Hello, Again? Back in Hospital

Well here I am again and not at all happy about it.

This week I started to have pain under my breastbone. It started Sunday night and may have been the cause of my poor sleeping more than the ring on Tony’s finger (which would be a good thing, right?). By Thursday evening the pain had intensified beyond what I could manage and I knew the ER was on the agenda for the evening.

I had been careful, watching what I eat, taking some gas x and seeing if anything was influencing the pain in any way. I couldn’t find anything.

By the time we got to the hospital Thursday night, I was bowled over in pain and out of breath. They took me in quickly administering fluids and morphine right away. Sent off for X-rays and cat scans pretty quickly.

Then the surgeon arrived and my hopes plummeted.

The ER doc (as well as myself) were thinking pancreatis or something along those lines. But the surgeon debunked the results by saying I had another bowel blockage.

I just.wanted.to.cry.

This meant we were going down a familiar path. I would be intubated with an NG tube, no food or liquids, no narcotics and a lot of patience. They did give me a strong opioid called Tramdol which worked for the time being and anti-inflammatory meds which helped.

I did cry once the tube was placed because I couldn’t believe I was back here again, in this horrible situation. I knew now they would admit me as well.

I was terrified that having the surgeon involved meant I was looking at being cut open again.

Going back to the 9th floor in the room directly across where I spent my 4 weeks in Sept/Oct was like a horrible horror story. But all the nurses remembered me and were so kind. They couldn’t believe how much better I looked as compared to my first stay. I suppose there’s some compensation there – that even with the damn tube coming out of my nose that they thought I looked good! 😂

I didn’t get to the room until 6am or so, and then rounds start soon after, so I was feeling really crappy after a night full of pain and testing with no sleep.

As it turned out, the pain began to disappear once I was settled and I didn’t need any further pain killers. They had me on simple fluids to see if my body could recover on its own.

Another cat scan and X-ray followed during the day and they could see that the initial contrast was making its way through the bowel. I told them all they needed to do was give me a cup of coffee and I would be pooping in no time! No one bought that.

By evening I pooped on my own. I did a little poop dance of joy 💩 because I knew that meant my body was doing its job.

Early the next morning the surgeon agreed and the tube came out. The doctor arrived some time later and said if I stick to liquids and soft foods for a week they would allow me to go home that day. He knew I knew the bariatric surgery ropes so he was willing to be lenient. I wasn’t too happy to have to go back to a liquid diet, but it’s better than being in the hospital and monitored here.

Ultimately they believe it was a bowel blockage that I caught super early. The NG tube allowed my bowels to rest for 36 hours without doing any work. The diet allows for further rest from whatever the blockage or inflammation was from. There is no real “reason” it happened or any way to prevent it from happening again. It’s just because I have had so many abdominal surgeries and bowel resections.

I’m waiting now for my son to pick me up so I can rest at home.

I’m bummed this happened in the middle of my exercise streak, but I will exercise lightly for the next week so the habit continues to form. I already felt myself falling into a hole lying on the hospital room for 2 nights. I couldn’t even focus enough to watch TV or even read.

Let’s hope, like the surgeon hopes, that this doesn’t happen again and I continue on my merry way.

Colonoscopy

Seems I need to find at least one body part each month that wants to screw with me.

This month was my colon.

When you turn 50 you should have a colonoscopy as a routine part of your yearly (that year). If all goes well, they put you on a 3-5 year repeat schedule.

I had several colonoscopies many years back and had the most violent reactions to the prep and the anesthesia. I had zero desire to do it ever again, polyps be damned. But then I started bleeding bright red blood from my back side and knew I was going in for one.

They scheduled me quickly as there were no obvious exterior signs that I had a hemorrhoid or something like. I negotiated with the doctor to take the easiest possible prep since I can’t manage more than 4 oz at any time.

This prep was truly simple and I was also sure to fast the day before based on my experience. I swallowed 20 pills over the course of about an hour, then spent the next couple hours cleaning out the colon. The next morning you take another 12 pills. The anesthesia was light and easy and had no post procedure effects other than tiredness. I got a polyp removed (what they think caused the blood) and a clean bill of health otherwise.

