm post-menopausal, that estrogen isn't balanced by progesterone, as it should be.  The first time -- I think it was maybe 9 months to a year ago -- when I had some bleeding, which was completely wrong wrong wrong -- I went through a series of biopsies, ultrasounds, hysteroscopies, D&Cs, and progesterone pills, and it all went away.  Woo hoo!  At the six month check-up, not long ago, I had an ultrasound again -- and the endometrial lining had thickened with extra cells again.  So here we are.

Tomorrow early, I go in for another D&C, biopsy, hysteroscopy.  This time I'm also getting a Merina IUD, which I completely dread.  The reason for that is that it releases progesterone locally and can stay in place for 5 years.  Except that I am fortune-telling that it will be agonizingly crampy, and I'll need to run back and get it removed in no time.  I need to stop doing that and believe that it will be fine, of course, until I hear otherwise from my uterus.

The other options are to take the progesterone orally, which is not good if you have a family history of breast cancer -- and even if you don't -- but I sure do.  Or you can take it orally in a cyclical fashion -- some days on, some days off -- which will stimulate my body to menstruate.  I don't THINK so.

The other option -- and the only option if it turns out to be cancerous -- is to have a hysterectomy.  I've been told, heck, why not, just get it out, who cares.  This is pretty much my feeling too, except, of course, that it's major surgery.  These can be done through laproscopic incisions and the uterus removed vaginally these days -- so no major incisions.  Unless you haven't gone through childbirth, because there's just not a lot of room to move in there without having had those stretching exercises.  So it's probably major incision/risk of infection/long recovery time if I do that.  I'll do it if I need to, but I guess I want something else to happen altogether.

Losing weight could help, although the process will take a long time.  But other health problems can be reduced or eliminated altogether if I lose weight.  I won't need to take blood pressure medicine, or a statin for cholesterol, and I may no longer have a very serious sleep apnea problem when I lose weight.  That might mean that my sleeping would no longer be disordered, and I'd feel more rested, which could help me lose more weight, and might lift some of the depression, because sleepiness and depression are co-related.

So tomorrow morning, I go in and get put to sleep and manhandled and all that.  I come home and recover, and sometime next week I find out the results of the biopsy.

No one told me about this endometrial hyperplasia business.  But I don't know that I could have lost weight and kept it off forever, even if I did know.  This weight business has been a lifelong struggle.  I feel confident that I'm learning to address it now, finally, with the help of this group.  And we'll see what tomorrow brings.

I don't want to scare my friends and loved ones.  We've caught it early, and I truly feel that there is nearly no chance that this will kill me or anything.  I trust my doctor.  I think this uterus just isn't going to hang around much longer to keep bothering me anyway.  Can't get uterine cancer if I don't have a uterine!  It's a very common operation, apparently second only to Caesarians for women.  A ton of women apparently have the operation for the same reason I do.  We all need to learn how to listen to our bodies, so that we can learn the difference between hunger and -- whatever it is that makes us eat.  Quit listening to diet things.  Quit believing what people say to make you feel empty inside.  Love yourself, wouldja?  OK, I'm done for now.

I may not get back here for a day or two, but don't worry about that.  I may be just too foggy to write.  I'll get on FB though, so my friends will know everything's ok.  Love you all.

Profile update

When I first got back into this a few days ago, I saw that my profile said I was a "temporarily derailed dissertator."  Boy, that's how I defined myself.  No wonder I took time off.  Nothing has held me back more than thinking I'd get around to that again sooner or later.  For some reason, when I got back, I only took out the word "temporarily".  Yes, I didn't finish that dissertation.  No, I'm not going to.  I might write something eventually, other than Facebook posts and this thing.  But I recently found that writing something for anthropologists was really rough on me.  At first, it was exciting, then daunting, then paralyzing.  So I clearly have a lot of work to do on that, psychologically.  So, no.  I'm not going to define myself as a failure, which is what that sounded like.  If I write something, it probably won't be for peer review.  I love anthropology, I love my area(s) of study, and I would have loved the dissertation at one point.  Actually, I love writing.  But the big F in Failure looms large and I don't want it to get me again.  I'm successful at what I do, in whatever way I choose to define that, and that's that.  Hah!

Hi Mom!

I just got back from stocking up at the grocery store.  Every time I leave, I think, "I ought to call Mom."  I used to call her in the car on the way home from the grocery store.  This seems like a significant thing to muse upon, and I haven't just yet ... but I was thinking about this blog post on my way home.  As usual, I bought something to eat on the way home - a sandwich and a can of carbonated flavored water.  My thinking:  Well, it could be worse.

