Making the Bed (And Other Victories)

Making The Bed And Other Victories

For the last week, I’ve been trying to share a meaningful personal victory over depression, and have met with limited success.

I told a friend. They didn’t get it. “Doesn’t everyone?”, they asked me.

I told my brother. He didn’t get it. “Is that a…good…thing?” he inquired, hesitation in his voice.

So, I told my mother, but her encouragement is a given. I could tell her that I eviscerated a live chipmunk and she would metaphorically pat me on the head for what a good boy I have been. Right before she called a mental health professional on my behalf.

It seems that announcing “I made the bed three days in a row!” is not quite the watershed moment for the rest of the world that it is for me.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Last week, I admitted to you all that I have yet to get a therapist/counselor to work through my depression with. This is still true. I have gotten a referral to what I hope is a person able to deal with my idiosyncrasies and will be calling them for an appointment later today.

However, what has happened is apparently the Prozac has begun to kick in.

I will admit, I was expecting a more…dramatic result from the Prozac. I sort of had it in my head that there would be a period where my body got used to the medication. Then, one amazing morning, I would wake up and step into glorious sunshine, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns.

After all, that’s what happens to normal people every day, right?

Instead, I find that I’ve grown a little more stable. I am not yelling at Lor at the drop of a hat. Going outdoors is not causing me to burst into flame spontaneously. I wash the dishes without being prompted a half-dozen times.

And, oh yes, there is the subject of the bed…

The Bed, Unmade

Let me explain how depression works.

A normally adjusted person takes a look at an unmade bed and thinks: “I need to make the bed.” Maybe they get it done, maybe they don’t, depending on how late they are for work, etc. But the acknowledgment is there.

A depressed person takes a look at the unmade bed and thinks: “Why should I even bother to make that bed? I am just going to screw it up in a few hours anyway. Just like I screw everything else up. So what’s the point? In fact, I might as well just go back to my unmade bed and lie there…”

So, yes, the fact that I have been making the bed for a few days in a row is actually significant, though it probably doesn’t look like it to the untrained eye.

To me, a made bed is a victory. A small one, yes, but a victory nonetheless. It also represents potential. “If I can do this,” I think, “maybe I can do something else too!”

In the past week, I’ve completed a few things around the house, managed to get my professional life back off the ground, and even spent some time with my extended family.

All on the strength of making the bed in the first place.

Filling The Spaces

Of course, this is only the beginning of rebuilding a functional life after my depression derailment.

I still need to get back to regular posting here on Misdirected. Today will represent the first time I have posted in back to back weeks in a few months, so we will tentatively chalk that one up as “progress.”

But there are so many other things that I am going to have to start over on. it is literally tiring to think about. I haven’t been to a gym in weeks. I haven’t run over a mile in who knows how long. My personal trainer certificate hangs on the wall gathering dust, as the works I had intended to build around it remain unstarted.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of my fiction writing. I have probably not come up with an original idea since the beginning of the year.

So much remains undone, in fact, that I can actually feel the weight of them bearing down on me. There is so much, in fact, that I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack fluttering in my chest, just trying to comprehend how I am ever going to get it all done.

I just have to sit back for a minute and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, practicing mindfulness, all the things the self-help gurus tell you to do that you are secretly sure aren’t really working. I am just going to have to remind myself that change happens incrementally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that all I can do is all I can do.

So, I’ll just wait with one ear listening for the sound of Lor getting out of bed. Then I can go collect my early-morning hug and kiss, and reassurance that someone loves me and believes in me, even if I don’t believe in myself.

And then, I’ll make the bed.

Not Looking Forward To My First Day Back At The Gym,

– Jeremy

PS: Five days left to go on my Epilepsy Birthday Fundraiser over on Facebook. Please consider it if you are looking for an important cause to support!

Toxic

Toxic

I am trapped in a toxic relationship.

I’ve always thought of myself as pretty strong – able to overcome most things. Hell, I’ve lived with epilepsy for 15 years now, right?

But this particular relationship just keeps coming back and biting me in the ass. Every time I think I have escaped, it reaches out and grabs ahold of me again, drawing me back into its grasp.

The moment I give in I am simultaneously enraptured and ashamed. I know for a fact that what is coming will be humiliating and painful. But, in the name of a few moments of pleasure, I take the plunge anyway.

The really hurtful thing is this – my relationship is literally toxic. I keep poisoning myself and I can’t seem to stop.

Too Close To Home

Less than a quarter mile from our home is a cesspit of sin and amoral license, known as “Sonic Drive-In.”

