“We can rebuild her. We have the technology.”

As you may have noticed, I didn’t have a blog entry for last week. And it wasn’t because there wasn’t anything to talk about. I actually had a positive update, having lost nearly three pounds that week AND finally dipping under 290. You would have thought I’d have been shouting from the rooftops.

Instead I was unconscious on pain pills.

See, this is the main issue with my ongoing struggle with back pain. The “cure” often sidelines me every bit as much as the pain. Maybe more so, because it affects my very consciousness.

Those who know me know that I have two jobs: the nine-to-five that pays the bills and the writing career. It kills my soul daily that I have to regulate my dream to ‘hobby hours,’ just to be able to survive. It’s a compromise. It’s not the ideal. And this year, my opportunity to make inroads as a screenwriter has monopolized those few hours I do get to chase my dream, which means I have seriously neglected the part of my career that has made me the most money.

But whatever it takes, right? These are the perimeters in which I’m forced to operate, so I have to navigate these narrow corridors as best I can.

I can’t do that unconscious, which is where western medicine leaves me when my back decides to take a powder. The only thing they can do for me is A.) give me strong medication I’m loath to take and B.) steal all the rest of my precious time away on every new gamble that MAYBE this new thing will work longer than the old thing.

This week I had my first appointment with the physical medicine department. This was supposed to be for an epidural shot for the pain. My thought was, no – I don’t really want a shot in my back but if it gets me upright and stabilized, it’s worth it.

But remember in my last blog, when I said that going to the doctor again for my back meant I knew I was getting back on the merry-go-round with more tests to needle down the “cause” and the “cure”? Well, this appointment was that, even though he actually did a range of motion test and actually listened to me when I talked to him. When I told him what the previous doctor said about weight, he conceded that weight can be an issue but there are just simply folks who are going to suffer from chronic back pain, heavy or thin. He said weight management was something that they often discussed, but really the issue was strengthening the core muscles that surround the back to stabilize it.

His focus was my back, not my weight. It was refreshing. (I can ONLY hope it wasn’t because my husband was there at the appointment with me.)

Honestly I got the impression that the shot was really a small part in the overall cure, and I could pursue it if I wanted but isolating the root cause (which at this point really points to nerve pain since it radiates down through my hip and into my leg) and dealing with it through that strengthening of the core was really the bigger focus of the treatment.

This starts with an MRI to rule out that there isn’t any disc damage now that wasn’t there eleven years ago when I had the last one.

I haven’t scheduled it yet, mostly because I’m a big baby who is extraordinarily claustrophobic. The last time I had one, I nearly flipped out being slid into that silly machine. I will, don’t worry, I just need a little time to wrap my mind around it and gear up to it.

In the meantime he offered yet another pill to help deal this time with the nerve pain. It’s called Nortriptyline and it’s an anti-depressant, which was not good news for me. I hate anti-depressants because I have yet to take one that makes me feel legitimately better. Most either make me go numb or kill my creativity and steal away the parts that make me “me.” I’ve been on Paxil, on Wellbutrin, on Effexor – and none of them have ever made me feel “normal.” Much like the pain pills that steal precious hours away from me by knocking my ass out, they steal so much more from me than they give. Considering my past history with suicide, I want nothing – NOTHING – to do with anything that could exacerbate that risk.

Both Chris Cornell and Robin Williams were being treated for their depression with medication, and still succumbed to the unthinkable. That scares the shit out of me. I’m barely holding on sometimes as it is. I don’t want the very life-saver I’m clutching to turn into pure led and drag me down to the depths as I struggle to keep afloat.

He explained that this wouldn’t work like that because at such a small dose (10mg,) it would work on the nerve pain when taken nightly with the Tramadol I was already taking. I just couldn’t take it during the day because it would make me sleepy (big FUCKING surprise) and he advised NOT to take it with the  muscle relaxer.

So I was like, fine. Whatever. Get me mobile, doc. Then we can worry about the “real” cure – which essentially means I’m going to have to devote my precious time and attention to working on my back. I just need to get past the acute stage of pain first.

The second warning bell went off at the pharmacy, when I experienced a delay getting the prescription filled because the pharmacy needed the doctor himself to clear it, considering there was an issue with taking Tramadol and Nortriptyline together.

But I have to trust the doctor, right? So did the pharmacy, apparently, who filled the order finally. They gave me a box of pills set up with weekly therapy: one pill a night for the first week and if that wasn’t effective, I could increase it to two doses a night for the next week. If that didn’t work, go to three for week three, four to week four or finally five doses on week five – with a maximum dose of 50mg nightly as needed for pain. I was told, however, to take the lowest effective dosage, which was fine with me considering I didn’t really want to take this new pill at all.

But desperate times called for desperate measures.

I did tell my husband, my bestie and my kids, though – if you see me demonstrate ANY questionable behavior, please say something. DO something. Don’t let this new fucking pill gaily trip along my subconscious, turning off every filter that keeps me in what narrow control I currently have.

That first night I took the first pill with my Tramadol and still had a helluva time letting myself fall asleep. The whole thing at the pharmacy really fucked with my head. IS this safe to take together? I mean, yes, a guy in a white coat assured me it was fine, but the one and only time I had a hallucination was on prescribed medicine, under a doctor’s advice. I was taking Tramadol that time too, and my doc prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. You wouldn’t think I’d need it on such heavy pain medication, but after a while, it doesn’t make you sleep anymore, and I had been on it for a good little bit by that point. I made the mistake of taking the two together and whoa, nelly. It was a wild ride. I gave up on the Ambien a week into taking it, which resulted in one of the worst panic attacks of my life.

I hate, hate, hate pills. Hate em. HATE.

But, to my delight and surprise, the pills actually started to work this time around. I felt better. I slept better. I was moving with very little thought, which meant the pain was actually, finally, inhibited.

For two days anyway.

By Day Three, I started experiencing troubling side effects. I was at work that morning and I was getting dizzier by the minute, which made me nauseated. My heart started to race and I knew that a panic attack was setting in, which makes it hard as hell to work when you’re spending 100% of your energy trying to normalize. I made the HUGE mistake of going online to figure out if these were side effects of the new medication. Why was the pharmacy so reticent to fill this prescription?

As anyone in a post Internet world knows, if you already feel bad and you start to self-diagnose with what you find on the web, you’re going to convince yourself that you’re gonna die. This is never a good idea when you’re on the verge of a panic attack. By the time I got to “serotonin syndrome,” I was freaking the fuck out. This condition can occur thanks to certain medication that causes serotonin to accumulate in your brain, kinda like, oh… Nortriptyline AND Tramadol, and symptoms run the gamut from nausea/vomiting to seizures and DEATH.

Panic attack mode: secured.

Unlike the panicky feeling I would get on certain strains/dosages of cannabis, where I was secure in the knowledge that no one had actually ever DIED from it, I no longer had that assurance. Now I had this potentially fatal cocktail coursing through my body and nothing to do but read the signs and pray it on the more benign side of the side effects scale.

Quite a gamble if you ask me, and an expensive one at that. Hence my biggest issue about Big Pharma and cannabis prohibition.

So that night I didn’t take either pill. Fuck all that noise. I’m not going to get killed by the cure. The very day I went to the new doctor I nearly passed out at work because of this toxic mix of man-made chemicals screwing up my body chemistry – and I was still in pain on top of it all.

The new meds helped with the pain, finally, but I’m not sure that it’s worth wondering if every little twinge I get is something significantly worse than any other normal twinge. I’ve never had a seizure, but they don’t look like a whole lot of fun.

So what’s the answer? Well, the doc gave me the answer. It’s not in a pill, or a shot. I have a bad back and it sucks to be me, but them’s just the cards I was dealt. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I want is on the other side of pain and I have to do – big surprise – whatever it takes to get to the other side of it. So I’m going to have to do the exercises, the stretches, the physical therapy to strengthen the core, even when I have to fight through excruciating pain to do it. There is no shortcut, much as I would like there to be.

I do, however, think there is something to my theory that it might involve something in my reproductive system. When my period hit this past week, it was another hellish one. I was passing 3-inch clots and experiencing such horrendous cramps that, with combined with the back pain, put me at a steady “9” on the pain scale, just one hair away from unbearable. I cruise normally around 2 or 3, but with back pain it can go as high as 7 or 8.

If I’m sobbing in my husband’s arms for ten minutes straight, just because I can’t handle one more moment of pain, I’d say that there’s a major fucking problem. I’ve been dealing with this shit for more than a decade. I barely break.

This is breaking me, which is why I reached out for help in the first fucking place.

And the Internet sources agree. “Talk to your doctor,” they said, if a clot is bigger than a quarter.

Yeah, I tried that. She told me I was too fat and this was normal lady stuff. But, you know. Whatever.

I did file a grievance with this particular doctor and asked to get another provider. Now it looks like I have to pay yet ANOTHER co-pay (along with what I paid the doc in physical medicine and probably the MRI too) to go see an OB/GYN just to get my issues addressed.

Getting nickled and dimed while I’m strung along for weeks, and still nothing is getting fixed?

Sounds like western medicine to me.

Fuck the system. That’s all I’m saying.

I can’t be unconscious for weeks and I refuse to live in a constant state of panic. I’ve got shit to do. I’ve got a final rewrite to do on this script, which I haven’t even been able to address because I’ve been in too much pain or medicated into a coma. After that, I need to – absolutely and positively NEED to – write another book. My career is flat-lining and my creative soul is gasping its final, dying breath to express itself.

If I don’t get back to “me” – and soon – there may not be anything left.

It’s not going to be easy, and I know it’s going to hurt like a mother, but I have to fix this the old fashioned way. I’ve got to grit my teeth and do whatever it takes to make my incredible body as strong as it can be. Because it can be. I can make it so.

I can do this. Whatever it takes.

Just… don’t judge me if I cry, okay?

 

Diagnosis: Fat

Yesterday I went to the doctor for two things: my ongoing and increasing back pain and horrendous menstrual periods, which I wanted to ensure didn’t have anything to do with each other. The reason for this was because I had started to see some progress with my back, but another hellish cycle struck and I was sidelined again by the back pain – to the point I had to call out from work.

So I did a little research to see if the two things might be related, and in doing so I realized that the kinds of heavy, painful periods I have been having, which I chalked up to aging, aren’t necessarily perimenopausal like I had previously thought. Instead I was reading about fibroid cysts (which my mother had) and how the pressure of large cysts could cause back pain.

Seemed plausible, but I’d need a doctor to confirm so I made an appointment. I thought maybe if THAT was the cause of my current back pain, then perhaps that was a treatment I hadn’t considered, one that could make a dramatic improvement in my current health.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. The sketchy thing about back pain is that it’s one of those diagnose by process of elimination things. I’ve been through it all. MRIs, physical therapy, chiropractors, etc. I figured with the possibility of a cyst, I’d probably have to get another ultrasound.

I was about to climb yet another mountain, and I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I had no choice. It’s everything I can do to get through an eight-hour shift. I’m not sleeping well, obviously, and by the time I go to work I’m already tired. I sit at a desk for eight hours, which, as expected, sends my sciatica through the roof. I try to walk it out, like I had in months past, trying to limber up and get moving at least twice a day with a ten minute jaunt around the complex where I work. If I can make just three of those laps, I easily make my 10K steps.

Recently, I’m lucky to make it once. By the time I drag myself home in the evening, I’m done. I’m doner than done. There is no cleaning, no errands being done – like grocery shopping, for instance, which has thrown my diet out of whack because we’re grabbing things out more often than not. This includes lunch and dinner, which spells disaster for what I’m trying to do to lose weight.

I thought if nothing else, I’ll get the standard prescription treatment for my back, the narcotic/anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxer, and I’d take this weekend just to medicate the hell out of myself and try to get past this acute episode.

This ain’t my first rodeo. This has been the protocol towards “fixing” my back since 2006. Only it never fixes anything, it just keeps me a faithful customer to Big Pharma.

When I wasn’t working, I could medicate with cannabis and saw much better results. But because of the stigma that goes along with the use of cannabis, not to mention the legal ramifications even now that it’s “technically” legal in the state of California, that’s not the go-to option anymore. When I applied for my job, I was given a drug test. Since I had worked with employee files up till then, I knew what the perimeters were to pass. I could have 1000mg of cocaine, but 25mg of THC would have given me a hard stop.

Cocaine – acceptable. A plant that has been used medicinally for ten thousand years (and never killed one person) – not.

It’s frustrating. Every bit as fucking frustrating as my weight being the sole focus of any and all doctor’s appointments.

I mean, I must be one of the easiest patients for doctors to see. Instead of probing and getting to the root cause, they can just look at me and make an instant diagnosis. Oh, your back hurts? Well, you’re fat. Case closed, moving on, next patient.

I spent maybe ten minutes talking to my doctor about the issues that brought me into the office. She dismissed immediately that cysts might be my problem, and shrugged off my hellish periods as just a woman thang, even when I told her that (TMI alert) I have horrendous flooding that will have me going through every protective barrier known to (wo)man within an hour. Seriously, I’ve almost passed out before from the blood loss. I have gone from the bathroom five steps to my bed and collapsed in a heap, hoping Steven didn’t come in the room before I could pull myself together in order to clean up the mess so he wouldn’t think someone had tried to murder me.

Those are the days I barely even want to leave the house because movement = flooding, which means I have to change three times a day. But she just smirked and said every woman feels that way.

chandlerreally

Basically none of what I told her registered to the doc, who expects me to trust her when she was absolutely not going to trust me when I was telling her what was wrong. That flooding thing is new within the last few years. It’s not “just a woman thing” or me being a baby about my period. I’ve had my period since I was nine, just like I’ve had this back pain since 2006. I KNOW when something is up. I DON’T just go bug her for nothing.

Instead she pushed around on my back for a whole thirty seconds, nearly sending me flying off of the exam table in the process. Within those thirty seconds, she decided it was completely muscular and declared I needed to lose weight “yesterday” to avoid the weight compressing my discs in such a way that I’m virtually crippled by the pain in a decade.

All she saw was the weight. That’s all any of them see. And they won’t take my complaints seriously as a result.

judgemebymysize

She made the same snap judgment everyone else does: I’m fat so I’m clearly not doing anything about it. If I did, it would fix all my woes. I explained to her I was currently trying to lose weight for that very reason, because I’m tired of my life being so fucking limited, but without the ability to exercise I’m between a rock and a hard place. She told me that I could technically do it diet alone, but I told her I’ve been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for the last four months. The diet thing works for about a week and then if I don’t add exercise into it, it stalls.

I mean, I’m 47 years old and I’ve been fat since I was a child. I know my body pretty well by this point. I know what works and what doesn’t. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. I’ve tried almost everything, except maybe for surgery. When I was a kid, there was a diet aid literally called “Ayds” (this was before the 1980s.) They were these little pieces of chocolate that were supposed to curb my appetite.

By the mid-eighties I went on Nutrisystem and stayed on that as long as we could afford. Back in 1984, it was $90 a week for both my mom and me, not including all the fresh food you had to buy (not to mention all the other non-food grocery needs.) To put that in perspective, my weekly grocery budget in 2017 is $100-150 to feed a family of FIVE. As a single mother in 1984, working for barely over minimum wage, Mom simply couldn’t afford us to stay on it, and so I capped out at 36 pounds lost in six weeks. Yay! Magic! It works… as long as you’re chained to the program.

