Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression affects even the happiest people: Thoughts on the death of Robin Williams

To his many adoring fans, Robin Williams will always be remembered as a funny guy.  He almost always had a smile on his face in public and though he had two rehabs stints (the most recent in 2006), it really seemed like he had his act together.  That's why it's so shocking to many, even those that knew he suffered from depression, that he would commit suicide.  

He had everything going for him, right?  He was famous!  He was wealthy!  He had a great family and many adoring fans!  What could possibly be so wrong in his life that he would choose to end it?  Unfortunately, that's how depression works.  It's a voice in the back of your head telling you that your happiness is a lie, that people don't love you, and your successes don't matter.  Sometimes you can snap yourself out of it or someone will help you snap out of it and sometimes... you can't.  

I tell you this from personal experience.  I suffer from clinical depression and have been on and off medication since I was sixteen.  Looking back on my childhood memories, I think the issues really go back to when I was as young as ten but it was written off as normal puberty/growing up issues.  I wish it was.  I wish I didn't have depression but I do and it is something I have to deal with.  

I think there is a misconception that people with depression just need to get out of their own way, suck it up, and deal with it because life stinks sometimes.  We all have hard times right?  For me, depression didn't just manifest itself as sadness.  I had horrible mood swings and bouts of severe anxiety.  I would burst into tears at the least provocation.  I was awful to be around at times.  I would get mad at myself after the fact, after my ridiculous outbursts and crying jags.  Why was I feeling that way?  Why?  

My original official diagnosis was PMDD (as my episodes were worse around that time of the month) and I was prescribed a form of Prozac.  I did very well with this for several years.  I was doing so well, I slowly went of the medication and I was doing fine.  For a while.  

You know those commercials you see for Cymbalta with their slogan:  "Depressions Hurts- Cymbalta can help?"  Well, depression can manifest with physical symptoms.  In my case, it manifested itself in the way of digestive issues: lack of appetite, reflux, and diarrhea so severe I had to seek care from a gastroenterologist.  My test results (including an endoscopy and colonoscopy) were inconclusive so I stopped going and dealt with it as best I could with over the counter medicines as needed.  When I went back on my anti-depressant, however, my symptoms leveled out, as did my mental and emotional well being.  

I had (and still have) good friends that stuck by me even at my worst.  I knew that logically but depression does screwy things with your brain and makes you think/feel that people don't care about you and don't love you.  It makes you feel like you are worthless.  It feels like you don't have a reason to keep on living.  

I was never suicidal in the sense of actively seeking to end my own life or making a plan but it would cross my mind in the darkest moments.  For the most part, while I had no particular desire to live, I also had no particular desire to die.  I was completely indifferent.  One positive force in my life was my family and friends:  I knew I could never do something like that to them.  The thought of someone I love reading a suicide note or discovering my body was--and still is--horrifying to me.  

No one knew about any of this, however.  I kept it from all my family and friends and pretended everything was okay.  For the most part, people bought it.  The people closest to me always could tell something was up but I don't think they ever realized the extent.  My lowest lows were back in high school, right before I started medication but my relapses/flare ups/whatever you want to call them has been severe enough on their own.  I always had enough get-up-and-go to get out of bed and go through the motions but sometimes I barely managed.  The fall semester of my senior year was the worst for that but I'm not sure that's surprising given that my mother was battling cancer at home while I was trying to be a normal college senior.  My emotional swings didn't make it easy for anyone that I lived with.  Maybe I should have explained it to them and maybe they would've gotten it or maybe they would suffer a lot of the misconceptions of the general public about the real affect of depression on a person's life.  I didn't want to burden them with this information.  Maybe they'll read it now and know that I wasn't just a lunatic.  

I think one of the misconceptions about depression is that being depressed means you are sad all the time and are never happy.  For most people, this just isn't true.  I still felt happiness.  I could still crack a joke.  I could still smile.  But the negative emotions would just become overwhelming.  

I think happy people, like Robin Williams, have some of the worst struggles with depression.  He was funny and successful and he just wasn't supposed to be depressed!  He was supposed to be like the characters he played in so many comedies.  And yet, his depression was severe enough to make him feel like his only option was to end his life.  

