I reached out … now what?

Asking for help has never been easy. It means I owe a debt, and it’s not always a debt I’m sure I’m able to repay, so it’s only when I’m truly desperate that I do what I feel is grovelling to others to request help. If I’m able to repay the favor, then it’s not hard to ask, but without having that balance I struggle with the request.

Experiences can be humbling, can’t they?

I am at what might be my most humble. I’ve had to ask for help before, but not quite like this.

This year has been a struggle, and we’ve kept many details to ourselves. During yoga teacher training I wasn’t able to keep up well with sales so much, as there was so much going on with trying to finish training as well as my aromatherapy certification. There was also a side project underway where a new company became incorporated, and so much effort had been put into getting this endeavour underway. It was ready to go, and we were just waiting for our financing to come through. It would have been so good for us, but that’s when things started to go wrong. That’s when I could no longer make sense of the things happening. That’s when I couldn’t focus on any of the tasks I was working on without making silly mistakes. And that’s when I had to admit that I couldn’t move forward with the company we incorporated, because it was completely a team effort and we were both needed in order to move forward with it.

We cancelled all plans with the incorporation. We still own it for the time being, but nothing has progressed with it. We wanted to wait to see what would happen.

I am short of my yoga teacher training certification by 10 hours because the worst of my symptoms came up during the retreat, where I found out just how much I was affected by the sun and heat. 

I couldn’t finish my aromatherapy certification because of the brain fog, which has made it nearly impossible to not only read, but to retain new information.

I moved my products out of the house in case they were the source of my issues. This makes them difficult to sell.

All of my plans and income sources had to be put on hold because I couldn’t focus on them. Whenever I tried, I made mistakes, or forgot, and I couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing anyone. So that’s when I made the hard decision to temporarily shut down Bohemian Alchemist, with hopes I could pick it up again soon.

But I couldn’t. My inventory was stored offsite, and trying to sell it was difficult to do when I had a hard time managing the inventory. I couldn’t offer services or products out of fear of making a harmful mistake. I was making mistakes, and it was only a matter of time before I made a mistake I’d regret and hurt someone. Thankfully, they were all minor, but they were enough to make me realize that it was time for me to stop. I did the responsible thing by keeping my clients safe, rather than pushing myself further beyond my limits in order to keep everything operational. I was already beyond my limits, which had changed so, so much from the beginning of the year.

Closing was hard. So much harder than I could ever express. I love my business, and I love the products I’ve made, and I loved the direction I was heading with it. But mostly, I loved the connections I made with people. I worked hard to start and maintain it (not without help – I’ve had so much help from so many people!). I found that hanging off of “maybe”, “possibly”, “one day” and “eventually” wore on me so much, and I couldn’t answer people who wanted to know when I was opening again. The encouragement from others was well meaning, but brought my attention continuously to the responsibilities waiting for me. I felt horrible anytime someone wanted a custom order and I had to refuse. I felt inadequate, disappointing and that I was letting people down – but the one that mattered most was my husband. I have not been able to contribute to our income. He has been ever the encouraging, supportive person he always has been, but this is an insecurity of my own that stems from old, deep hurts and experiences that are difficult to keep controlled when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Everything was shut down. I found ways to keep busy and to keep my flare ups moderately controlled. The more controlled my symptoms are, the more productive I am, which is how I’ve been able to reasonably maintain our home. It hasn’t been ideal, but we’ve made it work.

But our expenses added up. Medications and supplements and specific clothes that helped reduce symptoms, fuel to get to and from appointments, window replacement, so on so forth. I’ve listed some of our expenses previously. They continue to add up.

And then our hot water tank decided to die on us right after my surgery. The nerve of it, I dare say.

What do you MEAN money isn’t everything? We are a bank!

And it’s been a struggle since then. 

I hit a low point a couple of weeks ago, which I also shared part of. But not in entirety. I had cabin fever in a bad way, and I was unsure of everything. We had been thinking about getting a service dog to help with certain things in order to get me the support I needed to function better in the day, but I wondered if maybe this was too extreme. 

And so did a few others. A few people have mentioned that they believe I may be bipolar, or that perhaps I need to find God, or meditate more, or to “just relax”. It has been implied that my symptoms are imagined and that I’m a hypochondriac. Perhaps I am just looking for attention.

These comments come from very few, select people, but they hurt, more than they could ever know. I believe they had good intentions, and truly believe the things they say. There were harmful, hurtful words regardless of intent, however. They made me think that, maybe, they weren’t wrong. They made me feel insecure. They made me feel that I was sharing too much about our situation, and that perhaps I should keep it more to myself. I found engagements with people to get less and less, and I wondered if I was believed at all or not.

To be fair, when people see me they see that I’ve lost weight and am rocking a fairly normal body size for the first time in a decade, see me walking and talking  and my clean house and see my rosy red cheeks, unaware that the redness is part of a flare up. What they see seems healthy.

