Taming the Hairy Beast

As a young child my mother used to let me watch both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery … those scary brain children from the demented mind of Rod Serling. Both programs were equally terrifying to a little girl, but one episode in particular, scared the “bejeebers” out of me. So much so, that the premise of this show haunts me decades later.

The story in question was about a man who finds a little spider in his kitchen sink and innocently washes it down the drain to dispose of it. Simple enough. But what made the episode so terrifying and so Twilight Zone-y was that the spider immediately crawled out of the drain, having grown in size. This guy did what anyone would do … he washed it down again – several times, in fact. Each time, however, the tenacious arachnid would emerge from the kitchen drain much larger and much scarier. (Obviously garbage disposals weren’t available way back then.) At some point, the spider became quite formidable. I honestly don’t remember how the episode ended because as previously mentioned, my bejeebers fled and took cover under the safety of my Cinderella twin-size comforter. I hate spiders and the very idea that something like this could happen is the stuff my nightmares are still made of.

From a purely objective viewpoint, you would think this guy would have figured out that repeating the same process with the spider was only aggravating the situation. You would think he’d stop doing the thing that was making his problem grow larger.

Realistically though, how many of us repeat stupid behaviors with the mindset that “hmm … maybe THIS time will be different?” It’s been said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior, hoping for a different outcome.

You would think that anyone who suffers with any type of addiction would figure out that at some point we need to stop doing the thing that controls us and is making us miserable.

I’ve lost count of the number of diets, diet pills, diet programs, fad diets, starvation diets, yo-yo weight losses/gains, exercise overloading and/or last-ditch effort things I have tried all in the hopes of losing weight and keeping it off. Permanently. Yet here I am decades later still doing daily battle with a serious food (mostly sugar) addiction that will continue to control me … if I let it.

Just because I am currently at my “goal weight” is no guarantee that I will never have to worry about what I eat again. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Now is the time to be more tenacious than ever! My food addiction and repeated weight gains and weight losses are at the core of my depression. Those food addictions are quite capable of climbing out and growing larger at any time if I don’t learn how to control them.

My sugar addiction was born and fostered from being raised in a single-parent home where treats were a rarity. Whenever we were lucky enough to have sugary snacks, I would hide mine and savor them, stretching out the pleasure of my indulgence when I could enjoy them by myself. In secret. 

(If hiding snacks and/or secret snack bingeing were Olympic sports … I’d be a multiple gold medalist from my years of training.)  My siblings, on the other hand, would invariably gobble their treats down and then beg for part of mine. (Now you know why I ate in secret.)

 

If God has taught me anything throughout my walk with Him, it’s that anything we hide and keep a secret will only continue to control us, cripple us or paralyze us as long as it’s hidden in the darkness of our minds. I think that’s why support groups or accountability partners are so important when battling an addiction. Any addiction.

Unlike most addictions though, FOOD is something that we all NEED to sustain our lives. We can live without drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, shopping … pretty much any addiction you can think of. BUT we CANNOT live without food! We don’t however, need sugary treats or the empty calories of chips, crackers and/or processed foods.

Now that I’m in the maintenance phase of weight loss, I still keep track of what I am eating and how much time I spend exercising. My Fitness Pal and Map My Ride are two phone Apps that I positively cannot live without these days. These two free Apps have changed the way I eat, exercise and shop for food.

Map My Ride allows me to track the number of calories I burn during my regular workouts.  Pretty much every activity you could ever participate in, is available for tracking on this App. It is extremely easy to switch from different activities, even during one workout session. I consider myself to be maximally inept with regards to all things technology centered, yet this App is so simple, even I can use it!

          My Fitness Pal allows me to track everything I put in my mouth. Once you’ve entered a bit of basic personal information, the App assigns a recommended daily calorie allotment. There is an extremely useful bar-code scanner that allows you to scan foods to be entered into the daily food diary. Exercise is a bonus and allows extra calories should you need them if you’re planning a special event. At the end of every day, if I’ve recorded all of my meals, snacks, exercise and water intake, I can hit the “Complete Diary” button and the App automatically figures out what I would weigh if I repeated the same food intake for five weeks straight. Now that … is very eye-opening!