Mental illness carries a huge stigma, even the relatively common place forms like mild depression or anxiety.  There is a perception that you just have to suck it up.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case.  The reason it is depression (a clinical diagnosis) and not just sadness (an emotion) is because you can't just get yourself going.  Physiologically, it is a shortage of neurotransmitters in the brain.  To way over simplify, it is a lack of serotonin--which is why SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) are the front line of anti-depressants.  It is, in fact, a physical issue in the brain.  You wouldn't tell someone with diabetes that they need to suck it up and get over it so don't tell someone with depression to suck it up and get over it.  

I hope that the suicide of a high-profile celebrity like Robin Williams opens up people's eyes to the ravaging affect of depression.  Depression takes so many forms and can drive people to do the unthinkable.  I am praying for the family and friends of Robin Williams and the families and friends of the many other people who have also taken their life because of depression.  I hope we are able to open up a dialogue about depression and make it less taboo to talk about depression and other forms of mental illness.  

Robin Williams, rest in peace.  


July 21st, 1951-August 11th, 2014
Image from the movie 'Patch Adams' found HERE

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Serving others, even without the comforts of home

It's been a long while since I've posted.  I've been busy and I would tell you all about it, except that I have something else on my heart right this red hot second.  

Every summer, my church does a mission trip to the Cherokee Indian reservation in North Carolina.  It's approximately thirteen hours in the car, once you include potty breaks and meals.  Because of that, we left at 3 in the morning on July 26th and arrived at about 4 in the afternoon.  I rode in the back seat of the Mountaineer that was populated with the adult contingent and slept for virtually the entire drive other than meals at Shoney's and Chic-fil-a.  I recommend it because it made the drive feel very short (though the crick in my neck was something else...).  

The accommodations at the church are not exactly plus.  There are two bunk houses and us girls stay in the one closest to the church.  There are rows of bunk beds with varying degrees of head room.  Despite my five foot two height, I could not sit up in my bed without hitting my head.  I got one of the better mattresses though, which was exciting.  There are also a few old hospital beds that I imagine were donated so that larger teams could come in.  I almost took one of them but one of the women warned that she snores so I declined.  Our team was small enough that I was able to use the top bunk of my bed to lay out my stuff (Which I prefer to living out of a suitcase for a week).  There are three showers, one of which is in a separate bathroom with its own toilet and sink (the lap of luxury!).  However, the supply of hot water is somewhat... limited.  So I had lukewarm showers most of the week.  But that's okay because when I did get a hot shower and when I got home, the hot water felt like I was in a spa.  Seriously.  The bath I had when I got home was arguably the best of my life.  

In some ways, life in the bunkhouse almost like you're at camp.  Privacy is limited but there is a great sense of community when you can see everybody and everybody can see you.  It's not the best night's sleep you've ever had but as tiring as construction work is, you are grateful for every minute of rest.

I cannot say enough for the quality of food the ladies (and man) in the kitchen put forth.  It's awesome and it's so nice to wake up to a hot breakfast and come home to a delicious dinner with dessert waiting for later in the evening.  If you leave the table hungry, it's your fault.  

I spent my week working on two different projects.  Both of them involved painting decks.  It doesn't sound like major hard work, right?  It wasn't difficult so much as tedious as you had to get each board and each picket covered in paint or varnish.  It involved being hunched over, squatting, or standing on my tip toes to reach the bare spots.  I would finish the day with every muscle aching.  

I'm trying to paint a realistic picture of what we really do and what it is really like being on a mission trip.  It isn't all sunshine and daisies and warm fuzzy feelings.  We come to serve, to work and the work that we do is important.  Painting a deck doesn't sound as important as building a house or a wheel chair ramp or fixing a roof but putting paint on a deck that sees the rain and snow and wind and heat of the outdoors preserves the work and keeps it from falling apart.  

That's not to say it isn't boring though.  I already mentioned it's tedious.  As an assistant crew leader, it was often difficult to keep everyone motivated.  There isn't a lot of variety of task, you know?  And yet... I serve with a joyful heart.  

