Life has handed me a lot of lemons over the last few months. My dad's cancer has advanced (he has multiple myeloma - it eats your bones from the inside out) and he needs a lot more attention on a regular basis. My mom tries to manage, but she stresses out a lot and seems to be suffering some form of dementia now. I made the decision to move back to my hometown in order to help care for them.
That's when my husband of 25 years decided to explore his mid-life crisis further and has now filed for divorce. It's been his dream to live overseas and be the Old Spice Man (you know, have a girl in every port) and family commitments don't figure into that dream...so I get to raise my now teenage sons on my own, as well as help them through the restructuring of our family without alienating them from their father, despite all the feeling I truly wish to express about this man. They're going to need him some day, and I still need the alimony and child support.
So, I have to hurry up and finish college as well, so I can move forward with getting a job...in the US, where no one is hiring, especially not 48-year-old women with no work experience over the last 25 years trying to get into an entry level position. And it's hard to concentrate on studying when I'm so stressed out.
And that's what I'm here to address right now, what extreme stress can do to a body, and what it is I'm doing to manage it.
When all this stuff started to hit the fan, my first reaction was pure panic. Because it all hit within a month's time. I am amazed I haven't caught the swine flu, because I haven't been sleeping much, not eating healthfully all the time, exercise has really dropped off, and I've been riding a huge emotional roller coaster for weeks. I started to experience panic attacks, mostly at night. My heart would race, I'd hyperventilate...I only had two people I could talk to about everything, but neither were available in the middle of the night (and one costs me $150/hour!)
I knew I had to find a way to calm myself and manage the stress. I had to stop being so reactive. I had to get my head together for my benefit as well as to be there for my family. The therapist helped me a lot. Journaling helps. And for some strange reason, bouncing on my Fitball helps. At first, I watched a lot of TV, because if I didn't, I'd obsess on my situation. So I sat on the Fitball and bounced. I can't eat and bounce at the same time. I burn about 500 calories/hour while bouncing. And my quadriceps are really strong now! Plus, and this is probably why I didn't get sick, bouncing helps drain the lymphatic system and stimulates the thymus gland that produces T-cells that keep your immune system up.
Some might say watching TV is a waste of time, but when you're feeling pretty demoralized and isolated, it can get you through a lot. I have to thank Craig Ferguson the most for getting me through the toughest parts. Laughter also stimulates the thymus, so Craig was just good medicine for me! Flight of the Conchords also get credit for keeping me sane and well. (I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert in L.A. recently...I love them!)
I had to move to a new home, and while most of my furniture hasn't made it yet, I packed up and moved everything else by myself. And that felt good. I had some help loading a 12' UHaul trailer, but I did all the packing and unpacking myself, which took about three days total. Hard work, but rewarding to have my own place again, with no ghosts from the past to haunt me here. My sons moved in with me this week, and I'm confident we're going to be just fine.
And I'm even back in class. Almost done with one course, and two other teachers have granted me an extension to get the other coursework done. When I'm concentrating on my work, which I love, I seem to be completely oblivious to the stress!
Now the tough parts...food and exercise. When I moved into my new house, I didn't bring in any food that doesn't support my weight loss/wellness efforts into the house. I'm still keeping up with that. There are always lots of fresh vegetables and lean meats, healthy fats, whole grains, and as little processed food as possible. But that doesn't mean I don't overeat. Overeating even healthy foods adds up to weight gain. I've gained back some weight, which is frustrating. As of this morning, I'm back up to 320 lbs. from 308 lbs. I'm also guilty of going back to the drive-thru habit. With all the travel between my vacation home and the new home, I spent a lot of time on the roads, not planning ahead with the meals. I may have even chosen the least fatty items on the menu at times, but they're still really full of sodium and almost no fiber.
Drive-thru is an old stress-management technique I used for many years. Even now, when I've spent the day with my parents, who even without their medical conditions are difficult people, compel me to pound a couple of cheeseburgers at McDonald's on the way home. I have to find a new route!
In two weeks, when my furniture and fitness equipment get here, I'll be set to get back on track with the exercise. In the meantime, I have my Fitball, an elliptical cross trainer, plus my smaller hand weights. And all my fitness DVDs. Just a little bit everyday is all I need to start my body moving again in the right direction.
So there I am now, not feeling great, but feeling hopeful and determined not to give up. I'll try to check in more often as I work through my struggles and try to keep moving forward. I really am determined to break past 300 lbs. In fact, I really have to get down to a maximum of 200 lbs. in the next three years, because after medical insurance from my soon-to-be-ex's company goes away, no medical insurance company will cover me at a reasonable cost to me unless I weigh less than that.
And that just steams me all over again! How do people get through life and end up being sweet old people? Oh, wait, we don't...