What they don’t see is everything else I’ve previously mentioned. The crippling fatigue, the numb cheeks,  the thick brain fog and confusion, the double vision. I’m functional, but very carefully. They don’t see that. They don’t see the little leg pump I do before I stand up, nor do they realize why I stand up so slowly. They don’t see my balance as that bad. They don’t see me avoiding bending over to avoid passing out. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, if there’s nothing to see.

It’s there, however, if you pay attention.

For the most part people have been kind, caring and supportive. Several have offered help, and have stepped up to help where we need it most. Right now, what we need most is financial. Bad timing, I know. Our bills are paid, the animals are fed, but we’ve been maxed out in all accounts since early fall and we have been just barely getting by. The prospect of catching up hasn’t been promising – which also means no possibility of a service dog. I will not commit to getting an animal that I am not able to afford to care for.

So I  reached out.  I asked for help, as so many people have encouraged if I needed it. And I need it. I presented my case. I made a post on my Facebook page. People asked me, “What can I do to help?”

“Share my page post,” I responded. I don’t expect anyone to buy things they don’t want or need, but sharing my post would help get the word out, and perhaps reach and audience that could help. It costs nothing and is easy to do. But then, I always seemed to follow it up with, “If you can’t, then I understand.”

I don’t understand. I don’t know why I  ever said that. To be nice? To give them permission to ignore it? To make them think that we weren’t in as tight of a situation that we are? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I really don’t know why I said it that way, but that’s what I do.

When I went to see my psychologist and he asked me how I was, I said, “I’m great! Thanks! How are you?” – which I then had to admit that I lied. When he asked why I said that if I didn’t mean it, I admitted that it’s a trained response after growing up in a place that didn’t admit to weakness. I believe working retail also encouraged said response. Customers don’t want to hear how great you’re not. They’re there to spend money, and that’s all. It’s just what we are trained to respond with in order to maintain courtesy, and I’m trying to retrain that response. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, especially when my defence mechanisms are locked and loaded at the moment.

Anyways, Some people shared my post.

And some people never responded, and never shared it. I see so many people share things supporting other events and complete strangers, but have not supported me where I need it most. Sometimes with excuses explaining the reason of their lack of support – which I appreciate, since at least I know where they stand. Most often the response was silence, however, and it’s the silence that hurts most of all.

And that hurt contributed to my downward spiral, which also caused worsening symptoms and an emotional meltdown, which made my spiral even worse. I spoke with my internist. I was so tired. Frustrated. I was falling apart. He assured me that he believed there was something happening and that we needed to push through just a little longer to try to find some answers. He brainstormed some ideas, agreeing that I needed a break. He prescribed something to help me sleep – something I do not get nearly enough of – and agreed that a service dog would be beneficial to my case. 

This helped alot. The reassurance from both him and my psychologist made me realize that I was spiralling down the hole of other people’s perceptions and expectations again. They told me that I’ve been holding myself together so much better than many other people might in my situation. I don’t know how true that is or not, but I hung onto it. It’s been a source of strength for me to keep pushing forward.

During one of my appointments, I was asked what I would do if I had all of the power in the world. 

I answered that I’d give it away to someone who would use it well.

Then I was asked what I would do if I had all the agency in the world.

I had to think on it, but eventually I answered that I’d use it to become a better person.

Thinking on this…. I HAVE all the agency in the world. That’s not something anyone can control, change or take away from me – only I have the power to do that.

Which gives me all the power on the world to do what I said I’d do. And that’s not a power I’ll hand over to someone else, regardless of their intentions.

I need to stop giving away my power. It’s the only thing I can truly control when I keep it as my own.

I needed that challenge. And I was able to use that to find my calm once again. And my power to become that thing I want to be.

I let things be. Kept my post up, and just gave it over to the universe. A friend of mine told me, “The universe gives you only that which you can handle.” I responded that the universe has more faith in me than I do, but there was an important point in that, and one that I do agree with, even if I struggled with in that moment.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Or, rather, person, and things seem to be progressing in a way I never though I’d see.

I had asked for help, and held unrealistic expectations of others. It was never about them, however. Those expectations were based on my own disappointment in myself and my situation. Once I let go of that disappointment, as well as the expectations of others, things have changed quickly. People have taken my call out seriously and I have found myself surrounded by more support than I had hoped for. There are still those in my corner that hold silence, which is disappointing, but I hold no grudge towards anyone. No one can possibly know how the situation truly feels, and I hope they are never in a position to fully understand – which would mean being in my situation. There are those that do understand it, because they’ve been through a similar experience already. And I have never held more compassion, empathy and understanding for them than I do now.