Let me rewind seven years to the 2007 Cherokee mission trip.  I had been bounced from crew to crew and on my last day had been moved from a job I LOVED doing (building a deck) to a cleaning job.  I don't like to clean.  But it was for a family that desperately needed it as they had just had major construction in their home due to a bad mold problem that had actually landed the wife in the hospital.  She had been in rehab but had twenty-four hours to get out so the house desperately needed to be cleaned.  So clean we did.  I scrubbed cabinets and vents and every imaginable surface.  We finished the job satisfied but I was still frustrated at having been pulled from my job so as we were leaving, I talked to Mr. Jim who is our construction head.  As a somewhat experienced crew member, I was usually in charge of the saw so it hadn't made sense to me that I had been pulled when a less experienced crew member could've cleaned just as well as I could.  I will never forget his reply.  He told me that while what I said was true, he knew that I would do the job without complaining and do it to the best of my ability because (and this is where he really got me) I have the heart of a servant.  

Part of me feels like I'm bragging when I say this but what he said is true.  Serving others is where my heart lies.  It's one of the reasons I think teaching is a profession that suits me.  It's about the kids, right?  I'd be lying if I said I were perfect and if I said that I did absolutely everything with a joyful heart without ever complaining.  I can whine with the best of them (it isn't one of my better qualities).  I can also be super bossy. During the week, it was suggested to me that I think of myself more as a coach than a teacher or a boss.  I tried really hard to do that but found myself slipping into teacher mode more than I would prefer.  But I love to serve.  I got up each morning with every muscle aching and was excited to get to work because I was helping people.  

Cherokee is an unbelievably special place, full of special people.  There is something in the air or the water or those mountains that is peaceful.  It's the winding roads and the slow pace and the people and the mist that hangs over the mountains on a cool morning after it has rained.  It's the red mud that clings to my boots.  It's the cold streams that run through the woods, babbling over rocks and boulders.  It's a place that is instantly home.  Even first timers call it home within a few days.  I wish I could fully explain this place but I can't even begin; it is a place that must be experienced for you to know what I'm talking about.  

I've rambled on in this post over several days, trying to commit my thoughts and feelings into words.  Life back in Seaford is stressful right now as myself and my fiance work to make important life decisions about where to live and how to plan for a secure financial future.  I am prone to anxiety and have been trying to meditate on Phillipians 4:6-7.  I'm trying to leave it all in God's hands (I know it is) but it isn't easy for someone like me who has always been a worrywart.  The week in Cherokee was not only a week to serve but a week to reflect on the decisions to come.  I won't claim everything was instantly crystal clear but one thing surely did:  God is number one.  Everything else comes after.  

I don't really have pictures to share with you all.  I think I took four the whole week because I was focused more on being present in each moment rather than trying to capture it for posterity.  You'll just have to come to find out what a beautiful place it is.  :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

I'll never be...

I'll never be...
A size zero.  And I am perfectly okay with that.  While I'd love to lose a few more, I could stay the size I am for the rest of my life and be perfectly satisfied.  

I'll never be...
Neat and organized.  Much to the chagrin of my mother, I am messy and chaotic and disorganized.  And I'm okay with that.  I clean up when I want to or when I need to.  There are more important things to me.  

I'll never be...
Completely free of judgement.  Nor will I ever be free from caring about people's judgements about me.  This is a hard one for me to admit to.  I am doing a lot better on this front, and I rarely voice my judgements and frustrations with others publicly.  I hold myself to a very high standard in many ways, and it's hard at times when people don't hold themselves to those same expectations.  More and more, though, I am able to push past my judgmental nature and find my empathy and compassion.  I try to place myself in the other person's shoes.  I am striving to stop seeing the specks when I'm walking around with a plank in my own eye.  

I'll never be...
Done learning.  I'm an adult and a teacher, and sometimes I swear I'm learning more than the kids each day.  I'm not sure this is a bad thing.  

I'll never be...
Perfect.  And that's okay, because there aren't perfect people.  To claim anything else would be a flat out LIE.  The point for me, though, is that despite all my flaws, all my messed-up views and screwed up ways, Jesus loved me enough to die for me.  That's something I can't forget.  When I find myself judging someone, I try to look through the eyes of Jesus and love like he does.  Do I always succeed?  No.  But every day I try, and try, and try again.  