And yes, THAT I did without exercise, if you don’t count P.E., but it was the only time that worked.

After Scott was born and I had forty pounds of pregnancy fat to lose, I created my own system that alternated between fasting and limited calories, as well as walking at least thirty minutes a day. Today they call these things intermittent fasting and the 10,000-step plan to walk yourself thin. (I was so ahead of my time.) I lost enough weight to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was still fat. It didn’t go any lower.

Out of desperation I tried the Mayo Clinic* Diet (misleadingly named after the medical institute,) where I was supposed to drop 10 pounds in a week if I ate certain foods on certain days in certain combinations. It worked, I lost 10 pounds… of water weight. The next week it was back, even though I kept using the plan.

When I was homeless in LA I lost quite a bit of weight quite dramatically – but it wasn’t just from lack of food. Whether we were at the beach or at Griffith Park, we walked everywhere we could just to have something to do that didn’t cost any money.

Then I got pregnant and, well, I went back to old habits.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of things. I’ve tried Slim-Fast, I’ve gone on the Richard Simmons plan (which helped me lose thirty pounds in time for my wedding to Steven, dropping me from a scary 350 to 320 and size 32.) I did the Cabbage Soup diet until I couldn’t even look a head of cabbage in the face. I lost 70lbs using SparkPeople, but, again, I had to have an exercise plan to go along with or else it would stagnate and frustrate the hell out of me. I’ve gone vegan, I’ve gone low carb, I’ve gone sugarless. In each and every experience, if I didn’t add physical activity onto it, my body stopped losing weight once it became accustomed to the new eating plan.

This is what has happened now with my intermittent fasting. I still only eat about eight hours a day (this week being the exception to that rule,) but without the physical activity I add to it, either using my stationary bike at home or walking whenever I can fit it in, it really doesn’t do much to help me move the scale.

Hence why I’ve been stuck between 290-297 for the last four months of weekly weigh-ins.

I know my body. The diet, though they say it’s 70% of the battle, only takes me so far. I need to add exercise. And yet every single time I add exercise, I end up throwing out my back and it undoes all the progress.

So I tell her this, and just like the whole period thing she dismisses it. “So you’re telling me there’s nothing you can do about your weight.”

No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I need help. She said that Kaiser Permanente offers food plans much like Weight Watchers. And like WW, I have pay by the week for a sixteen-week program AND I have to show up to weekly meetings.

If that was what I wanted, I’d have joined WW. (Actually, no I wouldn’t – because I abhor any kind of weight loss program that makes a profit off of desperate fat people. I won’t buy pills, I won’t buy pre-packaged foods. These companies don’t protect their bottom line by helping you succeed – and I don’t want to be stuck on a program the rest of my life. I’m not trading one set of shackles for another, thank you very much.)

She gave me the standard prescription protocol for my back, with an order for steroid injections – since that’s the only thing I haven’t tried to help me stay upright, rather than flat on my back, doped out of my mind for days at a time.

But I still woke up three times in the night with white hot pain radiating down my leg. I face another day of poor sleep and relentless pain.

Yay.

It dawned on me fairly quickly yesterday that despite reaching out for help, I’m alone in this. And I guess I always have been. People look at me and make their assumptions, which is nothing new. Back in Texas, I had a doc tell me in our first meeting together that I was diabetic. This was without any kind of symptoms, this was without any kind of blood work. This was her looking at me and deciding since I’m “morbidly obese” I must have diabetes. I told her no, I’m not diabetic. That’s the first thing any doc ever tests me for, even when I was pregnant. I’ve done the fasting blood tests, I’ve been checked consistently for years and *knock on wood* it’s the one thing I’ve managed to avoid. Yet she didn’t hear any of that. She insisted I was. It took the blood work coming back to convince her, because my word CLEARLY wasn’t enough.

(Which, by the way, I got my results back from my blood work yesterday. My A1C is 5.3. The normal range is 4.8 – 5.6. In 2012, the last time I had my blood drawn, it was 5.1. Please stop assuming I have diabetes because I’m fat, k?)

In fact, all my tests came back fine and in normal ranges. The only thing that was a bit high was my RDW blood test showed 15.1 when the normal range caps off at 14.5. I immediately researched to find out what this means.

This is what I found:

When your red cells have a lot of variation in their size then you will see higher RDW values in your test. If your rdw blood test is high then there could be a few reasons for the cause.

A common cause of high RDW values is Vitamin b12 deficiency or Folate deficiency. This can lead to macrocytic anemia (or large cell anemia). People with macrocytic anemia almost always suffer from elevated RDW levels.

Hum. Would you look at that. Anemia. Blood. Why did I go to the doctor again?

But…. FAT. FATTIE FAT FAT FAT. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

My blood pressure was slightly elevated at 135/69, but I was also in a lot of pain. I’ll take it again with my own machine later to monitor. After last year’s scary episode, I don’t play around.

See, people will think to look at me I don’t care about my health, when in fact I’m rather obsessed about it. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m not doing something about it every single day.

It’s just taking a slow ass time, made even slower by the fact I. Can’t. MOVE.

Basically I paid $70 to find out things I already knew. I’m on my own in this, and I’m the one that is going to have to fix it because I’m the expert when it comes to my own body.

I’ve had to be. Everyone else just sees the fat, not anything that is going on underneath it.

So glad I’ve paid nearly $3000 so far this year for this kind of stellar health coverage.

princesideeye

So. What’s my plan?

Well, I’m going to have to do as the doc says. I’m going to concentrate on my diet, rather than the exercise, simply because I have no choice. I can’t walk right now and if I try, I’ll end up hobbled again and missing work, which I can’t afford to do. The only thing I can control is what I put into my face. I only have two rules for a “diet”: One, it can’t cost me money, i.e. Slim-Fast, WW, Nutrisystem, fat burning pills, etc. (See above.) Two, it has to be health-based. I want whole foods, real foods, not processed junk that is marketed to a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, whose profit margins have raised right along with the skyrocketing obesity rate. No Lean Cuisine. No Diet Coke. No low-fat, sugar-free, fad o’ the moment quick fix.

Unfortunately for me, this is still going to cost me. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and spend a little more on groceries to split apart from my family. Of the five people in my household, only two of us aren’t picky eaters. My husband is the pickiest, he hates most fruits and vegetables (it’s a texture thing,) and is a carb junkie despite being diabetic. (Did I mention he’s 100lbs lighter than me? He eats junk, I don’t. He has diabetes, I don’t. Fuck anyone who makes this trigger judgment of me as a result, especially if you’re a goddamned doctor.)

My future daughter-in-law comes in second-pickiest. She eats more foods than my oldest son Tim, BUT it’s HOW she eats them. She’s virtually Sally from When Harry Met Sally:

She’s not an experimental eater. She reluctantly tries new things. Here’s our biggest Food Tug-of-War at the moment: I want her to branch out and eat different kinds of salads. She’s a HUGE salad eater, but it has to come with specific ingredients that can work well with ranch dressing. If there’s no ranch dressing, there’s no salad. Period. Honestly, I think salads are basically her ranch delivery service, but that’s typical of a lot of people from Texas. I am trying, now, to get her to try salads that incorporate fruit and nuts but she’s thrown on the brakes because she can’t imagine that level of experimentation. She can’t have a salad without ranch dressing, and fruit with ranch dressing?

liarliarpuke

This, to me, was my favorite part of going vegan. I tried all kinds of new combinations AND new veggies. I love food, y’all. Let me play with it. I went to Pinterest last night to see what kind of foods I could eat instead of the standard family friendly fare we normally get, and I pinned dozens and dozens and dozens of new recipes. It amped me up. I got excited. I couldn’t wait to try new things.

Not her. She would rather go without than eat something she doesn’t want to eat, even if she’s hungry.

I don’t quite grasp this concept. Obviously.

She likes her deep fried stuff, her alfredo sauces, all the things I can’t eat because of a tricky gallbladder. And, like me, she’s been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for three whole years – the only difference is she’s seriously UNDER-weight. She can afford the junk. She can indulge the sweet tooth, which is a daily requirement for her and, as such, a daily temptation for me. And I don’t deny them, I just fit them in to everything else, making my compromises elsewhere.

But, for the next week or month at least, I have to split apart from this because our goals are diametrically opposed. I’m going no sugar again… and I apologize ahead of time for the massive bitch this is going to turn me into.

My older son is attempting a health regimen himself and, as his father’s son, he has some opinions about what I’m doing wrong. (Don’t they all?) But he’s on my side with the no soda, no processed sugar thing, so I have his support. He also told me I need to be more compassionate of myself whenever I succumb to temptation… like this week when I kept hopping on and off the wagon.

People love me and want to take care of me, which so often times includes food. This week a nurse left an egg roll for me, which was very sweet of her. It was also at 9am, way before I allow myself to eat. The next day there was red velvet cake, because life is just that cruel. The next day was a goodbye brunch, ALSO way before my eating time frame.

If I try to muster any will at all to say no, I always hear the same thing: “Just one bite won’t hurt you.”

Like I need a lot of convincing… especially when I’m in the kind of pain I’ve been in lately. I just want to feel good and we all know by now food is my vice of choice, especially at work where my other vices are limited.

I even succumbed to the rare Diet Coke (blame the cake.) Within minutes Hal posted a link on how Diet Coke contributes to weight gain.

It was like he KNEW. My one and only coke and he freaking knew.

Despite these setbacks, I kept mostly with the plan, and my 100+ ounce of water consumption. We still ate out a lot this week, mostly because no one felt up to cooking. The fam has been battling some stomach bug and my back has been breaking to the point I don’t do ANYTHING when I get home.

It’s going to be a(nother) disappointing weigh in. And I’m just going to have to forgive myself and move on with a plan that I’m going to have to follow solo. Steven has offered to throw himself on the grenade, learning how to eat more plant-based foods (which I truly believe is the key to better health – and one of the reasons I think that, despite the inability to exercise, I am in mostly good health except for the back thing.) But he’s so picky that I know I’ll be tempted to come up with stuff that will appeal to both of us, and – quite frankly – I can’t be held down by that limitation. I’m going to get what I like, what I’ll eat, what I know is good for me. I can eat nothing but salad for a week straight, limiting my sugar to fresh fruit. Steve? Not so much. And I can’t allow that to be yet another stumbling block. I have to be a little selfish here, a little rude, a little impolite.

I’ll make what I want, what I know is good and right for me. He has to decide if he will like it or not. Or else he can eat what the family eats.

Because that’s the way it’s just going to have to be. I’m done compromising, because I always end up on the losing end of that. Just like right now, Brit texted because she’s just now getting off of work and wants lunch while they’re out. That means fast food. That means more junk. She asked if I was hungry, which I am, but I said no, I’m good.

If I’m in this alone, I have to do what’s best for me. Same thing when I went vegan all those years ago. I have to look out for myself because no one in my family can or will join me. I’m in the fight for my life now, particularly in terms of my mobility. I may be like a stallion locked up in the starting gate, but let’s face it – I’m used to things being difficult.

It’s going to take some time, much longer than I want it to be, mostly because fat is the only thing people see when they look at me. The doc said I have to lose weight “yesterday” and she’s not wrong. In order to fit in with her and with everyone else, I have to have the “After” body, not the “Before” and certainly not the “During.” I’m fighting my way out from behind my body for the kind of value that other people take for granted. They can go to the doctor and be heard about their concerns. They can walk down the street without people assuming they’re lazy and don’t give a shit about themselves. Despite the fact I eat much healthier than she does, Brit turns heads when she walks down the street. Men want to get to know her. She’s a smoker, she eats crap, but she’s got the “After” body, even when she’s in the “During” process to get to a healthier weight.

But she can be seen and accepted and heard, just like everyone else who doesn’t commit the high crime of being fat. They can be seen for who they are instead of what they weigh, and I’m going to have to wait a helluva long time for that, made longer still by the limitation of my back pain.

I’m just going to have to make peace with that, which, frankly, is harder than losing the weight. It’s going to take time before people will hear me, or see me, or recognize anything that I’m doing that’s good. They’re going to make their assumptions. They’re doing to diagnosis me with terminal fatness.

But they don’t count. They can’t. In order to claim my value I must first find it in myself. Here’s what I know:

I’m not a bad person.

I’m not a failure.

I’m not careless about my health.

I’m not lazy.

I’m not weak.

I have a specific challenge to fight, but I’m strong enough to beat it. It may not happen in a year, but like any war it is won one battle at a time, one day at a time.

Time to make this a good day.

Suicidal tendencies; dancing with the devil that lives inside your mind.

On May 18, 2017 we lost Chris Cornell, the legendary alt-rock singer whose sudden, shocking death left a wide path of mourning in its wake. I saw the tweet almost immediately and I knew it was going to be a tough one for his fans. Since he died so young, and these days 52 is pretty young to shuffle off one’s mortal coil, we waited for the cause. When it finally came, I knew it would be an even tougher blow for people.

Whenever someone commits suicide, it shades the mourning into something akin to anger at the person who died. Let’s face it. Losing someone is hard. You have a lot of powerful emotions and they can be very hard to manage. Nobody wants to feel despondent. Rage at least gives you some illusion of control over the whole thing. Anger puts you back into a position of power when the choices of someone else pull the emotional rug out from under you. You hear words like “selfish,” or “cowardly,” thrown around, mostly because it’s easier. It’s also more socially acceptable. If someone buries a 500-lb person, you’d never go up to the person’s family and say anything negative about the choices that brought him or her to her end. You show sympathy.

Direct suicide, however, comes with a much more visceral reaction, even though – technically speaking – they sort of come from the same place. One’s just a hell of a lot faster.

I never get angry. I know all too well the seductive lure of suicide. I know what it feels like to be so overwhelmed you just want the pain to *end*, right now, no waiting. I’ve thought about the unthinkable more than once.

I’ve thought about it recently.

Part of it stems from the depression and mental health issues I’ve had all my life, I’m sure. At least I hope so. I hope that it’s not normal to contemplate such a horrible thing, even when things aren’t going well. Even if things never seem to go well.

To me, the presence of suicide is the absence of hope, and that is a bleak, bleak place to be.

Whenever I hear of someone who has died this way, my heart immediately breaks for them. I think about their final moments that they had to spend alone, with this monster in their mind, a lying, seductive devil that convinces them there is only one option left.

I have wrestled more than once with this darkness. It’s terrifying.

And every time I hear about someone losing their battle to that monster, it fills me with my own terror. I’ve been where they were. I fear I will be again. And I worry that one day all hope will run out for me and I’ll do the unthinkable, because it is by the hair of my chinny chin chin that I made it through those scary times at all.

So what brings someone to such a desperate end?

Lots of things. We all have different thresholds of what we’re willing to endure to survive. Pain. Trauma. Financial worry. Sickness. Fear. Exhaustion. The option to punch your own ticket sometimes seems preferable than living on under the weight of such overwhelming conditions. Sometimes we as humans feel painted in a corner and it’s just easier to check out than to keep fighting a losing battle one more day.

And sometimes the thoughts are fleeting. Like, “Jesus, I should just fucking down a bottle of pills and get it over with,” but you keep going, one foot after the other, trying to find your way to some sort of break that will help you recharge your batteries. You know you only think these things in a weak moment, when you’re feeling particularly drained, but you don’t *really* mean it. It just gives you some sort of sense of control to say it, which is important when everything in your life is whirling around out of your control.

