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”.

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.

Remembering What I Tried So Hard to Forget

I don’t even know where to begin. What do you do when you don’t know where to begin? Do you just keep going, walking a straight line, or walking in circles? I have visited this blog over and over again. Like a circle. I have somehow lost my way to find that straight line, or maybe I just realized life is not a straight line and I just got tired of following it.

Perhaps I just grew weary of climbing.

I have logged in. Logged out. Pretended it no longer existed…

I didn’t want to remember, what I used to be; how far the current of the river had taken me away from where I left off. My footprints had succumbed to the thousand other footprints that still had the eagerness to go forward; to not stand still; to explore.

I forgot which way I was going. Or perhaps, I made myself forget.

It was too hard to come back to. Too hard to just exist. I know none of this makes any sense. It didn’t, and still doesn’t to me. I wrote so many times, but I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want this to be a diary. What started out as a fitness journey, collapsed at the death of my best friend.

It’s been two years. I’ve been through every emotion, and found myself at the bottom too many times. I was pretty certain that I was ready to die. I was done with life. I had done all I had to; experienced everything I wanted, and saw no point in living any longer.

There was no point in going to the gym. No point in getting dressed or putting makeup on.No point in leaving the house. I was done. Officially done.

I was ready for the tide to take me in its icy arms and cradle me forever.

People left me alone, as I wanted them to, I didn’t care. I didn’t want anyone. And when I did talk to someone, it was usually a family member, and they didn’t understand, nor did I care to ever make them understand.

What was going on with me, “Was ‘just nonsense’… Was, as they say, ‘all in my head”.

Why can’t you just get out and do things.”Why can’t you just…

Why can’t you just...

Why can’t you just…

The screams echoes inside of me, and just confirmed that I…

I was done. I did not care. Why do I need to go anywhere? I did not care. I lived my life. I was done. But I knew that they, or no one who hasn’t ever experienced it, would only ridicule me and judge me. So I decided it was best to just limit my contact with them, and when I did talk to them, I made sure to never discuss what was going on with me.

I didn’t want to commit suicide. I didn’t want to leave my kids without a mother. I did not want to take my own life; I was just ready to die.

It doesn’t make any sense. I know that. But, nothing made sense to me, and I can’t say I ever cared.

My mind didn’t go beyond the footprints that were buried on that path, in the same spot.  No longer were the etches of the life that I once had lived recognizable. Everything I once knew or dreamed of, traveled on without me, clinging to others’ footprints, seeping into the crevices of another sole, and then dragged until the remnants; what was left, had fallen into the once well paved path.

A lot can happens in a year, ‘they’ say.

It’s been 2 years, I believe, since I even had the urge to write something, anything…

So much has changed. Rightfully so. Life, in general, changes you.

Moments change you, and some of those moments, change A LOT, as they rob you of your identity, your soul, spirit, energy and your footprints.

I often imagine, selfishly, that the ocean is cradling me and I’m at peace, relaxed and full of life.

And then, I unravel from its arms as it crashes to shore…

I wipe my tears. My eyes widen, my heart thumps harder…spread out before me is an entire canvas to sink my feet into; to carve new footprints. And as I hear the water’s sweet sound washing away behind me, I place one foot in the sand, and then the other, carefully allowing the cold, damp sand between my toes, wrapping them like a gift.

And I can’t help but notice that each footprint is deeper then the last.

Coping With Pain and Worry

I wrote this staring at this white blank space on wordpress, and I didn’t really worry about editing it….In fact, I couldn’t even come up with a title and I’m going to bed to try to at least fall asleep….

“You look like you lift…” (I heard this in the gym a few times)
Really? Well, I do…
Can you see the pain; the bruises, the deep nest that anxiety and most recently, depression, has burrowed itself into?
You look like you lift
Thank you, because underneath I feel like I have to lift this burden off my body every single day
It feels so heavy, and I’m so tired so battered tethered and worn
Oh you were talking about weights
Weren’t you?
Every day I struggle to lift; to carry the pain that recklessly pulls at my core
As I desperately try to cover up and hide
(I’m) Not willing to unveil the demons that fuse the flames between the angst and desperation that wrestles inside of me
I lift in my sleep
I lift the pain, I lift the emptiness;
The chaos that corrupts my entire being
I lift when I awaken and when I am dreaming
There is no calm there is no storm
It’s all in mind, but then again it’s really not
It’s physical and I keep lifting
I keep fighting
I keep lifting
Internally; externally my body won’t even let me shut down
I fear the worst, I fear the least
I fear FEAR
But the fear is deeper than me
Damn It
It’s a curse
But every day
I lift
Every moment of every second
I lift
And therefore
I become stronger
I become able
I become willing
I can lift more, I can see more, do more, live more
So yes, you say, “you look like you lift”
And physically, emotionally, mentally
Yes I do. I do lift
My body reflects my fight