Am I perfect yet? NO. Do I have days where I allow myself sweet or salty treats? Absolutely! But the beauty of using both of these Apps is that I have DAILY accountability. The fitness App will even remind me that I need to record my weight and keeps track of my progress. It’s amazing how having these simple technological aides can keep me on the straight and narrow and out of trouble. (For the most part, anyway!)

I’ve been very vocal about my weight loss journey, so there’s no “washing it down the drain” to hide it if I should start regaining my lost weight.

I am trusting God that this will be a lifestyle change that I maintain throughout the remainder of my life. If I don’t control my food addictions now, it’s only a matter of time until “the hairy beast” claws its way out of the darkness and destroys me for good …so my “bejeebers” better get on board!

God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (GNT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~ Newt Gingrich

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The DAILY-Double-Down on Depression

Like many people, my day is filled with a number of “dailies.” Regular daily rituals that I perform as if on auto-pilot. My dailies are pretty iron-clad. I wake early, make my bed, brush my teeth,  

put on my exercise clothes and head to my home gym where I work-out for a minimum of 60 minutes – or upwards of two hours if my schedule allows. (And by “gym,” I mean a corner of my home office that houses a fold-up treadmill, a stationary bike and a couple of 8-pound weights that are currently doing double duty as a door-stops.)

I am a self-proclaimed exercise junkie. Seven days a week, (no, that’s not a misprint and yes, I know I’m one of those people whom everyone hates because I’m committed to daily exercise). Every day, whether I want to or not, I walk, pedal and pump my way to better health. Some workouts are endorphin loaded, sweating like a pig until I can’t feel my legs kind of sessions. Some days are meh – not so much. On the meh days, I tell myself even a slow, effortless workout is better than sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix and stuffing my face with processed carbs. My daily goal is to move my body.

Exercise is always followed by breakfast and then a shower – where for some reason, I seem to have some of my best talks with God. Standing under the spray, the fully tiled walk-in shower provides the perfect acoustical environment for airing my praises, worries, concerns and even grievances, with the Lord. The shower is my prayer closet. The more prayer needs I have, the longer my showers tend to be.

God knew me before I was born, so standing naked before Him in my birthday suit never shocks or surprises Him. The fact that I’m completely exposed makes it easier for me to share my innermost thoughts with the Lord because I literally have nothing to hide.  Yesterday while showering, as I was finishing up my daily leg-shaving (I blame my 50% Sicilian DNA here … we are a hairy people), my prayer time was rudely interrupted by a loud explosion. A can of shaving cream that had been taking up space on the hanging shower caddy for longer than I care to admit, suddenly detonated like a 4th of July bottle rocket. As the can jettisoned skyward, bending the metal caddy in the process, it spewed white foamy cream all over me and the shower walls from floor to ceiling. The projectile landed at my feet in a goopy, sticky mess, but not before it smacked me on the back with enough force to scare the bejeebers out of me.

Dazed and confused, my wild imagination conjured up all sorts of possibilities. Did an irate neighbor launch a grenade through the window? Maybe a home invasion gone bad? Was my husband playing some sort of practical joke? Who knew? Most likely the explosion was the result of rust on the bottom of the can that weakened the seal. No matter. The blast was sudden and unexpected and succeeded in accelerating my heart rate as quickly as a fast walk at a steep incline on the treadmill. The whole “incident” lasted for a matter of seconds but took considerably longer to clean up – including laundering towels and floor mats.

 

God has taught me that nearly everything in life can be an opportunity to hear His voice or watch Him Work. In this instance, God showed me my lifelong battles with depression and anxiety, binge eating and yo-yo dieting are not unlike a pressurized exploding can of shaving cream.

I hold darkness inside of me for longer than I care to admit, hoping no one will know just how low I am. When an insurmountable problem plunges me further down the rabbit hole, I’ve been known to fall face first into a vat of ice cream or a jumbo bag of Cheese Puffs. Binge eating is always followed with more depression, then exercise overdose to counteract the empty calories, which inevitably leads to more guilt, more depression, more yo-yo dieting … blah, blah, blah … all of which leads to even more depression and more anxiety caused by the thought that I’m likely killing myself one bite at a time.