I'll never be able to fully love like Jesus, but I surely can try.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Every Day Angels

I hurt EVERY WHERE right now.  Once I assume a position, I'm kind of stuck there for a good while because shifting around is quite traumatic.  Grouchy as pain makes me, I will do my level best to deal with it with a smile.  Why?  Because it could be UNBELIEVABLY worse than it is.  

Let me back up.  I spent the weekend down in Wallop's Island with my boyfriend and his family.  He and I were in the Chincoteague Christmas parade last night and it was all great fun.  I am directing the Christmas cantata at church so I needed to leave early enough to make it to church by 9:30.  I hit the road at about 7:45 with a big fat smile on my face.  It was raining and every once in a while I saw a few sleet pellets but nothing that really drew my concern.  

I was driving up the overpass toward the bypass when I passed a sign that said "caution: Bridges Freeze."  I dearly wish I had taken that seriously.  It hadn't been raining or sleeting very much for my drive and the temperature was technically above freezing so I wasn't worried... 

...until I saw the layer of ice ahead of me.  At which point it was too late.  I tapped the brakes to slow down from my 60mph and immediately went into a spin, slam into the guardrail, bouncing off and coming to a stop on the shoulder facing the same direction I had just been travelling.  It happened so quickly, there wasn't even time to be scared.  I could see the giant tear in my back bumper, the missing part of my front bumping lying fifty feet down the road, and the huge dirt divots my car had left on the grassy shoulder.  I called Mom, then Travis, then Mom again because she didn't answer the first time.  Mom told me to call 911 to report the accident.  At this point I had seen two other cars spin out and go to toward the grassy area in the center.  One was able to drive away but the guy in the red Toyota Tacoma was stuck like I was.  

I reported the accident and then called Travis back who was sending his mom to get me.  While on the phone with him, I saw another car spin out, miss my car by about 5 feet, and land against the guardrail.  She was hysterical so I helped her out of the car, urging her to get out of the vehicle and come away from the car.  I tried to comfort her as best as I could.  At this point, another gentleman had stopped and was telling us all to get away from our cars in case of another wreck.  I told her to call her parents and make sure she told them she was okay.  I think she might've been seventeen.  

When I hung up the phone with Travis, I called the woman who was in charge of the concert I was supposed to sing in that afternoon.  I was 99% sure I wasn't going to make it.  As I clicked "End" I heard the other girl scream and looked up to see a white Nissan spinning out and skidding right for me.  The details here are pretty fuzzy.  I don't know if I actually blacked out or not.  I tried to run but it was too late.  The car rammed into me.  There are a few second of blur and then I remember being on the ground in an awkward position, one shoe missing, my glasses off my face, and just in shock.  

I didn't move.  I at least had the presence of mind to not move when there was the possibility of head/neck/back injuries.  At this point, I started screaming and crying bloody murder.  I didn't even hurt any where at this point.  I was just grateful I was alive and beyond consolation.  A guy who saw what happened climbed over the guard rail and I listened as he called 911 for an ambulance.  The driver of the car got out and asked me if I was okay.  

This is when the pain started, mostly in my left leg where i took the brunt of the car hitting me.  I wiggled my toes but didn't move otherwise.  I was in an awkward position, slightly twisted and crumpled on the ground, my shoe gone and my coat hiked up.  As I lay there, my kind stranger called my mother for me to let her know I was hurt and being taken to the hospital.  Stuck in the same position, on the cold ground, I couldn't see a lot of what was going on.  At least one person came and threw a blanket over me and pulled my coat down a little bit.  

I wish I remembered the name of the guy who called 911 and my parents and stayed with me until the state trooper and the EMTs got there.  He kept me calm and managed to get me to stop screaming and crying.  An off duty EMT who had been driving by came and assessed me while I was waiting for the ambulance and helped calm me down.  They checked my pockets for my cell phone when I asked.  I was in such a befuddled state, I didn't remember I had been holding it until later when I was in the ambulance.  

