45 Grams to Deconstruction

One of the very first changes that was made in our household was institution of a new diet. Before either of us ever met a dietitian, we looked over the (intimidating) packets of information we were sent home with from our surgical consults, and decided there were changes we could make immediately. We amped up our fruit and vegetable intake via smoothie creation once a day, we got rid of all our sugared snacks (goodbye, Ghiradelli), and we immediately stopped drinking carbonated beverages. But things got a bit more complex after the first visit with a dietitian. We were sent home trying to: A) Increase our water intake to 64 ounces a day (but that is a WHOLE other article), and B) Reduce our three meals a day to 45 grams of Carbohydrates each.
Now, 45 grams is not much. 45 grams is equal to, say, 12 ounces of fruit juice. Or a Whole-Wheat Bagel. Or 3 whole Oreos. It was becoming clear that many favorite foods were going to be vanishing from our lives – not at the “2 weeks before surgery” point, but more like the “right now” point. We began our transition from bread, pasta, and cakes to Kale and cheese.
This is where the support of friends and family members can be HUGE. For example, in preparation for our Easter get-together this year, my Mother called me to ask what could we actually eat? This is going to be great training for our lives post-surgeries when options will be even more restricted. We decided to stick with our usual cookout menu of burgers and brats, just without the use of hamburger and hot dog buns. Add a mixed green salad, and a small amount of fresh fruit for dessert, and voila – Lor and I can participate without feeling like we are screwing up everyone else’s meal.
That type of compromise and cooperation is going to be important in the months to come, I think. Both of our families are food-centric, with family get-togethers all planned around who is going to be bringing what food item. As we begin to change our diets dramatically, it is hardly fair to expect every one else in the family to follow along – they didn’t require Gastric Sleeve surgery, after all. But this idea of component-based meals, where Lor and I are free to select items or portions that work within our diets while everyone else can eat as they choose, seems to be an excellent solution. We don’t want to lose out on the social interaction that comes along with preparing meals and sitting down with the family.
We just want to make sure that we are around for the next few decades, so we can continue to spend time with each other.
Already Plotting For Thanksgiving,
– Hawkwind
PS – Since there has been a little confusion, Misdirected is published Monday through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for all the stuff I should’ve been doing while I was writing and reading other blogs!

The Paralysis of Choice

I have sat here for an hour this morning, head in my hands like the Stormtrooper in the “Regret” poster, attempting to get my brain to fire up. It is slow going today, I must admit. No witty observations, no heartfelt revelations. Just sitting here staring at the wall, noting where I need to do some touch-up painting.

It is kinda strange, really. I am currently busier than ever. Blogging fills (most of) my mornings, doing some work out on MTurk is generating some Amazon credit for us, I’ve even discovered a “piece writing” site (Text Broker) that will actually pay real, live money for small articles. I have plenty to do. Today I just can’t seem to get myself moving in order to do those things.
It is easy enough to blame my second day of caffeine withdrawal. But I am beginning to think that the real problem is choices: all of the sudden I have some options, and I am having trouble choosing between them. I am not really used to the concept. For years, my days consisted of getting up, gaming while hoping I didn’t have seizures that day, going back to bed. Now, suddenly, there are options: Do I write a post? Do I go exercise? Do I get online and work for a little while? All this while feeling that my brain is turned off still.
In many ways, it feels very similar to the years when I was suffering from serious depression – then, I would see the things that I could be doing, but didn’t care enough to do them. What would be the point? Now, it is almost a paralysis, like a child in a candy store, overwhelmed by too many options. My heart knows that I would be better off choosing something, but my mind can’t seem to make that connection.
Six months ago, if you have told me I would be overwhelmed with options today, I would have laughed at you. My obesity and my epilepsy between them create a very firm anchor, fixing me in a very small space – a room with windows, but no doors. Today, I am still obese. I am still epileptic. But today, unlike 6 months ago, I have hope – hope that by this time next year weight-loss surgery may actually allow me to be taking my first, tentative steps again through life, instead of merely doing laps inside the walls of my twin disabilities. And no one ever warned me that hope is a paralyzing agent.
My hands are warmed up now, the blood seems to be flowing to the brain again. Out there is Real Life, streaming by outside my window like a busy freeway. Within these walls there are things I can be doing to prepare myself for the possibility that I might someday rejoin that flow.  I guess I better get to it.
Daring to Hope,
– Hawkwind

