Merry Christmas and Second Thoughts

Merry Christmas to all of those who celebrate!  Our Christmas, the first as a family of three, was magical because we got to introduce our toddler to the wonders of a decorated Christmas tree, stockings, and all of the joys of the concept of Santa Claus.  We celebrate the secular version of Christmas, without any religion thrown in.  It was a welcome addition after a year’s hiatus of just trying to have one holiday, Hanukkah, to cover the holiday bases.  This year we celebrated both Hanukkah and a secular Christmas.  Our New Years basically consists of pure exhaustion and watching the Moon Pie drop in Alabama on television.  For someone who has struggled with depression over health issues this past month, the festivities and joyous feel of the holidays is exactly what the doctor has ordered.

That brings me to the second point of the season.  I do not want to go to church.  Ever.  The idea of even stepping into a church gives me nausea and nerves like nobody’s business.  This leads me to the point that I am recommitting to Judaism like never before.  The problem wasn’t with Judaism, it was with me.  I thought that if I had to leave all of my traditions behind me then I couldn’t become a Jew.  Now, after many sleepless nights and long thinks, I think I can reconcile the fact that I can have a secular Christmas and be Jewish at the same time.  Will people frown on it?   Some may, but I don’t tell them how to celebrate their holidays.  After coming to this truce, I am considering going back to the mikveh to reaffirm my commitment to my faith and family.

The third point of the season means that I want to start taking my talents and dreams seriously.  I will be beginning the search for a Master of Fine Arts program with a concentration on writing for children and young adults.  I’ve got a million ideas to write about and now I just need the professional knowledge to develop my craft to create publishable works.  I’m excited to begin this exploration for another journey.

And, lastly, my last point of the season is that I will be renewing my energy and spirit put towards my Mary Kay business.  I didn’t make my $225 active sales consultant quota this month, so I will be going inactive until I next place my $225 order to become active again.  I am determined to host more parties and events to help my business succeed.  I am not giving up just yet.  I am giving this business venture a good year until I fold my hand.

So, that’s all I have here.  Merry, merry Christmas!

TMS Therapy & Life

There’s so much to update everyone on.  So much has been going on these past few months that it’s been difficult to get a moment to sit down and share everything with the world.

My focus this year is on health.  In fact, it’s my word of the year.  The areas of physical, emotional, and spiritual health are imperative to focus on since they have so often been left ignored for other pressing deadlines.  Those closest to me know that I have been struggling with severe postpartum depression since my son was born in July of 2014.  It’s been the biggest uphill battle of my life, with a whole tribe of medical professionals on board to treat me (therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, secondary consultative counselor, TMS therapy assistants, etc.).  The biggest change out of all of this is that I am currently undergoing Transcranial Stimulation Therapy (TMS) under the watchful guidance of a psychiatrist, counselor, and treatment staff.  I am about to the half way point with my treatments.  The treatments, which I get every week day, last about two hours in length and feel like someone is pounding nails into your skull repeatedly.  It’s not fun.  It’s not even pleasant.  It’s barely tolerable, but, most importantly, it’s working.  The treatments basically “wake up” the connections in the brain that are sluggish and often cause depression.  As someone who has been clinically depressed since the age of 10, these treatments are opening up a whole new world for me.  I wake up and want to get out of bed.  I can’t wait to see my son and find myself missing him during the day.  My husband and I have a much more intimate and spicy love life.  I’m smiling like a fool half of the time and I love it!  These treatments have also helped me realize that my depression is mostly biological.  I inherited these chemical imbalances in my brain, and they are in no way “my fault,” or the result of anything I have done.  I can’t wait to see what 6 weeks into the treatment looks like.  For anyone who wants to lessen their antidepressant medications, or who has medication-resistant depression, TMS is the way to go!