Because I was over the guardrail that had earlier protecting me from having my car wind up at the bottom of a very, very steep hill, they needed back up to get me onto a backboard, over said rail, and into the ambulance.  The very nice female EMT kept talking to me as she was assessing and after the fire department arrived, they got me onto the board (still in an awkward position) and me head and neck braced with blocking since they couldn't get a collar on me due to my coat, and were hesitant to cut my coat off out there in the freezing cold weather.  I was then carried on the board, lifted over the guard rail, handed off to another group of people, most of whom I couldn't see, put on the stretcher, and placed in the ambulance.  As I was not critically injured, there was some initial stuff done on scene.  They needed to check on my left leg where I was having the most pain.  

What they don't show/tell you in the movies and on TV is that in an emergency situation, they will pretty much strip you naked to get visuals on your injuries and to care for you.  My coat and jeans were (unsurprisingly) torn anyway.  They cut one leg of my jeans open on site and cut my coat off to be able to get monitors etc on me.  At this point, I had one shoe on (I somehow lost the other) and they were kind enough to cover me with blankets.  They had waited to take the time to physically strap me to the board as they wanted to get me out of the cold first.  This was not a pleasant process as it involved thick nylon straps going across my bruised and tender legs and arms but I survived the pain.  

They had to wait for a second ambulance.  I have no idea what the details were there, to be honest, because when strapped to a board and told not to move, you are rather limited on what you are able to see.  I pretty much had a view of the ceiling of the ambulance and the face of the female EMT.  I was taken to PRMC, lights and sirens and all of that, and rolled in where the doctors and nurses took over.  I was transferred from the backboard to the stretcher where further evaluation took place.  My jeans and coat were cut the rest of the way off.  Thankfully, my shirt, cardigan, and bra were able to be removed without cutting them off, though the former two have tears in the sleeve.  I'm going to have to come up with some sort of creative way to fix them because the shirt was new and the sweater is the love of my cardigan life.  

The nurses and techs and social workers and doctors were extremely kind to me.  I was brought blanket after blanket when I could stop shivering, handed a phone to call my mom as soon as it came available, and was well cared for.  They were my angels.  

The girl I had helped out of her car and tried to calm down was apparently very worried about me, afraid I was grievously injured and concerned that it was her fault I had been hit.  The hospital couldn't release any information on my condition but they asked if it was okay for her to come back.  I said yes, and got to assure her that I was going to be fine, and that I didn't blame her (how could I?  It wasn't like I was standing next to her car when I was hit.  I was 30 feet beyond my own vehicle).  She said she would pray for me, and I told her I would pray for her.  She thanked me for herself, and on behalf of her parents for helping her.  I thought it was really nice of her and her parents to want to make sure I was okay and to thank me.  

I was eventually given pain medicine (the non-narcotic kind) via IV and sent off to X-ray to have pictures done of my ENTIRE left leg, hip to toes.  My parents arrived soon after the X-rays were taken, and worked some on gathering my things that were spread throughout the room.  My X-rays came back completely clean so I was cleared to leave with a prescription for 600mg of ibprofen, orders to rest and follow up with my doctor, and warnings that the pain was going to get worse.  Monday would be worse, and Tuesday would likely be even worse than Monday.  

After I had put on clothes (mom brought me sweatpants), we got in touch with the state trooper who gave me accident report #1 (from when I spun out and hit the rail) and got my most important stuff out of the car:  my purse, ipod, kindle, and one of the bags of clothes which, thankfully, included my boots as my TOM's were soaked and muddy (hoping they aren't a total loss).  Still waiting on accident report #2.  

My IV was removed, paperwork was signed, and I was discharged and allowed to walk out on my own power.  Travis had been making his way to the hospital and arrived just as we were leaving, so I rode with him for us to try to locate my car (and stuff) but it was apparently taken to an impound lot.  So we went home.  It was a very nerve-wracking experience to be in a car again, even not driving, especially with the snow and slush on the road.  We hit up Hardees for a quick lunch and a drink (since I was extremely thirsty.  For most of my hospital tenure, I couldn't drink anything until they were sure I wasn't going to have to be taken in for surgery).  

