Thursday, December 31, 2009

100th Post: Winning

For my 100th post on this blog, I wanted to share something a bit personal and what most people would deem embarrassing or shameful. The reason I share so much about what I’ve been through and where I’m heading is that there shouldn’t be a social stigma for someone suffering from a mental illness, or any illness for that matter. As I continue to work on becoming a Clinical Psychologist, one of the most powerful things I am armed with is my experiences, my story. Here’s another chapter . . .

For the past 5 years, I was a hoarder. A hoarder is someone that, for some reason or another, can not throw anything away. They collect everything – and I do mean everything. Right now, the Mental Health Community isn’t even quite sure exactly how to treat or classify hoarding. It could end up being a separate diagnosis all on it’s own, or a subset of OCD.

One of the mysteries to hoarding, which in turn makes it hard to treat, is why people do it. There’s not one specific answer or cause. My reason started off simply enough . . . I liked to shop. I liked to buy things. I wasn’t happy and I’d get up, go shopping, buy something . . . and feel better. As time drug on, I ended up buying more and more of the same stuff.

Then, some where down the line, I stopped throwing stuff away. I got paranoid that someone might come into my home – they might actually want to come in my house! That kind of freaked me out. My home was my safety – my place to hide from the world. So if my home was not “clean”, therefore no one could come over. It wouldn’t be proper to entertain when your home is not “clean.” It became a very effective way to keep a barrier between me and the rest of the world.

I liked the isolation, and being burrowed in my little hole . . . for awhile. Then something unexpected happened. I met my best friend. Someone that loved me for all of who I am, and she didn’t care about my issues, she just wanted to help me b/c she loved me for who I am. That was kind of cool – and different. I let her in. Not my home mind you . . . but my heart. She didn’t press coming over, she understood. She just let me know that at some point, she wanted to come over. She offered so many times to help me clean, to help me get through it. But I said no . . . inside I felt it had to be something I did myself.

Another thing happened, quite recently. I met someone else. Something completely unexpected happened . . . we went out . . . and the unexpected part was that we had fun – I ENJOYED IT! One night with him showed me the last missing piece – and gave me the rest of the motivation I needed. I realized that I really, REALLY did want to have someone in my life, and in order to do that – I had to stop hoarding. I had to let go of my fear of getting hurt, because in life – you get hurt. I had to tear down the last walls of isolation I had built.

In 5 years I had filled up my 870 sq. foot home with crap. In 4 days, it was clean. (Yes, that picture is a partial picture of everything I threw away . . . there was more than I could get in one shot) It was over . . . all of it was finally over. In the end, I did it. I beat it. I got thru the PTSD, I got over the depression, I reconnected with so many that I’d lost touch with, I am beating my weight issue, and I no longer hoard. I can’t thank God enough for all the blessings he's given me and continues to provide.

With tears of joy in my eyes I say thank you. Thank you for reading this, thank you for learning about me, thank you for understanding. 2009 was one helluva year . . . and 2010 is going to be better. Here’s to another 100 blog entries . . .

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Poem: "First Dance"

"First Dance"

The music is playing softly,
the lights are turned low.
You stand across the room,
Ready to go.

Your hand on my hip
sends ripples up my skin.
Into my eyes you look,
I'm a mess deep within.

I don't know the steps,
I haven't learned my cues.
My frustration mounts
I don't know what to do.

Do I lead? Do I follow?
What's the step I take?
Do I jump in? Do I wait?
Is it already too late?

I know what I feel
I'm aware of the cost.
but at this dance
I'm completely lost.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Irony

I want to start off by saying I absolutely, without a doubt, LOVE irony. How can you not?? I think it’s one of the things that makes life just too funny. If you can’t laugh at life – then there’s just not that much that is funny to ya . . .

So, with that in mind – let me tell you about my Christmas in Topeka. It actually begins in Texas, where I tell my parents that I really don’t think it’s gonna be a good idea for me to drive back down from Topeka on Christmas Eve b/c of the weather. They are predicting lots of snow, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea for me to drive in that kind of weather. They agree, and it’s settled. I am NOT leaving for Texas.