When I’m cycling through the stages, I’ve been known to reach a point where I finally blow up much like that exploding can of shaving cream. I can erupt without warning, spewing some pretty destructive, angry words. Those tirades relieve the emotional pressure roiling inside me. At least temporarily. Once the fog of darkness recedes, I’m left with a mess to clean up – which takes far longer to rectify, especially when the angry spew of my verbal assault is usually aimed at people I care deeply for.

Daily diligence with my depression medication helps to maintain a healthy balance of my serotonin levels. Daily exercise helps me to soothe the roiling pressure of my tortured emotions.  I don’t know that I can say that I truly enjoy exercise, because hey, I’m human. Working out is hard (hence the name “working” out), and requires a BIG time commitment. Like so many people, I can be as lazy as the next guy. Even after losing 55 pounds, I find that working out is just as hard to maintain a weight loss as it is when you’re starting your weight loss journey.

For me … the dynamic duo of daily medication and daily exercise is a lifestyle recipe that keeps me sane and balances my emotions so I don’t find myself in those explosive situations.

My way to treat both depression and weight issues may not be your way – but it’s worth considering if you are struggling. Always consult a health care professional if you are needing medication for any mental illness. If you choose to exercise, the advice is the same – especially if you are someone who hasn’t worked out in a while, or if you’ve never worked out. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

 

Life isn’t a sprint … it’s a marathon – so work your way up to a regular program that fits your needs, your likes and your schedule. Work with your doctor to find the right medication for YOU. Challenge yourself and hopefully you’ll reset your metabolism and get all those endorphins and serotonin levels doing their thing so eventually your brain chemistry can have a chance of normalizing.

Before your next pig-out, consider a work-out before you find out that a blow-out creates messes that are tough to rub out. Medication and exercise might just be the ticket for a way out to feel better inside and out, so eventually you’ll wipe out depression. Be a stand-out and enjoy your life before it’s time to check out!

Peace. Out!

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23(GNT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY

No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life
within the confines of your head. ~ Terry Josephson

I’ll Tell What I Want, What I Really REALLY Want

Unless you were born yesterday, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for!” Or if you’re a devout Christian, it’s more like, “Be careful what you pray for!”

The day I decided to begin taking my new anti-depressant medication was April 1st. I have said and done a lot of foolish things in my life, but I’d like to think I’m no fool. Like most people, I didn’t just wake up one morning to discover I was suddenly 60 pounds overweight. I don’t ever remember waking up thinking, “oh gee … I think I want to be depressed today.” Realistically, I’m smart enough to know that both weight loss and treating depression is going to require a certain amount of time. Pretty much every thing good worth having in life takes an investment of time.

I began seeing a pain management doctor for my knee pain a month prior to my son’s wedding. Because of the usual insurance company runaround, it took some time to get approved for any type of treatment. Once seen by the doctor, he prescribed a round of injections in both knees to help with the pain.

We started with Cortisone, which I’d previously tried, with little success and this time was no different. We moved onto hyaluronic acid which could provide relief for up to a year. It bears mentioning that I have an intense dislike and pretty significant fear of needles. I needed four rounds of shots times two knees. That equals eight needles. During the first round, the doctor accidentally hit my bone which only reinforced why I hate needles. He said it was a million to one shot for that to happen since he used a fluoroscope to guide the needle. Go figure. I certainly didn’t feel lucky!

I was scheduled for my second round of shots about four days after beginning my anti-depressant. My appointment was scheduled for late afternoon and I could feel myself getting all worked up in a fearful, frenzied state as soon as I got out of bed. I tried to do a simple workout on my stationary bike to take my mind off my appointment anxiety.

 

The worry that I’d have another bone-piercing, painful appointment was very real. About 15 minutes into the workout, I started feeling very winded and my heart began pounding at an unusually fast, hard pace. At first, I just assumed it was exercise exertion, but it quickly became apparent that I was feeling something I’d never felt before. I was feeling slightly dizzy and light-headed on top of everything else.