Anyway, so I'm driving along thinking about my dear mom that I love so much and miss so much.  I'm not maudlin, and I don't believe in heaven, so I don't talk to dead people very much, even those I love.  But I was thinking about what I'd tell my mom at the moment, if that made sense to me.

I'd tell her not to worry about me.  Interesting to realize how often I had to tell her not to worry about me.  (It never helped.) Of course, I was so well trained by her frequent concerns about me that I worried about myself all the time too.  I don't blame her at all.  As a little girl, she probably had to worry about herself a lot -- she didn't have an easy time.  It makes sense that, when she had kids, she worried about them too.  A lot.  I've stopped worrying about myself, most of the time -- I sometimes worry about events, but even that is just fortune-telling.  There's no way to know the outcome of anything, and there's only so much you can control, but the future isn't one of them.

Anyway, as a teenager I defied her worry sometimes.  As an adult, I did too, but I got a lesson in keeping anything from her when I went out of town for a couple of days and didn't tell her, because I didn't want to hear how much she would worry about me.  I called home to get my messages (this was before cell phones, doggone it), and heard a series of messages that were more and more frantic as I didn't call her back.  She was afraid I was dead in my apartment, and she was going to call the police to go look.  This has actually become an ongoing joke for me, something I realize I remind myself of every day.  Hmm, I might need to rethink that joke.

Much of my life, I heard how worrisome I was.  And then, when my dad died, I realized how afraid I was of her worrying about me.  I worried about her worry.  I became paralyzed, almost literally, when I realized that, if I went to do my dissertation fieldwork (in Canada, for god's sake), she would be worried all the time (she told me many times that she was worried about me going to a foreign country.  Remember, we're talking CANADA!), and I couldn't be held responsible for that.  Instead, I just got almost catatonic with depression and everything fell apart, for years.

At this point in the drive home, I realized I was eating that sandwich.  I stopped and evaluated:  Am I actually hungry?  Am I eating this because I was looking at all this worrying?  Well, yeah.  It wasn't that good a sandwich anyway.  I didn't need it.  I wasn't remotely physically hungry.  I took a few more bites and then wrapped it up and tossed it out.  I don't know the last time I did anything like that.

Again, I honestly adored my mother.  She struggled with a very difficult childhood.  To her, I think, love = worry.  If she wasn't worried about something, she'd find something to worry about.  She said several times to me that, if you worry about something, it probably won't happen, so that's a good thing.  That poor, dear soul.  She fought against her own upbringing in so many ways.  She was stubborn and funny, and those things really helped her, and us, so often.  But she was paralyzed with certain fears, and I guess the well-being of her kids was one of those fears.  Of course, in many ways, that was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I was a wreck from all that worry.

She raised four children.  We all love each other immensely.  She doesn't have to worry about any of us, because we have each other.  We have all grown into good adults.  I am so fortunate to have them and know that each of them is there for me if I need them, and even when I don't.  There are times for concern -- but it's not the same thing as a little girl internalizing the idea that her mom feels she's about to do something wrong, all the time.  It's very liberating not to worry about myself anymore, and I'm getting better at it all the time.

This week in group therapy, we're talking about families.  It's not surprising this has come up, but boy oh boy, it's powerful stuff.  By the way, my therapist says I can tell you about it.  It's called The Hunger Within.  Her name is Marilyn-Ann Migliore.  There's a workbook you can get if you're interested (at  I won't talk about the other people in the group, of course.  Their stories aren't mine to tell.  But it's powerful stuff, and it's apparently working.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ohhhh, yes I will.

I'm experimenting this week, as per the group therapy thing, with trying to separate physical hunger symptoms from environmental signals/conditioned responses ("It's lunchtime" or "Do I smell popcorn?"), and further from psychological signals, such as stomach grumblings when I'm anxious.  Did you know that a growling stomach does not indicate hunger?  I didn't know that.  I never knew that.  The stomach is not a good indicator of hunger.  (!) So apparently I've been feeding my anxiety all this time.  And I've had long, long bouts of chronic anxiety.  I really got a sense of that today when I got a mild reprimand at work and immediately started thinking about lunch, and this was about an hour after I'd had breakfast.  (And this is after I've had years of therapy and anti-anxiety training, medication, etc.)