Now . . . not that I mind heading to Texas, but I was looking forward to a relaxing holiday and a little fun time with friends, not to mention 5 days off from work (that kinda rocks!). On Christmas Eve, as expected, I wake up to sleet and ice that quickly turns into the Christmas Blizzard of 2009. We broke a 100 year record for snowfall and well . . . good call on not leaving. Two friends come over to help me fix a drainage problem in my basement, and later I attend Christmas Eve service with a good friend. Mind you, it has been snowing STEADILY since noon . . .

I wake up on Christmas morning and am so excited!!! My first WHITE CHRISTMAS!!! How fun! I know what I’m going to do . . . I’m going to open the back of the car and listen to Christmas music while shoveling snow off the driveway. How Midwest of me!! So – I get thru RuPaul’s rendition of Santa Baby, and then move on to Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas” when the radio shuts off. Hmmmmmm . . . that’s odd.

I go to see what happened, and the battery is dead. D-E-A-D . . . I suddenly go from a relaxed snow shoveler to a caged animal in a poorly attended zoo . . . AHHHH! I can’t go anywhere! I’m stranded in my own home!! On Christmas!!! UGH!!! (Irony #1 – was going to relax all week ANYWAY and now I’m so stressed out b/c I no longer have the OPTION to go anywhere)

So, the day after Christmas, my friend comes over to pick me up after I’ve gotten my battery (almost) completely disconnected from the car. We get in his car and, well, he gets stuck out in front of my street. See . . . Topeka doesn’t really do a good job of plowing the snow, and after a foot of snow and all the wind, one can tend to get stuck. My neighbor pulls us out – and we’re off to Big O’Tires to get a new battery.

On the way back to my house with new battery in hand, I suggest parking in the driveway across from my house b/c no one lives there (it’s for sale) AND there’s NO way you’d get stuck there. So he does and we get out and replace the battery. He backs out into the middle of the street . . . AND . . . he gets stuck again! So my neighbor AGAIN politely pulls us out of the snow in the middle of the street . . .

And as SOON as we get his car unstuck from the snow . . . the FREAKING SNOW PLOW turns on the street. SERIOUSLY??? NOW THE SNOW PLOW COMES??? What was even kind of funny was the snow plow got stuck in the street too! (Irony #2 – after pulling his car out twice from the snow, the snow plow comes to plow the road and gets stuck too)

Yeah . . . while it was kind of a frustrating experience to live through . . . looking back you kind of have to giggle about it.

Oh, and Gracie . . . you need to learn how to read the number of tags . . .it’s the number AFTER the tag . . . so you still have one more tag than he does you big ol’ diva!!! 

Friday, December 25, 2009

My New Year's Resolution

I realized something today that I didn’t quite have my hands around. It sounds a bit weird, but don’t judge. You have to walk in someone else’s shoes to get it sometimes. I don’t know how to be happy. It doesn’t mean that I have never been happy, or felt happy, but for the first time in a long, long time – I’m actually happy. It really weirds me out – I keep waiting for the other foot to drop and it is totally stressing me out.

I don’t trust that life can be this good. And believe me . . . it’s really, REALLY good. With all the changes going on this year, my outlook and attitude was bound to change . . . but this whole “happy” thing is new. I have had so many people over the past few months (and at home last weekend) comment on how happy I am. People never really used words like happy, content, satisfied, at peace, etc. when describing me. They do now . . . spooky . . .

So – if you haven’t been following (and so I can remind myself) here’s the year in a quick run down . . .