It’s hard to accept help. Harder than asking for it, especially after the disapproval of some people. But people find themselves in situations, sometimes, and need a leg up. This time, it’s us. Now that help has been incoming, I find myself wanting to offer things to pay them back – knowing full well that we’re not able to. It’s been difficult to say “yes” to the help offered – but I have been. I’m breaking out of old habits and routines, and finding a new way to be.

And once I’m able, I’ll find way to pay it forward again.

The universe knows my gratitude, my fear, my uncertainty and my feelings of personal failure. And I’m learning to trust it to catch me with grace as I’m falling, so that I can later catch others with that same grace and help them back up.

It feels similar to performing the “Angel Walk” at the end of the YTT training during graduation. I may have been short 10 hours from a signed certificate, but I graduated in so many other ways than I ever could have expected.

I reached out for help. And now, I’m learning to accept it with gratitude, and no expectation.

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Break the Cycle

We all live by certain patterns in our lives, many of which have been learned from childhood. Some of these patterns are normal day-to-day life and have no positive or negative effect – they just are how we go about our day. Other patterns, though, can be detrimental to our state of health and happiness, and we find ourselves stuck in a self-fulfilling cycle of repetition.

That cycle will keep repeating, if we let it. The only way off of that train is to break the cycle, or pattern.

But isn’t that easier said than done.

We’ll take an example of my own that I have to break time and time again. Before I actually started to break the habit, though, I was stuck in a downward spiral where the habits and patterns were getting worse and causing more problems each time I went around.

In most cycles there are five stages we go through before repeating the pattern again, and we’re going to use my own weight loss sabotage for an example.

Stage 1: Denial of the problem, or placing blame elsewhere, with no intention to change.

When someone is living in a cycle, they may deny that there’s any behavior that needs to change at all. They aren’t aware that there’s an issue.

I  knew I was a bit on the bigger side, but didn’t think it was a problem. My cholesterol levels and bloodwork all came back normal, so I figured I was just fine. I also had troubles with my knee after breaking it, and had been wanting a consult with a specialist in order to get help. I had nothing but problems with doctors not believing there was an issue beyond my weight, however, and I had many, many terrible confrontations with physicians who refused to help me. I didn’t want to visit another doctor – my anxiety for visiting a physician over rode any concern for my weight. So I decided to just be happy where I was.

Other examples that I’ve heard from others include:

  “I don’t cook, so I can’t eat healthier.”

                “I’m too stressed to think about this now.”

                “I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable.”

                “I travel too much and don’t have time to cook.”

If you really consider the options above, they are easily passed over without taking responsibility for action – my own example included. All I had to do was look at the BMI chart to know something was wrong – and I did, but decided that doctors were on glue. I was well over the obese range, but figured it wasn’t a big deal. To be fair, I still consider the BMI chart a bit “out there”, because people can’t really all be lumped into the same category. However, there’s a difference between a little overweight, and morbidly obese…. and I was in the morbidly obese range on that dreaded chart. I didn’t have just a few pounds to lose – I had roughly 110 pounds to get to a healthy weight for the type of build I have.

And the signs that it was affecting my health were all there. I was short of breath, I hurt everywhere, all of the time. I didn’t fit into any of my plus sized clothes. I was self conscious, I felt terrible and I was exhausted all of the time. I stressed when it came time to going out and doing anything because I couldn’t find anything that I thought made me looked good enough – even new clothes. Despite the signs, though, I wasn’t ready to accept there was an issue.

And what about the other excuses that are presented above?

                Every single one can be argued. It depends on your desire for change, the reasons for that change, and your willingness to look at options and act on them. Without wanting to break out of that cycle – you won’t. Without being aware of that cycle, you won’t even know to want to break out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you’re ok with it. But if you’re NOT ok with remaining in the same habits and routine – then perhaps that’s something to carefully consider and figure out the reasons why you stay in it.

Stage 2: Aware of the problem without action.

And then something makes you wake up to the behavior in question. You start seeing things that you may not like. You become aware of it – but don’t do anything about it except watch.

Over time I realized that there was a real problem with my weight. I realized that my husband couldn’t really wrap my hands around me comfortably, and I was horribly aware of hands on the folds on my back whenever anyone put their hands on my back or gave me a hug. I didn’t want to be hugged anymore (and I’m a hugger!!). I was uncomfortable. I hated photos of myself. I couldn’t fit into new pants I had bought not that long ago. And I started looking at what is considered a “normal” weight range – and even the highest range of the “overweight” category was 60 pounds less than what I weighed at the time. That’s not so much weight, right? But it was, on my short 5’2” frame.
And the more aware of it I became, the more stressed it made me, and the more comfort food I turned to – making the situation even worse.

Step 3: Making the resolution to change.

For many people, New Year’s is the time for resolutions. For those keen on making changes in their lives to find a way to be happier, however, they become resolved in that moment to make a change.