Upon making it home, I was waited on hand and foot (literally, when Travis fixed my socks for me) by Travis and my Mom.  I promised Travis I won't leave the house except to go to the doctor.  Trust, me this is an easy promise to keep.  I hurt every where right now.  I have whiplash, and my neck is honestly probably the most painful part of my body right now.  Nevermind the huge bruises, the scrapes, and cuts, my abdominal muscles from rib cage to pelvis hurt.  I will take every ache and pain with as much of a smile as I can muster though.  I am lucky to be alive and relatively uninjured.  

Mom asked me if I saw any angels taken care of me, and I said "Just the human variety."  I never saw any winged heavenly angels carrying me off, but I did see angels in the faces of strangers who covered me in blankets, called my mom, and stopped to care for me.  I wish I could thank them all for their help, for their kindness, for their compassion.  I may not have seen any winged heavenly creatures, but surely I saw the faces of angels yesterday.  

'Til next time, 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.  Today is the day we set aside to remember what we are thankful for... a few hours before running up our credit card balances on getting a whole bunch of other stuff.  I will not be in that crowd, FYI, though my poor brother and boyfriend are stuck manning the walmart for the crazed black Friday/Gray Thursday crowds.  

This list is in no particular order.  Some things are little, something are big.  I'm thankful for all of them.  

1.  The saving grace of Jesus Christ who has set me free from sin and death
2.  My Family and my friends (who are like my family).  Also my wonderful boyfriend Travis who does things like send me flowers just to brighten my day and help me do my thanksgiving baking.  
3.  My job and my work family.  Through the craziest of days, the people that I work with are FANTASTIC and I am proud to be part of Seaford Middle School.  
4.  My mom.  It was not long ago that we didn't think she would be here now.  God has definitely shown his power and his grace in her life.  
5.  My home.  Living with my parents can be stressful at time but I am so grateful that I am able to have a wonderful home with people I love.  
6. The fourteen years we had with Fonzie.  Though it was terrible to lose him this past summer, having him for fourteen years was amazing.  He gave us ten times more than we ever gave him.  
7.  Coffee.  Yes, coffee deserves a separate mention because it is important to my life.  
8.  The food that I eat, the healthy and the not so much.  
9.  My church.  I cannot imagine life without my church family.  They have loved and supported me for my entire life.  
10.  My health.  I could stand to lose a few but overall I am healthy and happy. 
11.  My freedom.  There are many young men and women who are not with their families this thanksgiving.  Some are out in the heat of the dessert or the cold of the storm, fighting for my freedom. I am beyond thankful for them.  
12.  This beautiful earth.  From the flowers that come from the ground to the orange and golden leaves, it is beautiful.  

I have so much more that I could and should say but that would take forever.  For now, this list shall suffice as I am preparing to spend Thanksgiving surrounded by my amazing family.  

Love and Blessings always,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Planning to be Healthy

So I have noticed a pattern in myself. I get really busy during the week and find myself with free time coming in 20 minute bursts.  I've also gotten increasingly bad at getting out of bed in a timely fashion so a lot of things need to be accomplished before I go to bed or they won't get done.  Most specifically, I have to pick out my clothes and pack my lunch before I head to bed.  

The picking out of the clothes is usually pretty non-traumatic; it takes five minutes, if that, and I hang the outfit on the hooks on the back of my bedroom door.  Boom.  Planning lunch, unfortunately, is more time consuming.  More often than not, what is easy and what is quick takes precedent over what is delicious, healthy, and satisfying.  So what am I supposed to do to solve the issue?  

The best solution I have found is to pack all five days worth of lunches over the weekend.  It is, for whatever reason, much easier to find an hour of time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon than it is to find 10-15 minutes each night during the week.  I stash the meals in the fridge and pull them out as I go.  This way, I am eating healthy, satisfying lunches each day.  

This week's meal plan: 


Breakfast:  Smoothie made with peaches, raspberries, almond milk, and kale. 

Lunch:  Tortellini salad (made with tomatoes, broccoli, and mozzarella), carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes with homemade hummus, fiber one lemon bar, and seltzer water with lime. 