January – after being told that it’d take six months to get approval for lapband surgery, it’s approved in two weeks
February – 26th of Feb – last step of reclaiming my life back – I get my band
March/April – recoop at home and get to spend some time with the family – it was awesome!
May – decide to go back to school to become a Therapist – apply at Washburn University
June – Take my first college course, get an A! Intro to Psych in the books – loved it!
August – I’ve lost 100 lbs! Seriously!!! 10 days shy of six months!!! WHAT???
September – Off and running on my first semester back in school – juggling work and school is quite a challenge but am enjoying it
October – My BFF ties the knot in a beautiful ceremony AND my newest niece, McKenzie Grace is born.
November – Just taking a deep breath. School is almost over and weight loss is good.
December – Ready for this?? Got my first collegiate 4.0, Got a 1230 on my GRE (needed a 1200), went on a FANTASTIC date, met someone who is at the very least a great friend and hopefully wants to be more, got to hold my niece for the first time, saw my family the weekend before Christmas, AND – I can buy clothes off the rack!! I wear XXL shirts now (in most brands) instead of a 7XB (which means 7XL cut really big for my belly). I’m smaller than when I MOVED to Kansas 5 years ago . . .

This all hit me last night while at Christmas Eve service. I am so incredibly humbled by the blessings I’ve received this year, and it’s just so much to take in. I don’t know how to handle it . . . I keep looking over my shoulder.

So – my New Year’s Resolution – and I’m really going to do this – is to just sit back and enjoy life for what it is. I’m going to stop looking around for the bad coming, and instead enjoy the good.

Damn, I’m such a drama queen . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baking Cookies

Does anyone else love to bake cookies? I know I do . .. it’s been a long time since I have baked some cookies.

In order to start out with the best batch possible, you need to make sure you have the best ingredients. That doesn’t mean you must purchase the most expensive, but rather what you have learned thru experience works for you. Get out all your ingredients and make sure it’s all there . . .

Knowing prep time is important. Some cookies you make are quick on prep, and can be made hastily. Typically though, they’re often too easy to make and not that memorable. After all, anyone can just whip together any ol’ batch of cookies . . . I like to make special cookies (not THAT kind of special!), and so I prefer my prep time to take longer. In this case, I had to mix all the ingredients together and then let the cookie dough sit for several hours in the fridge . . . just letting it do its thing naturally.

After awhile, it is time to turn the heat up! Lined the cookie sheets and made the cookie balls, then pressed ‘em with a fork and stuck ‘em in the oven. Don’t want to overcook the cookies b/c that ruins the whole batch, but don’t want to undercook the cookies b/c that leaves ‘em too soft and they fall apart. You have to make sure you have the right amount of heat . . .

And when the cookies are all done, the best part . . . you get to eat ‘em! The gooier the better! Nothing is better than when you finish eating cookies and have to lick your fingers too 

I think I like making cookies . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Best Week Ever

What's up kids??

Yes, the title says it all -- I officially think this past week definitely qualifies as my BEST WEEK EVER. I want to know right now where VH1 is and why they aren't talking about me. Seriously . . . who wouldn't want to talk about me?? Let's go through the week and I'll explain why this really had to have been, literally, the best week ever.

It starts on Saturday, 12/5/09. A random lunch turns into an evening in Kansas City that will always be remembered. All I'm gonna say is that there was dancing, good music, great company, and fireflies in the stomach. We didn't even get back to Topeka until 6 in the freaking morning!! And remind me not to EVER drink rum again (and no I didn't drive) . . .

Monday, 12/7/09 - Statistics final. Can you say NERVE RACKING?? I'm currently sitting on a 91 in the class, and it's the only class that I don't have an "A" locked up. While I've always been quite studious -- I'd never pulled off the mythical 4.0 in college. This was as close as I've ever been to it. So, with studying behind me and nerves all bundled up -- I took the test. Mind you my other 2 test grades in the course were an 89 and an 82 (thank goodness for homework!). I felt very confident walking out of the test that I did pretty good.

Tuesday, 12/8/09 - Studying for GRE. The highest I'd gotten on any practice exam was an 1120 (ironically, what I got on my SATs EONS ago . . . ). My Abnormal Psych prof (side note -- love her!) told me to get flashcards to help with the vocab thing so that's what I bought to focus on.

