Post Whipple, post chemo follow up

I haven’t written anything in awhile, but it’s hard to sort out in my mind what I want to actually say when I tap on the keyboard forming word after word until it unfolds like a sentence that makes everything so definitive.

When you have anxiety and panic attacks, well, your mind churns out scenarios by the millisecond and none of it is pleasant. For a moment, after my mother’s eighth chemo treatment (4 post Whipple), I was riding high, I was untouchable, everything seemed to fall right back into place as if a clock started ticking counterclockwise. My subconscious, on the other hand, is determined to not let me forget, it would only conjure all my worries and fears. It was good at that. I don’t sleep. I mean, I have always had a problem with insomnia, but I find myself sinking into my pillow, as though I’m on a cloud, but on a cloud in the middle of a thunderstorm. My mind usually drifts towards my mother, sensing that she’s awake too; worrying just like me, alone with our thoughts, five minutes between us, laying among the darkness that lingers in the room. Her voice echoes in my mind, she’s always saying, “I get tired of talking about this, it’s all I do” I tell her that it’d be difficult to think about anything else, and that it’s okay that she does. But I feel like she still thinks she’s a burden. I remind her that cancer is a burden, she is not the burden.

We usually talk on the phone at the same time every day, for an hour 2pm-3pm. It makes everything seem normal, like nothing has shifted, it makes me forget our “new normal”.

We like to go to the casino and gamble a bit, not too much-$20.00 or sometimes we slip an extra $1 or 2 hopeful that we’ll leave there with a little more than what we started with; hopeful that we will have beat the machine.

My mom had her first follow up appointment since her last chemo treatment yesterday, the doctor told her that her cancer marker (CA-19-9) looked good-it was 11. My mom didn’t think so, and my anxious mind didn’t hesitate to want to fire questions until the fuel had run out.

“Oh no, it went up” I could hear the strain in her voice. My ears were burning. My entire body was getting hot and my face was turning red. Six weeks post Whipple, her cancer marker was 5, then 7 and now 11. The doctor assured us that it was fine. She said, “You could come in here tomorrow and get blood work and it may be lower” and “A man had cancer that metastasized, and post chemo his numbers went up but nothing was found on the CT scan.”  But of course I had to google it. And of course, I must have found a dark path that led me to what seemed to me to be the dark web. What I was finding online was like walking along the edge of a skyscraper in complete and utter darkness.

I did get in my car after that, and cried what felt like water drowning me. The new normal has yet again emerged. Follow up appointments, CT scans, bloodwork, wondering, worrying, praying and praying, feeling at times, God, my dad, my grandma, grandpa, and best friend were with me trying to ease my anxious thoughts and asking for me to have faith. It is so scary though.

I want to go away on a little trip with my mother, just me and her. I’ve never taken a trip where it was just me and her before. She loves beaches, so we’re trying to decide Florida or Cape Cod. I’ve never been to Cape Cod, so that may be the place. Today, during our phone call, we talked about all the places we’ve ever dreamed we could go. Greece, Australia, Italy, Hawaii, Ireland were the top choices, but she said that now, and the older she gets, the places that she once dreamt about going seem so distant and left in the past. Now, she said, “I just want to go to a beach”.

Whipple Procedure

My mother had her surgery -the Whipple procedure- 5 days ago. The surgery started on time, at 7:30 am and ended around 3:30 pm. She was in the recovery for 2 hours before they moved her to a room closer to 6 pm. The surgery was 8 hours long due to the tumor being near a major artery. The doctor explained that he took a vein from her groin to somehow connect it to well…medical jargon. But the important part is that he said he got the entire tumor out. He said, “it went super good”, and that he, “got it all”. She has to follow up with him in 1-2 weeks to go over the pathology results and will decide the next step from there.

The next morning, around 9 am she had already gone on two walks around the hospital, drank some water, broth, and cranberry juice. Around lunch time, she ate fish, carrots, and mashed potatoes. Shortly thereafter, she started feeling nauseated and throwing up. Not really sure, if it was the food or the pain medicine that someone gave her without her consent-(but not going to get into that here). She threw up three times -bile-the nurses took it to test it since they said that it wasn’t normal…totally not what my good ol’ google education taught me.

Me and my stepfather stayed with her the throughout the night. It took awhile to get her some Zofran-almost 4 hours or so, and until they finally came with that, she could not sleep. I kept bugging the nurse because I felt so awful-it’s difficult to watch someone suffer without being able to do something about it. We stayed up the entire night making sure my mom was comfortable; adjusting her pillows and blankets as needed, helping her get to the bathroom since she was a fall hazard, cooling her down with a cold washcloth. I must admit, I’ve never seen my mother so vulnerable before this, but even when she’s vulnerable she’s a fighter. My mother amazes me.

After that last meal, they decided to put her back on an “IV diet” for the rest of the night and throughout Thursday. My stepfather stayed with her again Thursday night. I got to her room around 12 pm and she had already gone on 3 walks, was back on solid foods, and as she puts it, “she’s just a little sore”. The doctor and his physician’s assistant removed the drains and IV and any medicine she had to take was administered orally. She was also given a shot, (which my stepfather had/has to give to her), and will have to get for the next two weeks to prevent blood clots. She is also taking Imodium for diarrhea and Pepcid to prevent ulcers.

I stayed the night Friday night, and by 8 am on Saturday, her birthday, the doctor gave her the good news that she was ready to go home.

Everything I have read on the Internet about this cancer thus far, has not applied to my mother. While anxiety still lurks, I do realize and appreciate that everyone is different, and now know that the Internet’s sad stories overshadow the individual victories; small or big.

The Biggest Demon

For years now, with anxiety and depression by my side, I have been fighting for my life, laying in bed or sitting on the couch; hiding from the world.

From August 3, to today, with cancer by my mother’s side, she is fighting for her life while being infused with the most aggressive chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer. A fight that left her exhausted, weak, and vulnerable; yet, I could always sense the strength that would emanate from her whole being.