Unfortunately, TMS also comes with a hefty price tag.  It hasn’t been approved yet by the Food and Drug Administration, and is, therefore, considered to still be an “experimental” treatment.  The six week set of treatments runs about twelve thousand dollars, and that price quote does not include current medication costs, doctors visits, or therapist/counselor sessions.  My course of treatment costs have literally replaced my dream of earning my doctoral degree.  The money has gone to TMS instead of the local university.  And I’m okay with that.  If my quality of life is a million times better, and I have peace and happiness the majority of the time, then trading in one dream for another is not such a bad trade off.

To help pay for costs related to TMS, and to start a vacation fund, I’ve started a new business venture.  I’m a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant with full advanced color certification.  I have an extensive inventory.  I have business cards.  I’m being trained by some of the ladies who trained directly under Mary Kay Ash herself.  I am the real deal.  And the thing is I absolutely love it!  I’ve met so many inspirational, empowering women through Mary Kay.  I am enjoying learning about areas that I know nothing about.  The subject of how marketing can make or break you really fascinates me.  I’ve met women who started with nothing and now earn a 6 figure income because of their Mary Kay marketing strategies that they use with their clients.  I love making women feel beautiful and special.  As someone who went to a women’s university, I firmly believe that all women have something valuable to bring to the table.  I can’t wait to see where this new adventure leads me!

Lastly, there have been some changes on the spiritual front that have been a long time coming now.  I will continue to attend synagogue with my Jewish husband and son, but I am returning to Christianity.  At the time of my conversion to Judaism, I felt incredibly pressured to convert to make my husband happy.  I thought it was something I could do for him.  But, I’ve come to realize over time that conversion to anything is something that I need to do for myself.  I don’t feel honest calling myself a Jew when I know full well that my beliefs don’t entirely align with Judaism.  I am tired of living a lie.  It’s not fair to me or the people in my life.  However, I will do everything that I can to make sure my son has a Jewish upbringing and home.  We will celebrate all of the Jewish holidays, make the traditional Jewish foods, and will send him to a Jewish summer camp.  I will get up before the sun to drive him to Memphis during his primary school years so he can attend Hebrew school on Sundays with other Jewish children.  He will have a bar mitzvah at our temple and I’ll be a ball of mush as I remember his naming ceremony like it was yesterday.  My son will have a strong Jewish identity like his father.  I am so proud of them both for being who they are.  Our synagogue community is so very close to my heart and the members are some of the most cherished people in our lives.  It will be okay to have a Christmas tree and a menorah in our home this holiday season, and, for that, I finally have peace.

I’ll be sure to update you all at the 6 week mark for my TMS therapy.  Great things are happening!!!

What Dreams May Come

I am writing this post from my bed.  You see, I am in pain and am not well.  I haven’t been well for several weeks now, and it’s not getting better quickly, so I’m slowly learning how to cope with this curveball.  My hormones are not in a correct balance.  In fact, they are way off, especially my progesterone and testosterone.  In addition, I’m suffering from extreme anemia and migraines.  Unfortunately, there’s not much doctors can do for me.  They’ve put me on short term birth control pills to stop an overly aggressive period, and have given me painkillers for migraines and other aches.  I see my OB/GYN again tomorrow.  Hopefully there will be an update on how I can move forward.

During this time of rest, I’ve gotten to enjoy the pint-sized perspective of my son, who keeps us busy and alert at all times.  He’s at the stage where he’s almost a walker, which means he’ll be a runner soon!  He’s a non-stop ball of energy!  I plan to enroll him in gymnastics once he’s fully walking as a healthy way to expend all of that energy and strength.

Also, during my time home, I’ve had time to think about where I want to devote my interests in the coming years in the terms of wellness.  While going back to school, achieving a higher title in education, or having another baby were all suggested by well-meaning others, I have decided that those things would not be right for me or my family.  My short term goal is to run a 5k.  I’ve already successfully walked one in May, but want to be able to run one with a decent time.  This will require that I train steadily at the gym once my strength comes back to me.