For once, I came through a procedure unscathed! Hurrah for me!

I didn’t do much the day of the procedure, laid low, napped and did the absolute minimum about of exercise. I was still tired a day later, but was back on track.

Wondering what my next ailment will be. I’m sure there’s one around the corner waiting for me.

Follow Through

Did I follow through on the most important goal I set for myself Tuesday?

Yes!

I wrote out 4 SMART stories before my call with the outplacement consultant. Her job is to help me finesse those stories into compelling statements that will say ” this is why you hire me and not someone else.” I actually asked a respected work friend if they agreed on those stories as my strongest in her memory – because I want to be sure this is how others view me as well.

I even sent out one resume and 2 emails for networking. It really isn’t a back-breaker but this morning made me realize it’s something I have to schedule in as a must do.

I was very distracted so it took me a period of 3.5 hours to do this task. The stories are not easy and required a bit of thinking, but I was avoiding them. The emails and networking was a no-brainer. I have firmly decided I am going to be sure to include a FOCUSED half hour each day to be done before 11am.

In my own crazy, cracked way – this upset my flow a little, my mind started thinking “how can we get out of exercise today?” Almost like “we’ve accomplished enough already!” Ummmm, no. That’s become a non-negotiable.

I acknowledge that my mind plays a game of trade-offs “If you do this Mads, then maybe you don’t have to do that other thing you don’t really want to do anyway.” It was fine to start that way when I was tired and broken. It’s not fine to stay there anymore. It’s March and I’ve got to get up off the floor. I’ve lost, I’ve hit rock bottom, I gave up and I gave in. I quit the game as close as possible. But, something (call it a greater power or my own willfulness) kept me around. I’m here. So I can continue to be a wasteful slug, or I can get going.

This is a psychological battle for me that I need to change. Because, seated somewhere deep within is my drive, my desire, to do more.

I can’t quite dig it out from under, my drive, but it’s like digging that never-ending hole in the sand st the beach ….. you know eventually you are going to hit water…. just a little further because you know in your gut it’s there – you can sense it.

As I’m sitting here having my second cup of coffee I realize I have the privilege of time at the moment – a luxury I’ve never had. I’ve already squandered a bunch of precious time in my healing and debilitating obsession and depression, but now that I am almost fully physically healed, I need to strengthen myself both emotionally, intellectually and physically. The only way I can continue to do this is by small changes each day or week.

I’ve committed to adding the half hour work focus at least 3 times a week (I don’t even need 5 days) and believe it’s totally doable to add in before I start my exercise routine.

In order to convince myself, I did find a trade-off I can make, temporarily. If I want a break, a time-out, a pity party or whatever we want to call it – I’m going to take it. But I can’t do it more than once a week. Consider it like looking towards a weekend food or drink binge after a hard weeks work. My brain and body still feel like I’m pushing them too far and too hard and they like to revolt every chance they get – so I’m gonna let them revolt, on a sort of schedule. I’m in the midst of analyzing my last 4 full weeks of effort (I am 26 straight days and refuse to do less than a 30 day streak) and come up with a plan of attack of how I can exercise, work, be lazy, and do life stuff (like any normally human does – but I’m not quite back to normal). I think getting a schedule together after this month is a good idea to begin thinking about how I spend my time and use that time more wisely.

I’ve agreed with myself that a pity party cannot include eliminating the gains I’ve made in exercise. I’ve studied up on active recovery days and that’s how I can use my “lazy day”. I get to shut off my mind and veg if I want, but I’ve got to get in a minimum amount of activity.

I got this.

How to Become a Morning Person?

How many of you are Morning people?

God knows, I’m not and never have been. I remember when my kids were small fighting through the cries to sleep a little longer, then ignoring the tugging at the side of the bed and making them crawl in with me. I created another generation of late sleepers and these boys of mine can sleep later than anyone I know!

My kids literally do not want to speak in the mornings. They want zero attention and need to be left alone. If they are awake at the same time, they will eat in different rooms with varying light patterns. One likes it dark and warm, the other likes the morning light from a soft couch and a bit cooler. When I say “Good Morning!” I get grunts of acknowledgement and I’ve learned not to push.