This was the biggest demon that one could ever experience; it is something that will stare you right in the face and mock us all. Her strength gave me strength. But only when I was with her.

Once we saw the surgeon, the chemo was scheduled. This was it. It was going to be what will be remembered as the start of peeling away the mask to reveal its true face; the truth of what was trying to hide and hurt us all.

And the truth shall set you free.

She was scheduled for four rounds of chemo. Each treatment would last five hours and were on Wednesdays. Each time I went with her, and each time, I felt like everything was going to be okay. Sitting with her; just “being” with her I felt like I in control somehow. Once home, a nurse would come over and hook a “chemo ball” to her port, and she would have chemo until Friday around 2pm.

Those days, while she was home, were the days where anxiety would come to comfort me. It would keep me awake all night, mind racing, fear, pain, and then finally, running out of my home to drive around until the early morning.  I’d wake up in sheer panic and I would need to flee. Fight or flight. My automatic response was always: flight.

When she was resting at home with my stepfather, and I couldn’t be next to her, my control diminished. I knew she had to rest as much as possible, and I would wait, but I lived and breathed her cancer each and every single day I had to wait. I have, however, made a vow to myself to never show any signs of weakness around her.

The amount of time that it took to recover from the chemo treatment extended with each one.

I was losing my mind.

“God has a reason for this, you have to have faith”

Anxiety and Panic laugh…faith cannot be controlled. Somehow chaos seems to feel more controllable. Somehow.

Somehow, going from waking up in the middle of the night in a state of panic to driving around from 2 am -7 am relieved me from my reality.

Somehow, staying awake and not going to sleep, relieved me from my reality.

Somehow, I am comfortable only when I’m uncomfortable.

And when I could talk to her and she is feeling good,  I am comfortable in my reality.

The fourth and last chemo treatment was October 4-my mom and stepfather 26th wedding anniversary. It was also at that time, that my mom had blood work to determine if she had a cancer gene.

Her father (my grandfather) had 3 brothers, and 4 sisters. Upon discovering that two of his brother’s had intestinal cancer, one brother had pancreatic cancer, and one sister had breast cancer, and my mother’s first cousin also had pancreatic cancer, all who passed away around the same age as my mother, it was determined it would be a good idea to go ahead with the test. The doctor explained that if she had it, that meant that it gave my sister and I a 50% chance in getting it, but we could have access to preventative care. The insurance company just approved it last week, and we were told that it could take 2-3 weeks to get the results. My sister doesn’t want to know. In fact, part of me doesn’t either.

Also, at her fourth chemo treatment, we were told that her cancer marker (CA-19) went from 53 to 19, which was a good sign, but just one factor.

October 27, was her CT scan. The doctor said the CT scan showed that the cancer did not spread and the tumor went from 2.9 cm to 2.4 cm. He would go ahead with the Whipple procedure.

It is scheduled for Nov. 28. He informed us that if, at the beginning of the surgery, if he found that the cancer did actually spread, he would forego the surgery, but that’s only a 9% chance of that being the case.

That means she’ll have more time to recover from chemo until the surgery date.

These past couple weeks, since she has a break from chemo, I️ don’t feel so out of control because it’s just like it was before the diagnosis.

The surgeon did say that she might have to have chemo, however, a less aggressive form, about 4-6 weeks post surgery. That is not what my mom or any of us wanted to hear, but her response as it always has been throughout this was, “Well, I got to do what I got to do” followed with “I guess”. Revealing, again, her strength, but with a small fragmented piece of the mental and emotional pain that this has brought upon her.

She made me feel better when she said those words. It was like a filtered bedtime story to help me drift off to sleep with a pleasant dream.

She will beat this.

She will.

She will prevail. We all will.

How One Word Can Change Everything In Your World

Cancer. I’ve read the word. I’ve heard the stories. In fact, my father died of liver cancer August 14, 2005, heck, I’ve even diagnosed myself a few times during my late night Google searches. But I never thought I’d have to actually ever experience the pain that, that word has caused me and so many other people. I never thought I’d have to feel the intense heartbreak for a long, long, time. Still, mourning my best friend, who died 2 years ago, I was not prepared to be face to face with something so painful so soon.

All I could do is crumble to the floor after I locked the bathroom door of the hospital. My insides ached all over. I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk. I’d commit suicide. That would be my plan, I decided, hoping to cease the debilitating pain. Or at least so I could get out to the car.

Anger surged through me, yet I felt lifeless. If the tears didn’t slide down my cheeks, I wouldn’t have known they were actually mine. I felt foreign to this body that knew not how to move from the current state of paralysis I was in.

My mother still recovering from the anesthesia, was half listening as the doctor who did her endoscopic biopsy, pulled up a chair to discuss what he found. I knew it was bad news. I knew because he had just been talking to another patient two beds over, divided by curtains, while standing.

I didn’t want to cry in front of my mother when he announced that, she did in fact, have a 4cm malignant tumor on her pancreas. He had just pierced my heart with his words.

“She has pancreatic cancer” I had been researching it all over the internet, consumed by it, since the week before she went to the emergency room with jaundice.

She had an ultrasound on Friday, a CT scan on Monday, and the biopsy exactly one week after the ER visit.

Throughout all my research, I found nothing but horrible news. Poor survival rates, “#2 silent killer” is what one website referred to it as. And even though the doctor told me not to go based on everything I’ve read online because it’s all outdated information anyway, I couldn’t believe him, and how could I? I thought it only made logical sense, and how could it not? I just couldn’t believe that every single thing I read online was inaccurate.

I have spent every single day since, googling different keywords, hoping, desperately seeking some glimmer of hope. I just couldn’t live without my mom. I just couldn’t.

When I wasn’t googling information about pancreatic cancer, I was googling painless ways to commit suicide. I was not going to live without my mother. I felt like everyone kept leaving me. Sure, it sounds selfish, but I never am anything but positive around my mother. I didn’t want to be a beacon of pain when she was still in positive spirits. And whether she cried when I wasn’t around, I do not know. But I did know that I wanted to be the one to control when I die.