Other times, the scarier times, you begin to plan. You start to think about how you will do it, and maybe even arrange your life in such a way that it could accommodate such plans. Maybe you start to give away things that matter to you, or write your goodbye letters. Maybe you talk about it more, and people who know you dismiss is as some “cry for attention,” because they just can’t see someone so strong, someone who has so much to live for, doing such a “selfish”, “cowardly” thing.

It is in this period we need your compassion and your help most of all. It is in these moments that we feel selfish and cowardly, and such dismissal reinforces those negative, bleak feelings. If talk of suicide is someone’s “cry for attention” – GIVE IT TO THEM. They’re still in the planning stages at this point, and in that stage their mind is a war zone trying to list all the reasons to stay and all the reasons to leave.

If people heap onto their shame and their own feelings of low self-worth and failure, it can give a lot of ammo to that monster that resides inside their brains, who tells them things *regularly* – like, “You’re such a burden. The people you love would be so much better off without you.” “You’re such a fuck-up. Just end it already.”

People will say it’s selfish for someone to consider suicide, and maybe it is – but these are vulnerable people who are under the influence of the worst kind of liar that hides in the shadowy places in their mind, who convinces them a selfish act would actually be a loving one.

And they’re so out of gas at the moment, they’re ripe to believe it.

The first time I contemplated suicide was when I was thirteen years old. I was only 13, but it was the fourth time I had dealt with the fear of sexual abuse. I was raped at four as most know, but I had two near brushes with nefarious types before I turned twelve, which set off my radar that I was in trouble. One was with a preacher, who sat me down in an empty church to talk about my faith. I remember two things: the blue leisure suit he wore (I think this was probably mid-70s) and the gawdy gold ring he wore on his pinky finger.

He laid his arm on the pew behind me, leaning in close, with that seductive tone in his voice, as he spoke about his concern for my soul.

All sorts of alarms went off and I was glad that I got the heck out of there. I don’t even remember how I escaped, but I assume my parents probably came to get me to take me home.

Thank God. Literally.

The next brush was some stranger in a car, who tried to pick me up as I was heading home from school. He drove slow enough to keep up with me while I was walking, not saying anything at first, and then finally rolling down the window to offer me a ride. I shook my head vigorously and all but ran home.

So when my friend decided to take a guy we had both met to court for raping her, I kinda felt at that point that this was my lot in life, to forever run from these kinds of men who only set out to hurt me. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to feel that hunted, but it’s fucking terrifying. When I heard that this guy kept a gun in his glove box, in a car I had ridden in, the terror became unbearable.

Imagine the feeling of having zero control over your body, up to losing your very own life. The powerlessness that comes with that is crushing.

And keep in mind that this emotional baggage was something I shouldered all alone. There was so much shame heaped onto my young shoulders, thanks in large part to the way our society views women and how my religion viewed sex in general. I had yet to tell ANYONE what I had gone through. There was no other voice to combat the monster in my head, who used my own religious upbringing against me. I was damaged goods. Corrupted. Unlovable.

What. Was. The. Point?

So I sat at my kitchen table with a knife to my wrist and I thought about the long road ahead of me, one I walked alone, confused and afraid. I was going to have to face this guy in court, and likely be the thing that ensured he’d face legal consequences for fucking around with a fourteen-year-old girl. That’s what they told me anyway. It was more than just “he said/she said,” with my testimony. I could prove that he was lying when he said he had never met us or taken us for a ride one afternoon at lunch at school.

I could prove that I saw him drive off with her in the car that day in question.

That’s a lot of weight for a thirteen-year-old girl to carry all by herself. Finding out he had a gun, and I might be the thing that jeopardized his very freedom, put me in a precarious situation. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of the abyss, with life on one side and men in general on the other side, playing this tug of war with me and my sanity hanging in the balance.

When you feel that powerless, you’ll do anything to seize control of something, of anything, even if it’s ensuring no one would ever be able to hurt you again, even if it means you have to hurt yourself first.

And so I was over it. I sat there at that table, tears running down my face, as I tried to end it before life ended me, without my choice, as was the pattern of my entire life up till that point.

At least this time, for once in my fucking life, I’d have control over my pain and of my fear.

Then the phone rang. It was my best friend Jeff, in a rare long-distance phone call that his mother usually never let him make. This was back in 1983 when there were no cell phones, no Internet, no Facetime or Skype. If I wanted to communicate with my bestie, I had to sit, write a letter, mail it out and wait for about four days to get a response. Long distance phone calls were expensive, and neither one of us had a job. We were at the mercy of what our parents could and would afford. When we lived in the same town, we talked every day on the phone. His was the lone voice that helped me through the dark silence that followed my dad’s death. After I moved away, I held on for deal life thanks to weekly letters that came addressed solely to me, that made me feel special, like someone in the world gave a damn about me.

Turn that feeling up to 11 and you have the joy I felt when I could talk to him in “real time” on the phone, even when he was 300 miles away.

I picked up the phone and was greeted by his cheery voice, so happy that we could chat for real instead of just exchange letters back and forth like we had done for the year or so before then.

I burst into tears, unable to hide the pain anymore. When he asked me what was wrong I finally told him. Likewise he burst into tears, to tell me that he couldn’t imagine life without me, and that he needed me. As a gay teen in Texas in the middle of the 1980s, he was going through so much he couldn’t even tell me at the time. So I had no way of knowing what a lifeline I was to him, even though I totally was.

But the lying monster in my brain had never let me consider that, because it was too busy keeping my focus pointed inward towards the abyss. I was stunned when he said these things to me.

It was enough to put down the knife. Just knowing someone gave a damn, and – the really important part – didn’t stop loving me when I told him my greatest shame, literally saved my life.

I credit this to divine intervention. I don’t share my faith a lot, but this one event convinced me that not only is there a God, but he/she/it cares what happens to me.

Thanks to that phone call, I once again had hope where there was none.

I didn’t seriously contemplate suicide again until sixteen years later, when I faced yet another overwhelming crisis, one that involved my kids.

And this was even after I lost my newborn son to a fatal heart malformation when he was nine days old. When the paramedic came into the bedroom where I waited with Tim (who was a day short of five years) and Jer (who was three), he broke the news to me as gently as one could tell a young mother that her beautiful baby was, simply, gone. I felt the will to breathe leave me and started to sink to my knees. This man grabbed me by both shoulders and held me up, forcing me to look him straight in the eye. He reminded me that I still had two other children who needed their mother to be strong.

It wasn’t hope necessarily, but it was purpose, much like being there for my bestie who needed me back in the 80s – and that was just as powerful a motivation.

Those two children became my reason to live. And I struggled with every decision after that to give them what I thought they needed. Dan finally got diagnosed and treated for his bipolar disorder. I worked hard to support the family as the sole breadwinner, while managing the new complications that came with living with the disorder, and all the treatment options we had to work through to get to ANYTHING that might help.

But the damage for my young sons was already done in all those dark years before we understood what demons drove my first husband. Thanks to Dan’s illness, my two remaining children ended up removed from the home, with never-ending hurdles I had to jump in order to get them back. The harder I fought, the more life pushed back. I was powerless and in pain, once again. Only this time I felt I had lost every single thing left to live for. I started the planning stage in January of 1999. I couldn’t bear facing the anniversary of Brandon’s death without my other two children. I decided to steal a bottle of Dan’s powerful pills, go to my youngest son’s grave and just go into eternal sleep like he did.

Even with a success story, even after I soundly beat the devil before, it’s amazing how long suicide lingered in the back of my brain as some sort of escape hatch if life gets to be too much.

A stranger I met through the internet picked up on my defeatist dialogue and spent an entire night on the phone with me to remind me how many things there were still left to fight for, including my two kids who, even though the state of California may not have agreed, still needed me to fight for them.

He barely knew me from Eve and we’d never meet face to face, but this angel didn’t get off the line until he was sure I was okay.

He restored my hope so that I was able to keep fighting. Within a year I had made the hard choices the courts demanded of me, which included dissolving my first marriage. By 2000 I got my kids back.

Someone refilled my tank. It wouldn’t empty again, for real, until 2015.

There were moments of weakness, though. When my chronic back pain threatened yet ANOTHER job because I just couldn’t make it to work regularly, I remember vividly sitting on the edge of my bed, in the nagging awful pain that had become the norm for me, thinking what was the point? I was a burden to those I loved, who virtually had to take care of me.

As fiercely independent as I was, that was a very hard pill for me to swallow.

The Mind Monster whispered constantly how much better off my family would be without me. I had worked tirelessly for years to ensure the survival of my family, and I couldn’t work anymore. That fucked with my identity.

And the pain I was in was relentless, shading everything in black tones as I struggled just to get through any part of the day I was conscious enough to muddle through.

The rest of the time I was out on heavy narcotic medication – missing out on my marriage and my kids… and my life.

But I was able to talk about it, to avoid the planning stages for the most part. I maintained my hope. I found reasons, no matter how small, to keep going.

Suicide still lingered in the back of my mind though, as the ultimate “break glass in case of emergency” option. If things got a little hairy, I still had access to pills that would help me check completely out, painlessly and efficiently.

It helped me maintain that illusion of control I’ve always wrestled with. If things got too bad, I knew what to do.

In 2015, things got “too bad.” I had a mental collapse of sorts, the worst one I had ever had. Depression and anxiety are no joke. They have leveled me in the past, starting after my dad died and I skipped school for ten days, hiding away in my bathroom day after day, in the warm womb of a bathtub as I struggled to find SOME way to comfort myself and heal, when I felt as bereft as an eleven-year-old girl could possibly feel.

Fast-forward thirty-four years and I found myself unable to handle life again, despite being a 45-year-old. My promising writing career had flat-lined. I went from making more money than I had ever made in my life back to struggling for each and every goddamned penny again. And it was completely out of my control. There was nothing I could do. So I relented and considered Plan B, because being homeless again was NOT an option. After being out of work for four years, I couldn’t find a job to help my family. Our economic situation was dire, struggling each and every month to pay the rent and keep our fragile little house of matchsticks from being blown over by the hungry wolf at the door.

I felt once again powerless, out of control and without hope. I lived my whole life for the dream of being a successful writer, and that success felt like it was over in a minute. The Mind Monster had a fucking field day with that. I truly felt that no matter what glimmer of happiness I could wrestle from the greedy hands of fate wasn’t ever going to be enough to justify all the days, months and years of pain, fear and hopelessness I’d endured.

It just never felt like it was going to stop. The liar that lives in my brain whispered in my ear that I had failed at everything and had a purpose for nothing. I disappeared into my room for about three days solid, even throughout Mother’s Day. I didn’t get out of bed. I cried a lot, almost anytime anyone would talk to me. As a result I didn’t talk to anyone, which was the scariest moment for me. I didn’t talk to my family. I didn’t open up to my husband, who had no clue how to handle my breakdown. I probably could have sent Hal a message and he would have been kind enough to talk me down from the ledge, but that wasn’t what I wanted. Not only had I run out of hope, I wasn’t interested in anyone renewing it. I knew the drill by this point. Yeah, it got better. And then it got bad again. And then it got worse, the price my Mind Monster always told me that I had to pay for any little morsel of happiness.

I wasn’t worth a good life. Clearly. Every good thing that happened would last a minute, and then I got thrown back into the wood chipper to tear up any idea that I was special.

That was why I lost my dad, remember.

It was a tough, tough period. Once again Jeff called me, worried because I hadn’t been online to talk to him every day like I have always done since 1995. It was no longer the 1980s. We could communicate in real time all the time, even with phone calls that became a lot less random the older, and more financially independent, we both got.

But this time I couldn’t bring myself to answer the phone. How could I face him 34 years after he had saved my life and tell him it had all been for nothing?

(And yes, I know after all those years, raising my kids, loving my husbands, creating my career out of thin air, that it wasn’t “nothing.” But that’s the lie. And it’s running fucking non-stop in those dark bleak moments.)

I got myself out of it that time, but it was a freaking miracle. I was as close to dancing with the devil as I had ever been. I’m reminded with every death by suicide that getting that close and still beating that sonofabitch is not a given.

So I feel nothing but sympathy for the person who falls to their Mind Monster, the one that convinces them of all the lies, that they have nothing to live for, to just end it – even if it is just to make the pain of the moment stop because it’s just too fucking much to bear.

I hate that they went through that alone.

I hate that they succumbed to the lie.

And I hate, most of all, how fucking seductive that lie can be.

That Chris’s death came at the expense of drugs that were supposed to heal him makes the loss even more acute. He was doing all the right things, and yet…

So I don’t know what the answer is. I just know we have to keep talking. And those who love us have to keep listening, *especially* when there’s a cry for help.

And we can’t give up. Because it is in that bleak, black moment of hopelessness where our control will slip and we can do unthinkable damage not only to ourselves, but to the people who love us most – even when we can’t seem to love ourselves.

If you’re thinking about suicide, it is my hope that you reach out and talk to someone. It does get better. Sometimes it even gets great.

And it’ll probably suck again too. Such is life for everyone. No matter what your Mind Monster says, it is not because you are a bad person. It is not because you are worthless. It isn’t because the world would somehow be better off without you. It is because we are all fighting our own type of battle, to varying degrees of success.

But you still matter.

To someone out there, you may be their lifeline helping THEM to hold onto hope. To someone else, you may be the very moon and stars, even if you don’t know it.

Even if your Mind Monster won’t let you see that.

But you still matter.

You really are here for a purpose and a reason. Life is about finding out what both of those mean to you and the people around you.

So if you’re hurting, if you’re feeling powerless and hopeless and vulnerable, if you’re feeling like the only person in the world who can touch the depths of those things, reach out to someone. It’ll be the hardest, bravest, most important decision you will ever make.

And one day, maybe you’ll help someone else who is feeling powerless and alone. You’ll give them strength. You’ll renew their hope.

And what greater purpose is there than that?

****

I wrote the above blog post several weeks ago, but I stopped myself from publishing it. I thought maybe it was too late to say these words. It no longer felt like posting a virtual life jacket that might have stopped just one person from drowning. Instead talking so frankly about the lure of this devil felt like an homage to suicide itself.

“You’re weak,” the devil whispered. “And now everyone will know.”

So I backed away from it. I justified it that the Mind Monster needs no foothold and I wasn’t about to give him one.

It was yet another lie.

This week I was faced with being on the OTHER side of the glass, with someone who was going through their own personal crisis, a single mom whose life was imploding around her with a failed relationship and a crushing economic downturn. “I just want to die,” she sobbed. And I totally fucking believed her. I stopped everything that I was doing to  share my story, weak or not, and to take her into a hug and hold her up when she wanted to fall – just like that paramedic did for me all those years ago.

I knew in that moment THAT was my purpose. It made the pain I’d been through matter, and there’s nothing more empowering than that.

But then, by Thursday, when I heard about another artist losing his battle with the Mind Monster, and I realized that maybe I’m strong and okay now – but remaining that way is not a given.

Remember, I told you I had thought about breaking the glass even recently, during my own devastating economic downturn. What others consider an unthinkable option still sits there in the back of my brain like the ultimate escape hatch.

So I’m posting this. With any hope at all, this will replace the seductive lure of suicide as my “break glass in case of emergency” option. Not just for someone else out there, but for me as well.