As I called my husband in a panic, I couldn’t catch my breath and thought … “Holy crap … this is it … I’m having a heart attack!” Now I know that just a week and a half ago, I’d been begging God to take me quietly in my sleep. It was never my idea though, to be fully awake when the death knell tolled. Like most people, I’d really rather have death come swiftly, painlessly and preferably while asleep or unconscious.

As much as I thought I wanted to die – when faced with the very real possibility that I was having an actual heart attack and potentially staring Doctor Death in the face, I freaked. “Lord, this is not what I had in mind at all!” My overactive imagination (or perhaps the accusatory voice of the enemy in my head), had all but convinced me the anti-depressant had caused this heart episode. This was my fault because I never read the warnings or side-effects of the medication.

In my desperation for this medication to work, I was afraid my overactive imagination would manufacture any warning symptoms. A classic ignorance is bliss mistake on my part. Perhaps I really am a bigger fool than I gave myself credit for.

My husband works quite a distance from our home, so he called my youngest daughter and she called her siblings. Within a very short amount of time, both my daughters arrived. My son called me, as well as my new daughter-in-law – who is a registered nurse. After describing my symptoms, everyone agreed that I should go the ER, just in case.

I checked in with the triage nurse, explaining “I’m 60 pounds overweight and almost 60 years old. I think I’m having a heart attack.” That was enough information to get me seen very quickly.  I explained my anxiety regarding my upcoming pain management appointment and told the nurse about the new medication I was on. After a few hours of heart tests and blood work, I was diagnosed as having had an acute anxiety attack. I’d never felt so stupid in my whole life.

The nurse who treated me said it was in fact, smart of me to get my heart checked out. She confessed to me that she also suffers from depression and anxiety. “I couldn’t do my job – probably wouldn’t get out of bed, without the help of my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds,” she admitted.

She reassured me that depression and anxiety are very real mental illnesses and there is no shame in taking medication for them. Both my daughters agreed with her and reinforced to me that it was smart for me to be on medication. Apparently they all could see that I was not okay with taking medication for depression.

This incident may have been triggered by my “needle anxiety,” but it revealed my underlying issues about the depression meds. While I had prayed for peace about taking the medication, my “episode” showed me that I’d secretly been feeling very ashamed and conflicted for needing medicinal help. The ER visit made me face the fact that I really hadn’t fully released my worry and “shame” to God.

Once the doctor gave me a clean bill of health and sent me on my way with a chill-out drug coursing through my veins (and one that he recommended I take before every knee injection), I made a decision that enough is enough.

Either I believe God’s Word and trust Him — or I don’t.  I have an illness that requires medical intervention, but this illness does not have to define me and it does not have to control every aspect of my life – especially if there are medications that can alleviate my symptoms.

Insert my standard: the devil is a liar, proclamation here!  One sure way of knowing that the voices in your head ARE NOT God, is simple. If everything you’re hearing in your brain is negative or self-destructive … THAT IS NOT THE VOICE OF GOD! That is the voice of the enemy!

God’s Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:11:

Did God give me depression? Emphatically … No! BUT, God can certainly use depression to help draw me closer to Him. (*SEE: Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28.) Because God never wastes pain, I like to think that anything that He teaches me through depression and anxiety, will be something I can use to help someone else someday.

If you are suffering with depression on any level, I urge you to talk to someone. It can be a friend, relative, trusted professional, crisis hotline, etc.  God does not want you to suffer in silence. Jesus died for me. Jesus died for YOU.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday. ~ Author Unknown

 

My daughter’s attempt to distract me from worry while I was in the ER was to steal my phone and change my wallpaper settings! I LOVE her sense of humor!

Tearing Down The Wall

Residents of the desert southwest like myself, have come to expect a myriad of wild weather conditions during our monsoon season. During summertime, the Phoenix metro area frequently experiences a remarkable weather phenomenon known as a Haboob. (YES, that’s a real thing!). A Haboob is a dust storm of ginormous proportions that moves across the city usually from horizon to horizon and can be as much as a mile high.