For me, I did just that. I hurt so bad that I’d cry getting out of bed in the morning. I felt terrible, had no energy, and simply had enough. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I decided to make the change, and started looking into the best ways for me to do that.
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Step 4: Making the change

This is where people jump into a new habit or behavior and become hyper aware of it, focused on making the new habit “stick”. They may set reminders, or make appointments, or leave sticky notes. They take the steps needed to make that change that they’ve resolved to.

I decided to start light. I started trying to eat healthier. For exercise, I began with yoga asanas every day. They were enough, and I hurt just from a short 10 minute practice. But I did it, and when I felt I could add a little more, I started using the Wii Fit a little bit each day when I felt able. And then I started to walk around the block. Yes, just one block. It hurt every damned day, and I was taking handfuls of OTC meds to get through it, but I did it. I started looking into diets, nutrition and options for weight loss, but I didn’t just jump on any bandwagon. I researched it carefully before making any big decisions or changes.

Step 5: Maintaining new habits

This step is one of promise and hope. The one where people have been living their change in behavior or habits and are able to sustain their new way of living.

With the new determination, also came new levels of pain. I was struggling. I was hesitant to visit another GP, so I visited Natural Health Services and was able to get a prescription for medical marijuana, which helped me push past pain. I struggled with dosing at first, but I was able to find a happy balance to keep moving forward. While it helped with the pain, however, my knee was collapsing to the side, and I was concerned about damaging it further. This was one of the issues that had held me back for so long, so in order to keep moving forward I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting the integrity of the joint at further risk of injury.

In my resolve to get help, I made an appointment to see a doctor in order to get a referral to a specialist. The appointment went terribly. I felt judged, dehumanized and unsupported. I was demoralized. And this is the step I’d normally get to.

Step 6: Relapse

Things happen, and life gets in the way. Something derails that track that people are on with their new habits, and they fall out of their new routine and back into old behaviors. Sometimes there’s no real reason for it, and other times external factors come into play to influence it.

This is where I’d repeat my cycle. This is the defining moment in my own cycle that I’d normally start over again, and decide that I was fine with how I was and go back to where I was comfortable so I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety, the dehumanizing treatment or the ridicule.

Back to Step 1?

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Or…..

 

Break Free!

Does your pattern repeat, or do you break free from it and continue your new life?

This time I didn’t fall back into old patterns. This time I pushed forward, because I wanted to feel better. I was definitely not feeling hopeful, but I pushed through my dismay. I bought a weight scale. I knew I had lost some weight at this point, but I made a goal to lose another 90 pounds, which would put me on the high end of the “normal” range on the BMI chart. Soon after that dreaded appointment, I received a post card in the mail for a new clinic in Leduc, and decided to give them a try. My anxiety was so high that she asked me how I was doing and I started to cry. Funny, how anxiety works. She was compassionate and could see that I was sincerely struggling. She commended my use of marijuana and sent the referral for the specialist before I even left the clinic. I had been trying to get this referral for 2 years without success, and suddenly I had renewed hope. She also send me with a prescription for a psychologist, should I choose to use it (also on my request, because I was not feeling very capable at the time). I left in higher spirits than I had in a long time. I continued with the new routine, slowly building up on it.

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60 lbs down in this photo – wearing the exact same outfit in both.

It’s been nearly two years since my resolution to change. It’s been about one year since that appointment with a physician that took me seriously enough to help me move forward. It did take awhile to build those new habits and routines, but I’m doing it. I’ve solidly lost 65 pounds and am still working on my progress. I’m still partaking in physiotherapy to increase strength to keep my knee from collapsing, which it no longer does. I frequent the  gym daily, have taken up martial arts training, can outrun most people I know now, am underway with yoga teacher training, and rarely even need to use the marijuana for pain relief. I don’t use it recreationally, so it goes untouched for longer periods of time. It used to be taken every morning and evening – but now I use it maybe once a week. Sometimes once every two weeks.

When something else came up last summer that threatened my new routine, I called in the psychology card – I was NOT going back to that place again. I was NOT starting my old habits again. As difficult as it was for me to make that phone call, it was an important phone call to make, and one that I don’t regret to this day. The therapist I found fits me well, and he has given me valuable tools to keep out of the cycle I have gone back to way too many times.

If it hadn’t been for that one physician to treat me like a person, I’m not sure I could have come this far. I still attend that same clinic, although with a different doctor because she moved to a different location. He is just as compassionate, though, and I no longer experience anxiety walking into that clinic. Sometimes you just have to find the right care team.

 

Cycles CAN be broken. New habits CAN be maintained. Change CAN happen.

 

You don’t fail until you give up.

 

Sometimes it’s a lot of work, but if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

 

Find your big enough reason why.

 

You’ve got this.

 

With love.