My long-term goal is to reinvest in one of my lifelong passions, which is photography.  In high school, I was well known by others because of my prints from photography class using my old 35 mm camera.  I had to shelve my dreams of pursuing photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology due to cost of tuition.  It wasn’t the first time I’d doubt my dreams and then cop out because I was the only one who believed in me at the time.  It’s the price children pay when they grow up in an abusive family.  They have no one to believe in them.  The voices of doubt and ridicule often overshadow any glimmers of hope and dreams.

But I’ve been dreaming again.  It’s taken me a long time to recover from the negativity of my past, but, here I am at 31 years old, daring to dream again.  It started with the purchase of a beautiful new Canon dslr camera when our son was born.  We’ve tried to capture every wiggly, bright-eyed moment he has blessed us with.  I think, with this camera, a new hope in me was also born.  I’ve discovered an old/new passion in photography.  I have decided to study and practice this next year, and then slowly branch out into taking pictures for others as a small business.  This thought excites me beyond happiness, because, finally, I’m doing something I want to do.  Something that I believe in.  Something that gives me hopes and dreams.

So with a tired wish for wellness, things will hopefully start to slowly develop in the right direction.

New Beginnings and Outlets

Much has happened in these past few weeks.  I’ve reconciled with the pain from perceived threats and have made peace with my faith.  It feels good to go home to those who have loved you all along, even if they misunderstood you for awhile.  I’ve continued to find outlets in healthy eating and meditation/prayer.  I finally fulfilled a lifelong goal of getting a meaningful tattoo.  I’m taking on new leadership roles:  I am a head cheerleading coach, president of my school district’s education association, and am developing a Jewish preschool curriculum for the small population of preschool students in our congregation.  I will be taking a year to develop a Jewish children’s literature-rich environment filled with simple crafts, songs, and sensory ways to learn the Hebrew aleph bet.  I’m excited for these new roles and new beginnings.  I’ll continue to update everyone as I continue to implement positive changes that take my life in the right direction.

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Days of Rest: Honoring Your Body

Today, while casually perusing Facebook, I came across two great quotes:  “Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends,” and, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”  With these thoughts in mind, I decided to take off from exercise both today and yesterday, because I am sick.  Rather than push my body when it is unwell, I have decided to honor it by resting and allowing it to recuperate.

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Also, as I was thinking of motivational inspiration this week, I realized that I am a visual person.  I write my goals on index cards and post them around my office.  In order to have a visual reminder with me that is a constant, I have decided to purchase a Pandora bracelet and grant myself purchase of one charm per 10 lbs lost.  The first three “charms-in-waiting” that I purchased are the butterfly, strawberries, and cheerleader charms.  The butterfly is for 30 lbs lost and represents beauty and transformation.  The strawberries represent my place of employment, where many people are cheering me on.  The cheerleader charm represents my new role as cheerleading coach, where I want to set an example of healthy living for the young ladies on my team.

The aspects that I have found challenging thus far have surprised me.  I enjoy the exercise and pushing myself to do new things that I’ve never done before.  I’m even considering signing up for a one mile charity run at the end of May with a friend.  It scares me, but I think I can do it.  The thing I’ve found most challenging, is, believe it or not, eating!  I’m finding it difficult to eat every two-to-three hours when I’m not hungry.  Those protein bars do not go down easily and feel like a brick in my stomach.  I think it’s almost kind of humorous, because my biggest fear when starting this lifestyle change was that I thought I’d be hungry most of the time.

My hope is to feel well enough by tomorrow that I can resume exercising and start working towards those charms!

Taking the First Step

Well, yesterday was the big day:  The date of my first appointment at the bariatric clinic.  I was nervous when I walked in, but then quickly realized that everyone in the waiting room is here for the exact same reason:  We all want to lose weight.  For me, not only do I want to lose weight very badly, but I need to lose weight to positively impact my health.