Breakfast:  peach raspberry refrigerator oatmeal (this is made by pouring oats, yogurt, milk, and fruit into a container and refrigerating it over night.  In the morning, you grab it and go.)  

Lunch:  Cucumber and broccoli creamy pasta salad, vegetables with homemade hummus, apple slices with peanut butter yogurt dip, and seltzer with lime.  


Breakfast:  cranberry orange refrigerator oatmeal

Lunch:  Tortellini salad (made with tomatoes, broccoli, and mozzarella), vegetables with homemade hummus, apples with almond butter, and seltzer with lime.  


Breakfast: Smoothie.  Not sure what kind yet; I'll mix it up tomorrow probably and freeze it. 

Lunch:  Cucumber and broccoli creamy pasta salad, wheat thins and hummus, apple-peanut butter smoothie (with almond milk and chia seeds), and seltzer with lime.  


Breakfast: Probably yogurt and apple cinnamon oatmeal.  The refrigerator oatmeal really is only good for about 2 days (according to the recipe) and I don't want to push it.  If I have time I'll make something legit.  

Lunch:  The last of the cucumber and broccoli creamy pasta salad, campbell's soup to go, fiber one lemon bar, and seltzer with lime.  

For some people, this amount of planning is probably overkill.  I think the point for me is that I need to make my food decisions when I am of sound mind and not when I'm exhausted and packing my lunch is standing between me and getting to climb into bed.  Or when I'm having a bad day and chips and chocolate seem like perfectly rational things to include in my lunch bag.  

It's kind of funny, though, because one week in the past when I had made the effort to plan out and prepare my lunches, one of my fellow teachers commented on how good my lunch looked.  It wasn't anything overly complicated--I had summer sausage with colby jack cheese, veggies with hummus, and sliced watermelon--but when I made my lunch, I prepared it carefully and made a nice presentation.  Afterall, don't you prefer to eat food that also looks nice?  While my kale smoothies look like toxic sludge, I do my best to make everything else look appealing.  It isn't hard; it's not like I'm carving roses out of tomatoes, but it makes a difference to have my food put into nice individual containers (that I wash and re-use, I might add) rather than schlepping it into plastic bags or dumping it into a single container.  

Whether you are a lunch packer or buy your lunch every day, lunch is a blessed half an hour break in the school day that deserves delicious food to fuel you through the day.  This is just how I do it.  :) 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

This post is about boobs (but actually it's about body image and other things)

This post is about my boobs.  Well, it's not only about my boobs but I wanted to give fair warning so that anyone who is potentially offended by this can run away now.  

Today, I went bra shopping.  This was not a planned activity; I was at the outlets, saw the Soma sign and decided to pop in and let a professional tell me what I needed since none of my bras fit anymore.  That's right, none of my $40+ a piece bras fit me anymore.  (Why are bras so expensive?  I feel kind of ridiculous spending so much money on something no one but me sees...  I guess that's the point though.  If a bra is doing what it's supposed to, no one notices it.)

If you're just popping by here and don't know me, I've lost about 45 pounds over the last year.  This is fantastic and I feel great and have gone from wearing a tight size 20 to a loose size 16.  There are down sides though.  One that has become very pointed in the last week is that without that extra layer of padding, I get so much colder than I used to.  Fall has hit us suddenly.  It is not freezing outside; it's been in the 50's yet when I go outside my teeth start chattering.  Lord save me when I get down to my goal weight if this trend continues; I'll need a parka in the summer.  The other downside for me has been my shrinking chest.  

Anatomically speaking, a woman's breasts are made of mammary glands and fat.  So I ought not be surprised at the shrinkage with the whole fat-loss thing.  And as much as I have complained about them in the past, one would think I would be happy with the size reduction.  I mean, they are heavy and they get in the way.  Yet I am now desperate to have them back.  

I think part of this desperation comes from the horror of seeing hundreds of dollars of bras getting thrown in the donation pile because I can't fill them up anymore.  This means I'm going to have to shell out serious $$$ for new ones that will fit.  I won't be able to replace them all at once; just like how I acquired the collection I'll have to get a few at a time.  But still.  This is upsetting.  