I give it all I got, I leave all of me behind…

I grasp the iron, contract the muscle, divert the mind

reaching for something that weighs heavier than what’s inside of me; heavier than what’s trying to suffocate me; something that reminds me that I’m still alive; vulnerable, yet in control…

Tonight, I was sitting on the floor with a barbell weighing 275 pounds preparing to do hip thrusts, when I awkwardly made eye contact with a girl who was obviously talking about me to her friend. At that point, I was exhausted, but still wanted to push that amount of weight, but I just couldn’t; my mind unraveled the worst….

She was probably seeing the weakness in my eyes, or that the fight in me was fading…

I did feel broken and detached, and with that barbell hovering over my hips, I just couldn’t seem to make my mental and physical self connect.

I sat there feeling like I was no longer in control.

I decided to at least unload the bar down to 205 and completed a set. 8 reps and I was done. I couldn’t stop sweating, I was burning up, and my heart was pounding hard. After putting the weight back (of course), I was leaving the gym, and the girl who had been watching me, made eye contact with me and quietly said, “Every time you’re in here, you’re always killing it in the gym”…..

That made me smile. That made me feel vulnerable, but only for a little while.

Tomorrow is my doctor’s appointment with the endocrinologist….

Are You Just Going To Give Up?

We all have the opportunity to just give up. Quit. Just walk away.

Insecurity pools in the pit of our stomach, regret breeds off of our every breath, panic spooks our hearts and fire burns in through our eyes deep within our souls.

We quit. We feel bad. We can’t stop thinking about it. It was at one point a moment; an experience that you gave life to even if you didn’t see it through. You gave it purpose and then just let it go.

Once you give up, you dismiss a piece of yourself and most likely will belittle yourself every single day after that.

Simply put: It will forever change you.

Giving up is easy, especially when you have nothing to lose.

Or so you think…

Because you always forget the most important piece that risks becoming lost: You.

Remember when the vision first sparked in your mind? There had to have been a reason why you started. You felt the passion and drive; the fire burning deep within your heart, each beat racing to create the vision you had woven in your mind some time ago.

If you’re anything like me, you probably pull that steel armor over you and protect yourself from the world when the reality speaks for itself; the pain and threat is buried inside of you.

But you wear that steel well. Your body clings to it naturally. You think that if you don’t take a risk; if you don’t pursue anything, you’ll just stand still for a little while and the feeling will go away, the pain might disappear and you can go back to “normal”.

Because that’s what you believe, isn’t it?

What happens if you are never given the option to quit?

Two facts that I know are true:

  1. When we have the option to quit, failing becomes that much scarier and unspeakable.
  1. When we give up our chance to fail, we give up our chance to grow and move onto something bigger, better and quite possibly happier. (corny but hey, we can either blossom into a flower or transform into a weed)

Which one are you going to choose for today?

Is Fear Suffocating You?

Be okay with who you are and what you see in the mirror. Your imperfections are only seen by you and no one else…

You’re pushed up against the wall. The grip around your neck is getting tighter and tighter. You want to move your arms, your legs, something, anything to remind you that you’re alive; that you got this. You got this.

You’re trying to make yourself fit a mold that doesn’t belong to you; doesn’t exist into your realm of desire; a vision you have falsely envisioned. Created. It’s a fallacy; you feel drugged, poisoned, toxic. How do you stop the suffering? Simple. Stop thinking of it as suffering. It’s a chance for you to start over; to share your experience and witness determination and your will to succeed. You will make it because you ache; something is missing and you won’t be able to let go so easily this time. You’re alive. You got this.