The Hospital Nightmare

A lot sooner than expected (maybe the lack of caffeine contributed), I have begun having to deal with an issue of Gastric Sleeve weight loss surgery that I thought I would be free of for at least another couple months. But, last night’s nightmare has announced to me that it is already time to start dealing with an issue that I have kept quiet until now: I am terrified of hospitals.
I am not so afraid of surgery, really. I’ve had 3 pretty minor procedures in my life (My Vagus Nerve Stimulator surgeries and a meniscus repair), and they all turned out OK. But hospitals…man, that is a whole other thing. I have spent so much time in hospitals in the last twelve years, and none of it was pleasant. I have been under observation for a week, sleep deprived (on purpose) so neurologists could study my seizures. I have been poked and prodded, scanned and x-rayed, had gallons of blood removed from me a vial at a time as various medical professionals have tried to get a handle on my epilepsy. (None of it has ever worked, by the way.) And let’s not even talk about how many times I have woken up in an Emergency Room, post-seizure, not knowing where I was, or who I was, or who these strange people all around me were. You know, people like my wife, and my parents.
Yeah, hospitals just aren’t my thing. And I have been very carefully not thinking about the fact that I am going to have to spend at least a couple days in one come my surgery date, and that’s if everything goes right. Apparently my subconscious has gone right on worrying about it without me, if last night’s dream (about being prepped for the wrong surgery without being able to tell my doctor he was making a mistake) is any indication.
I can’t even be really sure that everything is going to go correctly – I have searched and searched, and have been unable to find a single example of someone who has intractable seizures going through Gastric Sleeve surgery. I am sure people like me are out there, but they are sure not talking about it online. My case just seems custom designed for “complications” – the kind that stretch out my hospital stay. Ugh.
Most days I have been pretty excited about this whole process, but today has just been kind of a downer. And I still have 5 months (or so) to go! Maybe I will find some encouraging info between now and then, but for right now I am not feeling real great about this whole “hospital stay” thing.
And The Hospital Gowns Suck Too,
– Hakwind

D(ecaf)-Day

I have been watching the level as it drops. Every day, I have kept an anxious eye on the contents of my coffee jar, knowing that the inevitable would come. And, yesterday, it arrived. The pot of coffee I brewed used the last of our caffeinated coffee grounds, meaning that I was going to have to replace the contents with…decaf. I had to restrain myself from licking the interior of the now dusty and empty coffee jar.
It has been difficult enough keeping up with the new, carbohydrate-light diet that was introduced into our household after Lor’s first visit with her dietitian. No more soft drinks, no problem – there is still half a case of Mountain Dew (“Code Monkey Fuel”) sitting in our pantry collecting dust waiting for a friend or family member to show up and take it off our hands. No more carbonation was a little trickier – Lor loves those Zero-Calorie carbonated waters and I, of course, was forced to give up my precious, precious beer. Somehow, we powered through.
But coffee! That’s a whole other ball game. I have been a caffeine addict since high school, and have always relied on coffee for my morning jump start. Days when fate or poor planning forced a start without coffee have always led to headaches, stomach upset, and general low-level nastiness on my part. And, in recent years, I have dragged Lor down the Coffee Road behind me, resulting in two caffeine addictions under the same roof. No, mornings are not going to be pleasant in the Hawkwind Habitat for the foreseeable future.
Following some advice from a fellow bariatric patient who was kind enough to visit us here on the blog, I did at least make sure that we got good decaf:
(Seriously, is there anything you can’t get on Amazon?)
It smells good enough going into the jar, but I know from previous experience that, like the main character in Dream Park, I just like the taste of caffeine. (And, sorry to sound like a shill for Amazon here, but if you are a Science Fiction fan who somehow missed out on reading Larry Niven’s Dream Park, stop what you are doing right now and go buy it. You can thank me later.)
I am assured by those that have gone before me that I will kick my addiction in a short period of time, and then all will be sunshine and roses again. But, I am not so sure. Even now, I can feel the tendrils of my desire for caffeine, wrapping like tentacles around my brain, preparing to squeeze all the life out of my ever-weakening form.
Maybe a little less Darkest Dungeon and H.P. Lovecraft while I am kicking coffee, eh?
Staring Into the Caffeine-Free Abyss,
– Hawkwind