In addition to the horror of having to get rid of the bras is the size confusion.  I have worn the same size of bras for the last four or five years (hence the large collection) since I admitted that I needed a larger band size to avoid the horrors of back fat rolls.  I was also very brand loyal to Lane Bryant bras so I could walk into the store (or go online), pick the bras I thought were pretty in my size and check out without having to try on 50 different bras to find one that fit properly only to go home and find that once the elastic relaxed the band was too loose.  

I fully recommend allowing professionals to fit you buy bras.  However, you do need to be wary.  Case in point:  one very nice sales lady saw fit to measure me while I was wearing an ill-fitting padded bra and a heavy sweater.  And told me that I actually need a bra with bigger cups and a bigger band than what I was already wearing.  I told her there was no way, given the way my bras were fitting and she gave me a doubtful look and told me she would take a look at what I tried on.  

Undeterred by her lack of enthusiasm, I forged on through the racks and pulled bras in no less than 5 different sizes.  On my third bra, a different sales lady came in to check on me and I had her remeasure me just to double check that I wasn't crazy.  I was correct and the original measurements I was given were off by two cup sizes and two band sizes.  Lesson learned:  do not let sales ladies measure you for a bra over your outfit.  

I am not above societal pressures.  I won't claim that this is healthy or the way things ought to be but it is the truth and I don't think there is anyone who is in contact with other human beings that can claim they are free of societal pressure.  We are bombarded by messages about what we are supposed to look like.  I think the ideal is something like Barbie.  Or maybe Kim Kardashian.  But the reality is that most women don't look like that.  I certainly don't look like that.  We're supposed to have a perfect hour glass figure with a tiny waist and big boobs.  That's what femininity is, right?  So my breasts shrinking (naturally due to weight loss) makes me less of a woman.  (<--i actually="" don="" fyi="" nbsp="" p="" t="" that="" think="">

I'm kind of ashamed of myself for being dissatisfied with my chest.  I was never happy when they were larger so one would think I would be elated, right?  Well, I see two flaws in this little thought process here.  Flaw #1: This is my body, I am gorgeous, and I need to accept myself cellulite, wiggly bits, shrinking boobs and all.  I don't think I'm ugly.  I don't under any circumstances think I am flat-chested (hahahahaha... I wore a C-cup in the fifth grade). Accepting myself and my body is a daily process.  For all the messages we all receive telling us we don't measure up, it only makes sense to me that we have to remind ourselves just as much that those are lies and though we are not perfect, we are enough.  Flaw #2: If my womanhood is defined by two lumps of fat and mammary tissue positioned on my chest, I am doing a great disservice to not only myself but to other women (and most specifically the millions of women who have fought, are fighting, and will fight breast cancer).  

Only a colorblind person would not notice that things have gone pink for October.  I sang at a breast cancer fundraiser on the first.  The park in town has pink lights wrapped around the tree trunks.  October 13th was supposed to be national no-bra day to raise support for breast cancer (though unless you are making a donation for the right to go braless, I don't see how this is supporting breast cancer research.  Sorry if this offends you but it's true).  No women in my family have ever had breast cancer (no, we get the not-so-popular cancers of the lungs and rectum) so I can't say first or second hand what it is like to go through treatment that often includes disfiguring surgery.  I have heard stories, though, of women who feel like there is something wrong with them after the surgery, like the cancer took something from their soul and not just their bodies.  I think these women are beautiful and strong and that their scars are a mark of their strength (I love the slogan 'fight like a girl').  So who am I to insult these brave, strong, wonderful women by being dissatisfied with my own unmarred, cancer free breasts?  

So what was the point of this?  I've kind of just rambled on for a couple hundred words here about my chest, body image, and breast cancer.  I'll give you my main point right here:  womanhood is not defined by our appearance (after all, I have seen some VERY convincing drag queens before...).  Big boobs, little boobs, or almost non-existent boobs, all women's bodies are beautiful in their own way.  

Do yourself a favor and stop beating yourself up for not looking like you belong on a magazine cover--most of that is photoshop anyway ;)