Why are you allowing FEAR to establish control? What has it done to you to become so powerful? What happened to you? What happened that has made you so willing to praise FEAR and hand over your entire being so that you can continue to worship it. Every night you lay awake, does it come to you? Does it reveal the face it hides behind the mask it wears to control you? And you are under its spell….

Laugh in its face. Don’t be afraid to embrace fear as part of the process. You’re alive. Fear doesn’t have to be.

Remember, You got this.

 When you make a mental transformation, you also make a physical transformation. And slowly, you grow, right in front of your eyes. Right in front of the mirror.

Your physical transformation will challenge you mentally and vice versa. It’ll call on fear to come and “rescue you” but you’ll remember that piercing pain that gripped your neck and you’ll remember that, you’re alive. You got this.

When you make the decision to let go of fear, it’ll still haunt you. It’ll tempt you and plead with you daily to come back; to serve once again. Remind yourself that it’s a process; the transformation you make mentally is an ongoing process, there is no finalization, no dotted line to sign, it’s constantly evolving, overcoming, processing, capturing, it’s telling you and reminding you that you’re alive. It’s telling you that you got this….

Mentally AND Physically.

You got this.

The Truth About Binging (My Perspective)

Binging. Many experience it. Many wait until they’re all alone before they binge. Some do it out in the open. You just can’t stop eating. And eating. And eating. And even though you’re out of control, you actually feel very much in control. 

Food is a social experience; it is at the center of social gatherings, relationships and communication.

Many have suggested binging comes after following a restricted diet for so long; denying or looking at food as “unhealthy” and No I can’t eat that or that or that….

But I don’t think that’s the entire story. I believe that because we already have an established relationship with food, when we “go on a diet” it can feel like a loss and we experience grief.

And I believe once our relationship with food is questioned or altered, it becomes one of the major battles to confront.  It impairs us mentally and emotionally.

Why?

Because food is more than just food. It’s our way to connect and forge relationships with others. It’s our way to prevent feeling like a social pariah.

And a lot of memories and experiences culminate around food. Food can bring back a memory of a loved one who has passed on, and can make us feel more connected to them.

It’s a way for us to carry our relationship with us well after they are gone.

I remember, every Sunday, my father and stepmother would take that day off from work and we’d drive an hour or so away for a fun afternoon of jet-skiing and a picnic. I yearn for those days of eating together at an old rustic picnic table, flies swarming our food, my father cracking jokes, and my family and I just laughing and spending time together before hopping back on the jet-skis.

I remember my grandmother’s delicious hamburgers every Thursday afternoon. Even when I grew older, I could always visit grandma and she’d insist on making me a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and something to eat. We would sit in the kitchen, and I would talk her ear off for hours.

Moments like those made me feel connected. When you “diet” you essentially are denying yourself a relationship and disconnecting yourself from that relationship. And I wouldn’t change anything.

If only I could have those moments back.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I broke down and cried when I tried to make a recipe of hers and it all just fell apart.

A diet, while often necessary to achieve a desired result along with exercise, is not just a restriction of food to aid in weight loss, it’s not just a caloric deficit, or cutting out carbohydrates, fats, or gluten even, it’s a break up; a detachment from memories, old and new, past and present with family, friends, laughter, and comfort.

A diet becomes a grieving process; it’s not sustainable long term because you feel isolated from friends and family, so more than likely, for the sake of reestablishing those familiar feelings and memories, you binge to find those emotions again; to try to reconnect and feel somewhat kind of “normal” again.

Binging doesn’t have to be an option. It’s a hard habit to break. I know, I’ve been there. Over and over again.

But I also know that no matter how challenging it is, it’s also not impossible. I can still create new memories that still align me with my goals, while not giving up my memories entirely with flexible dieting.

Flexible dieting is an alternative to the old standard “diet”, it’s not the solution, but it’s a much better approach from a psychological point of view.  With flexible dieting you aren’t restricting yourself from any particular food groups and therefore, allowing yourself to have more freedom and control.

With “clean eating”, the idea behind it is to eliminate processed foods, eliminate sugar, eat small meals throughout the day, and you limit or don’t allow yourself to have “junk food”.