Because that’s what we need most to win our own private wars. We need any hope at all.

When you feel hope is just beyond your grasp… keep reaching until someone reaches back. Because they will if you just give them a chance. It is the hardest, most terrifying , most powerful thing you can do to defeat that Mind Monster, even if it is one hairy, scary battle at a time.

That’s how wars are won.

Let’s win this one.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255 – available 24 hours a day

Snap Happy.

Though I got the app very early on, it has taken me quite a while to get on the SnapChat bandwagon. It sat mostly unused on my phone. I’d check it every now and then, to follow entertaining folks much braver than I who would post content (thank you Hal Sparks, Constantine Maroulis and Travis DesLaurier.) But it wasn’t my go-to choice for communication like Facebook and Twitter, where I’ve developed a following over the years who are quite used to my brand of Gingerness.

SnapChat, however, is a more visual medium that, quite frankly, intimidates me. 140 characters: I got. Memes and rants? No problemo. With words, I have absolute confidence and zero fear. I’m a Word Warrior who feels completely safe and protected behind twenty-six letters I get to construct however I think they will work best. If I use pictures to make my point, they are very rarely of me. Words are my weapon of choice and my favorite tools, shaping me endlessly into the version of me I see inside my own head.

Me, face to face however, creates a lot of self-doubt and, by default, an enormous amount of fear. If I’m comfortable with you, and you’ve passed my many mental hurdles to get over the wall to let you see The Real Me, I’m a completely different person than when you first meet me. I’m louder, more outspoken, I’ll crack jokes and step over the line and just be, well… me in all my muchness.

Getting there is the trick. I’m a stubborn onion. Peeling back those layers is no easy task.

Needless to say, putting SnapChats out there to a wide audience wasn’t a skill I was too eager to acquire, especially when several people on my list are people I’d like to impress with the Put Together Me, rather than the Awkward Goofy Real Me. It’s very much like Peter Parker vs. Spider-Man. Will you still like me without my mask?

These are the big questions, folks.

When I decided to embark on the Selfie Journey a bit ago, I decided I’d just tackle my fear and use SnapChat anyway. I’d be as myself as I had the courage of being, which, most of the time, indulges a very silly side that just wants to make folks laugh. SnapChat filters are a great way to do this and I’ve fallen passionately in love with them.

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However, if you’re hyper-critical of your image and super vigilant what others get to see, it’s a continuing test of endurance. I’m that chick from Seinfeld, remember, who is only attractive a fraction of the time. I can take fifteen identical photos and only one will make the grade because of one microscopic difference, which makes me feel more comfortable posting it for the world to see. Some I think, “Wow. I’m actually pretty here,”

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Others… well… I can only make a face and hope for the best.

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And I’ve come to realize it’s not just a me thing. I think it’s a girl thing. I went to a Girls Only party not too long ago where we took group pictures with girls of varying shapes, sizes and ages. How those photos were debated and reshot kinda made me giggle. Women I regarded as way more attractive than me still policed their image with vigor. Where I shrugged and let it go, they were the ones insisting on a do-over.

It reinforced the need for this experiment. I need to be comfortable with all of me because true change kind of involves all of me. And all of me is worth it, no matter what lies I’ve been telling myself my entire life.

That Internal Voice, man. It’s such a liar. And a dream-blocking bitch.

That’s why I’ve kind of combined my new SnapChat life a little with Mel Robbins’ “5 Second Rule.”

Here’s another thing about me. I over-analyze EVERYTHING. And, most times, I let opportunities to go after what I really want to just pass me by.

There’s a simple philosophy of life that says:

simplerules

So many times that demonic little voice inside my head will talk me out of all three of those simple directives, particularly the “asking for what I want” part. For some reason, this has been the single hardest lesson in life for me to learn. It’s probably because I’ve had to self-nurture so much throughout my life that I simply don’t trust anyone anywhere to find my wants/needs as important as I do, so I never bother anyone with them.

I don’t ask. I don’t call. I don’t make the first move. Never, ever, ever. If I can do anything, whatever it is, on my own, that’s my sweet spot. Having to ask anyone for anything, ever? Not so much.

This is the one area I’ve finally begun to make headway, thanks in part to my job. I’ve started asking for what I want. Demanding what I need. Taking a stand. Saying the thing, whatever it is, that pops in my head, before that Internal Chatterbox wakes up and hits the pause button.

I decided to use this philosophy, then, with something that intimidates me most: Snapchat. It is all for singular purpose. It’s time I fall in love with me.

I’ve met me. I’m a great gal. I have a lot of cool qualities. I’d want to be friends with someone like me. So why am I so freaking hard on myself?

Oh, right. The image thing.

With every picture I post, I figure people are going to see it, realize I’m the Ugly Chick and bail. It’s a terrifying notion, but I’ve decided to feel the fear and do it anyway. And I usually don’t debate about it. I create the Snap and I post before I lose my nerve.

It’s a mitigated risk at best, considering Snaps are temporary and most of the time, unless you check the feed every day, my small following won’t even see all the Snaps I post. They’re viewed once and gone, like a whisper floating along on a breeze.

Interestingly enough, my Inner Editor has chilled the fuck out as a result. Instead of one of fifteen shots, it’s usually now one of maybe three. I’ll take several and then decide which one I want to post and just go for it.

You’re gonna love me or hate me regardless. Why not have a little fun?

Before this experiment, my sending a goofy Snapchat to someone I want to impress was  UNTHINKABLE. Yet, now I’ve done it. I debated for exactly two seconds and sent it anyway.

It didn’t get reciprocated, but that wasn’t the point. I can’t control how people view/receive me. That’s never been my job, and thank God – because it would be an impossible one. To some folks, I’m the Ugly Chick 100% of the time, and there’s nothing I can do about it. They can like, look, follow or unfollow as they wish.

That cannot and should not stop my fun.

I’ve begun the arduous practice of divorcing my feelings from my image and just letting it go. SnapChat is the perfect place for this, given these filters can often be ridiculous. No one is aiming for hotness with some of these. It’s equal opportunity ugly, and that’s kind of my jam.

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And guess what? It’s been a helluva lot of fun. I’ve started to incorporate things and people and music and sheer creativity, and it’s become more than just a monument to my image.

It can be fun

It can be goofy

It can even be sexy

It’s a part of me, all of me, and that’s not a bad thing.

snapchat4

That I finally got my bestie on board so we Snap each other ENDLESSLY is just the cherry on top. Although I do worry about posting some of those Snaps, intended for the eyes of someone who loves me and who doesn’t judge, going on my main story for the world to see, most of the time I double-post anyway.

I’m never going to feel like showing myself to the world. It’s an intensely vulnerable feeling, especially for someone who has been so badly victimized in the past.

But I’m getting there. And, ironically, Snapchat is helping me get there, helping me fall in love with all parts of me, whether masked…

 

Or unmasked…

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And, for bonus points, I’m now posting these photos on places like Facebook so they *don’t* go away.

Take that, fear. You’re not the boss of me.

As for the weekly weigh-in, I’m holding steady despite recurring back pain, which even resulted in a lost day of work this week. :/ Next week I should have an update from the doctor, which scares me even more than public selfies.

Stay tuned….

Summertime and the livin’ is FUCK ALL. (An Essay.)

True confession time: I hate the heat. Like, a lot.

I’d much rather be too cold than too hot, any day of the week. First of all, I’m hot-blooded by nature. I never get truly cold unless I’m sick or it’s really freaking cold. I can go sleeveless, barefoot and in capris all the way up to winter, especially living here in California. (But I did it in Texas too.) My future daughter-in-law, on the other hand, takes a leather jacket everywhere she goes, even if it’s 90 degrees out. If we go to a mall or to a theater or a restaurant, they blast the shit out of the A/C, and she freezes like a Popsicle.

Meanwhile I’m trying to find ways to move in so I don’t have to go back outside EVER… because, you know, heat.

meltingperson

It makes me swelter just to look at her huddled up in her jacket, but I get it. Cold is every bit as uncomfortable as the heat, it’s just easier to manage. If you’re too cold, you can layer up to find some relief. If you’re too hot, layering down can get damned near indecent, and illegal… especially if you’re like me and shun long sleeves and layering of ANY sort to start with. I don’t wear cardigans or jackets. I hate long sleeves. I don’t wear hats or scarves. I barely want to wear any shoes that require socks.

When I start to layer down, I ain’t kiddin’ around.

And when you’re a fat person, fuggetaboutit. There are those who recoil to see your flabby flesh in stuff like tank tops and shorts, and they’ll try to guilt and shame into covering it up so it’s easier for other people to pretend you’re invisible. You know, like they’d like you to be.

To them I’d like to say: My physical comfort is every bit as important as your need for perfect visual aesthetics, so I’m gonna wear sleeveless stuff that shows off some skin, mmkay? I guarantee you that you’ll live through the experience with minimal damage, more minimal than me smacking you upside the head with the trench coat you’d rather I wear, but I ain’t gunna.

#SorryNotSorry

Because I am so hot-blooded, I freaking sweat like a whore in church whenever I get at all overheated, which makes me feel hotter and grosser than normal, adding emotional discomfort to the physical discomfort. Whether it’s grocery shopping, when I’m stuck in a crowd, on the beach, walking in the park, or even my ten-minute walks around the industrial complex where I work, I sweat. And I don’t just mean cute little sparkling droplets of dainty feminine perspiration. I mean big honky drops of sweat pouring off of my scalp and down my face to the point people stop me and ask me if I’m okay.

I pass girls on the walking path at the park and they’re wearing full makeup AND perfume, jogging past me in a sweetly scented breeze. Meanwhile I look like I’ve just walked through a car wash.

I melt in the heat. I always have. It’s one of the main reason I’m not that much of a cuddler. We can have sexy fun time, but at the end you need to be on your side of the bed and I’ll be on mine, or else I’ll freaking evaporate.

Needless to say, summer is not a fave exactly for this reason. I grew up in Texas, y’all, where it not only got hot but sticky, humid hot for days, weeks and months at a time. In the recent past I lived during a ridiculous heat wave in Texas where it reached over 100 degrees every single day for more than a month. Forty-six days, to be exact.

It was the kind of heat wave that made you want to drop an air-conditioning unit on top of people who want to deny climate change every time we experience a cold snap in the winter. And God, how I hated every miserable day of it. I moved from Texas that same year.

This was no coincidence.

When I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it was in the middle of August IN Texas. Also not a coincidence.

The only benefit to suffering this kind of heat when I was a kid was that I didn’t have to go to school in summer, because let’s face it. It’s hard as hell to people when you’re hot. Oppressive heat makes one cranky, hence why we define it as “oppressive.” It’s that relentless discomfort where nothing helps it get better, except maybe air conditioning, and if you don’t have that you’re soundly screwed, as is everyone around you. You’ll take your misery out on anyone who crosses your path, and it will likely be met with some crankiness on their end as well, because they’re every bit as miserable as you are.

Why do you think violent crime spikes in the heat?

If you’ve ever lived without air conditioning, and I have – many, many times – you know what it’s like to power through a humid, dark night, soaked in your own sweat, miserable and cranky, restless, angry and at the mercy of something much bigger than you, that’ll let you go when it damn well feels like it. Whether this takes hours, days or months – it’s completely out of your control for the most part.

If you know what it’s like to be completely naked and under a fan, and still feel like a hot, heavy blanket covers you, then you know what I’m talking about. If you have to function? Just the thought of adding clothes and walking outside your door becomes this Herculian effort, where you’d rather avoid doing even the things you love to do, because it feels like some obscene obstacle course. And everything you want is on the other side of it, so there’s nothing you can do about it but endure.

Thanks to a humid, heat wave across Southern California, where A/C in houses and apartments isn’t necessarily the norm thanks to a more temperate normal climate, it dawned on me a few days ago – or, more to the point, a sweaty, sleepless night or so ago –  that this is very much like depression.

I should hope by now most people understand that depression isn’t a choice any more than enduring a hot day is a choice. Instead of something depending on the climate of where you happen to live, this instead depends on the climate of your brain, who you happen to be and how you’re wired on the inside. Most days are okay, but some just cook the life right out of you. These are not ideal circumstances, and you do your best to cope, but it is very much like trudging through mud, wearing a fifty-pound backpack, trying to get to the other side of… , well anything.

I’m sure most of us have had that kind of sucky day where we’ve put some of our more challenging or difficult tasks off till another, more comfortable time, simply because the conditions weren’t ideal. We know ourselves well at this point, and we know that if we have to do Project X while we’re steeped in murky, humid depression, we’ll just melt entirely – no matter how happy and positive you try to be about the situation.

And these difficult tasks wouldn’t normally be so difficult, but conditions outside our control render them just a tad beyond our endurance on some days.

Think of depression like mental humidity with zero air conditioning. You literally feel heavier. You are uncomfortable and out of sorts. The things that normally don’t bother you are suddenly unbearable when added onto the pile of bullshit you’re suddenly carrying around. Each and every feather feels like a ten pound rock when added to the backpack. And, much like a fat person wearing minimal clothing on a hot day, just to find a little relief, the world around you will judge you for how you cope. It’s your choice how to handle things, and believe me – no matter what you choose – you’ve chosen wrong.

And the Liar that lives inside your head will make damned sure you hear each and every criticism, so no matter what you choose to do to get over the hump, you feel weaker and stupider for having chosen it.

“Yeah. Why CAN’T I just move to a cooler climate? Oh right, I don’t have the money to uproot my life or the lives of my family. Because I’m such a loser. Where’s my ten-pound feather??”

catfallingover

Because your mood is already soured, all the negative stuff rises to the top of your attention span. Every ache will be amplified. Every criticism will boom like a megaphone in your ears. You can either trudge on in sadistic slow motion OR you can check out for a day or two, alone, doing all the little cheats and tricks you’ve learned to endure. Just like running for ice cream on a hot day, not all of those cheats and tricks are the healthiest choice… but they get you through. And that is quite often enough.

Either way, it comes down to the same thing… you have to endure it. You have to get to the other side. Spring is behind you but fall is ahead of you. You know you’ll be better… eventually.

You just have to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Meanwhile you pray that a friend will bring you a fan and some ice cream. One who will set as naked with you as you dare to sit with them, and they’ll love you anyway, and you won’t feel so alone as you try to get through another hot and humid night. You can toss off the sheets that feel like lava on your skin, just to get one cool breeze, and no one will criticize you for sleeping bare-assed naked under an open window, because they can empathize how far you’ll go to get a little comfort.

And maybe, just maybe, it will rain, and you’ll learn how to once again dance under the refreshing drops, feeling renewed for another hot day ahead. Because you know that even if this heat wave ends, summer comes every single year without fail. All you can do is waiting patiently for fall and “sweater weather” and chilly nights in front of a roaring fire to make the rest worth it.

You know, the good times.

Until then, you endure… because that’s what hot days are for.

Though I’ve spent the last many months fighting off depression, I see relief ahead. Unfortunately my emotional summer lasted throughout winter and spring, my favorite times of the year, and it sucked. HARD.

Now that I’m enduring another atypical heat wave, living in a place with no air conditioning, at nearly 90 degrees out and almost 50% humidity consistently for days, it just seemed like the ideal time to talk about the glaring similarities. You know, so I could distract myself while I melted.

hottiedottie

And if it’s hot where you are, then maybe you’ll understand it a little better if you currently didn’t. Having discomfort outside your control sucks. Hard.