The first thing they did was weigh me and determine my body mass index and water weight.  I was surprised to learn that 98 lbs of me is just purely water!  It was determined that, according to the body mass index, I am morbidly obese, which is not a surprise (This kind of reminded me of the situation all overweight people go through when they go to the doctor:  They are weighed and then told by their doctor that they are overweight.  No kidding!  I am convinced that overweight people already know they are overweight).

Then, they drew blood work for labs to test my thyroid level and other important factors that are being used to treat me.  I received a B12 injection and purchased a shot card for 5 more injections to help with my energy levels as I embark on this new journey.  Unfortunately, due to previously existing medical conditions, I am unable to take the phentermine prescription or the caffeinated supplements that speed up one’s metabolism.  However, all is not lost, as I generally prefer the natural route to things anyway.

After meeting with the doctor, I got to meet with the staff nutritionist.  She showed me that my target calorie range is 1,500 calories per day to be spread out among three meals and three snacks.  Each of the meals and snacks is to be eaten between two-to-three hours apart, so that the incremental eating will speed up my metabolism.  The meals will consist of about 50% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 10% fruits and other sugars.  I purchased two boxes of protein bars to take care of my three required snacks for each day.  I also decided with my nutritionist which supplements would best aid my weight loss and replace vitamins that may be lacking during my induction to this new way of eating.

I am currently logging everything that I eat and drink, both on paper and in two apps on my phone.  I believe that the apps My Fitness Pal and Water Lite will help me keep track of my intake.  I can’t wait until my VivoFit2 comes in the mail next month, so I can monitor my activity levels and track them on My Fitness Pal.  Until then, I am committed to exercising every day.  Yesterday, although I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in a gym session due to my appointment, I was able to take the dog for a mile and a half stroll around our neighborhood.  It wasn’t an intense workout, but I felt good that I was able to get some physical activity in for the day.  Today, I am looking forward to swimming laps at the gym this afternoon.  I plan to do a half hour of breaststroke followed by a half hour of kickboarding to work on my legs and abs.

I had my husband take my “Before” photos last night, as I plan to blog each step along the journey.  Here is the “Before” in all my 260 lb splendor:

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Continue to follow me as I embrace this journey to a healthier life!

The Journey: Beginning a Weight Loss Experience

As I have promised on my Facebook page, I am going to document my weight loss journey towards better health.  If you remember, I chose the word “health” as my word to live by for 2015.  I’m pleased to announce that my spiritual health is the best it’s ever been and I continue to grow as I read Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book, “Building Your Self-Image.”  However, I’ve finally decided to make the decision to go to a bariatric weight loss clinic for help to lose over 100 lbs over the next 18 months.  I will be working with both a doctor and a nutritionist to create a workable plan towards lasting weight loss.  In addition, I will be exercising 6 days a week at our local fitness center.

Why now, you ask?  Well, honestly, it’s because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I know that my 5 foot 8 inch frame should not be supporting all 260 pounds of me.  Before my pregnancy I had lost 30 lbs and then the weight loss stalled.  For months I would lose and regain the same few pounds.  Then, during my high risk pregnancy, I developed cholestasis and began experiencing cravings for pure sugar.  It wasn’t unusual for me to eat a whole package of bakery cupcakes in a day.  For what should’ve been a ten pound maximum weight gain turned into a 50 pound weight gain.  And then there was the blood clot after my c-section.  Despite taking lovenox injections religiously, I developed a DVT in my upper right leg, the same place where only a year prior, I also had a DVT develop.  When I went to my hematologist and obstetrician after my hospital stay, the first thing both of them said was, “You need to lose weight.  You are putting yourself in danger by remaining overweight.”  The question then has remained, “How?”  It took a lifetime to put on this weight, but how does one go about taking it off safely and effectively?  That’s what I’m looking forward to learning as I work with medical professionals to help me along this journey.

While my husband states that he loves me regardless of a number on a scale, and I know this to be true, it’s a matter of my loving myself and being proud of who I am.  It’s time for the inside to match the outside, and let the world see who I really am.  I invite you to join me as I blog about my weight loss journey here on The Middle Shelf.

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