The idea behind Flexible dieting is to get you to count macros such as carbs, proteins, and fat. It focuses on getting a nutrient based diet from whole foods, but allows you to treat everyday if you want. It makes  “dieting ” a little bit more sane, however, it’s equally as challenging from the standpoint that you still have to make sacrifices. It’s still a diet, you’re still committing the act of restricting yourself, so it still fucks with you mentally because the mind will always want what it cannot have.

Keep in mind, this approach has its challenges as well. For example, it’s impossible to not develop or hone your OCD tendencies with either approach. Counting calories, macros, weighing food, it’s impossible to NOT develop a more direct, focused relationship with food; to be more cognizant of what you would like to eat vs what you’re actually able to “fit within your macros” for the day.

But the overall objective is to develop a positive relationship with food as well as with your body.

(Because of course, micromanaging your meals when you suffer from an extremely low body image is only going to make it that more mentally destructive and damaging.)

As I said, I’m a “recovering” binge eater, so I have recently started following a macro counting approach (Again) to combat my binging and to provide more structure and accountability. The benefits of a more structured plan, after taken into account past experiences definitely outweighs the risks; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Trying to control my body from a healthy, physical aspect, is extremely challenging and takes just as many years if not more to undo the relationship that we previously had with food while we were growing up. But I realized, binging isn’t acceptable either. Not in this society. You’re either an addict or your not. And it’s a slippery slope that anyone can stumble onto if not careful. The relationship that we have with our physical being doesn’t always align with our mental being. Binging is only going to be self destructive and following a structured approach has more potential to guide you away from the beaten path.

While you may discover some OCD behaviors, structure is sometimes what is necessary to establish so that we don’t become a menace to ourselves in the long run.

I’d also like to note that I have an extremely addictive personality, and come from a family that has suffered from addictions as well (I’ve been there at a point in my life as well) so I need some kind of “rehab” if you will….

I need structure and accountability or else I’m going to just keep binging; I’m going to keep self- destructing. I want to keep my memories, but I also want to achieve my fitness goals as well.

And I aim to achieve that by striving to establish a positive relationship with food.

Admittedly, the feelings I have of beginning a macro counting “lifestyle” again, makes me crave things that I can’t have. So you see, there is some degree of restrictiveness there. Once I hit my macros, I’m done for the night. No more food. Regardless if my stomach is growling and my mind is trying to convince me to just have a midnight snack, or an afternoon snack. But I still have my sanity. I still have my memories. I still feel connected.

I feel cranky because I’m hungry and I can’t just eat. I want to binge, I want to raid the kitchen, but I’m staying strong and telling myself this is only temporary. It’s like a detox anyone with a drug addiction or really any type of addiction goes through.

See, the training part is the easy part. You clap yourself on the back when you are able to increase your strength, run a bit faster, your mind is there. Your mind is there cheering you on and your focused ready to tackle the weight, the run; you’re driven, you’re focused, but as soon as your mind drifts over to thinking about food and, “how many macros do I have left,” it wants to fail and shut you down. It wants to tell you to just eat, it wants to make you feel weak and vulnerable. And you’ll realize you can’t stop thinking about food. You’ll eat one meal and then anxiously await your next meal.
But in the gym, when your lifting weights, your mind is ready to take on a challenge because there are no limitations , the goal is to become stronger, faster, the goal is to do MORE….NOT LESS.

But then again, it’s possible to overdo it in the gym, and I know that there are times when I should lighten the load and/or take a rest, but I don’t want to because I just want to keep pushing.

The mind is constantly playing devil’s advocate.

If you can remember that, you will succeed.

And never do something that is going to bring you down. Find a way to fight back while still allowing you the opportunity to achieve your goals while maintaining a positive relationship with food and your body.

In memory of my grandmother and father….

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Just One More Piece To My Puzzle

So here it is, I’m at a hockey game, eating my chicken breast thinking about pancakes, AND of course scrolling through Instagram, when obviously an image catches my eye.

I click on it.

I read the caption.

And just like that… I learned how to pose for a figure competition.

I mean I haven’t competed in forever because I was struggling; I was fighting demons and shit; trying to just “find the road back to fitness”, you can read about that here but once you get the blood pumping, it kind of never really stops running through your veins.

Literally and metaphorically speaking.