She’s been referred to an oncologist, and the doctor who did her biopsy, told her that she is a good candidate for the Whipple procedure. He would make the recommendation and then we’ll go from there;  it’s all a waiting game at this point.

My heart is broken. My heart is irreparable. I feel guilty that she’s the one going through this. I want to give her my pancreas, my everything; I don’t want her to suffer. She retired three years ago, and she is so full of energy and life, and I’ve done nothing but NOT live my life. I’ve done nothing, but allow depression to consume me, anxiety to fill me with fear and panic, that I stopped living. And yet, here she is, diagnosed with cancer. I cannot live without my mom. I just can’t.

How can this be true? How can something like this just change your life forever-in an instant?

Four months ago, in late March, she started complaining of abdominal pain. Her doctor suggested probiotics. They didn’t work. She begged them for a CT scan, but the insurance wouldn’t cover it. Instead, they referred her to a digestive disease specialist, but they couldn’t get her in until August 3-one day after her biopsy. It took her to develop jaundice and her bloodwork to show elevated bilirubin levels for them to take action. I am angry. Each day, after that ER visit, symptoms developed rapidly-every new day brought on a new symptom. It was so scary to see the whites of her eyes and her skin so yellow.  There was no way I could be in denial. I tried to be positive and tell myself it was a benign tumor or maybe even a cyst, but that quickly waned when the information from the many google searches vividly flashed over and over in my mind.

Along with the biopsy, they also inserted a bile stent to decrease/eliminate her symptoms. Her skin, no longer yellow, she’s no longer itchy, and her stomach pain has ceased. But none of that changes what the reality is and I just want to be near her all day, all the time.

I’m scared. I’m broken. This can’t be happening. I keep taking deep breaths because the pain is that deep in my lungs. I’ve been coping with Xanax, sleep, anxiety, Xanax, more sleep.

The other day, I picked up some low fat, low fiber foods at the grocery store for her, and I just wish I could cook all of her meals for her. It scares me that her and my stepfather’s daily routine will not change. Since my stepfather was declared permanently disabled for spinal stenosis (he’s also had multiple surgeries and is still not completely free of pain), they are used to going out to lunch daily-she usually used to just eat a small meal-but even now, my stepfather wants to carry on with their daily routine of going out to eat. She asks for no butter, no oil, but is that really enough?

I have so much fear and worry, and absolutely no control…I can’t think of anything other than this.

My thoughts waver back and forth, like a radio station playing a sad song and then another station playing an upbeat song-never in sync no matter how hard I try to just keep the positive, hopeful thoughts on replay, but they just quickly transform into radioactive sparks and shocks that leave me googling things I shouldn’t be.

My thoughts are cancerous cells that spread throughout my mind and body, and the more I try to divert my negative thoughts, the more vivid and abrupt the negativity becomes.

How to Age the Right Way

I’m 37 years old. My joints ache more than they should. The anxiety is still present, but somewhat controlled (still, some days are better than others), asthma is under control, and I still push myself further and further at the gym. I aim for high standards, and there are times I get discouraged because I can’t ignore the fact that if I were in my twenties, I wouldn’t experience half the pain as I do now.

Admittedly, I imagine what it would have been like if I had started earlier, like in my twenties. But you know what? The gym just wasn’t where I was supposed to be at that time in my life…

And so I quickly jump back into reality; to the present, and stay informed through research as well as personal experience (what’s worked for me and what hasn’t),  so that I can continue to drive my passion of fitness and health to the max. After all, I want to look good, but I also don’t want to deprive myself of the opportunity to maintain my independence as well as the ability to demonstrate an insane amount of strength and endurance as I get older.

Medicine and science has come so far that the average life expectancy has increased dramatically from what it used to be. But even though medicine and science are much more advanced, more and more people become too reliant on it and therefore, leave it to such advancements in medicine and science to treat them for high blood pressure, diabetes type II, etc, rather than becoming proactive in their own healthcare.

I want to be as full of life and energy as I am now, if not better as I age, rather than have my age be a deterrent for what I hope to achieve. And it won’t.

I mean check out 62 year old Andreas Cahling out on his Facebook page.

This is a quote from two of his recent Facebook posts:

“At 62 – as a master’s bodybuilder it is about getting the job done with a minimum of wear and tear while paying attention to restorative possibilities. Avoid toxic commercial hormone disrupting, estrogenizing skin products. Stay strong. Many things raise or decrease your testosterone levels and receptor capacity.”-Andreas Cahling

“At 62 – Exercising and eating natural foods while maintaining adequate testosterone levels are among the keys to staying in shape for life. So is the avoidance of hormone disrupting commercial skin products.”- Andreas Cahling

And here’s an inspiring photo of him found doing a quick Google search:

6kn8JWH

 

His philosophy on aging and maintaining performance and the ability to continue his passion (at his age..because age is nothing but a number), touches on nutrition as one way to achieve/maintain results and longevity….

And while many (I’m pretty much open) have different approaches and/or viewpoints as regards to nutrition, (I mean it’s a huge debate) it does really come down to:

1) Finding what meets your needs/goals. In other words, what is sustainable to keep YOU on track to meet those goals? And…

2) Finding a manageable balance between aesthetics and overall health as we get older… “you’re not as young as you once were”.

Because, let’s face it, What good is a nutritional approach, if you’re just going to hem and haw and feel absolutely miserable? What will happen?

Simple. You will fail. You will feel discouraged and disgusted. And then it begins….

What’s going to make you look better? What’s going to make you feel better? What’s going to make you perform better? However and unfortunately, I think it’s safe to make the claim that aesthetics blows any and all rationale out of the water.

Aesthetics allow one to look visually appealing, but has no bearing on an individual’s health status.

Do you agree?

It’s not always the “quality” of food that you are eating that determines health, but simply making adjustments that will make sure that you are getting the proper nutrients/ breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fats rather than ultimately discovering that you are deficient in any of those components to the degree in which it could potentially stifle your overall  performance, energy, independence, among others.