Oh, they sell things I can eat. Grilled chicken sandwiches and basic burgers I can remove the buns from. They make a decent boneless chicken wing 6-pack if I am in the mood to spread my eating out over a couple of meals.

But that is not where I go wrong.

Every once in a while, about once a month or so, the urge overwhelms me. We go to Sonic, and I buy the most forbidden of fruits:

Ice Cream.

When we pull in, I try to rein myself in. I will get the “Mini” size. My self-directed negotiation makes me promise myself I will split it in half. I will contain my lust for Fudge and Ice Cream whipped together – I will keep myself together.

Ten minutes later, I am looking into an empty small drink cup, wondering where I went wrong. And being tempted to lick the last vestiges of whipped cream off the inside of the cup.

Five minutes after that, I am locked in a bathroom for the next few hours. That’s all the time it takes for me to begin paying the price for my lack of self-control.

The Failure of Negative Reinforcement

A large portion of the early success of any kind of bariatric surgery is negative reinforcement. After surgery, your stomach has been shrunk to such a degree that overeating produces discomfort and, in some cases, outright sickness. For many of us, certain foods are especially difficult to handle – sometimes leafy greens, occasionally tougher proteins, some folks even have difficulty with certain liquids.

But just about all of us can’t handle processed sugar anymore. We even have a specific term for it: “Dumping Syndrome”, categorized by sharp pains, foaming vomit and long-term diarrhea. This is usually enough to encourage us to stay the heck away from foods containing processed sugar.

Usually.

Negative reinforcement does not always work. There is always that one child who doesn’t learn the first time and keeps trying to stick the silverware into the electrical socket.

I am afraid that, in this particular case, that child is me.

Negative reinforcement usually works for me, too. It only took two trips to the hospital to be treated for kidney stones. After the second visit, I started making sure that I get in my 64+ ounces of water a day.

But I just can’t seem to make the ice cream thing stick.

So, every few weeks, I find myself camped out in the bathroom for several hours in a row, wondering why in the hell I keep doing this to myself.

The Tangle In My Brain

Seriously, now: there is absolutely no reason that my body would be craving processed sugar.

I get over 70 grams of protein in every day. That is usually balanced by 60ish grams of carbs. A multi-vitamin takes care of any other missing dietary components.

There is literally nothing in processed sugar that my body needs.

Plus, I can pass up the brownies, the Little Debbie snacks, the Snickers bars. It is simply this one “food” that triggers this reaction in me.

In short, it is all in my head.

Mind you, this is not minimizing the problem. The great majority of our bad dietary decisions are “in our heads”, which is why healthy folks have so much trouble understanding obesity. “Just put down the cheeseburger”, and all that.

Something simply misfires in our brain, and next thing you know we are neck deep in addictive behavior. And yes, Virginia, there is such as thing as psychological addiction. It is not the same as physical dependence/addiction, but it is a real condition just the same.

And food addiction is extremely pervasive among those of us with obesity. So much so that many patients of bariatric surgery turn their food addictions into a different type of addiction: alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc. The surgery that changes our physiology does nothing to change our mental processes.

The Quest for an Ice Cream Cure

I am a fortunate case – I haven’t relapsed into overeating or started drinking Jack Daniels by the gallon.

But I just can’t manage to stop poisoning myself once a month.

Lor has tried to help. Every time I decide to do it, she warns me what is coming. I tell her “I know” and do it anyway. Then, after an hour or two in the bathroom, I invariably ask her “Why did you let me eat that?”

Addictive behavior is rarely fair to loved ones.

It has been suggested to me that I seek professional help. It just seems so overboard to start talking to a counselor because I make myself sick every few weeks.

On the other hand, do I wait until I am doing this to myself once a week?

Accepting failure is hard – especially when it seems so minor. My weight hasn’t changed. My clothes still fit. I am still able to do a host of things that I couldn’t two years ago.

And, yet, still: every time we drive by, I hear Ice Cream calling my name. A sweet siren song, promising moments of pleasure followed by hours of pain.

Maybe We’ll Just Move Next Door To A Salad Bar,

  • Jeremy

18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy

2017: The Recap

2018The Misdirected 2017 Recap

By the time you are reading this, it will be 2018.

I’m actually putting this together on New Year’s Eve, 2017, during the early morning hours while everyone else in the house is asleep. But, by the time it reaches the world, another year will have passed. Our household will be on our way to Colorado to return our nephew to his parents. And we’ll be staring down the throat of another oncoming year.