So like I said, (and excuse me I’m excited about this and my adrenaline is pumping from the amount of carbs I’ve had about two hours ago or I’m just water drunk. Either way I’m pretty fucking hyper) there I was, stuck in an Instagram trance, going through the umpteenth photo of someone posing half naked (I did say I was on Instagram hehe), when suddenly I was stuck on this photo of a figure competitor in the shape of a perfect V. Symmetrical, beautiful lines, definition, but that taper (as in V taper) though….

yea that’s what she said..

I’ve heard about the “V taper” when I was in the process of competition prep, and I knew what it was, but I never really “got it”…I mean, I may have been developing it physically, but mentally, um, yeah, null and void.

No connections made. Whatsoever.

I just never really understood why in the hell I had to stand up on stage and pose that way. Obviously, as you can see from my first figure competition in 2012:

Proud I made it that/this far though

Proud I made it that/this far though

(you could also check out more about my first competition here

But right then, her picture, her caption in that one photo undid all of that. Those few words; stinging my eyes, stimulating my thoughts, and the blood in my veins were burning with adrenaline.

I sat there, like a black puck in the center of the ice, being slapped with a hockey stick into the goal. That was me. And that’s how I felt.

I finally connected the dots. I connected another piece to my puzzle. I finally understood.

No matter how much I practiced those poses, I just felt awkward, shy and uncomfortable. No matter how much I twisted, bended, turned, I couldn’t get it right. Simply put, I was like a newborn calf encountering ice for the first time. Yeah, envision that.

And that just turned into yet another addition to my constant mind fuck during competition prep…

The whole, “I can’t even pose, why the fuck am I doing this” or “I can’t pose, I’m not good enough…at well, anything”
Or the, “someone is already doing this, why bother anymore…”

You know….How even just one thought can seem like complete and utter despair? Been there?

If only I was just told:

“For front, back, and side pose, focus on creating that “V taper” with your body; to show off the lines of your well sculpted physique.”

Or basically, “create the best fucking “V” you can.” More simply put: Contort your body into the shape of a V…like you’re at a wedding and the chorus from “YMCA” from “The Village People” comes on. Ok maybe not EXACTLY like that.

But seriously, you should check out this beautiful figure competitor who just made a difference in my life.

Because it’s always the little things that you don’t think are going to mean a whole lot when you simply hit “post” or “share”. All of the thoughts, experiences and memories are just pieces to one huge, amazing puzzle that you get to seize and grab hold of to make it complete one day.

And please don’t NOT visit her Instagram page because you don’t compete… if you listen to her 2 year transformation story on her Youtube channel, I’m certain you’ll take something away from it.

Instagram: @fit_tiff

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice For Your Ideal Body?

You see the toned, sleek bodies glistening with sweat at the gym, and in a selfie posted to Instagram or Facebook you wonder why you can’t look like that….and you ask over and over, “how do I look like that”.

I haven’t written a post in awhile. I guess I have just been trying to find the right words to put all these feelings and thoughts I’ve been having into a somewhat legible post. I started with the above, but then I decided that it’s just not what I want this post to be about. But everytime I try to put it into the right words, I get scared. I get scared that someone will just point out that I’m trying to defend my stance on fitness competitions and will scream “hater” or “she didn’t make it, that’s why she’s saying all of this…” but then I can’t help but feel defensive. Maybe because I made the choice to give other people power by watching their videos and reading their posts on social media sites and allowing them to make me feel like my struggle with a competition prep was merely a matter of being too weak and I couldn’t help. It was getting to me. It was becoming toxic. As a matter of fact, it was beginning to feel like everything that was once discussed between us was being used to help them “seem more real”. And I hate fake people. Ah, there I go again, letting them have power over me….

All in all, it could just be me overanalyzing and being paranoid again. So I’ll leave it alone and try to formulate a somewhat comprehendible blog post….

There seems to be this thought process that contest prep for a fitness competition is a nightmare; you are going to suffer, and it’ll break you down and force you to back down and almost quit, and if you actually do throw in the towel, then you are not strong enough. Breathe Megan, Breathee That is….mentally.