Skinny is a Side Effect

When speaking with friends and family members about my upcoming Gastric Sleeve Surgery, there has been a wide range of reactions. Some are encouraging. Some tell me they are worried about the surgery. A few want to know what effect (if any) the surgery could have on my epilepsy. But, by far the most common response has been some version of the following:

“How exciting! Just think how skinny you are going to get!”

I smile, and nod politely, not trusting myself to speak. But, every time, it makes me grind my teeth a bit. Because if you were going to make a list of all the reasons I was having this surgery, “skinny” would not be at the bottom. “Skinny” would not even be on the list.

Western society is overly invested into the cult of skinny. It is something that my wife has been standing up against her whole adult life – so many women, and not a few men, get themselves emotionally crippled trying to match the societal ideal of what a person should look like. Eating disorders, yo-yo dieting, and emotional scarring abound, all because so many people can’t get themselves to a “perfect” weight, or dress size, or whatever. And that societal disease leads SO many people to believe that my motivation to get a life-altering surgery performed on myself is to get skinny? The minds reels.

As exciting as it is to read about the dramatic weight loss numbers associated with the Gastric Sleeve and other weight loss surgeries, I really wish people would talk about other things more consistently. “Non-Scale Victories”, or NSVs some call them – changes that have taken place that have nothing to do with the number of pounds (or kilos, because this phenomenon is worldwide) that a person has lost.  I do see photos of people standing inside one leg of the “fat pants” they used to wear, holding the waist line out with one hand to demonstrate their weight loss, which sort of qualifies, I suppose – but is really still focusing on how a person looks after surgery. I am not really interested in how someone looks, I want to know how they feel. What changes has the surgery brought to their daily lives? What new doors have been opened that used to be firmly closed? These are the things that I want to know about because these are the things I want to prepare myself for.

The damnable thing is, there are changes I can expect based entirely on how I will look after surgery. No longer will I be exiled to “Fatlandia” (the plus size men’s section in any store) when shopping for clothing – I will actually be able to wear what I want, and might become more fashion conscious. Maybe I will be willing to go to the swimming pool right across the road from our home that I have only visited once in 4 years because I hate the way I look in swimming trunks. Maybe I will become more aware of shaping my physique because I can suddenly have sex again. (Morbidly obese people tend to not have robust sex lives. I would talk in more detail, but there might be kids in the room.) It is entirely possible that I am full of crap here, and that my personal appearance will suddenly be a major factor in my life once I have gone through the surgery.

But, for now, I just wish people would stop focusing only on the number of pounds lost, and would also tell me other things. Have you been able to stop using a CPAP? Has your blood pressure dropped? Are you no longer in constant pain? Can you ride a bike now? How long until I can expect to go hiking in the Sandia Mountains, instead of sitting here on my ass?

You know, things like that.

Not Waiting To Turn Into Brad Pitt,

– Hawkwind

PS – My copy editor tells me I forgot something important: I am very proud of myself for choosing to have this surgery and proud of all of you that are also brave enough to take this frightening step along with me. But, be proud of who you are now. Love yourself for who you are now. Don’t wait until you have reached a “target weight”. You are already valuable and worthy of love, no matter what your scale says.