Physical manifestations of hunger are central nervous system cues, such as shakiness, blurred focus, and that sort of thing.  A lot of nutritionists and therapists and dieticians and stuff try to tell you that the rest of hunger is the kind of thing that comes from environmental signals, and so all you have to do (ha) is try to get your mind off of it.  Turn the channel when the hamburger ad comes on (whoops, all the channels have hamburger ads on), or go for a walk.  Ha.  First, this won't actually help anything, because it's not about the ad, and the walk won't help, especially if you have self-loathing when it comes to exercise -- and/or physical pain from it.
The thing is that eating does actually temporarily reduce anxiety for someone like me.  It may only work as long as I keep eating, though.  I'm not a regular binger, in terms of sitting in from of the TV with a big bag of chips and a bowl of dip and finishing them off.  I do that sort of thing on occasion, but by no means every day.  But when I do, I find I plan for it, in the back of my consciousness, sometimes for the whole day.  Sometimes I only start planning it when I'm in the grocery store and, even when I'm doing that, I'm telling myself I won't do it.  OHHH no I won't!  OHHH yes you will! ...

Meanwhile, the therapeutic training I've had that is really helping me get into this without fear is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I say "without fear" because there really is a part of me that is strangely scared by the process.  Probably from years of failed attempts (and by "failed" I mean that I tried to follow something that turned out to be unfollowable, and so predictably I couldn't follow it) and the fact that this process means closely examining the stories I tell myself about myself and then changing them.  It's a daunting process, and it brings up a lot of emotional pain.  But, luckily, CBT is on my side.  My daily quota of self-loathing has been much diminished thanks to the tools of CBT.  I've learned to recognize some of the stinkin' thinkin' to which I'm prone, and stop it before it starts.  No, I'm not "starving" -- that's pretty catastrophic!  Etc.

So, an interesting experiment.  I've spent a lot of time thinking, "Wait, am I hungry?  Maybe this isn't hunger.  It feels like what I think hunger is ... but is it?"  At my age, it's a strange thing to be realizing what I thought were clear physical signals were not, all along.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Looking at my old posts still -- and I found comments by a dear old friend that he apparently posted after I stopped looking.  That friend has passed away in the meantime.  Lots of loss in the last five years.  Not that I'm morose or maudlin; far from it.  But for a long time -- starting long before this blog got started -- I struggled with a deep and persistent depression, probably from childhood.  Surprisingly, it's not always obvious to a person that they're in a struggle for their lives, which is a struggle I've been in at least a few times since I was a kid.  But the last time I got the help I needed to get through it, and I have the tools I need to get help the next time I need it (and the awareness to monitor for signs that I need it).  Lots of gains in the last five years.

That includes my current therapy group for disordered eaters.  I'll ask the leader of the group if she minds that I talk about the stuff here, because it's already incredibly useful, after two sessions.

I've done a fair amount of journaling (for me) on some of these issues, and I'll share some of that here.  Not too long ago, I made a long, long list of ways that my life and health will improve if I can lose the weight.  Not surprisingly, even that didn't spur me to a non-disordered way of behaving, because very little else ever has either.  I'll be interested to see if this group therapy helps, but it does seem to have already raised my awareness of some things I hadn't truly grasped before.  For the edification of those who have not experienced this problem (and especially for those who think this is something a person chooses for themselves), I will find that list and add it to the blog.

I guess I'm working up to the business at hand.  I'm a bit reticent to begin, for some reason, even after dusting off the cobwebs of the blog and all.  It's more personal that I usually get in front of the world (or the 5 people who will read this blog), so ... eek.  And, really, where to begin?  Not at the beginning, surely.

Well, it will work itself out.

Looking back ...

I'm shocked to discover that I had 1,064 hits on my old post about high thread count sheets.  That really surprises me!  Nothing like a rant about cotton to bring in the readers.

Well, I hope I can do as well in future!

Hoky smoke!

I left this blog behind 5 years ago -- I guess the twitterin' and the bookin' were just too easy.  It's very strange to look at these posts from The Future.  Pre-Obama and all.  So strange.

Well, these days I feel I have something to say, more or less, and so I'm going to be turning this blog over to the Me of Now.  I want to write about something that some of you will understand very well, and others may find tedious or laughable.  Well, you don't have to stay to read it then, obviously.  I'm going to be talking about my long, long, long struggle with obesity, what it has meant for my life and for my health, and specifically the surprisingly serious turn it has taken recently.  Many people seem to think that gaining weight is some sort of moral failure, and that somehow it is something a person chooses.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It can be agonizingly painful, limiting mobility and restricting even the simplest of activities. Solutions are usually temporary, and rebounding creates more havoc and self-loathing, if that's possible, than pre-diet states.  So, yeah.  Read on if you wish.

I also expect to go off-topic and occasionally ridiculous.  Such is life.