Wednesday, 12/9/09 -- YES!!! I got a 92 on my STAT FINAL!!!! First ever collegiate 4.0 is in the books!!

Friday, 12/11/09 -- Woke up and went to work out. Got on the scale and it reflects that I'd lost 142 lbs! DAMN!!! Talk about a confidence boost. Run into a good friend that I hadn't been able to catch up with at Panera while having my pre-GRE breakfast and got to catch up. He's getting married!!! YAY!!! I then head to the mall to do some retail therapy (aka Christmas shopping) to calm my nerves and I get the sweetest text telling me to relax, I'm gonna do well, and to remember "Footprints in the Sand" . . . Three sets . . . It was what I needed. I walked out with a 1230 and was in utter disbelief! This is the first time that I actually realized that I'm going to be a psychologist. I'm going to be able to help people thru what I've gone thru. It was all a bit overwhelming to be honest. To top off the evening . . . went out and celebrated and had another great time. Again . . . must remember to not drink rum . . .

Saturday, 12/12/09 -- My house is officially clean. I'll do a whole seperate entry for this later, but in a nutshell I was a hoarder. If you don't know what that is there is a show on A&E that does a great job at dipicting it. It's pretty rough to get thru -- and harder to clean up from. I'd been working on the house all weekend and was able to get it completely cleaned up. I can't even describe what a fantastic feeling it is to FINALLY be over and done with that . . . Now it's just working on building the habit strength to prevent it again.

Sunday, 12/13/09 -- Was asked to do a reading with my good friend and Lap Band buddy Annette at church. We are kindred spirits, and I was touched that we were asked to do it together. She's my sweetie! Later that day, Gracie came over to my house for the first time. That was awesome to have my bff come over and be able to see my home without the shame or embarrassment of it being all messy and gross.

Monday, 12/14/09 -- After working out and weighing myself -- I'm now down 144 lbs!!! Are you kidding me??? Gracie said that I'd be at 150 by the new year and I didn't believe her . . . but damn I'm getting close now!!

Whew . . . it's all I can do to just drink my Starbucks and not run around screaming at the top of my lungs right now . . . I'm so thankful for this past week . . . and while I know they won't all measure up to what took place, I look forward to them all with anticipation.

Happy Christmas! (I love the British for that phrase!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finding My Way

I've been asked often why I moved to Topeka, KS. By family members, friends from Texas, people at work, even friends here. I never could come up with an answer.

I didn't know anyone that lived here. I'd lived my whole life in Texas, and all but 4 years within 100 miles of Ft. Worth. So, while working at the Target DC in Tyler, TX - word came down that they were opening a new center in Midlothian. I jumped at the chance to move back.

That's when things took a bizarre twist - that I think only now I'm beginning to understand. I walked into my HR manager's office in Tyler and sat down. I said, "Fred" (because that was his name) "I think I'd rather go to Topeka then Midlothian." He kind of paused and looked at me and said - "really?" (because that's what people say when they think you're a bit off your rocker) "Yeah, I really do." Fred kind of looked puzzled and asked "Why?" And as clear as a crystal I said "It just feels like what I'm supposed to do."

It's funny, but it seems like my whole life I've been preparing for what is about to happen to me. I've been through the ringer emotionally as a child and young adult - but I've come through. Patience and perseverance has truly kept my feet grounded. When you least expect it - you hear your calling. You hear (not as in I'm having auditory hallucinations or anything -- but I can't think of another verb) what it was that your life was meant for. I'm very lucky that I heard. It's like I couldn't embark on what is about to happen without first going through what I did - because it has made me who I am - both the good and the bad.