We’ll make it through but… hot damn. Literally. Is it fall yet?? #bringicecreamSTAT

 

 

Thirty years ago… there was Scott.

Despite what happened to me when I was four, I have always maintained that I lost my virginity when I was fourteen. See, I don’t consider virginity some glass case to keep my virtue that – once broken into – causes irrevocable damage me or my value in some way. I was sexually curious and emotionally lonely, looking to feel some voids that had been ripped into my life with the absence of my dad. What happened to me when I was younger only skewed my thinking even more and I hit the ground running, defining my life by what I chose to do, not what was done to me.

I didn’t have boyfriends, necessarily. That came later. But like I’ve spoken about recently, just being held, voluntarily, was a huge deal for me. Still is, frankly. I’m a bit like a rose bush that needs tending. In my first marriage that didn’t happen. As the years wore on, the intimacy shrank and shrank until we were virtually no more than roommates towards the end.

It is one of the many reasons there is a second marriage.

As big as I am, the vastness inside me is so often times bigger. That was true when I was 14, that was true when I was 29… that was true thirty plus years ago.

It’s what happens when you need to feel loved so badly and you can’t seem to muster that feeling enough for yourself.

About 96% of the men I actually slept with I pursued. There have been a few that have pursued me, but it never worked out well. (We’ll get into that a bit later.) Generally I like to keep tight control over that just to mitigate damage. If someone really, truly pursued me, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it and probably punished them for it. If you needed convincing, well that was more my jam. Challenge accepted. I could easily spot the chinks in your armor and find my way in. When I decided to pursue, that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t wait around. I made shit happen.

Like I said, I have no patience when it comes to what I want. I’m very determined to get my way, especially when my way seems to lead down the much more fun path of self-destruction apparently. I don’t wait around a decade to get what I want. I figure out how to get there and I do.

That shit got me into a ton of trouble when I was younger. While friends were off smoking pot and going to concerts and going to school, I was trying my best to forge the weapon that had been used against me (sex) into something I could control.

It’s not uncommon for children who have survived sexual abuse to explore promiscuity as they get older. Some go the other way and avoid it altogether, but some have such shitty self-esteem that it wires their brain that they’re already “damaged” – what’s the point “saving oneself”?

This was what happened to me, especially having grown up in a super religious household that looked at virginity like some sacred jar to contain oneself. That’s part of the bullshit virginity = value argument which is WAY another blog altogether.

My jar had already been cracked. I had nothing to lose. (Or so I thought.)

But back 30-ish years ago, I was no stranger to sex. I got pregnant when I was 15 thanks to my reckless behavior. Because severe hyperemesis gravidarum rode shotgun, I ended up having to get an abortion because a doctor told my mother that my continuing with the pregnancy could result in harm to me and/or the baby. This doctor was a conservative family man she valued and respected, so she took him at his word. It scared my ultra religious mother to drive me 300 miles and shell out hundreds of dollars to save my life.

Despite what some might tell you, it wasn’t an “easy” way out. We suffered over it emotionally, she paid the price financially and I physically endured it. But difficult circumstances force difficult choices.

I ended writing hyperemesis gravidarum in my Groupie series much later. Since so much of that story was personal, working through things I was going through at the time, it was a no-brainer to include such a personal Easter egg. Many might feel I gave it to a character that I wanted to punish. What they didn’t/couldn’t get is that I did that to help me empathize with her, so I could write that character with all the dimensions she deserved… which was advice that I got from one of the biggest inspirations of the Vanni character. Even if this character was “the bad guy” – I still had to crawl under her skin and understand why she did what she did. So I gave us a commonality to share. It wasn’t revenge. Not in the least.

It was actually liberating.

Needless to say that after that happened to me, I got on birth control afterwards. I didn’t want that to happen again until I was ready for it. I wanted control over SOMETHING.

Then I met this guy named Robert back in the fall of 1986, when I was sixteen. We lived in Amarillo, Texas at the time, which was where my bestie lived. I spent every evening talking to him then just like I spend talking to him now. Except I didn’t use the Internet back then; we were still about a decade away from that revolutionizing how we communicated. Instead, I used the phone. Since we were too broke to afford our own landline, I would sit for hours at the pay phone at the apartment complex where I lived, which was conveniently located by the vending machines. I saw lots of people come for sodas and what not while I chatted away with the bestie. Most I ignored, since I’ve never really been all that crazy to people when not absolutely necessary.

One who could not be ignored was this guy with long brown hair and dark eyes – my kryptonite then and now. In an unusual set of circumstances, I could tell immediately he was into me and it didn’t scare me away like it normally did. Though he didn’t live there, he started hanging out there at his friend’s apartment regularly just so he could get to know me. He bought a LOT of soda, just to have an excuse to talk to me. And he was cute. Sweet. Seemed non-threatening. So I let the barrier down and let him. Within a few weeks we ended up dating and he became my first official “boyfriend.” I met his family. He met my mom. Though he was 24 and I was going on 17, no one really had a problem with it.

He even accompanied me to my first and only Journey concert in December of 1986.

Robert had epilepsy and, because of this, didn’t work. We ended up spending a lot of time together, and a lot of that time was spent in bed. My birth control ran out around November of that year, but Robert assured me that we didn’t have to worry about that stuff, that he had surgery when he was a kid that rendered him sterile. His mother confirmed the story, so I thought I’d save my mother the $$ and just not renew the prescription.

I started to worry about a week end it when he was telling me how he couldn’t wait to see me big and around, and what the names of our children should be.

By no surprise I guess I was pregnant by mid-December.

Again.

Robert swore that he wasn’t the one responsible, even though he was the only person I was sleeping with at the time. He tried to blame the bestie, since my best friend is a guy, but that guy is completely 100% rainbow-flag-waving gay, who has never even THOUGHT of a woman that way. We’ve known each other since we were ten and nothing even remotely sexual ever happened between us (which is why we are so close to this day.)

The support I got from Robert’s family slammed to a close. His mother went so far as to tell me that I wasn’t the first girl who tried to do this, trying to get to his disability check. I was dropped like a bad habit, despite all his promises of love I had been given.

If I hadn’t have had feminist leanings before this event, this would have kicked it into high gear. See, that’s the thing about men – at least the men way back then. They could decide they didn’t want fatherhood and walk away… and many times did. I knew several people whose dads just got tired of the father routine and bailed. One gal I knew went by her mother’s last name as a result. “Women,” she told me, “should get the credit for children.”

(Out of perverse curiosity, I tried to find him on Facebook and I’m pretty sure I did. And guess who has a armful of kids?)

We fight for choice but the truth is, nature really didn’t give us equal choice. And since I didn’t have that option to walk away like he did, I had to make the best choice I could. Even if I had chosen “the easy way out” with another abortion, I already knew how NOT easy that choice was, that it comes with its own set of emotional pain, physical pain and cost. I, as a woman, cannot just decide I don’t want to participate and walk away.

While I had some pretty awful morning sickness, it was nothing like the first time, when I couldn’t even keep water on my stomach for days at a time. So I decided to do things a little differently, since I knew I would already have pain, emotional trauma and financial cost. I was still young and still, clearly, an idiot, so I made the decision to give up the baby for adoption, so at least that baby could have a chance at a good life I didn’t have the resources to provide. Instead of going back to school like I had thought about, I spent those next months nurturing a child I knew would never be mine.

In July of 1987, I gave birth to someone else’s son.

July 8, 1987, specifically.

scott

It remains, to this day, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. There are only two times in my life I felt like my insides were carved out and there was nothing left inside of me, and both instances involved losing my kids. The first was when I had to leave that hospital in 1987 without a baby filling my aching arms. The second would come years later when I was forced to leave what was left of my nine-day-old son in a cemetery grave all by himself.

I still ache from that loss, even all these years later.

Losing Scott, which is the name that I gave him before I sent him to his new family and his new name, hurt for a long, long time, easily until my own children came along later. It was why, once I had them, I would not let anything keep me from my babies. Even now, when they’re grown men, I’d do just about anything to have them near me.

As you can see, I don’t cope with loss well.

People have asked me if I ever tried to contact Scott, particularly now that he’s a man. I always hake my head. If he finds me, that is his choice. I knew his family was going to raise him to be aware that he was adopted, and so far he’s made no contact. I figure that’s the way he wants or needs it and I would never be so selfish to intrude on the life I wanted him to have, the one I couldn’t give him.

I gave him away with a promise I kept:

And a directive I hope he kept:

And that’s all I can do. Because he is someone else’s son, for whom my heart still holds the scar.

Happy birthday, Scott. Wherever you are. Whomever you love. Whatever you do. Know I carry a part of you with me always. ❤

Dear Damaged Girl: Letters, Chapter 1.

A lovely friend of mine posted a blog not too long ago that was basically a letter to her younger self. I thought wow, that’s a neat idea. What would you say to your younger self with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from getting through all those past experiences?

My bestie and I were talking earlier in the week about how stunned our thirteen-year-old selves would be if we were to sit down and chat with them now, in how far we’ve come personally and as a society. That the things we thought were so set in stone back then turned out to be swimming around in a gray area we were too young to entertain way back then. For instance, the thirteen-year-old me was rabidly anti-cannabis. I believed the “Just Say No” hype. It wasn’t till my back gave out on me in 2006 and I needed really strong pain pills to deal did I realize where the true threats are, and often dispensed by the men in white coats we have been taught to trust.

But, again, blog for another day.

If I were to tell that thirteen-year-old that I’d one day trade those scary pain pills for a natural plant that worked better and actually healed, she’d be floored. But that’s the magic of insight. It teaches you where you were misled or mistaken, and you can change your mind accordingly.

Sounds like a brilliant exercise, honestly. After yesterday’s blog, I’ve moved up the theme in rotation on the blog because I think it’s an important thing to do right now, considering I’m still working through some PTSD issues from this past week.

So maybe, just maybe, this exercise will reach way deep inside my psyche where these “damaged” girls still reside and help them heal from their mistakes and trauma, because the one who guides them now has benefit of all these years, all these experience.

And hindsight is 20/20, after all.

I predict this may become an ongoing series of blogs, though I plan to write more than one letter today. I know I can’t cover it all.

But I’ll try to fix at least one thing anyway.

Let’s get to it.

Dear four-year-old me:

fouryearoldgin

I know how scared you are about what’s happened to you. I know you’re confused. You don’t understand why this bad, horrible thing happened, and you think it may be your fault that you are now “damaged” in society’s view and in the view of your God. You knew it was a bad idea to go with a stranger without asking your mother. But I want you to know that what followed was NOT your fault. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t deserve it. God wasn’t punishing you. A very sick man simply took an opportunity to harm someone, and now you feel like you are paying the price.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but that would be a lie. The truth is you’ll get stronger, so much stronger, in fact, than what has happened to you. I know that’s hard to believe given how small and powerless you feel right now, and you’re going to spend the next many years trying to hide that, so everyone around you will see a good girl. A perfect girl. You will chase that perfection until your soul aches, going out of your way to make the best grades, be the best Christian, be the best daughter, until you realize that no matter what you do – you can’t erase what has been done to you.

But this landed in your lap for a reason. Not because you deserve to be hurt, or used, or violated. But because you’re strong enough to take this thing and turn it around to help others, and that is your purpose in this world. One day girls will come to you, to share their stories, because they will be inspired by your bravery. And you will champion them and make THEM feel stronger, better, less damaged as a result.

You will do for others what no one will do for you, because you know how important that is.

I know you don’t feel that brave right now, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be scared. What that man did to you was wrong. And confusing. And scary. But it’s all on him, honey. You are a sweet, innocent child who did what you did with all the best intentions of a child. He violated your trust because of his own sickness. And though it feels like it now, it had nothing to do with you. It could have been any girl on that street, maybe someone who wasn’t strong enough to handle it – who might have one day used this event to harm themselves in ways they can never take back.

But that’s not you. You’re strong. You’re special. You’re meant for much greater things. And though you feel it right now, you’re not alone.You feel like you can’t tell anyone because the people who love you most won’t love you anymore if they know. That, too, is another lie. They will still love you, and they would do their best to protect you. And one day you will trust enough in someone to tell your story, and he will change your entire life. He’ll save you because he thinks you’re worth saving.

Because you are.

You are not damaged, merely changed. Shame will try to convince you that no one will ever be able to love you the way you are now, but they will. Some will even love you more. One day you will have children who know your story, because you will have long since shed the shame of it and tell it to the world, and they will think you’re one of the strongest people they know.

Feel the pain, because that’s okay. What happened to you really sucked and should never happen to anyone. But you’re going to be okay. You will survive to tell the tale, and tell the tale you will. And you will heal others, because of your strength and the talent that God has given you to re-purpose this evil thing for the good.

That man tried to damage you, but the truth is he cannot damage you, no matter what the world says and no matter how you feel. You are as perfectly you as the day you were born, created by God for a purpose that only you can fulfill.

He tried to extinguish your light, but my darling, darling child – you will burn so much brighter as a result. Some people fear the fire, they run from it, hide from it, do whatever they need to do to protect themselves from it. You, however, were reborn into it. And just like a phoenix, you will rise… beautiful because of your scars – not in spite of them.

***

Dear fifteen-year-old me;

ginpose1985

A long time ago, something bad happened to you that rewired your brain to think you didn’t deserve to say no or draw boundaries, like your body wasn’t yours anymore and you didn’t even really want it to be. You were born a perfect child of God but ultimately damaged by an act of man. Now you see yourself as a half-thing, who will only be beautiful and lovable if someone else finds those things in you.

But the truth is that you will find love many, many times, by many, many good men, and you will still feel this nagging feeling that no one can fully love you because of what happened to you.

Worse, you’re going to think you deserve certain things that happen to you. That God himself smote you in some way and you no longer deserve the happy ending designed for those who are undamaged and perfect. All those books you read reinforce that idea, that you have to be a certain kind of woman to win the heart of a good man.

One day, though, you’re going to write your own books, about girls who look and act more like you, who are deeply flawed and can still find their way to their Happily Ever After, no matter what the world around them has to say about it.

You’ll write those stories because you’ll live those stories, and one day decide the book world is big enough for this radical concept. And you’ll gain a passionate following of women just like you, who were waiting for someone brave enough to tell these stories. Their stories.

Your story.

No one is telling you this right now. They tell you that you have to change who you are to be happy. One day, though, you’re going find that love more than once, and all you’ll ever have to be is you.

Because you are more than enough. The people who can’t see that right now simply aren’t your people. Your people are coming, and they’re going to love you as fiercely as you love them.

Right now, though, you accept a lot of stuff you shouldn’t from people who can tell how vulnerable you are and how lonely you feel. You give yourself away because you think the damage is already done. You accept this crazy idea that if you can’t be loved for real, then an hour of being held or kissed or “loved” will do.

Yet you hate yourself more and more with each indiscretion. You’ll see how little they love you beyond what they can get from you, and you’ll love yourself less as a result.

And with each passing moment you’ll feel more and more damaged, like you deserve the pain they inflict.

You have the right to say no. Though your consent was circumvented so long ago, robbing you of the decision who might earn their way into your body, you never give up this right. So when that man touched you today against your will, that wasn’t him taking something you’ve lost the voice to protect. That was him doing something very wrong because he felt like he could.