Why the negative imagery? Reflexive action, I suppose. We were SO happy to see 2016 in the rear-view mirror. “Wow, glad that’s over with! 2016 was such a lousy year. We will never see anything that bad again!”

2017: “Challenge Accepted.”

So, now, I want to be a little more circumspect. Yes, I am glad this year is over. Yes, 2017 was a pretty crap year for the general public residing in the USA. But, it was actually a decent year for our household, all things considered.

The Good…

In terms of fitness, it was really a banner year.

Our fitness journey continued from 2016’s double-barrelled bariatric surgeries. In May of 2017, I actually hit my post-surgical goal weight of 185 pounds. That same month, Lor and I participated in our first ever 5K, the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo”.

By July, I had settled in at what is apparently my new “normal” weight – 175 pounds. I was able to go into my one-year follow up at this weight, and at 25% body fat to boot. I’ve successfully lost just a hair under 130 pounds total, thanks to the combination of surgery and lifestyle changes.

July also brought me my exam for the ACE Fitness Physical Trainer certification. I have never been prouder of a “C” passing grade in my life. Since my development of Adult-Onset Epilepsy in 2004, I had pretty much resigned myself to never being able to learn anything long-term again. That professional certification means the world to me.

I was also able to meet another long-term personal goal: In September, my first novel, Inheritance, was published by Fiction Vortex. I literally have placed the novel on a shelf above my desk, just above eye level. Not as an ego-prop, mind you. (Though it certainly works for that.) Mainly it reminds me that I can do things that I had never thought were possible for someone with my disabilities.

Just to top off the year, we were able to re-enter foster care in November. We didn’t expect it and had made no plans for it. But, when a previous foster kid calls out of the blue and asks for help, you do your best to pitch in. We did, and now have a seventeen-year-old girl in our household. She is wild and unsettled and drives me crazy and I love her to death.

Other parents inform me that this is just about par for the course for raising a seventeen-year-old.

…The Bad…

Yikes, where to begin. Our country still reels from crisis to crisis like a drunken monkey. Racism and factionalism have been released to begin openly taking a place among us again. Our national governmental processes were screwed with at the highest level by a hostile foreign nation. Hundreds of our fellow citizens are being gunned down in the streets by both private individuals and bad-apple law enforcement officers.

Yet, we still manage to pay attention to the Kardashians as if they were somehow of equal importance to all this.

Personally, our families are aging and ailing. We buried family members and watched others continue wasting away. The immortal titans of our childhood were revealed to be mortal, and fragile. The very bedrock that our families are built upon seems to be shifting and eroding.

And, as a bitter topping for the crap-cake, freakin’ Tom Petty died.

…And, The Ugly.

For a year filled with success, there were sure a bunch of failures to go right along with them.

We were supposed to actually run a 5K before the end of the year. Never happened.

I wanted to tackle the La Luz trail up the front of Sandia Crest this summer. It was to be my demonstration of my personal victory over the limitations of obesity and epilepsy. Except it never happened, either.

For that matter, we never managed to go camping even ONCE in 2017. Mainly this had to do with my work with Fiction Vortex. But this does not represent any malice on their part – it just represents my inability to plan.

And NaNoWriMo was probably the biggest single artistic failure I have ever undertaken. Not only was I unable to complete the goal, but it left me so emotionally tapped out that I lay mostly fallow for the entire month of December. No fiction, no blog posts, no marketing, barely any contract work and editing. Very little contact with the outside world, in fact.

Basically, I lost two months of productivity by trying to write an entire novel in one.

So, yeah. There was that.

The Shining Goals of 2018

I have no desire to jinx us all by talking about how 2018 has to be better than 2017 or anything like that.

That said, I do have some intentions and goals for 2018.

Misdirected will continue on its merry way for 2018. Now nearing 2 years out from surgery, we will be focusing more and more on lifestyle and diet maintenance, social and emotional issues, and other community-specific thoughts. Given that I am now a Personal Trainer we will probably include some exercise-based content.

The rest of my Fiction Vortex team will be finishing up their Season One novels in February and March of 2018. I am looking forward to getting those novels published and into the hands of our readers. And just wait till you see what Season TWO has in store…

Speaking of Fiction Vortex, Fictionite has launched and is gaining traction as we speak. I am pretty excited to be acting as an ambassador for our awesome fiction-sharing app. (Starting at the Albuquerque Comic Con, January 12 – 14, 2018.)

I am going to get my Patreon site out of Neutral and moving forward once more. My patrons have been essential in making sure that I am able to create blog content, market books, etc. Imagine what we will be able to do with, say, double the amount of patronage…

And, of course, I will be completing the next book in the Brian Drake series in 2018. In fact, the first episode of Inheritance: Executor will be arriving on Fictionite in March of 2018.