So again -- why was I drawn to this place -- this ice cold frigid place (it's 3 degrees outside right now!)?? Simply put -- to finally heal. My mental state has never been stronger. I still have my mood swings (can't blame a girl for a bit of emotion), but all in all it's steady sailing. I rediscovered my faith. MCC Topeka (my church home!!! holler!!) has been a blessing I never knew I would want or need. I felt as if God called me home - even though as I look back I realized I never really left. I developed stronger relationships with my family (in TEXAS!). It's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I met my kindred spirit - my bff - who loves me in spite of all my flaws and crazy antics - someone who is there for me when I've need to be picked up, dusted off, and (sometimes) given a lollipop and told to go back out and play.

What's ahead on this path I walk? A new career awaits - that I know. Second semester of Pschology has gone very well -- waiting on one more test grade and that will determine whether I get a 3.5 or my first collegiate 4.0. My professors have already said they see a good therapist in me . . . There are many more adventures that await up the road, and time will reveal those to me.

So - the reflection is due to this being the day before I take the GRE. I am already planning on taking it again, so no concerns if it doesn't go super well this time around. I need to get a 1200 . . . that's about 80 pts higher than I've gotten on a practice one - but those are paper based and I'm doing a computer one, so the harder questions are weighted more if you get them right but less if you don't -- so 1200 is possible.

In closing - I leave a thought and a poem. My thought is take time to listen when no one is speaking, when no one is singing, when no one is there. You might be surprised at what you hear Him say.

"Finding My Way"

The air was bitter cold that morning.
The sun was no where to be seen,
and as I shook the frost from my eyes,
I could see nothing. Just blackness -
A blackness that engulfed all.
Try as I could to find my way,
the obstacles were to great.
And there I stood, motionless,
Unable to defend from the evil lurking
in the onyx veil surrounding me.
I lost my way.

I looked to the heavens and realized,
hope was not to be abandoned.
For the sky was turning just a hint of blue.
The faint light was the signal I was waiting for.
Looking to the heavens,
I was able to find a break in the thorns
in the bushes that ripped at my face,
tore my clothes, and ravaged me.
I followed the heavens, walking where I could see the stars.
I found a path that I knew would lead me,
to where I would not be lost.

As I looked down the snow covered path,
The first light of the sun kissed my face.
Warming my skin, thawing my soul.
The path in front, although not clear, was illuminated.
I needed to just take a step,
One step to help myself,
One more step to help others.
Two more steps to love myself,
Four more to love someone else.
Heading towards the light I realize,
I am finding my way . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Off the Rack

Most people in the world here the term "off the rack" and think of rich people that order custom apparel and us "normal" folk have to buy clothes that aren't custom made to our bodies off the sales rack. Well . . . that's one meaning -- but another meaning is for those of that have struggled with our weight.
See - once you reach a certain size, you are no longer able to go into any store and buy anything there. See, they don't really make your size. So - you are shuffled off to the specialty stores to buy clothing that fits -- at exhorbitent prices.
Well today, after about 8 years of shopping in specialty stores -- I can PROUDLY say that I bought some clothing OFF THE F'KN RACK!!!! Yes, ladies and gents -- today is a day of freedom for me - of overpriced underwear (instead of 2 for $20 I can get 4 for $9), going bankrupt for a shirt, and basically getting killed at the register for a tshirt.
Today, at Target (of course!), I bought a pack of 2XL underwear (boxer briefs -- what else would I wear?) and some workout shirts that were 2XL. To give you a comparison -- I was wearing 7XL clothes before the surgery. Um . . . That's like holding a 2XL shirt next to a men's XS shirt . . . It's still kinda hard to fully grasp.
Pant size is getting close to off the rack territory as well. Was wearing a (so embarrassed to write this) 64" pant size, and now can fit into a 48" pant. Four more inches will put me in off the rack territory as well. I feel like running around screaming like a school girl -- but I won't. How about I just smile really big? :D
The ab routine is really working out well - as I've lost 7 lbs this week. I had to call the doc b/c he wanted me to tell him if I lose over 5 in one week - but all is fine. It's just the workout. I'm now down 142 lbs . . . 24 more lbs and I'll be under 300 -- and that's been a LONG time coming.