There are a lot of guys out there like that, then and now. They look at women as half-lings that are only as valuable as their desirability. And you’re going to figure that out on a subconscious level way before you figure it out as a conscious thought. You’re going to do everything you can to repel guys like that, to keep them away, because you know inside that the next man who touches you without your consent will pay the price for all of them. Inside you burn with this hopeless rage, ready to tear the heads off of these jerks. You’ll fantasize about it in your weakest moments.

And one day you’ll write stories about it, to summon strength that lays dormant within you, so you just won’t feel so damned vulnerable anymore.

I know how much you hate it.

But sweetie, you are so much stronger than you know. You’re going to find your voice and establish your boundaries, and one day people will step out of your path to let you pass. Men will try to intimidate you and you’ll back them down simply with a look. You are formidable. In time, men will call you a force of nature.

And a few will love you enough to brave the storm.

Those are the keepers, and they don’t deserve to pay the price for what that man did to you today.

Where you will need to be brave isn’t to karate-chop some handsy jerk – but to allow those close to you who want to be there. You can’t fear intimacy, because there will be good men who will deserve your best and won’t get it because of fuckos like this one.

Today he grabbed you and you didn’t say anything, mostly because you think you lost that right. It was okay to be scared. It was okay to be shocked. It was okay that you didn’t know what to do. Despite how old you feel, you’re only fifteen.

One day, when you’re much older, you’ll know what to do and it’ll never happen again. And you’ll make a vow that no one will touch you that doesn’t deserve to, and that list will be exceedingly small. Because you matter. You matter big time. As you are no one will ever be again, and one day – way in the future – you’ll figure that out for yourself. Because I know you’ll have to do it your way and in your time, despite those mistakes you could have avoided along the way.

Everything that is happening is leading you somewhere pretty freaking special. And you are strong enough to endure, to get to that finish line… to win.

I know you think you have to be perfect or intact to do that, but let me tell you honey… you already are. You are perfectly Ginger, who is flawed, passionate, intense, vulnerable, strong, fiery, unlovable, lovable, domineering, a pushover, funny, melancholy, angry, stubborn, obsessive, purposeful, smart, stupid, courageous, a coward… every good and bad thing rolled into one… just like every other human on planet earth. You’re just turned up to 11, because you were meant for something greater.

Why?

In that ball of conflicting craziness, you’re kind; you fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, you have the fortitude to stand alone if it means doing the right thing. That’s what makes you special and so, so brave, no matter how weak you feel. Never, ever forget it. All those heroes you admire, who stood up, stood strong, made a difference? You’re one of them. Mostly because of things like this. You know what it means to feel powerless, ashamed, and outcast. And you will spend the rest of your life giving more love to those in need so they don’t feel that way.

You’re everything and nothing rolled into one – and that’s okay. Not everyone will like that. You’re going to scare a lot of folks off. You’re even going to hurt people, not because you want to or mean to, but because that’s the price we often pay to live through the kind of trauma we’ve faced. Hurt people hurt people, and you’re going to do that even with the best of intentions.

Some won’t even be able to forgive you… but you have GOT to learn to forgive yourself.

When you make a mistake, you will do what you need to fix it and move forward, even if the only thing you can ever do is say, “I’m sorry.” You truly mean it, and that’s what counts most. You’ll learn from it, and never repeat it again.

You will make your share of mistakes, but this event was not one of them. You feel forced into silence again because the fact of the matter was that you have been sexually active for a year now, and you feel that you can’t argue that what that man has done to you was bad because you allow older men to touch you all the time.

You’ve internalized all the arguments that they’ve said about victims of sexual assault deserving what they get because you buy this bullshit that you’re only worth what someone else thinks you’re worth.

This is the greatest lie of all. You matter. Your voice matters. Your consent matters. You are the Queen of your own life, and your body is your empire. People must earn their way into your favor. No one can just take it or steal it away, no matter what. No matter who you let touch you, no one else can circumvent your will and touch you without your green light. And you didn’t give it, so what that man did was wrong and you have every right to be upset about it. Your first impulse will be a shameful one, to bury it so no one else knows. It’s something that you’ve been doing for eleven years now, hiding the scars that others have inflicted, because you think they make you ugly and lesser than… that they leave you damaged and unworthy of any good thing.

They absolutely don’t.

One day you will see that you’ve suffered enough, that you didn’t deserve any of that, so punishing yourself beyond that is stupid.

When that day comes, you’ll use it as ammo to fight against a society that has created these shitty rules for girls and women. And, with all your fiery intensity and stubborn persistence, you WILL make a difference, even if it’s only with one girl who feels less alone, less scared, less damaged as a result.

The world needs you, flaws and all, which is why you’re here. You won’t be able to change a lot of the bad stuff that has happened to you, but that was never your job in the first place.

It’s your job to embrace every flaw and every scar and show the world that you can be fucking perfect anyway.

***

Weigh in: 290.4 (-4.2lbs from last week)
Monthly measurements: 48/44/55, size22/24 (down from 49/45/58, size 26/28 from last month)

 

Trigger Warning: When you need to talk about that stuff you can’t talk about.

Today’s blog begins with a forward, because it’s going to look like I’m veering away from what this particular blog normally does and it might come as a little shock to people who expect one thing when they come here, only to get something completely “off topic.”

You’ll see how it comes together eventually, but first, let me get you up to speed:

From about 2004, my online presence has been fairly political. It wasn’t because I had any aspirations to be strictly political and never wanted to paint in such a narrow lane, it’s just that I have always, always, always been very politically conscious, even way before I could vote. It permeates in my writing, whether professional or personal. It’s just who I am, as is being outspoken about it.

This was how I developed my following. This is how I honed a lot of my writing. It is what drives so much of my passion towards stories that change the current narrative. Every time I write about a fat girl finding love, it’s a sociological statement. Needless to say that when you are that driven to make a sociological impact, politics often ride shotgun because this is the framework of our society.

Several of my stories have blurred the lines with politics, because you can’t talk about the current condition without addressing the perimeters that have created it.

As a “public figure” I’ve been warned relentlessly to back away from it, and I did try for a time when I was trying to save the sinking ship of my writing career after careening into the iceberg known as Amazon Unlimited. (Topic for another day.)

What I found, particularly with my readers, who many times are just as passionate about these things as I am, backing away and playing it “safe” was not beneficial. Many of the people who found me and followed me did so because I was fiery, outspoken and saying the things they many times didn’t have the words to say.

I have ALWAYS taken this responsibility very seriously.

The “you’ll make more $$ if you keep your mouth shut” strategy didn’t work for me. As an indie, I can literally tell in real time how what I do impacts my profits. When I was saying nothing, exactly nothing was happening. If I participate in a Twitter hashtag, the sales begin to ring up.

(Literally. I have a report system that rings like a cash register whenever I make money. I can tell IMMEDIATELY if it helps or hurts the bottom line.)

So I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and I’ve finally gotten to a place where I do what I know is right for me, regardless of what other people have to say about it.

(It only took 47 years, but better late than never.)

Still, I have my own set of rules of where I put this information, who sees it and why. Everything I write in a public space is for a purpose, period, and I’m very conscientious about it.

When it comes to my personal FB page, I let loose on whatever topic fires me up. It’s my living room, so to speak, and I get to take the floor amidst my chosen family of friends who have decided that what I say adds to their life experience, hence why they decided to add me in the first place. Whether you unfriend me, hide my statuses or challenge me, that choice is yours. But my FB is my place to share what I think, and what I think has value, and I’m not going to shut up if I feel I need to speak up. I’ve always figured that the people who have befriended me or follow me know this is a part of who I am and make their decisions accordingly, as I do with them.

No doubt there have been some readers who have reached out to befriend me that find me a little off-putting. Like I said before, I know I’m not for everyone. I’m 100-proof, and if you need me watered down, my personal FB is not the place for you. Facebook, the way I see it, is a place for friends. And if you’re my friend, you know this comes with part of the deal, and accepted it because you have accepted me.

I save the more homogenized version of myself for my professional Author Page on Facebook. There, I don’t get as controversial. I talk mostly about the books. I try to engage on less confrontational topics. (And, not for nothing, I don’t post a lot or engage as many people as a result, because it’s damn-near impossible for me to divide myself this way. So that’s irrefutable evidence of how keeping me out of my brand actually affects it.) I have way more followers, which looks successful, but I’m not sure it translates as much into the kinds of sales my reps tell me I could get if I were just more of a soft touch.

What matters more is that even ONE person decided to follow/fan/friend me, whether they buy every book or not. Their support for what I do inspires me to do more of it, and that’s invaluable. And, to quote Kurt Cobain, I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I am not.

This makes me a HORRIBLE marketer for myself, I know because I’m not trying to get the whole world to buy a book. But my books aren’t for the whole world, so… what’s a girl to do?

Twitter, though I use it for writing, sort of gets the same treatment as my personal FB page. The fact is, from a marketing perspective, it pays for me to get involved there in the national discussion. One cannot ignore that, particularly in the last year or so, our national discussion has been mostly political. I don’t shy away from that. And the readers I’m trying to court wouldn’t, either. More people see me if I participate, and – if they like what I say – they check out what I do. Eyes on me is not a bad thing for my career, hence why I’ve kind of married the two there even when many, many of my writer friends religiously follow the “no politics or religion” rule.

And yes, they may be more successful than me because of this but like I said before – I’m striving for significance.

oprah

Kind of like when a reader of this blog wanted to recommend a Ginger Voight book to me to find some personal value as a heavy person. THAT is my reputation as a writer now, and I couldn’t be more proud or feel more successful.

Again, it’s a matter of putting me in my brand. Lots of people can write a book. But only I can write the books I write. I’m what’s different, and so I’ve never really felt it productive to whitewash me out of it just because I’m a little harder to take, saying things people don’t want to hear, or addressing issues polite society normally ignores.

That’s not me. Then, now, or ever.

I just dole it out differently, like FB and Twitter above. Likewise Instagram is *mostly* personal and Snapchat is just for pure silliness. My blogs are broken up between political, professional and personal – with this being my most personal blog.

Since I decided to put myself back in my brand by posting this blog on my professional author page on Facebook, I’ve been extraordinarily conscious of the idea that I have to keep on topic in order to protect the audience I’ve created there.

But what do you do when your personal life is affected profoundly by the political?

I’ve created this space to be a No-Bullshit zone, where I can talk about ANYTHING I think affects my progress becoming the Ginger I want to be.

And that’s where we are today.

Honestly I’ve wanted to have this conversation for months but I’ve held off, working up my nerve to write it. Today I am just going to rip off the band-aid. I can only hope that you can stick with me all the way to the end to see why this discussion was necessary, particularly after this week.

Buckle in. Keep your arms and legs inside the car. I promise I’ll get you to the other side and it’ll be fine.

Let’s talk about November.

Last year I started my physical transformation in July and things were going great. I was losing weight, my body was transforming, people I regard highly were starting to see me in a new light because I was finally conquering one of my demons. It was a productive time.

Then October happened. A tape was released of presidential candidate Donald Trump making some shocking comments about women.

I wasn’t so much surprised by this. I’ve been familiar with his work from the 1980s. He’s always been sexist. He’s always been crass. The things he’s said about women, much less the way he’s treated the women in his life, have laid the groundwork that – when it comes to women – DJT has little to no regard for them if they don’t have something he wants.

This tape laid it out in black and white, irrefutable evidence how little he regards women. In a moment of what they tell me is “locker room talk,” this braggart basically admitted to sexual assault as defined by the simple term: one needs consent to touch another person.

See, a lot of people misunderstand the immediate backlash, thinking the word “pussy” was offensive. It wasn’t. I write lady porn, FFS. I curse like a sailor. I play “Cards Against Humanity” in mixed company. What affected me – profoundly – was the four-letter word he used before that. It is the word “grab” that makes me physically recoil.

We’ve spoken here a lot about my sexual assault when I was four. I’ve been open about it. I’ve talked a lot about it. I feel I’ve got keen insight on how it has impacted me my entire life.

But oddly enough, it wasn’t *that* event that Trump’s comment triggered.

It unearthed another memory, one I had done my level best to suppress, but awoke in my brain like it had just happened, and, honestly, I’m still reeling from it.

I was about 15 years old and I was with a friend of mine in an auto repair shop visiting the owner there, who was our mutual friend at the time. There was this old man there in the shop, kind of Santa Claus looking, in his Texas overalls, just sitting on a stool and shooting the shit with everyone. When I walked past him, he grabbed my breasts with both hands.

I was fifteen years old and wore a size 42C bra, and this guy just grabbed him like he had every right to. Like it was a part of the conversation. He didn’t ask. There was no preamble. They were just breasts in his general vicinity and he decided that was enough to grab them.

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump

how about now

Still to this day I get incredibly antsy when men I WANT to touch my breasts get too grabby. I will automatically shy away and shut that shit down, even if you’re my husband. Ryan Effin Reynolds himself, who holds steady at #1 on my Laminated List, couldn’t even pull that shit off.

This event was why.

And I had all but forgotten it… until October of last year.

After that it became my mission to ensure that a man who could say what Trump said would never make it to the White House. Ever. Just like Clayton Williams sealed his fate with me in 1990, by comparing the weather to rape and saying, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” That ‘off the cuff’ comment virtually ensured my vote for the incomparable Ann Richards back in the day, and I made it my mission for her to win. Likewise in October of last year, I made up my mind DJT could never make it to the highest office in the nation, becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Because… no.

(Incidentally, it was “mansplained” to me in 1990 that what CW said wasn’t that bad, because ALL men talked like that. I didn’t buy it then either. Maybe I just hold men to a higher standard? I don’t know.)

But then… November happened.

The unthinkable happened.

And that was where I started to fall apart. And I know that I risk the dreaded “snowflake” comparison by admitting that, but this wasn’t just about Trump winning an election. This was about something much, much, much deeper and more distressing than that, that had taken root in my spirit a long, long time ago, that had been simmering just below the surface of everything, this past trauma that had never been dug out like the cancer that it was.

His becoming president was merely the trigger bringing it all to the surface.

I spent the whole night of 11/09/2016 sobbing when I realized that I lived in a country where someone could say something like that – and all the other horrid things he said or did – and it wasn’t enough to prevent him from becoming one of the most powerful men in the world.

As each minute passed, I felt more powerless. I felt more vulnerable. And that’s when I did what I have always, always done. I ate. I was crying while I did it, even on November 10, when I was trying to explain to my coworkers why it was hitting me so hard.

I knew when I was binging, too. I wasn’t in denial one bit. I was aware every second with every bite. I would eat past being satiated and keep going, till I was miserable and in pain. I kept going. I kept going and going and going. Just the act of eating made me feel, for the lack of a better word, safe.

My bestie and I were talking about anxiety not too long ago and he said, “Chew something, it gives you the feeling of being safe. It’s primal, going way back to when we lived around campfires. If you were able to eat, you were in a safe space.”

I chew gum now, but back in November/December, I was eating everything that wasn’t nailed down. I’m not the four-year-old I was back then, or even the fifteen-year-old. I knew from experience the only way I could protect myself from DJT and his ilk was to make myself repellent as possible, so gaining weight was a complete win.

