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.

Some feedback and questions

Since I have converted Misdirected over to talking about our upcoming weight-loss surgeries, the response has been tremendous. I’ve received comments, advice, feedback, emails, text messages, etc. all supportive of and enthusiastic about the changes here – and our visitor numbers show the difference. Apparently I have struck a nerve here, talking about obesity and “big-gun” surgical methods in dealing with it. A few questions have come up that I thought could be addressed to the rest of our readership, rather than just the initial questioner:
1. “So, is Misdirected no longer a gaming site?”
The short answer is no, we are not. I have added more followers and fielded more feedback in the last 2 weeks dealing with issues pertaining to weight loss than I did in the previous 3 years talking about gaming. Now, I am still a gamer, and it remains a major part of my life. Accordingly, I will (finally) commit to streaming 5 days a week, about 3-4 hours a day at my Twitch channel. I intend right now for this to take place from 2pm-ish to 6pm-ish (MST). Since Real Life Happens, I am not committing to which 5 days every week – could be Mon – Fri, could be something else.. Inaugural stream will be later today. I need an outlet for my gaming habit, and maintaining two different blogs just did not seem like an effective way to go. Thanks to everyone who was concerned about this.
2. “What the heck blender is that you are using?”
It is part of the Ninja Kitchen System 1100 package, the latest and greatest version of which can be found here:
The pricing on Amazon isn’t quite as good as the older one we found on clearance, but still the best price around. The system itself is very nice – it includes both blender and food processor pitchers that can be used on a 1500-watt base. It creates very nice smoothies out of raw vegetables and fruits, with blend times under the magical 60 second mark. (Blending over 60 seconds begins to seriously impact the nutritional value of your raw materials, due to oxidation apparently. I am no scientist, and don’t even play one on TV.)
3. “What are you doing for nutritional supplementation?”
Many well-meaning people have been concerned about the pre-surgery diet creating some major holes in our day-to-day nutrition. I may not have mentioned this in enough detail before, but the major reason that it is going to take us almost 4 months to get through the process is that first we have to go through 3 months worth of work with a real  nutritionist, with letters after her name and everything. The first month of the diet involves adding a daily multivitamin and reducing our previous meals to meals with less than 45 grams of Carbs and with 20 (or more) grams of protein with every serving. The carb reduction has not been much of a problem, but we’ve had a rocky road trying to get up to the required protein amounts, especially in our once-a-day smoothies. Our financial status has pretty much prevented us from spending tons of money on Whey Protein supplements or anything like that, so we have been making do with high-protein vegetables, greek yogurt, and adding PB2 (aka Powdered Peanut Butter) to our smoothies. A family member found out about this, and decided to give us a hand, and last night a box full of “Love and Peas” Protein-Rich Meal replacement showed up at our door, courtesy of June Baker at The Health ConneXion. We’re very excited to try this stuff out – it has a whopping 20 grams of protein per serving, Dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, Vegan-certified – I don’t know what all that means, but Lor informs me that this is top-of the line stuff. Thanks, June!
Lastly, you will be seeing some changes to the site here as I tailor more towards our new arrivals – people who are wanting to hear about one person’s journey from obesity to weight-loss surgery. I appreciate all the interest we have had here at Misdirected, and look forward to sharing my good, bad, and ugly experiences with you all!
In Transition,
– Hawkwind