These dust storms move quickly and generally are followed by intense thunder, lightning, wind and rain. The weather trailing the Haboob is always a mystery. We never know what’s behind the wall until it hits our area. These storms are dangerous if you get caught in one while driving as visibility is reduced to nil. The wind currents or amount of precipitation can vary drastically depending on your area of town. The winds are pushed or pulled by the jet streams and it can be tricky to predict an exact Haboob trajectory.

haboob 2

If you’ve ever suffered from any type of mental illness – especially depression or anxiety, sometimes your brain and emotions can feel just like a giant Haboob. When an “episode” hits, it’s oftentimes hard to predict what emotions are behind the wall of depression. For me, an episode can mean I’ll be sad and weepy one minute, only to leap frog to intense despair the next or a dark anger that scares even me. Just like an unpredictable summer monsoon storm – I never know which way the wind will blow my emotions.

Following my son’s wedding in March of last year – I had fallen into a pit of depression and despair that was so deep, the only way out seemed to be to “check-out.” I love my family and was happy for my children’s marriages — but for me … life as I knew it, no longer felt like it was worth the effort. I went to bed for many nights praying that God would come and take me quietly in my sleep.

Unfortunately for me, depression runs deep in my family DNA. My siblings and both parents suffered with depression. Having battled depression since childhood, I knew the signs … but truthfully, I’d never been that bad before. This was depression and despair on a whole new “lower level.”

As “luck” would have it, the week following my son’s wedding, I’d had a pre-arranged doctor’s appointment for a blood pressure check-up, which was running pretty high most of the time. (Go figure, since I was 60 pounds overweight.)

stetho

 

Days of “death prayers” were enough to let me know that I’d slipped into the deep end of the depression, pity pool and I needed help. Badly. I was anxious to talk with my doctor. Although, “talking” was a relative term, since I let loose with a full-on crying jag and emotional meltdown the second she walked into the room.  She was so kind and somehow gleaned through my sobbing that I was struggling with abnormal depression.

We discussed medication options, but I’d tried medications before and hadn’t experienced great success. The medications shut my emotions down completely until I literally cared about nothing. I felt dead inside. Very Walking Dead zombie-ish.

I just assumed medication wasn’t for me. In part, I believed for many years that while medication was great for everyone else, as a strong prayer warrior, I felt terribly convicted – almost guilty, for resorting to medication. As a Christian, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t just pray away the darkness. I’ve since amended my opinion and now admit that God is capable of healing us (ME) in whatever manner He sees fit – be it medication, therapy or prayer.  After all, it is God who gives people the intelligence to create lifesaving treatments and medications.

My doctor finally prescribed a medication that she promised did not a have a “weight-gain” side-effect. Obesity was part of my depression so the last thing I needed was to pack on additional pounds.

pills

Once I filled the prescription, I waited a full week before I began taking it. I prayed for the entire  waiting period until I felt a peace from God. I sought the wise counsel of several trusted friends and eventually decided that if an anti-depressant is what it would take to help me, then God could certainly work through medication.

**SIDE BAR NOTE:  As mentioned previously, the devil is a liar who will work hard to interrupt God’s plan for us. If you are struggling with depression, my prayer for you is that you will seek medical help and/or counseling. I was foolish enough to let the enemy get in my head and convince me that my faith in God was subpar because I was putting my hope in pills rather than God.  After praying for confirmation and peace, I believed quite the opposite. As soon as I started the medication, I prayed every day that God would work through the pills. I was sure to tell Him daily that my hope and faith were in HIM and not the pills. I was fully trusting the Lord to work through the medication.

We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will.  1 John 5:14 (GNT)

Trusting God for healing is always difficult and takes an incredible amount of faith – especially if we are struggling with a long-lasting condition. After living with chronic pain in my knees and feet for the better part of a year AND lifelong depression … I WANTED to trust God completely. To “let go and let God” is a tall order for someone who positively hates to wait for anything and struggles with major trust issues.  That “impatient-waiting-on-God-to-move” thing … that my friends, is a club I could be president of!

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23 (NIV)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.  ~Thomas à Kempis, Imitations of Christ, c.1420