For example, if you choose to follow the infamous “flexible dieting” approach, (however, this can apply to any nutritional approach), it would be wise that you don’t solely rely on one or two food sources ( I am not going to identify those food choices because it just causes stress as well as alter your relationship with food in general). In other words, it is important for whatever approach you choose to help assist you in your goals to choose from a vast selection of foods that will provide adequate nutrition (vitamins, protein, fat, and carbs).

While I will be pursuing a nutrition certification beginning in March, I am not a registered dietician or a nutritionist, therefore these are not meant to be recommendations or to diagnose/cure anything. This is just an observation touching on the various, ongoing debates about the “diets” (I even hate the use of that word) circulating the Internet (among other places).

It pains me to see people who are just determined to lose weight, gain muscle, improve performance, focus on longevity so much so that they will innocently attach themselves to a diet approach that may or may not be aligned with their goals or just simply not right for them ultimately experiencing side effects other than making progress towards their actual goals. Most are steered away from their actual needs, which then can become a limiting factor, preventing them from reaching their maximal potential in becoming the best version of themselves over the long run.

Getting proper nutrition also needs to be a resource for optimizing performance and health in spite of age. When we lack certain components of nutrition, we are allowing ourselves to age faster and it shows. Bottom line: Nutrition=the ability to be more mobile therefore achieve more (or just continue to do what we used to to some degree) as we age.

Always do your homework and consult with a trusted professional to make the most out of your journey, and not just for aesthetics, but also for longevity, health and prosperity.

Nobody is going to give a shit how old you are if you’re showing up with results, a positive attitude, realistic expectations, and your continuous pursuit of a dream. They will see passion and drive, not age.

What Motivates You?

I often wonder what motivates someone…

What’s their story?

What makes them want to make a change?

When do they reach “rock bottom”?

What prevents them from reaching “rock bottom”?

Things that motivate you constantly change. If it didn’t, wouldn’t our flame just quietly burn out?  and all we would be holding is a bunch of hardened wax.

Unfortunately, frustration, desperation, resentment, hurt are the feelings that we give into a lot more and seek out ways to sabotage ourselves. You find “comfort” in doing things that you’re familiar with; comfortable with, vices that make you numb. (i.e., food, drugs, alcohol, etc) yet only damages you mentally, physically and emotionally when it becomes the only thing that you turn to in search of comfort and escape from reality.

We always go back to what hurts us rather than reassessing our plan and reminding ourselves that we’re training for a long term goal, and we owe it to ourselves to stick it out and push that much harder just to get that much further. Don’t we?

Instead, we continue to remain in a comfortable, familiar time and space that is controlled by fear, self doubt and very little confidence. We resort right back to what our bodies our accustomed to and let our mind control us. Let our problems dictate how numb we want to be.

What if we just used those “negative” feelings as a driving force to make us do better?

What makes some people fight for their life, and other choose to just watch their life pass them by? It’s never a simple answer….

Fighting for your life requires a willingness to face change and for you to allow yourself to become vulnerable to the unknown.

Fighting requires faith and to allow yourself to believe you’re worth enough to go out and find the answers to become better than you were yesterday.

A quick story…

Tonight, while out grocery shopping, I encountered an obese man walking back to his cart with a gigantic jug of vegetable oil. He was breathing heavily, struggling to walk the short distance where his cart was waiting about 5 feet away from him.

I wanted to walk up to him and share a piece of knowledge; a better option to cook with, but the next time I saw him, he was paying for a huge bag of cooked fried chicken at the food kiosk before walking out the door.

Maybe you think I was judging him. I wasn’t. I swear. I felt concerned and I was just observing him trying desperately to figure him out.  I just couldn’t help but wonder what his life was like; what his back-story was. You see, I didn’t just see an obese man, I envisioned someone who cared for him and loved him, having to live without him.

And I wondered what would motivate him?

I’ve been that way for the past week. Observing and asking questions; praying that more people could find the strength or motivation to fight adversity, hardships and obstacles that get in the way of making healthier choices.

These past few days, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. A lot has been going through my mind and it’s followed by a feeling of despair and hopelessness. It’s that feeling you are trying to fight, but your hands are tied and there is a deep sadness felt in my heart so much so that it aches.

And I wish I didn’t care so damn much.

But I do. I want my friend of 17 years to be okay. I want her to experience life the way I do on one of my happiest days. I want her to be able to go out to lunch and talk with me over coffee. I want all of these selfish things that really sound like they have to do with me, not her. Because right now, I’m sure she just wishes that she could feel better once and for all. I’m sure that she just prays that they will find a way to help her heart heal so that it will stop destroying her kidneys and liver.

I wish for that too. But to wish for those out loud would be to acknowledge things have changed and time has passed.

I pray that my stepfather could heal and not have his quality of life disrupted by spinal stenosis. That would mean everything could go back to the way it was before. I’m not naïve. We’re getting older. But I just wish I could be granted a little bit of that innocence that left me the day my father passed away in 2005.

I try to stay focused on my long term goal so that I don’t unravel when life throws curveballs at you one after another. That pain I feel is what keeps me pushing and fighting…

When life opens up into a huge slippery slope, I go to the gym to and just focus on the weight on the bar, and to replace the pain with a different type of struggle.

I want to feel uncomfortable by something that I can actually control and conquer.

Megan Web (2 of 11)

When I train, I feel alive. I feel all of the venom in my veins being lifted from that bar. I feel strong; I feel angry too, but mostly, I feel strong.

I train because it makes me feel disconnected from that ache in my heart.

When I train, I’m not just training for myself. I’m training because someone else can’t. Or someone else won’t.

I train because I feel as I get stronger, they’ll get stronger through me as I’m able to lift the pain and frustration that burdens them.

Why do you train? How has training helped you deal with issues in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Finding The Road Back To Fitness

It seems so long ago. But really, it was just within the past 14 weeks that I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I had an epiphany.