You’d better go download Fictionite now, in fact. You’ve got a lot to read through to get ready for Season Two of Ash Falls.

Have A Safe, Happy, And Blessed 2018,

-Jeremy

 

Fighting Off The Food Coma

Fighting Off The Food Coma

The time has come, the season has arrived: The Holidays are here. And along with the family gatherings, football games, and presents will come a whole lot of opportunities to do Bad Things to your diet and your physique.

How bad? Well, the average person will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the 40-day period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Do that ten years in a row, and congratulations: you’ve added around 50 pounds of body mass from holiday eating alone. Never mind aging, injury, or other dietary hiccups that might arise.

So, yeah – this presents a problem.

What are you going to do about it?

Watch Your Drinks

If you want to help yourself avoid the potential for damage, first give yourself the ability to succeed. The great majority of the caloric damage at these gatherings doesn’t come from stuffing or Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake.

No, the majority of the empty calories will come from what you drink.

Think about it: how many Cokes will you consume over the course of a holiday gathering? Because each and every one will set you back 140 calories. Worse yet, that 140 calories has ZERO nutritional value to you. No vitamins, no minerals, no protein. Nothing but processed sugar that will go straight to the “Store me as fat, please” list.

Beer isn’t much better. A can of the most popular “Light” beer, Bud Light, works out to 110 calories. Only a few less than a Coke. And the problem with beer is simple: the alcohol impairs your judgement. The more beers you have, the more you think it is OK to have. You could get yourself outside of a six-pack of beer (and the accompanying 660 calories) before you even meet the temptations around the dinner table.

Stick to water, if you can. If not, coffee or unsweetened tea are OK as well. But give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Because you haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet.

Rein In The Impulses

I know what you are thinking. “But Jeremy,” you say, “everything is soooo good during the holidays. How can I resist it all?”

Simple. You can’t.

The theoretical person exists that can surround themselves with holiday goodies and not indulge. In the same sense that theoretical alien life exists: it may be out there somewhere, but in the meantime just hand me another slice of that double-chocolate Pecan Pie.

So, if the cornucopia is too much to resist, don’t resist. Direct the flood that you can’t contain.

Instead, try everything in very small doses.

Do you really need a pound of everything on your plate? No, not really. Get a tablespoon-full, or a small slice, or a single item of whatever. Then, as you eat, focus on the folks around you. You probably only see them once or twice a year, right? Take a bite of your small serving of food “A”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person to your right and chat about whatever for a moment. Return to your plate. Take a bite of your small serving of food”B”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person on your left and chat for a moment.

Repeat this process until you’ve tried everything on your plate. Still hungry? Start around your plate a second time, this time focusing on the items you found particularly yummy.

By the time your stomach tells you “Stop! I’m full!”, you’ll have had a fraction of what everyone else around you did. And you’ll have had some valuable time catching up with friends and family members.

 

A Call To Action

No joke – this technique really works. The reason it works is because your stomach is slow to report to your brain about when it has reached capacity. If you start with a huge pile of food and rush through it, you will reach capacity and pass right through it and not know about it – until you are uncomfortably bloated and nodding off on the couch, wondering how you could have possibly eaten so much. Again. Just like last year.

So, just dodge that bullet. And give yourself some extra tools to use to fight the “Holiday Bloats.”

Another thing you can do to help out? Stay active.

Now, I am not inviting you and your family outside for some brisk snow-field volleyball. (Though if you live in Florida, or California – heck, why not?)  But, seriously, how much fun are you having sitting on the couch watching football? Listening to everyone’s digestive processes?

So, move around instead! Go grab some photo albums and look through them. Volunteer to wash the dishes. Play with the kids or the grand-kids. Even just wandering around the yard (if one is available), or throwing around a football (rather than watching one being thrown.)

Also, is this gathering taking place at Mom and Dad’s? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s? I will bet a significant amount that if this is taking place at the home of an older family member, there are some things lying around the place that could be done. Rake some leaves. Repair a squeaky door. Help organize a library, or a craft room, or a garage. Every minute you spend moving is a minute your body is using fuel, not adding it to long-term storage.

And if you can contribute to a family member at the same time, well: isn’t that what the holidays are all about, really?

Making The Holidays (Not) Count,

Jeremy

PS: I recently had the opportunity to create a guest blog post for the folks at Prairie Sage Wellness Center. Feel free to check it out here!