And I knew in my head I couldn’t keep going like that, that DJT and his ilk aren’t worth dying over, so I knew I’d stop the insanity eventually – and of course I did. We’re in the fight of a lifetime now, and childhood defenses won’t work anymore. You can deflect confrontation if you look a certain way, but you need to be prepared if that confrontation comes and someone finally calls your bluff.

Now that we live in a country where men far and wide can wear “Grab Em By the Pussy” T-shirts, virtually triggering PTSD in someone like me on the regular, I know I need to be stronger to make my stand.

I don’t stand alone, and that helps.

But it’s still a struggle, particularly this week, when I was tossed into a fight or flight situation full of triggers that affected me HARD.

Honestly I had a pretty stellar week as far as the food goes. I kept off of sodas, drinking more than 100 oz of water per day. I laid off of sugar, only indulging in a little chocolate sauce on some fresh banana as a dessert for a couple of nights. I allowed myself to eat better foods, mostly devoid of dairy except for a few exceptions. As a result I felt better, even with my back. It’s still in shoddy shape but I’m more mobile, and that’s a win.

THEN… Thursday happened.

I work in a hospice, which is Medicare mandated to have a certain number of hours performed by volunteers. One of our volunteers is a special needs individual, who comes to work with us as part of his life skills program. He has Down’s Syndrome, and is a friendly guy loved by almost everyone in the office. We treat him like he is one of our own and he loves it there.

Last year, around election season, I realized that he was vocally pro-Trump, which the gray-haired lady who brings him every week, made it clear she was as well. At the time I thought she was his parent, and I couldn’t for the LIFE of me understand why she’d worship the likes of Trump after what he did with Serge Kovaleski, much less encourage what I thought was her special needs son to do. I knew at that point to stay away from either of them because any conversation there would be unproductive.

This volunteer comes every Thursday and they always start in the lunch room, where he can socialize with everyone, which he loves to do. They were already there when I walked in the other day, so I decided to sit at the other end of the table with my friends and just hide in my phone until they left.

Alas, it was not to be.

While they were having their own conversation, my coworker leaned into me saying, “They shouldn’t allow Trump to tweet.” It’s a sentiment I fully agree with, so I leaned in to share what I was finding on my phone. Our coworker next to her decided to ask what we were talking about, and my coworker said, “Oh, just how much of an idiot Trump is.”

It was the wrong thing to say.

The volunteer said, “I like Trump!” His handler, whom I found out later was not his parent, said, “I like Trump, too. I think he’s doing great things for this beautiful country, bringing it back to what it used to be.”

So she posed the question: “Why don’t you like him?”

At first, I tried to shut the conversation down. I just mumbled, “There are too many reasons to list,” and tried to back out of it. (I want credit for that at least.)

Nevertheless, she persisted.

So finally I said, “Because I am a rape survivor.”

She looked at me, this woman of 50 years plus, and said, “What’s that?”

My coworkers and I blinked at her for a second before I said, “It means I’m a survivor… of sexual assault.”

She immediately disregarded that, and me, “Well that has nothing to do with Trump!”

I tried to explain about the comments he made, and she wasn’t going to listen to that either. She shut it down by saying, “FAKE NEWS.”

THEN she deflected to Clinton and Hillary, and Obama, and all the ills of progressive policy, which she says have ruined this country in the last thirty years. When I pointed out that Republicans have, by and large, been in charge of policy for the last thirty years, she deflected again.

It devolved to the point where I could sense how it was affecting my overall health, noting how it raised my heart rate and caused me to tremble with this impotent tension that had no where to go, and I finally said, “You know what, we can’t have a conversation about this because we just have two differing opinions.”

She said no at first but then kept going, on and on and on, prodding the bear on the chain just like a child teases a dog tied to a tree, ultimately calling me a communist and a socialist because I believe we need to take care of each other, to which I replied, “Gee, I thought wanting to take care of each other is what made me a good Christian.”

Finally I said, “Fine. Sway me. Tell me one good thing he’s done. Just one.”

After she stammered for a minute she decided, “You’re right. We can’t have this conversation.”

That, after hammering me with her opinion for nearly twenty minutes straight, taking up my precious lunch hour to hurl a few personal insults as well.

The whole thing was so distressing to me that I ended up in severe pain from holding back all I WANTED to say to her but didn’t, mostly because our volunteer was right there and I wasn’t going to attack her and – by default – attack him for the beliefs he shares.

The girls took care of me afterwards, we even went for a walk though I was not well, physically or emotionally, after such an upsetting conversation. It wasn’t her necessarily. It was everything else that has been bubbling up for the past however many months. She just unleashed it because, as I later learned, she likes to poke people who work there and has had about three other blow-ups before. Some employees changed their entire lunch schedule JUST to avoid her.

As was her MO, she just wouldn’t let up until I had to confront it, which honestly pisses me off even more because I feel she does it mostly for the LOLZ of doing it. She dropped her grenade and happily skipped away, having wiped her ass on me like she felt I deserved. She devolved to name-calling, I didn’t. I kept it to the issues, she didn’t. But she got the last word in, so she was happy as a pig in shit.

Meanwhile I was left in the debris of my good day, trying to recover from a drive-by of nastiness that I had withdrawn my consent even to participate in, right from the beginning.

Consent is everything, folks.

Later I comforted myself with a diet soda and a sliver of chocolate cake because that’s how that shit works for me. I needed to feel better and that’s the quickest route.

But it just drives it home that when I feel powerless, I do that kind of thing. It’s a defense mechanism I developed when I was very young and it still gets used in a very reactionary way.

This was my stumble this week, and why I had to talk about it.

People might say, “Well, just don’t engage these people. Don’t allow them to have that kind of control.”

I’m working on it. I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot, especially when current events trigger such deep-seated post-traumatic stress that physically bubbles up in me no matter HOW I handle the situation. I only engage because if I ran from it, I would feel even MORE powerless, which isn’t an option.

My buddy Hal is a master of not taking it personally, and I would have PAID MONEY to see him handle that woman and that conversation, because I don’t know how to take my own personal reaction out of it. DJT is a personal affront to me. And this has nothing to do with the fact he’s on the other side of the aisle. This has everything to do with the fact I consider him a vile sexist who contributes NOTHING useful to any conversation he’s in, and felt that way even back when he had a (D) behind his name. My husband was threatened with the pain of divorce if he made me watch that stupid Apprentice show because for the past thirty some odd years something about this guy has triggered me. HARD. He’s a smug, condescending elitist who would have no use for that woman, or particularly her volunteer, if they didn’t worship the ground he walks on. We know this because we have three decades worth of evidence supporting the hypothesis, particularly the way he speaks about the people he thinks are beneath him (which, btw, is everyone.)

That audiotape finally showed me WHY he vexes my spirit. He’s a predator in every since of the word, and someone who has been hunted as prey could see it.

But I can’t convince her of this. I can’t convince anyone of this, which has been the most heartbreaking part. Every day there’s something new that makes me point and say, “THIS! This, this, this. THIS is why,” and it doesn’t seem to make any kind of impact at all. For a while there I actually felt like I was going crazy. I grew up thinking Nazis were bad, Russia should be regarded as a potential threat and no one – EVER – made fun of someone physically disadvantaged without branding themselves an asshole.

Simply put: This is no longer the country or society I thought it was seven months ago.

Which brings me right back to feeling powerless. Every day is a struggle to come to terms with this and not change my core beliefs as a person.

They tell me this is why people voted for him, because they felt that powerlessness for the last eight years. If this is how you felt, then know I empathize. And I empathized beforehand too, because feeling powerless is nothing new to me, or the other people who felt like the last eight years actually made us feel a part of something again, where this was our country too and we had a right to it every bit as much as you did.

Things may be back to “normal” for you, but like the old saying says, “Normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

How do we fix this where we call ALL feel normal at no one else’s expense?

I honestly have no idea. I think it has something to do with learning that we’re all the same deep down, that a difference of opinion doesn’t make us an enemy, and a win for the least of us is a win for all of us.

Again, blame that on my crazy Christian upbringing, which is why I’ve always championed those who needed an advocate.

Now I just need to figure out how to be an advocate for me in the process. This, I fear, will take a lot more time and self-examination, which is exactly what this particular blog is for.

Stay tuned, I guess…

workinprogrewss

Patience is a virtue… that I don’t have.

It should probably go without saying that I like things done. I like to cross things off lists. I like to shift things from the To Do pile to the Done pile with relative speed and efficiency. It’s one of the things that make me such a prolific writer, having completed 33 novels, 28 of those in the past six years. It’s one of the things that make me so good at my 9-5 job, a virtual task master of whipping my department into shape, by chasing after other departments to do the same.

I. Like. Things. Done.

Like Sheldon, remember?

Is it compulsive? Um, yeah. Do I become obsessed to the point of physical and emotional discomfort?

duh-hayac2

Even in projects where I know it’s going to take some time to get from Point A to Point B, I can be satisfied simply seeing progress in the right direction.

Hence one of the bigger challenges of weight loss, particularly as I’m getting older.

When I was young, I could drop pounds easily in the beginning. When I was 16 and my mother got us on Nutri-System, I lost 36 pounds in six weeks – with cheating.

Of course, most of that weight was in the wallet… hence why we didn’t stay on the program more than six weeks.

When I created my own fasting diet in 1987, I lost 40 pounds from July to November. In 2001, as I was preparing for my wedding, I lost about 30 pounds over a summer. In 2003, when I started my post-Dan desperation diet, I lost 15 pounds the first two weeks just eliminating carbs.

I was an expert, I thought, in losing weight. It’s one of the few benefits of being so heavy. It’s just simply easier to shed those pounds. At first, anyway, then it would slow down and frustrate me to the point of throwing in the towel and going back to the way things were.

This time? I’m not even getting the initial success.

As we get ever nearer to the end of Month Two, I feel like I’m in the exact same spot I was two months ago. In fact, I’d even say I feel worse. I haven’t cracked the ten pounds lost mark in two whole months, when it used to only take a couple of weeks to get that far down the trail. And I’m in even worse physical shape trying to get active. I don’t feel stronger or more conditioned. I’m crawling along over glass and it just seems like I’m stuck in the same place I was.

Even last year, after my health scare, it seemed I was seeing legitimate results right away from the intermittent fasting, dropping a size in a month. And that was without caloric restriction. I simply crammed all my eating into an eight-hour window, stuffing my gullet as much as I pleased – with healthier food, granted – but I never *ever* felt denied. And in no time everyone was telling me how great I looked, even when the scale hardly budged.

Now, nothing is budging. My inches are staying the same. My weight reminds + or – the same five or so pounds. If I didn’t have a scale that showed me that I was at least exchanging fat for muscle, I’d be a basket case that would be impossible to live with.

I’ve shunned dairy. I’ve eliminated sodas. I’ve cut down on sugar and cut calories. I’ve walked, even when it was physically painful to do it, and every step felt (and feels) like torture.

It’s very frustrating that the effort isn’t translating into results I can “see.” Even my clothes are still ill-fitting.

So… I’m at a loss of how to fix this – which is more upsetting to me than the not being done thing. It makes me feel powerless, and I don’t handle that feeling all that well. This is what lends to the binge-eating and reliance on stimulants in the food (sugar/caffeine) to make me feel, for lack of a better word, normal.

I’ve been studying somewhat on fibroid cysts, due to some other concerning symptoms affecting my daily life once a month, so I’ve made a doctor’s appointment next month to rule that out (or do something about it because I’ve no patience to deal with that either.) Surprisingly I found out that it could not only account for some of the more distressing reproductive issues I’ve been having, but could result in weight gain and back pain.

So rather than drive myself crazy, I’ve decided to take action.

Because I have no patience.

And two months is two months too long to see the results I know I’ve been working to achieve.

Thankfully I have a fancy schmancy scale that gives me more info than just a number for my weight, and I see that I’ve been gaining muscle, about four pounds this month alone. So that helps a little that the Big Number, the one by which all my value for some is based, isn’t budging.

But trust… though it looks like I’m not doing anything to anyone who passes me in the street, I’m fighting every goddamned inch up this mountain… through the pain, through the frustration… even when the person I fight most lives in my own head.

So I guess that means my detractors and critics are just going to have to have a little patience too.

Recalculating the only way I can, with knowledge/research.

Since my doctor’s appointment is July 21st, which puts me well into Month Three, I’ve decided to proceed following some of the health advice for PCOS/estrogen dominance/fibroid cysts anyway, since some of them are just general common sense approaches to a healthier diet in general:

  1. Cutting dairy. I’m going to have to make this one official now, though it pains me. I love cheese as much as the next person but every time I eat it, I feel it working against me. I’ve cut a lot lately, in regards to yogurt and cheese eaten as a snack, but I have to pull the trigger and just eliminate milk, added cheese and *gulp* ice cream. Lord be with me… (and my poor family that has to live with me.)
  2. Drinking more water. The advice I saw repeated throughout the research I did was 1/2 my body weight. So instead of the 64oz I was aspiring to reach (and often failing,) I’m aiming now for 147. If I slosh as I walk past, kindly ignore.
  3. Promote liver health with natural dietary changes, like more plant-based options, incorporating veggies like sweet potatoes and broccoli into the diet, using apples and lemons, and employing some turmeric/ginger tea I bought an age ago but haven’t yet had the motivation to “acquire” the taste of it.
  4. S-s-s-s-ugar. As you know from reading along so far, Sugar is my biggest vice. Given I live with someone who is underweight, who actually wants to gain pounds, I’ve used this as an excuse to indulge with desserts and goodies that, once they enter my house, conquer me on a weekly basis, even if – technically anyway – I can “fit” it into my plan. For my sake, and the sake of my husband, I’m going to have to find healthier ways to satisfy the sweet tooth. For this, Lord, I pray fervently for strength.

So this is my plan going forward until I can speak with my doctor and get better insight into what’s going on with my body. It’ll be my first doctor’s appointment in roughly 3 or 4 years, so I’m a little nervous. At my size, it feels a bit like Russian Roulette, where I’m just waiting to hear those diagnoses that everyone tells me I’m at so much more risk to get than my thinner counterparts. But I need all the help I can get. If I get to the end of July still teetering in the mid 290s, I’m terrified what it will do for my mental health.

lord-give-me-patience-because-if-you-give-me-strength-11526203

I need help, y’all. Most of all, I need patience. I just wish it would hurry up and get here already. :/

Weigh-In: 294.6 (same as last week) Fat %: 64.2% – down from 66.5% last month. Muscle: 59.8 lbs, up from 55lbs last month.

progress

 

 

 

Face-planting on the finish line.

It’s a very hard-won victory crawling over the finish line to Saturday this week. As I’ve shared before, my back is giving me a lot of grief trying to incorporate more activity into my routine. Whenever I add that third walk to the day, to reach my 30 minutes of activity and get ever nearer to the 10K steps a day I should be walking, my body launches a major protest that has crippled me more as the days go by. In the past I could go back to the two walks and find some kind of relief. Sadly this week it’s just been even more of a struggle. By Friday, coughing, laughing, turning slightly in my chair or even taking a deep breath caused my back to “hitch,” seizing up for a few painful seconds where it’s too painful to even breathe.

My coworkers are even seeing it now, which is major. Most people never know what I’m going through, but this… I can’t hide.