One might say that, I’ve come so far. But really it was just an awakening. Euphoric and I feel like I’m in a much better place. Finally.

Finally I can focus on me. The real me. No more denying who I am. Like I said in my previous post, I will not allow myself to be defined.

And it all started like this…

Before I just did a figure competition because I thought that would make me seem raw and a lot stronger. It would make me seem like I have this anxiety down to a science, that I was the one in control. But that was all just a lie. I thought if I competed, I would be perceived as courageous and demonstrating exemplary strength, unfortunately, behind the scenes, I was breaking. I was crumbling. I was allowing it to define me. Define my self worth. I was becoming obsessed and felt as if I didn’t do it; if I ate one thing that wasn’t on the diet I was a failure. If the scale didn’t read a certain number, I was a failure; that it would just prove that I was weak; that I was what I had felt all along…nothing. I was a failure. At that point, I would allow guilt to binge at my conscience, which by now had somehow turned into my own worst enemy. In turn, I would then sabotage myself by binging and sleeping long hours. Depressed. Anxious. Guilty. Defined. Lost and confused. I couldn’t sort out which one I felt the most and which one I hated the least. I would “check out”. I would lie in bed and imagine myself not here; somewhere else. Somewhere where it would all make sense; where it would all just seem “much easier than this” but that’s just it, I didn’t even have any idea of what “this” actually was. Everyone around me seemed to be doing a fitness competition, and I couldn’t help but feel hatred and resentment. Why couldn’t that be me? Stupid anxiety I would utter all the time. I would shut down and give up. The self- hatred grew so much that I could barely see my own achievements because they never seemed enough. I never seemed good enough.

And over and over again, I set out to put myself in the most uncomfortable place again; in contest prep. It was, at that moment, what I felt I had to do to feel a sense of purpose. But deep down I wasn’t looking at it is an experience, it was becoming my ENTIRE life.

Prepping for a fitness competition only made old wounds reappear, and new ones hastily emerge….

I would go through the prep, struggling, sacrificing, sinking lower and lower, telling myself that if I didn’t do it, I was basically nothing special. But for some reason, as I went through it, the deeper involved I’d get, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I couldn’t possibly imagine going back to not counting macros on a scale; weighing my food, myself and skipping the gym, even for just one workout…the mere thought of any of that scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t be a failure again. I couldn’t just quit. For some reason, the pain and struggle made me feel alive. Not normal, not really living, just alive. And all too real. I was starting to realize that I was trading one disorder for another; I was using all of these obsessive tendencies, these unhealthy behaviors I was adapting to and clinging to, to replace the anxiety that had me feel so out of control at times. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping, it was only nurturing those toxic weeds to grow more furious and wild inside of me until I couldn’t control it anymore, in fact, I didn’t have control at all. Ever.

I forgot how to enjoy and love fitness and health and instead trapped myself in a web of self-hatred, lack of self-worth and didn’t even know where I belonged anymore.

Comparing my life to others; my worth to others, only made the anger and bitterness deepen. I spent so much time trying to conjure up an image of who I thought I could be, and instead of being proud of who I’ve become; how far I’ve come, I lost focus, and I was throwing myself into hot burning coals before the fire even had a chance to ignite.

If someone gave me a compliment, I’d thank them for the compliment, but in my mind I’d rehearse all of the things that they don’t see. Like maybe the cellulite on the back of thighs. Or that tiny little bit of fat that makes you feel self conscious in a pair of short shorts. The list may go on; it’s different for everybody. I know I’m not alone. I even found myself considering breast implants because I didn’t think I was good enough just being me.

I kept trying to walk away, but once it gets a hold of you, it’s extremely difficult to walk away; it latches on and doesn’t let go…

It wasn’t until I realized that it’s no different that any other addictive behavior; you need time to heal and recover. You need time to get your shit together; your mind right, and that requires just as much strength, if not more, to fight the urge to be honest with yourself. To not let anyone or anything get inside your head and weigh you down.

Each time I was beginning competition prep, I was only unleashing a whole new beast; I felt as though if I didn’t compete, I just wasn’t strong enough; or put in the words of a fellow gym-goer, “it was too tough for me to handle.”

But they didn’t know me. Nobody really knows the true me. And how could anyone if I even lost sight of who I was? It wasn’t that it was too tough; it was the fact that my cortisol levels are already chronically elevated most of the time, and all of the dieting and cardio was exacerbating the issue. It went from being obsessive and getting anxiety at the mere thought of having to eat something that was processed to having anxiety about sodium levels, fiber, carbohydrates etc., anxiety about cardio, or just being able to get to the gym. It was all I could think about from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment I closed my eyes. The program I was on was designed so that I would have to weigh myself everyday, and depending on the number, my macros would decrease or increase. To avoid that, I wouldn’t drink or eat anything until it read what if felt it needed to say before sending anything to my coach. I didn’t want him to lower my calories, I could have easily just lied, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself doing that.

I still can’t help but weigh my food still or fixate on the scale.

Like I said, I felt like a failure. And yes, all of the time. Even though I was hitting my macros right in point and doing all the cardio prescribed to me if the scale even fluctuated by an ounce I’d still feel like a failure.  I still felt fat. I felt that I was never going to be good enough. That’s what I thought…constantly.

 I felt so much anxiety going to my mother in laws home five hours away because I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the gym since after all she was having a heart procedure. I had no energy, no life, no memory, anxiety, sleepless nights, I loved food but I also hated food. I hated the thought of not being able to see my abs. I’d pick everything wrong with my body; I even contemplated getting breast implants. I wanted to fit in so badly. But I was not even fitting in with my own family anymore. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I needed to make a decision. I struggled with it. The inner voice told me I was a failure, I wasn’t worth anything… who the hell am I without this? I felt depressed and even suicidal. I thought maybe that was my only way out of this mess.