Again, deep breath …

There’s the mentality that if just striving to be fit and healthy, that’s simply not good enough. It’s just not enough if you don’t compete. You must compete to be completely relevant. But a majority of this particular “fitness culture” has become an obsession. (It’s literally can swallow you whole and spit you back out)

We spend time taking selfies that we save on our phone, filter the shit out of them a majority of the time, post them to social media that there becomes a fine line between obsession or just plain vain or desperate for attention.

Or just as easily as “all of the above”.

Then there’s this word, “sacrifice” that keeps being thrown out. What are you willing to sacrifice to get the body you want? I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen the captions along with the posts. I believe in making sacrifices to keep you from falling on your face; to achieving what you need. But when that sacrifice is just that; for what you want rather than what you need, than you have to decide what’s more important; what you want or the sacrifice you have to make, be careful what you choose….

When deciding to endure competition prep, how you fit your cardio in so it doesn’t rob time with your kids, but means you only get 4 hours versus 6 hours of sleep doesn’t really come close to being much of a sacrifice. Once you made the decision to compete, you need to be prepared to sacrifice candid moments with your kids. Yes, because you can’t turn off competition prep ; even when you’re with your kids, you’re still thinking and breathing contest prep; thinking about food, wishing you can have a bite of your kids ice cream cone, or hell just a little more oatmeal, getting anxious about getting your gym time in, your workout in, spending hours upon hours at the gym running on the same cardio machine, complaining about how “hard” contest prep is and making that the sole focus of your posts and videos on social media sites just so you can say your “just being real”.

No. The sacrifice is, trading one disorder for another one in, or just simply adding to it. The sacrifice is, giving up candid moments, living in the moment because you are now on a “schedule” that revolves around your body. And by the way, anyone who says it’s for health, is full of shit.

Oh. And apparently peanut butter. You must sacrifice peanut butter. That’s your ultimate ticket into earning the right to even use the hashtag #fitness. That hashtag alone will generate more attention than Kim Kardashian’s latest wardrobe.

Sacrifices need to be made to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, time with our children, not to achieve this insane belief that if we want whatever is considered an ideal body for this decade or screw it- month, that we need to ask ourselves what we need to sacrifice in order to achieve it. Yea, because that’s important. A ripped set of abs, with a nice ass, always hold much more weight over my sanity, my family, me, my life any day. And I’m sure if I don’t make those sacrifices and I just keep walking into restaurants or cooking up recipes that grandmother’s used to make, making memories with my children by actually being in the here and now rather than a walking space er cardio er fitness competitor cadet, I can seriously start hashtagging “nof—clue”, “eatclean” “iifymgirls” because I’m confused as to what term is acceptable in the current fitness culture that has formed. Or worse the, “do you even lift” or “do you even flexible diet” Seriously. Because lifting and counting macros are much more superior to….look at me, projecting…Damn it…it looks like I take this shit too seriously.

But I did warn you, you could never ever go back. You can never turn it off. There is no fucking switch.

Look, bottom line is,

I love lifting heavy ass shit (weights) and maybe a kid or two if I have to, and no I won’t hesitate to pick my 17 year old daughter up like a baby), finding healthier options, eating healthy, I love fitness, I love spending hours upon hours researching it, but I couldn’t find a balance. Sorry. There was no such thing as balance in my future. I had-like many do- a distorted sense of what balance actually meant.

I mean come on, we post photos and caption them with “my favorite shirt” but with the most awkward pose in an obvious attempt to draw attention on your glutes followed by the hashtag, #squats. And we’ll caption a more provocative one with a deep quote stolen from another author or just some deep thought to say what really is going on (but no one will really outright admit it): I’ll sum it up…as a woman, we hate that we have to constantly struggle to look a certain way, that the ideal image is forever evolving and we will never, can never be happy just being in our own skin regardless of what Dove’s commercial or magazine article has to say. Mirrors and pictures on social media do not lie. We are women. We must compete with one another albeit secretly and at the same time, pretend that we are ecstatic when another woman gets more attention or you think looks better than you…and you actually hate her for it…or just simply hate yourself MORE for not being her. I should know..I’m guilty of that.