Still, I tried to maintain at least two walks a day throughout, refusing to admit defeat. I just usually came home and collapsed at the end of the day as a result.

Plus there’s a lot of negative stuff happening at work that have really dragged down my spirit. In that respect, I really do feel defeated, and have for a very long time with this company. In the year and a half that I’ve been there, I’ve officially gone up for positions that would pay very well, positions for which I’m well-suited and have experience, only to be passed over for other candidates, some of whom don’t have experience that I do.

I guess I can’t be too surprised this is an ongoing pattern since that’s been how I got officially hired into the company. I started as a temp last February, when they needed some assistance getting caught up on a project. I worked so well they kept me on, doing odds and ends to justify my time there until a position opened up and I could be hired full-time. Such a position came around last May or June, a billing position that was being especially created for our particular site – the Mother Ship of a company with six other sites across two states. A billing consultant interviewed me for this, and he believed I was the perfect candidate, but he was forced to interview two other favorites from the company, to keep it “fair” and “equal.” The owner made the ultimate call, promoting someone who had been there near a decade without any real upward mobility aside from merit increases every year to reward her for her continued service. It’s hard to hate over that, and I figured as long as I got my foot in the door replacing her entry level position, I would eventually work my way up the ranks.

So I accepted the position, which paid $10,000 a year less than the billing position, and have worked my butt off since then, revamping the department I’m in, taking on other roles, being a vital part of the billing team, figuring that in the future I could work my way into a position that would pay me for what I bring to the table: decades of experience and a focus on excellence that even surpasses the company’s standard.

In the year and a half I’ve worked there, I’ve focused on learning things outside the scope of my job to help assist, be a team player, get the work done. Bring money into the company, keep it healthy. Protect my job and the jobs of everyone around me. All I’ve asked in return is a higher investment on me as an employee. When they needed help at another site, running their Medical Records department, I stepped up. In fact, I was virtually *begging* for this opportunity to show what I could do. I created Standard Operating Procedures for how I ran my own department, so I wanted to take this to another site and further prove how efficient I could be – especially since their site had decided they didn’t even need a full-time Medical Records Coordinator. The reason they needed anyone at all is because the one they had quit rather than go to part-time work.

Months went by as they tried to patch the leak in the dam. They tried to send our old MR person, the one who got promoted, but it didn’t fit her schedule. They sent another employee, who does work for all seven sites, so she wasn’t able to get them caught up with the demanding duties of her job. Meanwhile I was chomping at the bit, just for the opportunity to show what I could do, like a stallion stuck in a starting gate. When the time came, I drove 3+ hours to go to that site 2-3 times a week to catch them up (which I did handily, impressing everyone there to the point they wanted ME full time.) And I probably could have run both sites, the largest one (where I work, along with another coworker in MR) and that smaller one, which has 1/3 of the census, and I told the founder this. I suggested that for just $1 more an hour, they could save the $30K+ a year hiring anyone over there and I’d just do both.

They paid me mileage to go back and forth to the site, it was a nice little boon to the check. One more dollar and hour would have made it a sweet little gig – AND saved them tens of thousands of dollars annually in the process.

Within a few weeks they hired someone there… for $1 more than I make an hour.

And I’m still helping them out, because that’s my ethic as a coworker. You help, even if you’re not getting paid. Things need to be done, period.

My current ED (Executive Director) pulled me in during that time, saying that they wanted to “promote” me to working in another department in my home site to cross-train. That turned out to be lip-service to keep me quiet in the wake of my ballsy request for a raise. The department they wanted to cross-train me in had just been downsized from two people to one, and they basically told her that she’s doing well enough that they can’t justify the expense of having someone else brought in to help her.

So nothing ever came of it. They dangled the carrot and then they dropped the ball.

Another opportunity came up recently where a very well paid employee resigned in our admissions department. I applied for her position, because I felt like I could kick ass it, the same as I did with the department I’m in. Nothing we do is rocket science. It’s a medical administrative office, and the non-clinical stuff is pretty basic. I felt like I could bring a lot to the role. I contacted the recruiter at the advise of a friend, and she confirmed that the move would have definitely included more money.

I figured I was a shoe-in. The job needed someone who could talk to outside sources and families, and I have customer service experience in spades – to the point I was implementing their new phone standard *BEFORE* I was technically trained to do it. The minute I got the new protocol, I enacted it. The CEO called and got that kind of excellence, and couldn’t stop raving about it. They needed someone who could be accurate and precise, and that’s my job as Medical Records Coordinator, often to the annoyance OF the Admissions department, as I’ve returned a lot of paperwork for being inaccurately filled out and won’t budge on it till it gets fixed. I have a very, very high standard, both for myself and others.

Not to mention BOTH my ED and another manager came to me the day that this gal resigned, asking me if I was interested. Of course I said yes. They said it would include alternating weekends, which didn’t make me happy but for more money I wasn’t going to complain.

When she asked me how much more I’d need to give up my weekends, I told her at least $18 an hour – which was a bargain price for the department and the role. Again… I was keeping the company’s bottom line as part of my focus.

But of course the minute I brought up more money, the whole subject once again dropped like a hot potato. I heard through the grapevine they ended up interviewing someone ELSE after that, someone who already gets paid more than I do, and it went as far as an official interview with all the managers, which I never got.

I figured that was that, until the recruiter herself wanted to interview me – which she did on a Friday. That following Monday, after she talks to my ED, the recruiter tells me the move would be “lateral” – meaning I would get the same money I’m getting paid now (entry-level pay) for a vacated position that paid over $30 an hour.

Oh, and I’d have to give up ALL my weekends, so that the other gals in that department – who get more than $20 an hour, can get their weekends off.

Everyone who knows what that position entails was flabbergasted by the offer, which, I truly believe was given like it was to force me to say no.

It worked. I said thanks but no thanks. If I’m giving up ALL my weekends, it would have to be $25/hour.

At least.

Ultimately they brought someone else entirely in and guess who is doing a lot to train her to revamp the department to what it should be, per their own compliance rules, which were still not being followed by the chick who had just left?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this new gal, who is there “just to help out,” makes more than what they offered me.

This seems to be a similar and frustrating pattern.

Finally, the position I really wanted became available: the office manager position. It has been vacant since February, when our then-office manager (and my boss – the best boss ever) had quit. She recommended me before she left. I had actual hands-on experience in the role, since I worked closely with her from the time I was hired on as a temp. I worked on HR files. I worked on the invoices. I created tools to help my then-boss to keep track of our current vendors and make the billing process more efficient. I even helped her write the newsletter. She knew I’d kick ass. I have management experience. I’ve helped two start-up companies, and run my own business on the side, so I bring maturity and experience to the role. I’ve hired, trained and supervised people. I work closely with the billing group every single week to turn their Bill Hold around from a two-hour trainwreck to thirty minutes at most, with a couple of months bringing it down to either $0 held or a handful of holds at the site level.

These are firsts at our location.

The *only* reservation I had about taking the position meant I’d have to manage my fellow coworkers, who, back in February, wouldn’t have taken too well to the change. But I feel like those relationships had gotten better since then, so I applied the day I saw it, which was a day after it posted, though I really didn’t expect anything to come of it. No one pulled me in to ask me if I could do it, even though I know for a fact that they had two people recommend me to the higher ups.

To my surprise, they actually interviewed me for it, but it’s not my first rodeo, particularly with this company. There’s a clear pattern that has repeated several times and I can read the signs. Their silence is a dead giveaway. I know that interview was just one more for the “Circus to appear fair and equal” show. They gave me a ten minutes, telling me how they “couldn’t pay me much more” than I’m getting paid now, despite the title and the workload.

They also said I wouldn’t have to manage anyone, which was my only admitted reservation to taking the position. But I already know now that the compensation is how they force me to stay right where I am, where they get maximum work for pennies on the dollar.

So I made it plain in the interview that even with only a slight increase, the promotion to manager (especially in such a short time) would really indicate what kind of work I do for the company, and be a great boost to my resume.

I’m forty-fucking-seven, I don’t have ten years to waste on an entry level position. If you want me to stay with your company, you’re going to have to meet my effort with respect and compensation. With VALUE. A raise is one way to do that. A title is another.

But that’s now how this company works. They’re drowning, but spend millions of dollars on consultants and manager training at ski resorts, but they can barely afford more than a 2.5% merit increase for all their employees, down from the 4% last year, and none of whom even got a face-to-face evaluation this year.

Unless you just happened to check your compensation history, you would have even missed you got a “raise.”

But I watch shit like that. And I watch what goes on around me. That’s why I’m 1000% sure that they’ll hire someone else as office manager – probably someone they approached before they even interviewed me, someone with less experience who will make more than what they want to pay me.

And I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m never going to get anywhere with this ED and this HR person. They’ve decided a long time ago where I belong at this company, and it’s at the bottom.

It’s been a rough, rough week dealing with this. It’s hard not to take this personally. The office is filled with people who make more money than I do, who play around on their computers, who slack on the work, who have no incentive to make the company stronger and healthier. They want to come in, do their eight hours and wait for the weekend. The “not my job” crowd never really sees any kind of consequence for their lackluster behavior. They get the same “merit” increase every year as everyone else, and this year was no exception. They barely get written up, even when they cost the company money, because upper management binds the hands of those trying to make a difference in the company. The red tape that we have to navigate through is a stranglehold, and I thought that it was contained just to this company, but my husband, who is a new assistant manager for a retail store, says he faces it too. Everyone is so fucking afraid of getting sued that slacker employees can damage the company with barely any retribution anymore.

Good news for them. Not so great news for people who actually give a damn.

To prove my point: last year it was uncovered that some employees were clocking in from their phones before they even entered the building, which was essentially stealing money from the company. It took months to get HR to take this seriously. Instead they wanted to “train” everyone that you shouldn’t clock in on your phone, you should clock in on your desktop computer, and without that training a “write-up” would be unfair, because they can claim they didn’t KNOW it was illegal to clock in a half-hour before one showed up for one’s shift.

I was gobsmacked. Is this REALLY where we’re at as a society?

Finally, months later, legal got involved and people were written up/suspended… but they all still work for the company.

And each and every one of them gets paid more than I do.

My spirit has died a little more every single day I’ve worked there. But it’s a job, and I have bills, so I stay. It’s not that I haven’t applied elsewhere. I have, especially on those days I get really frustrated. I’ve thought seriously about the day I can walk out of that building, flipping the bird to every single person who has made my life more difficult in the process.

I’ve been told to hang in there, that this company is facing a transition period. That rock star consultant they hired has a simple business plan: hard work will be met with more money, while the slackers will feel the pain of less. They tell me to wait out the storm and eventually it’ll be the job I want it to be.

But the fact is I don’t want a “job.” I want a career. I want my career. When the writing thing worked it was like I wasn’t working at all, even when I was pulling 15-hour days to churn out book after book. My back was never an issue. I could work around everything. And I got paid better than any other “job” of my life. It just felt *right*… like I had stepped into the life I was supposed to have.  It was physically and emotionally painful to compromise on ANY “job,” which is a big part of why I have been so dissatisfied for so long.

Stuff like this just reemphasizes to me that this is not the place for me. It hurts because it is supposed to. If they gave me a $5/hour raise, I’d stay forever, taking their shit because it’s easier to go down when you have money in the bank. I’d grow complacent. I’d give up on my dream because it’s smarter to count on the money that comes in on a regular basis, instead of the ebb and flow of book revenue, particularly when Amazon makes it more and more difficult for people to find you.

This current job and all its financial limitation keeps me hungry, for lack of a better word.

I want and need to crack that code again, and really – that’s all that the revenue from this job should provide.

As I sat at my desk in tears the other day, so frustrated with their treatment of me, and trying my level best not to let it rewire the chatterbox, that this is somehow what I deserve, I decided that I’ve grown too complacent. This isn’t a matter of them not seeing my value. They know what kind of worker I am, and they’re just jazzed they can get me (and keep me) at bargain basement prices. And I’ve taken it because despite that I don’t get fairly compensated at the job, I do make quite a bit more than minimum wage.

It’s just not enough. Not with everything I have to do. So I work harder, hoping that somehow the universe will reward.

Instead, it only throws me more scraps. They offered me a part-time job with another side company and I almost took it, even though I had no idea what kind of compensation I’d see. It wouldn’t be overtime, even though that’s what I’d be working. But how can I turn down money, when my finances are a big part of my problem right now?

After everything that happened this week, I wrote the founder and told her thanks for the opportunity, but no. I’m barely hanging on by a thread now, especially with my back. Something has got to give, and it can’t be me.

I need to create clear and consistent boundaries, focusing on what is really important: Plan A.

Whether this new job comes through or not, I’m going to stop treating Plan A like it’s Plan B, and vice versa. And if this promotion doesn’t come through, then I’ll know for sure that there is no future at this company for me. I’m sure as shit not going to languish in the same entry-level job for ten years waiting around for them to pay me what I’m worth. It’s a value statement, in how much they want to invest to keep me on the payroll as a part of their company. Despite the lip service of how I’m aces there, they clearly don’t value me as much as some of the others they have working there. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. As long as I’m being tied to the bottom rung of the later, that’s how I’m going to measure my ambition with this company going forward. They’ve offered to cross-train me on other positions, but I’ve decided to decline on doing anything above my job description unless there’s compensation involved. It’s time to make a stand, and if nothing else – THAT is what this job has taught me. I know what value I bring to the table. If they can’t see it, then they don’t deserve my best. I’ll do my job the way I have always done it, because excellence is not a choice for me.

But as far as doing anything else, above and beyond, to help them excel as a company, that comes at a price and I’m tired of being the only one who pays it. I’ll spend the time I would have spent working part-time for someone else on my OWN dream, which is where that time belongs anyway.

If the universe has determined that I’m going to play Sisyphus my whole life, then I’m going to roll the boulders up my own goddamn hill.

Despite this rocky week, I’m pleased to report that I didn’t binge despite several very close calls. It was almost frightening how little it took to wake the Sugar Monster inside. I just needed to feel good and it wasn’t happening, and I found myself physically having to turn myself away from the cravings. It was a conscious choice to say no, rather than the conscious choice to say yes.

After these last many months, I consider that a major victory. We’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

I did have a girls’ night last night where I drank a little too much, but I maintained my food intake like a champ despite all of the temptations. I really want to and feel like I need to go to the park for a little zen time, but my back is still in piss poor shape, so I’m going back and forth on whether or not I should do it. My son, who is a fitness guy, tells me it’s okay to take some time off to rest, that I’ve done enough this week, but it’s not just about the four or five miles I walk.

I just need to decompress, and that’s one of the best ways to do it. Spirit-wise, it’s probably one of the better things I could do. But where the spirit is willing.. the body is simply limited.

This, more than anything, is why I’m on this journey I’m on. It’s not to attract men, or make people like me more. It’s not even to make myself more promoteable in the workplace. It’s so that I can do what needs to be done, when I want to do it.

I’m sick and fucking tired of limitations. We’re nearing a Daffy Duck level meltdown. Seriously.

This week hurt because it was supposed to, to show me how I’ve clung to an ill-fitting cocoon for so long. This job doesn’t fit any more than this big body.

Somehow I have to break free… from BOTH of them.

It’s time someone treats me with the value I deserve, starting with me, because who on earth is better skilled or qualified?

I’m kicking ass for Ginger now. The world can prepare itself accordingly.