For the past 4 years, I have severed relationships, missed a lot of awesome moments, and restricted not just my diet but also my life. I have 3 kids, 11, 13, and 17, and if they weren’t my kids they’d probably choose to walk away from me. I was angry, moody and obsessed all the time. I just became so intolerable of everything; and isolated myself as well as neglected anything that might have been important. If it didn’t fit around a way for me to think, talk, or breathe fitness, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t enjoy functions because I didn’t want to be around other people laughing and enjoying themselves without eyeing a plate of food trying to calculate the macros or calories it had before actually eating it. Each time I saw that, I would either feel envious or just felt the need to inform them of the physical change they could undergo if they were just to make “better choices”.

I longed for the days where I could just have control. I missed the passion; the spark I had found in fitness and nutrition. I missed the way it helped me find my way out of the darkness and thrusted me into this new dimension of life…this whole other territory that made me feel alive, more normal than anything I’ve ever encountered. I wanted that back….

This process that I’ve been on has really been quite the experience. Each and every single time. Even the two times I actually managed to make it to the stage. But this time, this time it has been way more than just a physical change. It has forced me to ask questions that I pushed away before. It has forced me to seek answers to those questions and many other questions that I had allowed myself to drown in and play dead. I was forced to seek answers that maybe I wasn’t even really ready for or had even expected to discover. And this time, well, this time I know what I really want. I want to be happy. In my own skin, my own body; I want to be happy. I think back to a time when I was the happiest and the most confident, and it wasn’t how others saw me. It wasn’t about finding myself where I didn’t really want to be. It wasn’t about living someone else’s story line to make me feel important or give me a sense of purpose. I don’t need to compete in fitness competitions to validate me; it’s just not the direction where I want to go. It may seem crazy to some how something that is so capable of strengthening the body can have the exact opposite effect on the mind. It may seem like I’m not “tough enough” because I choose not to compete, but I really don’t need a competition or validation from anyone or anything to undergo a testament of my true self. I’m not just a wanderer, I’m becoming free; free from the walls in which my mind has placed the key.

To some people, competing gives them validation for all the hard work that they put themselves through. And the number of people, whether or not they belong on stage or not, is growing immensely. I only wish more people could realize that it doesn’t take a competition, or even contest prep, to solidify the accomplishment of getting into shape. I wish more people would recognize that fitness can be a lifestyle without all of the sacrifice; without driving yourself into the ground, sacrificing relationships, missing out on events or memories that can never be relived.

Bottom line is this: there’s nothing wrong with competing, but if you’re going to do it, do it for you. Do it because you want to. Not because you want to spend hours on the elliptical dreaming of the day you can, “go back to being normal”. The process is a real mind fuck, and it has somewhat of a permanent residual effect, which requires time to heal and recover, especially to get back to a good place mentally; to unravel all of the obsessive tendencies and unhealthy habits that develop, which are pretty much inevitable. And when you’re not even competing, you’re still competing. You’re still thinking about food; thinking about what that number on the scale really means. Still studying yourself in the mirror, still taking selfies, still pointing out flaws, still getting plastic surgery, still trying to “feel better” or “waiting for normal to happen again”. It can be an unhealthy transition from contest shape to coming to terms that you can’t walk around depleted, on a low calorie deficit, doing massive amounts of cardio. You just can’t. And that’s a real head twister too. Even the slightest amount of water weight can make you feel all twisted inside; make you feel “fat”.

I want to be in control for once, so instead of giving in, or exerting all of my energy to combat the anxiety, I’m going to say that I’m no longer going to even waste my energy on it. It’s not helping towards my goals so why mess with it. I want to enjoy being fit and healthy. I don’t want to place myself in a box where I’m cornered in and have no say. Simply put, I don’t want to be controlled by fitness, I want to control it. For me, that just works best for my anxious mind. That makes me happy. And what’s better than to do it on my own terms?

When I feel anxious, I want to get annoyed and get pissed off. Like what the fuck are you even doing here? When I’m on the treadmill running my heart out, beads of sweat dripping, my heart pounding, and my adrenaline surging and a panic attack happens, I want to take control and ask it, “what the hell, can’t you see I’m running here?” And I want to run harder to keep pushing it away, burning it so that it drips like sweat from my pores. And if I feel like I’m drifting, like I’m losing the fight, I want to be able to say, “ okay fine you win” without feeling defeated. Yes, I want to be able to have those painful thoughts just so I can remember that I’m being tested; each and every time, I’m being tried and tested. And I’m growing. And I want to feel that pain; feel that growth burning in my lungs, burning throughout my veins. Right there on that treadmill, right there with the weights right above my head; I want to feel like I’m growing and fighting back. And for that, I will be thankful.

 Thankful for my arrival to a place where everything around me will feel different; still scary, yet, new and inviting…

True value and worth have both come to mean something entirely different now. As I stated in my last post, I will not allow anything or anyone to define me. And a fitness competition defines me. It controls me and steers me away from what truly matters, family, faith and overall fitness, health and my wellbeing. Those are what is most important to me.

I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll say it again, I’m never going to be fully healed; it’s a battle every single day. Every single time something arises; a new situation, a new journey, I’m always going to be presented with change and uncertainty. I’m always going to have to face this anxiety head on. Yes, even when I’m not looking. This massacre of feelings that keeps me constantly on edge, teaches me something every day. Something new I’ve realized is that I feel anxiety because I long for purpose, or anything really that will allow me to experience fulfillment and value. I need to stop fighting and just ride the wave. The more I resist, the more I doubt myself, the larger the wave becomes. I’m not sinking, but I am almost always close to obscurity from even my own eyes. I need to just take action and quiet that frail and fragile, broken voice from within; to restore and redefine not so much myself, but the importance and purpose of my own life.

And I’m going to do it for me.

 “You are my armor and my sword, my faith and my treasure; everything I’m fighting for.”

-Alice Hoffman

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again.