I hate waking up early. Anything before 8 am feels like death to me. And most years of my life I have had to be up somewhere between 530am – 630am. My favorite work years were when I could sleep til 730am and take an 830am commute. Yes, I was late every day but my industry gets a late start.

730am feels like a magic number for me, not too early and manageable. I’ve been taking my youngest to school every day just to get this habit going again. I’ve been tracking along my sleep cycles on Fitbit.

I’ve been reading a lot about habits and how the most effective people in this world have very specific patterns. One of them is the 5am wake up call. The thought of that literally makes me gag. But, no matter how many articles I read, one of the core foundations of successful people is early rising.

Ugh.

I’m just starting to work on healthy habits – any healthy habit that I feel I can build and STICK with.

So back to that morning thing…it’s been about just about 2 months that I’ve woken up with the kid and got him to school on time. I feel less internal argument with myself to rise now that I’ve convinced myself it’s a “mom at home” requirement. My older son appreciates that he doesn’t need to drive his brother to school anymore (he did it for 3 months while I was sick) and will do it as a favor for me when I can’t without any arguments. This habit has clicked over to automatic thinking. I read something that said adjust habits slowly, so now I set the alarm clock back 10 minutes. I don’t need the 10 minutes BUT my goal is to eventually train myself for a normal work routine again so I don’t find it overwhelming when the time comes (because EVERYTHING still feels overwhelming to me). So far, so good. The small adjustment hasn’t affected me and the same article mentioned I shouldn’t change my go-to-sleep time, only my wake-time.

I fear I may never be a morning person, but I do believe if I were just to grab an hour or two more in the morning, I could develop a better work/life balance once work kicks back into gear. I’m afraid that the good habits I’m developing now would disappear as I have the ability to basically craft my entire day around my exercise.

Let’s see how the small steps go!

Morning Coffee

How many of you drink a morning coffee or 10?

I was addicted to Starbucks every morning, for how many years I don’t even know. The habit cost me a minimum of $10/day in the city. Add in the occasional raspberry scone and it was at least $15. When you’re making good money, you don’t pay much attention to the massive financial drain that actually is. Never mind lunch in my city and then drinks out a couple nights a week.

This little capsule is about my morning coffee routine, so back to that.

I have a very specific Starbucks call for my drink, one of those long ones you don’t want to be behind. Luckily I now have the app and wherever I go it’s waiting for me upon arrival. But when a friend buys my coffee they roll their eyes. I was able to buy the Starbucks flavoring and recreate the coffee at home. So, for years now, I have been drinking two Venti Lattes every morning. Bad days required 3.

I started to pay attention to how many calories I was consuming last summer and found my 2 lattes pretty much equate to a breakfast. That was fine, I am not a morning person and I’m not hungry after coffee (or more aptly put: milk with a splash of espresso). But seriously, I was consuming way too many carbs in one sitting. Look at this:

Now that I’m watching my macros I realize how insane that is when I am not burning off anything.

Although I’m making a point about nutrition, it wasn’t actually my intention for this post.

What I REALLY wanted to get at was flavor. And how we become addicted to sugar etc within our coffee. Switching up a favorite coffee is akin to removing a leg.

In some ways, the fact that I couldn’t drink any coffee or milk for over 3 months post surgery helped me break a habit. I didn’t want to kick my coffee habit itself, I really enjoy a morning coffee, but I wanted to change to a healthier way of drinking all that milk. In Keto diets when you can only have 20-30 grams of carbs a day, my coffee is an absolute no-go at 48 grams of carbs.

Everyone I speak to about their coffee says the same thing “There is no way I can change…(insert whatever they believe they have to have) because that’s everything to me.” I thought the same thing. Then I decided I was going to try.

I switched skim milk out for almond milk. I mixed in various sweeteners. I googled like crazy to try different things. And I finally landed on a mix that felt satisfying in taste as well as on my tongue.

That was about a month ago.

Since then, the first sip has never had the same impact of sheer coffee bliss. I’ve adjusted to the taste and lightness of the coffee, but it’s not the same.

Until today!