We all want to be the inspiration, yet we truly can’t even remember what exactly the real meaning of “inspiration is. We create posts that don’t let in on the pain we feel deep within, we can’t let on that it all sucks and really you just want to be able to go to the gym and remember what is was to just feel proud that you made it to the gym, and you didn’t feel at odds with food or your reflection all the time. That you can just go back to the time where you were able to actually feel yourself, feel a moment aside from what is going to make or break you on this journey to a stage designed to take what’s going on in social media, live and up close.

We pretend to be positive but it shows with all our obsessive posts of plates upon plates of food or a picture showing you taking a bite of something that you may not have thought twice about since you stumbled upon the hashtag #fitness. Subconsciously it’s our attempt to detail our struggle with food or our attempt to remind those who aren’t in the game or are thinking about walking away and hanging up the shoes and competition tan, that this is the norm and it requires a great deal of mental strength. And sadly, our own mental pain is what got us here in the first place and will also be what will walk us off the path completely or just down the wrong way continuously. I should know. I did all that.

We’ll post so much to show how strong we are, when we’re probably falling apart.

We’ll have said, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I give up” s or “what am I doing this for anyway” many times At this point, you don’t even see yourself as anything more than just developed muscles and attaining an aesthetic appearance. Your self worth can become extremely jaded.

It’ll cause anxiety or stress to just go longer than a few hours without tracking our caloric intake, or if we didn’t make it to the gym to get your workout in.

But we’ll have the “Whatever it takes” attitude because we are at least feeling something. I should know. I was that person. Kinda/Sorta still am. And while I hesitantly admit to that, I will not deny the steps I had to climb just to get to that point. Hey, just keepin’ it real (wink wink)

A competition does not define me. I said before that I’m not going to allow anything to define me, but I take that back. My role of being a mother, a wife, and a woman define who I am. We are so determined to achieve this supposed ideal image that some of us overlook the entire picture.

Deciding to compete in a fitness competition has the potential to destroy relationships. Once you start losing friends and break ups begin to follow suit, you start isolating yourself away from them. After all, no one, and I mean no one understands your new life, and everyone just wants to be unhealthy anyway…

All we think about is eating. When are we going to eat next, what are we going to eat. Even when we’re eating, we’re still thinking about the next time we have to eat. It turns into an obsession.

**Side note: I hear girls all the time as they’re putting in hours on the elliptical or treadmill complain and say things like, “I just can’t wait to go back to ‘normal’; I can’t wait to just eat ___” AND that’s all they talk about.

It becomes life. 24/7. Eat, breathe, sleep. You don’t remember anything else. Well, except for #transformationtuesdays or #Throwbackthursdays when we have to demonstrate how clueless, miserable and unhealthy we were “back then” even though we’re holding a beer, a big cheesy ass smile, and some friends…everybody needs friends…sigh..

We will say we’re “taking a break” or we’re in an “off season” because after the show, we’ll struggle even more with our body image. And no matter what, it never fails, when we finally made the conscious effort to not at least prep your meals, we’ll make a mental note that we don’t look so lean, and the lines and definition from all the extra food you choked down have faded, there will always be someone who is prepping for a show and regardless if we know that it’s not possible to stay that way all the time, we can’t help but compare ourselves to her and feel guilty that we no longer look as hard and lean as we once did. And alas, continues our love/hate relationship with food…and the scale.

From personal experience, I know this. And, yes, I know not everyone out there is like me. We’re all different and motivated by different factors, but one thing is for certain, stop right away if you find yourself becoming too obsessive.

It doesn’t make us weak person if you’re miserable doing it. If you set out to do a competition, you should love it. And love/passion and obsession is NOT the same thing.

That was me. And it could be you. Could be…(just saying)

If you have anxiety or panic attacks, this isn’t going to cure you. It’s not going to fix you or reverse an eating disorder. It’s not going to fix you mentally. It just won’t. It’ll give you control, but not power. If you’re looking for help, exercise will help to some extent, but not the obsessive kind. I should know, I tried it. Exercise will release endorphins that’ll give you a boost in mood, but if you exercise too much, it will impact you negatively.

Besides, it’s not so much mental strength, it’s our hormones that screw us up and our body’s way of telling us that something is imbalanced. But we’re supposed to ignore it and just keep going…fight through it. We might just become more mentally fit for it.

Bottom line: Listen to your body before you listen to your mind or some post on social media.

At least try to. I know I am.