Last week, I felt so destroyed and so damaged. When is it okay to get fed up? When is it okay to say that you’ve had enough? I mean, why can’t I just surrender and accept that this is how I was created; it’s who I am?  I do realize that when I try to fight it, I am actually denying a huge part of who I am, and yet, I still can’t surrender to this fight that actually gets off on antagonizing me. And while I’m defending myself against the pain that grows deeper and deeper inside of me, I struggle to not feel like a failure. I also struggle to understand and make sense of why I try so hard to convince myself that I have total control over it, when, in fact, over and over, I am actually proven wrong. No, I cannot just rip it out of me like one would rip a weed out of a garden to make room for a growth that’s much more beautiful and serene. So, while it constantly tries to break me down and get me to surrender to it, I get back up and keep fighting. I can recall many moments where I have even struggled to recognize the person standing in front of the mirror, and there are times that I question the shadow that glides alongside my every stride on a day where the sun shines the least in my heart.

But as long as that shadow is there, I know that all of this is very, very real.

At first, I felt failure starting to set in (I fear that the most.).  Then I felt an insurmountable amount of guilt that would go on to rip through my body all day long.

 Panic. More anxiety. Panic. I tried to brush it off.

 With every calorie burned, with every ounce of sweat that dripped from my forehead burning my eyes, I carried on. The anxiety spread and the panic pulsated through my veins, and I couldn’t seem to push it back; I didn’t know how to make it stop. I thought, it’s just how I’m supposed to feel, this is what contest prep is all about. I’ve done it twice before and felt this same exact way, so it was normal.

I wasn’t sleeping; I’d lie awake and cry in pain, and in horror. It felt like I was being shredded to pieces; my insides screamed for mercy. I was jumping out of bed and pacing because in moments where I feel out of control, it somehow seems to be the only logical solution, followed by nights spent crying and waking my husband up, trying to seek reassurance somehow that I wasn’t failing or losing myself. I didn’t want to feel like I was becoming too weak to overcome it. I mean, what reason did I have to complain, give up, or even take a break. People suffered through much more than contest prep and anxiety. What was anxiety anyway? Just another scapegoat ; a crutch; a pass to be let out of the game early? Oh, but it pissed me off. I couldn’t even sit still without feeling restless. And one day to the next, as my cortisol levels were at an all time high, the scale didn’t budge, I mean, it fluctuated, but never any lower than the week before. I was beginning to feel desperate, but not desperate enough to say anything to my coach because I didn’t want to let my guard down. I didn’t want to seem weak. But after a week with no improvement, the email from my coach was out of concern:

 Why wasn’t I losing weight?

Was I being precise with my macros?

 I sat. Staring at it. Taking it all in. The words on the computer started to fade. Cortisol and adrenaline rushing through my body like a reflex. I knew why the scale wasn’t moving, I knew why, but I just didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want it to be real. But as I stared at that email, I knew that if I was going to continue to make progress, now was the time to conquer the demon head on. I had to be honest, and not just with my coach, but with myself.

 True success doesn’t happen from being dishonest.

 I clicked the reply button and began to slowly type out how I have been feeling to my coach. I didn’t want any sympathy, I just wanted a solution.
Still….I thought if I wasn’t struggling and suffering; if I wasn’t feeling miserable, anxious and hungry than I wasn’t working hard enough. I wasn’t being strong enough.

 Okay, Megan…enough is enough. I have to get out of this funk. When you feel sorry for yourself, you dismiss all of the parts that make you who you are. That’s giving up; that’s letting failure come out on top.

 I hit the send button. I’m not one to give up. I’m not one to not finish something, especially if I feel passionate enough about it. When you really, truly want something, you will fight like hell for it.

 Hey, we’re all suffering here. We’re all trying to become better than who we once were…who we currently are. We all have our demons, our moments when we’re not feeling our best. Heck, maybe you smile all the time, but the only thing you truly feel inside is a clenched fist wrapped around your heart. I urge you to address it. To write about it, talk about it, share it because the truth is, if you hold it all inside of you, it’s only dimming the light that has the potential to shine and reflect so bright inside and out of you.

The great thing about life, is that you always have an opportunity to start over; the choices you made yesterday, the guilt that might have consumed you before you said goodnight and crawled into bed to stare at the ceiling or laid in bed to subconsciously listen to the faint sound of the ceiling fan, the hurt you might have endured from not feeling good enough or at the expense of others who may not be happy with themselves, all have to succumb to the darkness of nightfall. And it’s all up to you to either let it all go or carry the burden with you into the light of a brand new day.

Your choice. Always.

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Catch Me If You Can

My heart.

Pounding.

My head.

Crawling with hopelessness.

Rejection.

Fear.

Anxiety….there it is again…grabbing a hold of me; endearing, nurturing, yet so..so…stifling. And I needed to get rid of it.

I laced up my running shoes, tightening them, squeezing the top of my foot. I wanted everything tight. Extremely tight. Because that’s how I felt. My neck ached, my arms and legs wanted to sever themselves from my body and leave me vacant. I took a sip of my water and prepared to run. My mind taunted me. Antagonized me. Laughed at me. And I felt it. Every last whisper. But I was determined. I headed over to the bleachers, and slowly jogged up and down until my legs lit up and lifted me two stairs, three stairs at a time. My heart rate was skyrocketing, beads of sweat stung my eyes, burning them; I squeezed them shut. And I ran. And I ran. I was out of breath, but I kept going. I looked at my watch. Five minutes. That’s it? Discouraged, I took off towards the high school track and broke into a sprint. My heart climbing with very leap and stroke of my foot scratching the surface of the track. I heard voices and laughter. What the fuck. Shit. I didn’t realize the time. School was over. A group of high school boys broke into a slow jog. I almost left, but I needed this; I needed to overcome this anxiety building up inside of me. Approaching them, I felt my legs slowing down, my feet pounding the track; I felt tense.  Them just being there. I started to feel like I didn’t belong. And in a sense, I didn’t. It was right after school; their running time. Their track. Not mine. But I inhaled the fumes from my anxious mind, shut out their locker room humor and darted past them, pumping my legs until I felt like I was on a tarmac ready for take off; sprinting until my legs burned hotter than the sun; hotter than the air in my lungs, and the fire inside of my mind. Suddenly, from the distance, I saw a team of high school girls approaching the track. What the fuck. No. I’m not going to leave. Not now. Not yet anyway. I pushed harder. I jogged and then I ran. Hard. Balls to the wall. I was a jet in flight. A freight train. I passed them. I passed everyone. I wasn’t part of their track team, but I came to beat something; to fight for something. And then my gym boss timer went off. I was done. Done. And I had beat it. Beat the anxiety right out of me. It was over. It was time to go home.