Today I took a sip and the coffee was perfect! I now LIKED the taste. I adjust to the different feeling of he milk (it’s thinner, less creamy). I had the moment of pure coffee happiness when I took the first sip and sat down and really enjoyed my coffee. I had the feeling I was looking forward to drinking MY coffee instead of feeling like I was drinking a subpar impostor that would never bring true coffee bliss.

There is no exact Starbucks replica of my home coffee, but that’s ok as I can get close enough by simply replacing milk with almond milk and upping the sugar free vanilla. Because Starbucks steams it comes out a bit frothier anyway. At home I can use Almond Milk Creamer (omg I’m in love with this stuff).

I get 130 calories, 4/5 net carbs! And I can drink two medium sized drinks which make me happy.

I didn’t think I could write a whole post about coffee, but there you have it. If I can change my coffee habit, maybe I can change the world?! 🤣🙄

Health ?

I’ve been very lucky or very blessed. I’m still unsure which but I tend to lean towards a higher power continues to step in to save me.

I wouldn’t say I have been a healthy person for the latter half of my life.

I’ve almost met my maker at least 3 times in 50 years. There’s got to be a reason for that?

Maybe?

I’ve had the worst health run of most people I know because I’m always in that 1% that weird things happen to. But I survived. I chose the VSG surgery so I could take better care of myself, so with the other complications in the rear view, it’s time I take control.

Keto isn’t easy but it’s doable. Retraining your brain to eliminate obvious carbs is tough. Sometimes I just want a damn Triscuit.

I usually cave to my favorite Grandma pizza on Friday nights and a sesame bagel on Sunday.

I bought a Ketosis tracking machine. A small device where you prick your finger and it takes a reading. I am starting to learn that I can actually have my favorite cheats as long as I continue with exercise and taking my MCT oil. It’s not ideal, and it’s not a true Keto plan but like any other way of eating I’ve tried, I need to build in things that don’t make me feel deprived. I feel full, I’m eating better (hugely reduces sugar) and I have a built in portion control mechanism now.

My belly and guts make noises like I’ve never heard before. People say this is common after VSG. I also hiccup with one bite too many or too fast. It’s a great automatic lever because I still don’t “feel” full but have this amazing auto-reaction that says “stop now or it’s going to hurt.” I notice I still have to focus on eating more slowly. Having smaller portions helps as I don’t want to finish hours before everyone else, but my brain is trained to eat quickly and I have to reprogram it.

I use smaller plates and can easily tell how much food in a serving is too much for me. If I eat the right things, my hunger is curbed appropriately. I probably still don’t drink enough water so that’s something I have to work on. I tend to wake up throughout the night to drink which definitely signals I need more water throughout the day.

When I’m on a date, they don’t usually notice how little I eat or drink. I’m such a cheap date now! My friends notice though. They notice I barely eat and that I don’t drink even half of what I used to – they liked me when I enjoyed more! I tell them I enjoy eating and drinking as much as I always did, I just do less of it and it’s fine!

I chose the surgery because portion control was always my biggest issue. Now it’s controlled whether I like it or not! It’s interesting how the mind works – knowing I “can” eat anything I want makes it much easier not to eat it. I can’t over eat anymore. But if I am dying for a peanut butter cup, I can have one and not feel the guilt.

My heaviest weight back in 2012 was around 256 pounds. My weight prior to surgery was 214 pounds and today was 154 pounds. I can’t believe I’ve lost 100 pounds from my frame overall. I made a photo compilation of the 3 faces of Madeline over the past 7 years and I look healthier and younger.

As for how the weight falls off me, I notice a pretty consistent 3 week stall, then 4th week drop. My initial goal was 150 pounds but I am pretty sure I am going to drop it to 140-145 pounds. The surgeon feels, since I am now a normal BMI, I won’t lose anymore.

I did have to have my wound cauterized again which was super painful this time as he had to open up the edges and make fresh skin that would heal again. It’s a bloody mess and hurts now, but bloody means healthy.

I don’t know if I can ever be happy I made the decision to have the surgery, or have it in Mexico. But, in typical Mads fashion, I am beginning to forget about the horror I endured and starting to focus on the tool I now have in my body. I need to put this weight loss to good use.

I don’t know if I’m in peri-menopause or if my body is still in shock (totally possible according to the doctors) but I just had another 75 day stretch with no period. I don’t miss not getting a period but I prefer to keep the hormones around! I still have to get back to the doctor to discuss what we are going to do about the polyps.

I’ve been steadily ensuring I am working out every day, no matter what. A 30-45 minute commitment is more daunting before I do it so I just have to stop thinking about it and force myself into automation. It honestly feels good to be a little sore and I’m sure, soon enough, I will start sleeping better as well. I have totally lost my ass from the weight loss and feel excess skin hanging everywhere. I don’t like it so I need to change that. I don’t think I have “so much” excess skin that a steady exercise routine won’t fix.

Sorry my posts are so mundane but I think boring might be good for me for a while as I begin to take my life back into control.

Blogging has always helped me maintain focus when I commit to it.

Small forward steps are happening. I am still obsessing over Tony, but I’m taking control of myself again.

First Real Signs of Strength = Small Wins

I do not know where it came from, but it’s very welcome.

I think it started with Maggie’s idea to get dressed in workout clothes first thing. And then just one small thing (I charged my Fitbit). Piled on top of Ann’s suggestion to read the book about Habits.

I have a whole day, every day to myself. I could be filling it with many things, but I don’t. The worst usurper of my time is digital. The TV is now relegated to post 6pm only. I’ve had small, barely noticeable tinges of regret for wasting this much time. The feeling is fleeting. The heaviness of emptiness is pervasive. I still feel dark and empty on the inside.

But there is a very small, yet immensely strong soul inside me that refuses to give up. Yea, she’s the same one who never gave up on Tony, too so she’s delusional but when put to good use she is mighty.

I noticed on the first day I convinced myself to exercise it was because I talked myself into sleeping the rest of the day away. I didn’t do that, but the self-talk convinced me I could, should I want to. Based on that inkling of promise, I reframed the amount of time I have to myself and I was able to make some positive steps forward.

Go to bed by 10pm, period. Get up 7:30am consistently to get the kid off to school. Get dressed in workout gear before leaving bedroom (put it out night before so no excuses). Wear the Fitbit (no monitoring steps yet) Then, come home and enjoy a quiet morning scrolling media or reading with my coffee. Finally, Peloton workout. 30 mins is the requirement.

If I can change this one thing, getting dressed and then committing to some exercise for 30 minutes daily, I will not require myself to do more during that day unless necessary.

Nice deal I made with myself, right?

I can do this well before 11am. And, so far when I do, I see the energy to do other important tasks such as work related or finance related items. I won’t force myself to do more, I just seem to be more restless doing nothing after the workout. It’s a bit harder to sit still when I created good energy.

I also know the absolute best way to manage my food intake and stick to my keto macros is to log my food. I have been doing this on and off since surgery but I’m paying more attention now. I have an app that I can scan the UPC code and it makes it super easy to keep track. I’ve also knocked almost all my sugar cravings and have found the right kind of food substitutes. It helps that I don’t go out drinking and eating as often as well!

I realize this isn’t a big commitment. But it’s a start to getting my head screwed back onto my shoulders. I’ve been off the rails for close to a year. By the end of April last year I began to lose the will to live, so time slipped right through my fingers. I don’t think I will be remembering my 51st year with any fondness.

I’ve learned to avoid making morning commitments so I can adhere to my small routine. I still overwhelm easily which is worrisome considering how much I’ve been able to shoulder in the past. I still feel like part of my mind (as well as my soul) is broken and disconnected.

My small win this week has been rewarding. Every day I remind myself I’m doing this for me. I had surgery and lost a ton of weight, no reason I can’t tone up and be strong also. I want to be strong again. So while I’m fragile emotionally, the least I can do for myself is begin to make my body stronger. I’ve misused my body, mind and soul this past year but only I can recover what I’ve given away.

By the time this posts, I will have completed and entire week of routine. Good eating, good sleeping and exercise. Other than pure physical recovery (which was no small feat based on my surgeries) this is the most I’ve accomplished since surgery. I am happy it’s a start.

I’ll take it.