There’s a story in each and everyone of us, you just have to have the will to stay part of it. 

 

 

 

 

Power of Contest Prep

 

To my anxiety-ridden mind:

I know that if I set up something far in advance, I become overwhelmed with you and just unwillingly, sabotage myself ahead of time…

I was doing fine, I set my own diet and followed it, didn’t have cravings, didn’t have the need to constantly go out to eat for greasy food or sugary treats. I was cutting my own weight and doing fine. Once a week, on the weekend, I’d go out to dinner with my husband and that was the extent of it. I felt better, I didn’t have the feeling of being hungry, I was committed and I felt strong. Everyday I woke up with determination and set out to become even better and stronger than the day before; to get that much closer to my goals. Whatever that was. No. I mean it. I didn’t have a goal to drive towards. I was just kind of idling day by day, conflicted and tortured by my own anxiety. I wanted to compete in a figure competition again, but I didn’t want to say “Ok I’m doing it”. Just like that. No, that made me feel too much. Besides, I felt like I was just setting myself up for failure once I spoke about it out loud. If I just kept it quiet and shifted it back into my own head, no one would know, and I wouldn’t feel pressured or anxious. It was my way of maintaining control; or at least I like to think so.

Once I made a commitment, I felt like I lost control and relinquished to some unknown bleak hole that would rupture my very existence; my little bubble that I often contained myself in for fear of treading on anything that might make my mind explode and reel with anxiety; send me into a panic attack because of the secrets I would have to keep so no one would or could judge me or criticize me, or even just sabotage my goal because they didn’t want to see me succeed. Oh but that was me. Right now. All the time. That’s me. So I guess in a way if I don’t speak about my goals, then it’s not really there. But if I take it day by day, than I can better control it all.

The other day, I relinquished control to an online coach for contest prep. Twelve weeks in advance of a figure competition. It started out with a simple email and erupted into a full blown commitment. Right away, I went into panic mode, trying to find a way to make adjustments already; adjustments so that I could maintain some kind of control. But since Saturday, when I submitted the final information and payment, I cannot stop eating. It takes him a couple days to get my custom plan together, so until then I have been thinking of ways to sabotage myself. Apprarently.

I’ve been on a non-stop binge fest. I’m having cravings and urges to go out to eat all the time now. For every meal.

I look in the refrigerator and see food and just want to devour it. I rationalize my behavior; try to soothe my mind. I’ve literally been fighting the urge to just keep bingeing. Part of me says it doesn’t matter, it’s just food, and it’s not going to hinder my goals. But the other part of me reminds me that success doesn’t come from excuses or rationalizations. But, I just want to have control.

Not only that, but I automatically have become consumed with so many antagonizing thoughts and worries that it literally feels like they are taking the very breath from deep within my heart and the lack of oxygen is so undeniably debilitating. I freeze at the thought of being asked to go to lunch with a friend or to go anywhere. And subconsciously, I isolate myself and place limitations in front of me that might otherwise be a challenge or a test of true worth or true strength. Maybe I’m afraid of the answer… I’m almost afraid to question it or to go up against it. It’s fear. I know that. It’s a lack of control. I know that there are options but it doesn’t matter in those moments when I set out to achieve something. It’s like getting in the car and purposely taking the wrong turns or inadvertently making sure that you just keep going in one big circle as long as you know you’ll end up where you started. But I want so much more. I feel it. I mean I can really feel it. It’s like a bleeding wound that burns with even the slightest amount of pressure. It feels like an attack. If you try to cover it up or dress it in bandages, it’ll just seep through or either that it’ll just dissolve the bandage making it as nonexistent as my confidence or self worth. That’s the problem I have very little self worth. I think everyone else deserves much, much more than me, and if I could I’d  be willing to give it all to them. Whether I knew them or not. And then I see these people who didn’t really notice me before or probably more likely I didn’t notice, asking me to do things, go to lunch and I look at them as challenges and obstacles that are trying to block me in my attempt from going any further when even I know deep down inside that’s the biggest lie; the biggest flaw of them all.

When I feel a loss of control; I freeze up. My body won’t move. There’s an external force that cannot be reckoned with. Over and over my mind tries to bludgeon the anxiety from my mind, and to tell you the truth, it works for a little while. Just a little while. And if you understand, then you know that you just have to keep fighting; have to keep yourself guarded, not against the world, but from your own mind. You’d understand that you cannot just walk out on your own skin; your own mind. Your body will scream like it’s beckoning anxiety and pain, but we have to remember that we’re so much larger than that. Than any of it.

We are strong enough to rise and succeed. We’ll always find a way to reach another step; another goal. And I know. I know because I did it. I seem to always find my way to the center of my goal; the center of my fear that is engulfed with the belief that I can overcome anything. And so can you. Because if u don’t do it, someone else is going to. Someone else is going to be living your dream; your life. And that control that we may so desperately cling to and think we have is going to turn into feeling of hopelessness, regret, and instead of living you’re just going to be dying. Your just going to fall into darkness and that will transfer into anger. So don’t let fear stop you; the unknown prevent you from living. And not because we have to; not because you think you don’t need to or that you have to give up control. And not because you don’t consider yourself as worthy or deserving.
Besides, I guess we’re not really controlling much when we are losing and surrendering to our anxieties; our fears and doubts. No, I guess we don’t have control if were being suffocated by fear. Fear controls us. And we need to stop it.

So here I go again. Round three to the stage.